Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Dear Author Book Club – January 2013 – One Small Thing...

This is the first book in our 2013 Book Club. I selected the book because I thought it was an m/m romance that even non m/m readers might find enjoyable. It had interesting discussion points about unexpected parenthood, social anxieties, and opposites attract. Moreover, I thought it was a good book. I asked the authors a few questions to prime our conversational pump.

One Small Thing

1)  How did the story come to fruition?  Did you settle on a character first and if so, which one?

MJ: Piper came to me with the general idea of this story, and the two main characters already partially fleshed out. Usually we both write both characters, but we decided since we each felt a very definite affinity towards one character that we would split them. I chose Rue, who has a quick mouth and flamboyant personality. That came easily for me!

Piper: And Erik came very easily for me. :) The idea actually originated in response to a Father’s Day submission call from a different publisher, but we missed the deadline for that. I saw it and wondered what would happen if a flamboyant, young gay man made a huge mistake and ended up getting a woman pregnant. What if that woman didn’t want to keep the child? Would he take the child and raise her as his own? Would he let the child go up for adoption? If he did agree to take the child, how would he deal with raising her—him being young, single, in school, and trying to support himself? Then the character of Erik came to me, but as I started writing it in third person, I realized it just wasn’t working. MJ and I had already written one book together and were working on our second, so I went to her and told her I thought this story would work better in alternating first, and I asked if she would come on board and write it with me. Obviously, she agreed and “One Small Thing” was born.
2)  How does your collaboration work?

 

MJ: Differently with every book. Usually one of us, or both together, will come up with the idea for the book, we’ll write a general synopsis and then go back and break it down so we can both pick chapters and go with it! For these books, where we both wrote our character’s section in every chapter, we went through and plotted each chapter out together so it all flowed. It’s actually very easy for us to write together! We rarely have any roadblocks.

 

Piper: Yep. All our collaborations have gone very smoothly so far. For the “Lucky Moon” series, we went by chapters. They didn’t necessarily go in a specific order, though. First we picked the ones that appealed to us most and then we split the rest. For this series, we each wrote an individual character, as MJ said above, and worked closely to smooth everything out and make it a cohesive whole.

 

3)  The thematic overtones of the story are strongly “opposites attract” between the flamboyant Rue and the socially awkward Erik?  Did you feel that conflict was the primary driver or was it the inclusion of the child?

 

MJ: I think the conflict was less about them being opposites, or even about the child since she was a source of togetherness rather than conflict, but with both of them overcoming their own personal issues to make a relationship work. Erik had to deal with his social anxieties, Rue had to learn how to let people in and not build walls out of sassy retorts and jokes.

 

4)  Were the differences exaggerated to make a point such as Erik not only being socially awkward but also a virgin addicted to watching Star Wars every day or did you feel that the character tics were genuine?

 

Piper: They were genuine. Erik is actually very much like me. I suffer from some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and I’m Star Wars obsessed. But that aspect came not only from me, but also from a very close friend of mine who suffered from some serious anxiety issues when her marriage fell apart. She locked herself away to the point of reclusion, and her way of coping was watching the Star Wars movies in a row, over and over, all day long. So, yes, those parts of his personality were based on real-life experiences and meant to be genuine, not just to make him seem even more awkward, geeky, etc.

 

 

5)  Rue’s initial reaction toward the child were very careless.  Were you worried that might affect readers’ ability to empathize or relate to him?

 

MJ: I’m not sure I agree that they were. He knew right away that he didn’t want his child to grow up in the foster system, feeling unloved. He may not have known how to handle a baby, or what to do, but I’d not call it “careless” per se—more naive and flighty. He of course does grow through the story. And sure, maybe the readers wouldn’t like the way he handled the situation at the beginning but the world would be boring (and so would books) if people and characters reacted the right way to every situation. He had to have a place to grow from.

