Q. We’re so glad you could take some time away from your writing to be here with us, Piper and M.J. Why don’t we start by having you both tell us a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Piper: Hi. First let me say, thanks for having us! Just as a little background about me, I was born and raised in Chicago and still live in the area. I’ve been a big reader since I was around eleven or so, but my favorite genre has always been romance. I love journals and writing instruments and collect them a bit obsessively. My favorite animals are Emperor Penguins.
M.J.: I’m from the Seattle area and still live in walking distance from my parents’ first house. I’ve always loved reading, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, mystery–you name it. I get teased a lot for being really girly, but I have a major love for sparkly pink and purple stuff and a long lasting love affair with Bath & Body Works:) I also have a bit of a tattoo obsession. As of now I have five. I’m guessing that’s not going to be it, though!
Q. When did you discover your passion for writing? Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?
Piper: I discovered my love of writing right around the same time I started reading a lot. I got so wrapped up in the worlds and characters in the books I was reading, and one day it suddenly occurred to me that I could do that, I could write too. So I started writing, first just for myself, then for my friends, and finally I got into writing fanfiction and posting online. I “retired” from fanfics about five years ago. It was only recently (last October) that I got back into writing originals again, and I haven’t looked back since! There wasn’t anyone in particular who encouraged me when I was young, though. I’ve been self-motivated to write from the very start. Now, though, I get a lot of encouragement from my critique group and, of course, from M.J.
M.J.: Actually, when I was younger I thought music would end up being my profession, but that turned out to be something I like better as a hobby, albeit a very consuming one. I did write a lot when I was growing up as well, but somehow managing to be a professional writer seemed to be a bit farfetched to me (like being a professional musician wasn’t. Lol.) I kept writing through high school and college, though, and really enjoyed creating stories. I didn’t decide to make a real go of it until about a year and a half ago and I found M/M sort of by accident. I’m glad I did! It’s been a fun journey so far.
Q. How does writing a book collaboratively differ from writing alone?
Piper: Well, it goes a lot faster, for one! We’ve written two books collaboratively so far and are currently working on a third. So far the process has been this: I write up a detailed outline for the manuscript, M.J. takes that outline and breaks it down into chapters, and then we decide who is going to write what. The process seems to be working fairly well for us, so I think that’s how we’ll continue to do things unless we find something that works better in the future. When I write alone, I generally write up a broad outline and just go for it. If I’m having difficulty with a particular chapter, then I might stop to write up an outline for that specific chapter just to get my thoughts in order. Other than that, though, I pretty much wing it.
M.J.: I’m not as structured either when I write on my own, although, I’ve started to do it more and more. It really helps to get the book done when I have an outline. I think Piper and I work together really well though. I’m really type A about getting chapters churned out, but she’s much more meticulous and detail oriented, so we complement each other quite well.
Q. How many books have you written, both together and individually?
Piper: As I mentioned earlier, we have two co-written stories done already, and we’re working on a third right now. One of the stories is Moonlight Becomes You, of course, and the other, tentatively titled One Small Thing, is currently under submission. So far I’ve written two novellas and one short story on my own. One novella, Wanting, was for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Hot Summer Days anthology, and the other is a Christmas-themed romantic horror story, which was recently accepted for publication by Less Than Three Press. The short story I wrote, Black John, is in the Cross Bones pirate anthology from Dreamspinner Press, and it was actually written as a companion piece to M.J.’s Irish Red, which is also in the anthology.
M.J.: I’ll go with her answer for what we’ve done together:) On my own, whew, I’ve written five books for Republica press: Unintended, Things I’ll Never Say, Blood Moon, Hunter’s Moon, and A Little Bit of Magic (which Piper will be writing a companion to as well.) I’ve also done Dark Sun, which Loose Id released, and the short story Irish Red in the Cross Bones anthology. I have a novel and a short story under submission currently as well as the joint piece with Piper.
Q. How did you find each other? And once you did, how did you come to the decision that writing together was something you needed to do?
Piper: We met on Goodreads, in the M/M Romance Group, when I decided to start a thread to ask if any of the members would be interested in forming a critique group. M.J. was one of the members who responded, and she eventually went on to become my co-moderator in the critique group. At one point the subject of coauthoring had come up in our group and I’d mentioned to M.J. in passing that maybe we should try to write something together sometime. When I got the idea for Moonlight Becomes You, I instantly knew I wanted to ask her to write it with me. I’d read a lot of her work by then and I thought our styles would mesh well. So, I asked her and she agreed, and the rest is history.
