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, Theo Fenraven – Theo Fenraven lives in south Florida, where it is really hot much of the year.
Thanks so much, Theo, 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?
Theo Fenraven: I knew I wanted to write as soon as I understood what the word write meant. As for being good at it…. I’ve always written well, though of course experience and maturity have made positive improvements in my style, but I feel I still have much to learn. An author who doesn’t constantly seek to improve isn’t fully embracing the craft.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
TF: Writing style is lean, very little fat, descriptive without being flowery. I work in many genres under the larger M/M label, though my main interest lies mostly in suspense thrillers or fantasy/SF.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
TF: That was way back in high school, when my poem was published in a paperback-sized booklet, along with the works of other students. As I recall, one of my drawings was included, too. It convinced me I should pursue writing after leaving school, and I did write off and on for years before finally deciding to take it seriously. I only wish the industry had changed earlier; things were unpleasant for aspiring authors in traditional publishing.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
TF: Come up with an idea. Think about it for a while. Do a little research to see if it’s feasible. Think some more. Once I’ve decided I have a solid idea, I write a general outline. Very general, because if I know what’s coming, I often lose interest and quit; I want to be as surprised as the reader. Then I plug away at the story until it’s finished. I am not a fast writer. I also work as a freelance book editor, and work always takes priority over writing. If I release one or two books a year these days, I figure I’m doing okay.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
TF: I was once a terrific singer and okay guitarist; I often performed at parties. These days, the finger calluses are gone, and I only warble in the car. 😉
JSC: Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
TF: I started out writing romance. Now I write stories that include romance but don’t revolve around it. Love and sex are part of life; to ignore that would be ridiculous. But I now want to tell larger stories that are more event- and world-driven.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
TF: I have a dog named Suki. She’s thirteen this year, and I adore her. She’s the best company, no matter what I’m doing.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
TF: Combination of both but lean toward the latter.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
TF: Pet Appreciation Day. People would get the day off work and spend it with their fur babies. Take the dog for a drive or a run on the beach, let the cat perch on your shoulder while you give him a ride around the house or yard, allow the parrot to come with you to the store.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
TF: My current WIP is squarely in the SF genre, as it deals with parallel worlds and alien species. I’ve reached the halfway point. I expect to release it in spring or early summer.
And now for Theo’s new book: Half Moon House:
Abandoned by an industry that has been decimated by the economy, and struggling in a marriage that isn’t quite the stuff of dreams, Jon Donovan is ready for a change. It appears in the shape of Cass Allen—as comfortable in a skirt and heels as he is in jeans—who has happily spent his life drifting from place to place and job to job.
Pragmatic and practical meets mystical and magical as they start a new business, help solve a murder, and are blindsided by a devastating betrayal neither of them saw coming.
The tiny house community has two new advocates, but Jon and Cass will only find their happy ending if they are willing to give up who they were and become the men they are supposed to be.
Jon Donovan parked his truck in the lot, grabbed the folder containing his resume and references, and bounced up the steps and into one of the nicest reception areas he’d ever seen. Plush sofas and chairs were right-angle arranged on thick area rugs, which in turn rested on shiny bamboo floors. Sunlight poured through a glass wall, flooding the interior with golden light that warmed but did not heat. To the left was a counter, behind which sat a pretty woman with stylish blonde hair.
She looked up when he came in. “May I help you?”
Pasting on a smile, he went over. “I have an interview with Mr. Gordon at two.”
She bent her head to look at her laptop. “Mr. Englund?”
“Um, Mr. Donovan.” How many people were they interviewing for this position anyway? He glanced at the four guys in the waiting area, and his heart sank. The construction industry had not fully recovered from the 2008 crash, and though he’d expected competition, having it stare him in the face was always disconcerting.
She smiled. “Please have a seat. He’ll be with you momentarily.” As he walked away, she added, “Help yourself to coffee, or if you prefer, there’s water and soda in the fridge.”
He saw the snack area to the right and ignored it, going directly to one of the two couches. On one end was a slender young man with long, thin black dreads full of colorful beads that glowed in the early afternoon light. His mocha skin was smooth, and he grinned at Jon with even white teeth. Nodding in return, Jon sat at the opposite end, holding his papers awkwardly in his lap.
He hated interviews. He hated them with a passion that made him clench his teeth and tighten his gut muscles, but he’d lost his previous job a couple months ago, and while unemployment helped, it sure as hell didn’t pay the bills. A lot of general contracting companies had vanished in that crash, and people weren’t exactly beating down his door for the chance to work with him.
The man with the dreads was speaking to him. “What?”
“I said hi.” His smile was bright and had a sweet openness to it Jon couldn’t remember seeing from anyone in a long time. He received a quick impression of someone whom the world had treated well, and that made him like the guy immediately. “My name is Cassidy Allen, Cass for short.” Although Cass had a distinctly Jamaican air, his English was unaccented.