Piper: I agree with MJ. We didn’t write it intending him to come off as careless, but rather overwhelmed, out of his depth, and, frankly, desperate enough to make a decision that, yes, we knew some readers might disagree with. Sometimes people get pushed into a corner and they don’t make the wisest decisions. I have a son myself and so part of this story was written from the viewpoint of a parent. Would I have left him with someone I barely knew when he was an infant? If I was in Rue’s situation, not having anyone to turn to and knowing that without a babysitter, I’d probably lose my job and have to drop out of school, maybe I would have. I’ve never been in a situation like that, so it’s hard to say for certain, but in my mind, it’s not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. Bottom line, for me, is: Rue isn’t a perfect character. He was never intended to be. But we tried to make it clear that the decisions he made were to try to benefit his daughter.

 

6)  Why did you have Erik make the change in writing SFF to m/m contemporaries? What message or point were you trying to convey in that character movement?

 

MJ: Speaking for myself, I thought it was fun to put both characters in situations they weren’t comfortable with to watch them grow.  Also, I thought that giving Erik the outlet of reading those m/m romances and eventually starting to write them helped him realize his own feelings. It let him name his desires and gave them shape. I didn’t see it as a message, more like a chance for Erik to become a more actualized character.

Piper: I couldn’t have said it better. But Erik didn’t switch to contemporaries, actually. He was still writing sci-fi and fantasy, just m/m. There was no hidden message intended in having him switch, though. Our main reasoning was to take Erik out of his comfort zone, and we thought reading those types of stories would help him realize and acknowledge the feelings he was having for Rue.

7)  The romance was slow developing (which is one of the things I liked most about the book).  Do you feel pressure when writing romance to move more quickly toward the couple getting together?    

 

Piper: No. For me, it all depends on the story. I adore sexual tension, probably above anything else in romance. A lot of the time, the buildup is what makes it for me when the characters finally do get together. For this book, it was necessary for them to go slowly, for them to become friends first before we could even broach the idea of them being lovers. With Erik, it couldn’t have happened any other way. And, really, for Rue either. His attraction to Erik was so unlike anything he’d experienced before. No way would he have rushed into sex or a relationship with Erik, someone who he originally perceived as straight, weird, and not at all his type, until he got to know Erik as a person.

 

MJ: No. Not at all. I think if the romantic plot is interesting, and the readers can ‘feel’ the characters moving towards each other, if they can feel that tension, than they don’t need there to be a relationship at the beginning. If it moves too fast, it’s not always satisfying. Sometimes, in the right book, there can be a physical relationship while the characters are moving towards emotional completion. With these two, mainly with Erik, that wouldn’t have worked out.

8)  Have you written f/m romances before and if so, is there a difference in writing f/m versus m/m?

 

Piper: I have written M/F romance in fanfiction, but not in an original story yet. Those stories were published online at one time, but have since been pulled down. I will be writing it again in the future, though. There will of course be differences, at least in contemporaries, in that, unless you want to ignore our society and the prejudices that still exist, you might have to take certain things into account that you might not have in a M/F romance. For instance, your M/F couple might kiss at a movie theater without anyone blinking an eyelash. If you have your M/M couple do it, you have to take into consideration that someone in the audience may have a problem with that and choose to make that problem known. But, then, you can also have them be in a very GLBT friendly area where encountering someone who might take offense wouldn’t be very likely. Or you can put them in your own world where bisexuality or homosexuality is commonplace and no one minds. In those cases, gender becomes negligible. As far as the development of their emotional love affair, I don’t take the genders of my characters into account when writing that part. Love is love, and we all fall in love a little differently anyway.

 

 

MJ: I have! Before I sent in my first m/m to a publisher, I spent years plotting and writing m/f stories—starting back in middle school:) None of them have actually been published. Perhaps someday, I’ll be tempted to go that route again. I personally don’t see a lot of difference in the evolution of falling in love and finding family with each other, no matter who the characters are or what gender they happen to be. Of course, our society still sees straight and gay couples as different—so there will be different social constructs involved, different social experiences, for a M/M couple (or a F/F couple) vs. a M/F couple. Those realities will always color your story unless the book is set in a world/reality different than our current one.

