This “Behind the Scenes” blog is part of a series examining my romance novels. In each blog, I’ll talk about why I wrote the book, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. Warning: Blogs may contain spoilers.
Four Days with Jack is the first gay romance I wrote, and like most of my romances, there’s a backstory about how the book came to be.
Several years ago I was writing for Amber Quill Press. Every so often, they would have an open call for “themed” romances. They could be anything: a historical set in England, a contemporary vampire romance, or even super-hot erotica featuring ménage. This time, they were doing a “Postcards from Paradise” theme. The romance could be any genre, but the story had to take place in a tropical setting.
I had been toying with an idea for a gay romance for a while, but I wasn’t sure where to set it. Then I decided, why not set it in a tropical resort and submit the story for the “Postcards” theme?
Here’s the book description and links:
Four Days with Jack
When David invited his best friend on vacation, he never expected them to fall in love…
Spending four days in a tropical paradise with Jack is a dream come true. For years, David has lived a lie and denied his romantic feelings for Jack. Now that they’re together in an isolated Caribbean resort, he finally admits what he really wants—to be Jack’s lover.
Jack has been in love with David for years and is encouraged by his desire to explore a sexual relationship. He’s more than willing to introduce David to the life he has always fantasized about. Their sizzling nighttime encounters confirm David’s long-hidden cravings, but what will happen when they leave the resort?
Will David come out and start a new life with Jack? Or will he go back to his old ways and risk losing the best friend he ever had?
Order Four Days with Jack here:
All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/bo6Rap
In the book, David is coming to terms with his sexuality. He is finally expressing his true feelings toward Jack and they begin a tender (yet spicy) romance. Jack is David’s first lover and David is a bit unsure about how things will turn out. And it seems fitting that Jack was my first, too (my first M/M romance). In a way, I was unsure, too.
I had the basic plot outlined and I knew where the story was going, what the conflicts were internally (David and Jack each have their doubts, worries, and secrets), and what external challenges they would face from the outside world (how to deal with homophobes, what would people think of their relationship?).
So for the most part, writing this romance wasn’t too much different than writing a M/F romance. The basic components of good storytelling apply to any story, regardless of subject matter or the gender of the characters.
But I wasn’t exactly sure how readers, reviewers, and interviewers would respond to a woman writing a M/M romance. I soon found out! Interviewers asked me lots of questions about the book: “You’re a woman, how can you write a gay romance?” I usually answered that with, “I wrote a vampire romance and I’m not a vampire.”
I’m a writer, and I have a vivid imagination. I also was used to writing from a male POV for the straight characters in my M/F romances. I dealt with the subject matter in Jack the same way I did in my other romances: I stayed true to the characters and the story.
Interviewers also had to ask, “What will people think about you writing a gay romance?” I don’t trouble myself with “what people will think” about anything I write—horror, romance, or sci-fi—I write what I want to write.
My job as an author is to tell a good story that hooks readers and leaves them satisfied in the end. I’ve never worried about “what people will think” about me writing a M/F romance, so why should I be concerned about writing a M/M love story?
At the time the book was originally released, I got some “heat” when I sent out review requests. Several online publications/bloggers/reviewers refused to review the book because it was M/M. I can understand that if your blog/site is targeted to women who read M/F, or historical romance, or whatever. If M/M is not your demographic, fine. But a few people replied that they don’t review “those types” of books. Someone else called the M/M genre “icky.” I never contacted them again.
Also around this time, the RWA made their infamous statement that “romance” is defined solely as a relationship between a man and a woman. A M/M story was not allowed or acknowledged as a legitimate romance. Good bye! I canceled my membership and didn’t look back.
My response to people who questioned the M/M genre as legitimate “romance” or viewed it as a “taboo” subject to write about, was this: If you don’t want to read a M/M romance, fine, go read something else. But don’t tell me what to write and who can and cannot love each other in my books.
I once read an interview with the author of a gay romance, and she said she used a pen name because she “didn’t want people to know she wrote that sort of thing.” Really? Why write something if you’re ashamed of it? Since then, I’m happy to report that the attitude in the publishing world has changed and M/M romances are no longer something scandalous to write, read, or review.
I wrote Jack and stood by the book, loud and proud. And do you know what people thought? They thought it was a great book! Here are a few kind reviews:
"4 Gold Crowns! Four Days with Jack is a great story about best friends who have been in love with each other for years, and, for various reasons, afraid to let it out, finally give in while on vacation. David and Jack are beautifully created. They both have their faults but love each other enough to want to try. Four Days with Jack is a great story about accepting who you are and going after what you really want." - Jaymes, Reviewer, The Readers Round Table "Four Days with Jack is exactly as promised. Hesitation, longings, risks, fears, and in the end, taking love the way it comes. The peaks and valleys of the story come from David and Jack coming to terms with their relationship. Their secrets are exposed, but those secrets and actions come with consequences. Their journey is a pleasant read and one I'm sure you'll enjoy as well." - Seriously Reviewed "Kelli did a very good job portraying the confused David and the wary, but hopeful, Jack. David's inner turmoil and fears about outing himself were so heartbreaking. I definitely felt for him. Four Days with Jack is a strong romance with very likeable characters. I'm quite glad I read this story. I learned that as a romance fan I can definitely appreciate and enjoy stories that feature two male heroes. Four Days with Jack is an emotional, yet sexy coming-out story about two men finally opening themselves up to the possibility of a great love. It was an excellent introduction into the world of m/m romance." - Jennifer, Reviewer, Romance Novel News
I loved writing the book and putting the characters through a lot of emotional heartache and drama. Jack is a wiseass (as are many of my male characters), yet he has flaws, self-doubt, and needs a boost of self-esteem.
David is worried about “what people will think” about him and hopes to keep his relationship with Jack a secret. (Jack’s not having any of that!) They also have to deal with an annoying jerk who doesn’t like the idea of two men staying together at the resort. His character is based on a real person I met on vacation. He was an obnoxious blowhard and I knew I’d put him in a book someday. He made a good villain!
I hope you’ll check out Four Days with Jack. It’s got everything a good romance needs: humor, drama, and plenty of sizzling love scenes to heat up your summer!
I welcome comments and questions from readers. Be sure to follow my blog for the latest updates and visit me on social media. You can read more “Behind the Scenes” blogs here: www.KelliWilkins.com/blog
I made a page for my gay romances: https://www.facebook.com/GayRomancesbyKelliAWilkins/
Happy Pride Month everyone!
Kelli A. Wilkins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, 7 non-fiction books, and 5 horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror stories.
Her latest novel, In Another World, was released in early 2022. This contemporary mystery/romance is set in the world of the paranormal.
She also released two horror shorts, More Than I Bargained For and Silent Sentinel in 2021.
In 2021, Kelli published Journaling Every Week: 52 Topics to Get You Writing. This fun and innovative guide to journaling is filled with hundreds of thought-provoking prompts designed to get you writing about your feelings and emotions.
Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com for a full title list and to find all her social media links.