M.J.: And the actual two series we were supposed to collaborate on first haven’t even happened. Maybe someday!!
Q. Let’s talk a little bit about Moonlight Becomes You and its prequel More than Moonlight. (Which you’ve offered as a free read, thanks very much!) I’m going to come right out and ask this question right off the bat, namely because it’s the first question that popped into my head when I finished the book: Will we be hearing more from the “Luck” and “Moonlight” boys in the near future? Please tell us you have much more of their storyline to share with us before we’re forced to say goodbye to them.
Piper: You will definitely be hearing more from the Luck and Moonlight boys! Like I mentioned above, M.J. and I are currently working on a third joint project together. That story is The Luckiest, sequel to Moonlight Becomes You, and revolves around Shane’s brother, Nick, and his love interest, Luka. There will also be a third book later, which will be Em’s (Luck’s manager) story. Plus, we’re bringing a new band into the picture in The Luckiest. They were recently signed to Luck’s label, Blue Horizon, and the boys from that band might be popping up in a series of their own later. Never say never.
M.J.: And before we release Nick’s book, we’re going to do something similar to More than Moonlight — a collection of shorts that will cover the events from right after Moonlight Becomes You until the start of The Luckiest. We were originally going to go ahead and include those events in the beginning of the novel, but we wanted to give the readers something to tide them over.
Q. Did the writing process actually come together as seamlessly as it appears to have in the finished product? Or were there several drafts and rewrites before it made its way to the publisher?
Piper: You know, it actually kind of did. We wrote up one full draft, submitted that to our critique group and several betas. Based on their suggestions, we did a few revisions and added a new scene or two, and then we sent it on its way. It was actually a little surprising how seamlessly it all came together, but M.J. and I have a great coauthoring relationship and we didn’t really run into any problems along the way.
( M.J. agrees)
Q. What attracted you to the idea of setting the story in the music industry? Are either of you musically inclined?
Piper: I adore music and listen to it constantly, but, sadly, I have no musical talent to speak of. I do want to learn to play the banjo, though, so we’ll see if that ever happens. But, actually, I’d never really considered writing a story set in the music industry before the idea for Moonlight Becomes You struck me. Now that we have written one, though, I can see doing more of them in the future. They’re a lot of fun!
M.J.: I think I’ve already answered that but I’ll add to it. In short, yes. Definitely, yes. I took my first music lessons at two (violin) and switched to piano at five, which means I’ve been playing it for a lot longer than I’d like to say. I also play a few other instruments, and was in band and choir (shhh) but can only mess around on the guitar and play a few songs. That’s a big regret of mine, and someday I hope I have the time to change that.
Q. 1. Did you pattern any of the characters after any real life musicians? If so, who do Shane and Kayden sing like?
Q. 2. What sorts of research, if any, did you do for the book?
Q. 3. This might sound like a silly question, but I’m asking it anyway. Was this book emotionally draining to write? Because I don’t mind telling you, it was emotionally draining to read at times.
Piper: Shane and his band Luck weren’t really patterned after anyone in particular, at least not for me. Moonlight, on the other hand, was patterned after our mutual favorite band, Muse, and, talent-wise, Kayden was based on their lead singer, Matt Bellamy.
Research wise, I didn’t really do a whole lot. Mainly I researched hotels and locales that were mentioned during the Lucky Moon Tour and such. Other than that, though, it wasn’t a very research-intensive book for me.
Was it emotionally draining? For me, parts of it were. I’m overly emotional by nature, though, and I tend to get really connected to my characters. I’m also a bit of a crier, and I can tell you that there were definitely scenes that had me crying while I wrote them.
M.J.: Actually for me, Luck sounds like Green Day. LOL. But that’s not official, and it’s mainly based on the way I pictured Nick and Shane looking. I know that wasn’t Piper’s vision at all and it just popped into my head. I didn’t do any research other than when I was writing the lyrics to that song they play at the end. I wanted it to make sense, so I based the rhythm, rhyming scheme, and the actual chords on a real song. If you sing the lyrics to the song “Wild Horses”, it’ll fit
Q. Asking this question might be a bit like asking you to choose one child over another, but of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?
