The guys open the show congratulating the winners of the 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards. They also discuss the podcast’s inclusion in Apple Podcasts’ Pride Month recommendations. Jeff also talks about some of the past week’s happenings with his Codename: Winger series and Will asks him what it was like wrapping up the series.
Jeff and Will discuss the new Tales of the City series on Netflix. Will reviews the first two books in Piper Scott & Susi Hawke’s Redneck Unicorn Series.
Aidan Wayne is interviewed about their three new books out this year: Hitting The Mark, Play It Again and the forthcoming Stage Presents. They also talk about how they decide what goes into the books, how they got started writing, author influences and what’s coming next.
Complete shownotes for episode 192 along with a transcript of the interview are at BigGayFictionPodcast.com.
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Welcome, Aidan, to the podcast. It’s great to have you here.
Aidan: Thank you. I’m excited to be here. It’s an interesting experience for me. Never done this before.
Jeff: Oh, cool. First podcast. Always fun to have people doing their first podcast with us. Now, you’ve had a busy few months of releases and we wanna talk about the most recent one first, which is “Hitting the Mark.” Tell us a little bit about that book and what inspired it.
Aidan: Okay. So “Hitting the Mark,” in a nutshell, it’s about a famous movie star named Marcus Economidis, who used to train in martial arts when he was really young and really shy. And that helped him come out of a shell and then he moves. And being in martial arts actually helps him become more confident and he ends up getting a movie role, and that spirals, and then becomes a famous…10 years later, he’s a famous movie star who is also famous for doing his own stunts. Meanwhile, in Marcus’s hometown essentially, his original school – Choi’s Taekwondo Academy – is now run by Taemin Choi. Taemin was Marcus’s kind of assistant instructor growing up. They’re about 10 years apart. So Marcus was 10, Taemin was, like, in his early 20s and Taemin runs the school now. And Marcus happens to be coming back into town for a shoot and he decides to pay a visit to his old school… kind of nostalgia. He lost contact with Taemin when he moved.
And so, he kind of wants to bridge the gap again, just like say hi, see what happens. And then they do meet with Marcus being an adult and, you know, there’s kind of an instant connection. The entire book is essentially about them navigating, first, relearning each other because they knew each other for several years, but it’s been several more years since they actually talked again. So they’re relearning who they are as people, especially Marcus as he’s grown into his own self, and that turns into a romantic relationship. And they’re just figuring out how to be in one considering that, you know, Marcus is this famous person and Taemin is a very busy man who runs his own school and takes care of a lot of things. And just, that’s the story basically. I do a lot of character-based stories where the plot is kind of, like, playing the course as opposed to, like, a person antagonist sort of. So it’s kind of like another one of those things for me.
Jeff: Okay. And it ticks so many boxes because there’s friends to lovers, and second chances, and an age gap.
Aidan: I tend to, when I write, sometimes I have several different things that I wanna include in various ideas. And so, sometimes when I have, like, the base, I’m just like, “Let’s just squish them all together. Let’s just push them all in one thing and see what happens, and if I can pull it off.”
Jeff: And you mentioned when we were emailing to set this interview up that this is one of the books you didn’t have to do a ton of research on because…
Aidan: Thank God.
Jeff: …movies and martial arts, you had the knowledge there. What aspects of your background, you know, play into that?
Aidan: Well, I’ve been involved in martial arts for about 20 years now, primarily Taekwondo and that’s the style that I had Taemin doing because I know the most about Taekwondo in Korean style. I technically have my black belt in two disciplines. One is Taekwondo and the other is a mixed type of martial art that I actually ended up teaching. I used to run a school. So a lot of my experience did transfer over into Taemin’s experiences in running a school and dealing with students and various endeavors that are required. And with movies, I actually majored in media production in college. I was on movie sets a lot both behind the camera and also growing up, I kind of dabbled in acting and I’ve been in front of the camera a lot too including on some big sets. Michigan used to be a pretty big movie hub before the tax thing happened and a lot of places moved away from it. And I was actually on a few different, like, SAG films.
