First off, LGBT romance authors nominated for 2019 RITA Awards are congratulated, including Layla Reyne, Amy Lane, Suzanne Brockmann, Melanie Hansen and Aurora Rey.
New patron Angela is welcomed.
Jeff discusses his second visit to Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen as well as seeing an immersive production of Bare: A Pop Opera.
Rather than review books this week, the guys talk about titles they are looking forward to this spring: Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert, LOL by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox, Under His Protection by LaQuette, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera and Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee, Jeff also calls out the start of a new series from Layla Reyne that he’s looking forward to but can’t discuss.
Brandilyn stops by to recommend the audiobook of Badlands by Morgan Brice and talks about some old favorites from Rhys Ford, Jordan L. Hawk and Ethan Stone.
Complete shownotes for episode 181 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Here’s the text of Jeff’s reviews of the shows he saw in New York:
While I was in New York this past week, I caught two musicals that have the common theme of teenagers looking for a connection to each other, finding their voice and being able to live as their authentic selves.
I started off with a return trip to Dear Evan Hansen. We originally reviewed our trip to see the original Broadway cast back in episode 91 in July 2017. I went back this week because I wanted to see the current Evan, sixteen-year-old Andrew Barth Feldman.
Andrew won the 2018 National High School Musical Theater Award and was invited to audition for the role. Within a few weeks, he was cast. Before this, Evan’s were in their mid-20s because the role is difficult to sing and requires skills to manage the emotional arc.
Andrew blew me away. I watched some clips of other roles he’s posted on his YouTube channel and a pretty good idea he could sing the right range for the show. His vocal performance though was through the roof. In the early songs, he had amazing vocal breaks that conveyed Evan’s anxiety and timidness and as he felt more emboldened by the story he waved the vocals got more confident. By the time he hit “You Will Be Found” at the end of the first act he was a different person, only to come crashing down again for “Words Fail,” which is the show’s 11 o’clock show stopper.
The acting too was spot on, at times looking like he wanted to shatter into a million pieces to escape. In the moment where his mom talks to him about what he’d done, he’s pressed so much into the corner of the couch, you know he wants to be eaten by the furniture.
It’ll be interesting to see how he continues to grow into the role. He was in week seven when I saw him. The producers are giving him time and training to handle the rigors of a Broadway schedule–currently, he’s playing five out of eight shows a week. Beyond Evan, I look forward to what Andrew’s future roles will be because I suspect he’ll be rocking Broadway for many years to come.
The next night I went to see Bare: A Pop Opera for its first performance. I’ve been a fan of this show since the mid-2000s when I saw some clips of it’s off-Broadway run and eventually got its studio cast recording. Through March 31, the show is being presented as a site-aware production in the St. John’s Lutheran Chruch on Christopher Street as part of the church’s theater season that pays tribute to the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
I’m going to give you the synopsis the production wrote as it sums the show up perfectly: Bare, a pop/rock opera, follows a group of students at a Catholic boarding school as they grapple with their sexuality, identity, and the future. As the group attempts to put up a production of Romeo and Juliet, tensions flare, self-doubt creeps in and God’s path blurs. The students’ journeys ring with the sounds of youthful repression and revolt. With an exhilarating sung-through pop score, bare is a provocative and honest look at the dangers of baring your soul, and the consequences of continuing to hide.
Peter and Jason are the core of the show. They’re best friends, roommates and lovers. Jason, however, can’t embrace that he’s gay–pressure from his parents to be perfect, pressure to follow Catholic doctrine, pressure to conform consume him and yet he can’t deny that he loves Peter. On the other side, Peter is tired of hiding and wants to be open about their relationship.
Jacob Entenman and Jared Hopper were stunning as Peter and Jason. From their first song that introduces their relationship to the more difficult, emotionally charged songs were their relationship fractures I was all in with them. Jacob in particular with “Ever After” and “The Role of A Lifetime” were stunning and the two coming together for the title song ripped my heart out.
Other standouts here included Noni Celine as Sister Chantelle. She knows what’s up with Peter and tells him that “God Don’t Make No Trash.” She also comes to Peter when he’s in a drunken stupor … he sees her as the Virgin Mary. Noni brought the house down with “911 Emergency” where she told Peter in no uncertain terms that he needed to come out to his mother.
Jessie Rae Jordan as Ivy nailed the role of bad girl who didn’t want to be a bad girl. Her “All Grown Up” as she reveals exactly what happened the night Jason and her spent together was amazing. Beth Ann Stripling as Jason’s sister Nadia was tremendous in her portrayal of a young woman grappling with many issues at home and school.
We backed this Kickstarter even though we weren’t going to get to see it. It turned out I was able to be in the city and I was ecstatic to get to see the show for the first time. It exceeded every expectation and if I could’ve been in the city longer, I’d have gone back to see it again. It runs through March 30 and you can get information at BareInTheChurch.com
Here are the blurbs we read on the show for the books we’re excited about:
Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert (Releases April 1)
Everything’s bigger in Alaska, especially the HEAs. Annabeth Albert kicks off the brand-new Frozen Hearts series with Arctic Sun, an opposites-attract romance between a rugged outdoorsman and a smoking hot former male model.
He’s built a quiet life for himself in Alaska. But it doesn’t stand a chance against the unrelenting pull of a man who’s everything he shouldn’t want.
Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…
River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.
With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.
LOL by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox (Releases April 2)
Scotty: When a gorgeous cop comes racing out of a building on 5th Avenue, hops in your horse-drawn carriage, and screams, “Go!” You go.
You don’t stop and ask for paperwork. Or a badge. Or an explanation of who you’re chasing. You simply follow his shouted orders and try not to kill anyone in the process.
At least, that’s what I did when it happened to me.
But then it turns out that the “cop” is none other than Roman Burke, Hollywood’s hottest star, and our little joy ride gets me fired. Now I’m broke, my horse has been evicted from her barn, and I’ve got nowhere to turn.
