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, G.R. Lyons – While daylighting as office manager for the family auto repair business, G.R. Lyons can often be found working on one of multiple manuscripts or desperately trying to keep up with the TBR pile.
G.R. is giving away one eBook copy of any backlist ebook (except the combined edition of the Matchmakers trilogy).
Thanks so much, G.R., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
G.R. Lyons: When I get writer’s block, it’s usually not so much that I can’t think of where to take the story so much as I know exactly where the story is supposed to be going yet I can’t seem to make myself actually write it. Something about it just doesn’t work, and it feels like pulling teeth just trying to get the words down on the page. When this happens, I have to walk away from it (for a few hours or days, depending on how much I’ve been trying to force my way through it), and then reassess my outline. It almost always turns out that I’ve got key scenes at the wrong plot points, and once I realize that and fix it, the block goes away and I just fly through the rest of the story. There have been a few times I’ve gotten 50-70k words into a story only to realize it wasn’t working, and then I have to delete it all (read: copy everything over to a separate file) and start over, only to discover almost all of those discarded scenes work just fine, but that they simply had to be moved to a different part of the plot.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
GRL: Now that I know more about the science of plotting, I can generally write a full-length novel (90-100k words) in a month. Month and a half if I get busy with other things. The worst one ever took me a year, but that was before I started studying plot structure. So, yes, I am very much in the plotter camp. Pantsing gets me nowhere.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
GRL: Start a new file, jot down some notes, and save it for later. I keep thinking I might actually get caught up on all my books waiting to be written only for another minor character to jump out and demand his own book somewhere along the line.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
GRL: I am an anarcho-capitalist (also known as an anarchist, a voluntaryist, an individualist, etc.), and I wanted to portray some of the virtues of that philosophy in my fictional world, being that it is such a minority viewpoint in the real world, with the vast majority of people being in favor of some form of government ruling our lives, so I created a whole society in my fictional world in which there is absolutely no government and an entirely free market. People are free to voluntarily associate (or not), are free to live their lives as they wish (no one to tell them who they can marry, what they can put in their bodies, what kind of jobs they can have, etc.). It’s been fun trying to invent ways the free market might handle various situations, since a truly free market has never been done in the real world. Yes, there is still crime in my fictional world–since human beings are human beings and there will always be bad people, no matter what kind of system, or lack thereof, is in place–but after all my research into voluntaryist philosophy and the Austrian school of economics as opposed to any sort of government regulation or any attempt to design an economy, it’s clear that a free society really is the best way to honor the inherent individual rights of Man, and I wanted a chance–even a small one–to portray aspects of that.
JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
GRL: I started out as a part-time writer while I was still at my day job, but a year ago I sold my house so I could have some money to live off of while I took time away from work to try writing full time. I’m still nowhere near selling enough books to actually make a career out of it, but even if I did, I’d want to have at least a part-time job of some kind anyway. Working from home sounds glamorous when you’re going into an office 60 hours a week, but once the reality of that kind of lifestyle sets in, it can get really boring, and I can only write so many hours a day before my brain gives out. So I find that a balance of part-time day job and part-time writer works best for me.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
GRL: I have a local reader, a woman who lost her wife of twenty years to cancer, and she has told me, more than once, how much my writing impacted her. First with the soulmates in my Lethean trilogy, since she felt a soulmate connection with her wife, and most recently with my Matchmakers trilogy (m/m romances), in which one character struggles with a terminal illness. My reader said it was so lifelike that it struck way too close to home and had her crying, which was bittersweet to hear. Tragic, of course, but also fulfilling in that I got it so right.
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
GRL: I’m coming up on 18 years that I’ve worked for the family auto repair business as Office Manager / Service Writer (pretty much doing everything but wrench on cars). I also worked for a year as a delivery driver for an auto parts store, and I hope to return to that here in the near future. Customer service is great fodder for character inspiration, but it’s also so mentally draining for an introvert such as myself. I’d rather be delivering parts and stocking shelves. I am truly grateful, though, that working for the family meant I could work on my novels at my desk whenever the office was quiet.
JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
GRL: The only book of mine that I’ve thought of in terms of a movie would be The Prisoner (Shifting Isles Series, Book 1), and as for a lead actor, I’d definitely have to pick Tom Hiddleston. When I got stuck on the character of Officer Benash, something about Hiddleston’s voice really brought that character to life in my head. I can’t imagine anyone else playing him.
JSC: What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
GRL: My own, of course! I would love to live in a truly free society, especially one in which magic and technology could exist side-by-side.
JSC: What are you working on now?
