Monthly Author Column: Avon Gale Writes

Featured Author Avon Gale


The other day on Twitter (where, it is established, Avon spends a lot of her time) someone asked the question, “What’s the first audiobook you remember listening to?” And I thought about it, because important questions like these deserve thoughtful answers, and realized the answer was…

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews.
Okay, disclaimer, I’m thirty-nine so I grew up in the era when everyone read Flowers in the Attic, even those kids who didn’t read or whose parents were always trying to get books banned in your school. Someone inevitably had it and passed it around to “that one part” in the way of kids. Or, maybe I should say, in the way of kids in the late eighties. Now I guess it would be on Snapchat.
Anyway, my parents actually bought me two box sets of V.C. Andrews’ novels for Christmas when I was twelve – one with the Flowers in the Attic series (three books at the time, I believe) and one with the three-book Heaven series, which was actually my favorite. I have no idea why my parents thought these were appropriate books for a twelve-year-old, except that I read Sybil in the fifth grade and Pet Sematary in the sixth. So maybe they were like, “Dial it down, would you?” There’s a reason I found Bridge to Terabithia boring in school, LOL.
So long story short, I loved the V.C. Andrews’ books. When I was 13, my mom would give me a copy of a gothic romance novel and that was it, I was sunk and I ended up a romance novelist. (I still read a lot of V.C. Andrews along with the romance in my teenage years, I won’t lie. I gave up around Ruby though.) So I have a very vivid memory of checking the audiobook out of the library – they were cassette tapes, of course, because this is the late eighties. We also used to go on a lot of car trips when I was a kid, and my parents would stop at Cracker Barrel because you could rent “books on tape” there and then return them at any other Cracker Barrel, of which there are a lot – especially in the south.
(Apropos of nothing – I still refer to audiobooks as “books on tape.” I can’t help it.)
I remember spending a lot of happy trips listening to Lawrence Sanders’ Archie McNally series with my mom, about a PI in Palm Beach, Florida. And I remember listening to my favorite Disney story, “The Fox and Hound”, on one of those little record players for kids that were popular when I was small.
Recently I had the experience of listening to my own book in audio, as the narrator for Breakaway (Scott R. Smith, who is awesome!) sent me the files as he recorded them. It was one of the coolest experiences in my authorial career thus far, hearing a professional bring my words to life. I was lucky enough to get narrators for both that title and my first book, Let the Wrong Light In, who really sounded like the characters did in my head. Lane and Avery both have distinctive voices to me, and Scott and Derrick McClain (the narrator for Let the Wrong Light In) both nailed those voices to a T. And wow, Scott’s Jared is just to-die-for sexy, let me tell you.

I won’t lie, listening to someone read a sex scene I’ve written was…well, if you follow me on social media I think I posted a picture of me hiding under a blanket the first time I had to listen to one. It’s a similar feeling to the one I got when my mother-in-law told me she was reading Breakaway because…well, she’s my mother-in-law. (She liked it, though!)
One of the things that I really found interesting as I was listening was how much I hear the rhythm of my own words when I write them – and how the narrator “hears” them so much differently than I do. Not even dialogue, though that is a part of it, of course. It’s the non-dialogue bits, too – my own narrative voice, if you will. I had no idea how strongly I narrate the inflection in my head (since I never stop talking, this is probably a surprise to no one). And it’s not a case of right or wrong, good or bad — it just surprised me to hear how different it could sound.
It’s sort of the same feeling I get when people talk about my characters, and how different other people’s interpretations of them can be than my own. Lane was a character that people either really liked and connected with, or…not so much 😀 Which is fine! As an author, I think it’s sort of awesome when people have strong reactions to my characters, even if they don’t like them. I mean, Lane drove me crazy a lot. They all have things that drive me crazy, to be honest. I try to make them real people and that means they’re not perfect, even if I do tend to write everyone living in a land where people are tolerant and accepting because, well, that’s the world I’d like to live in and that’s a happily-ever-after I can totally get behind.
Writing and putting something out there is scary, but the rewards are pretty awesome – and I really do love the audiobook and hope people who enjoyed Breakaway will love it, too. It’s strange to think about myself when I was younger, listening to Flowers in the Attic or the McNallybooks, scribbling away at my own stories and not knowing one day I’d have the chance to listen to those.
I wonder if V.C. Andrews listened to her books. I bet I know exactly what part made her cringe, too.


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Dreamspinner Press

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Obsessed with Nicola Haken: Monthly Author Column


TCO is so super excited that when we asked Nicola Haken if she wanted to do a monthly column, not only did she say yes, she actually followed through with it! So, without further ado, welcome the lovely (and very hard for this American to understand when she’s talking) Nicola Haken to the blog. And if you have something you want Nicola to talk about next month, let us know!

