By Ian Walkley
GONE AWAY is book four of romance author Elizabeth Noble’s gay romance/thriller Circles series. Book three of the series, Jewel Cave was runner up in the 2015 Rainbow Award for Gay Mystery/Thriller category.
Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of stories involving both mystery and romance.
In the wake of her latest book, she sat down with The Big Thrill and shared some of her thoughts.
To start, can you give us some background your two series?
Let me start by saying thank you for taking the time to interview me.
Sentries was my first published series, and the final book is coming out in May 2016. It’s a sci-fi/paranormal story set in a post-apocalyptic society approximately three hundred years from now. It’s a true series in the sense that the stories are closely interconnected and so should be read in order. The story centers around the same two main characters.
The books in the Circles series can be read as standalone novels. One of the main characters is always in some branch of United States law enforcement. I may expand and go international eventually, I’m not sure. So far I’ve featured Homeland Security, a 1927 beat cop, a US Marshal, and in GONE AWAY, a park ranger (they are federal agents and pretty tough). I have plans for books with the FBI and Pinkerton Security in the future. In each book at least one main character from another book is included in a minor role. The series theme is this: “Every life is a circle. We’re all connected somehow.” Some of the books are mysteries, others are in the suspense/thriller category.
In GONE AWAY we have two men, Mason and Riece, who have a falling out then are forced back together by circumstances. Tell us a little of the storyline here.
This part of the story is basically about two men who were very much in love and in a relationship that ended. Neither really wanted that and now the universe has given them a second chance. They have to struggle with their feelings and learn to trust each other again. The important part is both men want to make amends for their past and move forward together.
It struck me a little like a Deliverance-type scenario. Is the environment a strong character here? In all of your novels?
I’m not sure I remember enough of Deliverance—aside from the banjo music—to compare it to GONE AWAY.
Several of my novels take place, at least in part, in a wilderness setting. So, yes, I’d say the environment is a strong character. In the case of GONE AWAY it is not only Mason and Riece trying to survive in the Black Hills with little water and no food, but them trying to survive vicious human assailants as well.
During the events of GONE AWAY, Mason has to face the dilemma of what does a man sworn to uphold the law do when threats to someone he loves and himself escalate to the point his only option is to become a killer himself.
Riece leads a structured life. Any step outside of that structure is monumentally difficult. He has to put his life in Mason’s hands and depend on Mason’s survival skills.
How do you get the balance right between thriller/mystery and the romance/erotica in terms of content and timing?
No pun intended, but it’s harder than you’d think.
Kidding aside, the story is a thriller first. It’s not really a mystery since the reader knows who the bad guys are and what they’re up to fairly quickly. GONE AWAY revolves around Mason and Riece saving themselves from a horrific situation.
Next is the romance part. Mason and Riece don’t have much of a getting to know one another period, since they already know a great deal about each other. Throughout the book they find each has grown and changed slightly during their time apart. The thriller elements let each man see the other in a different light. As the plot progresses there is a course of events naturally allowing this to happen. The romance sort of sneaks in there.
People who are attracted to one another and in a romantic relationship have sex. It’s a fact of life. However, in a story such as this, there is a right and wrong time. If the plot allows, the physical aspect of their relationship is explored and shown. This is different for each book. During the first quarter of GONE AWAY there are places where if they didn’t have sex, it would be strange since the reader will expect it at that point. They’re consenting adults who’ve had a relationship in the past. When they find themselves together again in a neutral and relaxed atmosphere, things happen, just as they do in real life. Once that situation changes, their displays of physical affection change as well.
In the previous book, Jewel Cave, there is almost no sexual aspect to the romance because it wouldn’t fit the plot.
The physical/sexual aspect of any book has to be dictated by the relationship of the characters. A couple who have been together for a decade (Jewel Cave) are going to be different from a couple re-discovering each other (GONE AWAY). In the first book of the series (Run for the Roses), and the next in the series (Bait) the couples are at the beginning of their romance. Naturally, in all those cases each couples’ attitude toward sex is different. Each plotline is different. Any erotic parts of the story have to take into account the couples’ circumstances, reader expectations, and what moves the plot forward in a logical and natural manner.
I joke that a reader is more apt to find a gratuitous bar fight or car chase in one of my books than a gratuitous sex scene.
What made you decide to write male/male erotic mystery/thrillers?
The short answer is: I like them. By definition erotic fiction is meant to arouse the reader and is written for that purpose.
My books, and the larger number of male/male centered books in general, don’t fall into the erotic category. While there are sex scenes in my books, the sex is not the central focus of the plot, nor is it the goal of the main characters. Many books in many genres with many different sorts of couples include sexual scenes. That doesn’t make them erotic fiction. That being said, I did write a book that was published a few years ago called For the Long Run. It’s a paranormal/mystery/thriller and it would fall into the erotic fiction category.
