Today, as part of the Riptide Rentboy tour, I have the pleasure of sitting and chatting with Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane about their story, “Cruce de Caminos”. *whispers* OMG it's so good, you totes wanna read that one.
Today is Heidi and Violetta's first time here at the Place, so please help me give them a warm welcome.
Hi Heidi, Hi Violetta! Welcome to my Place. Come in, come in, please, make yourself comfortable. I’m so excited that you’re here. *smiles* Thanks for coming to sit and chat with me.
How about we start with...tell me a little bit about yourselves.
Heidi: Canadian history geek married to an Irish science geek and have a baby daughter who will probably grow up not geeky at all, just to buck the trend. I just baked a tray of cornmeal muffins. They were delicious, thank you for asking.
Violetta: My family roamed around a lot. I used to be a stoner goth and now I’m a soccer mom.
You have a new book out. Tell us about it :)
Heidi: “Cruce de Caminos” is erotic horror. I’ve been calling it a spooky paranormal, since as far as horror goes it’s a very much psychological and atmospheric, although there is a character who is more than he appears. It’s also a bisexual story. All of the onscreen sex is gay-for-pay, but the main character is in a heterosexual relationship. How homosexual desire fits into that space is a strange thing; sex work isn’t about the worker’s desire, but Sean does feel something. Whether those feelings are genuine or not, or if they can be genuine when money’s involved... well, that’s really up to interpretation. It’s definitely a misfit of a story, but hopefully people will find it all the more worthwhile for that reason.
Violetta: Can you imagine something strange and disturbing that happened to you—no, it doesn’t have to be paranormal, just anything that sent you temporarily to a heightened reality? Something you’ll never be able to fully decode or analyze, or fit neatly into a linear narrative of your life, but you still recognize its profound effect years or decades later? That’s the feeling we’re going for in this story.
On a more specific level, “Cruce de Caminos” is about a young man who doesn’t want to find a reason to live, but might end up finding one anyway. It’s about New Orleans, about poverty, about seduction, about undercurrents of religious tradition, and about how the sex trade affects people’s identities... and both does and doesn’t affect their sexuality.
How has it been working with Riptide?
Heidi: Absolutely fabulous! Rachel Haimowitz has particularly been a joy. She’s an honest editor who doesn’t mince words about what she wants, but you know for sure as an author that she loves your work and believes in your vision. That isn’t always the case with editors/presses, so when you find it, it’s great. (And not just for your ego.)
Violetta: Riptide has built a name for quality, and we’re very proud to be published by them.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Heidi: Because it’ll make the hair on your arms stand on end in more than one way, but more than that, it will challenge you.
Violetta: Because this is a story about defeat and despair, but in a universe where everyone matters.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
Heidi: Yes indeed! We’re currently working on a Roman historical with NO PARANORMAL ELEMENTS WHATSOEVER, which is a first for us. It’s a novel about a disgraced gladiator who gets caught up in a feud between two patrician brothers... and gets entangled with them both sexually/romantically, too.
Violetta: I’m very excited about our Roman gladiator project, which is so far titled T.M.Q.F. The letters are an abbreviation of tene me quia fugio—Latin for “Arrest me, I’m a runaway slave.” This story is fairly dark, because we’re aiming for a realistic and historically accurate view of the institution of slavery. But it also has a strong humanistic element and moral center. If you’ve ever read the Gordianus the Finder books by Steven Saylor, those have been a big influence on this story, as well as visual narratives like Spartacus and Rome.
Which of your books was the easiest/hardest to write?
Heidi: Easiest? Probably Hawaiian Gothic, which out of all our books is the one we could most happily call a Romance Novel. Not to say it’s a totally straight forward story, because it’s not: there’s epic battles and an ensemble cast and a slightly complex narrative structure, but compared to the length and learning curve of The Druid Stone and the plottiness and intrigue of our Roman historical, it was much easier to get through.
Violetta: I agree. Hawaiian Gothic flew. Once we got the backstory and timelines in place, it almost wrote itself. One reason, perhaps, is that we both love Hawaii so passionately, and I think that shows in our descriptions of the landscape and the relationship of our characters to the islands and to the sea. Everything was visually crystal clear in our minds. We had to do a lot of research, too—mainly into Native Hawaiian mythology and folklore, which is fascinating, and MMA fighting holds, since one of our characters is an MMA fighter—but the research was enjoyable in itself.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
Violetta: For “Cruce de Caminos,” we did a lot of research into Santería and New Orleans voodoo traditions and iconography. It was a subject I was already partly familiar with, since I used to live in Miami. One of my ex-boyfriends came from a family with Santería believers. To him, it wasn’t exotic or scary at all. He personally didn’t like the faith because he thought his relatives were getting ripped off by all the expensive rituals they believed they needed to perform.
