BLOG TOUR – AUTHOR INTERVIEW – Just Like Heaven by T.L. Bradford – #Excerpt #Trailer #Giveaway #Interview

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🌟 Please join me in welcoming author T.L. Bradford to Stories That Make You Smile! T.L. is here today celebrating the release of her wonderful new book, Just Like Heaven. She’s kindly brought along an excerpt, giveaway, and trailer, and is taking the time to sit down with us to discuss her writing process and inspiration for her fabulous story! 🌟

Just Like Heaven by T.L. Bradford

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Cover Art: Photo by Neospot, design by T.L. Bradford
Release Date: September 4, 2019
Length: Long Novel / 181k words / 479 pages
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Pairing / Genre(s) / Keyword(s): M/M Contemporary Romance, opposites attract, friends to lovers, coming out, PTSD, revenge

It is a standalone book.

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Blurb

Noah Sinclair
Noah Sinclair is best described as an egotistical, pompous, anal retentive, asshat. And those are his better qualities. Lately, Noah has lost touch with his playboy character “Jace” on the show Americana and can’t quite put his finger on why. The studio decides it is time to shake up his character by making him an offer he can’t refuse, literally. They will introduce a new love interest for his character “Jace.” Only this time, there’s a twist.

Josh Hill
Josh Hill is up a creek and sinking fast. He’s got no job, no money, no credit and is about to be kicked out of his apartment. Opportunity comes in the form of a job offer from the show Americana. Everything should be perfect; only there is one hitch. He will be the new love interest for Noah Sinclair’s character on the beloved show.

So, opposites are supposed to attract, right? Not so fast. No one said life was that easy. Both actors find themselves in untested waters. Will they be able to play a same-sex couple with no prior experience authentically? Well, they say practice makes perfect.

Carefree, fun-loving Josh and uptight, overbearing Noah, realize they need to make the best of their bad situation and are forced to find common ground. Over time, their roles in each other’s lives become blurred. Is their attraction fake, or is it real? To top it off, Noah has a dark skeleton in his closet that can prevent them from ever moving forward. 

Can they get on the same page and save both of their careers and their relationship? 

Or will they end up yesterday’s tabloid fodder?

Excerpt

Chapter 1

It’s been almost 10 minutes. Five to go. Fuck.

I have no clue what this meeting is about, and I am not in the mood to be dealing with Steph and Genie’s crap today. Some random stagehand just came back here to let me know my attendance was required. I try to think back and wonder if I personally offended anybody yet today. Hmm… Nope. Not today, anyway.

Four minutes.

Steph and Genie are the producers for the show I star on called Americana. It’s a newer concept in programming. The show streams daily on Netflix as an evening drama. Small town life under a microscope is the idea. It’s a modern-day spin on a soap opera really, but there is no way on earth I am admitting to working on a soap opera. The show itself is heavily ingrained in social media where the characters have taken on a life all their own. It’s been almost two years now since they cast me, and the show has been live.

Three minutes.

I graduated from college several years ago. After that, I spent a couple of years bar tending and serving. With good parts so scarce, I was lucky to get this opportunity. The show has been a ratings winner, and the entire cast is becoming well known.

What drew me to the part was its unique take on the dissection of America and how different communities have changed over time. Our show takes place in America’s heartland. It focuses on the lives and loves of the residents of Greenfield, Indiana.

My character, Jace, is the town barkeeper. He was a great role to play early on because he had a lot of interaction with the main cast. Lately, though, something has changed, and I’m not feeling in touch with the character as much as I once did. It’s showing in my performance, so I’m sure that’s what this meeting is about.

Two minutes.

I’ll bet it has to do with me flubbing lines lately. I haven’t been able to focus, and it looks like they have noticed. My part is getting reduced to nothing. Maybe this is the kick in the pants I need to move on. Ash, one of my castmates on the show, mentioned that they are having open auditions for a new show on FOX. Who knows, it may work out for a season or two. The only thing is that FOX has a bad reputation for short-term junky shows.

