My guest today is newly-published Dreamspinner Press author Thea Nishimori. Thea’s novella, “A Tale of Two Trucks,” was released on November 14th and is available at Dreamspinner Press and the usual suspects (Amazon, AllRomanceEbooks, etc.). “Trucks” is a funny, sweet and sexy romance between an interior designer and a contractor who meet at a truck dealership.
I was fortunate enough to have beta read this gay-for-you romance, and I smiled my way through it! And yes, I nagged Thea until she submitted the manuscript for this wonderful story. I’m sure I’ll continue to nag her until she submits more of her stories. So thank you, Thea, for answering all my questions, and even pointing the finger at me (*winks*). Thanks also for sharing an excerpt from your book! -Shira
Thanks, Shira, for hosting me on your blog! I’ve never really blogged before, so I’m sort of nervous…
- How long have you been writing?
As long as I’ve been able to, I think! But I first tried my hand at writing a real story when I was in 4th grade. I was in the United States that year and my teacher encouraged me to participate in the local Young Authors contest. Lo and behold, I got an Honorable Mention! Which made it worthwhile pulling an all-nighter before the deadline (although my dad, who had to type it up for me, might have thought differently). What was even more rewarding was to see other young writers poring over my story and not wanting to “pass it around” like they’d been instructed to. I’d caught the bug!
- Have you always written gay romance? What drew you to the genre?
Well, no. I was brought up in a strictly religious family, so I wasn’t even exposed to gayness or yaoi until I was in middle school. I loved anime, though, and spent my allowance on a few anime magazines. Little did my parents know that there were pictures sent in by other readers with boy characters as couples! And, after reading the comments for them, it just made sense – some boys were simply meant to be together (whether that was their original writer’s intent or not). I became a fan of yaoi and began dreaming up stories for my own favorite pairings.
I think what drew me to the genre, at least in part, was my bad experience with American girls. In the few years that I was in the States for school, I got the brunt of all the cattiness girls are capable of, no doubt because I was an outsider. Having a drama queen for a mother did nothing to endear the female gender to me, either. So in my reading I gravitated toward boys’ adventure books (rather than girly romances) and in anime I preferred boys’ action or robot series. Since there were more boys than girls in those sorts of shows, it was natural to pair them up with each other. On rare occasions I found female characters that I liked, but those were all non-girly, non-whiny, and non-bitchy.
- What are your favorite kinds of stories? Why?
Well, obviously the kind in which the main characters are nice, sweet, and non-bitchy. And I insist on happy endings, because real life sucks enough without having to read about sucky endings in fiction. Yes, it’s escapism; and yes, I believe it’s healthy. Everyone needs to enjoy some vicarious happiness when their own life is tough. Although I do like some angst along the way – just to make the ending that much more satisfying.
- What was your inspiration for “A Tale of Two Trucks?”
The initial inspiration came from a commercial – the 2010 Ford Truck Month commercial narrated by Mike Rowe. In the background, there were two guys looking at trucks, the smaller guy wearing a bright red Henley shirt and the bigger one a bright blue. (If you don’t know what a Henley shirt is, think Sam Hanna from NCIS: LA.) So, two guys out truck shopping during Ford Truck Month… given their outfits, I had to conclude that they were gay. Which, naturally, made me want to write their story.
It ended up being quite a bit different from how I’d first envisioned it (as usual, LOL). I wanted to start the story out with the truck shopping scene, but I also wanted the story to follow the usual trope: boy meets boy, boy falls in love, boy experiences angst, but ultimately boys are united and live happily ever after. So I changed it from the two of them shopping together to bumping into each other at the dealership (boy meets boy).
Around the same time I happened to dine at a Red Lobster where our waiter was a “flamer” – a wonderfully flamboyant young man who oozed gayness from every pore. He made us laugh, gave us great service, and instantly became the model for my main character. When I considered what his love interest would be like, I decided to go for an “opposites attract” theme. Where Mike (named in honor of Mike Rowe, of course) was tiny, energetic, and expressive, Joe (a regular Joe) would be huge, laid back, and not much of a communicator.
Their backstories fell into place almost immediately, and since I had no rules to follow (unlike fan fiction, in which I try to make my stories as believable and true to canon as possible) I finished writing the entire story in record time. It was posted first on Fiction Press, where it received fairly good reviews. I was happy with it and content to let it be.
