Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, A.E. Ryecart – A E Ryecart writes mm romance/gay fiction. Filled with angst, high drama and emotional tension, she writes the books she likes to read. An avid people watcher, most of her writing takes place in a local café amidst the background hum of hissing coffee machines, where she can check out the other customers for character and story inspiration!
Thanks so much, A.E., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Describe yourself using a city.
A.E. Ryecart: I’m like London: endlessly fascinating, full of life, quirky and off-beat, but can also be dark and unforgiving.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
AER: I think I’ve always known, deep down, but it got pushed so far back in my head I all but forgot about it as I concentrated on other things such as my former career and setting up a home (otherwise known as Life!). However, the technological advances with the rise of the e-reader and the attendant resources to help people get their words out in the world was what awakened the dormant ambition. I imagine that’s the same for a lot of authors.
I hope I’m good at this writing lark! Seriously, I think getting some positive reviews but also emails from readers expressing thanks for the words I’ve produced makes me think I’m doing something right, at least in some people’s eyes.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
AER: It would have to be National Coffee and Cake Day. Everybody would be allowed free coffee (only good stuff, not nasty instant granules thank you very much) and as much lemon drizzle cake as they could eat. Sounds perfect.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
AER: I’m all about the angst! I love writing high angst/high emotion stories, which is a bit strange because if you met me you’d find that I really am not very angsty at all!
I write contemporary and so far all have been set in London, where I grew up. The places depicted all exist either as distinct locations (minus the real name) or are a mash-up of more than one place. I like to think of my stories as being rooted in realism, which means I write about men who don’t always make the right decisions. Some of those decisions might at times be morally, or emotionally, dubious but the right choice isn’t always black and white – as in life, as in my fiction.
My books are romances with clear HEAs, but I like to think of them as being romances with a hard edge – some of the reviews I’ve received have said pretty much the same. Sweetness and light? Yeah, I know I can write it but dig below and you’re likely to find something a little stronger!
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AER: An actress. Or a horse. Yeah, let’s move on…
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AER: Imperfect, published in May 2015. I wrote the book in a complete vacuum. I didn’t know about Goodreads or the many and various reader/author Facebook groups and I’m glad I didn’t because, to be honest, I might have changed the story significantly or even thought twice about writing it.
The book deals with the often fraught relationship between a City corporate lawyer and a student. Josh, the lawyer, is not a faithful man (okay, he’s a cheat, and you find this out just a few pages in). He meets Alex, the student, and his universe is knocked off its axis. The thing is, Josh is in a relationship. He has no investment in it yet feels cornered so he behaves badly, with little thought or honour towards his boyfriend (yes, he cheats on him). Remember what I said about realism and hard edge? I know cheating is a line in the sand for many readers which meant some reacted very strongly against the book, but other readers were far more positive – in fact, it was Imperfect that got me some of my most loyal fans.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
AER: The late Mary Renault. Mary wrote a book called The Charioteer, which is a classic of gay fiction. It’s set in a temporary hospital for wounded WWII serviceman, in England. I’ll say no more, but I would recommend everybody rush out and buy a copy RIGHT NOW. I discovered it when I was about sixteen. I’m a bit (cough) older than that now and I’ve read it about twenty times, and each time I discover something fresh in it, which is a testament to the quality of the writing.
I’d ask Mary how she managed to burrow so deep into the souls of her characters, how she got under their skin to the extent she did, because I’ve never read anybody who does it so well. I’d fangirl her, that’s for sure! Such beautiful, layered, nuanced writing. If I could ever write ten per cent as well as Ms Renault, I’d be one happy bunny.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
AER: I used to be a pantser, but I’ve moved on to be a plotter! Not a plotter down to the nth degree, but now I have a good idea of where my story’s going by outlining each chapter. I still find myself wandering from the plan but having the story outlined does help prevent writing myself into a corner and then thinking how the hell am I going to get out of here…?
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
AER: Oh, yes! My earliest memory is of being taken to the local library by my mum and being spell bound. I spent my childhood and teens with my nose in a book, curled up on the sofa or on my bed. I wasn’t bothered about other kids, as long as I had books I was happy.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AER: I’m working on the fourth installment of my Barista Boys series, which focuses on Bernie, the owner of the Barista Boys café. Bernie’s been a real hit with the readers of the series. He’s got a heart-breaking back story and some of it was revealed in Stevie & Mack, the second book, but it’ll be explored in more detail in Bernie. I’m also going to write a shorter story about Bernie’s earlier years with Kevin, the boy he loved and lost.
Bernie will most likely be released in late August, all being well. I always add the caveat except in the event of an alien invasion…
And now for A.E.’s new book: Connor & Ash:
When you live in the shadows, it’s hard to believe in the light
Each time Ash Hemsby strips off for a stranger in a hotel room or gets down on his knees in a back alley, a little piece of his soul dies. But debt is a hard task master, and money lenders don’t take IOUs.
From a shadowy corner of a hotel bar, Connor O’Brian watches the rent boy’s clumsy attempts to ply his trade. Beneath the younger man’s brash exterior Connor senses desperation and vulnerability, and his heart goes out to him – because he too bears the scars of living crushed and defeated.
A whispered conversation, a key exchanged, and the deal is struck. Yet the night turns out in a way neither expects.