 

~*~

Piper: There was one last thing we—or at least I—wanted to address with regards to Erik, in case the topic comes up during your discussions. I’ve seen this book labeled “gay for you” in numerous reviews. It was not our intention to write a “gay for you” story, and MJ and I don’t view it or Erik in that way. For us, Erik was pretty much asexual before meeting Rue. He was neither gay nor straight. There was never a time he was heterosexual or exclusively attracted to women, despite Rue’s assumptions that Erik was a “straight boy” when they first meet, and in a way, his slow sexual awakening is like a delayed adolescence. He’s experiencing what we did in our preteen/early teenage years, except much later on in life—but it was all part of his growth as a character. And, in the end, Erik doesn’t think about his relationship with Rue in terms of gay or straight. In his head, his attraction to Rue is simple and straightforward. It’s not about Rue being male. It’s about him being Rue.


Readers, jump into the comments and let us know what you thought of the book. What worked or didn’t work? What characters did you like or dislike? What would you have changed in the story? What were your favorite parts? What questions should I have asked the authors?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

22 Comments

  1. Sirius
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 11:49:26

    I really enjoyed this book, but I have to say that it was such a surprise to me that I enjoyed it. If I remember correctly I never tried anything written by this duo before and I am usually careful about trying new authors so I got this book as a kindle loan from a friend ( liked it so much that I purchased my own copy later). The reason I am saying it was such a surprise for me was because a parenthood was supposed to be (and was IMO ) such a focal point of the book. While I am not the reader who finds the mere presence of the kids annoying in my reading material, neither do I seek out the books with the kids being prime and center rather than developing relationship.
    But surprisingly I found that for me they achieved a nice balance and them dealing with Alice served to highlight who they are as characters and how well they interacted together. Probably the fact that Alice is si tiny during the book helped me too .

    The only thing that did not work for me was indeed how Rue initially handled finding a babysitter. Sorry no, leaving your baby with a complete stranger – just not buying it. I do get how overwhelmed he was and that helped me to take a breath, remind myself that otherwise we would have had no story and suspend disbelief.

    After that I thought the story was just lovely. I loved both Rue and Eric , did not find their character quirks to be over the too at all. I loved how authors made it sweet but did not make my teeth hurt. Cannot wait to hear what others thought. Thanks Jane and thanks to the authors.

    ReplyReply

  2. cleo
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 13:36:26

    I have a question I wish Jane had asked the authors – why did they choose for Rue to have a daughter and not a son? I’ve read several m/m romances with kids in them and I can’t think of one where the dad/s raise a boy instead of a girl.

    ReplyReply

  3. Shannon C.
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 13:46:10

    I loved this book as well. The slow build-up of friends to lovers was delicious, and I didn’t even mind the initial setup, which was a bit dicey, but I bought it because otherwise there wouldn’t have been a story. I agree that this is the kind of book that even a non-M/M reader would enjoy, especially a reader who likes her heroes sweet and beta.

    ReplyReply

  4. ShellBell
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 14:45:03

    I loved this story too! I thought it was sweet, fresh, heart-warming and funny. I loved the characteristics of both main characters and the gradual build-up in their relationship. I adored Dusty, and thought he was a great secondary character.

    I enjoyed reading about Eriks’ coping mechanisms for his anxiety issues – his issues were a major feature and I liked the way they were dealt with in the story. The continual watching of Star Wars and pep talks from his mother all added to the story.

    Like Sirius, the one thing that was slightly off for me was how willing Rue was to leave Alice with Erik without really knowing anything about him.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jambrea
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:03:26

    It’s been a while since I’ve read the book–but if I remember right, he did get a reference from the landlord so Rue did know a bit about Erik. When you go to a day care, most of the time you know about the center itself, but not much about the person who will be watching your child. You have to trust that the center has done it’s job. It’s always a gamble, so that wasn’t as big of an issue for me. I loved this book. Enjoyed the build up and the secondary characters. It worked for me all around.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jane
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:11:27

    @Jambrea: I have to disagree. When you go to a daycare, that place has been licensed by the state and must follow certain guidelines. Your neighbor you don’t know in an apartment complex? Hell no. Rue was careless as a parent and it was disturbing but it fit his persona as well.

