Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Anne. Can you tell us alittle bit about your background?
I was born and brought up on an apple farm in Essex, UK, and then moved to London after University to take up my first job, which was in insurance. I hated it! After living in the country, London was a revelation though – my mother and I were stunned to find shops that opened on Wednesday afternoons when everyone we knew in our part of the world were always closed then – just goes to show how innocent we were all back then … Plus having all those theatres so close was wonderful – I’ve always loved the theatre. I’m now living in Surrey and I work part-time for my local university – which is a lot more enjoyable than working in insurance, I promise you. No two days are now the same.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My very first book was gay romance, The Hit List,though it took so long (years and years!) to get published that my first actual book in print was gay thriller, A Dangerous Man.Even though those two books are very different in genre, I reckon the hero in The Hit List is just the fun side of myanti-hero in A Dangerous Man, and at heart they’re more similar than you’d think.
When did youstart writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I started writing m/m romance and other m/m genres just after I got married when I was 29 years old – I suppose I’m just an old softie really, andI love men and I love romance, so it was an ideal combination. Even when I read het romance, I always make the heroine into a second hero in my head, and Ican’t really remember a time when I didn’t do that, so I suppose I’ve been am/m romance fan for longer than I know.
How long did ittake you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
From memory it took me about 4 to 5 years to get published in terms of fiction, though my poetry in the past has been published in a variety of magazines. I write incessantly – almost obsessively – so, thus far, I’ve written and had published six novels and, taking all my various genres together, 26 short stories. It’s been great fun!
Do you write fulltime?
No, I think that would drive me insane (pause whilst my long-suffering husband laughs crazily …). I need the balance I get from working three days a week in my university job in order to write best for the remainder of the week. If I wrote full-time, I’d probably never talk to anyone and probably wouldn’t be quite so inspired by the amazing things real people do and say every dayeither.
Looking back was there something inparticular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I’ve been making up stories all my life in my head,and when I met my husband, it was as if something clicked inside and I only began actually to write then. He’s my muse, if you like. Writing stories down is something of a release for me, as it helps clear my head out, and also clarifies for me what I think and believe about life. So, in a way, it’s therapeutic, as well as being one of the most exciting things you can ever do.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
First off, I spend at least half an hour procrastinating and working myself up to it and then I write a sentence or two to see where it takes me. I like to get about 1000 words down on a writing day(it used to be 2,000 but that was driving me to the edge and getting me veryangsty) but sometimes it can take forever – or seem to! Then, on the other hand, some days it just flows and it’s just wonderful when that happens. Even then, I need to stop constantly and do something else or distract myself for a few minutes so I can come back fresh to the writing. I can’t just sit down and write for hours – that would probably drive me mad too.
Do you write right through or do you reviseas you go along?
I tend to revise stuff as I go along, or if I can’t do it then, I’ll highlight it in blue font on the screen to remind myself I need to change something – and then come back to it later. That said, I’ll do apretty thorough edit of everything at the end as well, as then I know what the big picture is, and I find it easier to edit at that stage.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I do very little planning as I find that kills the urge to write at all. Instead I just start writing and see what comes up. So,I’ll start with a character or a scene, and then build it up from there. It’s much more exciting that way, as I don’t really know what’s going to happen nextuntil I write it down. At the same time, once I’m really into the story I do know roughly what the ending will be and have fun working towards it. SometimesI even write the end before I get there, but invariably it changes quite a lot once I arrive.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I do research during a book and then again afterwards when I need to, as I find the urge to write disappears if I research beforehand. As I’m writing, I keep the research to a minimum, and make a note about major issues which I can look into after the first draft is finished. Any changes can be included in the first major edit, and often are.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I never consciously set out to put people I know or myself into books, but subconsciously it always happens – a friend of mine once said that writers write the same story over and over again and it’s always their own, and I think that’s true in a lot of ways. As a fun thing though, I will use surnames of people I know (they are aware of this!) though the character has nothing to do with them, and I’ll also put the odd catch phrase or particular interests of friends in a book too. For instance, my lovely colleague Ruth’s new Smart car appeared in gay thriller The Bones of Summer, and she was quite chuffed by that! In terms of character development, I’ve learned to listen to their voices in my head and trust in what they’re trying to say. If I let that happen without shutting it down through fear or pure laziness, then the end book is much richer in my opinion.