GRL: Right now, I’ve had to take a short break from writing as I got recalled to my day job temporarily, and in the meantime, I’m going back through all my books and pinning down timeline events as well as mapping out character family trees so I can better build up my Series Bible, as it were (which, fortunately or unfortunately, has only served to trigger new story ideas). Once I get back at it, though, I’ve got the next two Treble and the Lost Boys novels to edit and get ready for release later in the year. They’ll follow Ice on Fire, an m/m romance, which will be released April 27th.
And now for G.R.’s new book: Ice on Fire:
Zac Cinder is on the verge of making his dream come true. His punk rock band, Inferno, might have a shot at an audition for a record deal. Fame and fortune would mean he could finally help his parents. They’d raised eight kids in a loving household while barely scraping by, so Zac is determined to give back in any way he can.
Keeping Inferno together, though, means keeping his biggest secret. His bigoted bandmates would drop him in an instant if they found out Zac was gay.
Then he meets Adrian Frost, and Zac can’t resist the shy man. Adrian gives up everything to be with Zac, but Zac can’t bring himself to do the same. He doesn’t want to lose Adrian, but he can’t give up Inferno, either. Not when he’s so close to realizing his dream.
When one cruel decision rips Adrian from his life, Zac will have to decide if ambition is worth the price of the greatest happiness he’s ever known.
(Note: This story takes place in a fictional world, the same as in the Shifting Isles Series. There are multiple gods, different names for the days of the week, etc. A glossary is included.)
WARNING: Contains scenes of self-harm that may be disturbing for some readers.
Treble and the Lost Boys Book One
ZAC CINDER raced offstage and jammed his guitar into its case, fumbling with the latches with one hand while he shoved his long, dark hair out of the way with the other.
“Yo, Blaze!” Kade, the drummer of Inferno, jumped behind Zac and grabbed him by the shoulders. “What’s the rush, man?”
“I told you,” Zac said, finally getting the last latch fastened and tossing his hair over his shoulder, effectively pushing Kade out of the way. “I gotta go.”
“What, no encore?” Smitty, Inferno’s base guitarist, asked.
Zac stuffed his keys and wallet into the pockets of his black skinny jeans and headed for the exit, calling over his shoulder, “I told you guys three times, I’ve got somewhere to be.”
“Blaze, come on, man,” Kade called after him as Zac reached the door. Zac paused and looked back over his shoulder at his bandmates, tapping his heel as he stood there. “What’s the deal? Why you keep leaving shows early, huh?”
Smitty slung an arm over Kade’s shoulders and flashed Zac a grin. “Dude, if you’re getting laid and not telling us, you’re in deep shit.”
Zac snorted a laugh. Getting laid. I wish. Somehow, he managed to flash them a lewd grin. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
He turned for the door, and heard Smitty yell, “She better be hot or you’re totally busted!”
There was nothing Zac could safely say to that, so he just waved over his shoulder and left the club, darting across the parking lot to his car. He settled his guitar case in the backseat, climbed in behind the wheel, and took off, driving as fast as he dared.
What had possessed him to schedule two shows in one night was beyond him.
But he wouldn’t miss the next one for the world.
Zac got back to his apartment, locked the door, and barely paused to set his guitar case on the floor while he raced to his bedroom. He yanked at the buckles on his black combat boots, tore the things off, stripped off his socks, then went to work at peeling off his artfully-torn skinny jeans, the black fabric splashed here and there with some kind of red glitter that never wore off, no matter how many times he’d washed them. Once free of the jeans, he ripped off his black tank top, tore himself out of his studded wrist cuffs and collar, scrubbed off the black eyeliner at the sink, and jumped into the shower, pausing just a moment as the hot water hit his skin.
Zac took a deep breath, sighed, then washed himself as quickly as he could, scrubbing off the sweat from an energetic gig. He slammed down the valve to shut off the water, rubbed a towel vigorously over his whole body, and wrung out his hair as best he could. There was no way he’d have time to dry it properly.
He yanked a brush through his hair and deftly wound it into a braid. The waist-length dark strands with flame-red highlights were perfect for the rock show he’d just done, but he definitely needed something more tame for where he was going next. Zac finished off the braid, twisted in front of the mirror to make sure the red highlights were hidden, then ran to his bedroom to get dressed.
Kicking aside the pile of sweaty clothes he’d wrestled himself out of before his shower, Zac dove into his closet and pulled out the only dress clothes he owned—a pair of grey slacks and a white shirt—taking the time to get everything properly buttoned up, tucked in, and smoothed out. With his dress shoes on and cuffs straightened, Zac paused in front of his full-length mirror to check his appearance.
He grinned. Yeah, he looked good. Hair tidy, clothes fitting perfectly, the muted colors and modest lines such a stark contrast to how he’d looked just a few minutes earlier that even he almost didn’t recognize himself.
