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, Rory Ni Coileain – my dear friend Rory is stopping by my blog today – I met her at Rainbow Con 2015, and am thrilled to have her here.
Thanks so much, Rory, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Rory Ni Coileain: The first original story I remember writing, I wrote when I was six years old. It was about a suitcase that didn’t like having things packed in it – it didn’t want to be defined by its function – so it ran away from home. I first thought I was pretty good at it in college, when I graduated .01 percentage point (not 1 percent, .01 of one percent) away from summa cum laude with a degree in creative writing, but all that good feeling got shot down about a month later when my first professional submission was sent back to me with comments so scathing I think they retroactively killed the tree the paper was made from. After that, it took about 30 years for me to find Facebook role-play writing, and get my confidence back writing another author’s characters.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
RnC: I think of my genre as mythic and legendary fantasy for grownups. And I really have a couple of very distinct writing styles. One’s very contemporary, and one’s very stylized – it owes a lot to Tanith Lee and Elizabeth Hand. I use the latter more in short stories – “Obsidian” and “Serpentine” spring to mind. It’s very dense, rich, poetic – I think reading a whole novel written in that style would be like trying to eat an entire hot fudge flourless chocolate cake in one sitting.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
RnC: I saw a manuscript call for a BBW (Big Beautiful Women) anthology. It came at a time in my life when I was just starting to think of myself as a writer again after the MZB debacle (see answer to #1), and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write a story in a subgenre I’d never tried before, totally to someone else’s specifications, and try to finish it on a deadline. So I wrote the story, and sent it off… and heard nothing. And heard nothing. I finally decided I hadn’t made the cut, and gave up on it. Six months after submitting it, I decided to try NaNoWriMo for the first time, and while I didn’t “win,” I finished most of a novel. And then, two months later, I heard back from the publisher, who said that the BBW project had gone through a few editors, but they were ready to start work on it now, and yes, they’d like my story if it was still available. Which it was. And while they were putting the anthology together, my editor asked me if I had a book in me. Which, thanks to NaNo, I did. And the rest, as they say, is history. Or, at least, Fae.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
RnC: Process? We don’ need no stinkin’ process… *grins* Seriously, my “process” mostly consists of incubating one idea in the back of my head while I’m working on the one before it, sometimes writing a sketchy outline for it, or jotting down a few phrases or paragraphs. This time around, with STONE COLD, I’m also learning Scrivener as I go, so whatever might otherwise have been deemed “process-y” about it is now barely controlled chaos.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
RnC: I rode a tricycle until I was in fourth grade, because my parents were afraid I would hurt myself on a two-wheeler. And I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 23, for a very similar reason (which I had internalized quite nicely by that point).
JSC: Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
RnC: I write both – fantasy and science fiction are my first loves, and there’s something deeply satisfying about being able to craft the ideal reality to tell the story I want to tell, the way I want to tell it. And while I’ve written a few completely contemporary romance stories, I think I still feel a little bit out of my depth trying to craft realistic day-to-day life in an actual existing community I only get to see from the outside. Maybe that will change with time – I hope so.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
RnC: Well, they aren’t exactly on the keyboard (for a change), but here are Grace O’Malley the Pirate Queen of Ireland (on the right) and Captain Jack Harkness (on the left). They aren’t really plotting against me, the way it looks like they’re doing in the picture. At least, I think not.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
RnC: Used to be a total pantster, but I think I’ve come down with a mild case of plotteritis.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
RnC: I’m not sure, but it involves everyone buying Rory raspberry margaritas and Rory lying in a hammock on a tropical beach with Brock O’Hurn. Or maybe something that might actually happen someday, like Thou Shalt Get Thy Head Out Of Thy Arse Or Else Day. (Or my son’s suggestion, Voting Day. Which it would probably be a good idea to have on Thou Shalt Get Thy Head Out Of Thy Arse Or Else Day.)
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
RnC: STONE COLD, which is SoulShares #8 and the penultimate book in the series – my contract says it should be done in November, and I’d be deeply appreciative if Real Life doesn’t step in and make that deadline as ridiculously impossible as it did the original deadline for UNDERTOW, thankyouverymuch.
And now for Rory’s new book: Undertow:
Rhoann Callte, Rhoann Half-Royal, is an impossible Fae. As a shape-shifter, he carries the blood of Fae water elementals and has a once-in-a-generation healing gift. Which is his blessing, or his curse, depending on how you look at it – his gift is needed among the exiled Fae of the Demesne of Purgatory, and he’s coerced from his beloved solitude and sent on a one-way trip to the human world.
Vietnam veteran Mac McAllan has been through hell in the last few months, and not just because his new C-leg isn’t performing up to spec. He and his partner of 34 years, stocky bald muscle bear Lucien de Winter, were working at Purgatory when what the owner said was a gas explosion collapsed the building – and put Lucien into a coma back in August. Now it’s October, and an impossibly handsome stranger says he can heal Lucien. But there’s always a price…
A Fae who wants only to be left alone, SoulShared with a human who’s already found the love of his life… and the Marfach testing their incomplete bond, seeking the key to its watery prison. What could go wrong?
Excerpt from Chapter Six of UNDERTOW (this is a flashback Lucien is having, to the early days of his relationship with Mac)
Lucien let the barbells drop to the floor with a thump that would have pissed off anyone living downstairs, if he didn’t have a basement apartment. His biceps were burning, his triceps felt like a couple of bags of dead mice, and his lats and his pecs weren’t speaking to him or to each other. But damn, it all felt good. And the aches wouldn’t last long, none of his aches and pains ever did. Though a shower would feel amazing right now.
