Today I am so pleased to welcome Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae to Joyfully Jay. Racheline and Erin have come to talk to us about their latest release, Starling, Book One in the Love in Los Angeles series. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
I always feel a little weird when I tell people Starling is a romance where no one says I love you.
That’s a weird thing, right?
Of course, I’m usually having that conversation on Twitter or a quick Facebook post (so much of the writing life is online, especially since we are cowriters who live in separate cities) and that never lets me truly explain the story of the no-I love you HEA just right. So I’m going to do it here instead.
So let’s imagine we’re in a bar, having a conversation where I am far wittier on my feet than I have ever actually managed to be in my life. It’s a fabulous bar, the type where you can just grab a beer with your buddies but the bartender totally knows your favorite fruity drink recipe and doesn’t judge you for it. You, me, and a bunch of our best friends are in the back chatting. I’m using entertaining hand gestures. I am not tripping over words. Or smacking anyone in the face with said hand gestures. And I’m totally not getting flustered (look, fantasies come in a lot of forms).
Anyway. We’re all relaxing with our beverages of choice, gossiping about our lives, talking about what books we’ve read, and then I spring it on you. A friend and I wrote a romance novel. And no one says I love you.
What? You ask. How is that a romance novel? Is it just the naughty bits?
Now, I’m not saying there’s not a lot of sex in this book, because there is, but it’s totally about the love story, and the sex is just part of that. The characters say I love you all the time, just not in so many words.
You take another sip of your drink and give me the skeptical but intrigued face. I love that face. Because you want to know more.
So I start telling you about our hero, Alex. He’s hot, he’s brilliant, he’s a movie-star Cinderella story. He’s one of those characters you can’t decide if you’d rather do or be. I mean, that’s how I feel about him. He’s just turned 21, and since he’s an actor he makes his living telling other people’s stories. Because of all this love is sort of hard for him — he’s inexperienced, disconnected from his own needs, and stressed out by fame.
But how is that heroic? you ask.
Being a hero is all about what we do when we’re scared, not about avoiding fear. And that’s why, despite how terrified he is, he eventually finds it in himself to pursue our other hero, Paul. Paul’s ten years older than Alex and has a house and a cat and an ex who totally took his dog when he — the ex — left. So they hook up, but then Alex realizes he can’t relate to any of that, and he’s afraid it’s going to end badly, so he tries to get out early.
Oh yeah. I’m crazy like that too!
Aren’t we all? So Alex sabatoges everything, or at least tries to, but it doesn’t work. At least not for good, because while Alex isn’t really good at talking with his own words versus the ones other people write for him as an actor, he can’t stop wanting to tell his story to Paul. And Paul can’t stop wanting Alex to talk to him, even when he’s not always great at reacting the way Alex wishes he would. And that’s how they stay in love when they’re fighting. They tell each other stories — about the lives they’ve had, about the ones they’re living now, and the one they could have together in the future.
Ultimately we didn’t make the choice to have Alex and Paul not say “I love you” — we didn’t even realize this had happened until months after the first draft. But they’re incredibly in sync, and when they hit that bravery and realize that they’re building the world of their future together by telling stories about their past, the words just started to seem superfluous and we didn’t want to overshadow all the ways in which they do profess their love.
After yet another fight with his boyfriend about work-life balance, Paul Marion Keane gets to the small suite of offices that belong to hit TV show The Fourth Estate’s writing team. It’s early enough that the lights are still off.
Between the fight with Craig, a stack of notes to go through on an episode that isn’t even his, and a pitch he’s still trying to make happen for something that will probably end up relegated to a C-plot, Paul is grateful for the time alone.
He punches the lights on, drops his bag on his desk, and walks into the kitchenette for a cup of terrible coffee, at which point his already unpleasant morning becomes ridiculous. Their intern, Nick, and some unidentified boy are making out against the counter, in front of the damn coffee machine.
“Seriously, what the fuck?” Paul says.
Nick unsuctions himself from his companion and turns around sheepishly.
It seems like Nick’s trying to shield the other guy, but he’s taller than Nick so it’s not very effective. He’s also startling in appearance — red hair, dramatically freckled face, and ridiculously plump lips — in a way that draws Paul’s attention despite Nick’s fidgeting.
“We didn’t think anyone would be here,” Nick says.
“Obviously.” Paul shoves into their space to try to deal with the coffee maker. “When you get caught making out with someone at work, apologize first.”
Nick backs up nervously, but the other guy just slides down the counter as if this whole absurd turn of events is merely mildly interesting.
“Also, start the coffee if you’re the first one in. Don’t you have homes, either of you?”
“He didn’t want his roommates to know,” Mr. Unidentified says, blinking at Paul mildly.
Paul rolls his eyes. “And who the fuck are you?”
“P.A.,” he says.
“Right,” Paul snarks. “Should have known from the hideous cargo shorts. Do you have a name?”
“Alex.” He seems unperturbed by the insult to his wardrobe. In fact he grins, just a little.
When J. Alex Cook, a production assistant on The Fourth Estate (one of network TV’s hottest shows), is accidentally catapulted to stardom, he finds himself struggling to navigate both fame and a relationship with Paul, one of Fourth’s key writers. Despite their incendiary chemistry, Alex’s inexperience and the baggage they’re both carrying quickly lead to an ugly break-up.
Reeling from their broken hearts, Alex has an affair with a polyamorous co-star and Paul has an ill-advised reunion with an old flame. Meanwhile, the meddling of their colleagues, friends — and even the paparazzi! — quickly make Alex and Paul’s real life romance troubles the soap opera of the television season.
But while the entertainment value may be high, no one knows better than Alex and Paul that there are no guarantees when it comes to love in Los Angeles.
Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese’s gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry, is published by Torquere Press. The first novel, Starling, will be released September 10, 2014; its sequel, Doves, is scheduled for January 2015. Racheline is a NYC-based performer and storyteller focused on themes of sex, gender, desire and mourning. Erin McRae is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. You can find them on the web at http://www.Avian30.com.