By Amy Shojai
Take a gallon of bad luck, mix in a yearning for romance, spice it up with sex and murder, and simmer well inside the mind and heart of a master writer. What do you get? A taste-tingling recipe that’s spelled RENT, the latest romantic suspense in a long line of successful books by Rick R. Reed.
Reading Rick’s bio made me wonder how he did it, writing book after book with such success. I was delighted to catch up with him to ask a few questions about his writing.
What’s RENT about?
On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher wants oblivion when he steps into Tricks for a drink. He’s lost not only his job, but his wallet as well. When a mysterious stranger steps up to pay his tab, he also offers Wren the key to fulfilling his dreams of prosperity and true love. But appearances are not always what they seem….
His savior is the owner of the escort agency, A Louer—and he wants the young and handsome Wren to work for him. Down on his luck, Wren figures—why not? He can use the money. When he joins, though, he hadn’t counted on meeting Rufus, another escort with whom he quickly falls hopelessly in love.
But their love story will have to overcome the obstacles of not only trading love for money, but A Louer’s dark—and deadly—secrets.
You’ve written in a number of genres, from horror to suspense to romance. What is your favorite genre, and how does the “power of love” inspire and color your work?
Hands up, I admit it. I am drawn to polar opposites–both the dark and the light. These opposites are often expressed in my work, which I think of as predominantly love stories, but often with a dark edge, toeing the line between horror and suspense. Once upon a time, it was the horror and the suspense which attracted me as a writer (and still does in a big way as a reader), but as I got older and more settled (and found the love of my life), I was more drawn to writing stories of how people connect, what pulls them apart, and, most importantly, what brings them back together and keeps them together. Love stories, I think, never get old.
I’ve just had my debut thriller published, and find it very different than my nonfiction titles. Having written more than 20 novels and many short stories, what is the one piece of advice you’d share with newer writers based on what you’ve learned in your career?
Congratulations on your debut! My advice would be the same for new writers or long-established ones. There are mainly two things you can do to hone your craft and help you develop as a writer–write a lot and read a lot. I’d also advise newbies not to try and seek out the next “big thing” or write what they think will sell. In the end, our best work comes from writing what we are passionate about. No one can predict what the next “big thing” will be, anyway.
What inspired you to write RENT?
Back when I lived in Chicago, I used to write a non-fiction column called “Tales from the Sexual Underground” for a weekly magazine. My columns profiled sex practices and people working in the sex industry. I interviewed male prostitutes and porn actors and found their lives fascinating. One question that remained with me was: how does someone working in an industry where they’re sharing their bodies in a very intimate way with scores of people ever find one-on-one love with someone? Is that possible? Do they even want it? And, if it is possible and they do want it, how do they negotiate a relationship? It was questions like these simmering in the back of my mind that inspired me to write RENT. Throw into the mix that someone begins killing the escorts who work for the agency in the book and, I think, you have a very compelling story–because the killing ties in with this love/sex conundrum. Now I better shut up before I give too much away.
Based on the reviews and awards your books receive, the stories go beyond any niche readership and have a broad appeal. Do you set out to write for a specific audience and/or genre, or simply create what the story demands and allow that to define reader appeal?
This kind of goes to what I was saying above, which is write what you’re passionate about. That’s kind of my credo. I never sit down and think, “Now I’ll write a thriller, or now I’ll write a romance.” I don’t think in terms of genre conventions. And maybe that’s to my detriment, but if I’m not passionate about what I’m writing and my characters haven’t become like real people in my head (who can and do often lead me in unanticipated directions), I couldn’t write. I write the kind of books I would like to read and hope that there will be some readers out there who will agree.
Some books require lots of research and others not so much. What sort of research did you do for RENT?
Well, I didn’t go out and buy or sell if that’s what you’re asking! But as I said, I have, through some of my non-fiction work, gotten to know people in the sex industry, so I have at least a good idea of what goes on and how NOT to romanticize it, even though I’m writing a love story. In other words, I hope I make that world real through my knowledge of the industry.
Who inspires your writing? Any favorite authors? Or are there any writing mentors you’d like to publicly thank?
Well, I have been reading this pretty obscure guy called Stephen King since as far back as I can remember. What I love about him is his strength in creating characters, real people you care about and the heart that goes into his fiction (although the horror is pretty awesome, too). I also am a huge fan of Flannery O’Connor, Patricia Highsmith, and Ruth Rendell. I love all three of these women’s dark frames of references and their simple, but never simplistic, prose.
I’m a huge pet person, so I have to ask you about Lily. Many authors seem to share their lives and hearts with furry muses. How does your Boston Terrier dog, Lily, help with your writing? In particular I suspect Lily had something to do with the book, I HEART BOSTON TERRIERS.
Oh Lily has definitely been my muse. She has been the one lying nearby for almost everything I’ve written over the past nine years. She has also appeared, in cameo, in several of my books. Just look for the Boston terrier being walked on the street in the background. My little Hitchcock touch! And yes, she was the pure inspiration for the short ebook I HEART BOSTON TERRIERS. She even appears on the cover–the cover artist, Trace Edward Zaber, was able to incorporate the photo of Lily lounging in our bed that you see.
How is RENT different (or similar) than other gay romantic suspense stories? What can readers expect?
I like to think it’s different in that not too many books of this genre (romantic suspense) have explored the world of agency male escorts (and the dark secrets within), but the same in that it delivers on the promise of a buildup of suspense both in terms of crime and the love story. Does it have a happily-ever-after? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
What haven’t I asked you that is important for readers to know about RICK R. REED and his book RENT?
That RENT might be a good place to start if you’ve never experienced my unique blend of romance and suspense. And that it’s available through the following:
BUY from MLR Press In ebook
Amazon Kindle version
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a two-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his partner and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”