Roman: When you accidentally hijack a Central Park carriage trying to escape the paparazzi, get pulled over by the police, and your crisis manager insists you lay low for a while, you nod your head and go.
And when the cute carriage driver shows up on your front step, horse in tow, blaming you for losing his job, you agree to fix it. Even if that means hauling both him and his horse along with you on your Vermont getaway.
At least that’s what I did when it happened to me.
Unfortunately, trouble seems to stick to the sexy carriage driver like hot syrup on a hotter waffle, making my Vermont retreat anything but quiet.
Now the carriage driver is in my bed, unexpected guests are crawling out of the woodwork, and the paparazzi is on my tail. With chaos and scandal swarming around me, suddenly, it isn’t just my career on the line.
It’s my heart.
Under His Protection by LaQuette (Releases April 16)
They can escape their enemies, but not the desire between them.
Prosecutor Camden Warren is on the fast track to professional nirvana. With his charm, his sharp legal mind, and his father as chief judge in the highest court in NY, he can’t fail. Nothing can derail his rise to the top… until an attempt on his life forces him to accept the help of a man he walked out on five years ago.
Wounded in the line of duty, Lieutenant Elijah Stephenson wants to ride his new desk job until retirement—not take a glorified babysitting gig with more risk than it’s worth… especially not protecting the entitled lawyer who disappeared after the best sex of their lives.
The threat against Camden’s life is real, but their passion for each other might prove the greatest danger they’ve yet to face.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (Releases May 14)
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.
American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera (Releases May 20)
Fairy-tale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for.
New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamed of his own happily-ever-after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure…until the mysterious man he had an unforgettable hookup with turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.
Thomas Hughes built a billion-dollar business from nothing: he knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.
Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.
Fairy-tale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him, for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.
Not Your Backup by C.B. Lee (Releases June 4)
Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities that the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, she isnt always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when thats done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.
The show opens with Jeff talking about turning in the manuscript for new/revised edition of Hat Trick. The guys also talk about Captain Marvel.
Will reviews Wanted-Bad Boyfriend by TA Moore and IRL: In Real Life by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox. Jeff reviews Diversion by Eden Winters.
Jason T. Gaffney and Kevin Held join Jeff & Will to discuss their new movie project, the romantic comedy/paranormal themed Out of Body. They recorded the audiobook of the novelization, which was written by Suzanne Brockmann. We also find out about their history-based podcast, The Bright Side with Kevin and Jason.
Complete shownotes for episode 180 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Diversion by Eden Winters, narrated by Darcy Stark. Reviewed by Jeff
Eden Winters Diversion series has been recommended to me for some time now and I finally took the leap. This first book was first published in 2012 but just came out in audio in October 2018 with narration from new to me voice artist Darcy Stark, who does a great job with both the suspense and romance.
This enemies-to-lovers, workplace romantic suspense story centers on agents for the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau, Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter and Bo Schollenberger. Lucky’s nearing the end of his forced stint on the job–forced as it was his way out of jail. Bo is new and eager, but is also at the job because of incidents in his past. They end up working together to bring down a ring of drug diversion and insurance fraud that involves a doctor, a drug manufacturer and a drug destruction company.
I fell in love with gruff, no nonsense Lucky right away. He’s extremely good at his job, mostly because he used to be on the other side of the law. He exudes frustration and irritation at what he has to do and why and yet there’s a teddy bear in there too because he cares about getting the job done right.
The friction that’s stirred up when Lucky’s saddled with mentoring Bo is sublime. Lucky’s looking to ride a desk during his last few weeks at the bureau, but his boss has other ideas. Bo’s very green in terms of what he has to do here–but he is ex-military so he’s no pushover either. He can take what Lucky dishes out and it pisses the senior agent off… and eventually Bo gives back as good as he gets. The friction gets explosive as Lucky battles with himself about the feelings he develops for Bo.
The other thing the friction brings is a ton of humor. Lucky and Bo know how to push each other’s buttons–whether it’s blasting Billy Ray Cyrus, forcing healthy eating habits or being messy. It’s a wonderful odd couple pairing that morphs in a beautiful way as it becomes less about antagonizing and more about a sweet nudging of one another to just maybe move things to another level in their relationships.
Both men have complicated backstories that make you feel for even more for them. Lucky ended up at the bureau after going to prison for the part he played in a large scale drug operation. He’d been in love with the guy behind that operation and when it all came crashing down Lucky was sure he wanted no part of loving anyone again. The pain Eden created for Lucky is devastating, which makes him all the more loveable when he’s able to come out of his shell.
Bo did illegal things to help an ex and ended up taking illegal substances to the point that it’s very difficult for him to be around the drugs in a Pharmacy, which his job requires. There’s also abuse in his past and Lucky’s careful to keep Bo away from triggers as much as he can. The lengths he goes to keep Bo feeling safe are extremely sweet.
Eden takes great care in how backstory is presented. Once the men get past their posturing and disdain for each other, they peel back they reveal themselves in a very natural way–as friends, coworkers and eventually lovers do. The good and bad are offered in equal measure and it’s perfect relationship development.
The only thing I wanted in this story that I didn’t get was Bo’s point of view. I would’ve loved to know what was rattling around in his head. Not to take away from Lucky though as he was quite the good narrator and this one point doesn’t take away from my love of the book.
The Diversion series is up to book seven as of January 2019–with the third book released in audio in February 2019–so I’ve got some catching up to do. I’m looking very forward to that.
IRL: In Real Life by Lucy Lennox & Molly Maddox. Reviewed by Will
In Real Life combines the classic alpha billionaire character trope with the time-honored scenario of two characters who are combative in real life, but are secretly corresponding with one another and falling in love.
