Interview With West Thornhill
West Thornhill and I have known one another for quite a few years. We attended the same woman's college and we live less than ten miles away from each other. As students we spent time discussing everything from Autism to Star Wars, and impending paper deadlines. The fact that we both write LGBT fiction was like a strange cosmic happenstance. We get together about once a week for coffee and shenanigans with our alumnae sister Amanda Corlies (who also writes LGBT fiction—yeah, strange things are afoot).
This Saturday, January 21, 2012 West’s debut novel Transcend goes on sale at Silver Publishing.
So, let's just jump right in like we're in the middle of a terrific conversation. West has a white chocolate mocha and I’m having a salted caramel mocha. The ‘good ole boys club’ has taken their usual table and it’s nice enough that we can sit outside.
AL: We’re on the Millennium Falcon, what are you doing?
WT: Wondering if it’s worth it to choose between Luke or Han or the Dark Side.
AL: See, you are always thinking through the options. Me, I am just shooting at things. What was your inspiration for writing Transcend?
WT: I was working on a modern version of the Helen of Troy story and I was stuck thanks to my Eros character who decided that he was bisexual but playing with boys was a lot more fun. So, I had to take a step back, put that one away, and just write something else. What happened was the very first M/M sex scene I ever wrote and it starred Jason and Gael. I was also reading a lot more M/M books too (still do; hasn’t changed). Even with that scene I knew things between them weren’t going to be easy. The scene ended with Jason telling Gael he loved him, and Gael freaking out. So I had to find out why and from there Transcend took several strange twists and turns until we (me, Gael and Jason) were happy with the finished product.
AL: How long did it take you to complete the manuscript?
WT: Transcend went through so many changes and stops and starts that it took five years to finish. I was also trying to work on the Helen story and working a real job so I didn’t have as much time to devote to it as I would have liked.
AL: I read Transcend for the first time last year and then again this past weekend. I have to say I enjoyed the changes and tweaks.
WT: Thank you. I was a little worried about some of the tweaks and changes.
AL: What was your favorite scene to write?
WT: Probably when Gael strikes back near the end. Finally being able to stand up to one of the tormentors from his past was empowering and freeing in so many ways for him.
AL: I really enjoy when a character has that moment when everything changes, they realize their potential, and they can finally let go of their past. I appreciate that Gael is not a reluctant hero when he needs to step up. And you certainly don't gloss over what happens. I also appreciate that you didn't hold back with details. Was that your intention when you were writing it?
WT: Actually no but it wasn't working until I let loose. Once I started allowing Gael to dictate the scene as I wrote it it just happened. His fear and anger took over allowing me to get a better sense of the scene and how it needed to play out.
AL: Who was your most difficult character? Any insight as to why?
WT: Right now that's a toss-up between Tink and Rick. Neither of them are very forthcoming with information. They like to give me little teases into their minds but stop when it starts to get interesting.
AL: Since I know a bit about what the future holds for the Fillmore Series, can you elaborate a bit on Rick and Tink? Will we see more of them in the next book?
WT: Rick and Tink... sigh. Rick rescues Gael, takes him home, and becomes his therapist and teacher. Rick hasn't always been this way. Back in the first version he and Bast were close. Tink is a little bit like Abby Sciuto on NCIS but with a twist. She's a Diviner with telepathy, telekinesis and a touch of astral projection. Actively using any but the divination makes her ill. Yes, they will be in the next book, tentatively titled Rediscover. Kyle is going to need their help.
AL: I am quite attached to Fox. I am looking forward to more of him. Who are your favorite secondary characters?
WT: I love Fox. He has been a lot of fun to play with. Tink is a favorite. She's difficult but fun. I also have a couple of characters who haven't been introduced yet that are favorites.
AL: What has the publishing experience been like for you so far?
WT: Stressful, exciting, mind-blowing - it's like a wickedly cool but dangerous roller coaster ride.
AL: You do know that Amanda and I plan on forcing you out to celebrate. Shenanigans will be on the menu.
WT: Yeah, I know. Shenanigans are on every menu even when all we do is sit at Starbucks. Lol Coordinating is going to a little tricky but I know we’ll get it figured out.
AL: What can readers expect next from West Thornhill?