However, my dearest friend Shira – who had just published her first book – insisted that I should submit one of mine. And badgered me. And nagged. And reminded me again. It took her over a year, but I finally got my rear in gear and polished it up as best I could before submitting it to the powers that be at Dreamspinner. They graciously accepted it and put it in the queue for editing.
Then came the hard part: the editing process. It’s not easy to have your child measured and found wanting, even if it’s only in some technical aspects. I’d never worked with the Chicago Manual of Style and a few of the rules simply went against the grain – and still don’t sit well. However, I was fortunate to have started out with a shorter story into which I hadn’t invested as much of my heart and soul as some of my others (like my magnum opus, “Quartetto,” posted on Fiction Press with over 500K words and counting). It wasn’t quite as excruciating to alter it to conform to someone else’s standards and, now that it’s all said and done, I can honestly say that I learned a lot from the talented editors at DSP. In fact I want to rewrite everything I currently have posted to correct my habitual errors, but there’s just not enough time. I do, however, hope to revise “Quartetto” to prepare it for publication soon – now that I know what to look for.
All that to say, if any of you have a story that you want to get published, don’t wait! Just do it. The best way to learn is to work through a manuscript and go over specific examples of what works and what doesn’t. I wish I’d done it sooner and not dawdled. It’s hard work, yes, but it’s very rewarding to be a Published Author at last!
And for those of you kind enough to purchase a copy of “A Tale of Two Trucks,” I do hope you enjoy my silly little comedy. If I can get you to laugh or chuckle a few times, I would consider my job well done. 😉
Thea Nishimori spent most of her childhood in Japan, which instilled in her a love of anime, especially in the context of writing behind-the-scenes stories in which her favorite characters fell in love or had the happily-ever-afters they were not afforded in canon. She continues to write fan fiction to this day.
Her favorite authors include C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, and Dorothy Gilman. She hopes to someday be able to write full-time and own two or three dogs. She currently resides in her mother’s basement and spends more time than she ought to playing computer games.
You can find Thea on Facebook, Goodreads, and at her website, http://theanishimori.wordpress.com/
IT was Ford Truck Month, as Mike Rowe announced daily on the TV, and since my ancient van was on its last legs, I was truck shopping. As an interior designer, I need something that can carry large pieces of furniture and is, first and foremost, dependable. I’d heard a lot of good things about the Ford Super Duty series from some of the contractors I worked with, so here I was. The dealer’s lot was hardly as crowded as the commercials showed, though, which wasn’t surprising in this recession.
Thankfully, I’d been getting a lot of work from people who had older homes and wanted to update them rather than buy new, since there was no way their old ones would sell for what they were worth. The increase in my bank account balance meant that—for the first time ever—I was going to buy a brand-new vehicle. My steady business success almost made up for the rest of my sucky life, and right now I was on a shopping high. Nothing could get me down!
I had just walked around a nice green truck when another one, in a beautiful dark blue, caught my eye. Instantly, I could see myself driving it, with armoires and sofas and rolled-up rugs tied down in the back. The blue was a pearl-mica midnight that glimmered as though a million tiny stars lived in its velvety depths. It was love at first sight! I was drawn to it like a magnet to a lodestone, oblivious to anything else for the moment.
Perhaps that was why I didn’t see the massive guy who stepped out from between My Truck and the one next to it in time to avoid the collision. In my defense, he was moving rather quickly when I ran into his arm—nose-first—and bounced back onto the ground with an undignified yelp. It was probably a good thing I hollered, though, or he might not have noticed me and squashed me underfoot like a bug.
“You all right?” he asked as he peered down into my face.
“I… I’ll live,” I gasped, scrambling to get up. A large hand grabbed my arm and another one roughly hauled me up onto my feet by the back of my sweater, leaving me slightly disoriented. I brushed off all five foot four of me to regain my composure.
“Hey, don’t I know you?” he said, squinting as though he were nearsighted. For the briefest fraction of a second, I wondered if he were hitting on me, but of course Reality kicked me in the butt before I had a chance to seriously entertain the idea. No such luck, of course—the guy was wearing a wedding band. I could see it as he scratched his chin with a contemplative frown.
“Um….” He did look familiar. Big arms, denoting a life of manual labor, and naturally tanned skin under a plaid flannel shirt. “Are you a contractor?” I guessed. Elementary, my dear Watson.
“Yeah! I’ve been working up on Myer Hill for Fred Thornton, at that new subdivision.”
“Oh, Fred! Yeah, I’ve done a couple of his houses this summer.”
“Oh, right, you’re the interior decorator!” he said, snapping his fingers as he remembered.
