Welcome, Dani & Curtis!
Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
(Dani) Doesn’t every writer start out crafting stories about them and their friends doing impossible things? I know I did! I wrote story after story when I was in high school and shortly after and the entire cast of every one was made up of people I knew. I progressed to basing characters on famous people I was fascinated by and writing fanfics about my favorite characters.
Eventually though, those characters are hard to write because you can’t make your friends good all the time. You can’t make your famous crushes infallible. There’s no story if there’s no human mistakes or villains or conflicts. And I’ve learned that no matter how great they are, no one is perfect. And I don’t think that my characters should be either. Perfect characters are boring and hard to connect with.
Writing characters based on people I knew who were likely to read the stories wasn’t easy to do because to craft good stories, I had to craft bad people. My friends were offended, refused to read my stories, confused by actions that they would never take, or hurt by being cast in the villain role. It actually made it hard for me to write. I rarely completed a story because of the peer pressure coming from my teenaged friends. Making the break from “these are people I know” to “these are people I made up” was so freeing.
I still get inspiration from characters and actors and such, but it’s easier to say that a character is a blend of this one and that one with a splash of that, than to say “this is based on you, and he’s a total dick.”
Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
(Curtis) We like to write characters who are queer because those are the books that we craved, the representation that we needed when we were younger. We also prefer to write in worlds where queerness isn’t treated as “other” but rather as just another thing that people can be. In a lot of our stories, the entire cast is queer.
(Dani) We have written different BIPOC characters but we aren’t telling their stories, if that makes sense? Like Syd and Nessie (the adorable lesbian couple in Burn Outs) are both black characters. And Syd’s son Nate is biracial. But the story is about former super powered beings suddenly getting their powers back after years and years so they can save the world from a corrupt religious structure. It isn’t a story about BIPOC empowerment or the struggle of being biracial. Those characters are POC because that’s how we envisioned them in our minds, not because of any agenda or story about being a POC we were trying to tell.
We’re highly under-qualified to tell BIPOC stories, but I sure as heck am not going to exclude characters who are different races from our stories. They don’t need a reason to be black or Asian or whatever mix of heritages that they are. Just like in other stories, queer characters have the right to exist without having to be justified or having the story be about them being gay, trans, ace, etc.
I hope that makes sense. I’ve read this over a few times and I feel like this is something important to say but I don’t want to be misunderstood. BIPOC and queer stories are super important. Representation is vital in all kinds of media. But including these characters and telling their stories are not the same thing. Both kinds of stories are needed. Both kinds are super important.
How do you approach covers for your indie stories?
(Curtis) We’ve just started a very new approach. For the longest time, we’ve been doing our own covers. Dani did the photoshop stuff and worked on the technical graphic design parts that make no sense to me. I do digital art drawings.
What we are going to start doing in the new year is a hybrid approach to covers. My digital art reads very manga/anime and that’s a huge part of our influence when we write. But it’s not always a good ebook cover. We’re going to start offering my renditions of our characters on the paperbacks.
(Dani) For the ebook versions, I am going to start hiring a cover artist. There are a few I’ve reached out to that are doing really great work I’m hoping to put on our books. But since ebooks are the bulk of our sales, we really want to focus on covers that fit the market and then offer the art covers from Curtis on our paperbacks as a treat for our fans.
Measuring Up by Dani Hermit & Curtis Star
Series: Monarch Springs (book 1)
Release Date: Friday, September 16 2022
Publishing Company: Hermit & Star Books
Cover Artist: Hermit & Star
Length: Novel / 62K words / 230 pages
Genres, etc: M/M Contemporary Gay Romance ~ small town romance, contemporary romance, romcom, gay romance, LGBTQ+, meddling friends, pet dads
Tropes: hate to love, meeting the love interest before you know who he is, the hot ex shows up
Previously published on Kindle Vella & Radish app as “Monarch Springs – Season 1”
Kindle edition has been re-edited before release.
Monarch Springs is full of hot guys… So why is Aiden determined to be in love with the only one that he can’t stand?
Up-and-coming interior designer Aiden Hart came to Monarch Springs for an intriguing job and an escape from his old life. Redecorating the tourist trap that is the Monarch Mansion in a small town in Pennsylvania sounded like the exact opposite of his trainwreck of a life in Miami. Not to mention a way to jumpstart his DIY celebrity career.
Aiden didn’t want to think that his new start was cursed. But being assigned to work with the disgraced former TV carpenter Brett Jeffries at the last minute and breaking down by the side of the road not two minutes later made being cursed sound reasonable.
Things started looking up when a hot mystery man in a beat up truck stopped to rescue him. This flannel-wearing angel was not the kind of hot that happened in Miami. This was salt-of-the-earth, lumberjack, bearded, knows how to change a tire, H-O-T hotness.
Of course, his hot savior turned out to be none other than Brett Jefferies.