We also looked at New Orleans streetscapes, studying them pre- and post-Katrina. I’ve only been to New Orleans a couple of times, but it’s a very sensually rich environment and one that really stays with you. And then, of course, there was the sex and drug research. Lots of it! The characters we’re writing about are sort of... swimming in that, and we had to make it as authentic as possible.
Which of your characters is your favorite?
Heidi: Sean O’Hara, definitely. He’s the star of “Cruce de Caminos” and The Druid Stone (where he gets his HEA). Maybe because he’s our first hero and that’s why he sticks with me so much, but mostly I just love him because he’s so resilient and good humoured and he has this tendency to fly off the handle that is grating at first but then you realize all the hurt he’s hiding and ohhh I just overflow with love for him.
Which of your characters is most/least like you and in what ways?
Violetta: Sean, mainly because of the Florida connection. The not-so-nice parts of Florida were where I spent many of my formative years. And I also come from a multiethnic family. Beyond that, there are no major personality similarities, and he’s based more on people I knew. I’ve had a checkered past, and I never lived on the street, but I was in pretty close contact with people who lived the kind of lifestyle he does when we meet him in “Cruce de Caminos.”
What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you'd be embarrassed to admit?
Heidi: Okay, starting with the caveat that it takes a LOT to embarrass me since I basically was born without a concept of shame... “America’s Next Top Model”. I love it. I love it so much it hurts. I watch it RELIGIOUSLY. I cannot miss an episode, and I watch it on the CW versus on a Canadian channel because the Canadian broadcast is a week behind and I CAN’T be behind on it. Even though it’s completely jumped the shark. Of course, it helps that this season the fine-as-hell Azmarie is a contestant, and merely looking at her signals my ovaries to release eggs so that she can impregnate me with her superior genes. (Think I failed health class? Well you’re wrong, that’s just how hot Azmarie is.)
Who is your favorite fictional villain?
Violetta: Asia the Invincible from the Swordsman II and The East is Red wuxia movies. Asia the Invincible (played by Brigitte Lin) was a tribal leader in Ming Dynasty times who gains ultimate supernatural power through a self-castration ritual. Now a woman, she hides her female nature from her followers (and from her female concubine) and begins a love affair with Jet Li, all while she brutally destroys her enemies by exploding them from the inside out or tossing hills and walls on top of them.
Who is your favorite author/book of all time?
Heidi: My favourite author is Sherman Alexie. He’s a master storyteller and his characterization is top notch. Read his short “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem”. If you’re anything like me, it will change your life.
What authors do you read?
Violetta: There are some authors (mainly science fiction) I will read everything by. C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Walter Jon Williams, China Miéville. I enjoy any kind of literature that’s provocative in terms of worldview and/or human psyche.
Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book or any of your characters?
Heidi: I have a whole blog post dedicated to songs that remind me of Sean. But my favourite is definitely "Burning Pile" by Mother Mother, which works for Sean as you meet him in “Cruce de Caminos” as well as the older, more together version of him in The Druid Stone.
Violetta: My theme song for “Cruce de Caminos”—although it’s almost a novel in itself—is Street Hassle by Lou Reed. The sex trade, heroin addiction, deep, gut-wrenching mourning... it’s all there. Love has gone away. Please don’t slip away.
Want to win some “Cruce de Caminos” swag, as well as a few other surprise New Orleans goodies? Leave us a comment on this or any of our other Riptide Rentboys blog tour posts with your email (or other contact info), and we’ll enter you into our week-long draw!
How about a copy of “The Druid Stone”, which picks up Sean’s story five years later? Click here to try your hand at our Cruce de Caminos quiz!
About Heidi and Violetta:
Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane are two unlikely friends and co-writers from different sides of the same continent. Heidi, from Northern Canada, is a history geek with a soft spot for Highlanders and Victorian pornography. Violetta is a Yank (and a Southerner, and a Japanese-American) with a cinematic imagination and a faintly checkered past. Together, they write strange and soulful interracial and multicultural m/m with a global sensibility and the occasional paranormal twist.
Visit us online!
About “Cruce de Caminos”, out now from Riptide Publishing:
Addiction drives Sean O'Hara to a critical crossroads. Will he make the right decision, or will the floodwaters bound for New Orleans sweep him away?
Street kid Sean O’Hara never had it easy, but New Orleans has driven him to his knees. His girlfriend’s broken up with him for a sugar daddy, a gun-toting pimp has robbed him of everything but the clothes on his back, and he’s down to his last two OxyContin. Sean’s no seasoned streetwalker, but he’s not above it either, not when he’s already itching for his next fix.
A familiar-seeming stranger named Ángel may be his ticket to some quick cash, but only if Sean’s willing to help him indulge a high-class john’s weird fetish for the night. As Ángel tells him, in this city and this business, you have to get a little weird to survive.
When night falls on the French Quarter, Sean realizes Ángel and the john want more from him than he was expecting to give. What once seemed merely strange soon crosses the line into supernatural and sinister. And Ángel, the man Sean had viewed as a partner and protector, might also be his otherworldly judge and executioner.