Why do I write male/male relationships? I don’t have any deep, meaningful explanation other than I enjoy reading about them. It’s a fact of biology, women’s brains function differently than men’s. I find how men relate to each other interesting. Homosexual relationships are just as much a part of humanity as heterosexual ones, yet the two are different. I like reading about both sides of that coin. I write about the male homosexual side because I like to.
One of your catalysts was the fantastic reception you got from readers, through fan fiction. Do you get lots of ideas from fans? Crazy ones?
Well to be fair, I’ve asked readers to send me ideas. Some are very crazy (the ideas not the fans) and others are really good. During the time I wrote Sentries I held several contests for readers to contribute an idea or character name they’d like to see in the books.
For Circles I have a list of locations and branches of law enforcement to incorporate that readers have asked for.
You’re also a vet nurse part-time and have a dog and cat. Should we anticipate a PG-rated story about animals at some point?
The majority of my books have animal characters. In the Circles series the first two books have a racehorse that has a small but very important role. Jewel Cave has two dogs that are minor characters. The Sentries series has two horses that are reoccurring characters.
I wrote an urban fantasy/romance series with fellow Dreamspinner author Anne Barwell. One of the characters is a police detective who is also a 240-ish year old vampire. He has a dog, Moose, who is in all of the books and just as important as the two-legged characters. The last book in the series has a coyote as an antagonist.
There is a spin-off series I’m writing with four of the urban fantasy characters and, of course, Moose. It’s not romance, but a sci-fi/paranormal/urban fantasy thriller and will be released in July 2016.
As to a straight-up, animals-only book I have no plans for one at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I won’t in the future.
Any book with the words “Gone” or “Girl” in the title is probably bound for success at the moment. How do you go about choosing a title for your novels?
Well that’s good to hear!
My titles relate in some way to the overall story of each novel. “Gone away” is a fox-hunting term that means the fox has left cover. In GONE AWAY, Mason and Riece are like the fox. They are on the run and being hunted by dangerous and skilled hunters.
You have an “unnatural” interest in Wyoming’s super volcano. What’s that about, and will it find its way into one of your novels (no puns allowed!)?
I have lost count of the number of articles and books I’ve read—fiction and non-fiction—featuring this volcano. We won’t even discuss the documentaries and Discovery Channel–type shows I’ve seen. This volcano has become something of a hobby of mine over the years. I love Earth sciences and do a lot of reading about our planet and how it works. There are very few natural events that have the possibility of altering the world so drastically as the eruption of a super volcano.
The Wyoming Super Volcano has already spawned a series. The post-apocalyptic society in my Sentries series is a result of this volcano erupting.
Will I have that thing erupt again? If the need arises, yes I will.
And how will your interest in sci-fi find its expression in future novels?
As previously mentioned I have a series coming out in July of 2016. I’ve taken four of the urban fantasy/romance character, and their big dog too, and moved them into the world of high-tech spies.
The main characters are a werewolf and three vampires, so it’s an urban fantasy sci-fi (heavy on the sci-fi) mix. They are recruited by an independent and secret intelligence organization called the Vampire Guard. After the first book, Code Name: Jack Rabbit, the second, Quarry, is due out in January of 2017. These books feature a lot of espionage, technology, and general action and thrills.
For those interested more information can be found here.
You are very helpful to other writer’s in getting their work out there, for example through blog interviews. What would be one thing you’d suggest to aspiring novelists that would help them succeed?
Thank you, I try to be helpful. There are a few things.
- The first thing I’d recommend is don’t give up. Writing is hard work and putting your book out for the public to read and judge is even more difficult. You will get rejections and less than glowing reviews. However, you will also receive contracts and readers who love your books as long as you keep trying.
- Be nice to the editors and listen to them. They want your book to succeed as much as you do.
- No matter what genre you write in, do your research and get things right.
- Respect the people who write reviews and thank them for their time even if you don’t like what they had to say.
- Last, always, always be approachable and courteous and never gloat about your success.
Okay, that was way more than one thing, sorry about that.
Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for a good mystery complete with murder and twisty plots as well as all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.
Elizabeth has three grown children and is now happily owned by an adorable mixed breed canine princess and one tabby cat. She lives in her native northeast Ohio, the perfect place for gardening, winter and summer sports (go Tribe!). When she’s not writing she’s working as a veterinary nurse, so don’t be surprised to see her men with a pet or three who are a very big part of their lives. Two of Elizabeth’s books have received Honorable Mentions in the Rainbow Awards.
To learn more about Elizabeth, please visit her website.