Which is the long-winded way of saying it’s a similar set up as the classic movies Shop Around the Corner, You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, and the musical She Loves Me. The way that the characters write to each other has changed and evolved, but the premise remains the same.
There’s also hints of enemies to lovers and opposites attract. This book is ripe with tropey goodness.
So what’s it all about you might ask?
Nice guy geek Conor is in New York to sell his mother’s bio-med technology to a ruthless CEO. The evening before his big presentation he decides to live a little and begins sexting with who he thinks is the sexy hotel bartender. It’s not.
The text exchange he ends up having with a stranger, who he calls Trace, is amazing, and through several flirtatious and super-hot online conversations, they begin a fling.
At the meeting the next morning, Wells Grange recognizes Conor thanks to the Dalek tie he is wearing. Conor is the hot and horny guy he sexted with the night before.
His first inclination is to use this information as leverage in their business negotiations. But Wells quickly begins to fall for Conor, both the sexy online version and the awkward real-life version.
As they work through the contracts for the sale, Wells continues his deception. They spend several days together and get to know one another, Conor unaware that Wells and Trace are the same person.
We follow our heroes, almost in real time, as they fall in love while working together, going out to dinner, and taking carriage rides in Central Park.
Once the business deal is finalized, Wells and Conor finally give in to their attraction and sleep with each other. Needless to say, it’s amazing and life altering for both of them.
But, as is the case in stories like these, Conor finally puts two and two together before Wells can come clean about his sexting alter ego.
Conor is humiliated and justifiably furious. He packs his bags and returns to North Carolina, with zero intention of ever speaking to Wells again.
And rightly so.
I’m going to be super upfront with you guys, there are certain aspects of the billionaire trope that I personally find problematic. I was on board with Wells and Conor for most of the story, but there were moments when I had a hard time dealing with certain aspects of Wells’ alphahole personality.
In my view, if the ending of this book was going to be believable, Wells was going to have to move mountains and pull off one of the biggest mea culpas in romance history.
It may not have been the biggest, but Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox crafted a finale that was truly heartfelt and genuinely appropriate for our two heroes.
To make amends, Wells makes sure Conor’s sick mom is well taken care of and part of an experimental treatment program (her illness was the reason they needed the money from the business deal).
Later, when Conor is unable to attend a Comic convention to unveil an important new development in his gaming business, Wells steps in, and personally gives a rousing presentation on Conor’s behalf.
Wells proves he isn’t the billionaire alphahole he seems. Yea for true love and happily-ever-afters!
Jeff: Welcome back to the show, Jason and Kevin.
Kevin: Thank you.
Jason: Hello. Thank you.
Kevin: Nice to be back. How you been?
Jeff: Well, we had you on before, we were talking all about “Analysis Paralysis.” But you guys have a lot more going on besides that movie. You’re actually in pre-production right now on a film called “Out of Body.”
Jeff: Tell us what that one’s about.
Jason: So “Out of Body” is basically a story where it’s a friends-to-lover rom-com. And basically, Malcolm, who’s Kevin’s character, has his body stolen from him and he kind of ends up as a spirit for a while. And he has to prove that he exists to me, Henry, and then when that finally happens, we do some magic, we fight some demons, we might get the body back, there’s definitely a happily ever after because it’s a rom-com.
Kevin: You and your end happily-ever-afters.
Jeff: It’s important.
Kevin: I know, I know. But I just want to the rom…just one time I want a rom-com to be…it’s mostly romantic and funny but everyone does die.
Jason: Or they die hilariously.
Kevin: It’s a rom-com drama.
Jason: Death by rubber chicken.
Jeff: And what was kind of the inspiration behind this movie this time?
Jason: I don’t even know how this idea came in my head. But I was sleeping one day and I woke up and I was like, “Oh, that’d be really cool. A movie where someone’s dead but they wanted to be together but then they didn’t get to be together. And then they have to fight to get their body back and come back to life.” And so I wrote a kind of a similar but different kind of script. And we did a table read, and my mom was a part of the table read. And she was like, “I love the story you have here. Can I take it and can I change a lot of it and make it like super romance with the comedy?”
And so this particular movie and book and audiobook is definitely heavier on the romance than the comedy, as opposed to “Analysis Paralysis.” But it’s, in my opinion, really, really good because the romance really makes…it’s gripping, it really gets you right in the heartstrings. And she basically saw what I was going for and was able to finesse it and really kind of mold it into what my kind of original vision was and then some. So I’m really psyched about it. It’s got a little bit of everything.
Will: Yeah, not too long ago, I talked about the novelization of “Out of Body” here on the show. Jason, your mom, Suzanne Brockmann, of course, wrote that novelization, it was rather amusing. Like, I think in the forward she kind of does like a behind the scenes thing where she kind of tells that story where she says, “Jason, this is great. But do you mind if I take it and make it better?”
Jason: Yeah. And here’s the thing, I am all about that. Like the filmmaking, it’s such a collaborative process and storytelling can be a really collaborative process. And I want to make good movies. And so I was really happy with the script that I had written, but when someone who’s as great of a writer as my mom is comes and says, “I want to have fun with this and let me just see what I can do with it,” I’m like, “Hell yeah. Take it. Have at it.” Yeah.
Kevin: And the end result is really a script, a novel, and a script that really looks like if brilliant improviser and plot maker and gay comedy guy let his script be taken over by a bestselling romance novelist, what would happen, it would be this. You know. And so it’s really got great, great aspects of all of those elements.
Will: Yeah, I really enjoyed the book and the audiobook as well. And I think it’s a really unique opportunity for people who are interested in “Out of Body,” the movie, to check out the audiobook and sort of, it’s essentially like a preview of what they’re going to be getting when the film comes out to the public. Can you give us a little bit of an idea about what it was like to kind of get into the material early before you even like were thinking about shooting by recording the audiobook?
