Jay Bell – Video Interview and giveaway!

Hey there! I’m Jay Bell. I like telling stories! Hearts on Fire Reviews was kind enough to invite me for an interview, and together we decided to do this one a little differently. I turned to my readers for questions, inviting them to ask me anything at all. Below you’ll find ten of those questions, along with my answers. I also decided to create a video response. We are living in the year 2015 after all. It’s bad enough that we’re not zipping around in hover cars. At the very least, we should be watching lots of videos on our fancy wireless devices, right? I tried to make my written answers a rough transcript of the video, but not entirely, because that wouldn’t be as fun. No matter which way you decide to proceed, I’m relieved and grateful that you’re sticking around. Let’s get chatty! May asks…  When you met Andreas, did you speak German? Was learning the language the hardest part of moving countries? For those who don’t know, Andreas is my husband. We met while he was an exchange student in Kansas. He was just about to return to Germany when we hit it off, which certainly complicated things. That set the tone for our entire relationship. Being an international couple is always full of complications, but I love it. Three years after Andreas and I met, I got it into my mind to not only see the world he came from, but to live there. I only intended to stay for three years, but somehow that ended up being twelve years. We only just now moved back to the USA. Chicago, to be precise. But no, when we first met I didn’t speak German, and his English was still adorably wonky. A lot of our first dates were spent pointing at things and asking each other what that object was called in each other’s language. I started teaching myself German before the move and took a short class once we were there. While it was fun learning a new language, as the years went by, I got really tired of struggling to either express myself or understand every nuance of what was being said. My German is good enough to sustain me in just about any situation, social or otherwise, but it still felt great to return home and have English at my disposal again. Josh asks…  Since the Something Like series originated as a standalone novel with Ben as the main character, I’m curious how much of you there is in Ben? He came to us so fully formed in that first book. I’m just wondering where he came from. A lot of people have very generously accused me of being Ben, and while that’s flattering, Ben and I are very different in a number of ways. I can’t sing, for instance, and our personalities aren’t quite the same. What we do have in common is that I also came out at a young age. Being openly gay at sixteen wasn’t so common in the nineties—not like now, when people are coming out at even younger ages. I think that’s great! Ben and I are also both recklessly brave when it comes to love. I’ve always chased after any guy I wanted and done my utmost to get them. I’ve never been afraid to make a fool of myself. We definitely have that in common. I feel like young Ben has a better set of morals than I did at his age. I got into lots of trouble as a teenager and did things that I really shouldn’t have, not that I have many regrets. So while Ben and I do share a few similarities, I think that’s only because a writer always puts a little of themselves into each character they create. Phillip asks…  The one character that really stood out for me and I could relate to the most is the character of Tim Wyman. I went through almost the exact same thing in my coming out process and I literally felt every emotion he did. How did you come to create his character? Was it from a personal experience? Did you go through something like that yourself?  Tim Wyman is the opposite of Benjamin Bentley. Instead of being open and proud, he struggles with his sexuality and wants to please his parents. Except for very rare circumstances, all gay people are like Tim before we come out. I certainly was, and I cheated myself of some interesting experiences because I didn’t want anyone to discover the truth. Having walked in his delightfully blue shoes before, it wasn’t hard for me to write from his perspective. The only challenge was when he realized he had feelings for Ben, because that was a fork in the road for me. As soon as I met a guy I liked, and who liked me back, I came out. That relationship and those feelings were too important for me not to. For other people, like Tim, love isn’t enough. They need more time, and that’s perfectly fine. Corey asks…  Were there events that took place during your writing of the books or that happened before, that helped to shape these wonderful people we grew to love? Yeah, for sure. I draw from events in my past a lot, simply because it’s easier that way. No research required! Or things will happen during the course of writing a book which have an influence. A good example is Something Like Summer, which mentions that Tim had a mentor who died of cancer. I didn’t know at the time that my father had cancer. None of us knew. Sadly, my Dad passed away soon after. So when it came time to tackle Tim’s story… I might have ended up writing that same scene even if my father hadn’t died, but obviously losing him changed the dynamic of how I approached that part. There were so many examples like this when I first started writing that I was beginning to get superstitious. I would write things and they would happen. Luckily that hasn’t been the case recently. I prefer for drama to stay in my books, where it belongs. Stephanie asks…  You have the best