RELEASE BLITZ – #INTERVIEW – A World Apart (Loving Again 1) by Mel Gough – #Excerpt #AuthorInterview #CharacterInterview

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🌟 Please join me in welcoming author Mel Gough to Stories That Make You Smile! Mel is here today celebrating the rerelease of her fantastic novel, A World Apart. Mel kindly sat down to answer questions about her writing process, AND brought along Ben from A World Apart to answer a barrage of questions, too! 🌟

A World Apart by Mel Gough

Nothing matters but helping Donnie fight his demons. Can they carve a new life together out of the ashes?

Series: Loving Again (book #1)
Publisher: Self-Published
Cover Artist: Black Jazz Design
Release Date: January 25, 2019
Length: Novel / 51,000 words / 197 pages
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Pairing / Genre(s) / Keyword(s): M/M Contemporary Romance

The first book in a series of three, but can be read as standalone.

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Blurb

Ben’s life appears perfect. He has a career to shine in and a beautiful family. But his marriage has broken down, and being a small-town cop is turning into a dead-end job. Hot-headed troublemaker Donnie is used to being side-eyed by the fuzz. Getting dragged into the station for a crime he didn’t commit is no big surprise – but a cop who gives a damn sure is. Ben has no clue how much a second encounter with the secretive redneck will shake up his life. Donnie’s sullen vulnerability arouses a passion Ben hasn’t felt for a long time. Soon, nothing matters but helping Donnie fight his demons. Can they carve a new life together out of the ashes?

☆ Interview with Ben from A World Apart

What is your name? Do you have a nickname? If so, who calls you by it, and how did you get it?

My name is Ben Griers. I’m not aware that I have a nickname but I imagine that the bad guys and gals I’ve helped lock up sometimes call me pretty awful things.

What is your greatest fear?

That nobody needs me anymore. I like knowing that there’s someone who’s glad when I’m there for them and who hopes I’m on my way home to keep them company when they’re not feeling good.

What character trait do you most dislike in yourself?

I can be really dense about my feelings sometimes. I find it hard to admit that I have emotional needs, and that they aren’t being met. It’s hard enough to admit that I need my physical needs met, but with emotions I’m totally useless.

What character trait do you most dislike in others?

I detest people who intimidate and bully those that are weaker or smaller. I hate when people just take and take and don’t give anything back.

What is your greatest strength?

I’m loyal. I’ll be with the ones I love through thick and thin and I’ll love them even more in their weak moments. That’s when they need me, and I know that I’m good at it.

How would you describe yourself?

I guess I’d say I’m a nice guy. Happy, most of the time. But I’ve had some stuff going on in the past, and it took me a while to get over it. In the end, I think, it’s made me appreciate life more. I try any take pleasure in the little things, in my work, and in spending time with Donnie. I think he’s made me a better person. When I’m with him, I’m so impressed with how he manages a pretty shitty life really well.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Country, mostly. Donnie can’t stand it. [laughs] Especially when I put Garth Brooks on. I love his music, man.

Are you a leader or a follower?

I guess you could say I’m a leader. I like working with a team, but I enjoy being in charge. I’ve always been ambitious about my career as a a police officer. Maybe I’ll decide to do my detective exam soon.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

An optimist, definitely. You gotta be, in my job. You have to hope you catch the bad guys or you might as well give up. I think it’s helped me deal with the shit Donnie and I had happen recently.

What do you look for in a potential lover?

I want someone who has a passion, something they care about. I want to be able to talk to them about all kinds of things. I don’t mean book-smart, but interested, you know? And I admire people who work their way out from a bad situation and don’t become bitter or mean. Donnie’s like that. His life’s been so shit, but he’s the sweetest, gentlest guy. I admire that a lot.

Excerpt

From Chapter One

“WHAT HAVE WE got, Lou?” Ben asked the gray-haired desk clerk at Corinth Police Department. He glanced at a handcuffed man who sat on a nearby bench, staring down at the scuffed linoleum floor. The man’s dark hair was disheveled, falling low over his forehead and brushing his long eyelashes as his eyes flicked up at Ben. He looked to be in his mid-twenties. One knee jiggled with nerves, and his jaw worked as if he was biting the inside of his mouth over and over. His dark blue eyes were mistrustful, almost pained.

“That guy was driving the vehicle involved in the hit-and-run yesterday,” Lou said. “Browne and O’Donnell brought him in. They’re with the captain.”

Just that moment, the door to the inner sanctum of the station opened, and Jason Browne strode out of Captain Buckley’s office. The sleeves of his uniform were rolled up as usual, to show off his muscular, tanned arms.

