It's always a good day when Felice Stevens stops by! Having her as our Author Saturday Spotlight makes me so super happy! I adore this woman. She's a dear friend and a huge talent in the genre so I'm excited!
Today we are going to look at Felice's newest release, The Shape Of You, as well as other works. We have a review of her latest book, an interview, and an awesome giveaway! So grab your coffee, tea or whatever and join us!
Too big. Too fat.
All his life Eric Sontag has judged himself on his size, believing love and friendship aren't in the cards for someone like him. Tired of being alone and scared of his doctor’s warnings, he enrolls in a nutrition support group, determined to change his life. When a beautiful thin man sits next to him, he can’t believe they have anything in common, but conversation between the two soon proves first impressions aren’t always what they seem.
Corey DeSantis has always been the scrawny waif; he’s tired of struggling with his art and with life. Scarred by the disappearance and death of his drug-addicted mother, he doesn’t wish for love, believing it will bring him nothing but pain in the end. Now his only hunger in life is his desire to paint…until a health scare and his mentor force him to attend a nutrition class where he meets a man who piques his interest. One drunken kiss later, Eric is all Corey can think about.
The same, yet different.
An unlikely friendship is born with both men wanting more but afraid to listen to their well-guarded hearts. When Corey receives shocking news leaving him angry and helpless, it’s Eric he leans on, to help see him through, while a surprising career opportunity finds Eric leaning on Corey for advice. One night of explosive passion leads to a second and soon neither man can imagine a life without the other. Life is shaped by the challenges accepted and roads not taken but as Corey and Eric walk the path together, they’ll discover the most beautiful destination of all. Love.
One of the things that I have always loved about Felice's characters is that they are real. The problems they face may not always be noticeable. Some, like the ones faced by Eric and Corey, are a result of their physical appearance and how they view themselves because of it, a view reinforced by the outside world.
Eric and Corey are perfect opposites of the same extreme, one too thin, and the other not thin enough. Because of their physical conditions, they both suffer from poor self-esteem.
Eric is lost in his own self-doubts. He’s got such a warm, giving soul that he’s buried beneath those doubts. He rarely takes chances because he fears if he does, he’ll only be rejected because of his weight. As a result, he does everything he can to stay in the background, rarely making waves. His weight issues have become a cycle: he hates his physical appearance, feels other people view him negatively because of it, gets depressed, and eats poorly to deal with his depression, which adds to his dislike of his physical appearance. It’s something many of us can relate to, these kinds of cycles. Whether it be to food or even some mental issues. Something will set us off, trigger us, and the cycle begins. The key, as Eric learns, is how to recognize those triggers, and to properly handle them.
Corey has the opposite problem. As opposed to overeating, or eating to mask his pain, he rarely eats. To the extent that he’s even been hospitalized. He’s much more outgoing than Eric, but primarily because he’s erected a different kind of shield around himself. Only one other person has been able to break through his defenses, and that is his boss Laurent, who acts as the father figure Corey never had.
They meet while each attending a class on nutrition, and together, each takes the tentative first steps toward changing how they perceive food. Through this, they develop a relationship that is built on mutual support, which is something neither of them really had. I truly enjoyed watching Eric and Corey break out of their respective shells, Eric especially. He kind of stole my heart. The way he viewed the world is relatable to a lot of people that have self-esteem issues, food related or not.
I loved that this book took something that can be so sensitive, a person’s weight, and explored how we treat those that we feel don’t adhere to what our idea of a normal appearance should be. I loved that it explored how those societal expectations affected those people they were directed at, and how Eric and Corey could overcome them, together.
Other Work by Felice Stevens
When Jason Mallory’s girlfriend gives him an ultimatum to get married, he shocks everyone by breaking up with her instead. He believes he's too busy for a relationship now that the construction company he started with his brother is taking off. When he discovers a group of abandoned pit bulls and calls the local dog rescue group to pick them up, an uncomfortable encounter with Ryder causes Jason to question feelings he’s hidden deep inside for years.
Jason and Ryder build a friendship, until an unexpected kiss sparks the attraction they’ve been fighting. Jason gives Ryder unconditional love and helps him reconnect with his brother while Ryder shows Jason the passion he’s always missed in relationships. Together they must battle through their family differences and ugly prejudices. Only then can they prove that once you find the right person to love, there’s no turning back.
