TNA: The Novel Approach is thrilled to welcome Heidi Cullinan on the Special Delivery Blog Tour. Heidi will be joining us not only today but in March and April as well, as each of the next two books in the series, Double Blind and Tough Love, are released. We’ll be conducting an interview in three parts, as well as offering one lucky reader the chance to win the e-book featured during each date, so good luck and read on!
TNA: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Heidi. I normally start interviews with the “tell us a little bit about yourself” prompt, so why don’t we do that but also add a little bit more to it by telling us, of all the books in your repertoire, what prompted you to revisit and revise the Special Delivery series in particular?
Heidi: Thanks for having me! I’m a forty-year-old gay romance author from Iowa, with a husband, a twelve-year-old daughter, four cats, and one horse, though the horse belongs to my daughter. I used to knit and still do in my head, though at this point I’m getting in danger of needing a YouTube video to re-learn how to cast on. I love reading and watching TV, though only through streaming as we don’t have cable or a DVR. When I say TV, I mean that I love the cheesy, silly, ridiculous stuff that makes most people roll their eyes. The worse it is the better I like it.
I revisited the Special Delivery series because I’ve always meant to, but the third book took pretty much three years longer than I meant it to finish. I’m really at home at Samhain and love my editor there, plus I wanted a chance to fix some mistakes, particularly a glaring format error in the first edition of Double Blind. Though I don’t think I could have ever finished Tough Love without Sasha (my Samhain editor). Just knowing she was there to catch me was enough to carry me through.
TNA: What are some of the things that stood out to you about Special Delivery, as you revisited it, that your accumulated years of writing experience has now taught you to see differently and/or do better?
Heidi: I went through—twice—before Sasha did her edits, tightening language, getting rid of dialog tags and my infamous list of overused words, but then Sasha went through and pushed me even harder. In the two books there’s only one scene that got cut, and that was in Double Blind, but even there it was mostly a condensing of a scene. No content got cut, only overused words and rambly bits. I’ve never been shy about the fact that I overwrite—I’m doing it right now, saying something and then saying it a second time in a slightly different way. I natter when I write, but I have a strong writing voice, so you have to really have my number to call me on it.
Sasha so very has my number. Special Delivery is 10k shorter, not a word of which you’ll miss. Double Blind is at least 20k shorter, though I think it might actually be more like 25k. People hear that and panic, but I assure you, all that happened is the fat is trimmed. Crabtree and Randy do like to carry on and on and on. They still do, but with more precision. It’s good for them both, and great for the books.
TNA: If you could describe why Mitch and Sam work together as a couple in just a few sentences, what would you say about them?
Heidi: I think that’s probably a personal question, because I think they both make spaces for people to project their own dreams and wishes onto, which is why they work. For me they work because Sam is all light and innocence, which is what Mitch wants to be, but he’s also innocently depraved in a way that makes Mitch feel okay about himself in a way he never thought he could. Mitch is the big tough guy, but it’s Sam who brings him (and Randy) to his knees. Which, who doesn’t want to be the person who, just by being yourself, can undo someone and make them fall in love with you? And take you on a trip cross-country?
TNA: Special Delivery is Sam’s coming of age story. If you would, tell us why you felt it was important to allow him to fully explore his sexuality in such a liberating and, let’s face it, kinky way?
Heidi: Well, this story was originally conceived as a 10k light and frothy short about a stockboy and delivery man getting it on in the back room, so sex was involved from the word go. But obviously it’s a bit longer than that, and basically it simply took on a life of its own. Probably the reason it came out the way it did was because I’ve always been transfixed by the way western, particularly American culture, obsesses about and fears sex at the same time. We celebrate it and shame it in this way that is so incredibly screwed up, and yet we pretend that’s how things are supposed to be, mostly because nobody’s brave enough to stand up and say, “Um, hey.” So in some senses Sam is that voice for me, someone who simply likes sex and wants to enjoy it, and Mitch is who helps him fully find his voice.
But this was also, really, my first gay romance, though it was published second. I’d written one before it, though it will probably never be published—at this point I keep cannibalizing parts of it in other stories, though I suppose someday I might take the skeleton and put new skin and organs on it. Special Delivery, though, was where I really cut my teeth on the terror that was having the gall to write about gay men having sex and falling in love. At this point they spoke to me louder and clearer than any other characters I tried to write and had for over a decade, but I was still scared of being judged, of doing it wrong, of appropriating a disenfranchised segment of our culture. I still actually have that fear, but Special Delivery and Sam is where I learned how to rope it. The book kept leading me into places where I felt like all I could do was screw it up, and yet Sam and eventually Randy would just smile and say, “Oh, come on. You can do it.” So I did. And here we are.
