Gritty & Witty: Q&A with M/M Romance Author Ellis Carrington
by Madeline Iva
I love Ellis Carrington because she wants “books that make her sob like there’s no tomorrow”. She has a new m/m story out called TOTAL IMMERSION. Here’s a blurb:
Evan Stanton is in over his head. Injured from a fall on campus, he’s let his boyfriend talk him into a senior year total immersion trip—two weeks abroad—only his boyfriend ends up dumping him shortly before takeoff. Evan gets on the plane anyway, but he’s lost his hope and added to his pain.
Chris Bale decided to spend his senior year of college clearing his head after breaking up with the girl he’s dated since high school. He finds himself on a flight to Istanbul next to a surly kid with piercings and guyliner who couldn’t be more his opposite. They strike up a friendship anyway, and as they make their way across a foreign land, Bale realizes he’s too immersed in Evan to let go.
MADELINE IVA: I understand your latest release TOTAL IMMERSION is in an anthology for hurt/caring stories –Why are hurt/caring stories catnip for queer folk?
ELLIS CARRINGTON: I’ve never read or written fan fic so I can’t speak to the trope’s popularity on those sites in particular (although I hear those stories about Ron and Harry Potter can be h-a-w-t!). Based on observation alone, hurt/comfort does seem to be a popular trope in the gay romance genre. I think we see it in male/female romance too, but I feel like I see more variety in male/male stories; from two boys running away from foster care together in a gay YA story to two men helping each other heal after coming home from war with missing limbs. I think the fascination exists in part because men tend to be perceived as less emotional, and painful experiences provide a situation for emotional growth and intimacy between two characters.
MADELINE IVA: Can you show us an example?
ELLIS CARRINGTON: Here’s a look at a caring/hurting moment near the beginning of TOTAL IMMERSION. Two young men are on a college study abroad trip across Turkey and Greece. Evan is suffering from an injury, and Bale is looking to “find himself” before he goes out into the real world.
They call Cappadocia The Land of the Fairy Chimneys. It all actually looked crazy cool, and I tried hard to listen to this story about persecuted Christians in the Byzantine era or something. This whole country is full of history and culture I oughta be soaking up, but I couldn’t pay attention. If I’d had the basic ability to stand still, I’d have wanted to draw everything.
“You okay?” If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Bale could tell what was wrong. He’d been five steps behind me all day, and I hated to say it, but I didn’t mind.
“Sucks today, man.” We’re supposed to hike this ridiculous trail through some valley of houses carved into cliffs until, sometime in an impossible future, we eventually get back to the bus. I wasn’t so sure I could make the distance, and I didn’t want to say so out loud.
For reasons I didn’t get, he’d been putting up with my shit and propping up my sanity every day since this trip started. I’d realized the thing he said that night in Istanbul was right. I really hadn’t been living. Not well. Made me want to be stronger. Today, I wasn’t sure how. Bale’s head bobbed. This blonde chick named Kristin tried to show him a funny postcard or whatever, but he waved her off and pressed up next to me at the back of our tour group.
“Here.” He wrapped his hand around my back, lifting up under my arms. “Let me help.”
“You don’t have to. I can manage.” Except I wasn’t sure I could. I didn’t want to need help, though, especially not from him. I wanted him to think I was strong. I’d given up on being strong in front of Josh, and maybe that was why he’d given up on me. No, Bale and I weren’t like that, but still. I figured the lesson still applied.
“Come on,” Bale said. He leaned over so his lips touched my ear. “I know you’ve been keeping it to yourself more, but I can tell when it hurts. Your forehead gets this deep crease in the middle, and you start rubbing your lower back. You pace. Back and forth, like a caged animal, cuz I bet it’s too hard to stand still.”
Well I sure as hell got still right then. Him getting me so on the money threw me for a loop, and I wound up leaning against his arm out of surprise.
“You’re right.” I tried to say it quietly, not wanting my voice to carry to the whole group. “It’s been a lot. My legs feel like they don’t wanna hold me up anymore. I’ve got knives digging into my back. I want to collapse in a bed and not get up for a week.”
Bale’s scruff brushed my cheek. He hadn’t shaved in a few days.
“Tell you what. I heard the tour guide say there was a place to stop and rest up ahead. Let’s see if you can make it that far. We’ll take a time out, get on the bus back to the hotel, and have a few hours to chill out before dinner. You’ll have your time to rest.” He nudged me in the side. “You make it without too much whining, I give a pretty decent massage. Used to give ’em to my ex when she was sore from work. I can help you loosen up those overtired muscles.”
We started walking. I tried to lighten the mood by making a joke.
“So you gonna give me the same kind of massage you used to give your girl?”
“We’ll see how you behave.”
MADELINE IVA: Your vampire story “Yes Sir” has a great cover, and includes a voodoo priestess. Yum! The cover has a guy with tied up hands, — does it get very bdsm-y? Is gay BDSM different from straight BDSM?
ELLIS CARRINGTON: Thank you! I love that cover too. It was designed by Pickyme, who has done fabulous covers for a lot of amazing authors, and I adore her. I would say Yes, Sir is light BDSM? Someone called it sugar-kink?
