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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, Nell Iris – Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along but let’s face it, she’s not Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!.

Thanks so much, Nell, for joining me!

I want to start by saying thank you to my lovely host for having me! I’m here to talk about my Christmas release Under the Felt Mistletoeand answer some questions so you all can get to know me better.

I’m also giving away one ebook copy of Unexpected Christmas and Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings to one lucky winner! 

J. Scott Coatsworth: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Nell Iris: I’m a hardcore pantser. Seriously hardcore. Which is actually causing me trouble, because I’m co-writing a series with the fabulous Kris T. Bethke. And when you’re two people writing one book, pantsing isn’t an option. So we have an outline…and it’s so difficult for me to stick to it. I want to veer of course and let the characters do their own thing, but I can’t. That would f*ck things up for Kris, and she’s a lovely person so I don’t want to do that.

I work best when I can just let the characters roam free and do their own thing. So much their own thing that they even surprise mewith their actions sometimes! 😊

JSC: What’s your writing process?

NI: I do a lot in my head. I don’t write an outline and a rough draft and a first draft and… No. I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s going to happen and when I’m happy with the outline that exists only in my brain, I sit down and write. I do it old-school style with a fountain pen and good quality paper. The words flow better when I do it that way compared to when I try to write on the computer. I get hung up on every little word when I’m doing it digitally, but when I write by hand, I don’t care if I use one word four times in the same sentence. I fix that problem when I transcribe the story to the computer. But I don’t wait until the entire story is done. I write one chapter and then I transfer it to the computer. Then I go back to the notebook and write the next chapter, and so on. 

JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?

NI: I got a review for Under the Felt Mistletoe (by Boy Meets Boy Reviews) that said “Nell Iris is a master of the fluff” and I thought that described me pretty well, so I’m taking that title and owning it so hard!! I like short and fluffy and emotional, and that’s what I write. 

JSC: What character gave you fits and fought against you? Did that character cause trouble because you weren’t listening and missed something important about them?

NI: Benji the Twinktender. He’s a side character in Cinnamon Eyes and Promise Me We’ll Be Okay, and readers LOVE him. I’ve read several reviews begging for a story for Benji the Twinktender. And I had planned on writing one. I had an idea that worked well with what we already know about him, but when I sat down and started to write his story, it didn’t work at all. So I tried to rethink itand started a second story which didn’t work either. Then I got grumpy and said, “Fine, be that way! Lemme know when you’re ready to have your story told, and I’ll turn my attention to these guys instead.”

So, I probably wasn’t listening. I probably tried to force something on him that didn’t work. But I still haven’t figured out the solution. I’ll try again in 2019 though, I promise! 

JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?

NI: My e-reader, a charger for the e-reader, and a very long power chord they can connect to the island closest to mine where they have electricity. If I can read and charge my reading device, I’ll be fine! 

JSC: Would you visit the future or the past, and why?

NI: I would visit the future. I want to know if there is otherintelligent life in the universe than us. 

JSC: What was the first book that made you cry?

NI: Ronja Rövardotter, or Ronia the Robbers Daughter in English. (link: It’s written by Astrid Lindgren who wrote Pippi Longstocking. Astrid Lindgren is a Swedish national treasure, and every Swedish kid knowsand loves her stories. This book was released when I was 11 years old, and I loved it so much because Ronja is a very strong female character (like all Astrid’s characters) and I wanted to be her. I cried when one of the men in her father’s league of robbers, Skalle-Per diedbecause he was the one who accepted her when her father wouldn’t. It was very sad.

JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?

NI: Stay Home And Read A Book Day, of course. And it would be on my birthday, September 11, so something positive would be associated with that wretched day! 

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

NI: Mostly it’s a question. I see a picture or read an article or listen to a song, and I think why or how or what if. For example, when I wrote Unconditionally, I scrolled past a picture of a guy in a veil in my Instagram feed. (link And questions popped up in my head. Why is he sitting naked under a veil? Why does he look so sad? What happened to him? 

So I wrote a story explaining what happened to him. 😊

JSC: What inspired you to write Under the Felt Mistletoe?