“How was court, brother?” Jason sounded cheerful, but his gray eyes were cold. In Ben’s partner and best friend since high school, that was never a good combination. Ben gave Jason a long look, then shrugged.

“As expected.” He didn’t want to think about the peculiar effect Mr. Abbott’s words had had on him, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to discuss it in front of a suspect, or Lou.

“You missed all the excitement.” Jason gestured toward the handcuffed man, who had his gazed directed at the floor again. “Saunders here knows some pretty colorful language, and he was none too happy to accompany us, neither.”

“Hence the handcuffs?” Ben asked, his tone dry.

Jason nodded, smirking.

“Wasn’t me that hit that kid,” Saunders muttered, his dark voice shaking with suppressed anger. “Told y’all I wasn’t in town.”

Jason sighed, folding his arms across his chest with exaggerated impatience. “And I told you this: We got witnesses placing you at the scene, smart-ass. It’s your word against theirs. Who’re we gonna believe, some deadbeat, or the boy’s mother?”

Ben frowned at his partner. They had been in the radio car on their usual route the day before when the call about a hit-and-run near Corinth High had come over dispatch. O’Donnell and Myers, the department’s other two sergeants, had been closest and responded to the call. Last night, back at the station, O’Donnell had told them that the boy had a broken leg from being flung off his bike, but that he would undoubtedly survive. There really was no need for Jason to be so aggressive about the issue.

Saunders sat up straight on the bench, glaring at Jason. “It wasn’t me! Why’re you not listening?” His eyes were wide with fury.

Ben, knowing Jason’s thought processes and impulses almost as well as his own, stepped in his partner’s way. Gaze fixed on his friend, he said loud enough for Lou and any bystanders to hear, “Why don’t you and I take Mr. Saunders through to the interrogation room for a statement?” He put special emphasis on the last words, hoping Jason would get his meaning: Anything other than a polite request for an official statement from the suspect would be out of order at this point.

Taking Jason’s reluctant jerk of the head as assent, Ben turned around, intending to escort Saunders to the interrogation room. But as soon as his back was turned, Jason stepped nimbly around him and grabbed the man hard by the upper arm.

Saunders flinched, but Jason’s grip on him was like a vise. Saunders’s eyes met Ben’s, and there was pure animal fear in them, as well as something Ben couldn’t quite place. Anguish, perhaps?

He stepped up close behind Jason. “If you dislocate his shoulder there’ll be an awful lot of paperwork to fill in for both of us, brother.” Ben kept his voice quiet and even, but Jason knew him well enough to detect the steely undertone. After a moment, Jason huffed, then let go of Saunders and took a step back. There were finger-shaped marks on Saunders’s bicep, just below the rolled-up sleeve.

Now Ben stepped forward, and Saunders looked at him. His breath still came fast, but the fear began to fade from the indigo blue eyes.

Ben motioned at Saunders to stand, then pointed down the corridor. “Would you come this way, please?”

Good cop, bad cop. Ben hated playing this game, but Jason had left him no choice. Saunders got up. He was no taller than Ben, who just about scraped five foot nine. Jason towered over them both, still glowering. Saunders gave him a quick, disgusted look, then preceded Ben down the dreary-gray hallway, handcuffed arms held stiffly behind him. His narrow back was tense, the shoulders hunched.

At the door to the interrogation room, Ben let Jason draw ahead. He followed the two men inside and closed the door. Jason approached Saunders, who had backed up against the one-way mirror.

“Turn around,” Jason growled.

Saunders ignored him and stared straight at the bottle-green linoleum floor. Ben spoke before Jason could get angry again. “Sir, the sergeant will move the handcuffs to the front so you can sit down more comfortably.” The eyes that met Ben’s were still full of mistrust, but after a moment, they softened and Saunders turned around.

“Sit,” Jason said when he had shackled Saunders’s arms again in the front. Saunders flopped into the single chair on one side of the square floor-bolted table. Ben and Jason took the two chairs opposite.

Leaning forward, Ben waited until he had the suspect’s attention. “Do you mind if we record this conversation?”

“You’re arresting me?” The narrow blue eyes were suspicious again, but Saunders sounded more wary than belligerent. And he ignored Jason, his gaze never wavering from Ben.

“No, we’re not,” Ben said in an even tone. “But having a record of what we talk about will aid your cause.”

Saunders chewed this over, trying to decide whether Ben told the truth. Eventually he gave a small shrug.

“Sir,” Ben said. “Please state for the protocol: Do you mind if we record this conversation?” Forcing the police procedural on this man was distressing. The tension vibrating off him made Ben wince. Saunders gave him a pained look.

