Interview with Amy Jo Cousins on her Bend or Break series and a few other things04:36
Amy Jo Cousins is my second guest in the author interview feature which I recently started (Alexis Hall was the first one a few weeks ago). Read on if you want to see what she has to share about her writing and to learn more about her fabulous NA LGBT series Bend or Break.
Interview with Amy Jo Cousins on the Bend or Break series and a few more things
ER: Hi, Amy Jo and welcome! I’m so happy to have you here today.
I want to start this interview with some general questions on your writing. You have been a romance writer for some time now, can you tell us how that happened, when did you realize this was what you wanted to do in life and how did you go about actually doing it?
AJC: I always wanted to be a writer, but until my late twenties, that was mostly a fantasy, a theoretical dream. I would start a lot of projects, but I never finished any of them. I think I didn’t believe it could really happen (which was a lot more realistic twenty years ago, before epublishing), so I only dabbled at it. But when I was approaching my 30th birthday, I decided I needed to (pardon the crassness) shit or get off the pot. It’s amazing how motivating the feeling that you are getting old and accomplishing nothing can be. At the time, I actually wanted to write a literary historical novel about a composer in fin de siècle Vienna. I figured I’d work on that, but I wanted to practice writing query letters and I knew romance publishing had the fastest turnaround as far as response times. So I made up a romance novel synopsis and wrote a query letter that I mailed to Harlequin. Snail mail! Man, this was a long time ago. I figured it would get rejected (everything did, especially back then) but maybe I would be lucky enough to get a personal response and I’d learn how to write a better query, so I’d be prepared when the time came to pitch my composer books. This is what I told myself. In hindsight, I think I really wanted to write romance novels, but was afraid they weren’t serious enough for an English major. (I was young and foolish. Forgive me.) In any case, Harlequin requested the ms. and then bought the book, which I had to sit down and write in a hurry! And the rest, barring a ten year gap in my writing career due to single parenting taking over my life, is history.
ER: Continuing in these lines – what is the best and the worst thing about being a writer?
AJC: One of the best things is that I have an excuse to research anything I want, which is nirvana for the geek like me. Plus, I never have bad dates, because I am professionally interested in pretty much anyone. ;) The worse is that I spend all day sitting, way more than I ever did in my office jobs, even. I used to use any excuse to get up and walk around the office, going to talk to people instead of emailing or calling them. Now I sit, all day, and although I try to remember to get up and move around, I’m frequently unsuccessful at that. Being a writer is a terrible health risk. But I’m getting back into running again, which I cut waaaaay back on when I hurt my back (thank you, writing!), so I’m excited about that.
ER: Can you share some more details about your writing process – do you have a daily goals of words to write, do you use NaNoWriMo (like many other authors), or do you have a different strategy?
AJC: My writing process is in constant flux. Very rarely does one thing work for long, I think because I get bored with routine. So I’m constantly changing it up. I did #1k1hr sprints for a long time, then did pomodoros for a while, which are shorter sprints with breaks in between. Lately, I’ve been assigning myself the task of writing 500 words per hour, and as soon as I finish the 500 words, I’m allowed to do whatever I want for the rest of the hour. This kind of bribery has been very effective. Also, graphs. The visual representation of progress is an effective motivator for me, which is probably one of the things I love about NaNoWriMo. Most years I will start NaNo, but I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. Sometimes I finish, sometimes other things get in the way and I don’t. I almost never have only one project going at a time, so that’s not the best event for me these days, but I enjoy the community and the temporary sense of urgency and it has led to some interesting projects.
ER: What is the easiest and the most difficult thing for you when it comes to writing?
AJC: Easiest for me is dialogue. I frequently “hear” scenes first as a conversation in my head, and then I figure out where that conversation is happening and what everyone is doing while they’re talking. Conflict, on the other hand, is my nemesis. I have a habit of writing my characters as being so reasonable that it’s hard for them to be in conflict with each other. I think maybe I want to get to the HEA so much, I forget sometimes that they need to have some real problems first!
ER: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
AJC: I am a plantser. Or is it a potter? A mix of both. Some books I work out in pretty significant detail before writing, and they are inevitably the smoother for it. Other times, I think I know exactly what’s going to happen in the book and just start writing. I always regret this.
ER: And final question on your writing process before we move on to talk in more details about your books. What is your favourite subgenre to write in?
AJC: Well, contemporary sure does make my research easier. I mean, there’s always research, but I’m working on plotting a historical series in 1930s London and I’m already flinching at the amount of research I’ll need to do.
You know what I’d love to write though? Epic fantasy. I doubt I ever will, because I’m not that into the kind of worldbuilding you need to do if you want to do it right, but some of my favorite authors write epic fantasy and I wish I could too.