So I got to kind of be both in front of the camera and behind the camera. So learning about that aspect was…It was fun to basically shove as much knowledge as I could, especially the martial arts into one book because I have such a love for martial arts that it was like, “Let’s include inside jokes and inside knowledge. And I’ve never had to spell this Korean word in English before. So I have to probably look that up.” And fun fact actually, I’m not gonna spoil anything, but one of the plot points is Taemin working towards the Olympics. He’s qualified for the qualification and that entire piece is actually based on a co-worker of mine I used to work with who did qualify for the Olympic matches.
Jeff: Incredible. You did stuff a lot in here in terms of all of your knowledge kinda went into this book.
Aidan: Yeah. It was kinda, it was a nice break. I still had to do research obviously because I had to, like, fresh some things and again, like, Korean, making sure that I got that right. But for a lot of it, like, I have another book that I released late last year, “His Two Leading Men,” which takes place in New York with a Broadway star, and I’m like, “I like Broadway, I can just write about plays, that’s fine.” No, I ended up having to map out the entire city to figure out distances to whichever…I’m crazy…whichever restaurant he’d like to go to, which is closer, where is laundromat was. Like, I’m absolutely ridiculous when it comes to stuff like that. Nobody is gonna notice but me. But, like, I care.
Jeff: But the native New Yorkers might. And so, it matters.
Aidan: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: I have stopped myself of books going, “That’s not right. I know where that is and that doesn’t work that way.” So you do work Michigan into a lot of your books. “Hitting the Mark” is in Michigan. “Play It Again,” which we’ll dive more into in just a second, has a Michigan element simply because you have somebody sending Dovid, the main character, some Faygo Red Pop and some other Michigan treats, some Mackinac fudge included. Obviously, you live in Michigan. Is it something you try to work into the books, a little Michigan angle?
Aidan: Kind of. Half of it is ‘write what you know’ because I’m thoroughly uncreative when it comes to that and it’s way easier to just, like, I don’t have to make something up, I don’t have to do more research. I just can set it in Farmington Hills or wherever it is. But sometimes it’s because I have, like, certain places in mind or I want to include certain things like, with Dovid receiving a care package, I wanted to make sure that I had a care package that at least was state-based and was really cool and could include especially a lot of food because a lot of…Dovid being blind, a lot of his things are food-based, it’s part of his schtick. So he reacts to taste and stuff. So knowing that I have my own experience with various Michigan cuisines and snacks and stuff, I could include that pretty easily and know that it would ring true but also be kind of funny. And even if the person didn’t necessarily know what things were, it would still, like, be something that they could get.
Jeff: Speaking of “Play it Again,” that I reviewed back in episode 186 and really, really loved it. It was like the book I didn’t know I needed at the time.
Aidan: Thank you.
Jeff: And it’s quite different from “Hitting the Mark.” What was the inspiration behind this tale of two YouTubers who managed to find love even though they live half a world apart?
Aidan: Well, going back to my ‘I have various ideas, but squish them all together into one sometimes.’ I really, really wanted to showcase a blind character. A lot of the characters that I do showcase are disabled in some way or have, you know, different aspects of their life that aren’t typical, you know, part of normative parts of society, etc., etc. And I apologize if my verbiage isn’t the best. And I really want to showcase a blind character, but obviously, I didn’t wanna fetishize that I wanted him to be successful and happy, and not be just blind as his character if that makes sense. And I thought YouTube would be a fun angle for that. And on the other side, I really wanted to focus on, like, a Let’s Player because I thought that it would be fun to try to, like, figure out how to write that because it’s so much narration and video-audio-based. And I like playing and like, “Can I do this? I will see if I can.”
So making it a long-distance relationship was also kind of something that sort of happened because long-distance relationships, specifically internet-based ones, are very important to me because I have several relationships that started being internet-only and I consider a lot of these people some of my closest friends and I’ve met many of them in person now. One of my friends, I’ve only ever met them once, and it was in our first meeting ever…we then spent two weeks together, but our first meeting ever was in Narita Airport in Tokyo where we both flew separately and then spent two weeks in Japan together. So, like, yeah, there’s a lot that can come from internet relationships and I really wanted to showcase something like that too.
Jeff: And I’d imagine here that the research was more than “Hitting the Mark” because you needed to make sure that Dovid was portrayed in the way that you wanted to where, you know, he wasn’t necessarily defined by the blindness.
