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, CJane Elliott – After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
Thanks so much, CJane, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work?
CJane Elliot: My first published work was a story called Electricity Sparks Inside of Me, an m/m story about a drama teacher and a music teacher at a private high school. It is the coming out story of the music teacher and also involves students protesting the school board’s decision to ban the school’s production of the play Rent. I threw a lot of things into this plot, including a suicidal sibling. There’s a fair amount of angst before you get to the happy ending.
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story?
CJE: Yes. I traveled to Key West, Florida specifically because I set a novel called In Over Our Heads there. My sister had been there several times so I took her along with me and we spent a week there. I had a bad cold during the trip so I didn’t do as many things as I’d planned (no snorkeling), but Key West is a magical place. Here’s a couple pictures I took as we strolled through town one evening. It made me happy to envision my characters Anthony and Walter there.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
CJE: One of the most touching emails I’ve received recently was from the person who narrated the All the Way to Shore audiobook: I found a genuine sweetness in your work and underneath your story had the feel of someone with a real affinity for life and possibility and it was a treat to be able to read something with an underlying sense of optimism throughout.
JSC: Are you a full-time or a part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
CJE: I am very much a part-time writer as I work 32 hours a week as a licensed clinical social worker. The biggest effect on my writing is that I tend to produce new works fairly slowly. To think of how much more I could write if I did it full time! It’s funny, though, that available time itself is only one factor in how much or how quickly I write. My writing tends to go in spurts of furious creativity followed by fallow periods where I hardly write a word. I am most definitely not a “write every day” writer at this point. Once I retire, I may be. But then again, I may not!
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
CJE: I would kill Frederick Vallen from All the Way to Shore because he’s a classic villain, a Republican, and a waste of space. He’s Jonathan’s father and the key impediment to Jonathan and Marco being together. I would fuck Professor R (Rodney Montgomery) from Serpentine Walls and Aidan’s Journey. He’s also a bad guy but incredibly good in bed and bisexual, so he’d be okay for a scorching affair. Marry? I can’t marry any of my MCs because they’re so happy together! If Eric from The Kinsey Scale were straight, I might marry him because he’s fun and optimistic and I need those kind of people in my life.
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes in “The Kinsey Scale.” What makes them tick?
CJE: Eric Brown is the main MC and The Kinsey Scale is told from his point of view. He presents as a cheerful and confident college senior with no problems about being gay. As he says in the story about bullying, “You learn to deal with it, mostly ignoring it and knowing you’re far more fabulous than those assholes will ever be.” What is never made explicit in the story is that Eric secretly fears he’s not good enough. He was crushed when his first boyfriend Jerry dumped him and although he recovered and they are now good friends, Eric sometimes wonders what’s wrong with him that Jerry didn’t want to stay. The other MC Will Butler, who Eric thinks is straight, has a lot of secrets that come out toward the end of the story. But one thing you don’t know is that Will is committed to social justice and making a difference in the world. He’ll probably work on several political campaigns for the 2020 elections.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more?
CJE: That would be Jerry, Eric’s ex-boyfriend and main supporter through The Kinsey Scale. I loved Jerry so much I wrote the next novella in the series, The Player’s Protégé, about him. Jerry is caustic and has no time for foolishness, but he also has a huge heart for his friends. They consider him wise and sometimes uncomfortably honest and they turn to him for guidance. There is one scene in The Kinsey Scale that is a priceless example of Jerry in action. I won’t say much to spoil it but it takes place after Eric and Will finally have their first kiss and Eric freaks out and runs to Jerry. After I wrote that scene, I just had to give Jerry a book of his own.
JSC: Who did your cover and what was the design process like?
CJE: Adrian Nichols is the cover artist. They are someone I haven’t worked with before and I immediately loved all their cover ideas. The cover artists from Dreamspinner generally send three different covers to start with and my only problem was deciding which one to go with, because I loved them all. But the cover I decided on has that “wow” factor – the guy in the shower (Will) really jumps out and commands our attention. How is poor Eric going to keep himself away from such a hot roommate?
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
CJE: I had been going through an extended spell of writers block at the beginning of 2018. I had 50K of a NaNoWriMo novel (planned to be the 3rd in the Shores Series) that I just could not get to come together. Nothing was working. I finally put away that novel and went to my Drafts folder where I found this charming college story written years ago. It was short, sweet, and fun so I sent it on to Dreamspinner to see if they’d want to publish it. My goal was simply to get SOMETHING published in 2018 and I met that! Not only that, but the process of publishing this story spurred me to write Jerry’s story and I have a contract for that novella to be published in June 2019.
JSC: What are you working on now?
CJE: I will soon be in edits for The Player’s Protégé, the second College Connections story. I’m done outlining the third story which is about Tyrone who is another close friend of Eric’s and Jerry’s. I plan to use NaNoWriMo to get a first draft done of Tyrone’s story, with a goal of submitting it to Dreamspinner by January 2019.
And now for CJane’s new book: The Kinsey Scale:
Life is good for Eric Brown. He’s a senior theater major, an RA for a freshman dorm, and has a great circle of friends. Single since sophomore year, Eric isn’t looking for love. Then Will Butler—fellow senior, co-RA, and the cutest guy Eric’s ever seen—walks into his dorm. Will has a girlfriend he sees off campus—a minor disappointment that becomes a major problem when a housing shortage causes Will and Eric to become roommates, and Eric is forced to witness Will’s hotness day in and day out. For protection, Eric asks Jerry, his ex-boyfriend, to pretend they’re still together. Jerry warns him it’s a stupid idea, but he reluctantly agrees.
Too bad it won’t save Eric from losing his heart.
Will Butler has never believed in himself. His dysfunctional family saw to that. Although Will has loved music since childhood, he’s never seriously considered pursuing it, and the person he’s dating doesn’t encourage him. Then he and Eric Brown become roommates, and everything changes. Eric believes in Will and his talent. He’s also gorgeous and playful and fast becoming Will’s best friend. And that’s not good, because Will is hiding some big things, not only from Eric but from himself.
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her family supports her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.
CJane is the author of the award-winning Serpentine Series, New Adult contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Serpentine Wallswas a 2014 Rainbow Awards finalist, Aidan’s Journeywas a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist, and Sex, Love, and Videogameswon first place in the New Adult category in the 2016 Swirl Awards and first place in Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC eBook Awards.