Today I am so pleased to welcome Robert Winter to Joyfully Jay. Robert has come to talk to us about his latest release, Every Breath You Take (which Kirsty reviewed here and loved). He has also brought an excerpt and a great giveaway. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Where Did Every Breath You Take Come From?
For those of you who have read September, you will realize quickly that Every Breath You Take is quite different. My first book was a contemporary romance about two men slowly falling in love, taking their time to date and get to know one another as their relationship built gradually. Every Breath You Take, on the other hand, begins with the stalking and murder of a young gay man and throws the main characters into peril that they don’t even recognize at first.
I was still looking for a publisher for September when I came up with the basic story for Every Breath You Take. One afternoon in February, I was driving from Washington, DC, to Provincetown, Massachusetts. I usually drive in silence because I like to take in the scenery and let my mind wander, but for a while I turned on the radio. The Police’s song “Every Breath You Take” came on. As I was listening to it for what was probably the hundredth time, it occurred to me what a creepy song it really is. “Every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.” I imagined it as an acoustic song, slowed down and sung in a darker voice than Sting possesses – maybe someone like Steve Kazee who won a Tony award for “Once” – and the thought made me shiver. The words became more menacing, the threat more pronounced, like a message from a stalker to the object of his obsession.
That idea took hold, and I began to flesh out who the stalker might be, what his beloved would look like and how he would react to being stalked, and how the villain would handle competition (spoiler alert: badly!).
By the time I finished the ten-hour drive to Provincetown, I had mapped out for myself what I thought could be a gripping thriller. I spent the next two days writing a detailed outline of the story and developing the characters in more depth. Within about five weeks, I had a solid draft.
Originally, I conceived of Every Breath You Take as part of my “Pride and Joy” series, which began with September. There are certain overlapping characters (Joe and Terry from September play significant roles here), and despite the thriller angle, I mainly wanted to create a moving romance about flawed men dealing with their own issues quite apart from the danger in which they find themselves. It wasn’t until late in the editing process with Dreamspinner Press that we discussed the practical difficulties of treating two such different books as part of a series. We eventually decided it would be better to have Every Breath You Take be a standalone novel rather than a continuation of “Pride and Joy”.
That said, I am a big fan of a shared universe, so don’t be surprised if you see an eventual meeting of David, Brandon, Zachary and Thomas, not to mention the key supporting character Randy.
If you enjoyed the style of September, I hope you’ll take a chance on Every Breath You Take and take my word that, despite the danger, the story is ultimately about two men falling in love. You can find out more about my writing adventures at my website.
Brian Gallagher stormed out of the bar into a cold February night, but he failed to notice when the door opened again behind him. A man with silver-framed glasses emerged slowly and focused his eyes on Brian’s retreating back.
Brian twisted his scarf around his neck and then yanked up the zipper on his red puffy jacket with trembling hands. The zipper stuck, and he muttered, “Shit,” but kept tugging until finally the slider moved and the teeth closed. The parking lot was mostly full with people coming and going from Mata Hari, the newest gay bar in town, and the nearby dance club Pyramid. He stomped across the lot toward P Street and pulled out his phone.
“Hey, kiddo.” Sandra sounded cheerful when she picked up the call, even though she probably guessed what was coming. “Whatcha doin’ calling on a Saturday?”
“I’m going home already because I’m having a shitty night.” Between his own anger, the pulsing beat from Pyramid’s music system, and the chatter of men scurrying from car to club, he practically had to yell into the phone. “Talk to me and make me feel better, please?”
“Aw, baby, wassup? I thought you were gonna hook up with that guy again.”
“That’s what I thought. Well, it’s what I hoped, anyway. We were so hot last week. I was sure he’d want to get together again. He wasn’t even talking to anyone important, just this guy. But when I walked up, he shut me down.”
“So… you didn’t have a date. You just surprised him?” Sandra asked.