Aidan: Oh, yeah. I do extensive research whenever I write, especially disabled characters, because, you know, there’s so much misinformation out there and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of what the media has portrayed a person to be like or to do as opposed to actually reading experiences and watching experiences about, you know, real people. I kind of posed this question to myself on Twitter a while back, but it was basically, how does one write about a successful blind YouTuber? Watch a lot of successful blind YouTubers basically. So I watched a lot of, like, “The Tommy Edison Experience” is a man who is blind and he has a lot of Q&As; on YouTube. A lot of his videos are older and he’s an older gentleman. But it was still, you know, very informative. He has, like, an episode about cooking, which Dovid is the chef of his little family where he lives with his sister, Rachel. So it was interesting to, like, make sure that I was, you know, portraying his ability to do that correctly and, like, different tools that he’d use. Molly Burke is also a YouTuber that does makeup and fashion. But how she interacts, you know, with her audience and interacts with herself, and the things that are important to her – her experiences – because she does talk about that as well. It was very important.
There’s a Tumblr called “Actually Blind” that did Q&As; and did a lot of commentary on different things and responded to different situations where, you know, there’s one impairment affected daily life that was not considered. And “Actually Blind” was a huge help in doing a lot of research because even when I didn’t actually ask the question myself, sometimes they just talked about things that I hadn’t thought about before. So that was a really good thing to notice. Like for instance, they had a post about the fact that the face touch thing in so many books and so many movies is absolutely ludicrous and no blind person really does that. And because it was made up by a sighted person who thought that it was kind of like romantic and intimate to have the blind person, like, touch the other person’s face to see what they look like and “Actually Blind” was like, “No, no. Uh-uh.” So it was something that I didn’t include then and I might have if I hadn’t read something like that.
Jeff: The research is oh, so important.
Aidan: Absolutely, absolutely. And I do a lot of sensitivity readers too. I have a short story that is going to be coming out probably in October, because I’m spacing it out a little bit, where one of the main characters is in a wheelchair. So luckily, I’m like, “Hey, sibling, I’m gonna ask you some wheelchair questions.” And know about how my experiences in, you know, living with somebody who uses a mobility aid and all that. So proper portrayal is really important to me.
Jeff: And you have still yet another type of story coming out with your upcoming YA novel, “Stage Presents.” And I’m fascinated by this way because you’re taking us to Disney College Program. Do you have experience in that or was that a ton more research? And of course, what is this book about because it sounds just delightful?
Aidan: Oh, well, thank you. I hope it is delightful. I hope people enjoy it. And to your question, yes and yes. I did experience, I did do the Disney college program many years ago, but I also did do a lot of research for the story in part because, you know, Disney updates and changes things. So some of the things I had to look up were the current menus and stuff because, again, it’s like a tiny little detail that only I will notice but I cared about. But I also had to make sure that I was getting details right in terms of characters because one of the main characters, Ashlee, with two Es, is a Disney princess literally. I did a lot of research into behind the scenes of that a little bit. I watched a lot of ex-princess interviews and posts about the experience of being a character performer.
I didn’t have a lot of experience in that capacity. I knew some people who are friends with characters while I was in the program and I did ask, you know, I did learn about it that way. But princesses, I had to learn a little bit more. And, oh, yeah, what the book is about. Two girls who both get onto the Disney College Program and end up his roommates. One, Dana is a kind of, you know, calm, cool, collected, very down to earth, logical girl who is going into international business, she’s excited about working in a Fortune 500 company. She’s looking forward to living away from home. She’s trans. So, you know, that’s just another aspect of who she is as a person and she’s kind of like not sure about how she’s gonna get along with people. But she kind of has the mindset of ‘judge people before they judge you’ sort of thing because of past experiences.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Ashlee, with two Es, loves Disney…I know, it’s a very important detail. She loves Disney, she’s a Disneyphile, she loves all the movies, she loves all the songs. She gets cast as an actual Disney princess. This is her dream come true. She’s been dancing since she was little. So one of her goals is to be a parade performer Disney princess, essentially, and she’s super excited. She’s from good old Southern Georgia and has never really, you know, met somebody who’s not exactly like her and her little clique, you know, popular, excited, happy group. So she doesn’t really know what trans means and she was born around…she knows what the internet is, but still, it’s different from knowing and meeting and, like, actually talking to somebody and interacting. And then so, Ashlee is kind of ignorant and Dana is kind of standoffish, and they hate each other.
