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: Beck is a non-binary writer of sweet, sexy, LGBTQ+ happily ever afters. Why? Because everyone deserves all the happy! They live in the Northeastern United States with their two adorable dogs. Weekdays are spent working their day job, but nights and weekends are devoted to writing stories involving hot characters, favorite tropes, and happy endings. Any additional time includes reading, laughing with friends, drinking red wine, and playing D&D. If there’s cake involved at any point, it’s a win!
Thanks so much, Beck, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Beck Grey: Contemporary, character driven, dialogue rich, low angst, relationship driven books. To a degree, I write slice-of-life stories about queer people that might not usually “star” in a romance novel. I’ve written Deaf main characters, main characters with mental health issues, I’ve written a gender-fluid main character and plan to write other main characters from underrepresented sections of the LGBTQIA2S+ rainbow.
I didn’t set out to write underrepresented queer characters, but I find myself looking at typical scenarios and searching for the unique perspective, or a different way to look at situations.
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
BG: My books are set in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t live there, but I have friends who do. My best friend lives in Seattle, where this series takes place and I’ve gone to visit a few times. We do touristy things while I’m there. The last time we visited Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market, and we did a walking tour of Seattle’s underground city. Almost all of our touristy travels make it into my books.
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
BG: I go back to the part where I didn’t have writer’s block and make different decisions. I find that the reason I can’t write a scene is I’m bored with the direction of the story, or the characters are telling me they wouldn’t do whatever it is I’m trying to write. When I make different choices the writer’s block dissipates like fog in sunshine.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing Heal Me?
BG: Getting the character dynamic right once Gunnar’s PTSD rears its ugly head. I never want to take the easy out or write what will make the reader comfortable, but ultimately doesn’t represent the character or situation properly. And I almost accidentally did that.
Heal Me had a very different resolution scene. Jocelin was a lot harder on Gunnar in the initial draft. I had an ARC reader reach out to me and very respectfully tell me I got that scene all wrong. Jocelin’s reaction, while it felt good for the neurotypical reader, and was possibly a fitting response for a neurotypical couple, was potentially harmful, and incredibly unsupportive to someone suffering from PTSD specifically, but potentially any neurodivergent person. The reader and I ended up having a really great conversation over a few days about what wasn’t right with the scene and how to make it better, and thankfully they agreed to become one of my sensitivity readers.
It resulted in a bit of rewriting at the last minute, but it was absolutely worth it.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
BG: It’s not so much a character as a dynamic. I love the bond and banter between Astrid and Gunnar Osouf. They’re fraternal twins, and are each other’s biggest supporter. They have a loving, snarky, no BS relationship. They tease each other, and over share, and will defend each other to the death. I love writing their dialogue with each other. It’s always so much fun.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
BG: My writing assistants are Charlie and Lola. Both are Bichon Frise/Shi Tzu mixes, and they are my writing moral support dogs. They cheer me on from the comfort of their fluffy doggie beds next to my chair. While sleeping. And snoring. Thankfully, they don’t sit on my keyboard or help me type.
JSC: What other artistic pursuits (if any) do you indulge in apart from writing?
BG: I’ve always been a creative person. I’ve crafted, baked, drawn, written, sewn… Right now, my spare time is spent playing D&D which combines several of my favorite artistic pursuits: writing, because you have to have a great character backstory, acting, because you play that character in the game, and printing and painting miniatures of my group’s characters. I have a 3D resin printer, and everyone sends me their character files and I print them. Then they send me pictures or descriptions of them and I paint them, and we use them for the campaign. Painting minis is really relaxing.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
BG: I actually read all the time because I listen to audiobooks, and my day job is the kind that isn’t impacted by my listening while I work. If I’m not writing I’m listening to audiobooks. I wake up and push play on the audiobook. I listen while I walk the dogs, get dressed, anytime I’m driving, at work, and anytime I get up from my keyboard while I’m writing.
WHAT I read is a mix of contemporary romance, paranormal romance, science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy. I like the occasional mystery or classic, but those are few and far between. And most of my story choices are lower-angst. I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy, ever since I was young. The first book I remember reading by choice was what I supposed could be classified as a paranormal children’s book. I was hooked and never looked back. Then when I got older I discovered romance books and combined the two.
Now, WHY do I read that? Because there’s enough angst in the real world. I like the escape from reality that science fiction, fantasy and paranormal stories provide, and I like knowing that the story I’m reading will have a happy ending. And I enjoy reading contemporary romance because for a little while I can pretend that could be my reality.
JSC: If you could choose three authors to invite for a dinner party, who would they be, and why?
Neil Gaiman because the man is a genius and absolutely fascinating. He’s a wealth of information on so many topics, and yet he’s so down to earth. And hilarious.
Lily Morton because I love her writing and she seems like a genuinely nice person with a wicked sense of humor. I’d love to chat about character inspiration with her.
Jane Austen because I bet she could spill some nineteenth century tea! Plus she wrote some amazing characters.
JSC: Do you believe in love at first sight?
BG: Yes? I mean, I believe in instantly knowing someone is a perfect fit for you. I believe in having that deep connection with a perfect stranger who doesn’t feel like a stranger at all. Whether that lasts is a totally different thing.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
BG: I’m currently working on a novella for a secret project that comes out in spring 2024, and then I’ll start the sixth and final book in my Love in the Pacific Northwest series. That will also come out in late spring 2024. As some of my readers have guessed, it’s Bjorn’s book, and I’m really excited to write it! There are going to be a few non-typical spins, and interesting methods for coping with his PTSD, but I think readers will really love him and his story.
