Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Liam Livings: Author Spotlight Interview & eARC Review: Bedtime Stories Anthology

Bedtime Stories
by Anna Martin, B. Snow, Blaine D. Arden, Kit Mullender, Liam Livings, MJ O'Shea, Tia Fielding 
Published August 20th 2014 by Wilde City Press
Formats Available: epub, mobi, html, pdf
Amazon US | Amazon UK
From supernatural tales of intrigue to a curious modern romance, a thoroughly British relationship and a classic fairytale all twisted up, Bedtime Stories is a collection of short stories designed to be read one at a time, at bedtime. Let us wish you goodnight with gay romances that are sure to leave you ready for a night of sweet, lingering dreams.
FLICKERS by Tia Fielding
TORCH by Kit Mullender
MILES TO GO by B. Snow



My Rating: 4 of 4 Stars
(Based on the Short&Light Read Category)

After John loses his accounting job in an outsourcing logistics company, the novelty of not having to get up early every day soon wore off. Looking for work was an exercise in futility. To feel busy, he found himself volunteering in a cancer charity shop and soon found friends he could spend time with and who loved to eat his cakes.  Keith, his long time partner and best friend, continued to be supportive and John loved him for it. But John needed to feel useful. He needed to earn. When the charity shop was lined up for closing, it was Keith who steered him to the right direction: use his accountancy and baking skills to advantage.

This is an inspiring story to read. It is not a formulaic romance, neither is it erotica. It is a story of how two gay men, an established couple, could rely on the other and be the support each one needs. This is the story of how John finally found himself and got the happily ever after for both his relationship and his career. All he needed to do was find that right path to take him there.

As per the style of Livings, Frangipani focuses on the day to day lives of characters who just happened to be gay, dusted with the element of romance. There is a whole lot of humor going on especially with the author playing around with some of the techie terms used by the older characters in reference to multi media: Ipaps. It is my new favorite word :D He talks about life and how it can be dealt with should it go against all expectations. He talks about friendships and how it can be solidified over a cup of tea and a serving of cake and macaroons. What really got me hooked was the ease of the flow of the story and how it did make me feel good and relaxed enough to sleep.

If I have to be disappointed over one thing, it would be because no recipes were shared, especially for the lemon drizzle sandwich cake. Otherwise, this is a sweet, dreamy story meant to be read while in bed. It is relaxing, inspiring and tempting to the senses.

 In short, this is a bedtime story, just as promised.

Author Spotlight: Liam Livings

He lives, with his partner, where east London ends and becomes nine-carat-gold- highlights-and-fake-tan-west-Essex. He was born in Hampshire with two club feet (look it up, it’s not nice) and problem ears, needing grommets: this meant he was in plaster from toe to groin until he was two, and had to swim with a cap and olive oil soaked lamb’s wool over his ears - olive oil bought from a health food shop, before it was sold by supermarkets. He started writing when he was 14: sat in French lessons during a French exchange trip, for want of anything better to do, he wrote pen portraits about his French exchange’s teachers. He wrote for his school’s creative writing magazine and still writes a diary every day. He grew up on the edge of the New Forest – not in the New Forest mind, but on the edge. Now it’s a national park, it’s so much more glamorous. He went to uni in London and never really left. One evening, flicking through the channels, he stumbled across the film, Saving Private Ryan, and it took twenty minutes of not seeing Goldie Hawn in an army uniform, before he realised it wasn’t actually the film, Private Benjamin. When not writing, he also enjoys baking. 
He avoided any sport at secondary school by having an orthodontist appointment between the age of 14 and 16, and when he was old enough to drive, just drove home instead of playing rugby/hockey/whatever. He is a car geek, his particular passion is old French classics, and his every day car is what is popularly referred to as a ‘hairdressers car’ a Mazda MX5 in powder blue – Muriel. 

Author Interview

Note from multitaskingmomma: I have only just started reading Liam Livings' works but was immediately taken by his style, his British humor, and impression that his stories are real stories about real people, even if I knew they are fictional. When he thankfully agreed to be interviewed, I knew I had to take the chance and ask him about his work, his thoughts on romance, his baking, and his car. Yes, that lovely, sporty car.

m: One of the ‘facts’ in your About page is that you enjoy baking. In Frangipani Kisses, your main character is someone who loves to bake and is very good at it, but he never thought to make a living from it. The descriptions of his cakes and ices were quite delicious. How much of you is John and how much of the cakes mentioned are your cakes you actually serve?

LL: The more I’ve written the more I realise that all my main characters are different parts of me. John from Frangipani Kisses is the baking part of me, he’s the getting on well with older people part of me, he’s the living in a long term relationship with another man part of me. I’ve served pretty much all the cakes mentioned in Frangipani Kisses, except macaroons – even I don’t have enough time for that much faffing about. 

m: In Best Friends Perfect, you made the story flow through your characters’ conversations and it was very unique. Yet, in Frangipani, it was a totally different style. You narrated the story and yet you still sounded like you. How was writing Frangipani different from writing Best Friends?

