Welcome to authors K. Evan Coles and Brigham Vaughn! We’re so pleased to have them dropping in today on the tour for their latest release, With a Twist, book one in their new Speakeasy series. They’re chatting about the importance of representation today as well as offering up a giveaway, so be sure to check out those details below. Enjoy!
- the action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone or the state of being so represented.
- the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.
Our first published co-written works, “Wake” and “Calm,” told the story of two characters, Carter and Riley, who—outside of their struggles with sexual identity—were white, wealthy, and privileged. Now, we love those guys a lot and wouldn’t change much about them. However, when we started talking about our next project, “The Speakeasy,” we knew we wanted to write about characters who were different from Carter and Riley, and definitely different from ourselves.
We all know representation is a hot button topic in the book community and not always viewed positively. The push for inclusivity is sometimes seen as a politically correct distraction or simple lip service to pacify readers and critics. But representation isn’t about checking boxes—it’s about establishing connections.
Recognizing ourselves in the media we consume—books, movies, television, etc.—can give the material a deeper resonance. Seeing ourselves on a page or a screen or a stage can feel like an affirmation, because we’re given the opportunity to watch characters like ourselves move through the world. Those characters can make us feel both seen and heard, and perhaps even that someone has given us a voice. And for vast numbers of people, these are not always easy things to find in books.
Earlier this year, we participated in a book release party on Facebook for A.J. Rose and we asked the party’s attendees to talk to us about representation. Specifically, we wanted to know what about themselves and/or the people in their lives they’d like to see in the books they read.
The responses we received were wonderful and as unique as the respondents themselves. We want to share many of them with you, and set plot bunnies and reading ideas running amok.
- Race and ethnicity were mentioned several times, particularly characters of color who are successful in their careers. Included among the posts were requests for indigenous peoples, Latinx, the Irish, and Israeli Jews.
- Sexuality and gender identity were discussed, including—but not limited to—trans, bi, demi, pan, ace, aro, graysexual, gender fluid, and non-binary characters.
- Questioning characters were mentioned, and particularly characters who arrive at those questions later in life. Indeed, many of us don’t always have a lightbulb moment about our sexuality as teens or young adults, but after we’ve lived life a bit and gained some experience.
- Several posts discussed disability and chronic conditions, as well as speech impediments that go beyond a lisp or stutter.
- There were mentions of full-figured characters with good self-esteem, who are not focused on losing weight. There was another about gingers, specifically characters who are seen as desirable and are content with their own gingery goodness.
- Multiple posts mentioned a desire to see characters who are neither down and out nor billionaires, but average people with regular jobs—blue collar to white collar and everywhere in between.
The party left us with a ton of ideas to consider and work on, as well as books to search for from other authors. Will we be able to write all of those ideas into reality? That remains to be seen. We do love a challenge, though. And we’ve been able to incorporate some of them into “The Speakeasy.” Though plans for David and Luka, men of color, and Cam, our resident ginger, were in the works a long while before we had that discussion with readers.
Writing diverse characters does add additional challenges. We want to be sure we’re portraying them accurately and with sensitivity to issues that come along with being anything but cis-gendered and privileged. We have to do more research and dig deep to be sure we’re not including any of our own accidental biases. And we need to expand our range of beta readers to include people with more knowledge of these subjects and experiences.
But we both feel that’s a wonderful thing for us as writers and as humans, and we love that our readers are challenging us to grow and be better. We’re also making a sincere effort to be sure that the covers of our books reflect the characters on the pages, so not only can people read about a broad range of characters that reflect the world around us, they can see them on the front of the books too.
About the Book
Title: With a Twist
Series: The Speakeasy Series
Authors: K. Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn
Categories: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: 96k words (approx)
Release Date: 09.25.18
Blurb: Nursing a broken heart, Will Martin throws himself into teaching classes at NYU and writing. An invite from his ex-boyfriend to an uptown speakeasy called Under surprises Will by beginning to heal his bruised spirit, and he finds himself enjoying both the drinks and the company.
Soon after, Will is shaken by news that his father, Republican New York State Senator Bill Martin, has been diagnosed with cancer. Will and his father have been estranged since Will’s coming out, but he reluctantly returns to the family’s home in Garden City, Long Island, to support his family as Bill recovers from surgery.
Senator David Mori is a colleague and mentee of Bill Martin’s. Bill’s conservative views sometimes conflict with David’s more moderate politics and his status as both mixed race and openly gay, but each respects and likes each other, and the men have built a friendship.
Sparks fly when Will and David meet, though Will’s liberal views lead to clashes with David. Will is looking for a no-strings-attached fling and David is leery of getting involved with his mentor’s son, so they keep their affair a secret, in spite of their deepening feelings.
As Senator Martin’s health worsens, Will elects to remain in Garden City where he finds solace with David and continued trips to Under to seek the support of his friends. After David finally admits his feelings have grown beyond a casual sexual encounter, both men must decide how to bridge the divide to create a future together.
Reader Advisory: This book contains expressions of homophobia and racism by multiple secondary characters, references to disownment, and descriptions of terminal illness and death of secondary characters.
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“Senator Mori, please, come in.”
Greta sounded very pleased as she welcomed David into the house. Will stifled a sigh and set his tablet on the side table in the sunroom. The man was handsome, but, with the exception of LGBTQ issues, he frequently voted like a typical moderate Republican robot. Will hadn’t worked out exactly how he’d been roped into having dinner with his father’s colleague, but, unfortunately, he couldn’t back out now.