One minute.

Maybe they aren’t going to renew my contract. Oh god. I’m being sacked. I can see it now. Gah, I’m already planning my pity party table for one.

I reluctantly get up from my chair, padding out of the room, trying hard not to make eye contact with anyone. I arrive at the end of the hall and hold my hand on the doorknob. “Okay here it goes,” I say to no one in particular.

I enter the room and see Genie and Steph seated across from each other around a large square glass table. Steph is probably in his early 40s,(never can tell for sure in Hollywood), smallish frame with short sandy brown hair, mischievous eyes and a car salesman smile. He is kicking back with his half-eaten Subway sandwich hanging out of his mouth.

Genie looks up to see me. She has her requisite Starbucks Spiced Vanilla Chai Latte and is eating some salad that looks unhealthier than Steph’s meatball sub. “Noah, right on time, per usual.”

“Hey, guys.” I’m hoping to keep good vibes flowing.

Steph says, “Come on in and take a seat. Shut the door behind you.”

Oh boy, that doesn’t sound good. I move toward the desk, taking a chair next to the window, moving it in close next to Genie. The smell of the eggs on her salad is strong. Steph takes a napkin to his lips to wipe the marinara sauce off and starts talking.

“Noah, you’ve been here for over a year, right?”

“Uh, yeah, almost two years next month.”

“So, you’re up for contract negotiations then, right?”

“Yeah, I haven’t talked with my agent about it yet.”

“Well, that is what Genie and I would like to discuss.”

I swear the smell of the eggs is getting stronger. It is permeating the entire atmosphere.

“You know we get the daily stats on the show’s overall performance and having talked; we decided we are going to have to make some changes.”

It’s coming. I feel it. With the show being purely streaming, it is easy for the showrunners to pull up all types of analytics on the show, like what age group is watching, and income bracket. Annoyingly, they can also track what parts of the show are being watched and skipped over. A favorite character will have higher click averages than a third tier one. With my part being scaled back so much, I’m fairly sure my numbers are in the gutter. For sure I’m getting the boot. I start sweating.

Genie jumps in and says, “Your numbers have been pretty consistent, but not growing at the pace we would like to see.” All I can smell now is the nauseating stench of eggs. I am going to puke. Right here. Right now. Right on their fancy $3000 glass table.

Genie looks at me with concern in her eyes. “Are you okay? You don’t look so hot. Would you like a glass of water?” She jumps up from the table to grab me a glass. Her dark hair is nearly falling out of the messy bun at the back of her head.

“Yeah, that would be great.” She comes back and sets the glass down in front of me. I pick it up and drink slowly. My throat is constricted, and I nearly choke. She is still concerned and looks over to Steph. She pushes her black-framed glasses up on her nose and turns back to me.

Sensing my stress, she quickly says, “We are thinking of taking your character into a new direction.”

“A new direction? Okay, what were you guys thinking about?”

Steph says, “We’ve done some marketing research and have found some niches that we think will work well for our show.” He crams in another mouthful of sub.

Ever the tag team, Genie says, “It’s a direction that may be more challenging, but we think given your range that you would best be able to play the role.”

“What’s the direction you were thinking?”

She looks over to Steph, then back at me. “Your character, Jace Alexander will enter into a relationship with a new character, named Max.”

“Max? Well, what is Maxine’s backstory?” I let out a huge breath. They had me there for a minute.

“It’s just Max, not Maxine. Specifically, Max Shephard,” Steph says.

Slowly my head starts to wrap around what they are saying. “So, wait, Max is a guy?”

“Yep,” they say in unison.

“You made him gay?”

“Look, Noah, I know this is a real shock, but think of it this way. You will have a unique storyline, and it will get people back into your character again,” says Steph. “It’s been what, a year now since Jace broke up with Gracie? The character has just been drifting, and we need to get that viewership back.”

