The Next Big Thing Blog Hop: Junk

This blog hop is a fabulous way to find out more about what your favourite authors are up to. There are no prizes and no pressure–just a bunch of great writers giving you a sneak peek at what they’re working on, and then tagging more victims in turn to share what they’ve been writing. I’ve ended up being tagged by four different authors, and was going to turn three of them down when I realised that hey, I have a book coming out in February and a WIP to talk about, so why not be tagged twice?

Last week I responded to the tag from Josh Lanyon (find the post about his yaoi influenced WIP here) to talk about Screwing the System, and this week I’m responding to the tag from Liam Livings (who talks about Best Friends Perfect here), and sharing some information about my latest WIP, Junk. I’m also tagging my victims who should be posting something for you next week. They are they’re Lillian Francis, K.A. Merikan and Violetta Vane.

What is the working title of your book?

Hands off my Junk, or just Junk for short. It’s probably not going to stay as the title as the book is turning out a bit more serious than I’d anticipated, and I’m not sure an overly playful/sexy title will work.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It was from watching a Channel 4 series, The Hoarder Next Door. I just loved psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses’s gentle approach to getting his clients to face up to their problems, and was motivated to find out more about the therapeutic process. The programme oversimplified everything in the way that TV does, but there are plenty of books out there with more insight into the condition. I was particularly taken with the plight of Nigel (pictured), who had almost completely filled his house after the death of his partner, Sid, years before. Watching the beautiful home they had made together reappear from under the piles of junk made me blub.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary m/m romance. I think it could probably be defined as angsty (although not too angsty), and it’s definitely not looking like an erotic romance at the moment (30k and no sex yet). What’s more, my two leads are both really lovely guys (if a little screwed up) and they’re intellectuals who never seem to swear. This is a bit of a departure for me, but it’s good to stretch myself.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm… I really hate this question because I’m so out of touch with youngish actors these days. I’m tempted to say John Simm for Lewis, but this is probably more because I adore John Simm than because he’d be right for the part. However, he does make a fairly attractive bottle blond, and Lewis is blond. Plus he can act, and could definitely do the Bristol accent. Not sure if he could still pass for thirty, but possibly…

As for Craig (whose name may well change)… Ben Wishaw as Q in Skyfall has the right sort of sexy librarian looks, although Craig is older and half Egyptian so has more Arabic features. Perhaps if Ben Wishaw could be blended with Professor Jim Al Khalili (BBC science presenter), then we’d be talking.

John SimmBen Wishaw

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Book hoarder Craig begins to fall for the clutter clearer helping him out, but therapist Lewis is determined not to fall straight into another relationship, and especially not with a client who could simply be suffering from transference.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be sending it to my editor at Samhain, and hoping she likes it enough to take it on.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I started it a month ago and I’m still going. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of December, and will work on the second draft over January. The aim is to submit it at the end of January, but if it still needs work, I’ll keep going until I get the story to the best it can be.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s a slower-paced, British-set character led story with two thoroughly lovely but slightly messed-up and lonely blokes healing each other, so I’m hoping it will appeal to fans of books like Harper Fox’s Scrap Metal.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Conversations with my best mate about hoarding and the psychology that underlies it. We both have our own hoarding tendencies and are fascinated by all the reasons people have for hanging onto possessions. Also, my dad is very similar to Craig in some ways, and is an unrepentant book hoarder. I’m well aware that at some point in the future I’m going to have to deal with the hundreds of books he’s filled every bookshelf and most of the summer-house with. At least mum stops him from piling them up everywhere.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s set in the beautiful and vibrant city of Bristol, and my characters Jos and Brandon from my Winter Warmers short story have decided to make a cameo appearance as Lewis’s friends. Also, there are many sly references to Alice in Wonderland, as Lewis and twin sister Carroll’s mum brought them up on Victorian literature. Did I mention their academic parents are naturists? Poor old Lewis, having to move back in with them after the failure of his last relationship!

I’m going to finish with a short excerpt from Junk. Bear in mind, this hasn’t been beta read or copyedited, so it could be riddled with mistakes. Also, it might undergo significant changes before I get to a final draft. Just a teaser, then, from Lewis’s first visit inside Craig’s house…

The bus dropped Lewis off at the bottom of the hill, and it was a long walk up with the late afternoon sun beating on his back and the day’s stored heat radiating off the tarmac. By the time he reached number 64 it was a relief to be able to slip under the cool green shade of those overgrown trees. Craig could have a beautiful garden if he could just get the place cleared up a bit.

As to how much of a challenge awaited them inside… Well, that remained to be seen. Lewis rubbed his hands together and knocked on the door.

No one came. Lewis checked his watch. Yep, he was on time. Just how long could it take Craig to negotiate the junk in his house? He rapped on the door harder this time. He even tried stepping back to call to the upstairs windows, but one look at them made him realise the futility of Craig hearing anything that way. Both sets of curtains were pressed back against the glass with the weight of whatever lay behind them. Mildew had stained the linings, and more of the green algae that coated the garden grew up the glass.

This could end up being one of his toughest challenges yet. Perhaps an insurmountable one, if Craig was too nervous to show for the appointments.

Unless he just couldn’t get to the door. What about if he was trapped under a pile of fallen paper? It happened. Hoarders died that way every year. Admittedly, it was mostly the elderly who didn’t have the strength to dig themselves out again, but even a young and healthy man like Craig could be in serious trouble if enough heavy stuff went over.

Paper was heavy stuff.

Keeping the panic at bay with decisive action, Lewis forced open the letter box and called for Craig. He held his ear to the gap, but couldn’t hear any response from within. He was just wrestling his phone out of his pocket to try the man’s mobile, when a voice from behind him made him jump.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. There were roadworks in town and a huge traffic jam and I got stuck outside Cabot Circus for twenty minutes. I should have rung, I know, but I don’t like to use my phone in the car. I mean, I know everyone else does, but the law is the law, even when you’re not moving. I hope you didn’t get put off by what you can see through the letterbox. It’s better in the kitchen, I promise.” As he babbled, Craig shuffled closer, his keys held out in front of him almost like a weapon he was afraid to use. Lewis realised what his pose must have looked like.

“I wasn’t looking, I was listening. I thought maybe you might…” his face heated as he continued. It sounded silly, with Craig standing in front of him, all vibrant eyes and nervous twitches. “Sometimes people get trapped in their houses when things fall over. I wanted to make sure you weren’t in there, needing help.”

For a moment he thought Craig might bristle, might feel patronised, but instead a smile broke slowly across his face, tilting the corners of his eyes in a way that made Lewis’s heart flip. “Oh. Thanks.” The heartfelt way he said it suggested maybe he wasn’t used to having people look out for him, and once again, Lewis found himself wondering just how many friends and family the man really had.

“Not a problem,” he said gruffly, still a little embarrassed at having been caught out. “It’s just one of my recurring dreams. Being buried under an avalanche of stuff.”

“You have nightmares too?”

“Don’t we all?”

“I don’t know. I thought you seemed so… together. Not like me.” Craig took a step closer, and Lewis could smell him then. A hint of soap mingled with a larger dose of sweat. But fresh sweat, so not unpleasant. Not by a long stretch.

Lewis’s eyes drifted closed for a moment to better concentrate on Craig’s scent. Lulled by the drowsy heat and the distant buzz of traffic, he drifted for a moment, almost content.

Then his eyes sprang open. Craig was closer now, staring down at him with a quizzical tilt to his left eyebrow. For a breathless moment he held eye-contact, and Lewis could make out the flecks of amber in his dark eyes. They were like a glass of dark rum held up to the sunlight, rich colours swirling within.

“Are you okay?” Craig asked.

“Fine, fine. Sorry. I was out last night and probably should have got more sleep.” Now why did he say that? He didn’t want Craig thinking he was some kind of party animal. “I mean, out with friends, and then the heat stopped me sleeping.”

“Oh yes, I know. Sometimes I have to sleep in the hammock. Can’t open any of the windows in the house,” Craig added, his eyes darting away again in their habitual dance.

The house. “Are you ready to show me the inside now?”

Craig folded his arms around himself, and for a moment Lewis expected a negative. But when it came, although quietly voiced, the “yes” sounded firm and sure.

***

And that’s all for now! I’d be interested to hear whether you think Craig is a suitable name for my hoarder. It’s growing on me, but I’m still looking around at other options.

12 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop: Junk

    • Pleasure to tag you, my dear. I look forward to reading your post!

      That’s good to know! This is such a fascinating topic for me. I’m thoroughly enjoying researching it as I go along.

  1. Thanks for the tag Jo!

    I’ve watched quite a few shows about hoarders and find it just as fascinating ;D
    I’m moving house in January and started packing already. It’s scary to see how much stuff I have, even though I decided to downsize and already took out 5 bags to the charity shops and 3 bags of trash!

    • No worries–it’s a pleasure to be able to send readers your way :D

      I’ve moved house so many times in the last 15 years, I’ve had many clearouts but I seem to be pretty good at accumulating new stuff every time. I’m trying to be much more disciplined about what I buy these days, and steer clear from charity shop bookshelves!

      • The Kindle has really helped me with book collecting! I try to only buy artbooks now and a lot less then I used too.
        I got rid of a stack of fashion mags that were so heavy it took me three round trips to the charity shop ;D

        • Yep, my Kindle has been brilliant for that too. I still buy the odd sewing/knitting/gardening book, but I’m going for online stuff more and more now. Saves trees and space!

  2. OH I think I might already love these two. I already like their story, their history and the IDEK the care? that Lewis feels for Craig. Can’t wait for you to finish this one.

    • Aww, that’s so good to know! I’m loving writing these two, even if I was a bit perplexed at how nice they both are. I’m used to writing grumpier, foul-mouthed characters. Both Lewis and Craig fascinate me, though. They might be goody-two-shoes in some aspects, but they’ve both got complications and issues to overcome.

      Can’t wait for them to finally get it on!

  3. The name Craig seems to fit the character from that excerpt. If it feels right run with it. In the story I’m working on at the moment–the one I’ll be blogging about–one of the MCs decided his name was Eric. I hate the name Eric but nothing I did could persuade him to change it, so Eric he is.
    The idea of this appeals, I’ve seen several of those hoarder programmes on C4, and the characters are already endearing just from that short clip.

    Oh yes, and if that’s an example of your rough work, well… Enough said!

    • Glad the name works for you. I wasn’t sure if it was too rugged sounding for a bookish, nerdy character. And yes, I love both these two… even though they’re really well-behaved!

      I’ll admit it, I did go through and polish this a little before posting. It was rougher. That said, my first drafts are getting less and less rough as time goes by. I guess that’s the result of practice and experience – I no longer have all those confusingly worded sentences and pronoun problems I did to begin with ;)

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