Kevin: I can tell you for my part, like, since I’m not one of the writers on this, which is, you know, traditional for me because I’m not usually the writer on a project that I’m acting in. But it’s completely unprecedented to have a novel that you get to perform about the thing before you even film the script. You know, so we get…like as an actor, it’s a freaking dream because I have…so you know how actors have to create subtext and everything, I just have to go to the book, you know, it’s like, “Don’t worry. I don’t have to make it.” It’s already been written down for me. So if I’m wondering, like, what’s happening for Malcolm now, what’s going on there? What’s the deep, deep part of it? It’s already written out for me now. So I would say, so the book is available. It’s on, it’s called “Out of Body.” It’s on Audible.com. And I would say, don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to say the book was better.
Jason: Yeah. And, you know, it was really cool to do the audiobook in general because it was our first audiobook for both of us as narrators. And when we were talking about doing it, we were talking with my mom about it and I was interested in the idea of recording it in a way where it was more like a radio show where we are our characters’ dialogue voices all the time, even if it’s in the other person’s point of view. Whoever’s point of view reads the descriptive stuff in the chapters. But if Malcolm’s speaking, even though I’m the narrator of that chapter, he still says his line, and he still says the lines of the other characters that he had been assigned and vice versa for me.
And that was really kind of fun to do because, you know, how often do you get to do kind of a radio show acting gig? And it was also really fun for me as a director to get to do this with Kevin in advance, because, like, he now really knows the story and I know he knows the story. So I know that when he comes to set, that’s going to be really easy. And I got into the head of the other characters as well reading them, and that’ll help me be able to hold my other actors hands and kind of with them through their parts, and still allow them to bring what they want to bring to the role and have it blossom into how great it can be.
Kevin: Yeah, and that’s like all separate and apart from the experience of actually recording the audiobook, which you might think was done him some and then me some on consecutive days or anything, but it was actually live together. So we actually recorded in a space that had two recording booths in it. We could both hear each other so that when I am narrating a section and it’s his line, I can hear him do it. And then I jump back in. So it was live editing, like, to take out any breaths or anything, or mess-ups or anything, so, but we got to…you know, it was amazing because I had him in my head the whole time doing it, too. So that was wonderful. It’s a great experience.
Jeff: That’s amazing, especially how it connected to your even now pre-production process that you’re involved in because you’re getting ready to shoot in about a month from when we’re recording. In pre-production, give everybody kind of an idea of what that means. What’s going on as you get ready for your 12 days of shooting?
Jason: So basically, what I just did was go through each of the scenes and break them up on a piece of paper so that now I have the page count number, like how many pages each scene is.
Kevin: These are them.
Jason: Oh, yeah. Little strip paper…
Kevin: Each one of these is a scene.
Jason: And basically, the page count, when it starts, who is in the scene, all that stuff. Because I need to…you know I don’t have every actor every day. I’m going to have Kevin every day because he’s one of the leads. But there’s other parts in it where they’re only going to film for one day…anywhere from one to three days. And so you have to plan their scenes on the same day. And this time, we’re going to actually be filming in two different locations because our neighbors next door sold their house to flippers and they’re doing construction and it’s been kind of never-ending. So we can’t film when there’s kind of heavy construction going on in this house. So we’re going to do a lot of stuff at my father in law’s house and then will come get the rest of it after they’re done here.
And so I’ve been doing that with my dad and breaking it into those days while simultaneously working with my cinematographer Nacia to map out which shots are needed for each scene and what angles are we doing. So I put little maps on the other side of the table here. Basically, me drawing out the room layout and doing little circles with an M for Malcolm and an H or Henry, and the arrows pointing they go here and then they go here…
Kevin: Oh my god. And this isn’t even talking about how to deal with SAG paperwork or any of the art direction that he’s doing, or any of the clearances that he’s getting for this or that kind of thing.
Jason: We’ve got a, we’re going to have a…
Kevin: He’s a bit of a doer.
Jason: We got Andrew Christian giving us underwear…
Kevin: Oh, yeah, we have Andrew Christian underwear over here.
Jason: And I’m working with some other companies too. So Outfit is a gay like sports good wear, they’ve given me a patent to us for the movie.
Kevin: He’s been stenciling t-shirts and…
Jason: Hand design t-shirts specific to the characters. I’m going to be making him a specific shirt three times because he wears the same outfit the whole movie and so if anything spills on it, it’s got to be good and not spilled upon because he magically can’t get stains. And so it’s intense, there’s a lot going on. Like Pinterest is my best friend. I’ve been learning all about how to make DIY Halloween decorations. Because again, when you’re low budget, you can’t spend, you know, $3,000 on set design. You can spend like $200, and so you have to get a little crafty. You have to start thinking like, “Okay, I’ve got five pages of construction paper and a pair of scissors and some tape, how going to make this look like I spent a lot of money on it?”
Kevin: He’s like MacGyver. So that’s his experience with pre-production, mine’s a little bit different because I’m not all the hyphenates. So I’m busy making no changes at all to my daily routine.
Jeff: You do have a script to learn.
Kevin: Sure, when I get it.
Jason: It’s in the mail.
Kevin: We’re at your house.
Jeff: Oh my goodness.
Jason: The creating part, like creating the artwork, it actually makes me feel calm. The paperwork stresses me out. And so Matt, thankfully, jumps on that grenade and deals with SAG-AFTRA and making sure that all the paperwork’s there and all the money is in the right place and all that stuff. So thank you, Matt.
Jeff: Now, we should say Matt is your husband, so he’s in the production family.
Will: So now that our listeners know how completely awesome and funny this project is going to be, can you give us a little bit of info about the Indiegogo campaign?
Jason: We have an Indiegogo campaign, basically we crowd-funded “Out of Body” on Kickstarter first, a successful crowdfunding campaign last year. and Indiegogo came to us and said, “We’d like to do an in-demand campaign for you.” So we have an open-ended campaign on Indiegogo right now, where you can help sponsor the film help and get some fabulous rewards, such as DVDs of “Out of Body” when it finally is all finished, you can get DVDs of “Analysis Paralysis,” our last feature film.
