TNA: Hi, Cardeno C., thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, interests, odds and ends things that make you, you.
CC: Hi, Lisa. Thanks so much for having me. A little bit about myself, let’s see … life seems too busy lately for hobbies but many years ago I used to be into photography. I loved taking pictures, but even more than that, I loved being in the dark room. These days, between work and writing and life hobby time isn’t what it once was but I still enjoy looking at pictures and other types of art (especially ceramics). Other than that, I’m just a run-of-the-mill, fairly boring vegetarian.
TNA: Have you always written M/M Romance, or is that something that came along later in your writing career?
CC: All my books are in this genre. I started writing because I felt like all the movies and books I was seeing/reading about gay characters involved tragedies of some kind or another – death, beatings, illness, sever dysfunction, etc. It sometimes seemed to me that the characters were being punished. I wanted to write stories about gay people in healthy, happy, strong relationships. So my desire to tell these stories was the impetus for my writing career.
CC: My first published M/M title is called Home Again. Although it was the first book I published, it wasn’t the first book I wrote. I came up with the idea for Home Again while I was writing He Completes Me. I don’t remember any particular spark leading to that book, but I do remember writing a certain scene.
In the book, a character’s mother passes away. When I wrote this scene, I was out in the woods, sitting on a porch of a tiny, rustic cabin, looking out at the grass and the trees with my laptop propped on my legs:
Her funeral was beautiful. It was like the earth knew one of its believers was coming home. The normally cold November weather tempered. The sky was extra blue, scattered with white, fluffy clouds, and decorated with a double rainbow. As we stood outside and lowered her casket into the ground, the leaves on the trees danced and a light breeze sailed past me in a soft caress, drying my tears before they could make their way down my cheeks.
TNA: Let’s chat a little bit about your new book Strong Enough? How did you come up with the idea for the book?
CC: Strong Enough is one of those books that sort of jumps in and knocks everything else out of the way. I have a timeline of what book I’ll write and when. There’s an order having to do with which series the book falls in and how the characters relate to each other.
I was supposed to be writing a book for another series. Or, if I was going to write a book for my Family series, there were a few others listed in my timeline. But the characters of smart, mature, wounded Spencer and vivacious, young, steadfast Emilio jumped into my head and wouldn’t let go. That got their story bumped to the top of my list. Thankfully, I intentionally write my series to allow the books to be read in any order so that wasn’t an issue.
TNA: Did either of the main characters give you fits as you were writing, not wanting to cooperate with where you saw their story going?
CC: No fits, total cooperation and smooth sailing with this one. That doesn’t always happen. For example, the first book in this series, Something in the Way He Needs, was my most difficult book to write. In order to write my characters, I need to get into their heads. Ash Penaz, one of the characters in Something in the Way He Needs, is a challenging man and living in his head wasn’t easy for me. That book is different from my others in tone, in emotion, and in relationship dynamic. It was a stretch and it took a long time, but in the end I feel like I captured what I was aiming to portray. I’m very proud of how it turned out.
CC: No to both of those questions. The reason I started writing — and the reason I continue to write — is to portray positive, happy relationships. I want people to feel good and uplifted when they read my books. To me, that requires a strong happily-ever-after.
TNA: Do you still, even now, feel nervous when you submit a new manuscript for publication? Is there still that fear that it won’t be accepted?
CC: My nerves come when a book is being published. I’m always anxious about what loyal readers will think. One amazing thing about this writing job is the incredibly kind, supportive, generous readers in our M/M Romance community. They send kind emails, they help with Facebook banners, they start fan pages, and much more. Every time I have a new book coming out, I’m petrified that I’ll let down the people who have been so supportive of my writing and allowed me to do something I love.
TNA: Is that nervous feeling something you think every author shares?
CC: I haven’t talked about this with many other writers, so I’m not sure, but I suspect all of us have nerves at some (or many) stages of the process.
TNA: What are some of the primary qualities you’d say all of your MCs share?
CC: By the end of each book, I think all of my main characters have a strong sense of self, of who they are and what they want. I also think they’re loyal, committed, and deeply in love.
TNA: Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite? If so, who and why?
CC: No, I don’t have a favorite character. In order to write my characters, I need to live in their heads, which means I have to know them and like them. No choosing favorites after that. ;)
TNA: Do you have an all-time favorite literary character? If so, who and why?
