For today’s author spotlight, I’m joined by the fabulous A.F. Zoelle! We’re talking about the last book in her Good Bad Idea series, writing books on post-in notes and being under seige from plot bunnies!
So without further delay…
First things first, please introduce yourself!
Hi, I’m A.F. Zoelle! I write contemporary M/M romance and published my first book in December 2018. I’m best known for my Good Bad Idea series that debuted in March 2020. Before that, I published M/M fanfiction under a different pen name in a variety of fandoms. For most of my adult life, I’ve been a career academic and was pursuing my PhD in Japanese theatre studies. Last year, I made the tough decision to leave academia, which meant going back to working full-time at a law office. Despite that, I still put out a book every other month! Needless to say, I live for the day I’m lucky enough to make the transition into full-time writing.
Tell us a little bit about your writing style.
Due to my time constraints of working around my job, I’m primarily a plotter. I try to outline a brief sketch of where I think the story is heading to help me schedule how to write it around my tough schedule. However, my characters are very prone to throwing said outline out the window and doing whatever they want. I learned a long time ago that letting them run wild always ends up making things better, so I become a pantser on the fly and try to keep up!
Describe your books in only three words.
Heat, humor, heart.
What’s your next book about and when is it coming out?
For the last year, I’ve been working on my Good Bad Idea series. It’s a light-hearted, low-angst, high heat series about bad ideas that lead to true love. All the books are interconnected but can be read in any order.
The final book in the series is Love Practice, which is coming out March 24th! Wren is sick of never landing a second date, so he asks his best friend and roommate Izzy to be his dating tutor. They both are secretly in love with each other, so the results of their fake dates are explosive. It’s a hilarious friends to lovers, roommates, fake dating romance that will burn up your Kindle from the heat, all while making you swoon from the touching romance.
Even if you’ve never read a single one of the Good Bad Idea books, you can still enjoy Wren and Izzy’s romance! Of course, it’s much more fun if you start from the beginning with Bet on Love. Love Practice is the end of the Good Bad Idea series, but the guys will put in cameos in my next series, Suite Dreams, which starts on May 21, 2021 with Snowbody Like You!
Out of all your books, which one are you most proud of?
That’s a tough one, but I think I’ll have to say Love Directions, which is Book 5 of my Good Bad Idea series. When I was writing it, my beloved uncle died of cancer and Covid, I made the decision to leave my university, I had to pack and move cross-country, had two minor medical procedures, and started working in an office full-time which meant I was sneaking in writing on sticky notes to make my deadline. That’s a lot, to put it mildly. But I still finished the book with time to spare and published it on time. Elias’s story is very emotional for me on a lot of levels, since I based his and North’s moms on the mom of my best friend that we lost to cancer. When I received reviews saying that book felt like a warm hug from a friend and brought them comfort during such a rough time, it made all the struggle worth it. I’m so proud of myself that I’ve kept up my schedule of releasing a book every other month despite working full-time.
What or who (or both) has influenced you most as a writer?
I’ve moved twenty-nine times in my life and been lucky enough to travel the world, which has had a profound influence on my work. I’m also a sponge who soaks up knowledge, which is what made me such a great academic. That means my books are filled with fun facts about things like the French Revolution pornography history and weird trivia about how it’s illegal to die in Svalbard, Norway and Itsukushima, Japan. My love for the weird makes for some really unique characters, which I think is one of my strengths as a writer.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have entire universes and galaxies in my mind. I’m also constantly under siege from my plot bunnies (plunnies), which are plentiful and persistent. They keep on me to make sure their stories get told, so it’s a good thing I’m a fast writer. I think everyone will be much happier when I can write full-time and release more of them into the wild to run free for readers to enjoy.
What’s your writing process like? Do you have a typical “writing day”?
Since I have to work around a full-time day job at a law firm, that means I’m squirreling away time to covertly write any chance I get. Thankfully, I’m extremely fast and have a reputation for being the gold standard of what a good employee should be, so they have no idea that I’m writing novels on the side since I get my work done so fast. Since 2008, I’ve written my stories on 1” x 1.5” inch sticky notes. Picture Love, which is the sixth book in the Good Bad Idea series that came out in January, was written on 849 sticky notes with my micro-writing. But now I’ve switched to projects that let me use my personal computer at the office, which makes writing a million times easier to do. That means I’ve been able to write much more than before! It also helps that I’m regularly told to slow down at work, so when I’m writing, I’m technically following their instructions!