Kevin: I’m going to get these down from the thingy here.
Jason: So you can show people.
Kevin: You can actually, because now we’re in the second feature film that stars the two of us. Like we got other projects that I have to do with like if you’re your fans of “Analysis Paralysis,” or perhaps the audiobook of “Out of Body,” you can get these copies, you can get copies of all that stuff. And so as we are on the way to becoming things of all media.
Jason: Yeah, exactly. And yeah, so if you go to indiegogo.com and you go, indiegogo.com/projects/out-of-body-a-feature-length-lgbtq-rom-com-movie/, it’s a very long title.
Kevin: Really, why don’t you go to indiegogo.com and search “Out of Body.” Yes.
Jeff: Or just come to our show notes, it’ll be much easier.
Will: Yes, do that.
Kevin: Exactly. Go to “Big Gay Podcast” website and it’s going to be in the show notes.
Jason: Another place you can find out information about “Out of Body” in the future and any sort of campaigns we’re having, etc., is if you go to tinyletter.com/mypethippo and join our newsletter, you’ll be able to find out things about “Analysis Paralysis” or “Out of Body,” or our podcast, “The Bright Side with Kevin and Jason,” all sorts of fun stuff. And yeah, so and basically indie film, it’s low budget. So every dollar really does make a difference. Like if we get enough money to buy a better meal for the cast and crew, everybody’s spirits raised, it gets raised up a little higher, you know, or we can afford an extra day of filming, or we can afford…it really does matter. So thank you to everyone who has supported us so far. And thank you to everyone who comes and supports us after this.
Kevin: Yes, indeed.
Jeff: Now, Kevin had this wonderful term about you guys, you know, essentially taking over media. You mentioned the podcast, “The Bright Side with Kevin and Jason.” It’s a comedy podcast about history. How did this idea spark? Because this just adds to you, I imagine, having to research these historical things.
Kevin: Now, Jason does all the research for this, you know, and that’s huge. Like, because basically, he doesn’t have enough to do. But the impetus for the podcast, which is “The Bright Side with Kevin and Jason” is, you know, there’s so much bad news all the time. And my mom taught me how to look on the bright side of stuff, you know. If I got one thing from my mom, it was to…I would always complain about this or that and she would constantly remind me of there’s something good here, you know, and you have to find that. And so that’s really the gem of this, it’s really the heart of that show is that, especially when you look around at the news right now, there’s so much bad stuff that is going on. But you have to also recognize that bad stuff creates the opposite reaction.
And so who is making the good out of that? You know, who is looking at that and reacting to it in a way of love, or in a way of furthering acceptance, or you know, who’s looking at the transgender ban, for example, that was finally instituted by the Supreme Court? And who is saying, you know, I want to reach out and tell my trans brothers and sisters that you are people and you are valuable and your service is useful and we love you? You know, so who’s doing that? You know, and so that’s what the podcast really kind of focuses on. We do wallow in some tragedy on the podcast because every week we take a historical episode of some varying degree of tragic-ness and talk about it. But then we also, every episode, find out what good that led to.
Jason: And it kind of came about a long time ago after “Analysis Paralysis,” like Kevin mentioned in the last episode, we talked a little bit about how we met on a student film and basically got along really well, really quickly, and then we started hanging out together with our husbands and going on double dates, and so it kind of formed this bond. And after “Analysis Paralysis,” which was so much fun, it was 10 days of basically seeing Kevin and laughing and having a good time, I was like, “I don’t want to wait a year-and-a-half for the next project. I want to do something now with you.”
Kevin: The experience of just chatting about a topic on a set or something was so much fun and we thought, “We should bottle this.” And then we thought, “You can.” There’s a method for this that’s called a podcast, and that’s what started. Yeah, you know, so now I get to come over here every damn week.
Jason: Yeah, come to the Valley. You’re welcome.
Kevin: Yeah, when I moved to Westwood I was hoping that my second bedroom would be a good place to record. But it’s not, it’s not good. Too much noise there. The valley’s a lot of things, but it is quiet.
Jason: It is quiet. Unless they’re doing construction next door.
Jeff: You could just turn that second bedroom into a soundproof area.
Kevin: No, actually, currently, we didn’t have any…we moved from a house that had a lot of storage into a house that had another bedroom, but no storage. So that second bedroom has just become basically the id of our house. You know, everything’s like ahhhhh, you know?
Jason: It’s like in “Harry Potter,” what’s that closet?
Kevin: The room of requirements?
Kevin: It’s the room of please don’t go in there actually.
Will: Now, guys, I’m curious. How do you choose which historical events to feature and how much research goes into each episode?
Kevin: That’s 100% question for Jason because though I feel that the podcast is a 50/50 pursuit, because Jason does all of the research for the topics that we do, and I don’t ever know what we’re going to talk about until I get here, but then I do all the web mastering and editing and I put up the shownotes and I do all of that stuff. So I feel like we end up spending around the same amount of time on things.
Jason: Yeah. So basically, generally about a day of work I kind of surf the web, I find a topic that…like I kind of search, you know, the rabbit hole as to like what kind of weird historical thing is this? And I’ll like Google really weird stuff so my search history…
Kevin: Yeah, they’re coming for you.
Jason: …completely messed at this point. But like, you know, I’ll look up like “wild strikes historical funny” to see what I get from it. But honestly, there’s been a ton of them I’ve gotten through recommendations of friends and family and listeners of the podcast, and we really encourage listeners to throw ideas at us because there’s some really obscure events in history that I don’t know about that I would love to know about and I could easily find it if I knew to search for it. And so if anyone out there listening has weird events, definitely tweet me or email me.
Kevin: You can find him @jasontgaffney on Twitter, and tell him and I don’t want to know about it.
