TNA: Hi, Brad, thanks for being here with us today. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself, things we don’t know about you but should?
Brad: Thanks for having me! I’m the bound slave of two cats, who force me to write every morning so they can keep eating that expensive Blue brand cat food and living a life of luxury! Seriously, I think the best way to get to know me is to read my books. I put a lot of myself into them. My fantasies, my interests, my experience all go into my writing.
TNA: What was your first published novel? If you could go back in time to the moment you started writing it, what advice would you give yourself now that you have the benefit of experience?
Brad: A Little Too Broken was my first foray into longer-form fiction, after writing short erotica for a year. My advice would have been, be a plotter, not a pantser! That book had a good ending, but that was more a matter of luck than planning. Also, it was a novella more than a novel. I’ve learned that the longer the book, the more likely the story is to get away from you if you don’t have a plan for it. Now I write the end of the book before I start – sometimes that ending changes as the story progresses and the characters evolve, but the point is to always have your ending in mind.
TNA: What’s your favorite thing about being an author? How about the least favorite?
Brad: My favorite thing is writing! I love it. I want to do it full time, all the time, every day. It never feels like work. I love researching, I love the sparks that fly in my mind when I read something and realize, that will work in my book, or this changes the plot if I want to be accurate, but I can change it in a great way. My least favorite thing is selling myself, to be honest. I’m not really good at shouting “hey hey me me look look, buy buy buy!” And it feels like the more I flog myself on Facebook, the lower my sales. :) I think the best marketing strategy for me is to write better and better books every time.
TNA: Tell us a little bit about the title of your new book Apollo’s Curse. Why Apollo? Are you a fan of any one particular mythology?
Brad: In Greek mythology, Apollo was the leader of the Nine Muses, who were the inspirations throughout history to creative types like me. So he was “Muse to the Muses,” really. And of course “Paul” aka Apollo is the Muse to Dane, the lead character. And he’s the Sun God, so you know he’s young and hot and sexy. :) I would definitely put Greek mythology at the top of my list, maybe because I’ve been immersed in it since I was a kid. I love Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths. After that would be Norse mythology, which I learned more about when I wrote my Colum’s Viking Captivity series. Then I’d say Egyptian, because it’s fascinating, and I don’t know that much about it yet, but it’s definitely in my queue – my “Rob the Daemon” series dances through all the world’s mythologies, and it’s going to Egypt in the next one.
TNA: If you could be a god for a week, who would you choose to be, and why?
Brad: I would choose to be Venus, so I could find myself the perfect boyfriend, then get my son Cupid to shoot him with an arrow and make him fall in love with me!
TNA: There’s an oft used adage, “write what you know.” Your MC, Dane Gale, is a writer who finds his Muse and suddenly can’t write a bad book. Do you ever wish it were that easy? Would you chance a Faustian-style bargain with your Muse to be the most famous writer who ever lived? Why or why not?
Brad: There are days when I wish it was that easy! When you’re just grinding away at something and you know it’s missing something, or it’s not right, or it’s coming so slow. There are really slow days when I’m doing research, for instance. I spent hours and hours on Google Street View, dropping that little guy onto streets and canals in Venice, “walking” the city and surrounding islands to see where Dane would walk, where the dead ends were, where Jackson lived, what hotel Dane would stay at. I read lots of tour books and read tourist reviews of different hotels and, yes, just like Dane, I watched a lot of Rick Steves videos. I get so few words written on those days…but! Without that, the story wouldn’t feel real. This book is a departure for me since it has no sex scenes – it’s a throwback to the old Barbara Cartland/Harlequins that end with a kiss on the last page. So, it’s the first of my books that my mom could read! And she loved the scenes in Venice and Greece, she really felt like I’d been there (which I haven’t) and that I was telling that story from experience. That makes all the slow grindage worth it.