A good portion of the book is just them hating each other, and eventually, of course, a couple of different things happen and it turns into a begrudging friendship, which turns into actual friendship, which turns into more. And it was, you know, writing the evolution of enemies to lovers, which is something that I hadn’t done before really, and integrating different aspects of their situation and being roommates and living in such close quarters and, like, what constitutes that kind of relationship too, especially while you do not like each other and then as friends, and then, you know, once you’re more intimate as well. So that was, like, a whole encompassing aspect of the story itself.
Jeff: And now, it sounds even more delightful than when I read the blurb.
Aidan: Okay. Good. I had a lot of fun. I like my stories, which is, you know, a fun thing to be able to say because a lot of them I think, just kind of get defined as ‘fun’. There are obviously elements of angst and stuff and, you know, negativity that happens, but I have fun, you know, writing them. I hope that people have fun reading them.
Jeff: What got you into writing and M/M romance in particular?
Aidan: Well, I’ve always been a storyteller. My dad also, when we were kids, he would make up bedtime stories. We got read to a lot too, but he would make them up. So I grew up with the elements of imagination as something that you could play with and figuring out different elements of what characters could do. Really, you know, being totally honest, fan fiction. I was really, really interested in “Elfquest” as a kid. It is a fantasy novel by Wendy and Richard Penny. And man, I was an “Elfquest” fan. I read and actually own, I’ve collected almost all of the books and volumes and made up as a tiny little 9-year-old, self-inserts in my head as being an elf with such and such power, and being part of that self-insert stuff.
And as I got into more media growing up, I really enjoyed reading and writing fan fiction because it was a way to interact with something that I enjoyed so much past where the media itself went. And sometimes things happen that you didn’t like. So you could make them better by writing it yourself or reading it by other people who did a good job or further exploring the world that had already been created with characters you already liked. And from there, it was kind of like, “Oh, I could do this with my own characters and make whatever I want to happen, happen. What? Oh.” And the kickoff was when I was, I don’t know, like, 15, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo and that was the first, like, write a lot of words and also write them really quickly. So you can’t think too much about what you were doing, you know, “wrong.”
I wrote 50,000 words in the 30 days. And man, I still have it and it really portrays what I was into, what I was learning, and what I was experimenting with as a 15-year-old because it is a lot of stuff. And I really enjoyed doing that and I kind of just kept at it. And eventually, I had a friend who I really admired, Mina MacLeod, who was also a writer that I was friends with at the time. And she talked about an anthology and encouraged me to also, you know, submit a story, a piece, and I did. And we both got in and I still have the copy of the book, but we’re both in the anthology, both me and this writer that I really admire. And, like, that was really cool. And from there, I went, “Oh, wait, publishing is possible, that this is a thing that actually can happen to, like, real human people as opposed to just authors who are these untouchable people on pedestals.”
So my next book that I wrote was written with publishing in mind. That was “Loud and Clear.” And it was technically my first original, original piece. Speaking of smooshing everything together at once, that book is about a man who is so dyslexic, he is essentially illiterate and a businessman who has a stutter so bad that he is a selective mute, falling in love and entering into a relationship. So you got someone who can’t read and someone who communicates through writing and I was like, “Let’s just make this as complicated for myself as possible. That’s a good idea.” But, you know.
Jeff: Yeah. For a first book, you took on a lot there.
Aidan: You know, it suffers from an overuse of italics, but it’s still something that I really appreciate that I did as a writer. I really like it. I had a lot of people really like the fact that I, you know, portrayed people that way, and of course, it does focus on non-normative people with disabilities and challenges in, you know, typical normal society. The illiteracy was actually based on a friend of mine who is illiterate. His dyslexia is so bad, he is effectively illiterate. He’s also an engineer. So, you know, it doesn’t stop you. It doesn’t have to stop you as long as you have the right elements and encouragement and resources. And that’s what a lot of people do struggle with. Like, he had to be homeschooled because his school that his parents had put him in originally were like, “We don’t know what to do with this child.” So being homeschooled allowed him to learn and actually grow and actually learn.