MADELINE IVA: Ah! Sugar kink is my favorite kind of kink.
ELLIS CARRINGTON: It’s a short story, and I am not a lifestyle gal, so while I made every effort to ensure accuracy (there’s definitely some whipping and submission in there), it’s not on the order of say, Tiffany Reisz, whom I would consider to be a “real” BDSM writer because she’s lived the lifestyle and really goes into detail about the hows and whys of all of that in her books.
MADELINE IVA: Yup she paints BDSM in all the blue, black, and purples one could want.
ELLIS CARRINGTON: I will say that Yes, Sir is one of my most-read stories, and I’ve gotten awesome feedback—both from folks in the lifestyle who thought that the main character’s submissive point of view felt realistic to them, and also from folks who said it was their first male/male read, and that they enjoyed it and would read more. That’s a huge compliment. That aside, I don’t think there’s any difference between gay BDSM and any other, save for the actual naughty bits. 😉
ELLIS CARRINGTON: I think most of what I write boils down to people finding their way out of situations in which they feel trapped through the power of love. *cue the inspirational music* Right now I’m working on the sequel to my small town romance, Stripped Clean. This series revolves around the idea of men finding love together in a small-town girlie bar called The Escapade, which I just thought was a really fun concept. All those naked ta-tas and they only have eyes for each other. 😉
MADELINE IVA: Now, you are writing male voices, but does writing men reflect something about who you are?
ELLIS CARRINGTON: My writing itself is pretty angsty. There are irrevocable mistakes and guys contemplating suicide, and a lot of that is what I believe Chuck Wendig calls writing into the void. None of the guys I write are me, of course, but they’re all experiencing something painful that’s stuck with me for some reason. I’m one of those people who has trouble watching the news because I’ll hear about the death of a child and think about it months or even years later. So writing is a kind of catharsis for me.
MADELINE IVA: Name two fav m/m reads.
ELLIS CARRINGTON: It’s hard to choose only two:
One is CHASE IN SHADOW by Amy Lane. It’s about a guy who believes so deeply he can’t be gay that he gets engaged to a woman, then secretly starts filming gay-for-pay porn. He falls in love with another man on the set, and when the whole thing overwhelms him, he tries to kill himself. Every time I read that story, I cry and I cry hard.
Another fave is MINE by Mary Calmes – the hero is a criminal, which is sort of an oxymoron I guess, but I love the character. He makes every choice he makes in life for the man he loves, and yet he’s strong, confident, and fearless in a way that’s larger than life. He’s the kind of hero I dream of writing.
I also have to mention FAITH AND FIDELITY by Tere Michaels, which starts a really gorgeous about two former cops. So good.
MADELINE IVA: A few years back, women were criticized for writing gay romance that included inaccurate portrayals of gay sex. Yet, now there’s been a greater sense of accuracy instilled in the genre written by women. What’s your take on this? Should women write m/m sex like gay men actually have gay sex? Is it okay for women writers not to be 100% accurate and if so, why?
ELLIS CARRINGTON: I think starting out there may have been a lack of information, but I do mostly think accuracy is there now and it is important. Women who write gay romance caught a lot of flak about accuracy, and over time we’ve worked to disprove that theory so I’m bothered by it as well. I mean, I’ve read sex scenes in gay romance written by men even that failed to mention lube. I don’t figure that’s an accuracy issue so much as they were doing the whole “magic of fiction” thing and glossing over it for the sake of making the scene flow better. So minor stuff like that doesn’t bug me. If I read a love scene between two men where the man has multiple orgasms or something, I raise an eyebrow (unless I’m reading say, paranormal or sci-fi) since that’s a thing women can do but men—typically—cannot.
Some will argue that since romance is mostly read by women it doesn’t matter, but men read romance too, and I think we should do our best to respect those readers.
MADELINE IVA: Why would a woman who’s never tried reading m/m like it if she tried it? What would she get out of it that she may not get out of the romance she currently reads?
ELLIS CARRINGTON: Aside from the fact that one man is hot and two men are hotter… 😉
ELLIS CARRINGTON: The female archetypes in romance fiction can get stale for some readers. We get tired of the waifs and the librarians. Not spunky enough. We don’t want a heroine who’s too stupid to live. The vixen, she’s too slutty, or maybe too bitchy. Or maybe we don’t like the words used to describe her lady parts. Female readers, we have specific things we either love or hate. But two men together, that’s a brand new dynamic, there’s equality there. I think a lot of readers find it breathes new life into their reading.
That’s how I came to the experience. I got a Kindle for Christmas, downloaded some new stories I hadn’t heard of before, and fell in love.
Aw. There you have it, readers. Go find Ellis Carrington on:
Her Website: http://elliscarrington.com/
The Twitter: https://twitter.com/mmbyellis
and FB: https://www.facebook.com/EllisCarringtonRomance
Hope you are cooling off your hot self in this warm weather. But if you like the heat, then follow LadySmut.