How long does it take for you to complete abook you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I revise as I go along, as I prefer having something solid behind me when I’m writing the next section. But at the same time I always do a serious edit or two after I’ve finished the first draft and definitely before submitting it somewhere. In terms of how long books take,each one is different. Short stories are quicker of course and may take a month or two to get to a reasonable state. Novels take about a year to eighteen months, and sometimes longer as I may decide to put something aside for a whileas I work on another story, and come back to it later when I’m feeling more refreshed.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I rarely find it entirely easy to write anything and sometimes it can be a real exercise of discipline to get me to the keyboard at all, but then again I was brought up in a generation that didn’t expect instant gratification or that anything would be easy anyway if it was going to be worthwhile – so I suppose that background makes it a lot easier to sit down and try to get stuck in. Still, sometimes it’s like trying to get blood out of the proverbial and the most frustrating thing on the planet – but when it’s flowing it’s honestly one of the best and most exciting things too. So I suppose you have to take the rough with the smooth. If things simply aren’t working, then I’ll try another form of writing just to keep – or get back into – the game.For instance, if a novel isn’t going well, I try to start a short story or write a poem, or even a blog entry. It’s all writing and helps to free my head a little when it’s clogged up in one area. The novel will still be waiting whenI get back to it.
When someone reads one of your books for thefirst time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I hope they can feel the emotions and difficulties of the character in the story, and become involved with them – that’s why I write and it’s why I read, so I hope it’s the same for readers of my own books too. I also like to think, with my darker work, that I can take readers – as I take myself – into the more shadowy parts of their lives they rarely acknowledge. People aren’t always happy or fortunate and there are many things from the past that can hold us back or give us pause for thought. Many of my characters arein that position, but there’s always the possibility of change – that’s what makes reading, and writing, so important. Books change us – that’s a major reason why they exist.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
I think I’ve learnt huge numbers of things since Iwas first published, from fellow authors, publishers and readers. For me, the three most important things to remember are: (a) Never stop learning and listening; (b) Write what most excites and moves you, as those emotions will come through naturally in your work; and (c) your best writing friend is definitely your editor – trust them!
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come beforeyou even begin the first sentence?
It’s a mix of both, though most usually the title comes at the end orduring the process of writing. Sometimes if I pick on a title as I’m writing,the focus of my story changes so the title doesn’t fit any more because my characters are taking me somewhere else. This happened with Where You Hurt The Most – I started off calling it The Eye of The Beholder and then realised that the main theme was actually what we fear in our inner beings and not outside appearances, so the title was changed, and I much prefer it.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I think my sense of humour is pretty quirky, and both my husband and I can’t resist a good dose of irony. The Friday night unofficial comedy zone on UK TV is an absolute must – we’re huge fans of Have I Got News For You, QI, Mock The Week etc, and I also love Would I Lie To You, though my husband is less keen. David Mitchell is definitely the best comedian around at the moment.
What is the most frequently asked Anne Brooke question?
There are two (am I allowed that?…)! The first is: Why aren’t you in bookshops? To which the answer is I’m published by the small independent press and e-press and theydon’t use High Street bookshops. The second is: Do you really write naughty books? To which the answer is I write erotic fiction, amongst other genres, and I do it well enough to have a regular readership so am both very lucky and very proud of that fact!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a gay fantasy novella called The Taming of The Hawk, and have also started an office-based short story which I hope to submit to Riptide later in the summer for their Blood in the Boardroom anthology. No idea what the title is yet though.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
The best piece of advice Iever received was from my former agent who told me to watch out for the fact that once I had a word I liked, I just kept on using it to the point of insanity! He was right too, and I’ve had to take care over that ever since. I think it’s the poet in me – repetition for effect, you know. That’s my excuseanyway …
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order toincrease reader-awareness of your work?
I’m a regular user of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and GooglePlus, and I also blog twice a week. All my book news can be found there.Being a Riptide author has also meant I’ve been doing blog tours (such as this one!) which have been fantastic and great fun , as well as hard work of course. Most recently, I took part in aBlog Hop over Easter, and that was incredibly successful so I’ll definitely bedoing one of these again.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive- both in your work and out of it?