Jeff: I have a suspicion a little bit where this next question at least will go a little bit given the “Elfquest” things, but what authors and genres do you tend to read?
Aidan: Basically everything, but gore horror to be honest. I really enjoy contemporary pieces. I like fantasy. I really like nonfiction. I love learning stuff. This is probably not a surprise considering my need for research, my favorite author in the entire world is Terry Pratchett. That probably will never change. The man was absolutely brilliant and his ability to tell stories, and well-rounded characters, and development in plot, and his care in structure, and how he’s able to tie things up neatly with, you know, no questions except for like, what could happen next? He’s absolutely amazing. I really admire him. If I like a tenth of his ability to just, like, story weave, I’d be content in my ability to create.
One of the other authors I really enjoy, he’s a very lesser known author, but Barry Hughart. He wrote “Bridge of Birds.” That is a Chinese fantasy mythology story, which basically happens in a historical China, but is written as if mythology was real. And he’s also, like, a very unknown and should be more known author for what he’s able to do with creativity. Other books that I appreciate, I enjoy a lot of Tamora Pierce’s work, especially the “Keladry” series because I really enjoyed her portrayal of a woman, a girl growing up and wanting to be a knight and fighting and dealing with a lot of the prejudices that come from, you know, girls trying to do anything that boys like to do. So, those pieces and she also is essentially…she’s written as not really interested in amorous connections, so to speak, and Tamora Pierce did end up saying that she did write her as asexual even though she didn’t, like, really know the term at the time. So that was really appreciated.
Oh, that dovetailed a lot. M/M romance, yes, okay. There is a lot of het romance out there and that’s fine, you know, it’s got a market for a reason. It can be very well done. Me personally, it’s done by other people well and I gravitated more towards queer characters. M/M romance was easier for me to write because it was easier for me not necessarily to identify with the characters, but write about them in ways I wanted to, you know, with gentler portrayals and different effects. I wouldn’t say that I particularly write, like, alpha man male sort of things because it’s not really something that appeals to me personally as an author or as a person. I like people who are settled into themselves and know who they are and may be confident, maybe inconfident. For instance, in “Play it Again,” Dovid is a very confident individual who knows who he is and is really happy with himself. And Sam is much shyer and he’s wracked with anxiety all the time. But they’re both human. I like portraying clear people as human and I think that’s why I gravitated towards it first.
I’m not super sure why I write M/M mostly. It’s just because it is a little bit easier for me to…I guess, it does come back to identification. I’ve written one…I have one published female-centric romance, which I do really like. It’s called “Making Love,” which I think is one of my favorite titles ever. It’s about a succubus and cupid falling in love. I was very proud of that, and it’s adorable. It’s very cute, it’s very loving, it’s really soft. And Carla, the cupid is just, like, made of cotton candy and love, sweet, and is really happy and bubbly. And Leeta, the succubus, is kind of cool and had reason to put up a lot of walls. Carla melts her heart and it’s so cute. It’s very silly, a lot of my reviews were like, “It’s cute, but cheesy.” And I’m like, “Yes, that was exactly what I was doing.” It’s called “Making Love,” what were you expecting?
And then, same thing with “Stage Presents,” both the main characters are female. Dana is trans. I really enjoy portraying again, like, different aspects and different facets of queer people being human. They make coffee and they’re grumpy, and they might have disabilities or other challenges in life. And they also like stuff and are bad at things, and aren’t just, like, one cutout of a representation that, you know, people have one idea about. I like character-driven stories. Queer people deserve happy endings too. That’s the other thing.
Jeff: Yeah. Absolutely on that one for sure. So we know “Stage Presents” is coming up here soon. What else is coming for you this year?
