It’s another wonderful day here at Novak HQ because the very lovely Noah Steele has stopped by to chat about his fabulous new book Fighting For Love, the second in the ‘Cut to the Feeling’ series, which is out now!
1.What inspired you to write Fighting For Love? Can you tell us a little more about the story?
Fighting for Love is, at its core, a story about emotions as strength. It follows Oliver, Aiden’s best friend from Racing into Love, and picks up about six months after the end of book 1 in the series. He’s officially over Aiden (yes, he used to date his now-best friend!) and stumbled unexpectedly into a romance with someone new and mysterious! Different parts of the book are inspired by different things. Oliver being at the start of his writing career and Seth’s love of fitness both come from my own life experiences. Oliver was always expressly written as being Asian, and this book features a size difference couple. That’s inspired by own relationship! We just celebrated our 9-year anniversary a couple days ago 🙂 Music is also a huge inspiration for me. Fighting for Love was fuelled by a few songs you’ll see me sharing on social media after release day.
2. Can you share something with us about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Yes! There’s another supporting character who returns in this book that readers of Racing into Love might remember from the very beginning of that book. This book CAN be read as a standalone title, but that character coming back is pretty important. He added a depth to some scenes that I didn’t know I was missing until I got stuck and he helped me out of it by demanding to come back into the story somehow after a long absence. I know this is vague, but there’s a lot I don’t want to spoil!
3. What was the hardest scene to write?
There’s a really gritty fight scene in this book. I write sweet stories that have a little edge to them, and the darker elements are always tough for me to write. This fight scene in particular got really rough for the characters involved. I got lost in it, and it took me to a place that brought things out in the characters I didn’t know they had in them. I’m glad it did, because it really helped me resolve their character arcs, but it was really hard to write the hurt! I think it was my most heavily edited scene, because I had to make the fight believable and dark enough to have impact. I had to step back from my keyboard so many times to get through it, though.
4. What did you edit out of this book? Or really want to include but it just didn’t fit?
In the original draft, Seth was an MMA fighter with a totally different character arc! I salvaged bits and pieces for the Seth you’ll get to know as Oliver’s love interest in Fighting for Love. Some of my sex scene setting ideas didn’t make it in, either, but I have plans for those to show up as some fun freebies for readers! There’s also a a sentence in which I described Seth as looming beside some windows like a henge, and my editor told me it was too far out to include. She was right, but I still love the image of it!
5. What or who (or both) has influenced you most as a writer?
Some of my influences might seem unlikely! They aren’t really other writers. I think my life as a writer is most strongly influenced by the stories I consumed in other media growing up. I think my writing has strong themes of found family and strength in friendship because I’m a gay man and a huge fan of Sailor Moon. I’m also an avid JRPG fan, and I always aim for stories that feel epic even though they seem to start pretty simple, because it’s the kind of storytelling I was most interested in throughout my teen years.
6. Olly’s story is the second in your Cut to the Feeling Series, do you have any plans for more stories in this series?
I do! There are 3 more planned for a total of 5 books in this series. The first chapter of Cut to the Feeling #3 is a bonus at the end of Fighting for Love! But because I never know when enough is enough, the final Cut to the Feeling book is the perfect lead in to what I have planned for my second series. I can’t say more for now, except that the world of Cut to the Feeling won’t be the end of the world I’ve created!
7. What sort of challenges did you face writing this book?
It was so hard to strike a balance of emotions throughout this book! Olly and Seth are so different from Aiden and Derrek from book 1, both as individuals and as a couple. It was especially hard for me to get into Seth’s head because he only really opened up in scenes he shared with Olly one-on-one. Making sure he was likeable was a challenge. I also wanted to make sure Olly and Seth stood out against the supporting characters I was already comfortable with, and I think I did it!
8. If we made Fighting For Love into a movie, who would be your dream casting for Oliver and Seth?
So, here’s thing. If I were to ever pursue having Cut to the Feeling happen on a screen, I would want queer actors in queer roles. I’m mostly ignoring age for this dream cast! So, Scott Evans (he’s Chris Evans’ brother!) as Seth. He totally already looks like an older Seth to me, anyway. As far as having the right look goes, I’d love to see K-pop singer Holland as Oliver. They totally have similar vibes, and Holland is also an openly gay performer. I’m not sure if he does any acting, though! I think, going beyond actors I can name, I’d love to see young newcomers confident in their sexuality take on these characters for the screen, because they’d certainly deserve the opportunity to see themselves accurately represented in the media.
9. This is your second book, how did publishing your first change your writing process? Do you have any advice or tips for first time authors?
Publishing Racing into Love made me much more of a dedicated planner. Timelines are SO vital my process now! I’ve become obsessed with calendars and scheduling. Writing that first book really hammered in the discipline necessary to work through tough days where words just weren’t coming because the most important thing is to just finish the draft. So, here’s my advice for anyone starting out. You need to understand going in that as an author, and especially as an indie author, you are both a writer and a business person. You’ll be the one setting your schedules, contacting bloggers and other authors, sourcing covers, booking promo, and all of that while needing enough time to write according to your timeline. Take the time to study the landscape of your genre. Push through writer’s block to just get it done. Take breaks when you need them, not because you think you can’t write. Believe in yourself and understand that things could change at any time. Just do your best and be yourself and write what you love.
10. What is your favourite childhood book?
There was this really cool book series I checked out from my local public library branch a bunch as a pre-teen. I’m counting this as childhood because I totally blanked trying to think of books from when I was a kid! So this series is called Circle of Three, by Isobel Bird. It’s about three girls in different social circles who come together over their interest in witchcraft. This series is my jam! It’s one of my earliest exposures to the occult in fiction, and was a big part of shaping my early practice as a witch (yes, not only do I write books, I cast spells)!
11. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Do you have a secret passion or hobby that we don’t know about?
VIDEO GAMES! Not so secret, I talk about it everywhere. I’m a HUGE fan of RPGs like Final Fantasy and Persona. I also like to paint, but I’m a terrible visual artist and mostly slap paint onto small canvases just for fun when I still want to be creative but need a short break from my word count. Does choreographing unnecessarily complicated dance routines to synthpop songs in my shower count as a secret hobby?
12. Finally, what’s your favourite dinosaur?
I love velociraptors SO MUCH. They remind me of cats. I’m not sure I can explain how or why. Their little claws just make me so happy.
Thank you Noah for dropping by and giving such wonderful answers to all my questions! Also I can totally and 100% see the association of cats and velociprators and I’m never going to look at cats the same way…
Fighting for Love is available now and you should definitely check it out!