LL: Best Friends Perfect was the first thing I ever wrote with a view to it being published. It’s probably the most autobiographical of everything I’ve written. Pulp front man, Jarvis Cocker, when asked if Disco 2000 was true said, ‘the only bit that isn’t true is the woodchip wallpaper.’ Best Friends Perfect is my Disco 2000. It is fiction, but it draws more heavily from my real life. By the time I wrote Frangipani Kisses I’d written another two novels and had met other authors, been to a few writers conferences, and had started editing Best Friends Perfect Book One with my publisher. Frangipani Kisses was the first short story I’d written, which was a different exercise in introducing characters and just getting right into the story straight away. 

m: What genre would you consider your books to be?

LL: Best Friends Perfect is a gay coming of age story with lots of humour and camp – gay fiction I suppose if I had to put it in a box. Frangipani Kisses is more romantic as it has John’s relationship with Keith as an integral way in which John copes with the changes in his life. And Then That Happened is romance, but not a traditional sense of man meets man, men fall in love and they live happily ever after. It’s about two men who meet, both in relationships that aren’t right, and their friendship causes them to re-evaluate everything in their lives. Of course it’s got a happily ever after – I love a HEA. 

m: After reading two of your works, I thought that you were not really a romance writer but rather a storyteller. How would you like to be known or remembered? Why?

LL: I think you’d be right to conclude that after reading Best Friends Perfect Book One and Frangipani Kisses to a lesser extent. I think as I’ve become more involved in the romance writing *world* - going to the Romantic Novelist’s Association (RNA) conference and local chapter meetings – I’ve realised romance is a very broad sweep. All my stories have a romantic element in them – they aren’t about car chases, murders or bank heists – they all have the relationships of gay men at their hearts. I’d like to be known as an author who writes British stories with heart, with believable characters, with humour, a good bit of camp and with romance. 

m: You talk about life and men in the gay community but not so much the romances. I look at your blog and you have And Then That Happened which is coming out September. What are we to expect from this work that would differentiate it from Best Friends and Frangipani?

LL: I suppose it depends on your definition of romances. My stories have love, relationships and romance in them. I don’t write explicit sex scenes as I don’t like to read them either – you won’t find any tops or a bottoms, or anything fluttering or having its entrance demanded in my books. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but I don’t write it. I don’t read what are defined as ‘category romance’ books – I prefer to read ‘chick lit’ focusing on the characters, with an element of romance. I suppose I write books like that, with gay main characters. The only time I’d write something like a scene in a romantic film would be to point out that didn’t happen to the character as they weren’t living in a romcom – back to the humour again. 

One of the main themes in Best Friends Perfect is Kieran trying to find his Prince Charming. He just has to kiss a few frogs before he finds his prince. I think my stories are more every day, you’re more likely to find an accountant and a nurse than an astronaut or a cowboy. Not that there’s anything wrong with books with astronauts or cowboys, I just don’t write them.  

And Then That Happened is completely different from Best Friends Perfect – it’s about a man in a long term relationship who’s been out for a long time. It’s about what happens when a long term relationship isn’t quite what you expected it to be. It’s about trying to make sense of a romantic ideal of long term love, against the reality you’re faced with. Both stories have strong themes of friendship – I’m all about my friends, so this makes sense I suppose! 

m: You said that you just write how you talk in one of our conversations. Do you go straight to the keyboard and imagine up a conversation and you just write down everything that happens in your imagination or do you do the usual outlines that other authors resort to? 

LL: I am a planner. I even plan a day of relaxing, but that’s not for now. I plan everything in my life and writing is no different. Having written a few stories now, I think I’ve refined what my process is *mops brow dramatically*. Once I’ve got an idea, I hand write character biographies on a few bits of paper. I then plan the story on post it notes stuck onto more paper. The post it notes can be anything from ‘They have a dirty weekend in Margate’ to notes on what the characters will say. I write with the post it plan to one side of my laptop and the character biographies to the other. I add new things I make up/find out about the characters as I go along. I try to write a first draft as quickly as possible and can do 2000 words an hour if I’ve planned, have no Internet and am enthusiastic. I like to write a first draft without leaving more than a couple of days between adding words to the story. I write right through to the end, leave it a month or so, then revise, before sending to my lovely beta readers, more revisions, then it’s submitted. 

m: How do you relax when you are not writing? Is it like John in Frangipani who takes to the oven?

LL: I enjoy reading, watching rom com films and TV series (I’m working through Gilmore Girls box set for the first time). I love cars, and go to a variety of classic car shows around the country. I like to drive in my show-pony car, my Mazda MX 5 through the country lanes near where we live. I like to keep up with friends and family – hosting dinners and lunches at the weekend or visiting them around the country. At the moment we’re taking bookings from October – weekends fill up quickly!  

As for the car, here is Liam with Muriel (2002 Mk 2.5 in Crystal Mika Blue). Isn't she lovely? :D

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