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An Interview with Avylinn Winters

avylinn

Hi Avy! Tell us a little about you.

Hi there! Well, for starters, I’m a Swedish blonde, happy to prove the prejudices incorrect but also just as pleased with saying that I’m all for having fun. I write M/M novels in my free time, and spend the rest of my time either at the office, cuddling with my cat (who can impersonate a ghost), or hanging out with my partner. I’m not yet 30, but if you happen to stumble upon this post sometime in 2017, then that’s a lie.

I also spend a lot of time as a hobby psychologist and give myself various diagnosis. It’s all in good fun though, but my novels tend to include a little bit of psychology. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, I have a sweet tooth, and a bad memory which is a nuisance.

What was your journey from aspiring writer to published author?

I began as a reader. My partner bought me an e-reader for Christmas, and that’s the moment when this wheel started spinning. I read a lot. A lot. So, slowly I began to explore what the internet had to offer in terms of content. I stumbled upon a site called Booksie, where writers shared their works for free, and still do. I began reading there (now this makes me sound like a cheap, which is true as I was a student at the time with next to no funds), but all of a sudden the threshold to start writing my own stuff wasn’t that daunting. I could simply write something and press publish. No fuss. So, that’s what I did. I began to write online, and when Booksie felt cramped, I moved on to Wattpad.

Wattpad opened up a world of possibilities, and two years after starting on the site, I felt that I had achieved something that I wanted to introduce to the rest of the world. For the first time ever, I felt confident. So, I sent out the manuscript to an agent. Right, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I aimed high. Very high. When this agent finally got back to me (note that I only sent to one agent which is weird in itself), she was super nice and positive although she wished to see another story rather than this one. So, rejected, but with grace. I moved on to contact a publisher directly, one that a friend of mine had told me about a while back. This was Pride Publishing, and lo and behold, I sent them the manuscript, they gobbled it up, and here I am. What happens from now on is not set in stone, but that’s the fun of it all.

Who has influenced you?

I might go a bit off road here, but I feel like sharing this for some unknown reason. Influences come from everywhere and everyone, but a few individuals have left more of a mark. My sister is my hero, definitely, and so is my partner. But then, I’ve also been influenced by a selected few who have left me in one way or another. One was a young gay M/M writer who had to give up on the world he’d created online because of his family. They gave him an ultimatum, and he chose them. His entire story made a huge impact. He was a part of a closed religious society, quite an unwilling member actually, but he ended up showing me how strong the urge to fit in can be, and how difficult it is to sacrifice the world you know and the people you love. He also inspired me to continue since some members of the LGBT youth need us to speak up for them when they aren’t free to do so.

I also lost one of my best friends last summer to cancer. I was too young to remember much of my grandparents, and in general, we’ve been spared a lot of heartache in our family. So, when Jay died, it struck me hard. I wrote stories for him, with him and to him. Now when he’s gone, he’s still with me, pushing me forward and not allowing me to give up, just as he did then.

Leia

Where do you usually write, and what’s your ideal writing space?

I write at home in my sofa, preferably with the cat in my lap (as long as she doesn’t get in the way). I do like sitting in a large room with lots of people around me, but only if they’re reasonably quiet. I’m easily distracted so quiet is the best. I don’t even listen to music most of the time unless I need it to reach a certain emotional state.

Tell us about your book (On sale today!)

My first published novel is called Volatile and tells the story of a young, slightly depressed, very lost guy who gets a rather remarkable opportunity to travel around Europe. The tale focuses on his rocky relationship with a volatile violinist. It’s angsty, it’s cheesy, and it’s meant to tug at your heart a bit. Without giving too much away, I give you the blurb:

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Like a depressed moth drawn to a wild flame, Chris hoped that flame would brighten his life, not burn him alive.

Chris Sinclair fades into a gray world after losing his mother to cancer. When forced to attend a concert, as a last attempt to coax him out of his shell, he discovers that life might not be as bleak as he first thought.

Dante Heron holds the audience between the tips of his fingers and the delicate bow, playing the violin as if every heart is his to command. However, something darker brews behind the façade, and Chris is determined to solve the enigma.

When Chris is offered the job of traveling around Europe with the famous violinist, he surprises himself by accepting. With no idea of what awaits him, he’s thrown into a world where emotions rule and rules are bent.

They’re a perfectly dysfunctional match, but then there’s always calm at the heart of the storm.

One, two, three, four.

I wasn’t prepared when the first note struck. Not at all. Waves of sound rolled against the walls, flowing into every crevice then surging back. The tiny hairs on my arms stood in a silent salute, reaching for the hum in the air. I gripped the armrests on both sides of me, but it didn’t help. I was floating in a restless sea, weightless and lost.

Closing my eyes, I fought the current of emotions that tried to break free, but it was a hopeless battle. I shivered as the tones from the string orchestra reached for my core and swept me away. Ten seconds, and I was struggling to breathe. It was too much.

In the late afternoon sun, one full year ago, my last words to Mom’s coffin hadn’t brought out a single tear, but here beneath the glow of a solitary light, my eyes burned.

I wanted to leave. All the pent-up sorrow after Mom’s last months alive seemed to pour out of my heart, latching on to the beautiful lament produced by the violins and cellos. It felt as if I were fighting against a tidal wave of sounds and emotions. It was powerful and haunting, like ghosts whispering past the veil between life and death. No wonder my skin flared alive with apprehension.

