My author guest this week is Talya Andor. Talya is on a blog tour to promote her book "A Cut Above The Rest" from Less Than Three Press. Welcome to Chaos, Talya.
1. I'll start with some basic information questions so you can tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How long have you been writing? What do you do for fun? Go ahead and tell us everything.
I'm from the Midwest, though the Pacific Northwest has become home to me, and I've been writing since I was about eleven years old. I haven't stopped ever since, though I've improved considerably over the years through practice and study!
Besides writing and reading in my spare time, I love to watch competitive cooking shows (I'm actually re-watching Top Chef Season 10 as I answer this), play video games, watch a wide range of movies with my girlfriend from quirky arthouse to blockbuster action, try out new cuisine in restaurants as well as cooking in my own home, and I've got a serious addiction to nail polish. Fitness is also an important part of my life and I've tried on various exercise challenges on my path to my goal weight.
2. How did you start your writing career? Do you have any major influences that got you into the genre?
A friend of mine was writing a fantasy story, and I loved the idea so much that I started one of my own. I'd been a big reader for a couple of years by that point, consuming everything I could get my hands on, and I had already tried my hand at poetry. That first draft I started ended up becoming an actual fantasy novel. I was very young and it was most certainly terrible, but the act of writing and creating was addictive to me from then onward.
Fantasy and sci-fi were my first "homes" in fiction, I would say. Some of the first novels that really captured my imagination were Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider series, Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, and others such as Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, and more. In terms of influence, my style goes for descriptive, poignant but also humorous so I'd say Eddings stuck with me the most though Robert Heinlein imprinted a lot onto me during my formative years.
3. A little bird told me you used to write fanfiction and it's no secret that's how I began writing m/m. I wrote bandslash as well as Alexander the Great/Hephaistion. There has been some controversy over whether fanfic is a good lead into original or something that breeds bad habits and bad prose. Do you have any thoughts on this or maybe would like to share your biggest fanfiction OTP?
While I don't want to get into the argument over bad habits—I think they can be formed by lazy writing and a lack of desire to improve, fanfiction or not—I do have a firm stance on whether fanfic can be a good lead into original.
My perspective is different perhaps because I started with original fiction, then dove headlong into fanfic and returned years later to write original stories once more. My original fiction was … okay. It wasn't great. I was told from a young age that I was a great writer, but I wasn't satisfied with this, and critical feedback that I got while earning my degree let me know that I had a long way to go. (One of my majors was creative writing.)
It was writing fanfiction, turning out fiction and writing a lot, that really let me hone my skills and go from decent to good. It gave me what all writers really need: practice, and the incentive to continue. Fanfic provides a built-in audience. Often, that's what people need for encouragement in order to keep going.
That said, I think it can be a good lead-in for writing original works, but not necessarily for everyone. Writing is a tool, and what you do with it is subject to the individual strengths and weaknesses of the person wielding it.
If you want to write original works, write them! If you want to write fanfiction forever, that's okay too. It's an individual, personal choice for everyone.
4. I like to ask authors about their muse but not everyone has one they can describe. Mine is always a hot man bossing me around – but that's just me. ;) Do you have a specific muse? If so, tell us about it.
I don't really think of my "writing" as a muse; when I write, I focus on the characters themselves as my muses. I try to get into their heads and let them speak to me, and then through me. And of course, their looks vary depending on what story I'm writing.
But they are usually hot men. ;) Or lovely ladies!
Definitely a plotter. Sometimes the ideas come to me in bits and pieces, sometimes they come to me fully-fledged like Athena leaping from Zeus's head, but I always write the ideas down and develop them into a full outline whether that's three pages, or thirty. I allow spontaneity when going from the outline to the fully developed work. Sometimes the characters or the story take me on unexpected tangents, or a character intended to be a minor one ends up demanding a bigger role. For the most part, though, I follow the outline I've laid out and that's what works for me and keeps me focused and finishing novel-length stories.
One of the things I enjoy most about writing is seeing the characters grow and develop from my first ideas of them, to the fully fledged people they become in the story. It's a really delightful process of discovery and falling in love with who they are and how they become entangled in their relationships.
6. Do you have any writing or reading quirks (for example, playing certain music while you're writing or having to turn in a circle four times before you begin :D) or squicks (things you simply cannot read or write)?
I wouldn't say I have any particular quirks. I work better with music to keep me focused, but when I'm in the zone, I end up ignoring it so that it's more like white noise. To write, I generally have to stay off the internet, so I used to write at Starbucks … at least, before they had free wireless! I still go there occasionally, but now I take advantage of organizing writing sprints when I need something to get me started.