“Well, you know.” Brian was aware he sounded whiny. “He wouldn’t give me his number last week, but I still figured he’d be happy to see me.” He emerged from the parking lot and headed up P Street toward his apartment. “The sex was just spec-tac-ular. Like ‘once in a lifetime’ great. And he was so nice to me. I thought we had, like, a connection.”
“Baby, did he say he wanted to see you again? If he didn’t give you his digits, then that sounds intentional….”
“Okay. He did say it was a one-time thing, he doesn’t do dating, blah blah blah. But come on. We had sex twice that night. Twice. Like, I never gave it up so fast before.”
“Bullshit. You’re as easy as they come,” Sandra said, probably to get a laugh, but it didn’t work. Brian just got mad again.
“That asshole. Who does he think he is? God’s gift to men?” he fumed. “Yes, he’s gorgeous, but come the fuck on. Like, I got so pissed that I threw his own drink at him.”
“Well, he’ll remember you, then, no question. But I’m sorry he hurt your feelings.”
Brian deflated suddenly. “What’s wrong with me, Sandra?” he asked as he turned right onto Hopkins Street, where he lived. “Why do I keep going for these guys who treat me like shit?” The streetlamp on the corner was out.
Oh, fucking perfect.
His footsteps sounded loud to him once he turned off busy P Street. His quiet block was dark because of the busted streetlight.
“Nothin’, baby. You just get close too quickly because you’ve got a big heart and you want a big love,” Sandra cooed in his ear.
“You always say the right thing,” Brian sighed. “But I’m a goddamn mess. I know it, and you know it.”
As he expected, Sandra kept talking and tried to persuade him the right guy was out there somewhere, waiting for him. He just needed patience. She’d given him variations on the same speech so many times she must have it memorized. But he loved her for it.
As he hurried down the street toward his rented garden apartment, he heard the scuff of a shoe behind him. He glanced back over his shoulder and noticed a man with shaggy blond hair and glasses, walking in the same direction but on the opposite side of the street. He thought no more about it and got out his keys to unlock the wrought iron security gate at the bottom of the stairs. He was relieved the metal didn’t squeal anymore when he turned the key and pushed it open. His landlord must have oiled the hinges.
“Thanks, Sandra.” Brian locked the gate behind him and then unlocked the front door. He pressed the phone between his ear and shoulder as he pulled off his jacket and hung it on the coat tree by the door. “You have once again fulfilled ‘Best Friend For Life’ duties.”
“You home safe?” she asked.
“Yeah. Home at ten on a Saturday night, alone,” Brian groused as he unwound the scarf from his neck and placed it with his coat. “Guess it’s time for, like, ice cream and a sappy movie.” As an afterthought he flipped the lock on his front door and then turned on a lamp.
“You want me to come over, baby?” Sandra asked.
“Nah. That’s sweet, but I just need some time to beat myself up. I’ll get back out there again next week. Besides, I don’t want you on the streets this late.”
“I’ll see you in class Monday, ’kay? Call me if you need to talk some more.”
“Thanks for listening.” Brian signed off with another sigh. He set his phone on the side table and then changed out of his bar clothes and into comfortable sweats. He pulled a pint of Ben and Jerry’s out of the freezer. Curled up on his small sofa. Searched through his Netflix queue and finally settled on a really bad romantic movie he’d seen three times already.
Just to make sure I’m completely miserable.
Across the street the man with the silver-framed glasses stood back in the shadows and stared at the front window of the garden apartment. He could see the back of his quarry’s head as he watched a small flat-screen TV.
Eventually the head nodded forward and then jerked up. When it happened a second time, the creature turned off the TV and then the lamp and headed to bed.
The man waited for another half hour with his back pressed against an alcove formed where two brownstones met. The street was quiet. Almost no one walked by, and the lone person who came down the street failed to notice him in the shadows.