“Are you kidding me? How the hell am I supposed to play gay? This is so far out of my league. I—”

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Steph says, finally having put this sub down. “Genie and I had to go to bat for you to keep you on the show. They were ready to cut you. We pulled this idea out that we had a little while ago and they went for it. So basically, you stay on the show on the condition that you accept this storyline. Otherwise, they are releasing you at the end of your contract.”

I sit back in my chair, dumbstruck. I look between the two of them and see there is no way out. I have no words.

Genie says, “I know you feel blindsided and I don’t blame you for being upset but think about this rationally. This is the opportunity you have been waiting for. A chance to stretch your acting skills.”

“Yeah, but…”

Then she pulls forward in her chair, she grabs my hand and looks me in the eye. “You don’t have to answer right now. Think about it over the weekend, and we can all talk about it again on Monday.”

I don’t say a word, still unmoving and dazed.

“We have an audition video for the actor we have in mind. Why don’t you take this copy and see if you think you can make this work?”

Wordlessly, I take the flash drive and get up to leave. I go back to my dressing room and finally lose the contents of my stomach.

☆ Author Interview ☆

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?

Thank you! Just Like Heaven is about two actors who find themselves in the unlikely situation of having to play a couple in a same sex storyline despite the fact they consider themselves “straight.”  Their unexpected attraction for each other leads to them blurring the lines between their characters and their real-life friendship. They both struggle with determining the boundaries of their relationship. One of the characters has an issue from his past that ends up creating emotional turmoil for the pair.

The overall story deals with the issues of first-time coming out, self-acceptance, PTSD, and fidelity.

My favorite aspect of the story is the unspoken communication between the two main characters. They are able to perceive each other on a whole other level that goes beyond the physical and mental. I loved coming up with ways for them to connect that when beyond the conventional.

I don’t have a single favorite character so much as I have two characters I fell in love with writing the dialogue between. Though I had originally conceived the character of Chloe to be mostly emotional phone support for Josh, I found that I so enjoyed writing their banter, that I had to make her character a part of the regular crew.

What was the inspiration for your latest story?

I was on YouTube during pride month and they had a bunch of coming out videos popping up on the homepage. I clicked on a few and was swept away by the heartfelt stories I heard. I became addicted, watching a ton of these videos. In the sidebar was a video with a handsome actor who starred in a very popular European soap opera. An interviewer was asking him how he responded when he found out that the show had suddenly changed his straight character to gay. He was very honest in saying that it was a complete shock for him. After all, he had been on the show for almost two years and was set up to be the new heartthrob for all the ladies.

He said he had to do some major soul searching to find the place in him that could authentically portray the character. What sealed the deal was the amazing comradery he had with the actor who would be portraying his partner on the show. It turns out it worked better than anyone expected, and the characters went on to have a long stable relationship. Their appeal went international. Viewers from all over the world so loved these characters that they would take just their clips from the show and translate them into multiple languages.

They had succeeded in creating a couple that was not singled out for their sexuality. They were like any other heterosexual couple on the show, with the same problems and challenges. It brought a level of acceptance and understanding to an audience that may have never conceived same-sex couples as being just like them.

Though the actors are not a couple in real life, they have a very close friendship to this day. I ran with that idea and changed the circumstances to what would happen if they ever had actual feelings for each other.

Did your story turn out as you’d originally planned, or did it veer off in another direction?

No, it did not. I always knew what the overarching story structure would contain, however I left it open-ended, thinking I would come up with a better ending than what I had originally conceived. About 65% of the way through writing, I still had no definitive ending. My first pass at the ending was lacking, so I decided to figure out why it was not satisfying. When I determined what the issue was, I had to suck it up and fix it. It came down to a character that I had to change. I had to re-structure over half what I had already written. Once I did, the story flowed better, there was more drama, emotion, and a satisfying ending.

Choosing from among your own stories, who is your favorite character? Why?

I love all of my characters like children, but one stands out as great to write for, Sarita Chan. Sarita is brash, bawdy and outspoken. She is the opposite of me. She gives me an outlet to be this ballsy character I would never be.

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?