“Designer. Mike Stevenson,” I corrected him mildly, offering my right hand. He took it in his big, meaty one and gave it a firm shake.
“Joe Adams. I do carpentry and some plumbing.”
“Well, nice to run into you—literally.” I smiled, trying to ignore my still-stinging butt and bruised dignity.
“Yeah! So… buying a truck, huh?”
Okay, maybe that wasn’t the brightest comment, seeing as how we were both at a truck dealership, but neither was my response.
“Yeah. You too?”
“Yeah. My lease is almost up.”
“Oh, you lease? How do you like that?”
We talked for a few minutes on the pros and cons of leasing, even though I had my heart already set on buying. At least it gave me the chance to get a good look at him. He was a couple of years older than me (I guessed about forty or so) with a grown-out buzz cut, which he obviously didn’t fuss over. He was wearing a flannel shirt over a plain T-shirt, and I could see a small tear in the fabric as well as a couple of stains. I wondered if his wife had given up on mending his clothes because there would be a new tear or stain in it the very next day, anyway.
My neck started to ache as we talked because I had to look up at him—he had to be six foot six if he was an inch. Built like a football player too. I was lucky I hadn’t broken any bones when I’d run into him!
“So, what options you looking for?” he asked, gesturing vaguely at the nearest row of trucks.
“That one!” I declared, pointing to the midnight-blue truck. “I don’t know anything about cars or trucks, or options for that matter, but I like that one!”
He laughed heartily, and I swear the sound shook the ground around us.
“It’s a nice-lookin’ one, but does it have everything you need?”
“Good question,” I admitted, going over to inspect it more closely. “It has running boards—that’s a necessity—and it has Sync! Cool!”
About that time a salesman came out to our corner of the lot, an ingratiating grin plastered on his face.
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
“Yeah—what all options does this one come with?” Joe asked, and I was grateful he was taking charge of this discussion. It turned out the truck I had fallen for (literally) was an F-250 XL with a V-8 engine, 4-wheel drive, 8-foot bed with sprayed-on liner, and audio controls built right into the steering wheel. There was a tailgate step too—a little foldaway step to help you get in and out of the truck bed—that would be extremely handy for me. The price was a bit staggering, but once the salesman broke it down into the down payment and monthly payments, I knew I could handle it.
“Would you like to take it for a test drive?” the guy asked me.
“Yeah!” I said, barely restraining myself from jumping up and down in my excitement to get behind the wheel of this beauty.
While the salesman went to grab the key, Joe grinned amiably and asked, “Mind if I ride along? I’m thinking of gettin’ one of these too.”
“Of course! I mean, of course I don’t mind,” I clarified. Then a thought occurred to me. “Were you looking at this one?” I asked in some panic.
“Sorta, but I wanna get a stripped-down one. I don’t need all the fancy bells ’n’ whistles,” he said, much to my relief.
“Oh, good! ’Cuz I’d sure hate to have to arm-wrestle you for it,” I confessed, eliciting another one of his earth-shaking guffaws which, while somewhat intimidating, still had the effect of making me feel jolly too.
I took it out for a spin on the highway and then pulled into a carpool lot to switch places with Joe. He pointed out different things about the engine as he drove it back, most of which went flying over my head, but it confirmed my first impression of him—that is, he was a regular guy, definitely hetero (more’s the pity), and a nice, easygoing guy to boot. Just the sort of man I need, I thought to myself with a silent sigh, but of course I always fell for the impossible ones. The one time I thought I’d succeeded in getting a good man, it turned out I’d been duped. But anyway, I tried not to think about the negative stuff and allowed myself to float on the natural high of shopping.
When we got back to the lot and Joe asked the salesman if he had a more bare-bones version of the same truck, the guy could hardly hide his disappointment, but when I told him that I definitely wanted this one, and he realized we were each buying a truck, he was on cloud nine right next to me. I also realized, a bit belatedly, that the salesman had thought the two of us were “together.” The fact that he could’ve seen us as a “couple” tickled me pink! Although I tried very hard not to let it show, for Joe’s sake, since he was rather mortified to be mistaken for a gay guy—even though he tried hard not to let it show, either.
We parted with a friendly “See you ’round,” which was probably true, since I’d worked on Fred Thornton’s new-build houses on more than one occasion and the old guy seemed to like my style of interior design. After filling out what seemed like an endless mountain of paperwork, the salesman finally gave me the key, and I drove my new truck off the lot, grinning like a fool.