    ReplyReply

  7. Jambrea
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:14:31

    @Jane:

    Yeah… supposed to and doing are two different things. lol I’ve read the paper about day care mishaps. Nothing excpet staying home with your child is 100%. lol Would I have left my son at the neighbors with out knowing more–no, but I could suspend belief enough for it to work in the story for me because he did at least talk to someone about Erik before leaving his child there.

    ReplyReply

  8. Sirius
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:19:48

    @Jambrea: I do not remember him asking the landlord whether Erik can deal with kids though? Not that I thought it would have been enough.

    I have a question Re: Erik’s anxieties. Did you guys find it believable that at the end he could handle such a long trip away from familiar surroundings? As I said I did not find his problems to be over the top, but they seem to be pretty severe. Love cures all?

    ReplyReply

  9. Jane
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:21:49

    @Sirius: As my questions might have revealed, I thought the differences between the characters were extreme and exaggerated for effect (which I don’t actually think is a bad thing because in fiction exaggeration works). Erik, particularly, seemed to suffer some kind of depression and untreated social anxiety.

    So yes, I wished that the ending would have been smoother, more believable.

    ReplyReply

  10. Sirius
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 19:49:34

    @Jane: Oh I guess I can agree that differences between the characters were exaggerated for effect. I was saying that on their own the characters did not seem that exaggerated if that makes sense? Of course in fiction the character’s qualities are often exaggerated to a degree, but to me (as everything I guess) it all depends on the writing. I have “met” the characters which felt way way over the top and Rue and Erik did not feel like that I guess?

    Yes, I also wished for smoother ending.

    ReplyReply

  11. Kaetrin
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 20:24:47

    I had to get over the hurdle of Rue leaving baby Alice with a stranger too. I didn’t think of him as careless, so much as clueless though. And, in what I suppose is completely sexist, I thought that he only did that because he’s a guy.

    I thought that Erik had some kind of autism rather than depression or a social disorder, not that it necessarily matters. Having read about a few autistic characters and having friends with children who have Aspberger’s Erik’s habits didn’t seem too over the top to me but exaggeration for effect in books works okay for me too.

    I loved Dusty. I have his book on my TBR and I understand that Rue and Erik make an appearance in the book too so I’m hoping I will get the answers there that I didn’t get in this book. I was worried how Erik would cope with the big change at the end – I wasn’t certain he’d be able to do it and that left the HEA a bit tenuous for my liking.

    But I loved the book. Loved the slow sweetly developing romance, loved the characters and wasn’t sugared out by Alice. I gave it a B+.

    ReplyReply

  12. Kaetrin
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 20:28:17

    @Jane: In childcare centres here, individuals have to be trained as well as the centre being licensed and you can search for their recent audit reports to know whether they’re rated highly.

    In this case, Erik had no experience of babies at all. It wasn’t like leaving a child with an experienced parent/grandparent whom you know well. I got over it because that was the premise of the book, but as a parent, I wasn’t happy about it.

    ReplyReply

  13. Kaetrin
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 20:30:10

    Also, re the authors saying that some have called the book “gay for you” – I thought neither boys nor girls had been on Erik’s radar at all until Rue came along – so I didn’t think it was a case where a straight boy turned, rather that Erik’s own sexuality awakened after he met Rue. Which, I thought, fit his character entirely.

    ReplyReply

  14. cs
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 20:34:12

    I can’t say I enjoyed this book like some of the commentators here. I mean it’s an easy read but I cringed more than anything. Erik has issues such as being a shut-in, anxiety and social problems. I just wish there was a meatier story in relation to that. I appreciate the author being honest about basing traits of herself on her character. However, as a reader that just makes me feel awkward. I’m sure authors do this all the time (without readers knowing), but that breaks and “icky” wall for me personally. I couldn’t take Rue seriously as a father he just paps his child of to a man he knows next to nothing about.

