Today I am so pleased to welcome Roan Parrish to Joyfully Jay. I read Roan’s book, In the Middle of Somewhere, a few weeks ago and just went crazy for it. So much so that I emailed her and asked if she would come on the blog and talk to us more about it. Roan generously agreed, so here is my interview with her about the book. If you haven’t checked it out, you can see my review here. Please join me in giving Roan a big welcome!
Thank you so much for coming today to talk to us about In the Middle of Somewhere!
Thanks so much for having me!
So I reviewed this one on the blog a couple of weeks ago, but can you just give everyone a quick overview of the story to catch us all up?
Sure thing. Daniel has lived in Philadelphia his whole life and moves to rural Michigan for a job, which is total culture shock for him. He never really fit in at home or in grad school, so he’s used to fending for himself. When he meets Rex, Daniel is immediately drawn to him, but doesn’t even let himself consider that their attraction might turn into anything real. Daniel still thinks of himself as this scrappy punk kid from Philly, whereas Rex lives in this homey cabin and seems like he kind of has his shit together. Still, little by little they get closer and as Daniel finds himself in a relationship for the first time his stubborn self-sufficiency keeps running up against Rex’s attempts to show that he cares, which causes some friction. As Rex and Daniel are figuring things out, Daniel learns a secret that really throws him for a loop. He’s forced to reevaluate a lot of things, including whether he’s willing to depend on someone other than himself.
The book is told from Daniel’s POV and he is such an interesting character. I loved the contradictions in him. On one hand he has worked so hard, is so smart and dedicated in his career. But on a personal level he has lots of insecurities and vulnerabilities. Can you talk more about writing Daniel and creating his character?
Aw, thank you; I’m so glad you thought so! I think the contradiction you mentioned is one of the foundations of Daniel’s character. He’s intensely vulnerable—he’s been picked on by his brothers his whole life because he was interested in school and they thought that meant he thought he was smarter than them, but then when he got to college and grad school his classmates saw him as less intellectual than them because of his class background and his lack of an academic pedigree. So, I think Daniel uses his intelligence and his education as a kind of armor that might somehow insulate him from those vulnerabilities.
When I was writing Daniel I was also thinking a lot about how self-consciousness can bleed really easily into solipsism and obliviousness. That is, sometimes so much of Daniel’s energy and attention are taken up by feeling judged and awkward that he doesn’t notice how his behavior affects other people. It’s something I think about for myself a lot—as someone who tends to be self-conscious, I sometimes catch myself at it and have to mentally slap myself and say, like, “dude, no one is actually paying any attention to you right now so get over yourself.”
I thought Daniel was such a perfect match for Rex. We have someone who doesn’t know how to trust or let somebody in, paired up with a guy who wants so badly to be a caretaker. I loved the inherent conflict in their two characters and the way they interact in a relationship.
Yay! Yeah, this is a major problem for them, and I think it will probably keep being a problem for them because no matter how great a relationship is, you can’t just flip a switch and suddenly trust someone. And, then, once you trust them it doesn’t automatically follow that you can trust yourself to let them in. Daniel’s really internalized the idea that letting someone help him makes him weak—and he has major issues with being seen as weak. And Rex, for a lot of reasons, is terrified of losing the people he cares about, so he wants to protect them.
So do you think it is possible for anyone to end this book not at least a little bit in love with Rex? He kind of screams “perfect boyfriend” but I love how we also see his vulnerabilities that make him seem real.
Ha! Well, and I think this relates to your last question, too. There are these stock romantic tropes we learn really young—like, “bringing flowers” or “boombox under the window” or whatever. Gestures that, for some people, can stand in for feeling; can express something without meaning anything. I think Rex has internalized some of those things about being a good partner. I mean, everything Rex does is motivated by genuine feeling, but I think he uses some “perfect boyfriend” behaviors as a shield much in the way Daniel uses his intelligence. He falls back on them in moments when he feels insecure or vulnerable or like he has nothing else to offer. And you see that, I hope, as the book moves on—the ways that Rex has developed certain behaviors that get him things he needs because he can’t get them in other ways.
I also really enjoyed the side characters here, particularly Ginger. In a genre that is not always kind to its females, she was so fabulous. I loved her no nonsense approach to things with Daniel, how she calls him on his BS and challenges him to not hide. But we can see she is also more than the snarky side kick as well.
