Howdy, Delighted Readers!
We have a treat for you today. We invited a new to us author, Chris Scully, to drop in for a chat. Chris is not a newbie and has written some well-received books in the past. Her latest release, Back to You, sounds like an engaging blend of second chance romance and a suspenseful cold case mystery.
Without further ado… Welcome Chris!
How’s Toronto? Anything exciting going on there at the moment?
June is a great month in Toronto. Although we didn’t make basketball or hockey playoffs this year, and the Blue Jays are up and down like a yo-yo, we still have lots to celebrate. Winter is over for one thing. The good weather has finally arrived, and the smog and humidity of summer are still another month away. This city loves its patios, and we rush outside as soon as we can. It’s also Pride Month. Pride in Toronto is a huge event, capped off by a parade on the last weekend which is attended by over 100,000 people. It’s become a bit political this year, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. It’s also Canada’s 150th birthday this year with lots of events planned throughout the summer.
Are you participating in any festivals or going on any fun trips this summer?
Afraid not. I started a new job last year and don’t have much vacation accrued yet. There’s lots to see and do in the city on weekends during the summer, and I’m hoping to get to some Canada 150 events, but mostly I like to spend weekends in my backyard with my garden with a good book. I am hoping to take a short trip to a lodge in northern Ontario in the fall with my family.
Speaking of fun trips… you set your latest, Back to You, in British Columbia. Have you visited BC before?
If so, what were some highlights of your trip?
Yes, I’ve been to BC twice many, many years ago on family trips. We did a driving trip up through the mountains to Alaska and the Yukon. This sounds so touristy now, but the highlights for me were panning for gold and just the ruggedness of the landscape itself. I remember stumbling across abandoned mining equipment off the side of the road and thinking it was the coolest thing. I have a thing for wild or isolated landscapes.
Did remote British Columbia just come to you or did you have to think a while before the setting came to you?
Actually, the setting is very specific and arose because of the plot. I knew I wanted to write in some way about a missing person, with a focus on how it changes those left behind. That led me to Highway 16 which runs through British Columbia. It is a remote stretch of highway where many women have been murdered or gone missing over a period of decades. It’s so infamous that it’s been dubbed “The Highway of Tears”—you can google it to learn more. You could say my setting was chosen for me. The town of Alton is fictional, but everything else around it is real.
And a twenty-year old unsolved mystery, where did the seed for that plot originate? I love that Alex is home to try to repair family relations and reconnect with Ben.
I’m a true crime buff and the “mystery” itself was loosely inspired by a real-life crime that happened in that area of BC. A man killed his wife but claimed that she ran away. He got away with it for almost twenty years and even then they never found her remains in the wilderness. His family was divided over the question of his guilt. This idea of not knowing what happened for so long is what took root for me, although I put my own spin on it. But I’m writing romance, so I needed to temper the grislier aspects. I love the second chances/reunion trope and so that became my primary scenario, but I needed something to get Alex to come home. Bingo, an estranged father.
I end up writing about family a lot. I think it’s because it’s the most pivotal relationship of our lives. Good or bad. It’s perfect fodder for drama and troubled characters. Not to mention relatable.
What are some interesting details about both Alex and Ben that would help us know them better?
In the novel I hint at their backstory, but I chose not to spend too much time on it because I thought it detracted from the present-day story. And yet it’s their childhood relationship that paved the way for the rest of their lives. Both were social outcasts in a small town and left to their own devices most of the time. Then, in early adolescence, just as new and confusing feelings are burgeoning between them, they are torn apart when Alex’s parents’ divorce. Things that happen to us in our teenage years are often pivotal moments in our lives. This was the case for Ben and Alex, and readers should keep that in mind as they read.
Alex has gone on to suppress his vulnerable side and shut people out. As a journalist he’s become an observer of life rather than an active participant. But inside, he hasn’t grown up very much, which is why he’s sometimes a jerk.
Ben is the more mature of the two. He’s had to grow up and face some hard realities. In a way, he became totally overwhelmed by his emotional side. He struggles with anxiety and other issues, and uses art as his outlet.