A chance meeting brings Connor face to face with the man he can’t stop thinking about, and he’s determined not to let him get away a second time. Ash owes Connor for what happened that night in the hotel, but what was meant only to be the fulfilment of a promise begins to feel like something more.
Step by step, they begin to mend what is broken in the other. But life has a habit of tripping up the unwary. A random discovery, a scribbled, desperate note and a race across London brings each man face to face with the secret shame they have only ever wanted to keep hidden.
Secrets and half-truths have kept Connor and Ash in the shadows. Only the raw, heart wrenching truth can lead them out of darkness and into light. But is it already too late, and will the shadows reclaim them?
About the Series:
Connor & Ash is the third instalment in the Barista Boys series. Each book charts the lives and loves of the men who work in a funky little café in the heart of London’s Soho.
Barista Boys, where it’s not just the coffee that’s hot.
Connor & Ash can be read as a stand alone, and is a full length novel of approx 84,400 words.
Ash stared at his reflection in the full-length mirror. The jeans were tight, enough to attract attention to what was on offer but not enough to get him thrown out before he got further than the reception desk.
The pale blue shirt moulded itself to his body, allowing a tantalising hint of what lay beneath. It had been a toss-up between that, or the navy. Yes, he’d made the right choice as the paler shirt brought out the blue of his eyes and made his light brown hair look a shade or two brighter. He ran his fingers through his hair and it flopped forward over his brow. Earlier he’d sworn, when he’d been getting ready, because he’d realised he’d run out of gel but now he was glad, the softer look making him feel less hard, less of the whore he had no option but to be for the night. He tapped at the inside pocket of his jacket. It was a ritual, assuring himself he had all the supplies he needed for what lay ahead. Yes, they were there, just as he knew they were. He pulled in a deep breath, before exhaling long and slow and took a final look at himself in the mirror. He looked good, not obvious, just good.
With his heart rate picking up, Ash readied himself to give the receptionist his biggest, most disarming smile. He needn’t have worried, because luck was on his side. A couple of foreign tourists were spreading out a large map of central London, both of them speaking fast and loud at the same time, and claiming all the receptionist’s attention. Ash slipped, unseen, into the hotel’s bar.
Ash’s eyes swept the room. It was smart, sleek and modern. Quirky artwork covered the walls, drawing his attention for a moment, and light jazz combined with the buzz of conversation from the customers. It was early, not much past 7.00pm, but the bar was busy with an eclectic mix of customers. Hipsters mixed with corporate suited business types. A group of young women who didn’t look much older than Ash’s twenty-three years laughed as they drank cocktails, and flirted with the barman.
It wasn’t the kind of place he was used to having to resort to when he needed to make some extra cash, and fast. This wasn’t The Swift or The Crown. It wasn’t Glitz or Mandate. It wasn’t any of those places he could be sure of a quick pick-up, where all it took was a whispered exchange of words before slipping out to a car, or a back street, or the toilets. In those places everybody knew what the deal was; he could do the business and be gone, with money in his pocket and shame in his soul. Here, in the smart bar, he felt exposed.
Panic rose up in him. Ash wanted to turn and run, to get out before everybody in the bar turned around and saw him for what he was, and despised him for it. All he could hear was the fast and heavy thud of his heart, and the whoosh of blood in his veins. His stomach churned. Oh God, don’t be sick, not here, not on the floor in front of everybody. . . He sucked in a deep breath. He needed to calm down, to take it easy. He was here to do what he’d done so many times before; he could do it, he could. It was no different to The Swift, The Crown. . . His heartbeat calmed, and the whoosh of blood faded. Ash unclenched his hands, balled into tight, stiff fists; his palms were slick with sweat and he wiped them on his thighs.
Ash slipped onto one of the stools lining the long bar. The one barman on duty was busy tending to the cocktail-drinking women, and Ash took another look around. He should have recced the place first, not just taken the recommendation on trust that this was not just a place to score, but to score big, but the temptation to make some extra money had been too much to resist. The bar looked too smart, too classy, too straight. Had the guy who’d told him about it got it wrong? Had he misunderstood? No. There had been nothing to misunderstand about the bar at The New Ireland . . . loaded businessmen. . . willing to pay well. . . got to be discreet. . .
The guy’s words had burrowed their way into his brain. Three times a month, four if he absolutely had to. Almost once a week. That was how many times he had to pull on his tightest jeans and T-shirt, and a fake smile, and walk into the pubs and clubs where he was assured of finding a punter. Willing to pay well, that’s what he’d been told. If he could make enough here, or somewhere like it, then perhaps three or four times a month could turn into twice or even just once a month. . . But was he discreet enough? Ash felt like he had the words rent boy branded on his brow, and a list of his services and prices pinned on his back. Would there be a whisper in his ear, asking him not to a room, but to leave the premises? Would a hand placed on his arm or on his back lead him not to the lift but to the street instead? Maybe coming here wasn’t such a good idea. Ash swung around as he prepared to flee.
A E Ryecart writes mm romance/gay fiction. Filled with angst, high drama and emotional tension, she writes the books she likes to read. An avid people watcher, most of her writing takes place in a local café amidst the background hum of hissing coffee machines, where she can check out the other customers for character and story inspiration!
A born and bred Londoner, she may have moved to someplace more leafy but the city is still very much part of her DNA, which is why her books are set in and around present-day London, providing a thrilling, metropolitan backdrop to the main action.