WT: Grease Paint, my first blog story, has been contracted by Silver Publishing and will be out this year. I'm frantically working to get Kyle's story finished. I have two other ongoing blog stories - Spectral Surprise and Otherworldly Lover - which are updated every Tuesday and Thursday. I also have pages for both if you haven't read them yet. I'm working on an LGBTQ YA story, Ethan's Quest, as well as another super-secret project. I'm hoping to also step out of my comfort zone and finish a ghost story I began.
AL: I am amazed at your commitment to the blog stories. Not only are they always on time, they are always intriguing. You are the queen of cliffhangers in our group. Why do you torture me with cliffhangers? And how do you keep to your schedule?
WT: Because cliffhangers keep you coming back each week. *wink, wink* Cliffhangers seem to be how things want to end especially with Spectral Surprise and Otherworldly Lover. They weren’t as important to Grease Paint (which is now under contract with Silver Publishing). Plus, it seems that Six, Teague, Ian and Ross thrive on them.
As for keeping my schedule *snort* - I blew that thing straight to hell already. I sit down on Saturday or Sunday, write, send it off to my beta and go from there with her suggestions. I tend to do better when I know I have a deadline. Sometimes I’m inspired to write ahead but not often. But that’s going to change with thanks to the super secret project.
Hmmm, secret project?
I want to thank West for joining me today at musings & shenanigans. It’s been fun to play interviewer. Below is more information about Transcend, where you can find West in the next week, and an excerpt from her book.
When Gael Astley escapes life spent as a sadist's sex slave, his rescuer introduces him to a world he never knew existed. He quickly discovers he has the powers of telepathy and telekinesis, but is confused about what this means for this life. With the help of the one person he knows he can trust, Gael embarks on an intense training regime that ultimately leads to a new career as an agent for Fillmore, a top-secret paranormal group.
Jason Phillips, a member of the Fillmore team, has secrets of his own. Though he tries to keep his distance from Gael, the two men are drawn together like moths to flame. Will Gael overcome his own insecurities and see the possibilities offered or will his past come back to destroy him?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title contains scenes of rape. Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find this story disturbing. This title contains mentions of incest.
West will be making it around the web:
http://karennacolcroft.com/ Jan 21
West will also be hosting the Silver page on Facebook on January 28th from 1-6pm.
Another year gone by
Gael stared at himself in the mirror. Hair newly shorn showed off the myriad of piercings in both ears. He grimaced before he remembered that Uncle wouldn't be stupid enough to look for Gael in a government agency, even one as obscure as Fillmore, so it didn't matter that his waist length braid was gone.
"At least this will be cooler once the humidity sets in," he said to his reflection as he ran his fingers through his hair. "Maybe with it this short the odd color won't be as noticeable."
At least he could hope. He also hoped that the shorter, shaggier cut made him look more like a man than teenage girl.
He knew his appearance had always been more pretty than manly. It wasn't his fault. He blamed it on the unknown genetic benefactors who had created him. He didn't remember anything before the orphanage and him. He had taken Gael from the orphanage when Gael was ten. He had claimed to be a long-lost uncle who'd only recently discovered his nephew had survived a plane crash that had killed his sister and brother-in-law. Five short years later Gael figured out the real reason he had created the ruse. Gael shuddered as his mind wandered back to that day.
He was sitting at his desk hurriedly trying to get his homework completed. He desperately wanted to be asleep or at least pretend to be asleep before Uncle came home. For the past few weeks, since his fifteenth birthday, Uncle had been watching him differently. It felt like he was a carcass the vultures were waiting to devour. He released the breath he'd been holding as soon as the last problem was completed, quickly turned out the lamp and dove for the bed. He'd made it.
His breathing had just returned to normal when he heard footsteps. He knew that slow, measured gait well. Uncle was home and headed to his room. He rolled to his side, facing away from the door, seconds before it opened. Uncle walked into the room and closed the door behind him. He was already more than a little unnerved. Uncle never closed the door when he checked on him at night, and he almost gave himself away when he felt the bed shift as Uncle's weight settled behind. He wanted to cringe when he felt Uncle's callused fingers trailed up his arms.
"Finally, finally you are to be mine."
His eyes flew open wide. He almost jumped when he felt Uncle's hand slide over his ass. He could feel the heat from Uncle's hand through the two layers of cotton covering him.
