Welcome to Under the Covers, Santino! We are so thrilled to be able to talk to you about INTERBOROUGH.
First off, this is the first time we have you here so tell us five things about yourself that others wouldn’t know.
It’s awesome to be here! You start out with a great question. It took me almost an hour to think of five things I haven’t already blasted all over Twitter. But this is what I’ve got:
- I like to cook! I make marinara sauce from scratch and let it simmer for hours.
- I’m a pretty hardcore gamer. Well, I game less than I used to, but I own a PS4, Xbox One, both Wiis, a 3DS, and my desktop was once set up for PC gaming but I’ve given up on keeping that up to date.
- My favorite comic book character for the past couple of decades has been Deadpool. He is my Patronus.
- I’m actually really bad at dating. I’m good at hooking up once or twice, but I’m too busy to maintain anything more. Also, I have no idea how to function on real dates.
- I just went to Shameless Book Con with Megan Erickson, and we wore matching adult onsies that said “Meg” and “Tino”.
In INTERBOROUGH you are revisiting the couple from book two of this series. Can you tell us more about why you thought you had to go back to them?
There are so many reasons. Initially, it wasn’t in the cards. I was going to write Ashton’s book then Charles’ book and those would be the first five books of the Five Boroughs. However, SUNSET PARK ended while Raymond and David were still so young, entering the first major relationship of their lives, and were already on the brink of a LOT of change. They’d just fought their way to “I love you” but a couple of months down the road, Raymond would be working two jobs and going to night school. That time of change would affect any relationship let alone a fledgling one with two guys who are polar opposites.
The short answer is: Their ending in SUNSET PARK felt like a happy-for-now, and I wanted to give them a happily-ever-after.
Life isn’t too kind to Raymond at the moment. What would you say is his biggest weakness? What is his greatest strength?
Oh man, it’s really not. He’s gone through a lot of change since the first book in the series where he was just a side character, and he’s grown a lot. Even so, his biggest weakness is definitely his impatience. He thinks he took too long to start his adulthood, so he wants everything to change right now—he wants to prove to everyone that he can handle everything but he does it by taking on too much at the same time, he wants he and David’s relationship to have zero complications so he gets impatient when David goes “hey, wait” about anything even if it’s a valid concern, and he’s impatient in general when having a disagreement with someone. His sarcasm is fun to write, but it gets him in trouble.
As far as strengths, it would definitely have to be how in touch he is with his feelings. For a tough guy, he’s not hesitant at all to say “I love you” or “I want you” or “this is how this makes me feel”.
There are some fans that are not David lovers. What is your favorite thing about his character?
I know! Poor David. My favorite thing about him is how much pride he takes in his identity. He loves being gay, has zero angst over his sexuality, and has zero desire to hide who he is for any length of time. My favorite David scene was when he strode to Kings Park to find Ray in the handball courts wearing skintight jeans and quoting Beyoncé.
Do you have a favorite scene or quote from this book that you can share (non-spoilery)?
My favorite scene is the epilogue so I can’t share that, but a close second for me is when David and Raymond are in the Bahamas bickering over what to do for an excursion. It’s classic Ray and David banter but also is so couple-like to me. I wanted to include moments, beyond the overall conflicts, that would make people nod their heads and be like “Oh, I’ve had that debate/I’ve had that conversation/I hate or love when my significant other does that!”
“We’re only gonna be here until five.”
“You’ve said that three times now.”
Raymond hooked his thumbs around the straps of his backpack and took in our surroundings. Downtown Charlotte Amalie was almost exactly as I’d imagined— short, colorful buildings with clapboard shutters adorning the windows; narrow cobblestone sidewalks; and a bustling city vibe despite the mountains and beaches that surrounded it.
“In about six hours,” Raymond tried again, “the ship heads over to St. John. You really think we have time to pack in an entire historical tour, parasailing, and a trip to some secret beach?”
“If we’re organized, we totally can,” I insisted. “Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?”
“I left it in my other swim trunks.” It would have been funny if he wasn’t staring at me with half-annoyance and half-skepticism. “I really thought we were just going to lay out on the beach, swim, and chill with some drinks.”
“I thought you didn’t want me to drink!”
“We can drink without you getting sloppy. A margarita or two while kicking it on white sand sounds pretty damn good to me.”
