Interview, Excerpt, & Giveaway: Rick R. Reed, Blink
On Top Down Under is happy to again welcome Rick R. Reed. Today he stopped by as part of the blog tour for Blink, his latest romance published by Dreamspinner Press on January 23rd. Blink was rated 5 stars on On Top Down Under. Check out the review here.
Rick was kind enough to answer Cindi’s questions about Carlos and Andy’s story. He’s also giving away an e-copy of Dinner At Home (also rated highly on this blog), so make sure you check out the Rafflecopter link in this post!
Cindi: Blink is a love story three decades in the making. Two men, Carlos and Andy, meet on the ‘L’ train in Chicago in the early eighties, but their relationship is derailed before it can ever get started, thanks to a poorly timed phone call. I could tell this particular section of the story was very personal to you. I’ve never been one to get too personal in regards to questions in interviews and I won’t do it now. However, I will leave the floor open for you to share what you would like about the personal aspects of this story.
RRR: Well, if you read the afterword, you know that the first part of the book, which takes place in 1981 Chicago, is pretty autobiographical. So it’s no secret that much of what happens between Andy and Carlos happened between Rick and Carlos. I will say that their relationship, at this stage, was derailed by more than a poorly-timed phone call. That phone call, from Andy’s mother, asking about his upcoming wedding, made him (and me) step back in guilt and shame from what he was about to do and send Carlos away. I am not so sure the derailment was due just to that. It certainly derailed a sexual dalliance, but I think the relationship, in that period of time and based on how deep Andy was in the closet, was derailed more by a period of time, not so long ago, when being gay was something you kept secret, when, if you could, you tried to “pass” in a world where straight was definitely the norm and a concept like same-sex marriage was unimaginable. The relationship in the book was really derailed at that time because of societal mores of the era. That’s why we pick up on the characters thirty some years later, when they can be free, at last, to act on their attraction and love for one another.
Cindi: Blink takes place in two different time periods, the early eighties and the here and now. Back in 1982, things weren’t as they are in the world today. Looking back from 1982 to 2015, I, as an observer, have seen a lot – HIV/AIDS, the subsequent drug cocktails for HIV/AIDS, gay marriage, as well as more acceptance for the LGBT community. What would you like to say, or add, in regards to what we’ve witnessed (and you’ve lived) in the past thirty-plus years?
RRR: Oh God, as I said above same-sex marriage was unimaginable. When I first came out, I was thirty (this was around 1988) and it honestly never even crossed my mind to imagine a world where I could marry another guy (and yet here I am, and there he is, and we’re husbands). Even back then, I referred to my first relationship as my lover, as most people in gay relationships did. The term now seems quaint and old-fashioned, with too much emphasis, perhaps, put on the sexual. I think that’s the biggest change—gay people have come to be recognized as more than just the sum of their sexual parts. Just like everyone else, we’re all different kinds of people, from all different walks of life, and our sexuality is only one component of what makes us human. I think a lot more people have grown to understand that—and have begun thinking that sexual orientation is as much about love as it is about who does what to whom with the lights off (or on) and clothes off (or on).
Cindi: The second half of the book takes place in current times. Both Carlos and Andy had very different experiences in their thirty years apart. Andy chose a direction he felt was expected of him and Carlos went in a different direction. Each suffered, yet gained, during their time away from each other. You told the story of these men in their own points of view, in alternating chapters. The reader is allowed to go inside the heads of both men as they lived their lives, so to speak. What made you go that route with the story? Personally, I couldn’t imagine it being told any other way.
RRR: I thought it was important to show the consciousness of both of these men and how their choices affected and played out in the intervening years in which they were apart. Like me, Andy followed what he thought his family, friends, and society wanted for him—he married and had a child. Like me, Andy did love his wife dearly, but in the end, he had to realize he was wearing a mask and to continue the lie was unfair to everyone concerned. We have to see that. Carlos was realized enough to know that he didn’t have to opt for pretending to be straight, although he had his own struggles with sexuality and had to go through his own journey. By telling their stories in alternating chapters in first person, it allowed the reader to really get deep inside their heads and to know them better than any other way I might have chosen to tell their stories.
Cindi: A comment, not a question. Carlos and Andy are older characters. While they aren’t old by any means, they are older than what I normally see in the romance novels I often read. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with younger characters, but I have to say that it was refreshing to see a love story centered on older men. As one of your more mature (my way of saying older) readers, I thank you for that. 🙂
RRR: You’re very welcome. While it can be fun to read about hot 20 somethings (I enjoy that myself), I think there may be an over-emphasis on youth in romance. I wanted to write about real men who have aged, but in that time, have acquired confidence and wisdom, which can, I think, make them even sexier than younger men. I think older men have even more interesting and richly layered stories to tell, which is why I wanted to write about an age that might be outside the norm, but could still offer the same emotional connection with readers.