There are a lot of squicks for me. Non-con, for one; I can't read or write stories with rape in them unless there's a load of caveats to that but generally prefer to avoid it. Stories with abuse, physical or mental, are uncomfortable for me and something I stay away from. Cheating is also a big squick for me, I won't read or write it and I wish more people warned for it. I can generally tolerate it if it's not the OTP, or the main character and their intended love interest, but it still makes me uncomfortable. There's a flipside to that, though, because if partners have negotiated what does and doesn't constitute cheating, and being with other people isn't included in that, then I'm okay with it. I need stories with a Happily Ever After, so Less Than Three Press is a perfect fit for me. <3
7. You bio indicates you've written contemporary, sci-fi and fantasy, do you have a preference? Or are there any other sub-genres (or tropes) you'd like to try your hand at?
I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi, and I love those best. I actually surprised myself when I ended up writing not only contemporary, but more than one contemporary story. I always thought fantasy would be my main go-to genre. What I ended up discovering is a love for stretching my wings and writing different genres and tropes—I love to constantly try different things as a writer, it's the lure of exploring the shiny unknown. I might like to try high fantasy next, or a historical. I'm not very good at constructing a mystery novel (I've tried), but I definitely want to challenge my limits and do more in other genres.
My next three projects, already planned, will be fantasy, sci-fi, and sci-fi, so we'll see what makes itself known to me after that. Perhaps another fantasy to bracket the year!
8. Your new book is about a chef so can I ask you if you like to cook? Have some culinary faves you'd like to share with us?
I love to cook! One of my favorite dishes to cook is scallops and risotto. I make a wonderful mushroom risotto at home that is well beloved. I'm also a big fan of searing a nice piece of well-seasoned salmon, skin down, and pairing it with green beans and couscous. Another mainstay in my repertoire is beef ribeye, medium rare, with oven roasted potatoes and lemon pepper spiked broccoli.
When it comes to food I can be a picky snob. I don't like to go to restaurants and order food that I can make at home (and there's a lot I can make at home), I like to order unique, more technically challenging things that I would have trouble replicating.
9. Now it's your turn. Tell us about A Cut Above The Rest.
I feel like I've been talking about it all week, but really I've been talking about different aspects of the food and cooking world!
A Cut Above the Rest is book one of the Appetite series, and it's very dear to my heart. Food has been a big part of my life since I was a little girl, and this is the culmination of years' worth of knowledge and my passion for lovely men coming together in a kind of epic showdown.
I love German food and German people, so Chef Alex is from Germany, and that influences his perspective as well as the restaurant where he goes to work, Schulze's.
French cuisine is undeniably the foundation of fine dining as we know it, so Chef Nik's style is French and his passion is for that formal type of cooking.
Our story has two very talented, highly competitive young men who are put in forced proximity due to circumstance, and the rest unfolds from there.
This is a story that will make you hungry if you haven't eaten: it's like shopping on an empty stomach, simply not recommended! You may end up making some impulsive food decisions.
10. I like to torture my blog guests a little bit before they leave so here are some multiple choice questions for you.
Giraffe or monkey?
…neither? I find giraffes ungainly and monkeys have a lot of, ahem, bad habits. Unless we're talking bonobos, in which case, okay monkeys (though actually bonobos are apes).
Dog or cat? (ahem, I think I know the answer – what's your kitteh's name?)
Cat, for sure. Dogs are friendly but when you've got a cat's love and devotion, it's a really special relationship. Pepper is my baby princess, the ruler of our hearts and laps, and she spends a great deal of time curled up on the legs I put up on the ottoman.
Tea or coffee?
Both! I can't choose one to the exclusion of the other, but I will say which I'm drinking depends on the time of day and where I am. Right now I've got some ginger peach oolong.
Beach or mountains?
It's hard to choose. I live between two mountain ranges and I adore the view, and driving through the ranges. It's scenic and exciting. But I love walking along the beach and enjoying the water, and there's something so timeless and peaceful about waves crashing against the shore, so I'd probably choose beach in the end.
Cowboys or rockstars?
Rockstars for sure. They're flashy, passionate, good-looking, incredibly charismatic … the list goes on and on, for me, plus the biggest love of all: MUSIC. I can't live without it. Nothing against cowboys and their twang and the way their asses look in those chaps, but I've got to choose those naughty, sexy rockstars.
AND finally, who would win in a fight between vampires and werewolves.
Hmm, that's a tough one. After brief reflection I'm going to choose vampires, not only for their image but for their age and experience. They've got the long view, the benefit of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years, and they can plan and scheme and find their opponents' weak spots, steal through the shadows and strike without warning or mercy. Though werewolves may have muscle and passion and youth on their side, they'd also be prone to explosive hot-tempered action without planning, and vampires would be quick to exploit a weakness. Plus they're dead sexy.
Thanks for stopping by, Talya. Good luck with A Cut Above The Rest and your blog tour.