Actually, Will mused, I know exactly how I was roped into this. Agnes Martin had said they were having a small dinner and insinuated it would be rude of him not to join them. By the time Will realized his mother had invited David, he couldn’t refuse. Even if Will had had been able to, he owed David an apology. He had been rude to David the first time they’d met.
Will had also googled him and been relieved to learn David wasn’t ultra-conservative but he still couldn’t wrap his head around a gay man aligning himself with a political party actively trying to damage their community. If Will was being honest, David’s relationship with Will’s father bothered him more. He was envious and resentful of the closeness they had. And hurt. Why did his father appear so much more accepting of David’s sexuality than Will’s? The rejection stung bitterly and made Will want to lash out and make David feel as terrible as he did.
But no matter how he felt, it didn’t excuse his behavior. He stood and headed for the foyer.
Will caught a glimpse of David, who stood talking with Greta. If only the man weren’t so infuriatingly good-looking. Will couldn’t think of the last time he’d found a man so attractive, even Riley.
To Will’s surprise, David wasn’t alone. A medium-sized black and white dog with fawn- colored stripes on its legs and a tail that curled up onto its back stood by David’s side. He held the leash loosely in one hand.
“Hello, David.” Will stuck out a hand for him to shake. David’s expression was friendly and his hands were large and strong around Will’s long, narrow fingers.
“Nice to see you, Will.”
“You as well.” Ignoring how good David’s skin felt against his, Will dropped his hand.
Greta patted his arm. “I’m going to go help your mother get food on the table.”
“Thanks, Greta. I’ll walk David back to the patio in a moment.” After Greta disappeared down the hallway, Will turned his attention to the animal sitting calmly at David’s feet.
“I see you brought a date,” Will said with a small smile. He was such a sucker for dogs. Not to mention hot men with dogs. He crouched and held out a hand. “Hello there, gorgeous.”
“Her name’s Mabel.”
She sniffed him delicately before pushing her snout into his hand in greeting. He laughed and looked up at David as he scratched Mabel behind the ears. David stared down at them with an expression both perplexed and amused.
“She’s beautiful,” Will murmured. “Husky mix?”
David nodded. “Husky and Shiba-Inu mix. Or so said the guy I got her from. She’s mixed like me.”
Will blinked at him and David laughed softly. “Sorry. I’m Japanese on my father’s side, and a whole range of European countries on my mom’s. My brother-in-law is always on me about the jokes my sister and I make about being mixed race. The jokes make him uncomfortable.”
“Your candor took me by surprise.” Will cleared his throat. “How old is Mabel?”
“Two—no, two and a half. I’ve had her since she was a pup.”
Mabel let out a whine and licked Will’s forearm as if pointing out he’d stopped petting her. Will chuckled and resumed.
“Do you have any pets, Will?”
He shook his head and gave Mabel a final pat before he stood. “I live in Manhattan and my building doesn’t allow it.”
David nodded. “I think she’s enjoying the move from Queens to Long Island. She seems to like the beaches and canals quite a bit.”
“When did you move from Queens?”
“A few years ago. On your father’s recommendation, actually.”
“Hmm.” Will made a noncommittal noise. He wasn’t sure what to make of the relationship his father and David had. David’s race wasn’t an issue. Neither of his parents had ever shown themselves to be racially intolerant, although Will had a vivid memory from high school of arguing with his parents about why using the term ‘Oriental’ was really, really inappropriate. At worst, they were occasionally clueless, but even then, they’d listened to his argument and made an effort to change.
Sexuality was a different story, however. How could Bill be vehemently against his own son’s sexual orientation but have no problem working side-by-side with a gay man? And inviting him to his house for meals? Will bristled, but he forced himself to tamp down the irritation. That reminded him, he still needed to apologize to David.
Will cleared his throat. “Uh, before we head back to the patio, I wanted to say I’m sorry about the way I behaved when you were here earlier this week. My temper got the better of me, and I hope you can forgive me.”
“Of course. No hard feelings.” David gave him a warm, open smile.
Will’s mother appeared before he could say anything else. “What on earth are you two still doing in the foyer? Let David in, Will.”
“I was getting to know his dog, Mabel,” Will said, feeling slightly abashed. Apparently, all of his manners did go out of the window when he encountered David.
Agnes regarded the dog with a soft sound of delight. “Oh, she is lovely. Even prettier than the pictures you sent me. I am so glad you asked to bring her. You probably felt like you needed a guard dog to fend off the cats. I am so embarrassed Fluffers used your shoe as a litter box.”
A laugh escaped Will before he could stop it. “That old thing is still alive? I haven’t seen him around outside and I assumed he’d died.”
Agnes frowned at him. “Fluffers is very much alive. Just getting a bit senile these days. Thankfully, David was very gracious about it.”
David chuckled. “One should always expect the unexpected when it comes to pets and kids.”
“You are correct.” Agnes smiled at him. “Now, I want both of you to come back to the patio. Appetizers are on the table.”
About the Authors
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.
K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.
K.’s books explore LGBTQ+ romance in contemporary settings.
Connect with K: Blog || Twitter || Facebook || Facebook Author Page || Pinterest || Instagram || Goodreads
Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.
Her books range from short stories to novellas. They explore gay, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.
Connect with Brigham: Website || Email || Facebook || Facebook Author Page || Facebook Fan Group (Brigham’s Book Nerds) || Twitter || Google+ || Pinterest
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1 thought on “Guest Post and Giveaway: With a Twist by K. Evan Coles and Brigham Vaughn”
Congrats on your new book release! Thank you for the excerpt.