After ten years in an abusive relationship and a near-fatal knife wound, Jonathan Watson is finally free. Unused to being able to make even the smallest decision and smothered by family and well-meaning neighbors, he’s floundering in the real world. Jonathan is afraid of falling into another relationship too quickly and realizes he needs time to rediscover who he is before he attaches himself to another man.
He never counted on meeting Ben Urquhart, though. Ben tempts Jonathan to forget everything and take a leap. For Ben, it's love at first sight, and he doesn't want to take it slow. He wants to build a life with Jonathan, free from harm and full of laughter. But before they can take the next step, they must protect Jonathan from his possessive, threatening ex. Jonathan must find the courage to confront him and break the chains of his past before he can be truly free to build a future with Ben.
Pages or Words: 70,000 words
Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance
About the author:
E E Montgomery wants the world to be a better place, with equality and acceptance for all. Her philosophy is: We can’t change the world but we can change our small part of it and, in that way, influence the whole. Writing stories that show people finding their own ‘better place’ is part of E E Montgomery’s own small contribution.
Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of inspiration for stories that show people growing in their acceptance and love of themselves and others. A dedicated people-watcher, E E finds stories everywhere. In a cafe, a cemetery, a book on space exploration or on the news, there’ll be a story of personal growth, love, and unconditional acceptance there somewhere.
Where to find the author:
You can contact E E Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org; on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ewynelaine.montgomery; on Twitter: @EEMontgomery1; or at her web site: http://www.eemontgomery.com/ and blog: http://www.eemontgomery.com/blog.
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25163510-just-the-way-you-are
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Where do you find your inspiration?
Everywhere. A lot of my ideas come from science magazines or books on history, biographies, family stories, snippets of overheard conversations on the bus. Sometimes I don’t even notice I hear something, then half an hour later I stop in my tracks with an epiphany and have to find somewhere to sit and write some notes. Sometimes I see someone walking along the road and deliberately make up a life story for them—something that fits with the time of day, their clothing, anything I can notice about them in the short time I see them.
At the moment, with the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli in World War I, the whole country is saturated with newspaper articles, new books, centennial events. I don’t have any definite ideas yet, but I know I’m going to write another WWI story. I just have to pick an unlikely hero, someone no one else would consider.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’ve always been a pantser but I love experimenting with different styles of writing and I’m finding that having a complete lack of plot doesn’t work when I don’t know the basics. The story I’m writing at the moment has three different timelines over two planets. Only one timeline is told chronologically so I have to plot to make sure I don’t miss any important things. I know my writing self well enough now to know if I plot the end of the book, I lose interest, so I haven’t done that. I’ve gone two-thirds through the plot. When I have all that written and sitting comfortably, I’ll plot the rest—knowing it’ll probably change again by the time I finally write ‘the end’.
How do you think your writing has developed since you started?
The first story I finished as an adult was a MF Victorian romance set on a train from London to Glasgow. I wrote the whole thing with no research at all and made every beginner mistake in the book. My language was flowery and melodramatic because that’s the way I perceived romances being written (I’d never read one at that stage). I had no idea of form or structure, of plot arcs or character arcs, saggy middles or climaxes. It was dreadful, but it taught me a lot—mostly that I had a hell of a lot to learn.
Generally speaking, I don’t make those sorts of mistakes anymore. With each story I write, I learn something new. I’ve learned to start late and finish early, to keep the pace up. I’ve also learned not to start too late or the readers won’t know what’s going on. There are a few mistakes I keep making regardless (finishing too early is one of them—*shakes head* and I call myself a romance writer with terrible puns like that), and that annoys me more every book I write if I don’t get it right, but I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep writing, and I’m going to keep trying to improve until I write the perfect story.
Are you tempted to write in other genres?
Always. I start writing in different genres regularly. I actually write a lot of science fiction (just haven’t sold any yet). Usually, somewhere along the line, whether it’s planned or not, a couple of men jump into the plot, and regardless of where I began, I end up with a MM romance again.
Do you have an image in your mind of your characters before you start? Do you use photos or character interviews? How do you bring them to life?
What my characters look like isn’t all that important to me. I choose things like build, hair and eye colour, skin colour, at random—varied amongst the different characters to make confusion difficult—and make a list of attributes so I don’t forget. I’m much more interested in a character’s history, what makes them think and do the things they do and what they have to change to achieve something different. When I begin a new story, I usually just start writing. By the end of a chapter I realize I need to know more about the characters. That’s when I start writing a character profile. I use a number of different types of profiles, depending if the character is a major one or minor one. I build on the profiles as I write and get to know the characters better, or if I need to get to know them better to continue. I have used character interviews, but I use them as a tool to help me sort out a tricky conflict or lack of conflict problem, so not every major character is interviewed.
How do you fit in writing in such a busy life?
Sometimes I don’t. Just before Easter I was in a particularly busy cycle with my day job. On top of that I coordinated an exhibition (another WWI centenary function) and I had a lot of family commitments over the weekends. I think I wrote less than 1000 words in three weeks during that time, squeezing in five minutes here and there. Not getting writing time makes me antsy. I can’t settle and my temper shortens noticeably.
My day job has periods of intense pressure that ease off at reasonably regular intervals. I carry my laptop with me everywhere, even if I think there’s no chance at all of getting any work done. I have a USB around my neck all the time, just in case I’m in front of a different computer and find myself with five minutes to spare. I schedule ‘me’ time where I leave the house and the family and go somewhere no one knows me so I can pull out my laptop and write for a couple of hours solid. I try to make sure I have at least one complete scene in my head, ready to roll out onto the paper. I have regular holidays with my work. Officially, the ‘holidays’ are to prepare for the next intense session, but I try to get organized earlier so I can use my holiday time writing. That’s the time I pull all the five minutes slots together and start making the random scenes coalesce into a cohesive story.
Because my writing time is so unpredictable, I can’t keep it all in my head. I rely heavily on notebooks and have one for every story. The notebook gets filled with character profiles, plot arcs, sketches, maps, anything I need to keep the story alive. Depending on whether or not the story builds itself in my head chronologically or randomly, I also use different software to grow the book.
The most important thing is that I accepted quite a long time ago that I can’t do everything. Some things just have to slide. For me, that’s housework. My house gets cleaned—the floors, clothes, kitchen, bathrooms. It’s clean enough I don’t have things growing where they shouldn’t be. That’s all that gets done, though. I don’t iron, I don’t dust, I don’t put things away very often. My writing is more important.
What has been the most useful thing to have helped you with your writing career?
Critique groups. Having fresh eyes on my work and honest people telling me what’s not working and offering suggestions on how it might be fixed, is invaluable. I’ve had some pretty scary critiques that felt more like personal attacks than anything else, but even those taught me something about my writing and how to make it better. At least they did, once I stopped ranting about their insensitivity or whining about how I’d never be any good. I’ve become better at separating myself from my work, at least I think I must have, because I haven’t had a critique bring me to tears for a while.
What are you working on next?
Once I started getting involved the story that has three timelines, two dimensions and two planets, and not told in chronological order, I realized I needed something a bit simpler to work on as a break for my brain. I’m writing another SF story that’s inspired by random elements from American slavery, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, Animal Farm, and an article I read a while ago on the circumstances under which people turn to cannibalism. Of course with all that swimming around inside my head, what was once a simple 5000 word short story target might end up something else entirely.
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JONATHAN SHIVERED in the early morning air but not from the chill. He wrapped his arms around himself and groaned as his wound tugged against the movement. He relaxed slowly as the pain eased. From where he stood, he could see between the two apartment blocks to where the sun glinted off the Brisbane River. Five years ago he used to watch the ferries puddle their way up and down the river, dropping passengers here at Hamilton and across the way at Bulimba. He’d missed that view for a long time. He wondered if he’d miss the house now that he was leaving it.
The house was gray—morning gray, Anthony had called it, but it had always looked like unwashed, neglected underwear to him. The lines of the house were precise and symmetrical, unlike the yard. The front lawn bore scars, just like his chest. They were from his Cruiser skidding to a stop the night Anthony had sent him to kill Mark. His eyes burned as he thought how close he’d come to doing what his boyfriend told him to.
At the time, he didn’t think he had any other choice. It was kill or be killed. Literally. By the end of that night, Mark had been the only one left uninjured. Liam’s leg had thankfully healed quickly where Anthony had stabbed him. Anthony was still in hospital with a self-inflicted knife wound to the stomach, and Jonathan… Jonathan was done with that life. Anthony’s knife in his chest—so close to his heart it was clearly intended to be fatal—had cured him of whatever delusions he’d held onto that let him believe he was in love with the man. Even Anthony’s assertions that Jonathan was responsible for him being in a wheelchair since the car accident two years before wouldn’t get him to stay.
He was out of it now, or at least he would be as soon as the removalists came and took his stuff away. Then he could begin to heal. The first step had been to learn to breathe again after his lung collapsed when Anthony stabbed him. The next step… he didn’t know what the next step after this was. He wasn’t going to admit it to anyone, but he was just as terrified now, starting a life of his own—on his own—as he was when he thought he was going to die.
The trembling began again. Dizzy. Couldn’t catch his breath. He leaned beside the front door and forced himself to bring his mind back to the here and now and looked around again. There was a new section of fence now, and the Cruiser had been repaired and sat at the curb, waiting for him. His cousin must have had the damage repaired while Jonathan was in the hospital—learning how to make his lung work again after his boyfriend had tried to kill him. He shook the thoughts from his head. He had to stop thinking like this or he’d go mad.
Sleep last night had been impossible. The house had been cleaned, but nothing was going to completely remove the blood splattered on the white carpet. His blood.
A low rumble burbled through the air, and a truck turned onto the street. Jonathan’s heart raced. “You can do this,” he whispered, although he wasn’t quite sure which part of “this” he was talking about. It could be dealing with strangers on his own, or it could be leaving Anthony—finally. He pressed the heel of his hand over the dressing on his chest. Staying with Anthony was no longer an option.
The truck stopped and turned to reverse into the driveway. The high-pitched beeping made Jonathan jump and, to calm himself, he focused on the two men sitting in the cab. The driver looked young and blond, the passenger older and shriveled, his hair sticking out in unkempt tangles.
“Two people. Not Anthony. You’re outside, everything’s marked. You don’t need to go inside with them at all if you don’t want to. You can do this.” He counted his breaths in and out. The beeping stopped, the engine cut out, and the driver’s door opened.
Long, well-formed legs slipped from the cab, by-passing the step completely as a muscled body slid to the ground. Khaki cargo shorts bunched enticingly around a spectacular package before settling loosely around slim hips as the man’s boot-clad feet landed on the ground and he stood away from the truck. Jonathan moved his gaze up the body. The worn T-shirt did nothing to hide the trim stomach and prominent pecs and the sleeves framed the rounded deltoids perfectly. Jonathan sighed as he lifted his focus higher to see the man’s wide smile.
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