Hello everyone! I am so happy to welcome back the amazing Heidi Cullinan today! Heidi is here for the third part of her Special Delivery series interview with me (if you missed the others check out our interviews on Special Delivery and Double Blind). Today, we are talking about the latest book in the series, Tough Love. Heidi has also brought along a copy of the book to give away. I totally loved this one and reviewed it yesterday. So please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Hi Jay, thanks for having me!
Always a pleasure! So today we are talking about the final book in your Special Delivery series, Tough Love. Can you give our readers a quick overview of the story?
Tough Love is the story of Crescencio, Mitch’s (unknown!) half-brother in McAllen, Texas, and Steve, Mitch and Randy’s longtime friend. Crescencio (Chenco) works at a fast food restaurant by day and performs as a drag queen whenever he can get a gig. Steve is a work-at-home techie and big time leather daddy. Everybody meets when Mitch, Randy, and Sam come back to the Valley for Mitch’s dad’s funeral, and hijinks pretty much ensue from there.
Now unlike Special Delivery and Double Blind, which were revised and rereleased, this is a totally new story. What made you decide to add another book to the series? Did you always plan for a third book?
I always intended there to be a book three, but it’s taken several different forms over the three years it took me to write it. I knew I wanted something distinctly BDSM, I knew I wanted to address pain (emotional and physical), and I knew I wanted to push boundaries. But I also wanted the original gang back as much as possible, and all this took some juggling.
Tough Love reconnects us with all four heroes from the first two books and introduces us to Chenco Ortiz, who is Mitch’s brother. It is nice closure for Mitch who has no relationship with the rest of his family and the two men share that bond of being screwed over by their jerk of a father. Did you always see Mitch as having a brother he didn’t know about, even in the earlier stories?
I didn’t always see him as having a brother, but I knew he had to explore his past at some point, so this made sense to me. I loved the idea of him having family he didn’t know about, especially in that moment when his father is finally gone.
One thing I loved about Chenco is his alternate person of Caramela the drag queen. I thought it was really interesting to see how it Caramela is almost a separate entity, who comes to the forefront at times and others steps back and allows Chenco to lead. Can you talk to us a little more about the drag elements of the story and this sense of the dual parts of Chenco?
I’ve watched a lot of local drag shows, talked to some drag queens, and got to see a show when I was in Mcallen a few years back. I’m fascinated with the idea of dual-identity, of genderfuck, and having done drag myself now, I understand how liberating it can be. I think for Chenco doing drag is his elegant fuck you to everything he was told he had to be, all the limitations that come with growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, and of being not only Latino but half Latino. He felt very isolated, and Caramela was his way of claiming himself, redefining.
I’m not sure Caramela’s drag experience is typical, but the more I learn about drag, the more I understand there’s no such thing. There’s the drag race mentality, which is something entirely different. Mostly I think drag is incredibly personal to the performer.
In addition to Chenco, our other hero is Steve Vance, a hard core Dom who comes in and helps Chenco out when he really needs it. Your stories (and this series in particular) often incorporate BDSM, but Tough Love explores a lot of really hard core kink, even more so than many of your books. For example, there is needle play, water sports, and really hard core sadism. What made you decide to explore these more extreme elements of BDSM here in this story?
I deliberately went to all the edges because one, hardly anyone does, and two, a lot of the things I explored aren’t at all unusual for Lifestylers. I wanted to show normalcy too—sadism but not as something melodramatic or removed from mainstream culture. The Lifestylers I know are the most down-to-earth, normal people you’ll ever meet, and generally better adjusted than people not in the Scene. I wanted to write about a BDSM couple that wasn’t the usual ropes and handcuffs. And I wanted to do my best to make these harder-core elements beautiful. I don’t know that I can do that for everyone, but the watersports scene in particular I wanted to be moving, not titillating. We’ll have to see how well I pulled that off, but this was my goal.
So I have to ask, is there any chance that there are more stories to come set in this world? You know I am a serious Mitch and Sam fan and will read anything with them in it. Are there more books to come or is this the end for the gang?
Probably. [OMG! Squeee!] Sam kind of roped me into a fourth book during his Q&A on my forum, and honestly there are so many ways to introduce new couples, so many novella-length adventures they could take. Mostly I have to tame my production schedule and get my health under control, and hopefully things take off.
Can you tell us about what else you are working on? Anything else new we can look forward to?
I’m in the process of editing Fever Pitch, Love Lessons #2, and Sleigh Ride, Minnesota Snow #2 for release in September and November respectively. I have re-releases coming out this summer to from Wilde City: Hero and Miles and the Magic Flute, and Sweet Son will also be back sooner rather than later. I’m writing a stand-alone novel right now, plus Love Lessons 3.
If my readers want to learn more about you or your work, where can they find you?
I list most of my social networks in the upper right of the header on www.heidicullinan.com, but I’m most prevalent on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks again so much Heidi for participating in these interviews! It was great fun!
Thanks for having me!
Heidi has brought a copy of Tough Love to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Sunday April 13 at 11:59 pm EST.
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