March Authors Interviewing Authors is here and with it, we get a very special treat: the first ever in person edition! Avon Gale recently caught up with Piper Vaughn in her home to discuss Piper’s plans for future books, Young Adult Fiction from the 90s (shout out to Judith’s fave, LJ SMITH!), and their shared passion, hockey!
Avon: Hello! I’m Avon Gale and I’m so excited to interview Piper Vaughn today, especially because I am sitting next to her on her couch while we watch some hockey. So thank you for having me, both as a house guest and as an interviewer!!
Piper: Thanks for coming! I’m thrilled to have you here watching hockey with me, and I’m excited to get to the interview. 😀
Avon: So, since I am sitting here in your house I’m able to look at your bookshelves! I already noticed that you and I share a love for an Elizabeth Lowell series (and are both sad that she never wrote Eric’s story!), but you have quite an eclectic collection as a reader. As a writer, what other genres are you interested in writing?
Piper: Outside of M/M, I’m most interested in writing mainstream YA, though I’ll probably stay true to my roots and keep it LGBT related. I have plans for a couple of contemporary, coming-of-age stories, and I also have a broad outline for a potential urban fantasy series.
Avon: What kind of YA books were your favorite when you were younger?
Piper: I was a big fan of LJ Smith. Hello, “Vampire Diaries,” “The Secret Circle,” “The Forbidden Game,” “Dark Visions” and the “Night World” books. I read everything she wrote. I also loved RL Stine, and Christopher Pike. Then there were the Sweet Valley High books, and this series called “Love Stories,” which were basically category romances for young adults. My little romance-loving heart adored those books. I consumed them like candy! My favorite was “Sharing Sam” by Katherine Applegate.
Avon: I loved Sweet Valley High! I’m pretty sure I shipped Jessica/Lila before I knew what that meant. Have you gone back and re-read any of your favorite YA series recently? I’d totally be down for a Christopher Pike re-read bonanza if you want. Do you see influences of your favorite YA or romance series in your own writing, and if so, tell us about it!
Piper: Oh, that might be fun! I haven’t read a Christopher Pike book since high school. I wonder if I’d still enjoy them. As for influences, I think if I ever write the YA urban fantasy series, it might be influenced by what I loved about LJ Smith–strong, kickass heroines I both envied and had crushes on and heroes I wished I could keep for myself. But I don’t know that there’s any one author or series in particular that I can say influenced my own style. I certainly admire plenty of authors and love many series, but I just do my own thing and hope people enjoy it. 🙂
Avon: You have a lot of historical romance novels on your shelves, but they’re primarily het. And you write mostly M/M contemporary. What interested you about that genre in M/M that didn’t capture your attention as a reader of M/F?
Piper: Yeah, I never read very much M/F contemporary. Some, but not nearly as much as historicals or paranormal books. I think my lack of interest in M/F contemporary came from an inability to relate to the heroines, to be honest. I rarely saw myself in or felt connected to most of these modern-day heroines, and that lessened my enjoyment. That expectation wasn’t there when I read historicals or paranormal. I didn’t expect those heroines to be relatable, if that makes sense. My day-to-day life isn’t filled with werewolves or dance cards and the censure of the ton. I always connected to the heroes of contemporary instead–and I think that’s why when I discovered M/M as an actual book genre (I’d been reading it online in fanfic for years before that), I was drawn to contemporary. I get along well with men, and I’ve always been a tomboy. I think my brain is male (and, trust me, I don’t say that lightly), and I feel like the power dynamic in M/M contemporary is much more equal than it is in M/F. Then when I started writing original stories in M/M, I found that 90% of my ideas were contemporary, and I just rolled with it.
Avon: Thank you for sharing all of that! I always like hearing how authors find their genre and their interests. Speaking of interests, we started talking not only because of our shared M/M love (and can I take this opportunity to share with everyone how absolutely welcoming and supportive Piper is to new authors? <3) — and our love for hockey! We’re both sitting here talking about points and standings and the playoffs, but as you’ve mentioned, this is your first playoff season being invested in the outcome (and I’m sorry because sports exists to break your heart 🙁 ). What got you into hockey, and led to the point where you’re muttering at the Wild about closing out this game in OT?
Piper: And now that the Wild have won in a shootout (woot!), I can answer this question. 😛 I actually got into hockey through Tumblr. I follow a few hockey fans and had seen their reblogs about certain teams and players. I started to get really invested in Jonathan Toews and some of the other Blackhawks and started wanting to watch games and possibly write a hockey romance. Because my husband is a longtime hockey fan (he loves the Red Wings), he encouraged this idea. I started watching with him late last season, and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s now become an obsession. And sometimes loving hockey does feel like suffering. You’re right about the heartbreak. Oi. But I do love it so.