He didn't remember falling asleep. So he didn't know how long Uncle had actually stayed in his room, touching him and watching him sleep. He wanted to think it had all been a bad dream. That idea was jerked away when he joined Uncle for breakfast.
"You won't be attending that school any longer. We are leaving today," Uncle said. There was something in his voice that he had never heard before—complete satisfaction. The statement had been made with such authority that he knew arguing wouldn't have been advisable.
He looked down at his plate before drinking the tea Uncle handed him. "May I ask where we are going?"
Uncle smiled. "We are moving to Italy for the next few years."
He looked at Uncle unsure really of what to do or say. "Italy?" He tried to ask but what came out sounded like 'Iahe.' Why did he feel so sleepy all of a sudden?
"Don't fight it, pretty. Just let the drug do its job."
His head lolled back on his shoulders. He tried again to speak but Uncle placed a finger over his lips. "Shhh… you will have the answers soon."
"Gael? You okay in there?" A deep voice asked through the door.
Gael looked in the mirror again. He winced as he took in how pale he'd become in the space of just a few minutes. It was times like this that he wished he could bleach his memories and make the stains go away.
"Yeah, Rick, I'll be out in a sec."
"Okay. Just remember, Tink and Jason will be here soon."
He heard Rick walk away. Rick was his lifeline. The only person he trusted because Rick had saved his life two years ago. He shook his head. He didn't have time to dwell on the past. He had to look forward, so he could keep moving forward. Rick had decided that it was time for him to join an established team. Asteria was the only team with an opening. They had lost a member six months after Rick had brought Gael into Fillmore, and Rick thought they would be a good place for him to start. Gael didn't know what had happened and that made him nervous about meeting these people.
He looked at himself one last time before dropping the towel held tightly in his hands and leaving the bathroom. They were coming to pick him up and take him to his new home in Richmond. At least it was only an hour away from Rick's home in Williamsburg. If things didn't work out, he could always call Rick to come and get him. He stopped when he heard voices coming from the kitchen.
"So, where is he? I'm surprised you're ready to give him up." There was a teasing note in the melodious voice.
"You're so funny, Tink. He'll be down in a few minutes." Gael could hear the warmth and concern in Rick's voice. "This is a big deal for him."
"Fine. I'll behave for now."
Gael could hear the teasing in her laugh. A laugh that reminded him of the wind chimes in Hawaii.
Gael sighed and slowly edged away from the wall he'd been leaning against. Determined not to trip over his own feet, he strode into the kitchen feigning confidence. Nervous as hell, he wasn't prepared for his first view of Jason and it stopped him dead in his tracks. Jason had the longest legs he'd ever seen. They were encased in well-worn black denim that hugged them perfectly. Gael's eyes traveled up over the fitted black T-shirt to the strong, square jaw. He gasped. It felt like the air he sucked in couldn't reach his lungs, making him lightheaded and dizzy. He'd known from listening to Rick that Jason was good looking but he wasn't prepared for breathtaking. On any other man Jason's slightly tilted, hooded eyes, full lips, high cheek bones, and square jaw would just be wrong. But on him it was perfect; like the Titan god Prometheus had sculpted him out of the earth to be a living testament of male beauty. His cock hardened just looking at the man.
Gael took a deep breath before continuing, trying to control his awakened libido. He knew Rick had picked up on his presence even though no one would have seen him standing in the hall. Rick, being an awesome empath, was always aware when someone was nearby, and he didn't want to see the teasing gleam in Rick's eye because of his reaction to Jason.
"Tink, your wait is over." Rick nodded to the doorway just as Gael stepped through.
Gael forced himself to smile as he walked toward them. He spoke softly. "Hey."
Rick draped an arm across his shoulders, arching a brow as he looked Gael over. Gael's brows drew together in confusion, and before he could ask, Rick smiled.
"Tink, Jason, this is Gael."
Gael wanted to cringe at the bright, almost glaring, smile that flashed across Tink's face. It reminded him of some scary horror movie clown, making her words seem ominous.
"I have a feeling he's going to fit in just fine."
