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By Charles Johnson

Tom Paretski is a plumber with a sixth sense for finding things, which is why the police keep his number on file. They call him to help find the body of a missing woman on Nomansland Common. That brings complex long-held emotions to the surface because Tom’s old-school crush, Phil Morrison, now a private investigator, is working the same case.

PRESSURE HEAD, now published as an original e-book, represents something new for J.L. Merrow. It is her first mystery novel, although it remains in the GLBT category, where she has focused much of her writing.

With four GLBT novels out prior to PRESSURE HEAD, along with several short stories, Merrow says she’s found her writing home. Her novels fit the male/male romantic suspense and supernatural thriller categories as well as male/male contemporary. Her short stories have been a bit wider ranging, fitting into all three of those categories, along with lesbian, male/male/female, and even male/male fairytales.

J.L. Merrow describes herself this way: “Writer of (mainly) male/male romance, and fearless killer of bunnies.”

You have growing body of work. How does PRESSURE HEAD fit into all that? Is it a continuation of previous work or something brand-new?’

PRESSURE HEAD is quite an exciting departure for me, as it’s my first-ever mystery novel, although I’ve previously written romantic suspense (Wight Mischief) and supernatural thrillers (Camwolf, Midnight in Berlin). I’ve always been a huge fan of the classic English mystery by authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, and PRESSURE HEAD is my attempt at creating something similar in tone, albeit thoroughly contemporary,

The setting is a country village, with a cast of more or less eccentric characters, including, of course, the vicar–still far more central to village life than town-dwellers might imagine. I love the tight-knit, some may say insular, feel of village life, where you’ll find people of all kinds rubbing shoulder–and maybe rubbing each other up the wrong way!

Will we see more about Tom Paretski?

I’m planning a sequel to PRESSURE HEAD–who knows, maybe even a series.

You’ve said your attention span is short but you have to be pretty focused in order to consistently write these stories. How do you manage to do that?

I’ve always been able to get thoroughly lost in a book I’m reading. Writing, at least when it’s going well, is reading squared.

What influences your writing? Other authors? Life experiences?

Oh, everything. My books contain a possibly frightening amount of my life experiences and influences, from the classic English mysteries I mentioned earlier to Terry Pratchett. I’m told the dialogue in my current WIP marks me out as a fan of Buffy-era Joss Whedon! I’m also a confirmed Teutophile, so the German influence tends to creep in here and there, sometimes where you’d least expect it.

How do you research?

For preference, by talking to people and visiting places, although of course the Internet plays a vital role, as well. I find real life can be a much richer source of interesting tangents, or at least usable ones. Locations can, when visited, spark whole plots, such as coming across a previously unsuspected doorway/tunnel/nicely perilous staircase, and people are constantly surprising me. I’ve led a sheltered life.

When you read for fun, to what sort of books and authors do you turn?

The only downside to writing is that it leaves a lot less leisure for reading–when I do read, it’s as often as not either critiquing for a friend or research. But I still enjoy my classic English mysteries. For and Edwardian setting with a GLBT twist I’ll turn to fellow ITW member Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows series, or for a pure escapist romp, anything by James Lear.

What’s up next for you?

My current WIP’s are deliberately varied. One is a psychological thriller set in Iceland, and the other a romantic comedy about a performance poet, which I started mainly as a bit of light relief from the thriller but which now appears to have taken over my life.

You’ve written a bit outside the GLBT genre. Will that continue or will you stay on your current course?

I write about GLBT themes because that’s what interest me, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. I don’t see that as restricting the scope of my writing–rather, I think the GLBT romance genre is a lot freer in terms of theme, characters and sub-genre than “mainstream” romance, with its preponderance of alpha males and “sassy, spunky” heroines, neither of which I can particularly identify with.

It’s all probably very Freudian…


JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.

To learn more about JL Merrow, please visit her website.