Zac shivered with anticipation. He couldn’t wait to get up onstage and have Mr. Shadow’s gaze focused directly on him.
Heart pounding and a grin on his face, Zac once again pocketed his keys and wallet, picked up his violin case, and raced out the door.
He glanced around from under his eyelashes as he made his way back to his car. His bandmates still hadn’t figured anything out, thank gods, but he wouldn’t put it past them to start getting nosy and follow him if they thought his behavior any more odd than they already did. Not that he was necessarily ashamed of his secret, but he just wasn’t ready for it to come out yet.
Zac alternately tapped on the steering wheel and ran through some vocal exercises while he drove, hoping to help the time go by faster. His fusion group, Treble, had a standing performance every other week at Underground, a swanky lounge in an upscale apartment building that the rich, famous, and aspiring citizens of Morbran City called home.
Of course, it was difficult to call Frost Estates a building, per se. Sure, there was the elegant two-storey structure above ground, containing various apartments. The level below ground, in what would traditionally be considered the basement, was taken up by the building’s service staff and supplies—maintenance, maids, and whatnot—as well as Underground, the lounge offering entertainment, drinks, and meals, the latter of which could be ordered by and delivered to the building’s residents.
But the real marvel of the structure went farther down.
Over six-hundred years ago, before the Breaking of the World, the land on which Frost Estates currently sat had been Ceynesian farmland, part of an estate belonging to Gabriel Morbran, Viscount Denmer. When the gods broke the world, though, and the single, original landmass was split into the eight Isles that currently existed, the viscount’s land was divided in two. One half remained part of Ceynes, while the other—the half on which the viscount had been during the Breaking—became part of the new Isle of Agoran, leaving a sheer cliff as the new northern border of his property.
Rumor had it that Morbran Hall, the viscount’s residence, had been severely damaged in the Breaking, and that Frost Estates was built onto the Hall’s original foundations, putting the structure right at land’s end, giving the north-facing apartments an expansive ocean view.
But the apartments belowUnderground were even better.
Built out from the face of the cliff and accessible only by an elevator that traveled down the distance of ten floors, individual and entirely unconnected apartments boasted incredible views along with total privacy. Sharing neither walls nor floors and ceilings, the city’s elite could enjoy glamorous living without ever being aware of their neighbors. In a twist from the norm, it wasn’t the highest floor but the lowest that commanded the greatest rent and prestige. Living in the lowest apartment down the cliff face was supposed to be like living directly on the water, the floor-to-ceiling windows allowing not just ocean views but the soothing sound of the waves when the windows were open.
Those cliff-face apartments were the only structures in Morbran City that didn’t strictly follow the original Ceynesian architecture of the town. The engineering marvel utilized more sleek, modern design. Sharp lines. Lots of windows. Nothing like the storybook, old-time feel of the rest of the town, which boasted cobblestone streets, vibrant gardens, and not a single structure over three storeys tall. The whole city seemed almost magical in a way, maintaining an Old World feel while still playing home to some of the Isle’s most advanced technologies, courtesy of its brightest and wealthiest residents, many of whom lived right there in Frost Estates.
Zac couldn’t even dream of ever owning one of the glamorous apartments in that building, but he didn’t care. He was doing what he loved, and that was enough. Just being able to have his talent appreciated was better than any riches he could imagine.
If he could have a little more money, though—at least enough that he could afford to help his parents—that would be something.
Zac arrived at the lounge just in time and made his way backstage, where the rest of Treble were waiting.
“Gods, where have you been?” Vic asked. The cellist, dressed as always in one of his tailored three-piece suits, glanced from Zac to his watch and back, a frown on his face.
“Babe, relax,” Ryley said with a grin, putting a hand on Vic’s arm. “We’ve got plenty of time.”
“We’re supposed to be on in ten minutes,” Vic growled.
“Like I said.” Ryley stretched up onto his toes to kiss Vic on the cheek, then tied back his shoulder-length blond hair as he strolled casually over to where his violin case lay. “Plenty of time.”
Vic grumbled something under his breath and stormed over to his instrument while Zac went about getting his violin tuned and ready.
“Wait,” Zac said. “Ryley, are we dueling tonight or am I on keys?”
Vic slapped a hand over his eyes in frustration while Ryley let out a sigh through an amused smile. “Dueling.”
Zac grinned and went back to his instrument. As much as he enjoyed playing piano—and Underground had an absolute beauty of a baby grand out on that stage—he loveddueling violins with Ryley. Though still refined enough for the setting, it added a whole other layer of intrigue and entertainment to their show. The audience ate it up.
Not to mention, Zac was pretty sure it was Mr. Shadow’s favorite.
