Today I’m pleased to welcome Tal Bauer to Divine Magazine’s Author Spotlight.
Tal Bauer came to my attention courtesy of Amazon’s Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…I went nosing and saw that Enemies Of The State: The Executive Office appeared to be the author’s first published work, but already had tons of 5* reviews. I’m often a bit suspicious of those, so I downloaded a sample and seconds after I read it, I was pressing the Buy It Now button and ended up neglecting everything that I had planned for the day. It was a read that drew me in and made me go nosing (yes, again – I admit, I am nosy and book-obsessed!) to try and find if there would be more tales featuring these leads. Well, I won’t spoil this by talking about the book myself, so without further ado, it’s over to Tal Bauer.
Roroblu’sMum: Welcome to Divine Magazine, Tal, and congratulations on the success of your debut novel. Please tell readers about yourself, because, shock horror, when I nosed (yes, more nosing!) at your website, it was pretty bare. However, The Nose did dig up that you’re married, work with refugees in the USA, and that this is your debut novel, which in part was inspired by your own love story and HEA. We love TMI, so, please, feel free to blab to your heart’s content.
Tal Bauer: LOL. Thank you! I’m delighted to be here! I’m so glad you enjoyed Enemies of the State! I had a lot of fun writing that novel, and I’m so glad that people are enjoying the read as well.
You’re right – not a whole lot out there about me! We place a high value on privacy, which makes balancing between ‘being an engaging and interesting author’ and ‘keeping private lives private’ an interesting endeavour. 🙂 Plus, I work right now with a pretty sensitive population. I don’t want to attract any negative attention to my students.
Roroblu’sMum: So, everything in the book – the treachery, the danger, the leads, the collaborations, the betrayals, the premise that the good old US of A could one day have a President in a same-sex relationship – was it all from your incredibly fertile imagination? Or, are we talking about a dark past where you had…personal experience/insider knowledge/the dirty on some, if not all, of the above? And, please, don’t even think of trying to fob me off with the old, ‘If I told you, I’d have to kill you’ carrot. Or any other kind of carrot (I don’t love them, sorry, and I’m not allowed a rabbit until my husband is allowed a dog – which is many, many years away, yet, pooh!).
Tal Bauer: I do have a somewhat tangled and creative imagination. 🙂 Thank you! I also do have personal and professional experience in this field and industry. I have done many things in my life, including living and work in Washington DC. And, I know a great many out and proud federal employees in all sectors – Secret Service, FBI, DEA, CIA, DIA, DOD, etc. And, I think that one day an out and proud President – Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual – will not be so shocking and implausible. It was only just recently that people believed President Obama was an “impossibility”.
I can tell you that that is exactly what a car rollover at high speed feels like!
Roroblu’sMum: Hmm…the Russian president in your tale…A bit thinly-veiled, methinks. He reminded me of a certain someone who makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and whose PR machine provides me with so many LOL! moments. Was he based on anyone you know/know of? Admire? Despise? Despair of?
Tal Bauer: I’m so glad you mentioned President Puchkov! He’s one of my favourite characters actually, and he will be back for more in the next story(ies). He’s not so much supposed to be the incarnation of President Putin, but he is representative of Russia’s mindset and political space within the world. We’ll actually find out more about President Puchkov in the next novel, but I will say this. He’s the product of a post-Putin Russia. What made him reach out to America and work with the West? What turned Russia and the United States into allies through this series?
And Puchkov is based on every proud Russian soldier I have ever known. 🙂
Roroblu’sMum: Was your husband your inspiration for the heat and intensity of the Jack-Ethan love scenes? Did you…practice on him, I wonder? Hey, not that I’m wondering in a voyeuristic way! I mean, come on, I’m British and we don’t do things like that, guy! I meant for research purposes, solely in the interests of getting things right in the book, of course. Ahem.
Tal Bauer: LOL! Thank you! I’m glad you thought it was hot and intense! My husband definitely supports my work whole-heartedly and encourages me, enthusiastically, to bounce ideas off of him. Or work through scenes with him. Or… well, you get the picture. 🙂
Roroblu’sMum: How long have you been married, Tal? Was it in your hometown/state after the SCOTUS ruling, or before, in a state where gay marriage was valid? Why marriage and not just a commitment ceremony with the legal paperwork drawn up?
Tal Bauer: We haven’t been married long, but we knew right away, from the moment we met, that we were going to be together forever. It was like my soul instantly calmed, and I found myself looking at my husband and saying to myself, “ah, yes. You are the one I have been searching for. You are the one that smooths out my rough edges and brings peace to my seas.”
