I was recently asked to write a guest post for a blog that’s focused on m/m romance, so I decided to write it and post it here first. The administrator asked me to write about plotting a series. In this case, The Virgin Billionaire.
I guess I should start this post with the fact that I never intended to write a series in my life…about anything. When I end a book, I like knowing that I’m not going back to it…ever. I almost feel as though I’m putting it to sleep and locking it up. It never even occurred to me to write a series. I’m like this with everything in my life. I’ve never returned to a place where I once lived; I’ve never gone back to a friendship or relationship that has gone sour. I like to move forward all the time.
When I was contracted to write The Virgin Billionaire for Ravenous Romance, I’d been contracted to write ten other books along with it. The editors at Ravenous are extremely flexible and they allowed me the freedom to choose which books I’d write first. And I was so intimidated about writing The Virgin Billionaire, I put it off until it was the very last book in that particular contract that had to be submitted. I actually had sleepless nights thinking about it…I really didn’t want to do it at all and kept thinking of ways I could talk the publisher into letting me out of it.
But I eventually decided to do something I’d always wanted to do and have a little fun with it. It’s no secret the first book in the series was loosely based on the old movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It wasn’t supposed to be fan fiction; I had a reason for doing this. As a gay man, I’d always wanted to see a film or read a book like this that revolved around two gay male characters instead of a straight couple. Growing up, the only gay romances I ever saw or read were dark, depressing stories filled with angst and self-loathing. In fact, they weren’t even romances; just sad stories about gay men living in a world that would not tolerate them. I still see a lot of that around. So I figured the publisher was giving me a chance to do something I’d always wanted to do and I took advantage of it. I still can’t thank them enough for allowing me the chance.
I’ve also taken a lot of flack for doing this, too. But I had another reason. Truman Capote was gay and he didn’t have the chance to write about gay characters in his time. He would have been shunned from publishing and from the mainstream and he never would have been able to survive if he had written about gay characters in his day. So he did what he had to do in order to survive back then. He played their game and he played it well, too.
As I stated, I didn’t look forward to writing this book and I put it off for a long time. But when I did start to write it, I found myself absolutely engrossed in the characters of Luis and Jase. There were days when I wrote three chapters in a row. And I ultimately finished the entire book in less than two weeks. I was so worried because I’d finished the book that fast I took another three weeks to go back and edit it to be sure I hadn’t done anything wrong. It took another three weeks after that to go through the line edits.
But The Virgin Billionaire was never supposed to be a series. It wasn’t plotted and it wasn’t planned. And when the publishers, Lori Perkins and Holly Schmidt, at Ravenous Romance approached me about doing a sequel I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. First, because the characters of Luis and Jase consumed me so much I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back there. Second, because I wasn’t sure I could do them justice in another book. I eventually agreed to write the next book in the series, and at the time I thought that would be the last one.
Then I was approached a third time, only this time the publishers had a list of Virgin Billionaire books they wanted me to write now. And once again, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I’m not one of those authors who sits and plots everything, especially not with my characters. I like to know the basics, like are they moving forward, are they constantly changing. And I always know my storyline. But I also like my characters to let me know what they are going to do rather than me forcing them to do what I want them to do. It’s a difficult process to explain sometimes. But the easiest way to put it is that I give the characters the freedom they need in order to move forward. I also draw a lot from my own personal experiences as an openly gay man to make things a little more realistic. For example, I have a gay brother just like Luis does, and I put in a lot of examples about the dynamics between gay brothers who are close in age and slightly competitive. I didn’t even know my brother was gay until I ran into him at a club in New York on a Saturday night.
Right now I’m working on the next to the last book in The Virgin Billionaire series. It’s tentatively titled, The Virgin Billionaire: Amnesia. But that is subject to change. In this book, Luis and Jase, and Jase’s family, are recovering from the death of Jase’s father, Barry. And they all gather together at Cider Mill Farm to celebrate a huge Thanksgiving. But there’s a twist. Jase and Luis wind up going away for a few days and their little trip to Pennsylvania Dutch Country becomes more intense than they’d expected.
After that, I’m contracted to do one more book in The Virgin Billionaire Series, and I think that will be it. One important thing about all the books in the series is that I wanted each one to stand alone. In other words, if someone picked up the fourth book, they didn’t have to read the three books before it to get the book. And I already know the basic plot of the last and final book, and I know what’s going to happen to the characters. It’s all in my head, not on paper or e-ink. I try to be at least three books ahead while I’m writing the current book. But it’s never set in stone. And any plotting ahead I do is usually subject to many changes that usually come from my characters, not me.