Susan Mac Nicol dishes on love, Benedict Cumberbatch, sexual abuse, and her new M/M romance!

book-cassandra-by-starlight-released

Susan! Welcome to my website! We’re so very happy to have you here today so that we can ask our nosy discerning questions! Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a romance writer. Why romance in particular? What are your favorite genres in which to read?

Until I wrote Cassandra by Starlight, I’d been a thriller/horror/psychological drama kind of girl. I love Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman, Phil Rickman and Deborah Harkness. Then I got drawn into the world of romance and intrigue with Bennett and Cassie and found I loved writing in the romance genre. However, I didn’t start reading anything ‘romancey’ until I wanted to do some research on gay man sex for a book I was writing which has a bisexual serial killer. I read Kindle Alexander’s’ ‘Up in Arms’ and Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English mysteries and got hooked on M/M romance. Now that’s more or less all I read. I’ve immersed myself so deep in this wonderful enriching genre (which in all honesty no one in the family can understand and it’s a source of great consternation and amusement for them) that I don’t ever see myself getting out.

Oooh! I love Josh Lanyon’s books! I’ll have to check out Kindle Alexander now–thanks for the tip! Your bio on your website indicates you were born in the UK, but immigrated to South Africa when you were eight years old and only returned to the UK as a married adult with children. How would you describe South Africa to someone who’s never experienced it? The UK? Do you have a favorite country to live in?

South Africa was a wonderful experience, and I loved every minute of it. The houses are large, the grounds spacious, we had a swimming pool, a thatch entertainment area, sunshine and a lot of outdoor living. But the crime was starting to get too prevalent and with two young kids, we decided to up and leave. England has since become our home, and while we miss the sunshine, I think we’re all settled in here and have been able to travel far more than we would have had we still been in SA. I personally am very happy here but I think the hubby misses his brothers and the sunshine.

I noticed recently that you were interviewed by a regional newspaper in your area. The reporter described you as the ‘next E.L. James.’ How did that make you feel?

It was a lot of fun being interviewed. The young man doing the interview, James Drummond, was very interested in the fact I wrote sexy books and EL was all the rage at the time. Although I assured James that my books weren’t much like Ms. James’, other than having spicy sex scenes (but no implements and no BDSM practices) he decided that his version sounded better. So imagine my surprise when I saw the headlines. I went to my local shop to buy groceries and nearly fell down when I saw the bill board. It was a wonderful feeling though…

In that same article, you mentioned that Benedict Cumberbatch, whom you admire, was the inspiration for the hero of your first novel, Cassandra by Starlight. Do you think this is something most writers do—base characters on real-life models as a sort of scaffolding on which to ‘build’ a character?

I imagine all writers have people, incidents and memories which they use to enrich their stories. Whether they do it to the extent I did- i.e. create a character because I wanted the real one and I couldn’t have him *sighs dreamily* – I’m not sure. That sounds a little obsessive, doesn’t it? Like I’m a stalker or something…

There is a lot of me in Cassie, my female lead in Cassandra by Starlight. Her views, her beliefs and a lot of the stuff that happened to her are my personal stories as well. I found her an easy character to develop as a result.

We’ve joked a little about stalking, but Cassandra by Starlight deals with a very serious and often overlooked situation: men being the victim of rape by a woman. What lead you to write about this subject? What kind of research did you do?

I have a couple of causes I’m passionate about. Sexual abuse is one of them. When I started writing this novel I knew I wanted one shocking event that would provide the book with a controversial and as you’ve mentioned,’ overlooked’ subject. With Bennett having a stalker who was extremely enamoured of him, the idea of him being physically raped and the results of that sprung to mind. I wanted to find out what people felt about this and when I started researching, my eyes were opened. I found men and women who thought women couldn’t rape a man; that if a man had an erection he must ‘want it’, that the man should just ‘lie back’ and enjoy it; and that the level of ignorance about the subject was overwhelming. I found the real life experience of a man called James Landrith, followed his work with abuse survivors, saw his writings and his views and decided that this was how I wanted to represent the topic in my book. When the book was published, I tweeted it out with a specific mention of this topic to garner some interest. Imagine my surprise when James himself contacted me on Twitter and told me he’d had the same experience. Imagine his surprise when I told him he’d been the inspiration! This led to a friendship of sorts online and you can read all the rape posts I’ve done, together with a link to one James did, here.