Who the Hell is Nicola Haken?

Firstly, I was thrilled to be asked to do a monthly blog post for Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy, even though the founder of the blog is a bellend (I love her, so I’m allowed to call her names). By thrilled, I mean nervous. There’s a reason I don’t update my own blog, and that’s because I’m wholly uninteresting!

But, what the hell. I’m going to try my best to sound all intellectual and fun!

Okay, that lasted like two seconds. While I try and think of something clever and interesting for my next post, I’ll take the easy way out this time and introduce myself, tell you some random shite about me and my career, and hope I don’t bore you to death.

Right. Interesting. I can do this. I’m singing along to the Glee version of Gold Digger as I type this. Is that interesting? No? It would be if you could hear me, but I’ll move on.

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Nicola. She was always a little weird, a lot neurotic, and had a wild imagination. But you know what that little girl never did? Read. Despite English being my favourite subject at school, I didn’t actually read a full book until I was in my twenties, and I wouldn’t have done that if my sister-in-law didn’t force me to. That book was Twilight (don’t judge or diss my Edward or I will smack you in the face) and from that day I was addicted. I loved those books so much I had to get them in hardcover too. Then I needed somewhere to display them so I bought a bookcase. But what if I wanted to read them in bed, or on the go? So I bought a Kindle and downloaded them onto there too. (Did I mention I’ve always been a little obsessive?)

Holy crap on a cracker, there were like a bajillion books available on my new toy, so I started downloading them by the dozen. Where had this whole new world been hiding all my life? If you’ve read Broken, remember how James was always taking on new interests? He always had new ideas, tried his hand at lots of different things, well that’s me. There is a lot of me in James, but that’s a whole other blog post. When I left school I started sixth form with the aim of becoming a teacher one day. But then I got bored. I hated school. I’ve never been good with having people tell me what to do! So, I left and went to work in a supermarket until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

Ooo, I know! I’ll be a nail technician! So off I went to train to be one of those. I was good at it, determined to start my own business. I poured a tonne of money into that idea, but then I got bored with that too. Then I found hairdressing, got bored, found some other new stuff…you get where this is going. Whatever I did, I never felt like I belonged. I didn’t ‘fit’ anywhere. So it wasn’t really a surprise when people thought I was exploring another whimsical fad that would never amount to anything when I started writing my first book.

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’d never heard of a book blog, an editor, or a beta reader. I just wrote out the words in my head and ran with it. But it didn’t matter that I didn’t know anything about the book world because I’d DONE it. I’d found that thing I’d been searching for. I knew what I was born to do, and that was to take the vivid imagination I’d been born with and turn the ideas in my head into stories. I started out writing New Adult M/F stories, because back then that’s all I knew was out there (I meant it when I said I knew literally nothing about the book world). With each book I wrote I learned something new. I got to know how the publishing side of things worked with every mistake I made. I’m still learning. I hope to continue learning. To me, every book is better than the last.

So, how did writing MM Romance happen? Simply put, the second I discovered the genre existed I knew where I wanted to be. I stumbled across gay romance accidentally by reading a novella which was part of the MF series I was reading at the time, only it happened to be about the gay best friend. These characters were so different to anything I’d read before. Sure, they were men, but I related to them so much. Part of this story in particular was one of the MC’s struggling to accept his sexuality, which took me right back to my teenage years. Maybe I’ll go into this more in another post, but to summarise, I started questioning my own sexuality when I was thirteen. I felt different to my friends. I dreamed about female celebrities while they dreamed of the Backstreet boys. So, I must be a lesbian right? I didn’t tell anyone. I felt stupid and embarrassed, so I kept it to myself.

Eventually I told some friends, but then I realised I also understood what they saw in the guys they swooned over, too. Then I felt even more stupid. I didn’t know what the hell I was, what group I belonged in. I knew what bisexual meant, but I also knew that was greedy and not taken seriously. That’s what I grew up hearing anyway, so I definitely didn’t want to be that; you believe all the ignorant shit you’ve grown up listening to when you’re young. That didn’t work out too well. I couldn’t seem to ‘pick’ a side. It wasn’t as simple as finding men or women attractive. I’m attracted to people. I fall in love with the inside. That doesn’t mean I don’t find the outside pretty damn hot too, of course!