I think that fear colored what I wrote and how. That’s kind of my MO: when faced with something terrible, I just attack it, figuring I’ll either kill it or die. So far nothing has killed me, so we’re good.
TNA: This is a “road trip” story. First, what prompted you to want to write a book that takes place in such a variable setting, and second, how was it significant for Sam’s development to have his story take place away from home?
Heidi: HA. Well, for two years Sam stayed in Middleton, and the book was a disaster. I usually have at least 40k of discarded draft to a story, but Special Delivery has like 250k, and I’m not kidding. Not even a little bit. There are versions where he tricks at a truck stop. There was this one version where Mitch was going to go to a dance at the community college. There was all kinds of insanity that never worked. Eventually I figured out he needed to leave town, and not knowing what else to do, I sent him on the trip I’d recently taken with my husband and daughter, though of course Sam and Mitch kinked it up a bit. But EVEN THEN it took me months to realize Sharyle had to be dead or Sam would never leave her. I felt so bad I ended up taking her along, which was why the ashes happened. Which in the end was my favorite part.
The road trip made everything work because there’s nothing quite like a big trip like that to take you outside of yourself, get rid of all the garbage you’re letting artificially tie you down. In college I went on a five week European tour with my choir, and the director told us we’d never come home. He said we’d come back and never see anything in the world the same again—and he was right. Except that’s true anytime we go to a convention or retreat or vacation that’s outside our usual path. Like we cut down all our fences and let new things in, good and bad. For Sam that’s when he saw who he was, not what his town and his family told him to be.
TNA: If you could describe Mitch’s big epiphany, the moment he realizes he’s in love with Sam, what words would you use to describe how he felt?
Heidi: Oh, Mitch was in love with Sam in the alley. He fell when Sam jimmied on the steps. This is why he couldn’t be a POV character—basically he wanted Sam at word go and kept waiting for Sam to choose him. He never figured he had anything to say about it. But how did he feel? He looked at him, saw how happy and beautiful he was, inside and out, and all he really wanted was to be good enough and worthy enough to take care of that light forever. First Sam had to figure that out, and Mitch had to accept he really was good enough, but then Sam had to be ready.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from the book with us?
Mitch remained quiet for another mile. Sam worried he’d broken everything already. But as they came up over a hill near a rest stop, Mitch said, “Safe word. You didn’t pick one.”
Sam blinked and tried to think. “Violet.”
“Character. From 9 to 5.”
“Good. Remember Violet, then.” He aimed the semi toward the rest stop. “I believe I promised you a spanking if you said that word again.”
“Wait—wait.” Sam held on to the dash as Mitch pulled into a parking spot. “You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I’m very serious.” He locked the doors and undid his seat belt as he faced Sam. “Stand up and strip that ass bare.”
He’s teasing you. Sam told himself this, but as he sat frozen in his seat, watching Mitch’s rigid jaw, it was a hard line to buy. Sam breathed shallowly, as if to keep from being noticed by too much movement. After a minute or so, his hand hurt, and he realized this was because he held the seat belt strap so tightly it cut into his skin.
“You remember your word?” When Sam kept blinking, Mitch added, “Your safe word?”
It took work to force the word out. “Violet.”
“Okay.” Mitch pointed at Sam. “Get your ass over my knee.”
No, Sam wanted to shout, but he couldn’t, and what was weirder, he undid his seat belt and stumbled around the console and headed for Mitch, moving as if he were in a dream.
“Take off your pants.” Mitch tugged at Sam’s T-shirt. “This too. Take it all off. Right now, Sam. Do it.”
Sam had been ready to argue until the gruff command to do it. For some reason this inspired him to reach for the hem of his shirt, pull it off and toss it onto the passenger seat. He fumbled with the fastenings of his jeans because Mitch stared at his waist, and the look made all Sam’s blood run south. But when he pushed his jeans and underwear down and his phone started to tumble out of his pocket, Mitch leaned forward, steadied him and caught the phone in one motion. He put Judy into a small compartment in the dash before nodding at Sam’s jeans. “All the way off. Socks too.”
Sam undressed, dick hardening as he did so, which amazed him because a large part of him wanted to run. This was beyond stupid now. This was crazy. But oh, God, it was the most sexy thing he’d ever done in his life.
He’ll stop if I say the word.
Or would he?
Hesitating with his sock in hand, Sam looked Mitch in the eye. “Violet.”
Immediately, Mitch softened and touched his arm. “Too fast, Sunshine?”
Sam let out a breath, a two-ton weight off his chest. “Just testing.”
Mitch stayed where he was, watching Sam’s face. “So you want to keep playing? Because we don’t have to, if you don’t want to. It’s okay. We can go slow.”
“I don’t want to go slow.”
Mitch’s mouth turned up in one corner. “You’re ready to take your punishment?”