developed characters, so much so, that they seem real to me. That makes me wonder; do your characters haunt you regularly? If you are at a restaurant, for example, do you think about what your characters would be ordering? Do you think of them often when you are not actively writing? What’s most common is that I obsess over whichever character I’m currently writing about, so I’ll think about them a lot and see the world through their eyes. Sometimes that can be fun, or a little rough if my characters are in a bad place, because I’ll feel just as gloomy or angry as they do. All of my characters seem real to me though, so what’s more common is I’ll think of Ben and wish I could call him up, even though I obviously can’t. It’s the same feeling when you think of a friend you’ve lost touch with a little. You might experience an emotional jolt, think about how much you love them, and want to reach out. My characters are always with me in that regard. Keirre asks…  Why did you decide to introduce a new character in Something like Spring instead of a storyline that would have featured Ryan from Tim’s past? I was surprised when he wasn’t the feature character. Ryan’s life could have been a great story. The truth is that I don’t like Ryan much. I know I often take reprehensible characters and redeem them by allowing them to tell their own story, but I’d be hard pressed to do that for Ryan. The only character I dislike more is Chuck from Kamikaze Boys. You’re right though that his life would probably make an interesting story. I’d rather leave that up to the imaginations of the readers. You guys can decide where Ryan came from and where he’s headed. As for why I chose an entirely new character, I felt we had already seen these characters and their lives from the most important perspectives. All that remained was to see them from the outside via a neutral party. Spring turned out to be much more than that, but this was the initial premise I had when conceiving of the book. Spring Dowse asks…  Will you incorporate any trans characters in the future? What about a spin off with some of your amazing lesbian characters? I actually already have a transsexual character. I just haven’t revealed who they are yet. It’s an issue I’m trying to educate myself about first, by talking with more trans people and watching documentaries. I don’t want to stumble into that issue blindly. I want to do trans people justice. But yeah, I’d love to feature a transsexual character. Or let one of my lesbian characters take the lead. I’ve been experimenting with short fiction lately, so maybe that’s how this idea will manifest. Or maybe a longer book will be the end result. We’ll see! Shane asks…  Since Something like Summer was originally a stand alone book, do you ever regret continuing the series? Has any part of the process felt like a chore to you now that you’ve decided to continue writing it and it has gathered a fan base? When I announced that the Something Like… books would continue past the seasonal theme, someone on social media accused me of milking it. This baffled me, because continuing the series is what I desired most. If these books weren’t a commercial success, I’d still be sitting here and writing more. That’s how much I love them. That also keeps them from ever feeling like a chore. The only trick to writing a series is a sense of pressure, because I feel like I need to up my game with each release. I don’t want to disappoint you guys! I felt I bought myself some leeway when the Something Like Spring was finished, since what followed wasn’t so connected. Had I been milking it though, I never would have chosen Kelly as a character to write about next, since hardly anyone liked him at that point. So no, these books are always a pleasure for me to write. Eric asks…  How much of the “other side” do you know when you first write scenes that overlap between books? I’m thinking of things like the water park scene, where it turns out that *spoilers spoilers spoilers*. When you first wrote the scene in “Something Like Summer”, did you have some idea that that was the reason Jace reacted how he did, or did you “fill in the blanks” later when you focused on Jace’s story? The water park scene is a perfect example, because it’s one where three main characters converge. I never imagined I would need to rewrite it from each of their perspectives! It’s also a scene where I sprinkle in lots of mysterious tidbits, such as Tim having a scar that Ben had never seen before. I did know at the time how Tim got the scar, although some of the details changed when I actually wrote his book. As for Jace, I honestly didn’t have a clue. That makes the writing process fun for me, since there is an element of discovery. Often times the explanations will fall into place naturally. I focused on telling the story of Jace’s past, and when I finally reached the water park scene, it all simply clicked. So that’s why he was so forgiving! Ah ha! It doesn’t always fall into place though. A character might be less angry when I get to a certain part of their story, but I still have to make it work while remaining true to the previous books. It’s also a challenge keeping a scene fresh and interesting on the third time around. Tiffany asks…  As much as I love the “Something Like” series, I’m curious about whether you think you might be ready to move on. Do you have an idea for another book/series, and if so, will you tell us about it? I don’t want to move on. Please don’t make me! LOL I truly love writing the Something Like… series. I recently did have the urge to take a break, and if that happens again, I