Actually, I’ve never made my living by writing. I work part-time as an Executive Assistant at my local University, which is how Ipay the bills etc etc. I don’t think any writer – unless extremely best-sellingin a mainstream genre – can make their living through fiction, and 99% of usneed something else to keep body and soul together. In fact, I find the balance between writing and having a “real-life” job I also enjoy itself helps to keep the creative spark alive, as I’m not closed off in my own little world all the time.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I love reading gay fiction, including romance andcrime, and I also enjoy thrillers, contemporary fiction and women’s fiction as well. Other reading includes poetry, Christian books and also a non-fictionbook or biography, so I always have a lot of books on the go at the same time. If there wasn’t anything to read, I’d have to find something, and have in the past made do with a cereal packet at a pinch, but that was pretty desperate …
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
I’d love to be a ballet dancer, but I don’t have the elegance, the style or the talent – so that’s a bit of a no-go area then! I’d also love to be able to draw and paint, but that’s never happened either –maybe in another life …
Where did you get the ideas for the stories you write?
Sometimes, I dream them, then I have to get up and start writing them down to see what happens. I’ve always had very episodic dreams so that definitely helps. Otherwise, things people say or stories I see on the Newsmight inspire something to start turning over in my head – or, like the Rentboy Anthology, I see a theme I’d like to explore and so write something for that, as I did with Where You Hurt The Most.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I think recently I’ve been really lucky and the covers I’ve had for my books have been great – I love them! Things I dislike in general are pictures that aren’t suited to the story, and also I don’t like naked men on the covers.For me, sexual allure on covers is best conveyed when the men are dressed orpartially dressed – naked just doesn’t cut it!
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love going to the theatre, and my husband and I are keen supporters of both our main local theatres in Guildford and Woking. Some seasons, we can happily be there every week. I also enjoy playing seriously bad golf with one of my friends on a weekly basis – though she beatsme every time, darnit. We’ve also recently moved house and now have our very own garden at last, so planting as many flowers and shrubs as I can has become a BIG hobby. Oh, and reading’s a given – can’t forget that …
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
The fifth book in my gay ménage Delaneys series, The Delaneys At Home, is out in June, so I’m looking forward to that. It involves a pair of gangster twins and a very cheeky Irish lad, so sparks certainly keep flying between thethree of them! You can catch up with the series both at mywebsite and via the publisher.The final book in the series will – I hope – be called The Delaneys, My Parents and Me, but I have yet to start on that one.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
I can definitely recommend attending a writing group,either in real life or online – it doesn’t matter which – and paying closeattention to all comments given so you can improve your work. The really key thing however is to keep reading and read widely – I don’t trust writers who say they don’t read as they’re too busy writing. I think the soul goes out of it if you do that. Reading and writing are two signs of the same coin and you need to do both if you want to write the best books you can. I’d also trust in your unique writing voice and keep on developing it – nobody writes like you and nobody ever will, and that’s a wonderful thing.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Apart from the stories I’m currently working on(see previous answer), I’d like to write a follow-up to my gay BDSM story For One Night Only, and also to write a lesbian crime novel. So I think I’ll be keeping busy in the months/years ahead.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet
You can find me at:
Gay Reads UK
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) fromone of more of your stories with us?
Here’s an excerpt from Where You Hurt The Most, where high-class escort Adrian is meeting his new and facially disfigured client Dan for the first time:
I stood up. Firstly, I unbuttoned my cuffs,and then started on the buttons at the front. When I’d completely undone them,I shrugged the shirt off and let it fall onto the chair or floor behind me withoutchecking which. I just let Dan look at me.
He sucked in a breath. “You’re very beautiful. I hadn’t realised.”
He pushed himself up from the sofa and camenearer. I took a few steps to one side where we had more space, and he slowlywalked a full circle around me. I could feel his eyes on my skin, almost devouring me. I swallowed back a protest at being treated like a hooker again.Nothing about this encounter made me feel in control, but perhaps that was theway Dan needed it. “You can touch, if you want to.”
“Sure, thanks.” His fingers were surprisingly cold. I thought he might start with my nipples or chest, but he didn’t. Instead he ran his hand across my back and up to my right shoulder.“What’s this?”
I smiled. Clients always commented on my small tattoo. “It’s a Star of David. My mother was Jewish.”
“Oh, I see.” Then, “Is your name really Adrian?”