Jeff: That’s right. Kevin has to stay in the dark.
Jason: So what I look for also, I try to look for topics where there’s a lot of tragedy, but you can still make fun of it. Like, if it’s a natural disaster, I try to find one where people made bad decisions with the natural disaster, not that it’s just, like, everyone got screwed and they tried to do the right thing, but they still got screwed because you can’t really make fun of those people. That’s just sad.
Kevin: And mean. And it’s really not. I mean, I know we’re talking about a lot of tragedy, and that’s kind of what we focus on. But it’s not a cruel show. It’s not a Schadenfreude, really, because the ultimate goal is to find out what the hopeful aspect of it, who turned that situation into something good, you know.
Jason: And you’d be surprised, like, we generally can find it. I don’t think we found one yet where there’s really nothing, no bright side to it.
Kevin: No. Because the arc of history is long and you never know what the end result of a pebble, you know, when a pebble goes into a puddle, you don’t know how farther in they’re going to go, you know, and so, like, we talked about that event but that could lead to something incredible later, you know.
Jeff: For you, Kevin, since you come in cold to these, what’s been of the episode so far that you’re like, “What? What did I just hear?”
Kevin: Oh, my God. Well, the “Empire” panic, for example, has been insane. Like, I have a feeling when I post the episodes, I have a feeling like I hope…My mom and I listened to the Christmas episode over Christmas. And at the end of it, she said, “That was funny and I learned some stuff.” So that’s what…it was like I was, “Oh, good. There we go.” That’s what I would like people to have from it. Is like, “Oh, I enjoyed that, you know, conversation. That was fun and stuff.” But also, “God, who knew?” Yeah, that’s amazing. Because he’s pretty good at this, every episode there’s gonna be some point where I’m like, “Are you kidding? Human beings did this,” you know? It’s always, “Yes, they did,” good Lord.
Jason: It’s also it’s gotten way more fun to do the research than it initially was because I was really nervous the first couple episodes to like, “Oh, my God, is this going to be funny? How can I make this funny?” And I was trying a little like…we actually have a couple of episodes that just never aired because I was trying too hard as opposed to just seeing that, yeah, that was absurd. I don’t need to say anything except what they said. And now that I’ve kind of mastered that to a degree. I mean, I’ll keep getting better as time goes on. But now I can really see like as I’m reading stuff, I’ll be like, “Oh, I know that Kevin’s gonna hear that and go, ‘Stop it.'” And then he’s gonna call it out, call the absurdity of it. I don’t need to do anything except, say, like, you know, “And then she picked up the knife and stabbed her own foot.” And it’s like, “Why?”
Kevin: Spoiler alert.
Jeff: Did you have a knack for history before this, Jason? Or did this just kind of happen?
Jason: So I’ve always loved history. I always love the idea of history. When I was actually a little kid, I used to play with blocks a lot. And it’s probably why I like being a producer and a storyteller. I used to have like this giant castle and a giant village and an army of bad guys and I acted out this soap opera for years with the royal family and all that. And I was fascinated with the Romanovs and stuff so I kind of like did a little spoof on them. And so I kind of created like my own worlds, and history and stuff. And so when I can find sites that tell historical stories like a story, which is what history should be told as because it essentially is our story, it’s really fun.
It’s really exciting to read it and be like, “No, oh, my goodness, that person’s totally the villain.” And then you read a couple more paragraphs, and you’re like, “Oh, no, they’re misguided. They have a heart of gold. They didn’t know.” And then five pages later, you’re like, “No, they’re just a dick.” And it’s exciting, it’s riveting, it gets you on the of the edge of your seat constantly with how people just constantly mess up. And then occasionally, you have a hero who’s just like, actually a good person, you’re like, “What’s the catch?” So, yeah, you know, history is really fun, especially when it’s told with a fun storytelling lens because…
Kevin: And I think that’s like the thrust of the podcast is also it’s about the topic, sure, but it’s also just about how Jason and I interact with each other. And we just have such a fun friendship. And I don’t mean that it’s fun from the inside. I hope it is, but it’s fun from the inside of it. So I have such a good time with him that whatever we’re talking about is going to be fun for me.
Jeff: That’s awesome. So besides “Out of Body” and more podcast episodes, what else is coming up for you both?
Kevin: I may never work again. Who knows?
Jason: We’ve actually started writing the sequel to “Analysis Paralysis” with the hope of filming it at the end of the year, with the additional hope of trying to film it in Palm Springs.
Kevin: First time hearing of that. Really?
Jeff: Breaking news.
Kevin: I love Palm Springs.
Jason: We’re gonna do what we can to make it work. And it would require assistance from the Palm Springs community, sure, help house us and give us locations and stuff.
Kevin: It’s gonna be all on the gondola. Only there.
Jason: What gondola?
Kevin: The gondola up to the mountain thing.
Jason: Oh, yeah, that gondola.
Kevin: The whole thing is set on the gondola.
Jason: I was thinking like the gondola with a little stick…
Kevin: Yeah, the canals in Palm Springs.
Jason: But another thing that I’m actually working on is my dad and I wrote a couple of novellas that you can get on Amazon.
Kevin: What are they called?
Jeff: “California Comedy Series.”
Jason: The “California Comedy Series.” Yes. And I wrote a version of “Fixing Frank” with the hopes to get that kind of ball rolling. And it’s definitely a film that requires a bigger budget than what we have right now. But I’m starting to get those wheels in motion for you know, movie four, five, six sometime in the near future. And so yeah, that’s kind of what I’m working on.
Kevin: We keep cranking them out. If people will keep putting them on screens and things, we’ll keep making them.
Jason: The goal is to make people laugh. I feel like that’s why I was put on Earth and I feel like that’s why you were put on Earth.
Kevin: Well, yeah. I know am laughing whenever I see you so that’s probably true.