Kudos to you for tackling such complex and weighty issues! I’m sure most people are not aware to the extent to which this sort of thing occurs. Which comes first for you: the story idea or the characters?

Normally the story line. Once I have that pop into my head (and no, I have no idea where they came from, they’re all so random) then I start thinking of the characters. Sometimes they even arrive together. Take my second recent M/M I finished and submitted to a publisher. It’s called Waiting for Rain. I went to the beautiful town of Stamford in Lincolnshire for a weekend away. I was so taken by it I decided I wanted to set a story there, in a hotel like the one we had tea and scones with jam in. So Toby Prentiss, Hotel Manager, was born and then I needed a second man to give him someone to love. So I thought ‘hmm, a carpenter, building a new bar in the hotel, and the two meet, sparks fly, angst ensues…and hey presto -Rain Engel made his appearance. Then sheep and pole dancing made their sneaky way into my head and the rest is a story I hope works. Having said that, there’s no bestiality in this book, I promise. The sheep are innocent bystanders. I had someone who’d read the little bit of a teaser that I put up on Facebook quite worried about this aspect. 78812398_8

When it comes to romance, would you say you have a type?

Do you mean ‘my type’, the sort of man I would look for in my own romance story? Absolutely. Physically they have to be taller than me, not beanpoles but enough I can lay my head on his chest and look up into his eyes. Black hair preferably (although I’ve always had a thing for red heads so auburn and dark red work well for me) with a great tight backside, broad shoulders and preferably no gut. They HAVE to have a wicked sense of humour, (sarcasm is good), be intelligent and have loads of money. Yes, I’m shallow. I admit this unreservedly.

On your website, it mentions that you wrote your first novel in seven weeks. Had you ever written anything before this story? What was it that compelled you to write so feverishly?

I’ve written since I was a kid on my first old manual typewriter , a Smith Corona, which is now probably worth a fortune as vintage one. Unfortunately it got chucked during the move to the UK. I wrote a fantasy novel to the tune of 30 000 words, which sits in my drawer. (Part of it is published on Wattpad in fact.) I’ve written poetry which is on etherbooks. But nothing prepared me for as you say the ‘feverish’ writing of completing three 110000 word novels in the space of two months. I wrote like a dervish because I was so immersed in the story. I was truly ‘possessed’.

Are you a pantser or a plotter or something in between?

I am a definite pantser. I don’t plot, other than having about two or three paragraphs of the story line in my head, a brief description of each of the main characters. One thing I always do though is create a Timeline document. E ach major event in the story gets listed chronologically with the date, so I can track time between events, to make sure the seasons reflect correctly, that when I say ‘he did it two weeks ago’, it all makes sense.

What do you look for in a hero? A heroine?

I want strength of character and some sort of flaw that will make them more realistic. People aren’t perfect. My characters shouldn’t be either. Bennett has a crazy temper which he struggles to control. He can be arrogant. Cassie is insecure about her looks and the fact she has a younger man on her arm she wants to keep. She’s also very private, keeping her emotions to herself. In Stripped Bare, Matthew is a reserved and private individual who suffers from slight OCD. He’s a control freak. Shane is gung ho and sometimes too quick to action without thinking which causes problems.

I like my heroes and heroines to have a sense of fun, compassion and their own unique mix of strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and fears. Sometimes they need to do stupid things too.

StrippedBare_coverI see that you are planning to release your first M/M romance novel soon. I write M/M romance myself, and am giving serious consideration to writing M/F stories as well. The general consensus among various authors that I’ve polled is that I should have two separate pen names for these two genres because the audience can be quite different for each. I’ve already begun developing my platform for my M/F writing persona, but I confess, the thought of recreating myself, as well as potentially splitting my audience, is daunting. Can you tell me why you decided to publish M/M romance under the same name as your M/F romance?

Nope I’m writing under the same name. I write romance – to me there’s no difference whether its M/F or M/M. My M/F books have gay men in it and a couple of books I’ve written have same sex male sex in them. So to me, it’s already there. I’m also cheeky – I WANT people to know it’s me writing such steamy sex between two blokes because they would never in their wildest dreams have imagined it of me 🙂

What would you say is the overall theme of your stories?