We eloped. Ran away and told no one until after it was done. We actually mailed glitter postcards to my family (because they’re the way more fun and laid back side) with the words “Just Married!” written in bright glitter pens.
And, we’re pretty huge into equality. We want equal rights and equal treatment for everyone, of all flavours and varieties. Marriage should be accessible for everyone, no matter what. Standing up for that is important.
Roroblu’sMum: What would you class your book as? MM romance? RomSusp? Political thriller? All of the above? Uniquely Tal Bauer?
Tal Bauer: Good question! I called it a romantic political thriller. I know some people wanted more romance and erotic content. I like telling stories – hopefully gripping, exciting, adventurous stories – and I try to keep a decent balance of romance, action, and grab-your-bedsheets-and-scream moments.
Roroblu’sMum: Tell us a little about what a typical work day consists of for you.
Tal Bauer: Oh Jeez. There is no typical workday. I work with refugee students (mostly teenagers in high school and young adults still needing their high school diploma, ages 16 through 23), and I am both a teacher, medical provider, and psychological therapist to my students. I teach Pre-Med, so I teach students on their way to college and med school, students heading for community colleges and vocational programs, and students that are aiming for a certificate program or Job Corps after they graduate. I also provide medical and psychological care through our on-site facilities and through community resources. Teaching consists of the Pre-Med curriculum and a whole host of refugee supported education. They all still earn a High School diploma, and that means we need to get these students caught up on the full high school curriculum. World History, English, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Civics, etc. We embed English language instruction into everything, so we end up teaching Pre-Med, Physics, Civics, and Chemistry, for example, in Nepali, Urdu, Arabic, Somali, Swahili, Thai, Burmese, etc. It can get exhausting!
No days are really the same. I have different lessons, yes, but I also have new students all the time. Their needs are constantly changing, too. Medical needs, psychological needs. Following the Brussels attack, we had a massive influx of anxiety attacks and PTSD type incidents. Many of our students have lived through very similar experiences, and the news triggers memories and nightmares for them. We work with our students to repair damage done earlier in their lives – malnourishment, trauma, abuse, etc.- and so the school becomes more than just a school. It’s a full care environment.
Roroblu’sMum: If it’s not a Spoiler, will Jack and Ethan be getting married? I think they worked well as they were, but there’s an unexpected softie in Ethan, who I got the impression might want and need such a commitment, a claiming of his man. And, if not, why the hell not?
Tal Bauer: LOL! I am actually going to hold back on answering that one. I will say this – you have a fabulous read on Ethan. 🙂 He is an unexpected softie! Especially unexpected to himself. I’m not sure if he needs the commitment in the sense of a “claim”, but I think he wants to go for the whole package. He wasn’t every going to fall in love, but now that he has, he’s going to do it right.
Roroblu’sMum: Tal, what kind of books do you like? Who’s your favourite author and why?
Tal Bauer: It’s practically impossible to pick a favourite author. I have so many favourite and I love different things about different authors. A writing style here, the action here, inventive plots there. I like all sorts of novels. I mostly have read non-fiction in the past. It’s still what I gravitate toward. I read all genres, though. I have a deep love for fantasy and sci-fi, actually. That’s where I cut my reading teeth, and I spent many a teenaged year with my head buried in a fantasy or sci-fi novel.
Roroblu’sMum: So, you’re a new author and may not have heard the…bitching criticism of female authors writing gay romance, that’s allegedly far removed from the reality of gay relationships. Or have you? Have you read any gay romances by female authors? Male authors? Any noticeable differences? Does it matter?
Tal Bauer: Anyone can write anything if you take the right steps. Be respectful of the space you’re writing in. Do your research. Don’t rely on other people’s research – do your OWN. Memes and tropes are not research, and should not be the end all and be all of your writing world and your research. Ask around. Get input and feedback. You don’t have to go it alone. You shouldn’t go it alone. Storytelling is a communal activity. It always has been. Get the best advice and input that you can, and treat your characters, their lifestyle, their choices, and the world you have created with respect.
Roroblu’sMum: What are the three most pleasing comments you’ve had about your book?
Tal Bauer: It’s all been so overwhelming. I have loved every comment and every review – yes, even the bad ones. People took time to read my novel. That’s amazing! I’m sorry it didn’t work for everyone. I’m delighted it worked well for others! I’m been especially floored by the requests for interviews and blog posts. It’s amazing, truly, the kind of support and energy that people have given to me through this book. Every moment of that is amazing. I have to take a moment and give a special thanks to Gigi from GBR Reviews. She took a chance on reading a new author when Enemies was still an ARC, and, 24 hours later, she was one of my top fans and one of my best supporters. She was amazing. Likewise, I have a few other dedicated and amazing readers who stepped up and were awesome with their early support. They know who they are, and they mean the absolute world to me. J
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?