That's when he noticed that Tink was dressed like a poster child for the Goth movement—a short, plaid school-girl skirt, over the knee black and white striped socks, platform Mary Jane's, and a black tee with the Wicked Witch of the West on it.
All the moment lacked was flying monkeys.
Gael felt the tension leave his body at his thoughts, shaking his head at the absurdity of them. She wasn't what he expected dressed as she was with platinum blonde hair separated into pigtails on top of her head, deep brown eyes, and clear, pale complexion. The way Rick talked about her he expected her to be wearing thick, nerdy glasses and a lab coat. With her unconventional beauty and over-the-top style, Gael could see her on America's Next Top Model with Tyra and the Js exclaiming over her "fierceness." Adding Jason's pure, raw, seductive Alpha-male vibe left him feeling almost ugly standing near them.
Her response confused him and he must have been wearing it on his face because Rick started laughing.
"G, were you paying attention when you got dressed this morning?"
Gael looked down. Black jeans, Jack Skellington T-shirt… His face flushed red when he realized, with his Disney character tee, he looked like an adolescent, wanna-be nerd compared to Tink's goth chic.
He blushed thanks to Rick's teasing but he gave a tentative smile when he caught the sexy half-smile on Jason's face. He grinned when he caught the subtle gleam of amusement in Jason's pale green eyes.
Gael listened to Tink's exuberant description of the house in Richmond. He didn't know what the Fan district was but he was positive she would introduce him to it. The desire to crawl up Jason's big body, like the man was a tree, forced Gael to ignore him. The man was just too appealing. He was turning back to respond to something Tink asked when the world went black.
The next thing Gael knew he was gasping for air and lying limply in Jason’s strong arms.
"What the hell was that?"
He tried to scramble out of Jason's lap but the steel bands the bigger man had for arms wouldn't let him move.
"Sit still," Jason said quietly. "Can you tell us what happened?"
"It was strange. One minute I was listening to Tink and the next I was looking at some guy who looked like me."
The gauntlet of emotions was overwhelming. Being in Jason's arms and smelling the fresh, woodsy scent of the man caused Gael's cock stir into wakefulness. His uneasiness from passing out was made worse by the attraction he was feeling for Jason.
Tink was staring at him like he was an oddity at a carnival. She blinked, owlishly, when Rick lightly touched her arm.
"I think Gael has a new ability." She grinned. "Luckily for you I can help you learn how to use it."
When her gaze met Gael's, he understood why she was the leader of Asteria. Her rich brown eyes had darkened to an intense black that commanded respect.
Gael looked up. "New ability?"
Tink smiled. "Tell us what you saw."
"I was standing next to a bed looking at a guy sitting at a desk. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that he had the same color hair. I moved closer to him and he looked like me. That's when I wo-came back here."
He was already embarrassed by what had happened and being in Jason's lap wasn't helping any.
"Do you remember what he was doing?" Rick asked.
"He was writing in a journal I think. Why? What's this new ability?" He looked around and stopped when he was caught in Jason's gaze.
Jason's eyes softened slightly. "Tink's right she will be able to help you."
Gael felt heat suffuse his cheeks at Jason's all too-knowing smile. Completely caught up in Jason's gaze, he jumped when Rick answered.
"That was astral projection. An ability very few actives actually develop and only one has recall like you."
"But I thought…"
Confusion swarmed over him as he tried to figure out who and what they were talking about. Then he saw the grimace on Tink's face.
"Yeah, that's what everyone thinks. Just because I'm a diviner doesn't mean that I don't have any active abilities. Telepathy, telekinesis, and astral projection tend to travel together."
Smirking, Tink turned toward Rick. Apparently there was more going on between them than just Rick being division chief but Gael wasn't sure he wanted to know. Between his uncontrollable reaction to Jason, meeting the woman Rick thought of as an equal, and discovering a new ability, Gael wasn't sure he could handle any more surprises. Sensory overload didn't even begin to describe how he felt.
"Well, I think it's time you guys hit the road."
He wanted to come back with a smart reply and in his head it sounded great. But he knew the second it came out of his mouth it would lose its impact. Rick's practicality could be annoying on a good day, which Gael had figured out not long after moving into Rick's house. He understood it was one of Rick's little OCDs, but it was still irritating.
"But I think you are well on your way to forming the bonds of a good team."