Thanks so much. I loathe the relegation of female friends to a kind of voyeuristic gadfly whose only job is to serve and comment on the main character’s romantic quest. I love Ginger and I loved writing her—she definitely has her own story and her own journey. So do Leo and Will, the other secondary characters. It was really important to me that Daniel and Rex not exist in a total vacuum, because, um, you know, people tend not to.
I didn’t talk about this much in my review, but I found Daniel’s relationships with his father and brother really fascinating. The idea of being the odd one out in your family is really interesting. I could feel for him as he realizes he just doesn’t fit in, and that the things he wants out of life are things his family just doesn’t value. Not to mention all their homophobia.
Yeah, a huge chunk of Daniel’s feelings/worldview/etc. come from his experience of being the odd one out in his family. There’s a sense of safety that he’s just sort of missing. When he’s younger, he deals with that by just keeping his head down, but eventually he accepts their rejection and just kind of decides that he’ll depend on himself and no one else—until he meets Ginger, who’s a lot like a sister to him. And, similarly, there’s a way in which not fitting in with his posh grad school friends is the ultimate letdown of this fantasy alternative to his family that Daniel nursed as a teenager, too: that since he didn’t fit in at home maybe he’d fit in at school.
So I know we talked about this a bit online, but this is the first book in a series. How much can you tell readers about the next two books? I think one pairing is pretty obvious from fairly early on in the story, but the other is such a surprise I’m guessing you aren’t going to want to reveal much about it! But can you give us some hints? And maybe an idea of when to expect the next book?
First in a series of three . . . ish. ? Yep, one pairing is pretty clear in book one. That pairing is actually going to be the third in the series, though. The second book’s characters are, as you say, a surprise! I will say that book two is darker, mood-wise, than book one, but I really loved writing it. It made me think about writing much differently because of whose perspective it’s from (she said vaguely). Daniel and Rex do make an appearance in both books two and three, though. Book two is done and with the publisher now, so if all goes according to plan (plans immediately dissolve) it might be out . . . in the winter or spring?
Is there anything else you are working on that you would like to share with my readers?
Ooh, lots of things. Um, well, I’m particularly excited about a series I’m working on that’s sort of in conversation with Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories, if that doesn’t sound too highfalutin. It’s set in 19th century New York City and features a rather intense and whimsical Poe expert/enthusiast who gets swept up in the investigation of a Poe-related murder. He and the detective on the case become rather smitten despite finding one another supremely frustrating and having very different opinions as to Poe’s literary merits.
I’m also working on—well, re-writing, really—a book I wrote some years ago. It’s set in a city where the infrastructure has crumbled, and is about a group of friends kind of reclaiming certain parts of the city. It may or may not include statues that become animate, dazzle camouflage, and a ragtag magical opera troupe.
Then there’s that contemporary about the reclusive chef . . .
If folks want to know more about you or your writing, where can they find you?
My home base is over at roanparrish.com. But I’d love it if folks came and hung out on Facebook (facebook.com/roanparrish), Twitter (@RoanParrish), and Instagram (instagram.com/roanparrish)! It would really make them so much more fun.
Thank you again so much for taking the time to chat with me today! I loved the book and encourage everyone to pick it up!
My total pleasure! Thanks so much for having me!
DANIEL MULLIGAN is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates look down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Northern Michigan, but, a city boy through and through, when Daniel arrives in Holiday, Michigan, it’s clear that this small town is one more place he just won’t fit in.
REX VALE clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his large, muscular body until it can handle anything, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people. Though he loves the quiet and solitude of his little cabin in the woods, Rex can’t help but want someone to share it with.
When Daniel arrives in Holiday, they are smitten with each other, but though the sex is intense and explosive, Rex fears that Daniel will be one more in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in could be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls that have been keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia where a secret is revealed that changes the way he understands everything.
Can a scrappy professor, an intense carpenter, and a stray dog make a go of it in their cabin in the woods? Sometimes, you have to go to the middle of nowhere to end up exactly where you want to be.
ROAN PARRISH grew up in Michigan and lives in Philadelphia, but is always a few minutes away from deciding to move. A former academic, she’s used to writing things that no one reads. She still loves to geek out about books, movies, TV, and music—now, though, she’s excited to be writing the kind of romantic, angsty stories that she loves to escape into.
When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, wandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and cheese. But mostly cheese.