What comes first for you – the plot or the characters?
My plunnies usually come with plot and character combined since they know I won’t give them the time of day if they don’t give me something to work with from the start. I make a plunny prove to me that it’s worth the time investment to commit to a story due to my intense schedule, so that means I almost always get the character and plot together at first. However, what usually ends up happening is as I start writing, the character takes over and changes themselves and the plot.
For example, Felix was originally a shy, blushing type who was completely overwhelmed by Arsène in Picture Love. But as I started writing it, Felix quickly became a no-filter firecracker who had fun keeping up with Arsène’s pace. It made for a much better story as a result, but I kept worrying I was going to blow my cover at work since I kept laughing so much at Felix’s antics and oneliners in the book.
What’s a book that you wish you’d written?
The first M/M romance I ever wrote back in 2004 was a story that’s haunted me ever since. I was incredibly sick at the time and had zero memory of writing the story; it was just on my computer when I woke up. It was a story from so deep in the depths of my heart, I hadn’t even known it existed.
Every few years, that plunny would pop up and remind me it existed. I’d reread the 15k I wrote and get so mad at myself for not finishing it. I got so hung up on the fact that since I had no memory of writing the story, I had no idea where I was heading with it. In 2019, a friend said, “What difference does it make what 2004-you would have done with it? Isn’t what the 2019-you wants to do with it much better, anyway?” It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, freeing me to expand the story into Madrigal of Stars (Alternative title: The Art of Music). It’s an incredible bisexual awakening romance between a famous musician and a shy art museum curator.
But I was drowning in school and work (seriously, I had six jobs while a full-time PhD student and was working well over 100 hours each week), so the massive story got away from me. It was so epic and already pushing 100k, and I couldn’t finish it in time to publish it by December 2019 like I had intended. I ended up switching to Good Bad Idea, which has taken off in a way that makes me pinch myself every time I think about it. As a result, Madrigal of Stars is still unfinished on my hard drive, begging me to go something with it. It’s a story that needs to be told. I’m hoping that once I’m in a position to write full-time, I’ll finally be able to sit down and do the story justice.
If you could only write one trope for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
It would easily be friends to lovers. I adore the easy banter that friends have, plus it makes their sex scenes so much more fun when they’re joking with each other the whole time. Brody and Augie’s sex ABCs competition in Love Means More is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, because you really get a glimpse of their competitive friendship as they tease each other while also being intimate. It makes things so much fun.
What would be your three desert island books?
Lucy Lennox’s Felix & The Prince since I’m a sucker for a good royal romance. Ella Frank’s Robbie, because I love a smart-mouth firecracker (See my characters Felix and North for further evidence). K.M. Neuhold’s Hardwood, since I love a man who wears bow ties (as Callum proves in my Fancy Love).
If one of your books could be made into a movie/TV series, which would you choose and who would you cast?
I think Love Directions would be the best of the Good Bad Idea series books to turn into a movie or TV series. I think the funny supporting characters of North’s mom, twin sister, and their cat Woof would make for a really fun show. While it has a lot of humor in it, I think the emotional core of Elias’s journey of healing from the death of his mother and two bad relationships is something viewers would become very invested in seeing on screen, the same way it does on the page. As for who I’d cast, I have no idea since I’m not in touch with current American TV and movies.
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?
I love designing logos and graphics for mugs. I have an enemies to lovers story I’m hoping to release in early November called Mistlefoe that will have a mixture of cute and naughty holiday mugs mentioned in it. I’m going to design the mugs myself and sell them for readers, which I’m really excited about doing!
Finally, what’s your favourite dinosaur?
The Gobiraptor minutus, which is one of the cutest dinosaurs I’ve ever seen. It’s a tiny little raptor that’s very bird-like: https://www.cnet.com/news/scientists-discover-fossils-of-new-adorable-baby-dinosaur-in-mongolia/
Under constant siege from persistent plot bunnies, A.F. Zoelle enjoys humoring them by writing about gorgeous men being in love. Her contemporary romances are full of witty banter, sexy fun, and lovable smart-asses. She’s left academia behind for a new adventure, which will hopefully include adopting Ragdoll cats of her own someday soon.
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