Thanks so much for having me, K-lee, and here's some info on A Cut Above the Rest to lead out.
The door creaked open and shut further up the alley. Alex turned, expecting to see Florian joining him for a smoke. Nik stepped out into the alleyway, unfastening his chef's jacket all down the front, baring a red t-shirt with a scrawl of words over the upper chest. He peeled up the bottom of his red shirt, fanning it out to circulate cool air through the front.
Alex lifted a hand, but found his voice was stoppered in his throat. He reached for his cigarette instead, turning to one side to ogle Nik less obviously, unable to resist the slender nape revealed by the dark hair pulled into its severe tail, the skinny chest spanned into a stretch as Nik lifted both of his strong, slender wrists into the air, pushing them as far as they would go. His face went soft-focused, his defenses dropping in that moment while he shifted positions, extending his arms in front of him and lacing his fingers, stretching those as well. Nik bounced on his tiptoes, making soft grunts of exertion that Alex could hear even from the back of the alley.
Stretching one arm over the other, Nik swung in Alex's direction. His eyes widened to such an extent that Alex could see white even from his distance. "What are you doing?" he exclaimed.
Alex performed a quarter turn, glancing to one side of him, then the other as though expecting to find any others that Nik might be addressing. He waved his cigarette laden hand through the alley air. "Taking that break you told me to?"
Nik stormed up the alley, aiming a finger at Alex like a cocked gun. "You're smoking!" he uttered in tones of mingled anger and betrayal. "I can't believe you're smoking ... it ruins your palate, and it cheapens our restaurant." He didn't stop walking until he was toe to toe with Alex.
Alex flicked his cigarette ashes to one side and kept the butt gripped low. That was all he needed, to burn his chef with stray ashes during an argument over the fact that he was smoking. "Yah, I know you Americans think it's a filthy habit, but I am on my break, okay?"
Nik came right into Alex's personal space to aim that finger near his nose, his face shuttered down in cold, hard lines once more. "Don't 'you Americans' me, Alex, I have dual citizenship and I can speak German almost as well as you," he exclaimed. "I'm surprised at you; what do you expect to accomplish, killing your taste buds like this?"
The unexpected attack on his break, Alex's one moment outside of the kitchen that had been consuming his life, threw Alex into quiet confusion for a moment. "You can't tell me not to smoke." Alex kept his cigarette off to the side, but its smoke continued to waft up between them. Fuck it. He wasn't going to try and hide something for fear of Nik's displeasure. Alex brought his cigarette and set it between his lips.
Nik's nostrils flared. "I can tell you not to smoke on our property," he retorted, reaching up to snatch the cigarette from between Alex's lips, leaving them tingling. "You're a chef, Alex, and if you want to be a great one, you ought to think about what this does to your palate. Your sense of taste, your sense of smell." He held the cigarette pinched by the very end, smoke curling in the air between their faces.
Alex inhaled, on the verge of saying something a man should never say to his ranking chef, on the line or off it.
"Besides," Nik continued, bringing the cigarette to his lips and taking a thick drag, his plush mouth closing on the filter where Alex's lips had been clamped only seconds before. He inhaled, taking the smoke directly into his lungs before leaning forward until there was only radiant heat between them. "Would you want to kiss this?"
Before Alex could move or formulate a response, Nik exhaled a stream of smoke directly into his open mouth.
It set Alex to coughing. His eyes watered and he balled his fists up as Nik pitched his cigarette to the ground, grinding it out with the ball of his non-slip shoes, eyeing Alex from across the smoldering distance between them before turning about face. Nik stalked back up the alley without another word.
Alex struggled to formulate thought in a haze of smoke and liquefied brain matter. A part of his primitive brain was still tracking the sway of Nik's hips even as Alex grappled with the upsurge of emotion that he had to label as rage. He was trying to set Nik's well-tended hair on fire with the power of his mind. He couldn't even muster a 'how dare you' for Nik's presumption.
He definitely couldn't let himself think he more than wanted to kiss that mouth, ashtray taste or no. He wanted to ravish it with his own until there was more than just a kiss between them.
You can purchase A Cut Above the Rest at Less Than Three Press.
Check out my blog - dreaminginfinity - for a chance to win a copy of the novel, and this concludes the Tour de Foodie. Hope you enjoyed!
Official Bio for Talya Andor:
Talya lives in the Pacific Northwest with her girlfriend and their girl-kitty who they believe to be cutest cat in the world, and is constantly balancing a busy slate of boylove stories to write with her day job, hobbies to upkeep, and nail polishes to collect. She has been writing fiction since elementary school and progressed to guy on guy erotica during college, honing her chops on fan fiction until original fiction lured her with its siren call. She loves writing and reading, routinely geeks out over gaming and movies, and watches far too many cooking shows.
Talya's books can be found here at Less Than Three Press