He shivered again, willing his cock to behave so he wouldn’t be walking onstage with an obvious problem. Dress pants were all well and good for making him feel like he fit in when he performed there, but they were a nightmare when it came to being turned on by the presence of that beautiful, mysterious man who never missed a single one of Zac’s shows.
At least, he hoped he was the reason the man was always there. No shred of doubt was going to stop him from fantasizing about that.
Zac checked the tuning on his violin one more time, then followed Vic and Ryley onstage as the lounge’s host announced them and the audience erupted with applause.
Unable to hold still, Zac paced the front of the stage, waving at the audience and occasionally stopping to lean down and shake a few hands, grinning as the applause went on. As soon as the noise died down, Zac took his place, tucked his instrument under his chin, and waited for Vic to start them off.
The few seconds were all it took for Zac’s eyes to go straight to the back left corner of the room. Sure enough, Mr. Shadow was there.
A shiver ran through Zac’s body as he drew his bow across the strings and began to play.
Instinct took over. Zac closed his eyes, pouring himself into his music. It was a skill that had just seemed to come to him. A prodigy, they said. Zac wasn’t sure about that, but he knew there was no life without an instrument in his hands or a song pouring out of his lungs.
And knowing Mr. Shadow’s eyes were on him made it all ten times better.
Zac couldn’t help smiling as they finished the first piece—a cover of a classic Will Knightley composition reworked for strings—and bowed to the audience. He glanced at Ryley and Vic, swapping subtle cues before they launched into the next, an original they’d composed for dueling violins.
The moment they began, Zac looked across the room and saw Mr. Shadow lean forward in his seat, his eyes flashing with interest.
Zac was sorely tempted to keep his gaze fixed on the mystery man in the dark corner as he played, but he knew he’d never get away with it. He let his gaze roam the room instead, periodically closing his eyes as he got lost in the music, only to open them again and put all his attention on Ryley as they played off one another with Vic’s cello weaving the whole thing together.
Gods, he loved this.
The audience cheered as the piece came to its climactic end, and the three musicians took another bow, grins on all their faces. That piece never failed to get the audience worked up.
But Zac had eyes only for one man.
He glanced at the back corner and saw the mystery man staring at him. The man wasn’t applauding with the rest of the crowd, nor was he smiling, but the intent look on his face was more than enough to tell Zac that he was fully absorbed in the performance.
That heated gaze was going to be his undoing.
Maybe tonight, Zac thought as the group slipped effortlessly into the next piece. Maybe tonight I’ll finally meet him.
After the energy of the duel, they brought the audience back down with something soft and sweet, settling a blanket of contentment over the whole room. Zac smiled as he played, picturing himself actually getting to see the mystery man up close for the first time. As it was, this was the only proximity they’d ever shared, Zac onstage and the mystery man sitting in the shadows at that table in the back corner.
But the man was there for every Treble show, without fail. Zac was dying to see him up close, face to face. He wanted to see if the guy was as good-looking as he seemed from a distance, wanted to know if the intensity of his gaze meant what he hoped it meant.
And no way did he want to stop there. Ever since Zac had first noticed Mr. Shadow sitting at that table, attention riveted to the stage, the man had dominated every one of Zac’s fantasies.
Gods,pleaselet him be gay, Zac wished for the umpteenth time.
Of course, there was only one way to find out. When their set was finally done for the night, Zac went through the motions of shaking hands and taking compliments from the audience as he and the others made their way through the lounge, but by the time he reached the back of the room, the corner table was empty.
Fuck. Zac sighed. The mystery guy had vanished on him, like always. Why couldn’t he stay, just once? Why did he always have to leave before Zac had a chance to even get close?
Zac let out another sigh, then put on a smile and went back to shaking hands. Treble were popular at Underground, so he couldn’t very well shun the people who contributed to his livelihood. He smiled and nodded, accepting praise and tips with humility—and free drinks with alacrity—before bidding Vic and Ryley goodnight and heading home, letting the car’s autopilot take over so that disappointment mixed with inebriation wouldn’t stop him from reaching his depressingly empty apartment.
Mindful of the violin case in his hands, Zac made his drunken way from his car to his front door, got inside, and shut out the darkness. He carefully set the instrument aside, shuffled off to his bedroom, stripped out of his clothes, and fell into bed.
Just once, he’d like to see the mystery man up close. But he seemed doomed to disappointment, having never gotten any closer than across a crowded room.
Who are you?
While daylighting as office manager for the family auto repair business, G.R. Lyons can often be found working on one of multiple manuscripts or desperately trying to keep up with the TBR pile. Anarcho-capitalist, quietly ‘out’ trans guy, former belly dancer, coffee guzzler, highly-sensitive introvert, CrossFit enthusiast, and lover of m/m romantic fiction.