Neither extreme works, but together they can hopefully balance each other out.
Was one easier to write than the other? Was there a certain secondary character that surprised you?
Good question. You’d think that Alex would have been easier to write since he’s the narrator and it’s “my” voice, but it actually was a challenge to get to the root of his motivation—I rewrote it several times. It was tough to water down his jerkiness and narcissism (this led to a lot of self-reflection!). Ben was the easier to write. His backstory came quickly and easily.
Angela, Ben’s mother, was the character who surprised me. She was very one dimensional in the beginning, seen mostly through Alex’s viewpoint, and my editors encouraged me to flesh her out a bit more in some pivotal scenes. I think that really helped make her a bit more sympathetic and well-rounded.
I read in your bio that you enjoy infusing new genres and styles to your stories. What is a genre you haven’t explored, but would like to someday?
I actually started out wanting to write historicals, and I have a number of aborted attempts which I’d like to explore again one day. I’d also like to tackle something very literary, in the vein of Sarah Waters. And deep down inside I’d like to do something totally dark and unexpected—like a revenge thriller with a female lead.
And by styles, what established writers do you appreciate the most for their style?
That is such a tough question. It changes all the time. Most of them come from outside the romance realm though. There are those I’m in awe of as a reader, like Michael Faber, Dan Simmons and Sarah Waters, but who I know I’ll never likely emulate. As a writer, my biggest ongoing influence is actually Stephen King, not necessarily because of genre or subject matter, but because of his simplicity of language and his conciseness. This is most evident in his short stories. His book on writing is a must for any writer regardless of genre. The three rules I try to adhere by are: keep it simple; only say what needs to be said; and leave stuff for your readers to figure out. This is why I sometimes don’t fit the mold of traditional romance.
Of course I have to ask before we let her go, what’s up and coming from your writing desk that we can anticipate?
I wish I knew! I’m going through a bit of a block right now. I’m hoping to have a Christmas novella out in December with Dreamspinner (submitted but waiting for acceptance), and I’m in the plotting stage of a new romance novel. Unfortunately, it’s not going as well as I wished—I’ve been through several incarnations already, but I think I finally have it. Fingers crossed, I’m hoping to start the writing in late summer, which likely means a late 2018 release. I aim for one novel a year, and if I can squeeze in something short too, it’s a bonus.
Thanks so much for dropping in to chat about you and congrats on the release of Back to You, Chris.
It was my pleasure. Thank you 😊
Hello! I’m Chris Scully. I’m thrilled to welcome you to my blog tour for Back to You, my new romantic suspense novel. Join me at various tour stops, where I’ll be sharing some background on the novel and the characters, my thoughts on writing, and more. Comment on each stop to be entered in a drawing for a $20 Riptide gift certificate. Thanks for joining me on the tour!
About Back to You
Journalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.
Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.
As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.
Available now from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/back-to-you
About Chris Scully
Chris Scully lives in Toronto, Canada. She grew up spinning romantic stories in her head and always dreamed of one day being a writer even though life had other plans. Her characters have accompanied her through career turns as a librarian and an IT professional, until finally, to escape the tedium of a corporate day job, she took a chance and began putting her daydreams down on paper.
Tired of the same old boy-meets-girl stories, she found a home in M/M romance and strives to give her characters the happy endings they deserve. She divides her time between a mundane 9-5 cubicle job and a much more interesting fantasy life. When she’s not working or writing (which isn’t often these days) she loves puttering in the garden and traveling. She is an avid reader and tries to bring pieces of other genres and styles to her stories. While her head is crammed full of all the things she’d like to try writing, her focus is always on the characters first. She describes her characters as authentic, ordinary people—the kind of guy you might meet on the street, or the one who might be your best friend.
Although keeping up with social media is still a struggle given her schedule, she does love to hear from readers.
Connect with Chris:
- Website: wordpress.com
- Facebook: com/chris.scully.author
- Goodreads: com/author/show/6152322.Chris_Scully
To celebrate the release of Back to You, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 17, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!