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Vampire With Benefits

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, E.J. Russell – E.J. Russell—grace, mother of three, recovering actor—holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant (as one does). She’s recently abandoned data wrangling, however, and spends her days wrestling words. Her paranormal romantic comedy, The Druid Next Door, was a 2018 RITA® finalist and the winner of the 2017 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Fantasy Romance.

Thanks so much, E.J., for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.

E.J. Russell: All three of my children live in New York—currently in Brooklyn, although they lived on Manhattan Island before that. I got an idea for a post-apocalyptic story set in Manhattan, which involved both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Some of Curmudgeonly Husband’s Syrian and Lebanese ancestors came through Ellis, so he was up for taking the ferry, which stops at both places, with me, despite the crowds. Unfortunately, we arrived late enough in the day that, while we made it to Lady Liberty, the ferry no longer made the Ellis Island stop. We had to come back the next day and go through the whole ticketing/waiting in enormous line routine, with CH grumbling all the way. Although he did enjoy the exhibits once we actually got there!

JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

EJR: I worked for the same technology consulting firm for nineteen years until they closed their doors a little over a year ago. Since then, I’ve been a full-time writer, which means I have no excuse for not meeting my deadlines!

JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?

EJR: Plotter. Big time. I plan my books in increments of 500-1000 words, using Todd Klick’s Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs to Know screenwriting book. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t veer off plan if a new idea presents itself mid-draft!

JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?

EJR: It varies. For instance, the seeds of the idea for the Supernatural Selection series came from a throwaway line from Cutie and the Beast. When David is trying to liven up Alun’s gray-on-gray waiting room, he brings in a couple of tabloid newspapers among the more “regulation” periodicals because he thinks they’re amusing. Alun is outraged because he recognizes one of his clients as the “Bigfoot Sighted in Coast Range!” photograph. The other headline declared that Batboy was discovered in a cave under Mount Hood. Well, why was Ted, the bear shifter with what Alun said was an exhibitionist kink, really doing in partial shift in front of a reporter? And how had a vampire fledgling been caught on camera? On the other hand, one of my earliest story ideas (which I may still write someday) was the result of hearing “Palisades Park” on the radio on the way to work. The lyrics talk about how great a kiss would feel “while stopped at the top of a Ferris wheel.” As an acrophobic, that sounded absolutely horrifying. So that gave me the idea for a YA suspense story.

JSC: Where do you like to write?

EJR: I have a long narrow home office. When I still had my most recent day job (database designer/business intelligence consultant), my work laptop was on a desk on one end of the room. My writing laptop is on the other end of the room, and I write in a recliner with it literally in my lap. Since my day job employer closed their doors over a year ago, I rarely venture into the left-brain side anymore!

JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

EJR: L.C. Chase did the covers for the series. Aren’t they cool? L.C. has done all my Riptide covers except for the Fae Out of Water series (designed by the incredible Lou Harper), so she and I have a really good working relationship. (Of course, it’s hard notto have a good relationship with L.C. She’s one of the nicest people ever.) I filled out the usual CAR (cover art request), and L.C. ran with it. I wanted to keep the personal ad acronyms if possible, and she found a way to do it!

JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?

EJR: Absolutely! Our library had a check-out limit of six books for kids, and I maxed that out every couple of weeks. I got shipped off to visit my Midwestern relatives for the summer several times, and some of them couldn’t understand my need for books. Since they lived out in the middle of farm country, far from a library, I was reduced to reading my aunt’s Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

  • My first job was at a hamburger stand in Disneyland. Impact? I swore I would never work in food service again, so if I ever want to write a book set primarily in a restaurant, I’ll have to ask for assistance!
  • I worked at a bookstore for several years in the mid-seventies. When I started, Pickwick Books’ two branches had just been acquired by B. Dalton. I suppose that was the first inkling that independent bookstores—and even the chains (where is B. Dalton now?)—would eventually be fighting for their lives.
  • I worked at a publishing house in Boston, G.K. Hall and Company. They had several product lines, notably large print books. The proofreading department had a sign on the wall: “The larger the type, the bigger the mistake.”

JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?

EJR: Uh, Star Trek. Of course. I watched the first broadcasted Star Trek TOS episode, “The Man Trap,” with my dad when I was in sixth grade. It launched a lifetime crush on Mr. Spock. I much prefer the more complex themes and concepts of the Star Trek universe too: season five of TNG has never been topped, IMO. Plus, when it comes to naming places and people, Gene Rodenberry was much better at it than George Lucas.

JSC: What are you working on now?