suppose I could return to my fantasy series. Mixing it up a little by writing a handful of short stories helped get me back on my feet again. If I wanted to do something really different, it would probably be mainstream, maybe under a pen name. I figure if I’m going to write about gay love, I’ve already created a world that I enjoy and which allows me a lot of creative freedom. We’ve already moved away from the core characters with books like Lightning and Thunder, and the response has been positive. The stories don’t have to stay in Austin, or even in that time period. There will always be a way to build a connection to the other books without letting it dominate the story. So basically, I’m still very content to keep the series going. I love revisiting this world. That there are others out there who care about these characters and stories just blows my mind. I feel incredibly lucky. Thank you to everyone who has given these books a chance! I really appreciate it! something This isn’t a coming out story. Nor is it the tale of a lonely heart seeking companionship. This is about how I learned to fight. My name is Nathaniel Courtney and I’m a survivor. I didn’t let the cruelty of others wear me down, and I’ve weathered the more subtle hardships of the heart. Love is a Trojan horse, slipping past your guard and leaving you ransacked and vulnerable. I emerged from that war not unscathed but as a new man. The only mistake I ever made was letting the right guy get away. Now I’ve got one more chance. This is the final battle, because if I fail now… I won’t. You’ll see. Just listen to my story, Kelly Phillips, and when I’m done, please don’t walk away. Take this weary soldier into your arms so we can find peace together. Something Like Thunder is the sixth book in the ongoing Something Like… series, shedding light on past events while leading the reader toward an exciting new future. HeartsReview Review by Barb: Where to start? Hmm, I guess I’ll start my review by saying that it’s likely that if you are reading this review you’ve read the other stories in the “Something Like” series since this is number six. And, like you may have done for books two to five, you are getting psyched for an emotional, gut-wrenching, tearjerking, smile-generating journey to whatever destination Jay Bell has decided to take you to this time. Well, get ready because it’s a doozy. You are about to embark on the path to Nataniel’s and Kelly’s HEA, but fasten your seatbelt because it’s a bumpy journey through some twisting and turning life paths and some dark and scary places. And be prepared to say hello to a character or two from other books and for some surprising connections between characters who pop up from the past when you least expect it. Nathaniel Courtney and Kelly Phillips are trapped together in a penthouse apartment as the story opens. The perpetrator of the prank is none other than Nathaniel’s boss, Marcello Maltese, the charismatic, manipulating fellow who was a strong influence on Tim Wyman in “Something Like Winter”. They’re trapped there because Marcello believes that Nataniel needs this chance to win Kelly back after he pushed him away in “Something Like Lightning”. And Nathaniel is finally ready to try by revealing his truths to Kelly—truths which he had previously refused to share. We’re taken back in time to Nathaniel’s senior year in high school when he meets Caesar Hubbard for the first time. And we witness just what is going on in Nathaniel’s house as he’s beaten by his brother to the point where he fears sleeping at night. Then he learns the shocking truth about his true parentage and finds out that his father has been abusive to his mother. It’s an emotional powder keg at home and the connections to his father and brother are irreparably damaged. We see the situation with Caesar and the Hubbard family from his perspective, including the final damning scene when he’s kicked out. And we see how he and Caesar reconnected and ended up at Yale together, but we learn what happens to drive them apart and the betrayal by his best friend, Rebecca, is heartbreaking. It’s also life-changing, and Nathaniel finds himself working for Marcello and taking on a friendly, goofy dog that he names Zero. Zero plays an important role in Nathaniel’s life. He becomes his best friend and confidante, his reason to keep going at a time when he needs that most. Zero is there when Nathaniel and Kelly break up, when he rescues his sister-in-law and nephew from his abusive brother, when he learns truths about his biological father, and when he finally heals the relationship with Heath, the man who raised him. Zero is also there when Kelly rejects Nathaniel even after being locked in that penthouse apartment and pouring his heart out with honesty and truths he’d never previously spoken. And it’s Zero who actually brings them back together when he’s critically hurt and about to be euthanized. Jay Bell is a master storyteller. The plotlines and subplots interwoven throughout this story, the connections to past characters and events, the emotional mind-blowing, heartwarming and heartbreaking experiences that the author forces the reader to go through is unquestionably superb. I highly recommend this story to all lovers of M/M romance. If you’ve read the others in the series, don’t miss this one. If you haven’t, by all means get started with “Something Like Summer”. This series is on my all-time favorite series short list. I hope it will be on yours too. I can’t wait for the next installment. Whose story will be featured? Caesar? William? Jason? Whoever it is, I’ll be first in line again.