Years after running away from an abusive foster family, Asher Davis still struggles with the guilt of leaving his foster brothers behind. He’s climbed to unimaginable heights as a ruthless, high-powered attorney, creating a life of power and control and takes whatever and whomever he wants.
Blaming himself for the death of his parents, Dr. Drew Klein retreats into a shell of loneliness, merely going through the motions of life. After a disastrous, short-lived marriage, Drew leaves his lucrative medical practice to set up a clinic for abused young men and women. The decision has more repercussions than Drew could ever imagine when the dark and sensual Ash Davis volunteers to help.
Although Drew isn’t gay, Ash is inexplicably drawn to him. He vows to simply bed him and forget him like he's done with every other man. However, Drew's sweet and caring nature and unexpected passion both stun and frighten Ash, who questions his right to any happiness at all. And when Ash befriends an abused young man who unwittingly draws the clinic into danger, threatening Drew’s safety and that of his beloved grandmother, Ash discovers that there is nothing he won’t sacrifice to protect the love he never thought he’d find.
On 9/11, firefighter Nick Fletcher’s world changed forever. He's unable to rid himself of survivor’s guilt, made worse by the secret he hides from his family and co-workers. Nick's life is centered around helping burn victims, until he is reunited with the man he’d once loved but pushed away. Now he has a second chance at a love he thought lost forever.
For fashion designer Julian Cornell, appearances mean everything. His love affairs are strictly casual, and the only thing he cares about is making his clothing line a success. A chance encounter with the man he loved long ago has Julian thinking for the first time in years there may be more to life than being seen at the best parties and what designer labels to wear.
When Julian’s world takes an unexpected turn, it's Nick who helps him regain perspective on what matters most in life. Julian, in turn, helps Nick accept who he is and understand he isn’t responsible for tragedies he couldn't prevent. Lost love found can be even sweeter the second time around and after all the years apart, both men learn to look beyond the surface to find the men they are inside.
It’s always awesome talking with you. I remember your first release and to see you bloom into such an outstanding author is so thrilling! I’m lucky because I’m also your friend and adore you. I’d like to ask you a few questions today and pick your mind.
First, on June 22nd you opened up Kindle World. Can you tell us about that for people who may have missed it?
Of course! I’m still so excited at how well it’s been received, but I’m not really surprised, considering what an amazing group of readers the MM Romance community is comprised of. For those who might have missed it, Kindle Worlds are exactly like fan fiction, only now you can get paid for writing your own stories based on characters you love. Amazon has opened up many author’s “worlds” or series, so that other writers can write stories, using either the KW author’s characters or their own made up characters they want to interact in that world. So if you liked the guys from the Memories or The Breakfast Club series, you can write a story about Micah and Josh, Ale and Rafe, Marcus and Tyler, or any of the men from the series. Or, you can create your own characters and set them in my “world” Either Sparks, or maybe Julian’s design firm. See?
The launch was super exciting and I’m thrilled with the amazing authors who chose to write for it. But you can still write now so if you want to submit a story, write one and see! Just follow the guidelines on the Kindle World page. You can submit stories to a Kindle World anytime.
You’ve used publishers and you also self-publish. What are the pros and cons to both?
With a publisher, editing, covers and formatting is all taken care of. You have deadlines you have to meet and there is accountability. BUT, you are more than likely still responsible for your own marketing and social media presence. And if you don’t like your cover, you are pretty much stuck with what your publisher wants, unless you have a history with them that they let you do what you want. Plus they set the price, the sales and decide if and when you can do foreign translations and print. Most importantly, you have to trust that they are paying you the correct amount of your royalties and if they are going to be in business next week, month or year. I take nothing for granted and am no longer surprised by anything I see in the publishing industry.
Self-publishing takes money. LOL That’s a fact. You pay for your own covers, editing, formatting and translations, if you chose to. Good editing costs money but it is indisputably the one thing you cannot skimp on, in my opinion. You want a quality cover by a good cover artist. Maybe you want to use a photograph for a cover you found from a photographer. That costs money. You also must pay for your narrators, should you choose to do audio. So yeah, money. BUT, (again, there’s that huge but) you are responsible for your own destiny. You control your schedule. You get an editor you can trust who gets your writing. You set your prices, can decide when to release, at what price and if you want to do sales. You never have to worry if someone is cheating you out of your royalties, because you can see your earnings on a daily basis. (Of course you have to trust the distributors but that’s a whole ‘nother issue) You are running a business and you have to take it seriously but it is exhilarating. And tiring.