Anyway, I digress. My point is I felt more connected to these gay characters than I had with any other book I’d read before, but even then I didn’t know there was a whole freaking genre waiting for me. That came when I clicked on Double Full by Kindle Alexander after seeing it on my newsfeed, for no other reason than I loved the cover. I had no idea what I’d find inside, and that hot gay sex hit me in the face within the first couple of pages. BOOM! I needed more of this…so I went out and found it. Within days it became my new favourite genre. In MF, whether reading or writing it, being in the male MC’s head had always been my favourite place to be, so now with both sides being in a guy’s head I was in literary heaven! There’s something insanely beautiful reading about two men falling in love. Men are naturally perceived as being ‘tough’ and resilient, which to me just makes reading about their insecurities, watching their macho walls – which society assumes they should have – fall, and witnessing the tender moments two people in love share, so much more special.

Yet, I’ve seen people comment on these kind of moments, in reviews or book groups, saying things like, ‘men don’t act like that in real life.’ ‘Men don’t think like this.’ ‘This MC sounds like a woman.’ Honestly, I find it ridiculous. No, I’m not a man, but I know real-life men. I have a husband. I have gay friends. And d’ya know what? Men are tender. They are romantic. They do go gooey-eyed over the person they love. They do get coy and turn into bumbling idiots in front of someone they fancy, and they do whisper sweet and dreamy words in their partner’s ear. Of course, the books we’re talking about are fiction. The romance, the drama, the angst and the sex is all ramped up to super-speed. Real life isn’t all butterflies and daisies, but who wants to read about guys farting in bed while worrying about which bill to pay first?

Bloody hell, I’ve totally gone off-point again haven’t I? Maybe I should add rambling to the Fun Facts About Nicola Haken list. So, we’ve established I love MM Romance, but I wasn’t brave enough to write it myself for a long time. What if I was no good? What if they didn’t want some newbie who didn’t know what they were doing in their genre? What if my existing readers didn’t like it? I can’t even remember what made me take the plunge, all I know is that it was the best decision I ever made. Being Sawyer Knight was born and I’d found my home. It wasn’t my best book, because like I said before I’m constantly learning, but I’m still damn proud of it, and grateful too. That story, those characters, introduced me to some of the best people in the whole world (including the bellend in my opening sentence!) The MM Romance genre is literally flooded with awesome people – fabulous readers, amazing bloggers, fan-freakin’-tastic authors. It holds a sense of community. It’s like a giant family to me. I’ve made some lifelong friends here. I feel like I belong – FINALLY – and you guys ain’t getting rid of me without a fight 😉

So, that’s how I got into writing. There was no magical epiphany. It wasn’t my ‘calling’. I took a chance and I fell in love with it. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to do this as a career. I’m grateful for each and every person who’s ever read my words, interacted with me, supported me and my characters. I wouldn’t be where I am today without other people, and that’s why I’m all about giving it back. I enjoy seeing other authors’ successes – I love sharing them, promoting them, drooling over their covers. I love seeing readers recommend other authors books, because I’m a reader too. I don’t get the hump (this means annoyed for you non-Brits!) if I get page-like requests from strangers or added to groups. It’s difficult to achieve anything in life alone, and so if I can help I will. My life’s motto is pretty simple; don’t be an arsehole.

Wow. This has turned into a really long post considering I had nothing to talk about! If you’re half-asleep with drool down your chin, wake up, I’m nearly finished I promise. I’ll end with that Fun Facts About Nicola list I mentioned because if I drone on for any more paragraphs I fear Denise will tell me not to come back.

• My name is Nicola (okay, that’s not fun but it is a fact!)
• I have a tendency to ramble (See? Told you I’d add it.)
• I don’t like even numbers (This is a problem when it comes to biscuits. One, obviously, isn’t enough, but I can’t have two because I don’t like even numbers, so three it is. Or five. Hence my fat arse.)
• I have lots of tattoos (sorry, Mum!)
• Pepsi Max is my best friend
• I couldn’t live without potatoes in my life.
• I eat and drink like a child. No grown-up foods allowed! I’m a chicken nuggets and orange juice gal.
• I swear way too fucking much.
• I can’t eat with metal spoons. I’m not allergic or anything, I’m just weird.
• My favourite song right now is You’re Not There by Lukas Graham (this will likely change before you read this.)
• My favourite colour is purple.
• I have a tendency to zone out when people are talking to me.
• I am a whiney bitch who moans about literally everything, but not in public. No one wants to hear that shit.

If you’ve survived this post, congratulations! That’s some impressive stamina you’ve got there. Also, if you know what I should ramble about next time please let me know because I’m out of ideas! If you have any questions, comment below and give me something to talk about 😀

Cough*shameless-self-promo-ahead*Cough, if you’re not fed up of me already then I’m always excited to meet new stalkers-I mean friends, so follow me on social media! Friend request me, like my page, hide out behind my shed…wait, I don’t have a shed. I have a garage you could keep dry in though.

Until next time…

This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.