"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Clare's Turn to Squee and Squabble...

It's Cla-a-a-re.......

Talking today about Chrissy Munder's great new novel Drive Me Home.

BLURB: Las Vegas isn't just a glamorous, glitzy playground for high rollers, Elvis impersonators, and blushing newlyweds. It's also a seedy, worn-out dumping ground for the lonely, the broken, and the lost. Eric Moss is one of those drifters, just marking time, until he meets two very different men, both of whom could change his life.Marc Evans is a rich casino owner. He offers Eric safety, security, and a chance to regain some of his ravaged past. Brad Torres is a garage mechanic. He offers Eric nothing at all. The choice might have been easy, if Eric weren't intensely attracted to both men. He has to choose between Sin City's sparkling lights and a life in the shadows—will he be able to live with his heart's decision?


At last, my chance to chat about Chrissy’s great new novel!

Let’s face it, this blurb is a great summary. That’s not always the case with blurbs, but this novel covers many complex and fascinating themes, all in a very entertaining and lyrical way, and they’re all hinted at here. It is essentially the story of Eric’s journey – in employment, in self-discovery, in friendship and, eventually, in love.

The book opens with a very powerful first scene when we’re shown Eric’s desperate misery – and as the reader, we’re thrown right in there with him. He’s a victim – he’s been betrayed and treated most unfairly, and for that moment he’s slipping into surrender.

But from then on in, he picks himself up both physically and mentally, and starts to fight back. This isn’t a physical fight – we don’t see violent anger or a sudden surge of unrealistic alpha male-ness. Eric’s an emotionally injured man, but he once had the same hopes and ambitions and flaws as us all. His journey back to strength and confidence is gradual, yet building layers of resilience. At first, he’s content just to find a secure niche with his new job, make cautious friendships, and watch what’s going on around him. I saw Eric as an observer – a man with wit and strength of character but wary of committing his emotions. This is perfectly illustrated in his almost unwelcome but instinctive reaction to the two attractive men who enter his life – Brad and Marc.

How could he be drawn to two very different men at the same time? What did that say about him? Restless from the turmoil within, Eric had wandered around Vegas. He tried to lose himself in the massive swell of humanity that filled the streets and shops, letting the crowd push him one way and then the next, playing tourist for the first time since he had arrived.

This thread between the three men runs all the way through, but as always, Chrissy treats us to wonderfully rich secondary characters to entertain us as well. Eric’s fellow limo drivers are a very mixed bunch, and every one is vivid as an individual. These were the scenes that made me smile most, that amused me with their banter and fascinated me with the insight into the world of Las Vegas for a lowly employee. Some of these characters have only a small part to play in the tale – some have much more. Chrissy also weaves in an underlying mystery plot, building the tension outside of Eric’s own story.

And gradually, Eric starts to open up to life. He makes friends, he has success, he connects with people again. Chrissy’s prose is tight and tense in all the right places – her descriptive powers make it a delight to read every word, especially as we experience Eric’s viewpoint. It’s a sensual awakening.

Eric looked at his coffee and then over to Brad’s eyes, pale and shuttered behind the veil of smoke. He opened his mouth to refuse, but as he sat there staring at Brad the words he meant to say were somehow replaced by a silent nod of agreement.

The depiction of Las Vegas has been praised in many other reviews, and of course it’s fabulous. Makes me want to go there even more LOL. We can feel the heat, we blink in the bright lights, we’re fascinated and slightly stunned by the noise and melodrama and hedonistic behaviour of some of its visitors.

It was still his favorite part of the day, those last few moments when the sun battled with the neon of the Vegas Strip for supremacy before it finally gave up and drifted off to sulk until the next morning. Eric lingered in the parking lot for a few extra minutes, watching the sun disappear from the city skyline as best he could before heading inside the garage.