I think that Faustian bargain is available to any writer. You can “sell your soul” any time you like, and just…write to please the market. Like the story that Dane and Rose and Sherry write in “Apollo,” I could write shifter billionaires and make a mint. But shifters don’t do it for me, and billionaires in reality are ugly and boring. I mean, I’m not Dane, I don’t want to write books nobody reads – I want to write popular fiction, in both senses of that phrase. But I’ve gotta be a Sinatra – I’ve gotta do it my way!
TNA: Let me ask you this. Is it a coincidence at all that Francis J. Cura happens to be the model you chose for your book cover? Which came first, the cover model, or your idea for Paul Musegetes’ character?
Brad: I knew nothing about him when I started the book other than that he was a model. If you look at my back catalog, you’ll see that he’s on most of my covers. All I knew was that he was A, a gorgeous model who leapt off the screen at me every time I was cruising for cover art, and B, that there was something more there than just a pretty face. But from the time I had the concept for this book last summer, when I decided that my real Muse deserved his own novel, I also decided, I would not even try to find out who he was. I would create my own “Paul.” Because let’s be honest – most of the time your fantasies are best left there in fantasy land, right? What if he was just some dumb brick? I knew he wasn’t, though – there was so much intelligence in his eyes, so much intensity. Only when “Apollo” was published a month ago did I look up “Curaphotography,” the source of the photos on all the pic sites. And that was when I found out that he wasn’t just the model – he was the photographer! He staged all these scenes, and then starred in them! He was like Warren Beatty – not just amazingly gorgeous, but brilliant and talented too. I was exultant – I was right! I was right to pick him as a muse! I knew it! I knew there was something more there than just his beauty. I even wrote him a respectful but gushing fan letter…I never heard back though. But that doesn’t matter. I let him know the book exists and it’s a tribute to him.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from Apollo’s Curse with us?
Brad: I’d love to.
Blurb: All Dane Gale ever wanted was to be a successful writer. After a few sessions with his new friends Rose and Sherry at a romance book club, well, the more romances they read, the more they’re convinced they can do better. And do they ever! They join their creative forces to become “Pamela Clarice,” self-published romance novelist. When they look for a cover model for their first book, Dane sees the photos that will change his life.
Paul Musegetes is the world’s most popular romance cover model, and the most secretive. Dane soon finds himself obsessed with this supernaturally handsome man, and when he meets Paul at the Romance Writers’ Ball on the Summer Solstice, he and Paul connect for one night of passion…
After that night, Dane’s a writing machine. He can’t stop writing romances, and every story he touches turns to gold. But he also finds that he can’t write anything but romances. And soon he’s spending every waking moment of every day writing another after another…
Then Dane finds out that this Midas touch has a heavy price. When the year is over, he’ll never write again. Not a romance, not a serious novel. Nothing. Not even a grocery list. And that leaves him with only one option – find Paul, and get him to break the curse. But before he can do that, he’ll have to track down Paul’s equally mysterious photographer, Jackson da Vinci…
Excerpt: Rose took the helm and pulled up a stock photo site. “There are a lot of sites, but most of the photographers post everywhere, so it’s really about personal prefs and pricing. Mostly about pricing. So, we search on ‘sexy fireman,’ to start. Then if we don’t see anything we like, we can try ‘nude man,’ ‘naked man,’ ‘sexy man,’ et cetera and do some Photoshopping later…”
The site brought up a ton of thumbnails for ‘nude man.’ We wolf whistled, and criticized, and even laughed at a few. (A hot guy in…a gas mask? Something for everyone, I suppose.)
Then a picture caught my eye, the kind of photo I’d have normally dismissed as corny –a black and white photo of a naked guy in a white bed, with only a white sheet decoratively draped over his privates. He had longish dark hair and a five o’clock shadow on his pale, perfect skin. Oh, come on, I thought, how cliché is that? But holy mother of six packs, what a set of abs…what a perfect chiseled body. And that look on his face, not a smile but not quite a come-hither look…it was so…kind, without being weak. So sexy, without being sleazy. So…welcoming to his world, so…inviting.