Tal Bauer: My husband, for sure. He’s the rock in my soul, the one who calmed my ocean, and the peace to my turbulence. He’s an amazing man. He has my back 110% of the time. He believes in everything I do… even more, than I believe in myself sometimes!
Roroblu’sMum: What made you start writing, and why include an element of love and romance in a book that could have pretty worked well without? Are you a romantic Tal? Hey, is that a blush I see?
Tal Bauer: LOL, no blush required! I lived a large part of my life as a very hardened person. I didn’t have time for romance, and I didn’t care to change that. I worked all over the world, I did not-so-nice things, and romance wasn’t on my agenda. I didn’t really like myself. How could I find any space to love another? I spent some time working on myself, untangling parts that had gone awry and gluing together pieces that had broken. Once I fixed myself, I was able to let another person into my life, and I found my husband shortly thereafter. (Well, I found him after I had come to the peaceful acceptance that I was going to remain happily single for the rest of my life. 🙂 Like, about a week after.)
I include romantic elements because I lived that journey – from hardened to open, from guarded to joined. It’s a journey I think we could all enjoy, and all find some happiness in.
Roroblu’sMum: What does the SCOTUS ruling mean for you, your friends/families/acquaintances? Is it more about the security and rights it gives, or about finally feeling equal and treated fairly, or a bit of both? In this country, I often think we’re not passionate enough about things, but it seems so different in the US, from what I see on social media/media.
Tal Bauer: I am fully and firmly in support of total equality for everyone – Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transexuals, etc. All flavours. Full marriage equality is a step in the right direction. Today, March 31st, is Trans Day of Visibility, which is incredibly important. We need to remember the struggles we’re all still facing together as a queer community.
Roroblu’sMum: Once you’re done with Jack and Ethan, what kind of book do you see yourself writing? Can you see a collaboration with another author on the cards?
Tal Bauer: I have a new paranormal series launching May 2nd. Following that, I have a military novel in the works, sequels to Enemies of the State, and several more one-shot stories. It’s going to be a busy 2016! I’m not sure about collaboration at this point. Good question.
Roroblu’sMum: Finally, a quick-fire round: e-reader or paper book? Favourite food? What’s the name of the last book you bought/read? Have you been to the UK, or are you planning a trip? (If yes, please bring Cheetos!). Can you cook, and have you poisoned anyone? Root beer or coffee? Does your husband read your books? Can you be bribed, and if so, what with? What’s the best thing about your day job? And about being an author? What’s your idea of the perfect day off? If Jack and Ethan made it to the screen, who would you choose to play them? And finally, Jack Bauer (no pun intended) or James Bond?
Tal Bauer: Both! I appreciate both types of form factors, but I am partial to paper books. Favourite food… I love food. Impossible to pick. I will eat anything. Yes, anything. And I love most of it. I have been to the UK often! Worked in London and Portsmouth. (Noted about the Cheetos!) I am a horrible cook. My husband is the family chef. Both root beer and coffee! My husband reads every one of my books. He evens helps out! 🙂 Sorry, no bribes.
Best thing about my day job? I love my students. I love being a part of their lives. I love being a part of their growth and development, and their journey as human beings.
Best thing about being an author? Unending dreaming. Endless fantasy and creativity.
Hmmm… Who would play Jack and Ethan? Tim Daly for Jack and Eric Bana for Ethan. What do you think?
Both are awesome! (Daniel Craig’s James Bond is my favourite, though.)
History says the Knights Templar were destroyed in 1307.
History is wrong.
Vampires haunt the sewers beneath Rome, revenants desecrate graveyards, ghouls devour helpless passersby, and incubi stalk dark alleys and seedy nightclubs in Italy’s capital. Deep in the Vatican, a brotherhood exists, sworn protectors of the earth, and they stand firm against monsters from the dark depths. Operating in secret and silence, they protect our world from the sinister, the etheric, and from the evils that exist beyond the Veil.
But it’s a lonely life, and Alain Autenberg knows that more than most. His lover was ripped from him years ago and he vowed never to get close to another soul again. Even when the loneliness presses down on him, and his empty heart cries out for something more.
Something more comes in Cristoph Hasse, a new soldier arriving in Rome to serve in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Young, brash, and fitting in a right angles everywhere he goes, Cris struggles in the murky, deceptive labyrinth of the Vatican. Propelled forward by a past he can’t understand, Cris collides with Alain, and both men crash headfirst into the darkest secret of the Vatican… and of the world.