Your newest release, The Shape of You, deals with a struggle I’m all too familiar with, weight. Did you find this cathartic to write about this and what do you hope people take away from it?
I love reading transformation stories but when it comes to weight, in books usually it’s a person who miraculously transforms him or herself and thus ends the struggle. When it comes to body image, however, it’s not that simple. You can lose the weight and still feel like the big person inside. Losing weight doesn’t guarantee happiness or finding love. And I wanted to show it from both sides of the spectrum. People can be excessively thin and have very poor body image as well. Our children these days are bombarded from an early age with the images that being thin ensures happiness. Studies have shown that people treat big people differently than people without weight issues. And that ‘s sad and hurtful and demeaning. I also wanted to show that the struggle is never really over. That even when the weight is lost, the fight never really ends.
How do you feel you’ve changed as a writer from Rescued to The Shape of You?
For the better, I hope! I’ve continued to take courses on the craft of writing and read books on it all the time. I’m constantly looking to improve my writing and always think my best book is yet to come. I never get complacent. Rescued was such an overwhelming success for me as a first book, before KU and all the changes in publishing, but I never wanted to stop thinking I could do better. I look back and cringe sometimes at the overly “sweet” language but my underlying premise for writing romance remains the same. I love writing about people falling in love and finding their happily ever after. That will never change.
You’ve attended GRL in the past and will be attending this year as well. What are your favorite parts and what are you most looking forward to this year?
Oh that’s easy. The people! I love meeting the readers and authors and talking to all the people I chat with on line. Some of the people are truly my friends; I couldn’t’ imagine my days without them now and seeing them only once a year is hard so we try and cram in as much together time as possible.
This year I’m meeting people I have known for years on line but have never met in person so that’s crazy exciting.
Can you tell all of us about some of your future works?
My next release is Under the Boardwalk. It is the second book in Kade Boehme’s and my Landmarks series; a world of MM romance stories based around many of the Landmarks in NYC. Right now we are writing our own stories separately, but we hope to collaborate on future books. Alexi is a Russian-American student from Brighton Beach and sells custard from his parent’s stand on the famous Coney Island Boardwalk and Cam is a teacher and former opera singer who makes money in the summer singing on the boardwalk in front of his stand. They are SO sweet and SO sexy. Possibly my sweetest couple since Alex and Rafe for One Step Further.
I also have two audiobooks coming out back to back. After the Fire, narrated by Kale Williams who did such a brilliant job on A Walk Through Fire will be out any day and Learning to Love, narrated by the always wonderful Derrick McClain will be nipping at it heels. I can’t wait for everyone to hear them bring the voices of these guys to life. And I’ve contracted Nick Russo for The Shape of You and I’m super excited to hear that come to fruition.
After that will be All or Nothing, the story of Adam the redheaded firefighter from Beyond the Surface and Rico, the caterer from Learning to Love. They are setting my computer on fire!
How can readers and fans find you in the World Wide Web? FB, Twitter, Website etc.…?
HA! You know me I’m almost always on some social media somewhere.
My website is www.felicestevens.com
Twitter is https://www.twitter.com/felicestevens1
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/felicestevensauthor/
Felice’s Fiercest Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1449289332021166/
One more question before the Fast Fire. What is the most valuable advice you’d give a new author today?
Well first, I still think of myself as a new author. But the single most important piece of advice I always give anyone who asks me is get a GOOD editor. Find an author whose books you love and know are well edited and see who they use. That’s what I did. Don’t rush to publish. The readers will be there but you never have that chance again to make the best impression you can with your first book. So wait to get the best editing you can. Don’t use your mother or your best friend, who will tell you everything you write is wonderful. LOL. And after you get it edited, get it copy edited and proof read. I don’t believe being self published is an excuse not be take your book seriously and make sure it is as close to perfect as you can get. Every book, indie or traditionally published has errors, but the goal is to make them as clean as possible.
FAST FIRE QUESTIONS?
Hot dogs or hamburgers?
Soup or salad?
Salad (unless it’s French Onion Soup cause cheese!
What is your wedding song?
Our Love is Here to Stay
Oooh I can’t pick!!!! Probably Ozu the Japanese place across from my apartment
Day or night?
Day. I’m too tired at night.
Okay, Felice thanks so so much for being here
Felice is offering one person a $10.00 Amazon GC
Contest will end on July 14th!
Thank you, Felice, for being here today!
a Rafflecopter giveaway