Gael glared up at Rick. "I'd get up if the gorilla would loosen his grip."
Jason laughed as he stood effortlessly with Gael in his arms. He sat Gael on the bar stool Tink had vacated when Gael fell.
"Good thing for you, this gorilla has quick reflexes. Ready to go?"
Gael wasn't sure what to say or if he should say anything; so he nodded in response. Everything he owned fit into one large duffle bag, a single small backpack, and a slim messenger bag for his laptop. He was sad he was leaving Rick's, but at the same time, he felt the anticipation of a new beginning.
* * * *
Driving back to Richmond, Jason only half listened to the conversation between Gael and Tink. He was more concerned with his intense, almost painful, attraction to the slight young man. When Gael had walked into the room he'd felt his entire being shift. Gods, the man was stunning and didn't even realize it. Jason sensed that something in Gael's past had hurt him, badly. He desperately wanted to protect him from whatever had gouged those wounds into Gael's soul. He wanted to know what had made Gael appear to think so little of himself, and he wanted desperately to protect him from whatever or whoever had hurt him.
Rick told them that Gael had waist length hair but the new shorter style showed off his creamy complexion and silver eyes perfectly. But Rick had left out a lot. Gael's copper colored hair and silver eyes were just a small piece of the beautiful package sitting uncomfortably in the back of the SUV. Jason was totally captivated by Gael's slightly feminine appearance. He was even slimmer than Tink who at five six wore a size two without trying.
Jason’s thoughts were focused completely on the moments he'd held the smaller man. The slight figure overshadowed by loose fitting clothing belied the toned, hard body he'd felt. His lion stretched and chuffed at the thought of cradling Gael against him. He'd never really been interested in men as small as Gael but for some reason Gael brought out every protective instinct he shared with his cat. He didn't want to think too much about what that could mean to him and his future. He wanted his mate but wasn't prepared for all that Gael represented.
* * * *
Tink was deliberately ignoring Gael's questions about the astral projection. She didn't want to spend the whole ride back to Richmond talking about it because she hadn't come up with a game plan yet on how to deal with it.
Mentally sighing, she figured it would be best to start Gael out with the team rules.
"What do you know about our team?"
She turned in the passenger seat to look at him.
"You are Asteria. From the beginning, Asteria has always been lead by a diviner, and not just any diviner. This woman is always someone whose family lineage is traceable to the group founded by the Knights Templar as well as the Oracles of Delphi. You are the only team Rick trusts enough to send into a situation blind. He said you and Jason have an uncanny knack to come out on top and smelling like a rose no matter what."
She saw Gael glance toward the rearview mirror. She knew he was trying to catch Jason watching him.
"I also know that you lost a member shortly after I joined Fillmore."
Tink nodded, more to herself than anything. "Micah was a good team member."
She cringed inwardly at the slight tremor in her voice. Jason’s hand briefly touched her knee. She knew Gael hadn’t missed it. He may seem like he’s not paying attention but she had a feeling he saw more than most.
"So, here are a couple of ground rules: number one—I'm the boss. No questions asked and you really don't want to argue the point. And number two—I'm the boss." She wanted to smile at the startled blink from Gael at the abrupt topic change.
Gael looked out the window, clearly trying to cover the quick smile that formed on his lips.
"Got it. You're the woman."
"Oh, I like this one. He's smart." Reaching between the seats, she patted Gael's knee.
Jason laughed. "Gael, please don't make her head any bigger than it already is. Ouch!"
Tink smiled serenely at Gael as she punched Jason in the arm.
"When we get to the house, I'll give you a tour. My office is to stay as you see it. If one thing is moved, I will know it and I will hunt you down." She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. "We also take turns cooking and cleaning up. Other than that there's not much else to know."
Gael shrugged. "Cooking's not a problem; that is, if simple and quick are good with you guys."
"Simple is usually better than elaborate, especially in our house."
"And don't let her fool you into thinking she can cook." Jason looked in the mirror. "Tink places a mean take-out phone call."
Before she could hit Jason again, the car slowed to take the exit ramp off the interstate. Tink wondered if this was a good idea. She had picked up on Jason's reaction to Gael.
She hoped Rick had done the right thing by sending Gael to them. This could go wrong on so many levels.