    I found this novel to be underdeveloped and the writing so-so. It’s a quick and easy read but it was too exaggerated and flimsy as a whole.

    ReplyReply

  15. hapax
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 20:37:29

    First off, I really loved this book. I thought the romance was both sweet and hot, and both characters were better people together than they were apart — a good harbinger for a HEA for me.

    Things that worked especially well for me: Dusty, the “sassy gay best friend”; I was so grateful that his “part” was not given (as it often is in m/m) to the token straight female. I loved the way the story acknowledged but did not dwell on his crush on Erik. I thought that the sex scenes worked well to illuminate character and further their relationship; I especially liked the clever way that the first explicit sex scenes were from the novels that Erik was reading for “research”; it made his virginal explorations with Rue feel natural and convincing.

    Neither character seemed “over the top” to me; I’ve known parents with all of Rue’s clueless carelessness, and shy geeks with all of Erik’s anxieties and coping mechanisms. Which is the big place where the story Did Not Work for me. Okay, I can accept for the sake of the story that Rue’s caretaker-hunting strategy did NOT turn out to be a total disaster (nobody wants to read about child neglect or abuse!) but I simply couldn’t buy that Erik so suddenly overcame his aversions to being touched, his need to have his surroundings under control and “just so” so simply and suddenly. Especially when the official “in story” explanation was that his future True Love for Rue somehow magically reached back into the past and “cured” him? Uhhhh….

    Similarly, I believe that Rue truly loved Alice and wanted the best for her. But the kind of carelessness you can get away with with a newborn isn’t going to fly once the baby begans crawling, let alone walking. Does anybody seriously believe that Rue is going to remember to keep his cherries where Alice can’t find them and choke on them? Or that Erik isn’t going to go ballistic when he finds his priceless Lego Millenium Falcon broken into pieces and flushed down the toilet?

    Aaack! Look how much I’ve typed! This MUST have been a pretty good choice for discussion!

    ReplyReply

  16. John
    Jan 15, 2013 @ 23:27:39

    This book was really enjoyable for me: cute, fluffy, and romantic. I love m/m novels like this for the pure fact that they are fast reads that make me feel like love is possible without an excessive amount of sexuality angst for a gay man.

    I very much agree that Erik was most likely on the Asperger’s end of the autism spectrum. My best friend has Aspergers, and there are some definite traits of his – the lack of a prominent sexual drive, sever discomfort for social interactions, OCD, a brain that has little “obsessions” that it stores a ridiculous amount of information about. IT fit him, so I never felt like Erik was gay-for-you, because he had no idea what sexuality he was period prior to falling in love with Rue.

    Also? I loved that Rue exhibited similar OCD tendencies in his love for cleaning. They weren’t the same person, or even close, but they shared character traits that would make me believe they would find something attractive in one another.

    I didn’t think too much about the parenting aspects of the book, but I can totally see everyone else’s points about them and agree – and I did find Erik far too accepting of Alice considering his Aspergian nature. That part in particular was what got me a bit confused, so I chose to push past it and enjoy the story despite it. Alice best acted as a bonding agent between the boys, but she also made the logic of the story questionable. Give and take.

    I find myself really excited to read the sequel at some point, though. Dusty was a very strong character; I want to see his happily-ever-after.

    ReplyReply

  17. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2013 @ 06:21:41

    I’m in CS’s camp on this one. I agree with John that it felt like a fluffy, light read, but the combination of the subject matter and the tone didn’t work for me. The setup hinged on Rue doing unbelievable things and Erik getting over his years-long, major issues without much difficulty. Rue could have taken a semester off from school once he’d decided to take Alice, or he could have planned in advance, but that wouldn’t have worked for the plot. And as others have said, Erik getting over his issues to the extent that they could have the HEA they did required a major suspension of disbelief.

    Even at the fairy-tale level, though, I didn’t get what each character had that made the other fall in love. What was there that was special beyond physical attraction? Although to be fair, I find that to be the case in quite a few romances. As for the switch in writing careers, I didn’t really buy the argument that reading m/m made Erik realize his feelings, but it was kind of a clever way to bring out his sexual desires.