Avon: That’s the great thing about writing hockey romance — you can give your characters, and their teams, a happy ending! What about hockey do you think makes it a good focus for a romance novel?
Piper: I love the way hockey teams become a family of a kind. I love the nicknames and the intensity of the sport and the potential for rivalries–and how for a lot of players, that rivalry can end once they step off the ice and they can actually be friends. And, well, by now I think hockey is the greatest sport of all time, and if I want to read–or write–about any sport, this is going to be it. Hockey has become one of my happy places, and so is romance. Of course I’d want to combine the two. 🙂
Avon: I love that too, about the teams, and especially how even beyond the team name on the front of the jersey, hockey players, coaches, staff, fans….it’s all a family! It’s so much fun to meet and talk to other fans (even if you end up having to change your FB and Twitter icon to a hated team logo because of a bet *coughs*) who share a similar passion for the sport. As an author in M/M, would you say that is a similar sort of feeling?
Piper: Yes! I’ve mentioned this to you before, but when I first discovered M/M romance as a book genre, nearly 8 years after I started reading slash/fanfic online, I felt like I’d found my people. The M/M romance group was only about 200 members, maybe, when I joined. There were so few of us reading and writing at the time, about 6+ years ago, and people were so welcoming. I felt like I’d finally found where I belong–as a person and as an author–and I’ve made some of my best friends in this community.
Avon: As an author and a reader, what are your hopes for the genre in the larger scheme of the romance community?
Piper: Well, more than anything, I’d love to see it get more visibility. I’d love to see more of our (as in the collective M/M romance writing community) books hitting mainstream bestseller lists and being reviewed on the bigger blogs and in magazines. I’d love for it not to feel like a subgenre of the broader heterosexual romance community. I want it to be considered romance, period, and I’d love to see more of our books in my brick-and-mortar stores.
Avon: If you had a shelf for your favorite M/M romances, give us a sample of what you’d find on it!
Piper: Sure! I’m a huge fan of Jordan Castillo Price, so of course the “PsyCop” series would be on it. I love Andrea Speed’s “Infected” series, though I’d call it M/M urban fantasy with romantic subplots instead of M/M romance. “Bone Rider” by J. Fally would definitely be there, too, along with “Brothers of the Wild North Sea” by Harper Fox and Marie Sexton’s “Coda” series, JL Langley’s “With or Without” series and “Speechless” by Kim Fielding. There’d also be a few Megan Derr titles on there and plenty of others! I have lots of favorites.
Avon: What advice would you give to new authors who are just venturing forth into the world of publishing, no matter what genre?
Piper: I’d tell them to write what they enjoy. Sometimes we can get caught up in the market and what the next big trend is–and I’m not saying it’s not important to keep an eye on trends–but I feel like if you’re not writing what you love, you run the risk of burning yourself out and the whole process can lose its fun. I think it’s more important to love what you’re doing than, say, forcing yourself to write about firemen if you don’t actually have any interest in writing books about first responders. Write what calls to you and find the publisher best suited to help you polish and promote that book. That’s probably my best advice, aside from the whole practice makes perfect thing. 😉
Avon: And finally, who’s your prediction for the Stanley Cup matchup and eventual winner? The romantic version, or the more mundane RL one 😉
Piper: Well, if the Hawks get their act together, I can see them being in the championship again and possibly destroying the Washington Capitals to win the Stanley Cup. In the more romantic version, I think it’d be amazing to see it come down to the Boston Bruins against the Minnesota Wild. I’d be happy if the Bruins won, because you did sway me over to their side, but I’d be so thrilled to see the Wild win. I do love those boys, and not to be disloyal to my Blackhawks, but it’s not like they haven’t won a few times in the last 6 years. I mean, I do have a tube of melted 2015 Stanley Cup ice sitting on my bookshelf from their win last year, and I did watch that game. So, yeah. I think it’d be fun to see the Wild take the Cup. 🙂
Avon: There is only one thing in this that I can support, that being the Boston Bruins in the finals. Since, as we all know, I hate your hockey team. But luckily, our rivalry is a fun part of our friendship (and if you weren’t such a great friend, I’d toss that bottle of Stanley Cup ice into traffic. What?) and hockey fans are family no matter the team.
Thanks Piper!! I had so much fun interviewing you, watching hockey and finding out how to tweet Elizabeth Lowell and tell her we need her to write a book about Eric. Let’s do this again sometime! 😀
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.
Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, she loves them all (and has a two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She grew up in Chicago, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and loves to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life…even if it’s only in a book.
Authors Interviewing Authors is a monthly series featuring your favorite authors interviewing their favorite authors. If you have recommendations for interviews you’d like to see happen, please feel free to submit them at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.