“You want me to spank you for saying you were stupid?”
Sam hesitated. Then he nodded again.
Mitch arched his eyebrows. “Say it. Tell me what you want.”
Sam did not want to say it. He wanted it to happen to him, but even as he thought that, he realized it wasn’t fair. He swallowed and tried to hold his head high. “I—I want you to…to spank me. Because I’m stupid.”
Mitch made a noise in the back of his throat that sounded disturbingly like a growl, and the next thing Sam knew he pitched forward toward the dash. He stopped at the last second, arms rigid against the panel of instrument readings or whatever they were, a knee on his stomach and another under his thigh. His bare ass stuck high in the air.
“Say it.” Mitch’s voice was tight and angry. “Tell me you’re stupid.”
“I’m stupid,” Sam said without hesitation and more than a little sass.
Mitch spanked him.
It was no gentle tap, but a smart slap against Sam’s bare buttocks, and it came with an accompanying smacking sound echoing loudly in the cab. Sam cried out, the sound half-recovery, half-outrage, and he tried to wriggle away.
Mitch held him in place and spanked him some more.
The sting from the first blow started to radiate, and when the second one came down, it amplified the first, and by the third Sam worked harder to get away. The more he struggled, the more firmly Mitch held him down, and by the time Mitch finished the seventh slap, Sam had learned to hold still and breathe.
After the tenth, Mitch stopped and rested his palm on the globe of Sam’s now acutely smarting ass.
“Would you care to say it again?”
No, Sam would not, because he did not want to be spanked anymore. Yet there was a tightness inside him now, an anger fueled by all the hurt and shame and confusion he’d felt all day, and—well, he was stupid. “Yes,” he snarled. “Because I am. I’m stupid. I’m stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid—ah!”
The spanking resumed. It hurt from the start and with more than a little sting. Violet, Sam thought, but even as part of him wanted to end this, the part driving only cried out—and in a move making him feel utterly, utterly like a whore—he arched his ass up higher toward the striking palm. By the tenth strike Sam’s ass was on fire, but the burn was spreading, and his cries had become moans.
“And now?” Mitch asked, as calmly as you please. But Sam could feel Mitch’s erection poking at Sam through the jeans. He was enjoying this. A lot. If he was a whore, Mitch was too.
Sam shuddered. “I’m stupid. I’m so stupid.” He shut his eyes. “And I’m a whore. I’m a slut.”
Mitch’s laugh was a shiver of dark pleasure. “Oh, but, Sunshine, you aren’t stupid.” A finger slid down the tingling crack between his cheeks, and he gasped as Mitch’s hand closed gently around his balls. “You can be as slutty and whorish as you want, and it will never make you stupid.”
Sam’s arms had been rigid against the dash, but when Mitch stroked him, they went slack and weak. “I do stupid things when I’m slutty.”
“You’re awfully slutty right now with your bare ass all red while you hump my hand. You can make this stop any time, but you don’t. You’re running off with me to God knows where, and you all but begged me to make you my little sex toy on the way. Do you think that makes you a whore?”
Sam was, indeed, humping into Mitch’s hand, because it was stroking his cock. “Yes.”
“Do you want to be my whore, sweetheart?”
Lust, hot and thick, shot through Sam’s body. “Yes.”
“Are you stupid, Sam Keller?”
Mitch’s finger pressed at Sam’s hole. “I’m enjoying this. I’m feeling pretty slutty myself. Am I stupid?”
“No,” Sam replied, no hesitation at all.
“Turn your head to the right.”
Mitch pressed his fingers gently against Sam’s lips. “Open.”
Sam complied, opening his mouth like a baby bird, shuddering when Mitch slipped two fingers inside.
When your deepest, darkest fantasy shows up, get on board.
Sam Keller knows he’ll never find the excitement he craves in Middleton, Iowa—not while he’s busting his ass in nursing school and paying rent by slaving away in a pharmacy stockroom. Then Sam meets Mitch Tedsoe, an independent, long-haul trucker who makes a delivery to a shop across the alley. Innocent flirting quickly leads to a fling, and when Mitch offers to take him on a road trip west, Sam jumps at the chance for adventure. Mitch is sexy, funny and friendly, but once they embark on their journey, something changes. One minute he’s the star of Sam’s every x-rated fantasy, the next he’s almost too much a perfect gentleman. And when they hit the Las Vegas city limit, Sam has a name to pin on Mitch’s malady: Randy.
For better or for worse, Sam grapples with the meaning of friendship, letting go, growing up—even the meaning of love—because no matter how far he travels, eventually all roads lead home.
Warning: This story contains trucker fantasies, threesomes and kinky consensual sex.
About the Author: Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi on her Website, Twitter, and Facebook.
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