With only his second release, TB has become an auto buy. I’m sure this’ll be another ‘book for all’ hit. Pardon, my mauling of the English language in this review.
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book that I devoured in 1.5 days, which is pretty long for me for a book this length. Why? Because I initially got it because of TB’s name, not necessarily expecting to ‘get’ it (I didn’t ‘get’ any of the Dan Brown series of books and the films didn’t hold my interest long enough to watch every bit), and because I needed to take my time ensuring that I understood it and ‘got’ the world it’s set in.
For a while, I wasn’t sure, and wasn’t bothered (in a good way), if the tale was set in the present or in days gone by, as I was drawn in by the closed-off Alain, the initially seemingly just-past-the-stage-of-stroppy-teen Cris, the aloof and there-but-I’m-not-sure-why-he’s-there Luca, and the weird old priest, Lotario. I got into the tale quickly and easily, as if I were in the midst of a slice of a history lesson, but told in a far more passionate and vivid way than any history lesson I remember. Yes, it was a bit Angels and Demons, but without the former and with the latter and worse. Sorry if that’s confusing, but this review isn’t easy to write without Spoiling the tale.
Did I believe it, i.e. that all these events were happening in our world, in the Vatican in good old 2016? Yes. Did I believe in a secret society within a secretive organisation? Yes. Did I want a romance? For once – and feel free to check out my reviews of mainly romances – I can’t say that I totally needed a traditional romance, though there was passion and love in this tale, as well as two surprisingly romantic moments, one heart-breakingly so.
I think for me what made the tale, was the non-heavy slicing up of tradition/lore/history to make stuff easy for the lay-reader that I am, i.e. I’m not a history buff, to understand the tale. To let me be open to believing that perhaps there could just be stuff that’s not of our world actually happening in our world, whilst we remain blissfully oblivious, and that yes, there are forces of good and evil balancing each other out, but that there’s also good in things that perhaps aren’t traditionally considered good, and not-so-good stuff in things that are considered to be good. I can’t elaborate much, as I’d give away this tale that was skillfully written with hints of things not being quite as they seem, with guys who seemed to have depths that I wasn’t ever sure were going to be explored and exposed, but it’s a tale I would have missed out on, and been worse off for it, had it been by an author whose name I hadn’t been interested in.
There is love at the core of this tale, but not a love story that I had expected, not one I’d seen happening and not one that I was wholly satisfied with. Strangely, that’s not a huge criticism of the tale, as I did end up with guys I wanted to get together getting together (sorry about the poor English), but at the same time, I wanted more of their future lives and all that that would entail, and, I had expected to see more of their romance. I wanted to SEE them making it, and not just know that what had brought them together, pushed them apart and then brought them back together again, rather than just knowing that they’d have a future. But, in the scene with the incubus and its changing facial features? That’s where the romance became apparent, as did the depths of their feelings and their longings. And there was romance in the heart-breaking scene I mentioned.
The Luca character? I just knew that he had to be in the tale for a purpose, but TB kept me guessing the entire length of the tale about his role. In hindsight, perhaps I should have had an inkling, but I hadn’t fully meshed occult/magic(k) with the Catholic church and its teachings and couldn’t have foreseen the ending. But, I wanted more for the leads and I also wanted to know what would happen to Luca. I felt for the poor guy and for a few moments, I vacillated over how the tale might actually be ending, and I kind of think that had it gone the other way than it actually did (sorry about the poor English – again), I’d have been satisfied with that outcome, too. As it was, it left me wanting more for Luca. I think the few words that a certain character uttered, and the impact they had on Luca, made me see the latter in a different light, made me understand him, feel for him, hurt for him. It was a heartbreaking moment, but, I know that this is the first in a series of books and that Luca will get his own book, in which he’ll get what he deserves – sorry this is vague, but to say more would Spoiler the tale. And yes, this is directly from the horse’s mouth as I went back to TB and he confirmed things, which makes me so happy, as Luca is the character who’s stayed with me at the end of the tale. Oh, but my bad, I’m forgetting that kick-butt pope, Clemente – I can’t tell you more, but the guy rocks. Totally, and, has balls of steel on top.
As with his first book, Enemies Of The State: Executive Office, I think that TB’s written another tale that would appeal pretty much equally to guys and gals, actually….perhaps more so to the latter because of how real the tale felt. No fairy tale here, just another believable one.
ARC provided by the author in return for an honest review.
Tal Bauer writes LGBT fiction and romance, bringing together a career in law enforcement, trauma medicine, and international humanitarian and disaster relief work to create dynamic, strong characters, intriguing plots, and unique, exotic locations. Tal’s stories weave together pulse-pounding adventure, cunning intrigue, and sweeping romance. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.