“Go ahead.”

Jason pressed the digital recorder button on the small panel in the tabletop to his right. But it was Ben who spoke again. When they interrogated a suspect together, Ben usually started off the interview. His milder, calmer demeanor tended to relax the atmosphere better than Jason’s hot temper. For now, Jason seemed to have gotten all his anger out by playing scary cop in front of Lou and sat back in his chair without interrupting.

“Statement protocol, September twenty-second, eleven forty-five a.m. Officers present: Sergeant Ben Griers and Sergeant Jason Browne.” Ben nodded at the suspect. “Please state your full name for the record, sir.”

“Donnie Saunders.” The man’s voice was quiet, and he sounded tired.

Ben waited for Saunders to look at him again, and nodded his thanks. Then he glanced at Jason, eyebrows raised, reminding his partner with his most level stare to act appropriately. “Officer Browne will now ask you a few questions.”

“All right,” Jason said. Ben took this as the opening of the interview and an affirmation that he would stay calm. “Mr. Saunders, your pickup truck was seen driving away after hitting Dennis Mallory on his bike while he was riding home after school yesterday afternoon at about three thirty p.m.”

“I told y’all three times now, it wasn’t me. Why is it that you can’t hear me?” Saunders’s voice had risen again in volume, but there was a strange quiver in it, too. He leaned back in his chair as far as he could, regarding Jason from eyes narrowed in anger.

Before Jason, who looked ready to explode again, could respond, Ben said, “Let’s rephrase the question: Sir, where were you yesterday at three thirty p.m.?”

Saunders didn’t immediately reply. His eyes darted around the room, never meeting Ben’s, and still ignoring Jason. Then they settled on the shackled, tightly folded hands in his lap. Is he trying to come up with a lie?

At last, Saunders said, “Was in Atlanta. Had an appointment at the DFCS.” His voice was very quiet, and he didn’t look up. It didn’t sound like a lie, but a truth the man was reluctant to share.

Ben decided not to press for details. It was none of his business why the guy had been summoned to the Division of Family and Children Services. As long as he could determine that Saunders had been forty miles away from the scene of the hit-and-run, he had done his job.

“I need to know who you were there to see,” Ben said just as quietly, and wasn’t surprised when his gaze was met with one of suspicion again. He added in explanation, “A phone call to the person you had the appointment with will clear you.”

Saunders gave a small jerk of the head in understanding. “Stacy Miller.”

“Thank you.” Ben looked at Jason, considering his options. Could he leave these two alone for a few minutes? His partner’s steel gaze never wavered from Saunders, and Ben could feel Jason’s tension. But if he told Jason to make the phone call, would he try very hard to get at the truth? No, Ben would have to call the DFCS himself. He’d just had to be quick.

“Jason, stay with Mr. Saunders. I’m going to call Ms. Miller.”

Not waiting for Jason’s acknowledgment, or asking permission from Saunders to make the call on his behalf, Ben got up and left the room. He went back to the front desk. “Lou, find me the number for Atlanta DFCS.”

The desk clerk looked grumpy for a moment but then started hacking away at his keyboard without a word. Finally he picked up the phone, dialed a number, and held the receiver out to Ben.

“DFCS switchboard,” a tinny voice announced in Ben’s ear. “How can I help?”

“Stacy Miller, please,” Ben said, ignoring Lou, who tried hard to look like he wasn’t listening in.

“Hold the line.”

Ben half turned away while he listened to the annoying phone queue music. After a few moments, there was a click and a crisp voice said, “Medicaid assessment team. How can I help you?”

☆ Interview with Mel Gough ☆

Welcome, and thank you for stopping by! Tell us a little about yourself and your writing goals.

I’ve been writing for near on five years now, if I count the first year in which I wrote exclusively fanfiction. The urge to write original stories came quickly, so I did everything I could to get a book published. A World Apart was accepted by an LGBT publisher in the US and came out in 2017. Ultimately the fit wasn’t great and I got my rights back. I’ve now fully embraced self-publishing and am quite excited that I’m able to bring this series out and share Ben and Donnie’s story with everyone. My writing goals beyond the series are to continue with the self-pub, but also to keep an open mind about traditional publishing. I’ve got one novel I’m currently shopping around to agents, so you never know!

Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?

The story is very dear to me because AWA was my first ever novel. It started as fanfiction and has seen a truly astonishing transformation as I worked with editors to make it better. I love my two guys. Donnie is such a sweet guy to write, with so much love in his heart, but I think Ben is my favourite because he’s caring and conscientious and a really, really good guy. But they’re flawed, and it’s those flaws that make them so relatable and their story worth telling.