When I wrote Off Campus, I had no idea this would become a series at all. As soon as it was done, though, I knew I wanted it to be. Usually I can’t tell if a story I’ve written is good or not, but with Off Campus I knew I’d written something special. It’s one of my only books that I actually reread for pleasure. So I started thinking about what came next for everyone. I actually had a story planned for Steph about her and Amira, her college girlfriend, until I realized it would be too depressing to break them up (because I always knew she and Cash would end up together in the long run). My original series proposal included Nothing Like Paris, The Girl Next Door, and Real World. But Level Hands and the new books were surprises, lovely ones!
ER: The next release in the series are the two novellas, Love Me Like a Rock and Hard Candy. Meeting Austin and Vinnie in Level Hands, I was convinced that they will end up together despite their differences, so why did you chose different partners for them?
AJC: While I was writing Real World, I realized that Vinnie was going to assume Austin would wait around for him forever and that if Austin ever met a guy who paid some serious attention to him (and one who was down for a whole lotta banging), Vinnie might miss his chance. As soon as I thought about that, and about who the right guy for Austin would be, Sean popped into my head and it was all over. Vinnie was one bummed out dude and I was happy, because not every teenage friends with benefits situation works out in the long run, you know? I mean, most of them don’t. So it felt right for Vinnie to screw up, Austin to move on, and for both of them to meet awesome guys who were perfect for them.
ER: This is a bit of unfair question but who is your favourite character in the series? I love them all but against all expectations I can relate the most to Rafi.
AJC: Well, Cash is my favorite to write, because he’s pure goodheartedness, and that make me happy. But Tom is my favorite overall. I’ve got a lot invested in a person like that getting their HEA. J
ER: Which book was the easiest to write and which the most difficult?
AJC: Real World was the easiest by far. Tom and Reese were so familiar to me, I knew so much about them, that it was simple to slip back into their heads again. And I knew I wanted to wrap their story up (for now, she says mysteriously) with a big, swoony holiday proposal, so the story as a whole came together pretty quickly for me.
Level Hands, now… Oh, that book nearly killed me. I have never cut so much from a ms., and that’s always painful! The conflict in Level Hands is almost exclusively internal as opposed to external. It’s all about Rafi struggling to find his place and figure out a way to navigate in an entirely new environment. Making that book come together was a struggle and I’m so grateful for my editor Christa’s help with that one.
ER: And now question I know all the fans of the series what to ask – will there be any more Bend or Break books coming soon?
AJC: Not soon, but there will be more! Right now, I’m basically waiting on resolution with Samhain. There seems to be some question as to whether or not they are closing after all. If at some point I do get the rights back to the series, I will definitely be writing more Bend or Break books. Varun, Cash’s friend from The Girl Next Door, has a book, as does Andie from Nothing Like Paris. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that I get to write them!
ER: Speaking of upcoming releases, what will happen with this series now that Samhain is closing down?
AJC: If they do close, we’ve been told that we will all receive our rights back in a gradual unwinding process. When that happens, I will get the entire series back into circulation as soon as possible. I anticipate a very rapid turnaround!
ER: You also write het romances, what are your plans in this direction?
AJC: Right now, I am mostly looking at including some het romance within the predominantly LGBTQ series I’m planning. I like writing about groups of friends or co-workers or neighbors, and those groups will continue to have people who form m/f relationships too. I don’t have any plans to write a strictly, or even mostly, het series in the near future, but you never know. I have more story ideas than I can handle, and I’ll write the relationships that allow me to tell those stories best.
ER: And my final question is what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
AJC: Write, write, and write some more. With every new story or novel I write, I learn new things about writing. I also learn how to push myself further, to try
ER: Thank you very much, Amy Jo for doing this interview!
AJC: Thank you so much for having me!
Author Bio and Links
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.
Amy Jo Cousins' latest release is the duology Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which includes the two novellas - Love Me Like a Rock (Austin' story) and Hard Candy (Vinnie's story).
When friends lose the benefits, can the friendship be saved?
Love Me Like A Rock
With the right art tools, there’s almost nothing Austin can’t make real. Except an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.
Emotional and sexual frustration fuel a spark between Austin and Sean, the nude model in drawing class. After a quick and very dirty encounter, all the reasons Austin has been waiting for Vinnie go fuzzy in his mind.
But if Austin can’t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose both his friend, and his lover.
Vincent always assumed he and Austin would eventually end up together. But now that Austin’s in love with another man, Vinnie is at a loss.
After the world’s most awkward one-night stand with Bryan, a dance major, Vinnie is drawn to his vibrant spirit and calm center.
Physically, the rowing jock and the glittery dancer can match each other stroke for booty pop. But for the lovers to meet on common ground, they’ll have to find a way to get moving in the same direction.