Aidan: Well, I’ve mentioned it briefly, I have a short story that I had been kind of working on off and on. I was calling it “Baker Story” on Twitter and I did name it “Not So Cookie-Cutter” or something terrible like that because every single one of my titles…you may or may not know this, every single one of my titles are puns or play on words because I’m ridiculous and I love it. Yeah. So the book, “Bakery Story,” is called “Not So Cookie-Cutter.” I’m probably going to release it around October. It’s about two POC characters, which I did get sensitivity readers for because that was important to me. Jerel who is a baker at like, a cafe/coffee shop and Rafi who is a client who falls in love with Jerel’s pumpkin cheesecake essentially, and romance. They’re cute, it’s cute. One of my favorite things about the story is Rafi uses a wheelchair and Jerel is so smitten by Rafi that he doesn’t notice for, like, two chapters because Rafi is sitting down when he’s, you know, at the cafe and Jerel is just like, “Oh, my gosh, this handsome, amazing human being who is talking to me, like, he thinks I’m cute, okay.” And then, like, when Rafi actually, like, moves in front of him and he rolls away, Jerel’s like, “Oh, my God. I’m an idiot. This is fine. I’m an idiot.” So…
Jeff: Nice. That will be one to look forward to this fall.
Aidan: Yeah. I think, you know, it’s cute, cute and dumb. That’s kind of my mode.
Jeff: What’s the best way for everyone to keep up with you online?
Aidan: Twitter is mostly what I use, @aidanwayne is my Twitter handle, user name thing, and that’s primarily where I am. I have a website too and if you go to my website, there’s an option to sign up for my mailing list and mailing list is kind of how I send out information about releases to people. But I don’t like inundate people with mail. It’s just like, “I have a release, yay. Here it is, yay.”
Jeff: Cool. We will link to those as well as all of the great stuff that we’ve talked about in this interview.
Jeff: Aidan, thank you so much for hanging out with us. It has just been a delight talking to you.
Aidan: Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you for having me. Again, I’m ridiculous. So I appreciate being able to be ridiculous on a podcast. That’s cool. And, yeah, this was a lot of fun. Thank you so much.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
Seriously Horny (Redneck Unicorns #1) by Piper Scott & Susi Hawke and Dangerously Horny (Redneck Unicorns #2) by Piper Scott & Susi Hawke. Reviewed by Will.
Unicorn shifter Isaiah is pure white trash. How do we know? We’re introduced to him as he’s settling in for the evening, in his trailer with a bottle of his pappy’s moonshine – but he’s also an expert tracker. He’s tasked with finding a missing teenage dragon shifter.
He runs into the kid’s college age brother, Eric, an irresistible dragon omega. They go to search together for Eric’s brother. One night, in a motel room they give in to their desire, and trust me, the scene lives up to the book’s title.
Eric has the power of second sight, kind of like Faye Dunaway in Eyes of Laura Mars, and he ‘sees’ where his brother lays injured. Isaiah and Eric find him and bring him back to the dragon compound where he can heal from his injuries.
Eric is with child after his night with Isaiah, and months later we find our heroes happily in love with the beginnings of a new family.
In Dangerously Horny, Unicorn shifter Bo Luke finally gets up the nerve to tell Mitch just how he feels. But broken-down dragon is a less than ideal match for someone so young.
The rejection hits Bo Luke hard and he runs off, straight into the clutches of a crazed woman who has uncovered the secret of the unicorn clan, and desperately wants to touch Bo Luke’s horn – and yes, that euphemism means exactly what you think it means.
Mitch and some of his dragon buddies are sent to find Bo Luke. They rescue him and subdue his kidnapper.
Because this is a paranormal shifter Mpreg romance, omega Bo Luke finds himself in an uncomfortable situation, and alpha Mitch is the only one who can scratch his particular itch.
They fuck and it’s hot and amazing and (of course) totally magical. Mitch’s misgivings were unfounded, they are now fated mates.
While waiting for their child to be born, Bo Luke’s stalker escapes custody and attempts to kidnap her unicorn obsession once more. In an action sequence that I thought was particularly bad-ass, Mitch and the entire dragon clan literally reign down fire upon her, rescuing Bo Luke once again.
The story wraps up with a hilarious scene in which our heroes experience a very memorable wedding/birthday.
The covers of these books tell you everything you need to know. The hot cover models clue you into the sexy times ahead, while the titles, which are decidedly camp, tell you that these romances also about the humor – humor with heart.
I loved both of these stories and think they’re a fantastic way to kick off the new series.
While ‘Redneck Unicorns’ is a continuation of the author’s previous dragon series, they stand alone just fine.