Interview with A.F. Zoelle, author of Alluring Attraction
11 Feb 2019
What can you tell us about your new release Alluring Attraction?
I first had the idea for Alluring Attraction all the way back in 2009, so it has been a long labor of love to get it ready for the world. It’s the first book in a three-part series. After a chance encounter, Ryder discovers that his rival at college, Hunter, is working at a high-class brothel. Hunter seduces Ryder that night, causing their relationship to begin growing into something more with each repeated visit. Even as Hunter starts to develop very real feelings for Ryder, he can’t help but be drawn to a new employee at the brothel, Cesare.
As a voracious reader, I wanted to see something different from the standard formula of going from tentative friends, to sex, to falling in love. At the same time, I wanted it to be more than just a simple one-night stand that expands into a relationship. Starting with the sex lets them learn about each other through that physical connection, which allows them to become friends in a way that wasn’t possible before. Of course, it’s always going to end with a HEA, because that’s what makes it worth it.
Sometimes sex scenes in romance novels can feel gratuitous and like they don’t actually matter, but I like introducing a psychological nuance to those couplings that brings depth to every encounter. It’s never “just” about the sex in my work. You can see their relationship evolving through every time they’re together, which gives it far more meaning.
Setting it in a brothel creates plenty of opportunities for those steamy moments of passion. At its heart, the story is about Hunter and Ryder’s developing relationship as they grow closer in spite of the difficulties stemming from Hunter having to work in such a place. Cesare’s role in Hunter and Ryder’s romance will continue to be developed in the future volumes.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
As I mentioned, I have always been an avid reader, starting from my earliest childhood. I loved being able to visit worlds that weren’t my own and experience things that were beyond me. As I grew up, I began wishing for stories that didn’t exist yet. When I was ten, I realized if I wanted to read those stories, I’d just have to write them for myself, so that’s exactly what I did.
I got my start in fanfiction, but quickly turned to original fiction. I have entire worlds in my mind that I can’t wait to share with everyone, so that’s a real driving force behind my writing.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
This is always such a difficult question, because it’s impossible to narrow down a lifetime of loving books to just five. Limiting myself to the gay romance genre, I would say the top five best books I’ve read recently are (in no particular order):
- “Robbie” by Ella Frank: I love a good ménage romance and this one hit all the right notes for me. Her men exude sexiness and they complement each other in very natural ways, not to mention she has a very engaging writing style.
- “Grounding Griffin” by Lucy Lennox: It was so hard to pick just one of her books, because I really enjoy everything she does. This story in particular tickled me with the outrageous nicknames that were used throughout the book as part of the plot. They were not only creative, but seriously funny. I love that her universe is so big that it spawned a subseries, because that’s absolutely the kind of thing that happens to me.
- “Faking It” by Riley Hart: There’s something endlessly charming about the fake boyfriend trope for some reason. She has a really great sense of humor and I appreciated how she built a universe with rich characters that you followed from book to book through the series.
- “Nobody’s Prince Charming” by Aimee Nicole Walker: Her stories are always so charming, but I liked how this one played with the fairy tale idea with a playful wink. It was a really sweet story about how opposites attract, plus she also builds a great universe with interacting characters over the course of the series.
- “Fake Out” by Eden Finley: I think it’s a testament to her writing that even though I’m not a sports fan, I really enjoyed this book. Like I said, I’m a sucker for a good fake boyfriend becoming not so fake story.
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
Even though a séance would be necessary, I would want to interview Shakespeare as my first guest—but not for the typical reason to speak to the mind of a great master. No, I would want to have the pleasure of talking with him about his most creative and favorite insults. I’d love to find out the stories behind some of the gems he came up with, not to mention see if he had any updated “modern” ones for the current era. My top three personal favorites are:
- “More of your conversation would infect my brain” (The Comedy of Errors)
- “Thou art unfit for any place but hell” (Richard III)
- “Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows” (Trolius and Cressida)
If I were to ask something more serious, I’d love to talk to him about the last play, because it’s not part of the established canon of his masterpieces. Most people have never even heard of it, and it’s generally not considered one of his better works. I’ve always found comfort in the fact that even someone as great as Shakespeare had some flops. So I’d really like to hear his perspective on that as someone who has met with such resounding success.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between three things for me. One of my favorite things about writing is when I first get approached by a “plot bunny,” which I affectionally refer to as “plunnies.” They emerge from the shadows and start whispering what ifs in the back of my brain, trying to seduce me into letting them run wild with the new story idea. Feeling those whispers coalescing into something more substantial is a fascinating process. It can also be exceedingly frustrating, because I have so many ideas, but not nearly enough time to get them all out at once, so sometimes they do have to live in my mind for a pathetically long time before I can give them the proper time and attention they deserve. But my plunnies are nothing if not tenacious.
Along with that, I love building universes with interconnected characters and stories. Watching all of those connections forming is so much fun. No detail is ever wasted in one of my works, so I love scattering these tiny little details that you don’t think very much of on first read, but then you later discover it actually was a major plot point down the road. I think it adds a lot of reread value as well.
The other part about writing is the relief I get from finally getting the ideas out of my head and onto the page. When you live with so many characters inside you, it can get really crowded up there, so it feels extra good when you can finally let them go free in the world.
What is a typical day like for you?
I’m a PhD graduate student in the middle of my comprehensive exams while also teaching undergraduate classes at my university, plus I work for a law firm. Needless to say, my life is busy. If I’m not in class, then I’m teaching one, or doing my readings for my upcoming exams in preparation for writing them in order to advance to the next level of my degree progress. My law work takes up most of my preciously scarce free time.
I do my best to squirrel away as much time to write as I feasibly can, but it never feels like enough. These days, I mostly get to write on my flights to and from Japan, Oregon, and New Jersey, or when things are slow at the firm and I can use that time to write. I’d love to live a life where all I had to do was write, but I’m not quite there yet, sadly.
Despite the insanity of my schedule, I was blessed with a year while I was studying abroad in Japan where I had ample time to write due to my schedule being unusually clear. I would have class on Monday, then Tuesday through Sunday were days dedicated to writing, unless I had a play to attend or more law work. I managed to crank out almost 900,000 words in that time frame, so it gave me a great head start on positioning myself to start publishing. Because of that, I’m able to edit the work from that time and publish three books a year, while I still work on new stuff in stolen moments.
I can only imagine what I’d be capable of if I was able to dedicate all of my time to writing…
What scene in Alluring Attraction was your favorite to write?
When I first started working on Alluring Attraction back in 2009, Cesare didn’t exist in the story yet. As I expanded it into a second book (Developing Desires), he made himself known, then was responsible for the third book (Embracing Euphoria) coming into existence and going in a direction I hadn’t originally anticipated.
That meant I had to go back to the first book and weave him into the story. Getting to add new scenes with him was a fun challenge. It gave me the chance to write his two-part interview, which really establishes his character as being a force to be reckoned with. He is all things sensual and charming, so any time he pops up, you know things are going to get sexy real quick. I love Cesare and Hunter’s banter, so getting the chance to really flesh things out more between them made me really happy, especially since it sets up Developing Desires and Embracing Euphoria nicely.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I make it a rule to never judge anyone. No matter what, I like to be a safe space for people, who can take comfort in knowing that they can trust me with anything. I’m glad that I can be that steady rock for my friends, who can support them through everything. If something I went through in life helps someone else out, then it was worth going through, even if it was hell at the time. I just like making things easier for people, because life is hard enough as it is. We could all use a little help sometimes.
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