Are you a planner or a pantser? How much do you know about your story before you start writing? How often does your plan change? Why does this work best for you?

I’ve had quite the transformation from pantsing to planning. This series was a total pantsing exercise since I wrote one chapter at a time that I then published to the fanfic archive AO3. Back then, I just didn’t know any better. It worked well enough, but if I were to write this story today it’d be quite different. I plot meticulously now, also because my stories have become more complex. I don’t write much straight-up romance anymore. There’s always something else going on – either it’s historical fiction, or there’s a murder mystery. I’m currently writing a mystery and have a dystopia planned next, and I couldn’t really write those without a clear roadmap. Otherwise I’d end up writing myself into a corner, and nothing is harder than reversing out of those! I never find that it hinders my creativity though. Just because I know certain milestones of the story there’s still so much to discover when writing: backstory, motivation, characters I had no idea were lurking. It’s like planning an exciting vacation: You get your vaccinations and your passport, and you book your hotels along the way and write down all the sights you want to see. But you still have surprises every day. You meet the people and you make changes as and when you arrive at each place because you never know everything there is to know from TripAdvisor and Google!

What are your favorite genres when it comes to your own pleasure reading? Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?

Like a lot of people, I go through phases. Some constants are mystery and dystopia, and new books of authors I already love (like Stephen King, Josh Lanyon, Val McDermid; if they bring out a new book I usually buy it). Right now I’m quite deep into true crime and it’s actually helpful to read that while I’m working on my mystery novel. It’s not even inspiration or facts, exactly, though sometimes it helps reading about what law enforcement people are like. But it’s useful to surround myself with the atmosphere. I can feel my detective brain switch on and it makes my story better and the mystery more elaborate.

I like ebooks because they’re easier to consume, cheaper and good for the environment. But I still have a lot of print books and sometimes that’s useful, like when I need to read for research. I can scribble all over them and don’t have to write out everything on a separate piece of paper.

What is the best money you ever spent as an author?

Everything to do with my Mac AirBook. I love writing on it, I don’t even know why. The screen is kind of small and it was expensive. But it’s so quiet and so fast, and I can lug it around with me without getting a back ache. And there’s Vellum, which is simply the best book formatting software out there for self-publishing, so I find it indispensable.

Does your research lead to bizarre internet searches? If so, tell us about some of your wackier searches, or ones that would make you nervous if your computer were ever confiscated by law enforcement.

All the time! I’m currently researching the FBI which makes me nervous. And there’s a lot about sex positions in my search history. I follow some gay porn stars on social media which can be instructive, pleasurable and distracting all at once! I also research a lot of medical topics because I love hurting my characters (I always make them better by the end though). So it’s a real hodge-podge on my browser. I had to read about aversion therapy for my last book, that wasn’t so nice.

How do you select the names of your characters?

Selecting the names is my favourite bit! I don’t like people giving me a lot of feedback on the names and I usually ignore comments because it’s so subjective. I only renamed a character once because several people got confused.

The names come to me in a very unscientific way, often in the shower or while walking. Sometimes they’re meaningful and I’ll adjust a character to fit the name (like, when it’s a typical name for a particular group then the character will have that group in his back story – my current example would be Irish American). I love names that can be used as both first and last names. In book 3 of the Ben and Donnie series there’s a character called Parker, and in another book I had someone’s last name be Thomas. It’s so much fun thinking up names!

What were your goals for this book? Did you achieve them?

My goal was to get Ben and Donnie’s entire story out there, and I’m finally close. It’s a story like I’ll never write again (because of how the idea started and how it was created) so just making sure I did well by it and gave it a platform I feel like I’ve reached my goal. It’s not the same goal as I have for other books, but yes, this one’s a success!

Meet the Author

Mel was born in Germany, where she spent the first twenty-six years of her life (with a one-year stint in Los Angeles). She has always been fascinated by cultures and human interaction, and got a Masters in Social Anthropology. After finishing university she moved to London, where she has now lived for ten years.

If you were to ask her parents what Mel enjoyed the most since the age of six, they would undoubtedly say “Reading!” She would take fifteen books on a three-week beach holiday, and then read all her mom’s books once she’d devoured her own midway through week two.

Back home in her mom’s attic there’s a box full of journals with stories Mel wrote when she was in her early teens. None of the stories are finished, or any good. She has told herself bedtime stories as far back as she can remember.

In her day job, Mel works as PA and office manager. No other city is quite like London, and Mel loves her city. The hustle and bustle still amaze and thrill her even after all these years. When not reading, writing or going to the theater, Mel spends her time with her long-time boyfriend, discussing science or poking fun at each other.

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