Please join me in welcoming the ever-fabulous Nell Iris to Stories That Make You Smile! Nell is here today celebrating the shiny new release of her lovely new novelette, Secrets on a Train. Read on for peeks at her inspiration for this story and an excerpt that reflects her own love of fountain pens.
Hello everyone, hello Addison! Thank you so much for having me, it’s so nice to be back! ❤️
Today, I’m here to talk about my newest release, Secrets on a Train and the inspiration for the story.
I’ve spent many mornings in the silent compartment of a train these last months. I commute to my Day Job on a train, and I always gravitate toward the silent compartment since I don’t want to have to endure listening to people’s early morning work calls, or the trials and tribulations of the lives of the teenagers commuting to school on the same train as I.
I spend most mornings in the same spot: a four-seater in the back corner. Occasionally, someone boarding the train before me steals my spot, but most mornings, it’s free. Most mornings I read or listen to music on my commute, but sometimes, if I have a deadline, I bring my notebook and fountain pens and write.
And that’s what sparked the idea for this story.
One morning, another passenger sat down in my four-seater. It’s pretty unusual because people try to keep their distance on the train because of the pandemic, but there were a lot of people traveling that morning. I sat by the window, occupying the tiny table with my notebook, and he sat by the aisle, so we were still properly distanced. And during the entire trip, he kept glancing at me and my fountain pens (because you have to bring more than one on a trip, everyone knows this), trying to be surreptitious about it. I guess me and my old-school writing instruments were an anomaly in this young man’s life. No phone, no tablet, no laptop. Just old-fashioned paper and pens and he couldn’t keep his gaze away.
And that sparked questions in my author mind. What if two guys met on a train, and were attracted to each other? What if they were sitting in a silent compartment and had to communicate with each other in writing. What if, what if, what if?
And when my fabulous publisher JMS Books posted the sugar or spice in-house submission call. The story fell into place. What if an overly sugared cup of coffee is the thing that makes them start talking? Or writing, since it’s a silent compartment.
And that’s the story of how Secrets on a Train happened.
It’s the fountain pens that capture Valentin’s attention on the morning commute, not the perfectly imperfect man who spends his train rides using them. Not his pinstriped suits, his chin-length hair, or his perpetually raised eyebrow. But one morning when the man strikes up a written conversation, Valentin gives up all pretense. It’s not just the pens. It’s the man. Runar.
The conversations continue, and the men get to know each other better, sharing secrets they’ve never told another soul. The connection is powerful, growing stronger with every encounter, every scribbled conversation, every scorching look. But can secrets shared on a train be enough to build a forever?
He leans forward to pick up the pen, his eyes never leaving me. More than fifty, he writes without looking, his words veering off the lines. I have to read it three times before understanding.
Oh right. Fountain pens.
Why that many?
I inherited my grandfather’s collection. He always said that a true gentleman needs a pen for every occasion.
And is bright purple ink a suitable color for a true gentleman?
Who said I was a gentleman? His dark eyes burn into me, threatening to set me on fire, and I grab my coffee and drink down a huge gulp to stop myself from licking my lips or doing something equally embarrassing.
My mistake, I type on my phone when I’m sure my hands won’t tremble.
I’m glad I picked the purple. Caught your attention.
I want to write “everything about you catches my attention,” but instead, I take another drink of coffee, our gazes locked over the rim of the paper cup, clashing, vying for dominance, and when Runar shifts on his seat and smooths his pant legs with trembling hands, I can barely stop myself from making a victorious fist bump in the air, happy I’m not the only one affected by whatever’s going on between us.
Do you have other interesting ink colors?
You’ll just have to stick around and see.
I blink. Did he just permit me to keep ogling him?
But then his eyebrows scrunch together, and he shoves a hand into his pocket, pulling out his phone. He glares at the screen before looking up at me, mouthing, Sorry.
I need to take care of this, he scribbles and waves his phone around.
I nod and gesture for him to go ahead.
Whatever the emergency it was that broke our moment, it steals his attention for the rest of the trip. I sip my coffee and scroll on my phone, but nothing on the world wide web can keep my interest for too long. Runar’s burning eyes and annoyed eyebrows tell me that whoever’s on the other side of his conversation is in trouble, his fingers poke the screen with such force and speed, I half expect it to break. His foot taps the floor, and his frown deepens.
When my stop comes up and I stand to get dressed, he finally tears his gaze from his phone. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, ignoring the stares of the other passengers. “I was enjoying our conversation.”
I tap out my reply on my phone and show it to him before the train stops completely. So was I. I look forward to tomorrow’s pen. Have a good day. With a final smile, I turn my back to him and alight the train with an unusual spring in my step. And if I whistle as I walk out the station, that’s nobody’s business but mine.
Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bonafide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)
Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.
Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.
Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.
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