As the concert continued, I was torn between the urge to leave and the wish to stay and lose myself in the storm of sounds. It was a useless, exhausting battle, and it didn’t cease until the music faded into a quiet breeze. The lights focused on one individual among all the tuxedos. Someone who stood out in the crowd. I saw it as his fingers danced across the slender neck of the violin—I saw it in his wild eyes and unruly hair. The tresses were black as ink, slightly too long and drenched with sweat. He didn’t belong. He wasn’t one of them.

I couldn’t tear my gaze away from him no matter how hard I tried. He had me under his spell as his solo caught my soul and kept it hostage. I felt ridiculous, more so than the conductor who waved his arms in the air as if he was fighting an invisible monster. Perhaps this concert was a monster. It seemed cunning and brutal, masking itself behind treacherous melodies and rhythms.

It was time to go before I lost control.

Buy links

Amazon

Pride Publishing

Apple iBooks

Kobo

 

What’s your next writing project(s)?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Volatile. It’s a very different story, both in tone and content, but with characters that are introduced in Volatile. Where Volatile is sweet, Toxic is vile. It’s intended to unsettle. Toxic centers around domestic violence, and it’s meant to highlight that same-sex couples aren’t spared from this plague. It’s a serious theme, and it has been very difficult to both write and edit. The only thing that drives me forward at this point is the knowledge that stories like this, although unpleasant, are important.

 

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Book Review: Roll by Lynn Townsend

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“Full Frontal Neighbor” in The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica (my review here) put Lynn Townsend on my map.  I wanted to read more by Lynn, so I picked up her novel Roll.

From the farms of Tennessee, Beau Watkins had it all in high school; the cute girl, the popular, jock lifestyle, a loving family. As a rising freshman at an out-of-state college, he’s determined to find out who he really is behind the fake it ’til you make it attitude. He joins Rainbow Connection, the gay student alliance, hoping to find himself. Instead, he finds Vin Reyes. Raised by his grandparents and the heir to a prosperous company, Vin has been out of the closet since he figured out what that meant. He has it all: fashionable clothing, fancy cars, huge houses, and a real party lifestyle, even a bodyguard. Most of all, he has a secret.

Uncomfortable with Vin’s generosity, Beau fights his growing attraction for the president of Rainbow Connection, chasing instead a series of shallow affairs. Vin’s never been denied anything that he wants, though, and now he wants Beau. But it’s not until an old rival puts Beau in the hospital that Vin realizes that Beau means more to him than a simple love affair. Can the two of them bridge the gap between their worlds and roll with the all the punches life will throw at them (goodreads description)

Before I get into Beau and Vin, I need to share that over the course of the book I  fell for Ann-Marie.  She’s another member of Rainbow Connection that becomes one of Beau’s closest friends.  She’s funny, she’s brassy, and oh my god the speech she gives about why she wants to be a teacher just made me fall all that much harder for her.  Ann-Marie has joined my ever growing list of fictional crushes.  We should make #fictionalcrushes a thing–tag me (@Delilah_Night) if you tweet yours.

Roll is a romance.  You see the attraction between Beau and Vin from both points of view.  This can be frustrating at times as the reader sees all the missed signals and understand the depth of emotion long before they do.

While we get to know and love Vin (when we don’t want to smack him for drinking rather than dealing with his shit), this story is primarily Beau’s.  Beau is a sweetheart, but not a pushover. Over the course of the novel, it’s Beau who comes out to himself, to his friends, and to his family.  He’s a college freshman, so there’s also the experience of trying to build community in a new city,  and shedding who you were in high school so that you can become who you’re going to be as an adult.  Beau also has his first sexual encounters in Roll.  In many ways, it is his coming of age novel.

Vin, for his part, at first glance is a rich playboy who drinks as much as he wants to instead of perhaps the limits of what could be considered wise.  Over the course of the book, though, what could have been a superficial character shows the depth of his feelings.  We also learn what events in his past influenced who he is and how he copes with things.  The book ends with a cliffhanger that seems to indicate (to me) that the next story will center a bit more on him.  I look forward to that, and the revelations I hope we’ll learn.

As a couple they deal with not just the ordinary struggles, but their massive class disparity as well.  I’m really grateful that Lynn has her characters confront it head on, rather than just have the “poor” partner accept gifts like it’s no big deal.  My husband and I had a class disparity (although nothing this massive) and it is something that does affect the power dynamic (even if it’s only in your head) and can expose insecurities.  It was refreshing to not see it swept under the rug.

Lynn peppers her world with memorable secondary characters like Hector (who makes terrible puns on his name, but in a way this is disarming and endearing), the aforementioned Ann-Marie, and Shannon (Ann-Marie’s girlfriend who speaks fluent sarcasm).  Beau’s scenes with his mother and his Aunt Lucy were written with such poignancy that even though I didn’t know them as well as other characters, I could feel the depth of their history with and love for Beau.

I should give a heads up that there is some anti-gay violence in the book that reminds me exactly how liberal a part of the country I’m from.  If anything, Lynn’s recent encouter online reminds us that while momentum is gathering big picture (such as in the area of Marriage Equality), the day to day experience of being LGBT still involves bigotry and violence.

I really enjoyed Roll, and I think the best indication of that is how impatient I am for the sequel Blues to come out (March 25, 2015).

***Full Disclosure–My story “Love is a Virus” (excerpt here) is in Lynn’s upcoming anthology Among the Stars.  However, this is an unbiased review.***