Piper: I have a feeling that my and M.J.’s answer will be the same for this one. My favorite so far has got to be Nick Ventura, Shane’s brother. After having read Moonlight Becomes You, I’m sure there are people who will wonder why, and my only response is that you’ll have to read his book to find out. There is really so much more to him than we were able to show in this first book, but being that M.J. and I know him so well, and we’re in the middle of writing his book at the moment, it’s easy for us to love him. We’re really hoping that our readers will, too, once they have a chance to get to know him better. Second to him, I think I would probably say Jesse.
M.J.: ALL, all? Even if it’s all the characters in all my books, my answer is probably still Nick. I love that he’s a smart ass and I think he’s really funny, plus he’s hurt and damaged and all the other things that make a character interesting. My other favorite character doesn’t exist yet for the public. His name is Tally, and hopefully people will get to meet him soon!
Q. When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope s/he takes away from the experience?
Piper: You know, I would have to say that my biggest hope would be that they were emotionally moved. Whether the story made them happy, sad, angry, or anything in between, I think that being able to evoke some kind of emotional response from my readers is one of my biggest goals. Recently I had a reader tell me that she actually got butterflies in her stomach during the first love scene in Moonlight Becomes You. That made me feel really proud. That’s the type of reaction I want.
M.J.: Ditto on the above. If someone can be entertained, moved, and taken away from the real world for a few hours, I’m happy:) And I want them to care about my characters as much as I do…which is probably impossible so I’ll take ‘almost as much’.
Q. Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you attempt to dedicate to your writing?
Piper: No, but I wish I could! I usually try to dedicate a few hours to writing at least, more if I can manage it. I’m a stay-at-home mom and my son is with me all day, so I don’t usually get to write until after my husband is home and everyone is in bed. I think most of my writing happens between the hours of 10PM to 3AM.
M.J.: I basically do write full time, but I still have another full time job. I’m usually at it from when I get home at five or six (or seven, sigh.) until around one or two in the morning. I usually get a decent eight hours in. I’m really looking forward to the day when my writing day starts in the morning instead of after work!
Q. Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
Piper: I tend to be an outliner, at least for the overall storyline. I usually don’t outline specific chapters, as I mentioned above, but I like having a guide to refer back to in case I lose my way at some point. I think it helps keep me focused.
M.J.: Yes, and yes. I’m not the world’s best planner in any facet of my life, but I’m becoming more of one when it comes to a novel. I find that I get blocked a heck of a lot less when I do it that way, and even if I veer from my plan, at least there is one and I can keep going.
Q. When did you begin writing in the Male/Male genre? What about it interests you the most?
Piper: I actually wrote M/M (yaoi or slash) back in my fanfic days, so I’d say I’ve been writing it on and off since probably around 2004. What about it interests me? I love romance in all its forms, and, frankly, I find the idea of two men together extremely hot. I also love the dynamics of a relationship between two men and how it differs from M/F romance. Plus, there are several authors in this genre who are really inspirational to me and I aspire to even partially reach their level someday. Like I think I can truthfully say I’d love to be Amy Lane when I grow up. She’s just amazing.
M.J.: It was pretty random for me. I got surgery and was out for a few days. I was reading stories on Nifty or Literotica out of sheer boredom and came across one of the M/M ones. This was actually in the fall of 2009, so I’m still really new comparatively. It was just more interesting to me, new, and like Piper said, I thought it was hot. I also thought whatever story I was reading was written pretty badly and I could do better. So I wrote one and submitted it to a site, then wrote another, and a few months later, I was submitting them to publishers instead.
Q. What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?
Piper: The best advice I ever received? Honestly, it’s what any author will tell you. Write, write, write. Just do it, even when you’re not in the mood, even if you feel blocked. Just keep writing. And so that’s what I try to do, always bearing in mind that I can go back and revise later. It’s cliché, but the whole “practice makes perfect” thing is so appropriate here. The only way to develop as an author is to keep at it.
M.J.: Same as above. Do it all the time and it gets easier and easier. The other thing that I really liked is when someone told me not to get too hung up on all the ‘rules’ of how to be a good writer. There are exceptions to every single one of them, and no reader has the same taste. If you write in your own style and you make people happy, then it really doesn’t matter if it’s perfect.