After that, I’ll be starting series two, which also takes place in the Pacific northwest, but a little further south, in the Portland, Oregon area. My plan is to have book one out in the fall of 2024.
And now for Beck’s latest book: Heal Me:
What do you do when your boss’s pushy nephew repeatedly asks you out and won’t take no for an answer? You create a fake boyfriend. One who works a lot, so he never comes to office functions or meets you for lunch. It works well until le salaud calls my bluff.
So that’s how I find myself at a client event, practically begging a handsome stranger to play said boyfriend. Only after I calm down do I realize le bel homme in the bespoke suit is no stranger at all. He’s my best friend’s brother, and mon Dieu, he cleans up well!
When Gunnar volunteers to keep up the ruse beyond one night, of course, I say yes. I’m no fool. But fake love can have very real consequences…
Being accosted by the attractive, if slightly flustered, Jocelin Allard before I even make it out of the parking lot isn’t how I expect to start my evening. But pretending to be his boyfriend for a few hours seems like a harmless way to liven up an otherwise painful social event.
And as far as dates go, fake or otherwise, I could do a lot worse. He’s smart, gorgeous, and has a sexy accent. Plus, my sister would kill me if I left her bestie hanging.
When the evening goes shockingly well, almost effortlessly, our relationship turns real, and for a while, it’s total bliss. Until I unintentionally take a wrecking ball to my life. Again.
Heal Me is a low-medium angst, MM fake boyfriend, sister’s best friend, contemporary romance about bad decisions, past trauma, and loving someone including their flaws. It contains no cheating, and a guaranteed HEA.
“How about a little music while we cook?” I turn on the Bluetooth speaker and scroll to my favorite playlist.
Jocelin peers at my phone screen. “You called the list ‘Tunes’? That’s so very creative, Gunnar.”
“Hey. I wasn’t at my creative best. But it’s good music, so lay off.” I feed Jocelin a grape and kiss his cheek, before arranging all the stew ingredients on the countertop next to the cutting board and chef’s knife. “Okay, ready?”
Jocelin takes a huge gulp of wine and nods, instantly serious. “Ready.”
“So, the first thing we need to do is chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and put them aside. Let’s start with the carrots.”
Jocelin looks at them and then at the chef knife and wipes his damp hands on his pant legs. “Okay, sure.”
I try to hide my smile as he picks up the knife like he’s going to cut a steak. “Here, let me help you.” Reaching around him, I lean over his shoulder so I can see. Jocelin hums and rubs his face against my beard, and I kiss his cheek. “Behave. We have sharp implements, and you’re very distracting. Focus on the carrot.”
He snorts. “Is that a euphemism?”
“No. Not yet, anyway. Now pay attention.” I help him hold the knife properly and get a safe grip on the carrot. “You should always start with a very sharp knife so it does all the work. You’re just guiding where it cuts. But make sure you keep your fingers away from the blade.” We chop a few of the carrots together, and Jocelin gains confidence with each one. Eventually, I move my hands to his hips, letting him continue unassisted. I snag a strawberry from the colander and bite into it. “You’re doing beautifully.” Jocelin’s smile is sweet, and I can’t resist kissing him softly on the neck before feeding him a berry. With a happy hum and a mouth full of fruit, he turns his attention back to chopping.
We work through the potatoes before I carefully take the knife from his hand and set it on the counter. “Is that all we need to chop?” I don’t answer, pulling him into my arms and slowly dancing him around the kitchen. His grin is sappy and probably matches my own. “I thought we were cooking.”
“This is a great song, and I want to dance with my boyfriend.” I rest my cheek against his temple. “Cooking can wait a minute.” He relaxes into my arms, and we move in a slow circle. “I’m having a wonderful afternoon with you. I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’m happy being anywhere with you, mon chéri.” Jocelin slides his fingers through my beard, scratching softly and swaying in my arms. “And it has been an amazing day.”
“What do you think of cooking so far?”
“It is actually kind of fun when done with someone else, especially a handsome someone.”
I brush the tip of my nose against his cheek. “Oh? Any handsome someone will do? I see.”
He tugs teasingly at my hair, and an unexpected rush of desire sweeps through me. Fuck. I guess I’m into hair pulling now. “Only incredibly gorgeous boyfriends who know how to cook—in and out of the kitchen.” He grins, obviously proud of himself, and I groan at the cheesiness.
“Joce, that was just awful.” I spin him toward the vegetables. “Finish chopping. No dessert until your chores are done.”
His head snaps to look at me. “There’s dessert?”
“Maybe. If you behave.” I smack him on the ass.
“Gunnar.” Jocelin nibbles a strawberry, slowly tracing his lips with the tip, staining them red with juice. “What would dessert be?” I can’t tear my eyes from his lips or his tongue as it licks at the juice.
“What do you want for dessert?” My voice is rough, my mouth dry, and other parts of my anatomy are very interested in his response.
His steady gaze as he bites into the fruit has my heart thundering in my chest. Confidence is sexy on him. “What are my options?”
He meets my eyes and slowly sucks the ripe berry into his mouth, red juice dribbling down his chin and fuck, I want to lick it up. “Whatever you want.”