NI: I scrolled past a tweet (unfortunately, I haven’t saved it so I can’t link to it) that told a story about a guy who was thrown out of his home when his family learned he was gay. But even though the shunned him, he didn’t shun them, so every Christmas he went back to the family home and left gifts on their porch. That story broke my heart, and I wanted to write a happy ending for him. So I did.

And now for Nell’s new book: Under the Felt Mistletoe:

The most wonderful time of the year is about to get even better.

On a cold, rainy December morning, Finn’s beloved Grampa, his best friend and rock, makes a friend outside their home who he invites in for coffee. The last thing Finn expects is Nelson, a man with a painful past, who is beautiful and generous and turns Finn’s knees into jelly.

What starts out as a chance to get out of the rain, soon becomes more as Nelson helps Finn get ready for the Christmas market. They bond over coffee and fabric and Mariah Carey. Can handmade Christmas ornaments and an understanding heart give Nelson the love he’s been denied?

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Sunday arrives with clear skies and no rain, but instead, the temperature has dropped overnight and hovers in the low thirties. I arm myself with a thermos of coffee and dress accordingly: long johns under my orange bellbottom corduroy pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a turtleneck layered under my windbreaker, a fluffy scarf wound around my neck and a beanie that makes my hair look ridiculous. It flattens everything under the hat, but at the ribbed cuff, my curls explode in every direction with a vengeance.

A lot of people attend the first market of the season and despite the cold pluming my breath in front of me, everyone is in high spirits and full of holiday cheer. My neighbor to the right, Mrs. Winterbottom — yes, that’s her real name — is dressed as Mrs. Santa and sells magnificent hand-crafted fir wreaths. On my left, Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers sell gold-brushed chocolate pralines that are too pretty to eat and taste even better.

Every vendor plays holiday music, greets the shoppers with a jolly ho-ho-ho, and a comment on the weather. The shoppers, in turn, have deep pockets and are eager to acquire the merchandise. People love my ornaments, and my stuff flies off the table. I will be cleaned out completely before the market closes if this continues. I need to spend more time sewing so I can bring lots more next week.

After a couple hours, huge powdery snowflakes start sailing leisurely from the sky, adding to the holiday feeling. The only downer on this fabulous day is that I ran out of coffee early. Mrs. Winterbottom forgot hers at home, and I shared mine with her. I wouldn’t let my worst enemy go without coffee if I could do something about it.

But in a lull between customers, a savior arrives.

Nelson. Carrying two paper cups in mittened hands.

Warmth flashes in my chest at the sight of him; his shy smile and brown eyes that are warm enough to thaw the thin layer of ice from the pond in the middle of the park where the market is held.

“Hi,” he says, sounding out of breath. “I know you like coffee, but I thought maybe hot chocolate would be nice in this cold?” He holds out of the cups and if we weren’t separated by the table I would show my gratitude by hugging the stuffing out of the man. New acquaintance or not.

“My hero!” I accept the offering, tear off the lid, and inhale. The sweet, slightly bitter aroma makes my mouth water. I take a small sip, but it isn’t too hot to drink so I have some more. I hum in happiness and smile at him. “This is awesome. Thank you so much.”

Nelson’s gaze is glued to my mouth with eyelids heavy and lips parted. “You’ve got …” He sets down his cup and pulls off his red and white mittens, then he leans forward and swipes the pad of his thumb along my upper lip.

I draw a stuttering breath.

“You had chocolate on your lip,” he rasps, his voice so deliciously rumbly I feel it all the way in my bones. “There. All gone.” He does a final sweep before withdrawing.

I can’t help it; my hand flies to my mouth and I finger my lip as though I’m trying to stop the lingering warmth from evaporating.

“Thank you.” My voice is hoarse. Our eyes lock as he picks up the mittens and put them back on. My breathing grows shallow and the Christmas music cacophony and loud buzz of the market-goers fade into the background. All I see is him. All I hear is his breathing.

“Finn. I …”

Author Bio

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along but let’s face it, she’s not Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a 40-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, where she spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food. One day she decided to chase her life long dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, and loves writing diverse and different characters. 




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