About Jay

I’m always a little bit uncomfortable writing about myself. It feels too egocentric. Then again, I enjoy stalking people online, so it’s only fair I allow others to do the same. Jay Bell author photo My name, if you haven’t guessed already, is Jay Bell and I was born February 19th, 1977 in Merriam, Kansas. For simplicity’s sake let’s say I grew up there, although I also spent a decade in Missouri and Texas somewhere in between. I suppose my childhood could be summed up in two words: rebellious nerd. Come to think of it, that pretty much covers my teen and adult years as well. I was never much for school. Professionally I got by doing tech support or other computer related jobs. While working in Lawrence, Kansas I met my future husband. Andreas was an exchange student from Germany, a country I hadn’t given much prior thought to. Andreas was that just-right combination of handsome, intelligent, kind, and talented for me to fall in love. What he saw in me is the real mystery, but we packed up the cats and moved to Germany to get married. Not being able to speak German left me blissfully unemployable and allowed me to focus full time on my writing. I’ve always loved books, delving into fantastic worlds and letting myself get lost there. I grew up marvelling at the creative genius of C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin, Terry Brooks, even that guy that wrote the Mr. Men books. The list could go on and on. It’s a daunting task to try and add my own stories to the countless volumes already out there, but I’m giving it my best. Anything else you’d like to know, feel free to ask. HeartsGiveaway

 

Leave a comment for Jay by 8/18 @ 11:59 PM for a random chance to win a copy of Something Like Thunder!  CLOSED Congratulations Marcelo!

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25 Comments

  1. I’m a big fan of the Something Like series and I’m so excited for the movie. Grettings from México.

  2. These books have honestly changed my outlook on being gay and have had the most positive impact literature can offer. Keep doing amazing work!

  3. I´m so sad u left Germany. U really should have taken me with you. 😉 Awesome Interview. I love that with each interview I get to know u a little better. Andreas and you are awesome.

  4. I need to finish reading this series. Great questions.

  5. Thanks for the great interview. I think you are quite brave to move to another country with a different language than your native one. Glad to have you back in the US, though. 😉

  6. Can’t wait for your next gift to us.

  7. Shane Kessler Greener

    It was interesting to hear these questions get an answer, especially the one regarding Ryan. As someone who’s trans I am also looking forward to getting some representation and the fact Jay is taking the time to make sure he presents them in the most authentic light is comforting. I am so, so excited for the movie and with each book my love for the series grows. Thank you for sharing a part of this universe with us, Jay!