Two people meeting through circumstances beyond their control, normally opposites, being attracted to each other and finding out that the journey in getting to know themselves and each other is well worth the wait and the trip. I love Happy Ever Afters, and I doubt I’d want to read a book that ended up with the hero or heroine dying, or falling apart, or not being with the one they truly love. I’m soppy that way.

Tell us a little about your upcoming release. What is it about and when can we expect it? What’s next for Susan Mac Nicol?

Stripped Bare will be out on the 22nd July. As such, I do  not yet have a buy link for it, but be sure to keep checking out my website–I’ll post it as soon as it it available!

‘Though two years past, Matthew Langer is still getting over the death of a loved one. He’s steered clear of serious relationships, but when he meets the irascible, dirty mouthed and tempestuous Shane Templar that decision has never been harder. Shane is sexy, warm and funny, and Matthew finds himself trying like hell not to care about him. Especially when Shane, with his quick wit and hacking skills, is quick to stand up for justice and avenge wrongs. Then Shane strikes at the wrong target, and Matthew realises just how far gone he already is. At the threat of losing for good yet another man who’s broken through his armour, Matthew finds his heart stripped bare. He must face the demons of his soul or a future without love.’

Still on the sexual abuse side, I’ve been commissioned to write the auto biography of a man called Joe Leistman, who was sexually abused for three years by his Scoutmaster. The Boy Scout Perversion Files are a huge topic in the US and around the world at the moment. Joe was one of the victims.

I’ve also recently proof read and found an editor for a man called Stephen Hill, who was raped himself by two men when he was sixteen. He’s written his own auto biography ‘Echoes of Childhood-Survivor’ about his experience and how his life changed afterwards. So I’ll be helping him promote that as well.

And as I mentioned I’m waiting on a publisher to decide whether they want Waiting for Rain. But as light relief to writing Joe’s story, I’ve started a new M/M story which involves penguins and genies…..I’ve decided to put a paranormal spin on my next one.
So I shall definitely be keeping busy!

We’ll be giving away a digital copy of Susan’s first book, Cassandra by Starlight, to someone chosen at random from the comments on this post. Be sure to leave your email address if you want to be considered for the contest! The story is a M/F one, but there is a M/M relationship in it as well, for those interested in it. The contest will be taking entries until midnight on July 7th! Thanks!

Author Bio:
Sue Mac Nicol was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in the United Kingdom. At the age of eight, her family moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where she stayed for nearly thirty years before arriving back in the UK in December 2000.

She has written nine novels, two novellas and a screen play since February 2012 so believes in keeping herself busy. She has found herself wanting to stay in the genre that is M/M romance so more can definitely be expected.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She is also a member of a rather unique writing group, called the Talliston Writer’s Circle, which in itself has a story all of its own to tell and lives in the rural village of Bocking, in Essex, with her family.

Her plan is to keep writing as long as her muse sits upon her shoulder. Her dream is to one day make enough money to give up the day job and get that big old house in the English countryside overlooking a river, where she can write all day and continue to indulge her passion for telling stories

Susan Mac Nicol – My Links and contact details
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Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
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17 thoughts on “Susan Mac Nicol dishes on love, Benedict Cumberbatch, sexual abuse, and her new M/M romance!

  1. ……because I wanted the real one and I couldn’t have him *sighs dreamily* – I’m not sure. That sounds a little obsessive, doesn’t it? Like I’m a stalker or something…
    Yes! Benedict Cumberbatch! *grin*
    Sorry! Lately when his name pop up in a post I can not help but write a comment! ;P

      • especially the Khan version! I really enjoyed it! *grins wickedly too*

        “To quote Sarah”….…I read Kindle Alexander’s’ ‘Up in Arms’ and Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English mysteries and got hooked on M/M romance. Now that’s more or less all I read… Me too!
        I don’t feel much interest in the F/M genre over the past few years but I read the romantic kind except when they are too soppy. I prefer the crime, the mystery or a strong/contemporary genre so this interview about the book and a new author piqued my interest. 🙂

        Now. A man has many involuntary erections even when he does not want it so why a woman can not rape a man? We can ‘fake’ an orgasm! and I can not imagine what it feels like to be raped .. and I hope I never feel it… When it happens to a woman goes on the front page in the news but when it’s a man? I think there are many cases around the world just a man are more reticent to report it.
        I must say I’m poorly informed about on it.

        Sorry for my babbling and the orrible english! ;P

        • Well, Paula, I suspect in many cases of male rape, there is a shame factor above and beyond the humiliation of being held against your will and violated–there is bound to be an element of disbelief too–that rape ‘can’t possibly’ happen to a man, that he must have enjoyed it, etc.

          Look at the rape-shaming culture in women: the pages on Facebook devoted to mocking rape victims, the implication that they somehow deserved it, were asking for it. That it doesn’t happen to ‘good girls’. We’ve got politicians here in this country stating that women don’t get pregnant as a result of rape–ignoring the fact that over 25,000 pregnancies each year are as a result of rape. We’ve got a big company launching a new video game and at a recorded competition, one of the head honchos tells his female competitor to ‘lie back and enjoy it–it will be over soon.’

          According to the rape statistics for the US, over 90,000 people reported being raped in 2012–91% of which were women, 9% of which were men. Men are the rapists 99% of the time.

          So take all that, and add to it the idea that no one else out there has been through what you’ve been through–chances are that male rape crimes are vastly under-reported–even more so than they are in women. The numbers are staggering no matter how you look at them. The Huffington Post recently posted actual *facts* about rape statistics (as opposed to the conveniently made-up facts handed out by politicians with their own agendas to push forward), and bottom line is 1 in 5 women in the US is at risk of being raped in her lifetime. So if the numbers of men are even a fraction of this, it is not being reported in men to the same degree.

          And the conviction rate is only 25% 🙁
          Sarah Madison recently posted..Susan Mac Nicol dishes on love, Benedict Cumberbatch, sexual abuse, and her new M/M romance!My Profile

          • I’m gratified to see that this subject of male rape is making such an impact. It’s a subject that clearly has people thinking and I for one am delighted that its getting some ‘air time’. If you look at the statistics and horror stories out there, there are probably a lot of men who have suffered this sort of thing who simply won’t come forward and tell their stories because they fear reprisal from the people who say it simply can’t happen. They face ridicule, shame and at worst, harassment. James Landrith, the man who’s experience formed the basis of the research for my book, has often been vilified and insulted because of his views. So I’m pleased to see that there is a lot of open mindedness out there, even if most of it seems to be from a woman’s perspective. All we can do is generate awareness one small step at a time.
            Susan Mac Nicol recently posted..Oh how the world turns- Research serves its purpose.My Profile

          • Susan:

            It’s gratifying to me to see that such serious topics can be handled within the context of a mere ‘romance’ novel. Our genre in general takes a lot of flak for being fluff and not having any literary value. I don’t think that’s true. I think that romance writers tackle all kinds of important topics within the context of our stories–even if we do, perhaps, spin things to end better for our characters than they might in real life.

            Regardless, the first step *is* creating awareness–and from there, concern, and then action. There are a LOT of romance readers out there. We’re a veritable army! 🙂

          • I couldn’t agree more about the perception of ‘romance’ writers and readers and the whole ‘fluff and’ cotton candy perception. Beneath every HEA there’s normally a well researched depth to the story and more than one serious facet being tackled beneath the romance and the love relationship aspects.

            Romance writers certainly rock!
            Susan Mac Nicol recently posted..Oh how the world turns- Research serves its purpose.My Profile

  2. What a GREAT interview. I loved reading about the research into sexual abuse, particularly about male rape. there was a spate of them near where I lived in london, and many had the same reaction as those people Sue spoke to.

  3. The majority of people I know would insist that a man cannot be raped, that as you said if he has an erection then he must want it. I hope your story helps dispel that myth. Looking forward to reading it.

  4. A very interesting, if unsettling topic. I really agree that good romance can deal with difficult subjects where the author conducted research to make situations as plausible as possible. Perhaps the most implausible part might be the HEA, but to me that’s the spoonful of syrup which makes the medicine go down easily. And the HEA gives us all a reason to hope that things can get better in real life, too.

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