Once again, he’d made a leap of thought Ihadn’t anticipated. “No, it’s not. But only Max knows my real name. It’s not something I share with anyone else.”
He let that pass without comment and, as he continued his exploration of my back and then my chest, I wondered how much both of us were hiding, in different ways.
When he came to my nipples, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply as they hardened.
“You like that?” he said, his hand pausing.
I nodded, opening my eyes again. This close,his head was turned to one side, still protected by that hoodie. “Yes. Very much. Is there anything I can do for you, Dan? Anything you’d enjoy?”
He stopped stroking me and stepped away. Behind me, where I couldn’t see.
“Take off the rest of your clothes,” he whispered. “Please?”
Gritting my teeth, I hesitated for a moment or two, but then nodded. I took it slow. This was not at all like my usual encounters, where stripping took place much later on. I wasn’t wearing shoes or socks so there were only my trousers and briefs to deal with, but I made every movement count.
Behind me, his breath jittered as I slipped off my pants, and I thought he might touch me. He didn’t, but his next wordswarmed the back of my neck.
“Do you want me to draw the curtains?”
I shook my head. “There’s no need. Nobody can see. It’s very private here.”
“I suppose it has to be.”
I didn’t respond to that.
“Turn round,” he said, and I obeyed him. He drew in a breath. “You wax yourself?”
“Does it hurt?”
I smiled. “Only sometimes and only at first.I’m used to it.”
His lips were pursed, as if he planned to say something else but wasn’t sure how. His nearness heated my skin and he felt somehow far too close, so I gestured at the sofa, asked stupidly, “Do you want to sit down?”
“You’re naked,” he said, and then, in a rush, “You’re very beautiful. I envy you, the way you look. I wish . . .”
He swallowed, and before I could think again, I reached out and took his hand. His fingers felt cold in mine, colder than they’d been when he was stroking my skin. I led him to the sofa and pushed him down gently. He disentangled himself from my clasp and shuffled to the edge, where he’d been before. Feeling the loss more than I imagined I would, Isat down next to him, my body turned slightly towards his. If he was minded to touch me again, I was determined to make it easy, for us both.
Giveaway competition details:
The giveaway competition: the prize is THREE ebooks from my backlist if these questions about Where You Hurt The Most are answered correctly:
1. What was Dan’s hoped-for career before the accident?
2. Where does Adrian take Dan on their second meeting?
3. What month is it when Max visits Adrian for the last time?
Answers should be sent to albrookeATmeDOTcom(and NOT left on the post), and winners will be notified as soon as possible after 18 May, when the tour ends. Good luck!
Anne Brooke’s fiction has been shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Novel Award, the Royal Literary Fund Awards and the Asham Award for Women Writers. She has also twice been the winner of the nationalDSJT Charitable Trust Open Poetry Competition.
She is the author of six published novels,including her fantasy series, The Gathandrian Trilogy, published by Bluewood Publishing and featuring gayscribe Simon Hartstongue. More information on the trilogy is available at: www.gathandria.com and the first of these novels is The Gifting. In addition,her gay and literary short stories are regularly published by Riptide Publishing, Amber Allure Press and Untreed Reads. Her most recent gay shortstory is Where You Hurt The Most, a tale of unexpected connections and possibilities, published by Riptide. All her gay fiction can be found at: www.gayreads.co.uk.
Anne has a secret passion for theatre and chocolate, preferably at the same time, and is currently working on a gay fantasy novella, The Taming of the Hawk. More information can be found at www.annebrooke.com and she regularly blogs at:
Where You Hurt The Most blurb:
Adrian is more than happy as high-class escortfor a number of regular clients. When his boss and dear friend asks him toentertain his nephew, Adrian readily agrees, but meeting Dan challenges him inways he’d never imagined. Dan is scarred inside and out from an accident thatdestroyed a promising future. Despite Adrian’s loveless lifestyle and Dan’swithdrawal and anger, the two men forge a deep – if unnerving – connection.Soon they find themselves questioning the choices they’ve made and the futuresthey’ve mapped out for themselves.
Yet even bright young men like Adrian and Danfear the unknown and take comfort in the familiar. Neither may be strong enoughto step away from the life they know and toward the one they dare not hope for.But while it’s true that love can’t heal all wounds, it is the surest balm for whereyou hurt the most.
You can read an excerpt and purchase Where You Hurt The Most here.