CC: I’m going to choose a literary work from our genre — Frog by Mary Calmes. The main character in Frog, Weber, is a strong, proud, macho man whose life didn’t go as planned. He isn’t the cowboy who owns the ranch or won the rodeo. He isn’t the gorgeous Marlboro man. He doesn’t turn into an Alpha werewolf. Weber is average looking, his career of choice didn’t pan out, his finances are dire, and his job prospects are slim. Watching what a proud cowboy does when his life reaches that stage was humbling and beautiful. I feel like I know Weber Yates because when I read his story, I felt like I was reading about my father. In my opinion, Mary’s portrayal of that man was brilliantly executed and infinitely touching.
TNA: If you could sit down to dinner with one person, past or present, who would it be, and what’s the one question you’d love to ask that person?
CC: I’d love to have more time with my late grandmother. She was an exceptionally important person in my childhood and continues to be the guide by which I measure my life decisions. I like to think that my grandmother would be proud of the life I’ve built and the person I’ve become. Having the chance to tell her I’m happy would be incredible.
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?
CC: After Strong Enough, I’ll have a book coming out in mid-November called More Than Everything. It’s another book in my Family series and another opportunity to stretch my wings. Right now I’m finishing up the next (and probably last) book in my Home series. This one is called Walk with Me and it’s about Seth and Eli.
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
CC: Readers can find me on my website: http://www.cardenoc.com, on twitter as @cardenoc, and on Facebook.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from Strong Enough with us?
STRONG ENOUGH BY CARDENO C. – EXCERPT
“Hey, hold up!”
Spencer heard the voice behind him and was torn between following the demand or running the remaining few steps to his Accord . Ignoring the person calling out to him would be socially awkward. Not that he was a top authority on social graces, but he was pretty sure running away would be considered rude. So Spencer stopped, took a deep breath, and slowly turned around, keeping his briefcase against his chest.
Of course, he had no idea what kind of protection some leather and paper could offer, or even why he needed protection. Other than the first day he’d seen the handsome man, he hadn’t been caught staring. Plus, they were in a public parking lot, in broad daylight. He was safe.
“Hey, uh, hi!” the guy shouted as he jogged over. “I’m Emilio Sanchez.”
Now that he was face-to-face with the big man, or actually face to neck, Spencer realized he had been wrong in thinking Emilio was as attractive in person as he had been through the window. No, as it turned out, up close and personal the man was even more stunning. The first time he had walked by the construction site and locked eyes with the stranger, Spencer had turned away within seconds. But this time, the broad chest was right in front of him, the sweat-damp T-shirt stretched over muscles Spencer wanted desperately to touch, and as close as they were standing to each other, the scent of sawdust and musk born of hard work permeated his nose. And that quickly, Spencer felt his cock filling.
Not since he’d been a teenager had he experienced spontaneous erections. And in recent years, he had often found them hard to achieve or maintain even when he was naked in bed with a man. Orgasms, whether alone or with someone, were so infrequent that Spencer couldn’t remember the last time he’d had one. He had chalked it up to age, to stress at work, to some bad relationships in his past, to the fact that he hadn’t ever had a particularly high sex drive. But none of those factors were stopping him now.
Just a few seconds next to this man and Spencer was already achingly hard. Then he gulped and looked up into chocolate-brown eyes and shuddered as his balls drew up and his dick pushed against his zipper. It was as close to cumming as he’d been since an unusually active night with his ex over a year prior. Spencer would have been terrified—should have been terrified—that the man in front of him would notice his erection, but it felt so good to want again, to experience that pull in his groin, he couldn’t bring himself to feel anything but relief as he lowered his arm so his briefcase covered his bulge.
“We’ve been doing work close to your office, so I’ve seen you around,” Emilio said, making Spencer realize he had been staring, but not talking. Then the stranger held his hand out and added, “I’ve wanted to meet you.”
“Oh!” Spencer looked down at the offered palm and then back up at the handsome face. He switched his case from his right hand to his left, making sure to keep it in place, shielding his groin. Then he took the man’s hand and shook it. “I’m Spencer,” he said, proud that his voice shook only a tad. “Spencer Derdinger.”
“I was right,” Emilio said, sounding quieter, huskier. Spencer waited for clarification about that statement, but it didn’t come. Instead Emilio held his gaze and his hand.
“Right about what?” Spencer finally asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“That you sound as great as you look.”
Not knowing what to say or how to respond, Spencer started blinking rapidly and stammering. “I don’t… I… what?”
“What are you doing for dinner tonight?” Emilio asked before Spencer had finished processing the earlier comment.