Jeff: Do we get new “California Comedy” anytime soon?
Jason: I have been talking about that with my dad, we actually have a couple that are in the works, it’s just trying to figure out when we have a good time to sit down and edit it. I think after “Out of Body,” I’ll be able to take a look back at one of them that we wrote a while ago and kind of tweak it because there were a couple of things that just never felt right. And so it’s just figuring out how to fix those kinds of plot holes. And then hopefully that’ll be on the market before the end of 2019.
Jeff: Excellent. And Kevin, what about you, anything you want to throw out for people to keep an eye out for?
Kevin: Super excited about the podcast, actually. You know, going into production on “Out of Body” is really, really exciting. I don’t have a lot of acting projects coming up after that, that I can think of right now. But that’s kind of the nature of acting projects.
Kevin: You know, and so the podcast is where you can find us weekly up until the end…and actually, we make announcements there about projects that do come up for us, you know, in the interim. So, you know, to be a loyal listener to the show would be the best way to find out about what’s new with us. You know.
Jason: Oh, and I almost forgot. We’re going to try in some way whether it’s self-published or with some other company helping us, the goal is to turn the “California Comedy Series” into audiobooks as well, similar to “Out of Body.”
Jeff: Oh, fantastic. So both of you voicing?
Jason: Yeah, for two of them. One of them, the plan is to have my good friend David Singletary come in as the role of Mike since that role is African American. And my friend David Singletary is African American and I’m all about…
Kevin: Kevin Held is very much not.
Jason: I’m all about own voices reading parts and stuff like that. And he’s great. You’re going to love him.
Kevin: He is great. I’m a little jealous, but I’m okay.
Jeff: Well, guys, thank you so much for telling us about “Out of Body” and the podcast. We wish you much success with those.
Jason: Well, thank you.
Kevin: Well, much success with your own podcast, gentlemen.
Jason: Thank you, yes.
Congratulations go out to authors who have been featured on the podcast and were nominated this past week in the 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards, including Kris Jacen, Christina Lee & Riley Hart and Marshall Thornton.
Jeff shares the new Kickstarter for Raven Wild, the third LGBTQ+ children's book from the team behind Promised Land.
Jeff & Will review Adriana Herrera's American Dreamers. Jeff then reviews The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg and A Tangled Truthby Max Walker.
Jeff interviews Alice Winters about her In Darkness series, including the just released third book titled Deception in Darkness. They also discuss Within The Mind, which kicked off a new series earlier this year. Alice also talks about what got her into m/m romantic suspense and what else she's got planned for this year.
Complete shownotes for episode 179 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
Here's the text of this week's book reviews:
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera, narrated by Sean Crisden reviewed by Will & Jeff
This book could’ve easily been titled ‘The Food Truck Chef and the Librarian’, if that doesn’t automatically make you want to one-click this book, then you might as well keep on moving – because nothing I’m about to say is going to convince you to try this phenomenal romance.
Nesto is the food truck owner -- who has relocated his business from NYC to upstate NY. He pours every ounce of his passion into the Afro-Caribbean food he serves, until that is, certain other passions are stirred by Jude, the librarian of the story.
Their attraction is instant, and their chemistry is obvious to everyone around them. But our heroes take things relatively slow, despite well-meaning nudging from friends and family.
You see, not only are they passionate about one another, Nesto is determined to make his business a success, and Jude is focused on getting funding for a county-wide bookmobile project.
They have lives beyond the romantic story arc of the book.
Hoity-toity literary snobs would call Nesto and Jude “dimensional characters” because they have depth. All I know is that I care about them because they are real to me, in my heart and in my mind. It’s something that goes beyond words on a page.
Several times throughout the story, life throws various obstacles in their path, but every time they rise to the occasion.
It would take a scene-by-scene breakdown of the entire story for me to explain how much I loved Nesto and Jude – and how they, through their actions, overcome their obstacles (both romantic and business related).
It’s one thing for an author to tell us a character is romantic or heroic -- it’s another thing entirely when we’re shown that romance, that heroism, in the action that occurs in the story.
Nesto and Jude are good men. We know this because we experience it time and again in the book and we root for them because of it.
A member of Jude’s estranged family is gravely ill and reaches out to him. Jude gives this person a second chance (though they soooo don’t deserve it) and he is inevitably let down by them.
Jude is emotionally devastated by this and Nesto is not there for him, even though he promised he would be.
Up until this point I felt Nesto was the living embodiment of the perfect boyfriend, but when he badly screws things up – not maliciously or on purpose – he screws up because he’s human, which made me love him even more (as if that were even possible).
But Nesto isn’t going to give up without a fight, and comes up with a swoon-worthy grand gesture to win back Jude.
It’s a really fucking good one, by the way, and our heroes achieve their final (and very well deserved) happily ever after.
I want to recommend episode 341 of Smart Podcast Trashy Books. Sarah Wendell has a terrific interview with author Adriana Herrera and they talk about all sorts of things including the food featured in the book, writing diverse characters, and how her job as a social worker influences the way she looks at romance in the books she reads and writes. It’s really fascinating stuff and I suggest everyone check it out.
I also want to quickly recommend the audiobook of American Dreameras read by Sean Crisden. He’s one of my absolute favorite narrators and he does an exceptional job with this book, especially the various dialects of the ethnically diverse cast of characters.
If you want to read a kick-ass debut novel, get this book.
If you crave genuine diversity in romance, get this book.
If you want likeable, relatable heroes to fall in love with, get this book.
A couple of additional points from Jeff:
Adriana’s cast of supporting characters was incredible. Nesto’s crew of tight friends that helped him realize his food truck dream also kicked him in the butt when he didn’t move forward with Jude. And Jude’s bff also nudged him in the right direction. Speaking of friends, American Fairytale, coming in May, focuses on his Nesto’s friend Milo and I’m looking forward to that.