And that was only the start of Aiden’s problems. From a traitorous cat to exes showing up at the worst possible times, he still has to somehow get this remodel done before Christmas.
However, falling in love with the job, the town, and, worst of all, Brett, was not on Aiden’s Christmas list.
Monarch Springs – Here Is Where You’ll Find It!
Aiden Hart lifted his sunglasses up so he could read the roadside sign as he drove by it. His cat, Chartreuse – Char for short – barely acknowledged his derogatory snort with a lift of her head and a yawn from the carrier in the front seat.
“Yeah, I doubt we’ll find it here either, but hopefully it will be a nice change of pace,” Aiden told the absolutely disinterested cat. “If I have to do another retired couple’s front room just like in the catalog, I’m going to scream. But Monarch Springs is supposed to be gorgeous in the fall and we are going to get to create the entire Monarch Mansion’s Christmas look for the year. That’s something, right?”
Monarch Springs was also about as far away as you get from the designer-clogged heat of Miami. And for Aiden, that was just fine. He had no intention of moving permanently to some tourist trap in the hills of Pennsylvania that boasted a magic hot spring as its main claim to fame.
But when the call had come with the offer to basically re-imagine all of the public spaces of a historic mansion in time for its annual holiday parties and cookie walks, Aiden couldn’t possibly say no. Even if he could have, when he was asked to document it for a weekly web series for a pretty big deal travel-and-leisure network, nothing would have kept him from packing his things and relocating for the rest of the year to the quaint resort town.
Driving away from Miami also meant driving away from all those memories of his failed relationship with the man Aiden had thought he’d spend the rest of his life with. So that was a bonus. An excuse for a new start. He’d deal with what next year would bring next year. Hopefully, enough fame to pitch his own design series.
“Find me a good diner.” Aiden pulled the sunglasses from his dark wavy hair, deciding it was getting too dark for them anyway. He waited for the ancient GPS to respond as he spoke to Char. “A place like this should have one of those right? Like the best pie in the world or home of the biggest steak sandwich in Pennsylvania.”
Char made a noise somewhere between a growl and a purr.
Aiden chuckled. “Yeah, you’re right, Char. They better have so much bacon you can smell it three streets away.”
The GPS just started giving directions when the car made a bit of a hop followed by the telltale clump-clump-clump of a flat tire.
“Are you kidding me?” Aiden sighed as he pulled off to the side of the highway. He dropped his forehead to the steering wheel and let himself whine for a full sixty seconds. “This is no way to start a new adventure. Who do I even call? Don’t even start, Char. I know I should have renewed my auto club membership.”
Aiden opened the door and drew out his long legs from where they had been cramped for way too many hours of driving. He walked around the flat with a grimace as he went to get Char’s carrier out.
“We’re going to be here a while. Don’t go too far.”
He set the big white cat’s carrier down on the grass and opened the door. Char had been a feral beast when she’d first decided to move in with Aiden and his then-boyfriend. She’d become massively attached to Aiden and rarely went far from him, so he wasn’t worried about anything but maybe needing to give her a bath after she romped in the mud by the side of the road for a little bit.
“Well, how hard can this be?” Aiden asked himself as he opened the trunk and pulled out his suitcases, transferring them to the back seat to avoid the mud. It took what felt like forever to get to the compartment that held a spare.
Having never checked before, the interior designer was surprised to discover he had a nice replacement tire but no car jack. Or at least, nothing that looked like it was a car jack. He was just now realizing that he had no idea what a car jack even looked like. Not that he’d know how to use it if he did. He wondered if he should use his phone to Google how to change a tire, but that sounded positively exhausting.
He shut the trunk and leaned against it. “I can see it now. Barely famous decorator murdered outside of Monarch Falls or Springs or whatever. That’s if they find any part of me that wasn’t eaten by bears or whatever blood-thirsty cryptids live around here. Why didn’t I notice how creepy these woods are? Why didn’t I rent a car with a better extras package? Then I could be calling them to come to fix it.”
Aiden watched a pair of headlights coming towards him and made a hasty decision to wave at the driver with a hopeful smile while whispering, “Please don’t be an ax murderer. Please don’t be an ax murderer.”
The dusty pick-up truck slowed down but passed him by. Though it only went a short way before the brake lights came on. The driver seemed to have changed their mind. The truck backed up and pulled onto the side of the road behind Aiden, highlighting the back of his car with its headlights. A few long moments later, the driver hopped out. He didn’t say anything as he looked at Aiden, then at the flat tire. He turned around and went to the bed of the truck, rummaging for what Aiden hoped was a jack and not an ax.
About the Authors
Dani Hermit & Curtis Star are a married pair of writers who have been perfecting their craft even longer than they have been perfecting their marriage – over 20 years for both! It was a mutual love of slash fic and writing deep, angsty stories that lead to their love for each other.
It has been a rocky road full of pitfalls and potholes that has lead to the current format of writing boy’s love serials that are becoming the bedrock of the Hermit & Star brand.