Cindi: I’d never give the ending away (and I’d be angry had someone else done so before I read the book), but you could have gone one of two ways with the ending, as I state in my review. Either would have been understandable considering what led to it. Personally, I would’ve been happy either way.
You changed things up a bit with the Epilogue, as compared to the rest of the story. Why?
RRR: Well, I think I chose the ending that was the most satisfying to me and the one that I think most readers will come away from reading the book with happy tears in their eyes. That’s my hope, anyway. I added the epilogue, which is from another, albeit significant, character’s point of view not only to show where the characters ended up, but also to show a different viewpoint from a different generation to underscore how much things have changed—and, in a way, how much they stay the same.
Cindi: What would you say to the real Carlos if you could talk to him now?
RRR: I think I would tell him that I have no regrets, that I was glad we met, but that the time was not right for us back then.
Cindi: Rick, thanks again for stopping by On Top Down Under as part of the Blink blog tour. It’s always a pleasure having you here.
RRR: And it’s always a pleasure to be here. Thank you, Cindi (and OnTopDownUnder)!
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Life can change in the blink of an eye. That’s a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago ‘L’ to work every morning. Andy’s life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.
Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the ‘L’ train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….
Categories: M/M Romance, Romance, Gay Fiction
From Chapter 2: Carlos
The guy obviously has a thing for me. I’ve caught him staring now a couple of times, and hey, I’m flattered. He’s cute. No, maybe that’s not a strong enough word. He’s handsome, with green eyes and dark wavy hair that clues me in to some sort of Mediterranean heritage. Italian maybe? Greek? Whatever. Maybe the word I’m looking for is hot.
I can imagine kissing him and the feel of his dark, bushy moustache against mine.
I don’t ride the train to meet men. I don’t do much to meet men, period, to be perfectly honest. I ride the train in the mornings simply to get to St. Philomena elementary school on the west side, where I teach fourth grade.
I’m okay with being gay. I wasn’t always, hence my stint in the seminary, where I studied to be a priest. I learned pretty quickly, by the grace of God and the hands and mouth of a fellow seminarian, that the priesthood was not work I was cut out for. Not if I wanted to live my life honestly, anyway.
So I left. I had already gotten my teaching degree, concurrent with my seminarian studies, so the job at St. Phil’s, low paying as it was, was a natural fit.
But I digress. I’m trying to sort out my feelings for this sweetheart on the train. I know he’s gay too. I know he’s attracted. But I also know nothing will ever come of it.
Why? Because I can see that, when our eyes meet, he’s filled with shame and guilt. I recognize his remorse because I cloaked myself in that dark, heavy fabric for many years.
And maybe still do, a little, to this day. The Church teaches us that same-sex feelings are to be avoided. They are not our natural order. We should turn our sights away from our own sex and devote them instead to loving and pleasing the Lord.
Yeah, good luck with that.
The Lord created that cute guy who gives me the eye on the train, the one I feel this probably misplaced connection with. What is it about him that makes me think of him all the time? Why do I hope he’ll be in my train car every time I step onto it in the morning, even though most times he’s not? Why do I try and quickly scan the windows of the train as it rumbles into the station for a glimpse of him?
Is it just because he’s cute?
There are cute men, hunks, whatever, all around. I occasionally venture out to the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clark to the New Flight bar for happy hour and bring one of them home. Or I head up farther north to the Loading Zone on Oak, where I can watch free porn in the back or dance up front. Somebody usually brings me home.
I never make any lasting connections. I don’t even know if I want to. Shame lingers on me like the scent of cigarette smoke after leaving those places.
But there’s something about the guy on the train. He tugs at my heart as well as my loins. Even from the brief glances we exchange, he makes me think there’s the possibility of more than just sex. He makes me think, for the first time in my life, that maybe I could love another man.
And that terrifies me.
See, I thought this thing that I say I accept, this state of being gay, was just about sex. And sex I can deal with, maybe even embrace. It can be taken care of and dispatched with the same routine nonchalance as any other bodily function. Despite what my Church and other naysayers contend, it’s natural.
I don’t know if I ever believed being gay was any more than that—a couple of dicks calling to each other.
But the guy on the train makes me think differently.
Rafflecopter Prize: E-book copy of ‘Dinner At Home’
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”