We have the rest of forever for regret… – Brandon Shire
Lem Porter is nearly two decades into the life sentence he was given for committing cold-blooded murder, but only he knows why he committed that crime and, let’s face it, at six-foot-six and nearly three-hundred pounds, there aren’t a lot of people who have the courage to challenge Lem for the answers he’s not willing to give. Not yet, at least.
Enter Anderson Passero, who couldn’t be a greater contradiction in terms of his likeness to Lem. Anderson was convicted of selling drugs in the night club he owned with his partner, Jacob, and whether Anderson was wholly complicit in the affairs that led to his arrest, or he merely was caught in the crossfire of greed and arrogance, it didn’t matter in the end. He was convicted, albeit it to a lesser crime than Jacob, and he is now at the tail end of his ten year sentence. Just eight more months to serve, then he’s finally free to begin reassembling some sort of life outside his prison walls.
When the beacon of light at the end of Anderson’s very dark and very long journey begins to grow brighter with each day that passes, the single goal in his life is to keep his head down and his nose clean, striving to bypass any hint of drama that might throw a hitch into his imminent release, and that means avoiding any entanglements or encounters that might lead him to trouble. One of the numerous negative aspects about prison, however, is that no matter how far out of the way a man may go to avoid it, trouble, when it’s determined enough, will always find a way. And it’s trouble of the potentially disastrous sort that ultimately brings Lem and Anderson together, this trouble in the form of a cold and sadistic man who takes an intense interest in a very unwilling Anderson, something that leads to a multitude of problems for Anderson and Lem both, though it will bond them irrevocably to each other, for better or for worse, through fear and lust, and through longing and regrets.
There’s an inherent tragedy to the story of two men who form an intimate bond with each other within a setting that affords so very little opportunity for true or lasting intimacy, especially when circumstances provide the ultimate conflict of desires, but Brandon Shire capitalizes on this facet of the prison drama, skillfully feasting upon and serving up to the reader all the heartache and yearning Anderson and Lem have for something more than is possible for them to hope for. Cold is a book that is sometimes frightening and sometimes heartbreaking, a complex love story that is a contrast of thoughts and feelings. It’s a book about loss–the loss of freedom, the loss of choice, the loss of trust and privacy, the loss of connection–that left me anxious and hopeful and yearning for more from these characters.
I don’t mind confessing that the end of this book left me in tears, but take heart: there is a sequel in the works, so let’s thank the Muses that Mr. Shire is brave enough to pursue some of those questions that Lem, dear dichotomous Lem, has so adamantly refused to answer just now. The fact that the author was capable of making Lem a sympathetic character is truly impressive; the fact that he was capable of making me yearn for a happy ending for Anderson and Lem is nothing less than pitch-perfect storytelling.
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Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about Cold, Brandon. Bruce and I are honored to have you with us today.
Q.) What inspired you to write a prison drama?
A: There were multiple elements that made me chose prison as a backdrop.
The two MC’s in the story are so completely different that it would be highly unlikely they would mix ‘in the real world.’ So there had to be an element that would place them together and really force them to look beyond the stereotypes they had built. Ironically, this becomes a self-examination about the idea of compatibility and how they view a potential partner. It’s a struggle for both of them.
The subtext in that was also designed to challenge the reader’s view of what is just and unjust, who is viewed as a ‘prisoner’ and who as a ‘human’. I think this will be challenged much more when we find out why Lem killed his brother in the next book.
Q.) Did you base Lem’s and Anderson’s crimes and/or characters on any real-world events or people?
A: Anderson was easy. Drug abuse within the LGBT community is very high, so you could pick out any number of people that you think might be on their way to prison if they don’t get themselves straightened out and there would be Anderson sitting in front of you. For Lem, who was a convicted murderer, I had a consultant who spent over 20 years in prison for the same charge. A lot of what we spoke about is reflected within his character.
Q.) Was one character more difficult to write than the other? If so, was that Lem or Anderson, and why?
A: I would have to say Lem, because he is such a big, quiet, gentle man that it was hard to draw him out of his shell enough to speak to me (and thus to Anderson.) But while persuading him to give us that information, it was impossible not to see his dark side too, which is, honestly, scary.
Q.) Were there any built-in difficulties in writing a book set within the limited confines of prison walls?
A: (Laughs) Yes, the sex. From what my consultant told me the shower is the main area for sexual activity because it is one of the only places where you are allowed some privacy. You can only do so many shower scenes in a book.
Q.) How long did it take you to write the book?
A: From first word to publication, about six months. That is the usual with all my writing. The longest I ever spent on a book was ten years (because the subject matter was so hard.)
Q.) In spite of Lem’s crimes, I found him to be such a sympathetic character. Did you ever find yourself wondering, as you were writing the book, if you were succeeding in achieving, or maybe I should say tipping, that balance in the right direction?
A: I spent many, many hours talking to my consultant, and we have become close friends. I think in our current society we are too quick on judgment. The crap you see on television doesn’t encompass the real people behind the hyped up media stories. That’s not to say that people don’t deserve punishment for crimes, but that they should still be viewed as people first.
Q.) Do you have any works-in-progress you’d like to share a little bit about with readers?
A: I’ll be working on a follow-up novel for COLD, though I have no idea what the title will be at this point. When I first started writing, the intent was for a single novel, but the muse had different ideas. I also have several sci-fi novels in the works. The novels are complete but fans have asked that I convert the characters to reflect a broader spectrum of the LGBTQ rainbow. And there is more romance coming too.
Q.) Where can readers find you on the internet?
A: Just about anywhere except Facebook. My website is brandonshire.com and there are links to all my social media outlets. Fans have also created a group on Goodreads and anyone is welcome to join. I stop in often.