Q. If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
Piper: Well, as I said above, write as much as possible, whenever possible. And if you get a rejection, don’t give up. Keep going. We’ve all gotten them. Stephen King got dozens and dozens and look where he is now. They come with the territory of being a writer, and just because you might not fit in with one publisher doesn’t mean another won’t see the potential in your work and offer you a contract.
M.J.: Mine would be listen to others, but not to a fault. I’ve seen lots of writers, new and experienced, go into a tailspin over conflicting opinions from beta readers, a nitpicky review, a peer’s unsolicited advice. Listen, take it all in, and then do what your instinct tells you is right. If you don’t believe in your own writing, then the readers will pick that up.
Q. What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
Piper: Will there be a full-length novel for Jonah and Laurie (my characters from Wanting)? The answer is: no, there won’t be a novel, but there probably will be a short story at some point in the future. Another question that started after the release of Moonlight Becomes You is: “when is Nick’s book coming out?” To which we don’t have an answer except to say, we’re working hard and hope to have it out before spring. *fingers crossed*
M.J.: Ah, jeez. When’s the next ‘Moon’ book. I wrote two of my paranormal trilogy and got sidetracked (and a little burnt out on paranormal to tell the truth). It will come eventually but if I wrote it right now, I wouldn’t have the necessary excitement to make it good. I get asked the Nicky question a lot too. And the answer is asap:)
Q. What is your most memorable fan experience?
Piper: Oh, gosh. I haven’t had very many yet, but one thing that stands out is an email I received from someone who read my story, Wanting, online. He said that he used to write, but he’d given up at some point, but my story inspired him to want to start writing again. I thought that was really amazing, just the idea that I could inspire someone to want to write too. I was very touched. Another that stands out, and it was actually from a different reader for that story, was a review I got from someone who had never read any M/M romance before Wanting. She enjoyed the story so much, she’s moved on to reading other M/M novels and she even joined the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads and recommended my story to others. I thought that was pretty cool.
M.J.: Actually, mine comes from back in my free story site days. I had a guy email me, from another country (Japan, I think), who said he was straight, and always thought that gay men were disgusting, but he’d read my story since it won some contest or another, and he felt the romance between the two men and could see that it really didn’t matter if it was a heterosexual union or not. I’d changed his mind about gay people. I’m not sure if there is a better compliment than that.
Q. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Piper: Maybe a film director because I’ve always loved movies, and I think that would just be awesome. But, honestly, even when I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was write.
M.J.: Haha. Everything. I’ve always had my fingers in lots of different things. I really do love music, but I can’t compose for anything, and I love painting and drawing. None of my skills are very practical though. I guess in reality I’d still be teaching middle school if I wasn’t writing. I took my office job so I’d have more energy to write.
Q. If time travel were possible, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?
Piper: I would say probably Regency England. It’s my favorite historical time period, and I would love to go back and see how similar it is to the books I’ve read. Either that or maybe feudal Japan because I am a huge anime fan and one of my favorites was set during that time period. I would love to see real samurai and ninjas in action.
M.J.: She stole my answer. Lol. I do love Regency England! I’d also like to see the forties perhaps. Or Pompeii in its heyday.
Q. If you had the opportunity to interview one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?
Piper: Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books of all time, and I would love to sit around and talk to her about that and her other books. I think that would be amazing.
M.J.: Ooh, I’m going with Matt Bellamy…or Tori Amos. I’d really just like to sit there and talk to them about piano for hours. That is, after I recovered from my blatant hero worship. Hehe.
Q. How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
Piper: Sarcastic, definitely. I can appreciate all types of humor, though, and even the silliest of slapstick makes me laugh sometimes.
M.J.: Well, lol. Mainly sarcasm. A lot of Nick’s snark in the first book came from me. I prefer ironic humor over obvious. One liners and quips. That kind of thing.
Q. Do you have any new projects/works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
Piper: After The Luckiest, my next project will be writing a novella in M.J.’s “Little Magic” universe. After that, who knows? Maybe we’ll hop on another joint project, or I’ll start working on a solo project for a publisher that invited me to submit. I have three potential ideas for them, but I just have to make a decision already. So many plots swirling around in my head, so little time!