“And we’re still going to do that!” I held up the brochure I’d procured from the excursions window on the cruise ship. “But there’s so much more to see than just the beach! The historical tour is—”
“A walking tour. For three hours.”
“Walking and driving,” I corrected. “We’ll make it back here by, like, twelve tops, then we can take a cab to Red Hook and go parasailing. It’s called Red Hook, Ray. It’s fate!” He stared at me, unmoved, so I continued. “Then we can walk over to Secret Harbor Beach, and be there by like two.”
“And then beat it back here by four thirty,” Raymond said. “That’s cutting it really close, and you know it.”
“So? It will be fun! We can spend tomorrow laying out on the beach, if you want. I promise.”
“Yeah, right. You’ll find some other tour. It will probably require climbing mountains or riding around on one of those stupid one-wheeled scooter things.”
“I’m not that embarrassingly white, okay? I found a rollerblade tour. We get to keep the fanny packs they hand out as a souvenir.” My lips twitched when he stared at me with a look of complete horror. “I’m kidding! Jeez.”
“You are a terrible person.”
“And you’re a miserable one! Can we just have fun without you worrying about timing?” I grabbed his hand, tried to ignore the way he almost jerked away by default, and dragged him across the street. “I’m supposed to be the high-strung one.”
“Yeah, well, I learned from the best.”
I counted it as a small victory that Raymond slid our fingers together as we approached the tour group.
Your stories always have an element of real life that is often missing in the genre, but you manage to do it in a way that is refreshing. Do you include people or situations from real life (yours or people you know) in your books? And if so, can you give us an example?
I actually wouldn’t say that I include real people in my books, but I sometimes get inspired by things that have happened to me or to people I know. The easiest example is SUTPHIN BOULEVARD. My original inspiration came when I was working at a school in Brooklyn. There were heads of departments, grades, etc, and one of them was a guy several years younger than me who was new to education, but who acted like he knew it all. We despised each other, but I thought it was a fun idea for a meet cute. The book ended up taking a totally different turn, but that’s usually how it goes when I first start plotting.
What would you say is the biggest obstacle you face when writing this genre? And how do you overcome it?
This is sort of a tough question because there’s not a lot I’m unable to do that I want to do. The main rules in romance are that the books need a HEA/HFN, and I’m good with that. I don’t want to write sad books. I don’t want to grow to love characters and then not give them a satisfying resolution. If I have to think hard about it, I think a story I have interest in that might get the most pushback would be a book about a couple with an open relationship. I have a pair of characters, Aiden and Jace, who debuted in FIRST AND FIRST, and they are open and go on sexual adventures together. I’d love to write their back story, but I don’t think it’d have a good reception. I’d rather leave them as side characters than change their dynamic.
What’s the last book you read that kept you up all night reading under the covers?
PERV by Dakota Gray! It’s filthy with characters that are humorous and extremely engaging.
When you are not writing, what could we usually find you doing?
Either working my day job or pacing my backyard with black coffee and a cigarette and thinking about writing.
What are you currently working on?
Two projects! One is a paranormal romantic suspense trilogy, and the other is a sports romance duology. Very different projects but both are so fun even though it’s like whiplash going between them.
Thanks for stopping by today and letting us get to know you a bit better!
Thank you so much for having me!
by Santino Hassell
Released: October 24th 2016
Series: Five Boroughs #4
Published by Riptide Publishing
The Raymond Rodriguez from a few years ago wouldn’t recognize the guy he is today. He’s left his slacker ways far behind him and is now juggling two jobs and school. But the balancing act doesn’t allow much time for the man he loves.
David is doing his best to be supportive, but problems at work and his own insecurity leave him frustrated—in more ways than the obvious—whenever he goes to bed before Raymond gets home. The heat and affection between them is still there, but they barely have the time or energy to enjoy it. And it doesn’t help that Raymond is still hiding David from his colleagues.
The stress mounts so high that a vacation in paradise is filled with turmoil instead of harmony, and culminates on their return to the five boroughs with broken promises and heartache. They have to figure out how to stop allowing their differences to overshadow their love. It’s the only way they’ll make it to forever.
To celebrate the release of Interborough, one lucky winner will receive $25 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest.
Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 29, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
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