“Jon Donovan.” He was confused as to why Cass Allen was trying to have a conversation with him. Chances were good they were here for the same job; why cozy up to the competition? “Is there something I can do for you?”
“I think there is, but I’m not sure what yet.” Noticing the other applicants listening to them intently, he slid a few feet toward Jon. “It is inevitable we speak with one another.”
Cass pointed at the reception desk. “The phone.” Seconds later, it rang, and the pretty blonde picked it up.
Jon stared. “You trying to tell me you knew it was going to ring?”
“I did, in the same way I know we have something to talk about.” He placed slender fingers on his abdomen. “I feel it here. It’s a little like gas, but not nearly so unpleasant.”
Jon laughed. Allen was weird but oddly likeable.
The blonde called “Cassidy Allen,” and he said to Jon “I’ll see you after” and disappeared through a door the receptionist gestured at.
Jon abruptly realized he was feeling pretty good. The knots in his stomach were gone, and he was almost cheerful.
Cass Allen was back in less than ten minutes, throwing himself on the sofa dramatically. “I don’t know why I bother. No one appreciates my genius.”
“They didn’t even tell you they’d be in touch?” Jon asked in surprise.
“Nuh, mon,” Cass said, abruptly falling into a musical Jamaican accent that was pleasing to Jon’s ear. “I’m not licensed, so they weren’t interested. I’m more of a handyman, you know? And I haven’t worked in the trades for a few years. I’m a little rusty. But I bet it would come back to me like that.” He snapped his fingers, then shrugged. “It was worth a shot. Anything is better than flipping burgers at McDonald’s.” He lowered his voice confidentially. “I’ve done that, and it sucks.”
Jon was called next. He went through a door into a hall. On the right was a small conference room. A man with neat silver hair waved him in.
“I’m Mr. Olson. Have a seat.”
Jon sat, noticing his resume rested in front of Olson. The butterflies made an abrupt return; the room smelled faintly of sweat and desperation. He was so tired of this shit.
Olson tapped the paper. “You’ve done some nice work.” He leaned back. “Why did Jackson Remodeling let you go?”
Jon quelled a sigh. He hated stupid questions. “A tight economy and not many lucrative jobs available right now. Mr. Jackson felt bad about it, but when you own the company, you have to make hard decisions sometimes.” He decided not to mention he’d been let go so the owner’s worthless son could stay. No matter how it was phrased, it would sound petty.
“Tell me why you want a job here.”
Jesus. Why? Because he needed a job, and the pay was good. “Your reputation in south Florida is impeccable. I’ve heard people talk about the company with envy and admiration. I think I’m ready for the next level, and you’re it.”
Olson smiled, knowing a snow job when he heard one, but the game had to be played. “What can you bring to the table? In other words, why should we consider you over anyone with similar skills and background?”
How the hell did he know? Every interviewer asked this question, and he had yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. Suddenly, he was fed up with the charade. Fed up to the damn eyeballs with it. The two men still waiting probably had qualifications coming out of their ears. He probably didn’t stand a chance. The hell with it.
“You know what, Olson? I have no freaking idea. I’m a good general contractor. I know wood. I know tools. I can do basic plumbing and electrical. Hand me a design, and I can build it.” He got to his feet. “If that’s not enough for you, hire someone else.” He tipped an imaginary hat, smiled, and left, secretly pleased at the astonished expression on Olson’s face.
Cass Allen was still in the waiting room, leafing through a magazine without visible interest. He took one look at Jon’s face and got to his feet. “‘Life’s a bitch, now so am I?’”
Jon stared. Why was Cass quoting Batman Returns? Did Jon look that disgruntled? “‘I am Catwoman. Hear me roar.’”
Cass broke into astonished giggles. “Oh my god, someone who likes and knows movies. Now we must talk. How about a drink? There’s a bar two blocks away. Spotted it on my way here.”
“You got it.”
Outside in the parking lot, they separated to go to their vehicles. Jon paused with his hand on the truck door, watching Cass approach a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle convertible with chipped paint and an amazing collection of dents.
“That’s some car you got,” Jon said dryly.
Cass patted the hood fondly. “Nineteen sixty-six. It’s a classic.” He glanced at Jon, noticed the direction of his gaze, and laughed. “Pay no attention to the exterior. Every time it gives me shit, I kick it somewhere. I’m convinced rough treatment keeps it running.”
“That, some spit, and a few paperclips.”
Cass burst into laughter. He didn’t bother opening the driver’s door; the roof was down, and he simply vaulted into the front seat. “You have to admit, few thieves would be interested.”
“I’ll follow you, okay? Just in case.”
Cass laughed again, a silvery peal of sound, gave Jon directions, and they took off.
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Theo Fenraven lives in south Florida, where it is really hot much of the year.