Adriana taps into current events as Nesto faces prejudice from one of Ithaca’s prominent citizens. These are uncomfortable scenes that highlight some of the terrible ways persons of color are harassed. Nesto’s high road approach was in line with his character for sure, but I was with Jude and really wanted to go off on the evil woman.
I’ve been a fan of Bill Konigsberg since he debuted with Out of the Pocket back in 2008. He’s a major inspiration for me for the types of young adult characters he creates as well as his talent as a storyteller. These two elements blend together perfectly in The Music of What Happens.
Max and Jordan are seventeen and opposites in every way--and boy do these opposites attract. Max is chill, pretty much a jock dude. He plays baseball, video games and cracks crude jokes with his buddies. He’s out to his mom and his friends, but not beyond that. Jordan is far from chill. He’s stressed that his mom hasn’t been the same since his dad died, he loves to write poetry and he’s got two great girl friends, who he refers to as his “wives.”
Jordan and his mom resurrect the food truck his dad owned because they have to do something to pay the mortgage on the house or they will be homeless. Max comes into Jordan’s life as he goes from food truck customer to chef. Max loves to cook and since he needs a job, he’s willing to help out. Jordan’s mom is all too happy to hand the entire operation over to the boys. You can imagine that this is probably not the best choice.
As the two pull together to get the truck working--including some loose interpretation on what organic and locally sourced ingredients means--they learn more about each other. For example, Max discovers Jordan’s poetry while Max reveals himself to be an artist.
As their relationship grows and the food truck begins to succeed, Max and Jordan help each other find their best selves. Jordan teaches Max about hooligan do goodery, where you do a random act of disruptive kindness. Max shows Jordan the advantages of working out and how it can help you de-stress. Through all of this they fall in love, even though neither can quite believe they’re falling for their opposite.
Both boys have tough issues to deal with though. Max’s father taught him that he must always warrior up, never cry, never show weakness, just smile and agree to get through the hard times. Super Max, as he refers to himself, can’t get him through everything though. A random hookup he had with a college guy haunts him to a breaking point.
Jordan’s home life has major cracks too as his mom continues to spiral and he doesn’t know what to do. Jordan doesn’t realize how much is at stake until it’s too late.
Bill pulls no punches in this book as he touches on so many things--loss of a parent, a parent's inability to care for a child while their own world is falling apart, rape, the tolls of toxic masculinity and racism to name a few. It’s not all heavy though as Bill also vividly tells the story about the joy of falling in love with the right person and the strength that can be found in family and in good friends. Most of all it’s about finding your true self, embracing it and not hiding it.
Kudos to the narrators here. Joel Froomkin (aka Joel Leslie) and Anthony Rey Perez do a terrific job. I’ve long loved Joel’s work and here he’s in excellent form. He taps into Jordan joys, sorrow and fears while also giving great characterizations to his b.f.fs. Anthony’s voicing of Max revealed so much of the character’s self-doubt even while he portrayed Super Max to the world. Like Joel, Anthony brought Max’s friends to full life as well. Each narrator gets major props for handling each boy’s emotional scenes--Jordan with the collapse of his family and Max coming to terms with the fact he’d been raped--with a powerful perfection.
I’ve loved each of the Stonewall Investigations books but this one with a second chance, friends to lovers romance is my favorite so far. It’s ripped from the headlines story also hooked me. Liam Wolfe is a successful Hollywood director who finds himself accused of embezzlement, harassment and other things he would never do. He has a pretty good idea who’s behind the character assassination but he needs help to prove it.
Stonewall detective Mark Masters has his world rocked when Liam walks into this office looking for help. Liam and Mark haven’t seen each other since they were teens growing up in New York City. They’d been inseparable but when Liam moved they’d lost touch. Their friendship picks up as if they’d never been apart and Mark eagerly takes on the Liam’s case to find out who’s behind trying to destroy his career.
The case leads Mark all over NYC and out to LA to sort it out. Signs point to a prominent, homophobic producer who has been public that he doesn’t like working with Liam. But as always in a Max Walker book, the truth is shocking. Once again I hadn’t anticipated the twisted way the case would work out. Max crafted a tight, unrelenting mystery.
The romance between Liam and Mark was beyond sweet. Their reacquaintance was wonderful as they recounted their past exploits and caught up on the intervening years. Max captured what it’s like for best friends who might be separated for years falling right back in with each other as if no time had passed. The feelings they had as teenagers came back too, and this time they acted on them, even while working through some of the baggage they carried from their teens.
Mark and Liam are so freaking cute! The reminiscences they shared were sweet and how those carried forward to their present made me swoon. The visit they make to a childhood diner in particular made me so happy. Liam’s also got some family issues that come up and how he shared those with Mark were bittersweet but served to deepen their relationship.
Max doesn’t take it easy on the emotions here. There are some crushing events in this book that weave flawlessly into the overall story. I gasped and cried over some of these and they reflect how good of a storyteller Max is.
The Unicorn killer took a high toll in this installment as well, more than we’ve seen in the previous books. That storyline is front and center in the recently released book four, A Lover’s Game. As soon as that audio is released I’ll be all over it to see what happens.
Jeff & Will recap their weekend at the 2019 Coastal Magic Convention.
Gail Z. Martin, who writes m/m romance under the name Morgan Brice, talks with Jeff about the interlocking universes she's created between her pen names that span multiple genres including fantasy, steampunk and urban fantasy. They also talk about her recent releases, including The Rising as well as Badlands in audiobook.
The episode concludes with a story from the Coastal Magic Convention Improv Flash Fiction panel. Authors Eric R. Asher, Kathy Lyons, Damon Suede, Lucienne Driver, Amy Lane and Kiernan Kelly create a story using these prompts: a male main character, the genre is a shifter romance set in a futuristic time, and there’s a clothes iron as a random object.
Complete shownotes for episode 178 are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.