Don’t ever listen to people who are not there to support your dreams. I mentioned to a good friend of mine years ago when I was very young that I wanted to be a writer. This friend told me I had very little chance of ever making a decent living at it and that it was a ridiculous idea.

Initially, I paid no attention and continued on my path to writing, but by the time I went to college and got my first taste of what living with no money was like, her voice started creeping back into my head. I was anxious about my ability as a writer and changed my major from Journalism to Business.

I was a financial analyst for 15 years and hated every day of it. To this day, I regret ever doubting myself because I wasted so much time before finally doing what I really loved, which was writing.

How do you select the names of your characters?

If I ever had children, I knew I wanted to have two boys. I wanted their names to be Noah and Joshua. I did get to use one of the names, Noah, for my dog, a Doggo Argentino. I’m saving the other name just in case I ever have a little boy. 😊

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

When I’ve read epic romance novels, they are always about a male/female couple. The characters are fully fleshed out and have adventures, complications, and situations that are spun into these beautiful time honored stories, like Doctor Zhivago.

It seemed to me that the level of depth in many same-sex stories is not as prevalent. Most tend to be solely focused on their sexuality. I wanted to tell a story that had the characters dealing with issues outside of their own relationship and how they deal with problems and arise from the natural course of being a regular couple.

I hope I achieved them. I wanted my characters to have lots of small intimate moments together. It was also important that they be allowed to have a full range of emotions and experiences that shape their characters. It takes longer to tell those types of stories, hence the length of the book. I think same-sex couples deserve timeless love stories as well as any other coupling.

Do you put together a playlist and/or soundtrack for your books (or for particular scenes from your books)?

Absolutely! I have entire scenes in my book that were based on songs I remember as a kid. For whatever reason, I had imagined these millennial characters being very attached to all things 1980s. They are obsessed with it; the music, the phrases, the clothes, etc.

I had almost the entire book written and had no title. I was starting to stress a little about it. One day, I randomly started streaming the Galore album by The Cure. I had not heard it in a long time and realized what an awesome and unique sound they had all over again. Then the song Just Like Heaven came on and I was done. The name came out and bit me like a snake. I stuck with the music theme and used titles from the album throughout the book. My book trailer uses 80s synth pop sounds as well.

Do you ever say dialogue passages aloud as you write them, or make the facial expressions or actions you’re describing?

What a great question! I have my characters exchange in quite a bit of witty banter. There is nothing I love more than a good snarky comeback. I have a couple of characters in my book that excel at this feat. Those passages are my favorite to re-read. I can hear the timing and delivery in my head and I sit back and smile every time, I swear.

If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be? Why?

Oddly enough my husband and I have had lengthy conversations about this very topic. We are both agreed that the single best superpower to have would be inter-dimensional teleportation, where we could cross time and space. Why you ask? Here is why. Unlike flying where it takes time to reach your destination, with teleportation you would be there in an instant. Time would be irrelevant you could be in the past, present or future. If a dinosaur tries to eat you, simply pop into the future. In a crashing plane? Teleport back to the ground. Problem solved.

Meet the Author

T.L. always hated math, so it was a good thing she had a way with words.  Since she was a shy and quirky kid; words were her best friends. She would imagine entire worlds in her head and talk to herself endlessly.  Her mother wondered if she was speaking with ghosts for a while.

Her older sister was a voracious reader of trashy romance novels and would pass them down to her after she had finished them.  T.L. was the only 10-year-old kid sitting in class reading “The Stud” by Jackie Collins during reading time. Oddly enough, she never got called out on it.

As she grew older, her tastes evolved, but one thing held fast; her undying attachment to love stories. One day out of the blue, she decided to write the love stories she always wanted to read instead of searching for her story.  Since then, writing has been a dream fulfilled for her and she could not be happier.

She enjoys writing about love, regardless of gender and is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community.

T.L. calls the Pacific Northwest her home and enjoys the quiet rural life of her little oceanside home with her playful/crazy husband and their giant dog Noah.

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