  8. Can’t wait for your next gift to us.

  9. Great interview! Also sounds like a great story.

  10. I really liked the video interview! I would love to see more!

    I’ve enjoyed all of the Something Like… books that I have read. I am so happy to have the chance to win!

  11. Great video interview! I think it was brave of you to take that chance and move to another country where you didn’t really know the language or many people.

  12. Did I see the words “giveaway and “random?” Do I hope I get randomly chosen? Hell yes!
    However, if you wanna change the word “random” to “rigged in my favor,” I won’t judge.

  13. For my 17th birthday, my best friend Courtney bought me something like summer as my gift. I had just come out to her a few months before and I was overwhelmed with support from her. I remember opening the package and seeing a book beneath all the wrapping paper. I was shocked. She knew me better than this. I couldn’t believe that she had bought me a book. I wasn’t a big fan of reading and preferred movies. She gave me a smile and told me to read the back. I can’t describe how big the smile on my face was when I read that it was a gay romance novel about two guys, Ben and Tim. Since then I have read all of the Sometging Like Books except for Something Like Thunder. This is the best gift that I have ever gotten and I can’t even explain to you how much this book has changed my life. I since have broadened my reading horizons and now I enjoy reading. Thank you Jay Bell for writing these incredible novels.
    -Brian

  14. These series have teached me how being gay is not the same for everyone and how true love or a special one can have such an impact in your life. Also the risks and decisions made by the characters were very real compared to most romantic-cheesy novels out there keeping it accurate how basically is in life. Lots of love to Jay Bell and his outstanding works 🙂

  15. I seriously just love how Jay Bell cares about his readers and also it was a great idea to make this video since it answered most of my questions

  16. I’m so ecstatic that you do not have plans to stop writing the Something Like… Series! Please, Every word of it has been my guilty pleasure and it is just oh-so-awesome how it had developed into an outstanding series, book-by-book 🙂
    Sending my love and fandom!

  17. I really like this series! I have gotten a bit behind so I definitely need to get caught up! Thanks for the chance to win a copy of Something Like Thunder!

  18. Marcelo Castaldeli

    Hello, Jay!!! What a nice interview! So good to hear that you’re not Ben! Funny thing, just read Fall (because I donated to the movie!!!) and every Ben scene, I don’t know why, I assimilated your face in Ben’s! Really funny because in the past books, I didn’t. I had to do the mental note: “Ben is not Jay!” throughout the whole book!

    I really appreciate your work, read all your books already. Loved Loka Legends! Please write a third one!

    I’m from São Paulo, Brasil. Have you thought about translating your books to Portuguese? I would do it for free!!! I think your work must be known!

    Wish you hapiness, always!

    Marcelo Castaldeli

  19. Honestly these have changed my perspective on romance in gay culture. Im pretty sure for the better. They’ve strengthened my belief that I could have a happy ending, even when I’m gay. So thank you Jay!

  20. Welcome back to the USA. Interesting interview. Thanks for the contest!

  21. Keep Austin weird! Great video. Looking forward to more of your books. Don’t worry about hating some characters. Some are meant to be hated. We can admire Professor Moriarty’s brilliance, but still despise him.

  22. This was so much fun. I always enjoy hearing from Jay, whether that’s in fiction or non-fiction form. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  23. I loved loved loved this video since not many authors do actual responding answers. Jay Bell, with no doubt, is an exceptional author for the whole LGTBQAP+ community.

  24. Thank you for a chance to win one of Jay’s books and as I was watching that video I wondered did their cats go with them? His videos are worth checking out on You Tube, they are fun, romantic as well insightful.

  25. Love the series and cannot wait for the movie.

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