M.J.: I have quite a few. What I’ll focus on next is hard to say. I will look at the my next book for the “Little Magic” trilogy, and maybe the paranormal mood will strike me and I’ll finish the “Moon” Trilogy as well:)
Q. Thanks again for spending some time with us, Piper and M.J. It’s been great having you with us. Will you tell us where we can find each of you on the Internet?
Piper and M.J.: You can find us on our joint blog, Babes in Boyland (http://mjandpiper.blogspot.com), and our websites (http://pipervaughn.com and http://www.mjoshearomance.com).
Q. And we’d love if you’d consider sharing a favorite excerpt from Moonlight Becomes You with us.
Piper and M.J.: Sure! Just as a lead in, this is a scene from the very beginning of the Lucky Moon tour, when Shane finally sees Kayden/Moonlight perform live for the first time…
By the time Shane made it to the side of the stage, Moonlight had already started their first song. Kayden stood in front of the mic, his trademark glittery blue guitar in hand. He was wearing tight black pants that rode dangerously low on his hips and a shimmery silver shirt that bared quite a bit of his smooth, toned abdomen. His hair was messy, as if he’d just woken from a nap…or come on stage directly after being thoroughly fucked.
Shane gaped. It took him a few seconds to pick his jaw up off the floor and stop staring. There was no helping the instant hard-on, however. It pressed painfully against the fly of his jeans, and he had to resist the urge to reach down and adjust himself. What the fuck? It was like he was thirteen again, popping a boner at the most inconvenient place and time. But, damn. He’d thought the sleek, put-together version of Kayden Berlin was hot. This Kayden was unreal.
Twenty different fantasies flashed through Shane’s mind, and he nearly groaned aloud at the last one — of him striding on the stage and taking Kayden right there, under the lights, in front of thousands of fans, the rest of the band still playing. He was caught up in the idea of it, rock hard and throbbing at the mental image, when Kayden began to sing.
Shane’s reaction was instantaneous. Kayden’s voice washed over him, cooling him down more effectively than a bucket of ice water over his head. The quality of that rich, throaty tenor sent a shiver down his spine. For a moment, it made him think of Jesse, though Jesse’s voice had been higher, less refined. Shane imagined they would’ve sounded great if they’d ever gotten a chance to sing together, Jesse and Kayden. The thought was accompanied by a dull ache in his gut. He shouldn’t be thinking of Jesse, not when it was his fault that Jesse wasn’t around, would never have a chance to sing a duet with Kayden or anyone else for that matter. Because Shane and the others had fucked him over. Shane more than anyone. It was Shane who Jesse had looked at with such pain and betrayal in his eyes. Shane, and no one else.
Shane watched the remainder of the concert in a daze. He didn’t move from his spot for Moonlight’s entire set list, which was a couple of songs longer than Luck’s had been. His eyes stayed glued to Kayden. The way he played, the way he moved, with such elegant, sensual grace, it was as if he’d cast some kind of spell, and Shane was helpless to look away.
For the majority of the concert, Kayden never even glanced his way. Shane thought Kayden either didn’t know or didn’t care that he stood offstage watching. But then during Epitaph, Moonlight’s longest, piano-intensive ballad, Kayden took a seat at the concert grand that faced his direction. He sat with his head bowed at first, focused on the keys. It was only when he started to sing that he looked up, directly at Shane. Their gazes locked, and Shane felt his breath catch at the power of those sea green eyes, despite the distance that separated them. In that moment, he realized that Kayden had known he was there all along. And as Kayden stared at him unwaveringly, it was like he was singing to Shane. For Shane. Watch me, his eyes said. Look at me.
Shane was looking. Couldn’t stop, in fact. Even when Kayden finally broke their connection and turned his attention back to the keys for the intricate piano solo that led to the finish. Shane kept right on looking until the concert was over and the last song had been sung. The members of Moonlight exited the stage past him, Surya grinning and Oliver acknowledging him with a nod. But Kayden brushed by him without so much as a glance.
Shane stood stock-still, fighting back anger and disappointment. What had he expected, really? That the one, intense moment they’d shared would have somehow changed Kayden’s attitude toward him? Not likely. But Shane knew that whatever animosity Kayden held for him, Kayden had also felt the spark between them, burning bright and hot, from the instant their gazes had met across the hotel conference room two days before. Kayden felt it; Shane had no doubt. Whether or not he would actually admit to it was an entirely different matter.