His legs made a ripping sound as he stood up, sweaty skin peeling away from the cheap vinyl of what passed for his weight bench. It would be nice to be able to afford a gym membership, but there was no way, not on a part-time grease monkey’s wages. Small-time service station owners weren’t making the killing everyone thought they were, this summer of ‘crisis of confidence’. National malaise. Whatever. So until he could figure out how to print money, he was on his own, trying to keep up with Mac.
Just the thought of Mac made him grin like an idiot as he headed for the john. His boyfriend was getting in some killer workouts lately, part of a new program he’d been assigned to. Mac had already been built when they’d met, and Lucien had always been hot for military types. But Mac was part of a team at Walter Reed that was working on ways to get amputees healthy and keep them that way. And Mac was incredibly fucking healthy.
Lucien shucked off his muscle tee as he headed for the shower. Wearing it in the first place was kind of a pain in the ass. Even below ground, D.C. was hotter than hell in August; he couldn’t afford air conditioning, either, and all the little fan in the corner did was move the hot humid air around. But he was just fastidious enough not to want to leave his short-and-curlies all over everything.
Fastidious. Hell. He was a fussy twenty-year-old queen. Furry cub. And wannabe gym rat.
Laughing, he reached into the shower. The rotating handle sounded like glass being raked down a chalkboard; tepid water sluiced over his hand.
A fist banged on his front door.
Lucien turned the water off, ignoring the screech. “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Lucien. Mac.”
He’d never heard his Marine boyfriend’s voice sound like that before. Like someone was trying to choke him. Lucien sprinted to the door — not like he had far to go, calling his place an ‘efficiency’ was dignifying it — unlocked it, and swung the door wide.
Mac stood there in the dank hallway, scalp gleaming under his regulation brush cut in the light from the crap bare bulb overhead, in what Lucien guessed were the uniform khakis he wore on duty. Guessed, because apart from the day they’d met, Mac hadn’t dared to be seen with him in uniform. Lucien understood. The facts of life were harsh, for a gay man in the United States Marine Corps in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Nine.
And underneath a sheen of sweat, Mac was as pale as paste. “Can I come in?” It sounded like he was having trouble breathing.
What the hell? “Yeah, sure.”
Lucien headed straight for the kitchenette as Mac walked past him. He didn’t have much on hand in the way of food, but alongside the round cardboard oatmeal box and the green box of elbow macaroni in the cupboard was a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels. He grabbed it, and two glasses — Foghorn Leghorn and Pepe le Pew, courtesy of Jack’s Sunoco — and turned around.
Mac stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by the weight bench and the old armchair and the TV set on the chest of drawers and the mattress, flat on the floor because Lucien had never been able to figure out why he should bother putting it on anything. And Mac looked as lost as anyone Lucien had ever seen.
Lucien glanced around; not seeing anyplace better, he set the bottle and glasses on the floor and went to Mac. To his boyfriend. As bizarre as that sounded to him. Hesitantly he reached up and rested his hands on Mac’s shoulders, and winced as the taller man flinched. “What is it? Did something happen?”
It almost seemed like Mac hadn’t heard him, for a few seconds. And when he finally spoke, it was like he was remembering how. “Major Rawlings called me into his office, right after lunch.”
Mac didn’t sound like he wanted to go on, and Lucien sure as hell didn’t want to say anything stupid like “And?” or “So?” So he gritted his teeth and waited, and wondered if maybe he should try to grab the bottle.
“He told me… that he had photographic evidence that I’d engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the armed forces.” Mac’s voice was hoarse. Soft. Like he didn’t want to hear what he was saying. “That my court-martial will be convening the second week of September.”
Lucien stared, his mind racing. Racing, hell. Pedal to the metal and smoke coming out of the transmission.
He didn’t get to spend a lot of time with Mac. He didn’t like it, but he understood. The Marine Corps was Mac’s first love. His biggest. Mac gave Lucien what didn’t get in the way of that love.
Maybe everything that didn’t. Lucien wasn’t sure. He hoped so.
He didn’t have all of Mac. But he had enough to understand that the big Marine’s world had just ended.
Mac swayed a little. Lucien probably wouldn’t have noticed if his hands hadn’t been on those hard shoulders.
He tightened his grip.
Am I enough to keep him from falling?
He didn’t feel like enough. Mac had always felt like more, larger than life. Maybe because Mac had always seen himself as part of something bigger.
Lucien had never been part of something bigger than himself.
Fuck if he hadn’t.
He was part of himself and Mac.
And no one took his Marine down. Not on Lucien’s watch.
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Rory Ni Coileain majored in creative writing, back when Respectable Colleges didn’t offer such a major, so she designed it herself – being careful to ensure that she never had to take a class before nine in the morning or take a Hemingway survey course. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the age of nineteen, sent off her first short story to an anthology being assembled by an author she idolized, got the kind of rejection letter that puts therapists’ kids through college (Ivy League), and found other things to do, such as nightclub singing and volunteering as a lawyer with Gay Men’s Health Crisis, for the next thirty years or so, until her stories started whispering to her. Now she’s a legal editor, the mother of a budding filmmaker, and amanuensis to a host of fantastic creatures who are all anxious to tell their stories. And who aren’t very good at waiting their turn.