“That guy.” My finger obeyed his summons, reaching out towards the screen. “Click on that guy.”
Rose obeyed. “Oh, him. That’s Paul. Everyone uses him. Half the covers on the bestseller list have one of his pics.”
“He’s…” I was at a loss for words. Me, the writer. Well, more to the point, “a” word like “gorgeous” wasn’t going to cut it. I felt as if he was demanding better than that from me.
“Everyone uses his pictures?” I said, my disappointment plain. I wanted to use it! I wanted to look at him every time I looked at our book.
“No, silly. He’s got a ton of pictures. Here, see?” she said, clicking on the link that said “Other stock images with this model.”
And, okay, a 27 inch monitor is pretty big, but even so, the thumbnails were still about an inch or two wide. So then how did his eyes catch me the way they did? Eyes that were the size onscreen of the head of a pin, if that. But they did. In the color pics, I could see that they were a blue-green, the color of the sea on a sunny day, warm and kind and full of love, and promise. Come to me, they instructed me.
“We can use him, too, it’s no crime.” She flicked back to the main page, before I could stop her. “We just can’t pick the same image that someone on the best seller list has just used. Gotta let ‘em cool a couple months before you reuse ‘em, and make a couple Photoshop changes to the background or color.”
“Oh,” Sherry said, looking at another guy. “Check him out…”
But I was lost. Paul. All I wanted to do was run home and stare at his picture. Pictures! I would feast on them.
And so, as I failed to keep up my end of the conversation, and blamed it on the wine and fatigue, the evening closed soon afterwards. We agreed to meet the next night at Rose’s house to begin synthesizing our work into a single story.
I cabbed it home and immediately fired up my laptop. Yeah, definitely time for a bigger monitor.
It wasn’t hard to find him again. And to find the “other images with this model” link. And click. And click. And blow up my browser window to 200%, so that when I zoomed the photos, his face, then his eyes, filled my screen.
And what surprised me was that there were not only so many images of him, but that he could be so many different men in so many different pictures, different settings – he was the tender lover with the rose, the snarling Viking, the cool guy in a band, the Miami Beach tool, the shifter/werewolf, the business man, the college kid, the gym rat, the outdoorsman, the poet, the drill sergeant, the soccer player, the swimmer… As I looked at each picture, I was totally convinced that I was looking at the real man, that that was who he really was…until I looked at the next.
And yet, always, he was clearly recognizably himself – Paul. It was those eyes, reminding you that he was in there, somewhere, behind the image, and you’d never know which one he really was, he was all of them, he was whoever you wanted him to be…
TNA: If time travel were possible, where would you go, and why?
Brad: The court of Elizabeth I. I’ve “collected” Elizabeths – I’ve seen every movie with her as a character, every miniseries, I’ve read every book worth reading on her and her time. When I went to England ten years ago, I went to Westminster Cathedral and felt this…electric shock when I stood by her tomb. That’s her! She’s in there! I’m this close to the person I’ve read so much about! I’d do anything to see her in the flesh, alive and reigning supreme.
TNA: Have you ever finished reading a book and thought, wow, I wish I’d written that? If so, which book was it, and what about it impressed you the most?
Brad: I just read “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. I was so jealous of the richness of her characters. The plot, for me, falls apart a little at the end, but it didn’t matter. I loved the people in it so much. I want to create characters like that.
TNA: Would you care to share a little information on your current WIPs with us?
Brad: Sure. A Great Prince is the working title. It’s about two European princes who fall in love – star crossed love of course. One good boy and one very bad boy – though both will learn that the other has qualities they need to adopt, if they’re to triumph over the Dark Forces they face. I’ve carved out two semi-fictional countries from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and of course that means more research! Which I’m loving, as always.
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
TNA: Thanks again for being our guest today, Brad, and for taking the time to answer my questions.
Brad: Thank you!
The Giveaway: Ten Copies of Apollo’s Curse