The end of the novel pulls the threads of character and plot together, but it’s by no means the end of Eric’s story – I’d have found that unrealistic and unsatisfying. There is enough closure for the reader, but plenty more to keep us thinking. Eric is thrown into more struggle and trouble, but this time, he starts to take control of his life. He realizes that choices are his and his alone – that he has reserves of courage and strength of mind that had been beaten down but not lost. That he has a right to happiness and passion, and his response can be active, not passive. That there’s still pain and disappointment in life, but it’s balanced with joy, too – and you have to be in it, to win it.

“That was a nice thought,” Eric said quietly. “But I needed to learn to take care of myself.”

I also have questions - and I'm not afraid to use them!

My first and most burning question: one of the things I found refreshing about the book was that it wasn’t a neat, all-wrapped-up HEA, although of course there was a good measure of hope and romantic satisfaction. Are you planning a sequel any time? It seemed to me there was plenty of scope – in Eric’s burgeoning romance, the unfinished business with the other man in his life (being careful not to give spoilers!), the fate of Eric’s family.

I’ll never say never, but to be honest, when I finished this story it wasn’t that I was planning a sequel as much as I felt that a true HEA ending just didn’t fit the sometimes uncomfortable realities underlying the storylines. (Now I have to watch and not give spoilers). It was more that I wanted to get across the concept that we all do the best we can, one way or another, with what we have. Sometimes it works for us, sometimes it doesn’t. Though I will say I have a lot of faith in the ending romance, perhaps because of both men’s imperfections.

So, not content with one gorgeous man to take interest in Eric, you had two! Confess – is this a theme that intrigues you? Is it because of the conflict it inspired in Eric, or does it reflect the feeling that all the things we want from a partner are rarely found in one person? Or are you just plain greedy LOL?

Excuse me while I raise my hand and just go with Greedy with a capital G. (You know me so well, LOL). Perhaps I shouldn’t confess to this, being a romance writer and all, but despite my total acceptance of obsessive love and lust at first sight there are times when I feel that it’s unrealistic to expect one person to be our everything for an entire lifetime. People change and go through cycles and it’s rare to find one person willing and able to deal with the honesty and pain that can accompany that process.

Of course, that’s what a good romance is for – to uplift us and inspires us with the hope that we will find that sense of completeness in our own lives. Some novels conveniently handle this premise by having the earlier love interest/soul mate meet their untimely demise, thus freeing our newly changed character to explore other options and often providing the very catalyst for that change. I certainly plan to use that same convenience in the future myself, but I couldn’t help but question what happens if you meet two such possibilities at the same time? How do you choose?

Another thing I love is the wealth of fun and empathetic depth you always write for your secondary characters. Did any of the guys here tempt you to consider writing a story for them as well?

Oh absolutely. Each one of them begs for their own time in the spotlight. I’m really drawn to the story between (I just had to do some major deletions here - avoiding spoilers again) two of them in particular. Both are very flawed characters and they know it. Yet, they stand by each other despite, or perhaps because of their failings.
Clare adds: hope it's the ones I'm thinking of right now...

This was your first published novel and a fabulous start to your portfolio. Did you enjoy the longer format, or was it a struggle? What one thing did you love about having more words to craft – and what one thing surprised you?

To answer part one and three - the biggest struggle was trying to hack out time to work on it. My work and home responsibilities can become quite overwhelming, sometimes leaving me little writing time. Then I have to re-immerse myself in the characters and the piece itself, and find that voice again. That’s much more difficult on a longer work. It was, however, a complete surprise how easy it was to find these characters when that would happen.

For the second part - being a run-on sentence overly wordy kind of gal I enjoyed the freedom to just run off at the mouth so to speak. Something I can’t do in a shorter piece when I need to get to the guts of what I’m aiming for.

Chrissy, thanks for sharing both your fiction and your time with me - and the visitors.

We'll be back again tomorrow, folks - and don't forget the CONTESTS on Monday, you could be in the running for FREE BOOKS :).

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In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.