    ReplyReply

  18. Sirius
    Jan 16, 2013 @ 19:54:49

    @Sunita: I have a question about this point of yours I think.

    “Even at the fairy-tale level, though, I didn’t get what each character had that made the other fall in love. What was there that was special beyond physical attraction? Although to be fair, I find that to be the case in quite a few romances. ”

    I think it is more asking for clarification in general than anything else, because I remember you making similar observation about another mm book and myself responding that they fell in love “just because”. So now I wonder maybe I am misunderstanding what you meant. Let me paraphrase and you tell me if I understood correctly. Now first and foremost let’s pretend that we both agree that MC are portrayed well as a separate and distinct personalities (in this book or another, does not really matter for my question). It seems that what you would like to see is to hear what personality trait caused both of them to fell in love? I mean, obviously it should be written well, but in a nutshell what you would like to see more, not just in this book is something like “Rue loved Erik because he was a talented writer, or funny, or kind, or whatever personality trait they found attractive in each other”. Is that right?

    If I am understanding you correctly, and I may be wrong, I think this is exactly what I do not want to see. I mean if they are as separate characters not written well, too shallow, too one dimensional, too whatever, then thats a different story, but I think what I want to see in my romances is the magic, the attraction which I can feel and then I can rationalise it any way I want to (or not want to). I usually think that if they both well enough written for my taste, then I think that they fell in love with everything that other person was.

    Am I making sense at all? Probably not.

    ReplyReply

  19. Sunita
    Jan 16, 2013 @ 22:30:20

    @Sirius: Good question. I had to stop and think about it for a while.

    No, I don’t want the authors to point to specific character traits, although the way I phrased it made it sound that way. What I meant was that I saw Rue and Erik first perceiving each other as strange but essentially OK, and then they were attracted, and then they fell in love, and as a reader I didn’t see how they got from the first to the last stage. In a movie, or in face-to-face interactions, you have non-verbal cues, body language, to show you how people feel about each other. Lust and love share cues, but they also look different at times. In a book you don’t have that, so the authors need to write those cues into the interactions. Some authors are very good at that, but others have a harder time conveying it (at least I don’t pick it up).

    ReplyReply

  20. Sirius
    Jan 17, 2013 @ 21:12:06

    @Sunita: Ok thanks for clarifying that definitely makes sense to me :)

    ReplyReply

  21. cleo
    Jan 18, 2013 @ 11:28:44

    I finally just read this. I liked it but didn’t love it. I don’t have an automatic aversion to 1st person pov, but in this case I’m not sure it worked for me. I thought Rue was an annoying, impulsive, self-involved drama queen – and being so deeply in his head was irritating. I just wanted him to grow up and stop whining. (hmm, that doesn’t sound like I liked it, does it? But I read the whole thing in one sitting and I enjoyed myself, despite the flouncing)

    @Sunita: I also thought the jump from thinking the other was ok but odd to liking / wanting each other was abrupt. And I also feel that way about a lot of romance. I’m not sure if it’s that it’s hard to write convincing falling-in-love scenes, or that other people don’t like/need them as much as I do.

    @hapax: You really made me LOL.

    Does anybody seriously believe that Rue is going to remember to keep his cherries where Alice can’t find them and choke on them? Or that Erik isn’t going to go ballistic when he finds his priceless Lego Millenium Falcon broken into pieces and flushed down the toilet?

    I couldn’t help mentally imagining a young adult Alice talking to her therapist about her crazy childhood.

    ReplyReply

  22. Sirius
    Jan 19, 2013 @ 18:02:36

    @cleo: See I liked Rue if for no other reason that he seemed different to me from so many characters I met before. I liked that authors went for drama and whining (I thought some of it was understandable, some – not so much), but I also thought he was sweet and had a good heart. I guess for all their issues both of them felt a bit like regular guys to me if that makes sense?

    ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

%d bloggers like this: