After giving you teasers of the stories included in the Shades of Pink Charity Anthology in September, this month I'll tell you a little more about the authors involved. I interviewed them with questions about their contributions, their writing life, their works in progress...
Today, Vivien Dean
Kallysten - First, I’d like to thank you again for taking part in this project. When we first talked about it, you mentioned this cause is very close to your heart. If I may ask, were you or a loved one touched by breast cancer?
Vivien Dean - It was my honor to be a part of this. Truly. Unfortunately, I’ve known several people who battled breast cancer. It runs in both my family and my husband’s, and I’ve lost several aunts to it. On the flip side of that, however, I have two very close friends who were diagnosed relatively early and are active survivors now. Research and treatment has come such a long way.
K - As I am part of an interracial marriage myself, I am always very aware that, a few short decades ago, I wouldn’t have been allowed to be with the wonderful man I love, the same way your two characters were not allowed to be together in the open when they first met. How did this theme of ‘forbidden’ love come to you for this story?
VD - One of my firmest beliefs is that love does not recognize gender, age, race, or religion, and that nobody has the right to dictate how consenting adults can share that love. Part of the reason I write romance in the first place is because I absolutely hunger to give characters I love what they want with happy endings. In my ideal world, everybody deserves to get the love they want.
So when I started brainstorming around the pink theme for the anthology and hit upon using the cherry blossom as my motif, I took the symbolism behind the flowers and ran with it. Cherry blossoms are known for having great beauty and short lives, and I wanted to mirror that within the romance itself, these short bursts of pure joy that get snatched away by a force beyond their control. I’d already hit on the idea of two characters being separated and then coming back together, so making the leap from that to how an interracial couple might’ve been treated wasn’t that hard.
K - Your story also revolves around magic and a curse. Is magic/fantasy a genre you particularly enjoy writing? Or is there another genre (or more than one?) you have a predilection for? Or do you like to mix things up?
VD - I do like to mix things up, but I’ll be the first one to admit I have a tendency to come back to writing supernatural things. I like the freedom getting to make up my worlds gives me. It opens up so many possibilities on where you can take a story that writing contemporary or historical doesn’t. That doesn’t stop me from exploring other genres, though. I’ve had just as much fun writing aliens in sci-fi as I have about cowboys. At the end of the day, it honestly comes down to the characters.
K - Looking at your back list, you have books ranging from short stories to novels and everything in between. Is writing a very short story like you did for this anthology a different experience for you compared to when you write a novel for example? Or is it the same satisfaction to take characters from the first word on the page to their happy ending?
VD - Very, very different. I have a tendency to complicate things, and it’s actually very difficult for me to write short stories. They need to be much more contained, more focused, and that’s a weakness for me. But then, that offers something different. A challenge. Writing short forces me to economize words and ideas, and concentrate on the core emotion and action of the story.
K - Can you tell us about your current writing project or next release?
VD - I’m in the middle of writing an m/m contemporary/thriller about a private detective/ex-cop who gets hired to take care of death threats against a millionaire’s son, in exchange for help in the cold case of his family’s murder a decade earlier. Shaw (the PI) falls for the son and discovers that all is not what it seems.
K - Would you care to share an excerpt from your latest release?
VD - Sure! Here's an excerpt from The Unbeaten Track, which was just released.
I’d avoided the 4 for the most part, but when I got off work, I felt ridiculous for being afraid of it. I made the deliberate choice to get on and stay on until the early commuters started showing. In my mind, that would prove once and for all it was just like all the rest and I wasn’t going crazy.
I got the brilliant idea to recreate the exact situation from last time when I did the turnaround at 125th.
And he was there again, hovering at the edge of my peripheral vision, when I opened my eyes.
My heart thumped against my ribs, like it was just as desperate to break free and get to Dixon as I suddenly was. I couldn’t breathe. I was too afraid to even fucking move because he’d disappeared when I’d done that the last time. I refused to blink and have him vanish in that millisecond for as long as I could tolerate, and then exhaled in relief when his reflection was still there after I did.
I wouldn’t turn my head and look for him, but I let my gaze slide firmly in his direction so it was easier to focus.
When his reflection stayed steady, I felt like crying.
“Dixon,” I whispered.
He smiled at me. I broke. I looked.
The seat opposite the reflection was empty. The reflection itself was gone.
I bolted and ran down the middle to get to where I’d seen him, but the seat and window looked like all the rest of the car. My hands shook as they felt over every inch of the dirty glass, the gritty floor, the textured seat. When I collapsed against the center pole, I trembled all over.
I’d seen him. I was sure of it. Except he wasn’t there, and there was nothing to suggest someone was pranking me, and fuck, I wouldn’t be hallucinating about him now after all these years when I hadn’t even done that after he’d died, would I?
My eyes burned, but grinding the heels of my palms against them eased the urge to sob. It wasn’t an anniversary of any sort that I could figure out. It wasn’t even close. It was the middle of September, and Dixon had died a few weeks before his eighteenth birthday in February. Other months would’ve made more sense, like January for my birthday, October for when we met, December for when we had our first kiss, August for when I got out of the hospital.
September just might be the only month the entire year that I couldn’t find any special significance for at all. At least until now.
I was still sitting on the floor when we reached Grand Central. I thought about getting off, but my legs were watery and my head ached. Better to wait, get off at the Bridge, and spring for a taxi to take me home.
The doors whispered open. Just before they closed again, ready for the train to leave, someone hopped through the opening.
The new arrival was a husky guy in his thirties with a three-day beard and a bulging backpack thrown over his broad shoulder. He huffed as he sank into the closest seat, only noticing me after we’d started up. His relaxed posture stiffened, though to his credit, he didn’t otherwise move.
“You okay, man?”
The question startled me. Forget the fact that talking to strangers on subways is suicide. People rarely spoke to me unless they had to or had known me for a while. It served me well most of the time, but I wasn’t sure what to do about this...
K - Thank you again for being a part of Shades of Pink. Any last word before I let you go back to your writing?
VD - Just thank you for letting me be a part of it!
Find Vivien at http://www.viviendean.com/