EJR: I’m actually working on three things at the moment. I’m in edits with Demon on the Down-Low, the last in the Supernatural Selection trilogy. I’m writing the first draft of my first ever historical, Silent Sin, set in silent era Hollywood. And I’m in the early planning stages for another short story/novelette in my new Interdimensional Time Bureau universe. The ITB stories are my first foray into self-publishing—I uploaded the first story, Monster Till Midnight, to Kindle Unlimited in early November and I didn’t plotz!

QSFer E.J. Russell has a new MM paranormal book out, Supernatural Selection #2: Vampire With Benefits.

A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but one broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.

Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.

As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.

But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.

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“So I take it that you’re not desperately in love with your Supernatural Selection match.”

Rusty gave him a slightly off-kilter get-real-dude look. “Hard to be in love with a guy I’ve never met.”

“Really? You’ve never met your fiancé either?” Cas held up his fist for a bump, but when Rusty held up his, with its rather grimy and spotted gauze . . . “Never mind.”

“He seems like a nice guy though. And the agency guarantees a perfect match.”

“In that case, why didn’t he go through with the wedding?” For that matter, why had Cas’s incubus bailed on him too?

Rusty squinted up at the lights. “There’s something . . . Oh. It’s only temporary. There was some kind of clerical error that caused a spell snafu, but Ted and your guy are going through some ritual at the full moon to get divorced, so everything’ll be back on track. Assuming they don’t leave us at the altar again. Third time’s the charm, right?” He squinted at his drink. “Or is it bad things always come in threes? People who come up with shit like that should make up their fucking minds.”

A pit opened in Cas’s belly. “Wait. So we’re not off the hook? We’ll still have to go through with it?”

“Sure. Why wouldn’t we? I mean that’s why we were there, right? They emailed me a reminder for my calendar. You probably got one too. Check your phone.”

“I can’t. The council chief confiscated it.”

“Why not get another one?”

“For one day? Too much of a pain in the ass to set up. Besides . . .” Cas sniffed. “It’s the principle of the thing.”

“Oh. Principles. Right Those’re important. I guess.” Rusty’s sigh caught on a faint hiccup. “You know, I really wanted to have a husband and a new home by the time of the wedding.” He glanced sidelong at Cas. “Don’t want to keep living down there and have to face them every day.”

Cas drummed his fingers on the table. The full moon was only a couple of weeks away. Would that be enough time for his alleged fledgling to regain consciousness and exonerate him? That was the only way for Cas to avoid getting shackled for life to somebody not of his own choosing.

Besides, the reception in honor of his own marriage was tomorrow night, with all the vampire glitterati in attendance. The top flight of the council would look down their ancient, supercilious, perfectly preserved noses to verify that Cas was suitably hobbled, and if he didn’t show up married, they could vote on an alternative—and possibly more permanent and even less palatable—punishment for him.

Granted, his mating was intended to be permanent, but he’d still exist. The other alternatives Kristof had threatened him with were rather more . . . terminal.

Rusty hunched over his bourbon, staring morosely into the (very reduced) depths. “I shouldn’t have put it off. Ted wanted to tie the knot a week ago, but there was a job I had to finish.” He snorted. “Yeah, and that turned out so well.”

“I put it off too, although not for the same reason. The difference is you seem to want to get married. I don’t.”

“You don’t? Why not? Don’t you want somebody to spend your life with?”

“My life, your life, every supe’s life, provided we’re not fucking idiots, will last longer than any relationship possibly could.”

“You don’t believe in love, then?”

“Oh I believe in love. I just believe it’s finite. Enjoy it while it’s green and lovely, but don’t be afraid to move on when it turns zombie on you.” He poked the melting ice in his glass with the cocktail straw. “It’s the permanence that they’re forcing on me that’s the problem. I mean, I could face a temporary relationship with anyone. I could even stand you as long as I had an end in sight. A very imminent end.”

Rusty chortled into his glass. “That’d make our councils shit a whole pallet of bricks.”

Cas stared at him, a smile tugging at his lips as a wonderful, terrible, audacious idea bloomed in his mind. “They would. And damn it, why shouldn’t they?”

Rusty blinked at him. “Why shouldn’t they what?”

“Shit bricks. Because, my fine inactive beaver, you and I are getting married.”

Author Bio

EJ RussellE.J. Russell—grace, mother of three, recovering actor—holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant (as one does). She’s recently abandoned data wrangling, however, and spends her days wrestling words. Her paranormal romantic comedy, The Druid Next Door, was a 2018 RITA® finalist and the winner of the 2017 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Fantasy Romance.

E.J. is married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, CH loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).

E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

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