Feeling completely flummoxed, he didn’t know what to say. He looked at his wristwatch instinctively, then back at the man standing in front of him and said, “It’s only three thirty.”
The contrast between Emilio’s shiny white teeth and his deep tan skin and five o’clock shadow made his smile all the more powerful.
“Good point. We shouldn’t wait for dinner. Let’s start the weekend now.”
“Start the weekend…. Wait, what are we talking about?” Spencer asked.
“Well, right now we’re talking about hanging out for a little while and then getting dinner together.” Emilio hadn’t moved his gaze from Spencer’s face for even a second. He didn’t remember ever having someone look at him so intently. It made his legs quake. “But I’m hoping I’ll be able to talk you into stretching things out longer. At least until after breakfast.”
“Breakfast?” Spencer repeated, hating that he couldn’t seem to put together a sentence. He was a numbers guy. Words weren’t his specialty and neither were people, so he didn’t expect to be charming or a brilliant orator, but a complete sentence would have been nice. Of course, before his mouth could work, his brain would need to catch up to the situation at hand.
“Yes.” Emilio raised his free hand and covered the back of Spencer’s with it, making him realize they were still holding on from that handshake. “I make a mean omelet,” he said as he moved his fingers over Spencer’s skin with barely there touches. “Do you have jalapenos?”
“No.” Spencer shook his head and then wondered why he had answered the question. The entire conversation made no sense. “But—”
“That’s okay. We can always pick some up later. I’ll come by now and check your fridge to see what else we’ll need.”
Truly, the entire conversation was confusing to the point where Spencer wondered if he was dreaming. He half expected a frog to ride by on a flying bicycle at any moment. He could think of only one possible explanation that would lend some logic to the situation, but it seemed very unlikely. No way was this man looking to hook up with him.
At the risk of getting punched, or worse, Spencer steeled his courage and said, “Uh, Emilio.” He swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “Are you, uh, coming on to me?”
As soon as he said the words, he realized how ridiculous they sounded. Emilio was all cut muscles, chiseled features, and perfect hair. Someone who looked like that wouldn’t have given Spencer a second glance ten years ago, when they would have been closer to the same age. To think it was happening now, when he was softer, grayer, and more lined, was positively preposterous.
But then, contrary to any expectation Spencer had for the response to his question or, for that matter, the entire conversation, Emilio lifted their joined hands to his mouth and gently kissed Spencer’s palm. Spencer was pretty sure nobody had done that to him, ever, and it made his heart flutter.
“Yeah, I am,” Emilio said. “But if you have to ask, I must not be doing a very good job of it.” Emilio grinned as he spoke and his eyes sparkled. “I’ll see what I can do to be more clear once we get to your place.”
The corners of Spencer’s lips tilted up in response. How could he not smile with this man looking at him like that?
“Oh, holy shit!” Emilio gasped as he let go of Spencer and pressed his own hand against his chest. “You have dimples.” He sighed loudly. “I think I’m in love.”
Spencer’s jaw dropped and all the color drained from his face. “What?”
Without bothering to answer his question, Emilio pointed at Spencer’s Honda and asked, “Is this your car?” Spencer nodded. “I’ll follow you to your place, okay?” Emilio didn’t wait for an answer, just dipped his face down, planted a kiss on Spencer’s cheek, and jogged back to his truck.
It was the single most perplexing exchange of Spencer’s life. He wasn’t sure what had just happened, what he was supposed to do now, or what was going to happen. With his entire body trembling, he decided to perform simple, familiar tasks: walk, open his car door, put the key in the ignition, and pull out of the parking lot.
He drove home on autopilot, his brain still in that parking lot processing his interaction with the handsome younger man who had looked at him in a completely unfamiliar way. Then he glanced at his rearview mirror and saw the big white truck following him. It was terrifying, like having a freight train barreling straight at him.
No, that was a bad analogy. With a freight train he’d know what to do—jump out of the way as fast and as far as possible. But this was a gorgeous man with an unexpectedly gentle touch. So, contrary to any logic he should have been smart enough to have or self-preservation instincts he was old enough to have developed, Spencer didn’t drive to the nearest police station or a friend’s house or a public place. Instead, with his heart slamming against his ribcage, his breath coming out at an unusually fast clip, and his dick still hard as steel, he continued to drive straight home.
TNA: Thanks so much, Cardeno C., for being here with us today, and for sharing an excerpt of Strong Enough with us.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED