Today I’m pleased to welcome Sloan Parker to Divine Magazine’s Author Spotlight.
I’m a long-time fan of Sloan’s, ever since I discovered the amazing BREATHE. She has 6 published novels to date and has a couple of freebie reads available on her website.
Welcome to Divine Magazine, Sloan, and thank you for agreeing to Roroblu’sMum’s Inquisition. Please tell readers about yourself. We want deets, lots and lots of deets!
Sloan Parker: Thanks so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here with Divine Magazine’s readers. About me? Well let’s see, I’m from Ohio where I live with my wife whom I absolutely adore. We have two cats. They constantly make us laugh and faithfully keep me company while I’m writing. My wife and I were married last year, but we’ve been living together for 25 years this fall. We both love reading and movies and board games. I’ve been a fan of love stories most of my life and began writing fiction when I was a small child. I entered my first story (that was formatted like a picture book) in a local contest when I was in the second grade. It didn’t win, but that began my lifelong love of writing and my desire to get published. My first novel was released by Loose Id in 2010, and I haven’t looked back since.
Roroblu’sMum: Would you mind telling readers about how the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling has affected you? I heard that you had a happy event last year? How far-impacting would you say the ruling has been on your immediate friends/family/colleagues/acquaintances?
Sloan Parker: Yes, thanks to the SCOTUS ruling, my partner and I were married last year. Not much has changed in our daily lives since we’ve lived together for over twenty years now, but it’s been a huge relief to know that I am now officially her next of kin. To know that we have the same rights in all fifty states as every other married couple in the US, and that everywhere we go, we are considered family and must be treated as such. For us, another major benefit is that we can now make medical decisions for each other without fear of our families’ interference, and we can inherit from each other without a financial penalty. I can only imagine what a relief it is for couples who have children where only one parent was a legal guardian and the other was unable to be seen as any type of relation to the child.
As for the impact on others, I’ve seen reactions on both sides of the spectrum. Many of our friends and family have celebrated along with us. But for some of our family and acquaintances, the ruling has been a big adjustment. I was disappointed by the reaction of a couple of close family members who were not thrilled with my marriage or to see the change in how marriage is defined in this country, but I hope that time and seeing the happiness of others around them will alter their opinions.
Roroblu’sMum: So, you like cats. We Brits are crazy cat (and pretty much all other animal) lovers. My reviewer name is based on my cat’s name, Romeo Blue, my furry baby-substitute (a present from my hubby when I was starting to get a little broody!) – tell us about yours. And, pictures would be good, very good, pretty please.
Sloan Parker: I love that your reviewer name is based on your cat. I’m a huge animal lover too. We have two cats. Both were rescues and are the funniest things. One is a complete klutz who literally never lands on his feet, and the other is the most determined, focused animal I’ve ever met. They were born a year apart and aren’t related, but we call them the twins because they look so similar and do almost everything exactly the same. I always say they’re training for some kind of feline synchronized Olympic event.
Roroblu’sMum: Which was the first romance you read? And the first gay romance? What made you want to write gay romance? Are you a reader-turned-author? Can you see yourself writing anything other than gay romance?
Sloan Parker: Oh wow, I don’t remember the first romance I read. I was probably quite young. The first M/M Romance (the genre as we know it today) was Ransom by Lee Rowan. I am definitely a reader-turned-author as I’ve loved reading since I was a small child, and I was writing long before I started reading M/M. I was actually outlining a love story between a Catholic priest and his childhood best friend when I stumbled upon M/M romances. I still have that outline but haven’t written the novel yet. I think I found my first M/M romance when I went online to search for positive gay stories after watching so many movies and soap opera storylines with gay characters that never concluded with the happy ending I wanted for them. I can definitely see myself writing something other than gay romance. I wrote a lot of different things before I got into M/M, and I have a few new ideas that wouldn’t fit within the genre. But for right now, my plan is to continue writing gay romances and suspense.
Roroblu’sMum: Would you class BREATHE as a GFY (Gay For You) romance? What do you think of labels? Prefer not to use them? Fine with it all? Frankly, the glossary of sexual identities is getting mind-boggling, and I often find myself needing to Google as I read!
Sloan Parker: For me, BREATHE isn’t Gay for You but is actually a story about a bisexual man who falls in love with a gay man. Jay had accepted his bisexuality long before the story starts, and his wife (who died before the story opens) knew about his attraction to both men and women and had accepted it with complete support. As for labels, I think they’re necessary for marketing books to readers. If all books were listed in one section of an online bookstore like Amazon, it would be beyond difficult for readers to shop for the kinds of stories they want to read. For example, if all LGBT fiction was lumped together, it would be extremely difficult for someone who prefers to read only lesbian romance to find what they are looking for if they had to weed through all of the stories about gay and bisexual men.
Roroblu’sMum: What inspires you? Who inspires you? What is your writing process? Are you one of those authors who has a playlist to which you write?
Sloan Parker: I find inspiration everywhere. The world around me, my daydreams, art, photos, people watching, blogs, music, news stories, even a snippet of a conversation can send me off on a new story idea. Once I have my mind set on the characters, the plot ideas really start to flow. I have a folder full of ideas (some several pages long, some only one sentence) and also another folder of saved articles that sparked an idea. I turn to those folders when I want to start dreaming about a new story. I do a lot of pre-planning and outlining before I begin the first draft of a manuscript. My outline is actually more of a rough draft than an outline. It has the bulk of the story, and for some scenes, it includes detailed descriptions, actions, and dialogue.
I do like creating playlists for my writing. Usually I listen to those when I’m in the revising stage of writing, rather than at the start of a project. The music helps me connect even more with the characters and their story.
Roroblu’sMum: MORE and MORE THAN form my benchmark when reading ménage tales, as you’ve managed to make the guys’ relationship equal, and not a Venn diagram relationship, i.e, there’s not one guy in the middle around whom the relationship is based. Are these guys based on a real life throuple you happen to know? If not, how did three so very different guys with such differing issues come to life? Oh, and do you have a date you’re aiming at for the release of MORE THAN EVER? (Would begging or bribing work? Please?)
Sloan Parker: I’m thrilled to hear MORE and MORE THAN MOST are a benchmark for you. That’s so kind of you to say. When I started that book, I really wanted to create a relationship where the reader couldn’t imagine any two of them together without the third, as opposed to an existing relationship that added another man, so it’s nice to hear that part of it worked for you.
These three guys aren’t based on any real-life ménage relationship. Since that was the first book I submitted for publication, I spent a lot of time with those men, reworking their backstories and their interactions. I wrote up character interviews and purposely tried to create three very different men. I wanted it to be an interesting journey to watch how three men with different goals and needs could make a relationship work.
There’s no set date for the third MORE book. I need to finish my current project first. MORE THAN EVER is still a rough first draft at this point, so it’ll need quite a bit of work before it’s ready, but hopefully it won’t be too long until I can share it with readers.
Roroblu’sMum: I think us Brits tend to be quite liberal (though, yes, sometimes laziness plays a big part, unfortunately) with pretty much everything, especially in London, but I get the impression the US is more judgmental. Have you or anyone you know encountered any discrimination towards sexual preferences, or observed any? Do you consider yourself an activist? A role model?
Sloan Parker: I have experienced some discrimination. Not on a life-threatening scale, but definitely enough that it’s frustrating and disheartening to see people’s reactions and interactions with me and those around me. There are also many supportive, compassionate people around us too. I still have a lot of hope for the future of the US, despite the political climate right now and the conservative blowback from the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. The younger generation as a whole seems to be much less homophobic, and more inclusive of all people. I’m a highly introverted person so I’m not typically one to stand up and give speeches or to think of myself as any kind of role model, but I do try to take every opportunity to open the hearts and minds of the people around me when I can. That hope for a better future is also one of the reasons I want to continue writing love stories with LGBT characters.
Roroblu’sMum: And now, moving to…ahem…the sex in your novels – please tell us how you research these (and if you need an assistant? I’m open to offers, ready, willing and able, and would work for Cheetos). Please, be as frank and as detailed as you would like.
Sloan Parker: Fun question! The sex in my books really comes from the characters. I try not to be too repetitive with the mechanics, but instead to create a sexual experience that is unique for the specific character, one that directly originates from who they are, what they want in any given moment, and what they are experiencing, both emotionally and physically. During any scene, sex or not, I try hard to step into their shoes and describe what they’re going through so I can bring the reader along for the experience.
As for the research, I think the mechanics for my sex scenes comes from the same sources where anyone who writes about sex finds the words to describe the physical acts: by reading, listening, exploring imagery, and from their imagination and their own experiences. It all blends together with the character motivation I mentioned above to create something I hope sounds authentic and moving.
Roroblu’sMum: Can you see yourself venturing into paranormal or historicals?
Sloan Parker: Definitely. The first M/M Romance I ever wrote was a vampire story. I never did anything with the manuscript because I realized it wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but I love that story so I might revisit it at some point. I also have ideas for a couple of stories set in the 1950s and 1980s, so not quite what we think of in terms of historical timeframes in romances, but ones I’m excited to explore.
Roroblu’sMum: Who’s your rock, i.e. that one person you can always count on? That special person who always has your back, who’s always there for you?
Sloan Parker: Sappy alert… That would definitely be my wife. She supports me in everything I do, all the time. I really don’t know where I’d be in my life without her. She’s my best friend, my biggest fan, my partner in everything. She reads all of my work. In fact, she’s the first person to beta read each of my stories. She tells me the truth about how a story is going, even when she knows it might hurt my feelings or mean I have to majorly redo something. If I’m not sure what to do in any situation, she’s the first person I run it by. She’s the most thoughtful, compassionate, truthful person I know, and I trust her instincts on everything.
Roroblu’sMum: Do you deliberately try to get any messages across with your tales, or do you simply write the tales your characters tell you to write? What’s your view on hidden/subliminal messages in tales? Has anyone told you your books have made an impact on their lives?
Sloan Parker: With each story, I start with the characters and what I want them to learn and how I want them to grow in the story, and of course, who I want them to fall in love with. Sometimes a greater theme or message will emerge, and then I might add in touches to enhance that theme as I go back through and revise the story. I think ultimately readers want to lose themselves in the emotion and the characters, their journeys, and their love story, so focusing on any kind of message or theme initially isn’t the main goal of my writing, but I do think it can enhance certain stories.
I’ve been very fortunate to hear from readers who wanted to share their personal stories and how much my work has affected them. It’s incredibly meaningful to me to get that kind of feedback. I cherish each one, and on days when the business of writing is getting me down, I remember those messages and how my work has had meaning for others, and that makes it easier to dig back into a story in the hopes of sharing more of my work with readers.
Roroblu’sMum: Do you think that the gay genre goes through phases of tropes? What do you think of JOTB/DTD (jump on the bandwagon/done to death) books? I mean, we’ve had the FSoG bandwagon (OK, that one was het, but still a massive bandwagon), the BDSM one, the mental health issues one (which seems to be at its peak, currently), the Were/Shifter one, the GFY one, the GFP one, etc., etc.
Sloan Parker: I think all genre fiction, including gay romance, goes through phases of popular tropes. There will always be some writers who like to take advantage of a bandwagon to sell more stories. But I also think the majority of creative people like to tell the stories that really speak to them. Sometimes those stories will or won’t fall into a particular trope, which might just happen to be on an upswing at the time. I don’t believe those writers should or shouldn’t write that work simply because it follows a current trend. I think it’s important for writers to focus on the stories they are most passionate about. In the end, that passion will make the work more powerful for the readers.
And possibly sometimes a pattern emerges because many authors like to read in their genre, and they can sometimes be inspired by the work they read, which results in more stories in a particular trope.
Roroblu’sMum: Iceland had a lesbian head of government appointed in 2010, Belgium had a gay PM appointed in 2011, Luxembourg’s current PM is gay and has just married his partner, and in the UK, we’ve had/have several gay politicians. Can you ever see a non-het US president being sworn-in in your lifetime? Would that be asking too much of the US public, or do you think Mr. O’s started something that’ll only get better and stronger with time? Actually, what might his OH’s title be, if so? First Man/Husband/Guy?
Sloan Parker: I like to think we’re really close to being in a place where a non-het person could be sworn in as president. There would certainly be a lot of people against that idea, but I do believe we’ve come a long way in the past five years. There are more and more allies supporting the LGBT community than ever before. Every year we see an increasing number of gay men and women in the public eye. Celebrities, actors, musicians, sports stars, and even politicians. If a popular candidate were on the ballot, I don’t think their sexual orientation would be a huge factor for many people in this country. Yes, there would be a lot of backlash on the other side of the spectrum, but I’d like to think, even with our current political situation, that the number of people who would make a fuss about a candidate’s sexual orientation would be far less than those who wouldn’t.
If a gay man were in the presidency, I’m thinking his other half would be called First Husband. That’s just my guess. Who knows, with the way language changes so rapidly in our current social-media heavy world, maybe we’ll have an entirely new term by then.
Roroblu’sMum: Do you do GRL/RWA/RT, etc.? Have you encountered any of the supposed bitchiness/clique-ness that exists in the genre?
Sloan Parker: I haven’t been to any of the major conferences yet so I can’t speak to what happens within the M/M author/reader community at those venues. I’ve heard some people mention being disheartened by the behavior of some in the genre and how cliquey it can feel, but I honestly tend to avoid those types of dramas online so I haven’t witnessed much of it. I am extremely focused when I’m writing and have been known to disappear offline for weeks at a time, so I’m sure I miss a lot. I like to believe those incidents are just a few people speaking loudly and acting in a way that draws attention. Most of the authors and readers I’ve encountered have been tremendously kind and helpful and willing to interact with new community members without prejudice or judgement, and that’s a great thing to see.
Roroblu’sMum: Finally, a quick fire round – What’s the best thing about your town? Joe Manganiello or Matt Bomer? What’s your favourite food? A PWP tale full of hot, raunchy, sexy sex or a proper tale with a HEA? Can you cook? What does your OH do? Fave place? Cider or hard cider (the latter is what we Brits call plain old cider, i.e. the stuff with alcohol)? Fave song? Are you visiting the UK any time soon? (if so, please bring Cheetos!) The best thing about the US? Can you promise to write quicker? Or at least, to try to? Sofia Vergara or Eva Longoria? What’s that you say? Someone at the door, so you have to go? Oh, right…okay, then, we’ll say goodbye for now. Thanks Sloan!
Sloan Parker: The peacefulness of our neighborhood. Matt Bomer (my wife calls him her boyfriend). Pizza, which I’ve sadly given up for the time being, and I’m missing it like crazy. Both, PWP and a proper tale with an HEA. It really depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’m a passable cook. Nothing fancy, but I have learned to make what we like. My wife is a programmer. One of my favorite places is a remote camping spot not too far from our home where we love to get away from it all and just kick back and read and relax. I’d have to go with cider. It’s hard to pick just one song. I guess I’ll go with one of my current faves: “Wake Me Up” by Avicii & the acoustic version by Aloe Blacc. I love both versions of that song. The plan is to visit the UK as soon as my wife retires, if not sooner. When we do, I promise to bring Cheetos. The best thing about the US for me is that the Supreme Court finally ruled on gay marriage and now the love of my life is no longer just my “roommate.” I will definitely try to write faster. Eva Longoria. Whew. I hope I didn’t miss anything.
What a great interview. Thanks so much for the thoughtful, fun questions!
Sloan Parker writes passionate, dramatic stories about two men (or more) falling in love. You can find out more about Sloan and her work at www.sloanparker.com.
For announcements about new releases, free fiction, reader giveaways, project updates, and more sign up to receive Sloan’s free newsletter at www.sloanparker.com/news.htm