The man felt his breath grow hoarse, and blood rushed in his ears as his heart began to pound. He cultivated that sensation as he reached into his coat pocket for the screwdriver that rested there and made himself imagine the creature’s hands touching the Beloved’s face. Stroking his body. He curled his fingers around the screwdriver and then clenched and unclenched rhythmically. Its thick handle felt rough against his palm because of the grooves and sharp edges he had chiseled into it. He had ideas for other implements that would serve his purpose, but for now, this would do just fine. This would make his point.
His throat was dry, and his eyes burned from focusing on the darkened window, but he felt invincible. The tension in his body climbed exquisitely, and when he could take no more, he slipped across the street and stepped down to the locked gate. It opened easily with his small set of picks. The gate made no noise when the creature went through it earlier, so he was confident and quick and didn’t bother to lock it behind him. Child’s play, he thought as he worked the lock on the apartment door.
The tumblers clicked into place.
He stored his lockpicks, slipped inside the darkened apartment, and then closed the door behind him as silently as he could. Streetlight came through the slatted blinds the boy had failed to close completely. He waited quietly until he heard a faint snore from the back and then removed his glasses and tucked them in an inside pocket of his jacket. The scarf his quarry had been wearing caught his eye, and the man bared his teeth as he lifted it off the coat tree and tugged it tightly between his hands. It was well made. It would hold. He smiled.
He slid through the gloom toward the room where the creature lay sleeping. He was hard, and the blood in his erection pulsed in time to the pounding of his heart. That boy had dared to touch his Beloved. He had probably even been fucked by him. But that wasn’t enough—oh no. He came back for more.
It had taken the man so long to find his Beloved and interpret his subtle clues. He finally understood what was required of him. The undeserving gnat must be chastised, and he would be the Beloved’s angel of retribution. He was conscious of the weight of the screwdriver in his pocket, the scratch of the wool scarf in his hands, and the power in his arms.
He reached for the boy on the bed.
On Monday when Brian Gallagher failed to show up for class, Sandra Yu went by his apartment. She found the gate open and the front door unlocked. After an anguished moment, she called the police rather than go inside. That was a good decision because the sight of her best friend—face down, naked except for a scarf knotted around his neck, his buttocks and bed covered with blood and other matter—would have scarred her for life.
When Zachary Hall leaves Utah for a job in Washington, it’s finally his chance to live as a gay man and maybe find someone special. In a bar he meets Thomas Scarborough, a man who seems perfect in and out of the bedroom. But Thomas never dates. He never even sleeps with the same man twice. Despite their instant connection, he can offer Zachary only his friendship, and Zachary is looking for more.
Thomas is tempted to break his own rules, but years before, he became the victim of a stalker who nearly destroyed his life. Even though his stalker died, Thomas obsessively keeps others at a distance. Despite his fascination with Zachary, he is unable to lower his barriers. Frustrated, Zachary accepts he will never have what he wants with Thomas and soon finds it with another man.
But young gay men in Washington, DC are being murdered, and the victims all have a connection to Thomas. Once again someone is watching Thomas’s every move. Can it be a coincidence? When the depraved killer turns his attention toward Zachary, Thomas must face the demons of his past—or lose his chance to open his heart to Zachary forever.
- Dreamspinner Press https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/every-breath-you-take-by-robert-winter-8437-b
- Amazon USA http://a.co/cPI63QR
- Amazon CA http://a.co/6MYH9v8
- Amazon UK http://amzn.eu/1j0kJBX
- Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/every-breath-you-take-robert-winter/1126238817?ean=2940157393588
- Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/every-breath-you-take-22
- iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/every-breath-you-take/id1224997412?mt=11
Robert Winter lives and writes in Provincetown. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.
Contact Robert at the following links:
- Website http://www.robertwinterauthor.com
- Facebook https://www.facebook.com/robert.winter.921230
- Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16068736.Robert_Winter
- Twitter http://www.twitter.com/@RWinterAuthor
- Email RobertWinterAuthor@comcast.net
Robert is giving away a signed paperback of Every Breath You Take to a US winner. Just leave a comment below to enter. The contest closes Wednesday, June 28th at 11:59 pm ET.
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