Interview with Cole McCade, Author of Just Like That

14 Jul 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Just Like That?

Honestly, Just Like That is a hard book to quantify, even if you just break it down to tropes around coworkers, teachers, childhood crushes, May/December age gaps, grumpy/sunshine. I wrote it last year before COVID-19 kicked off as part of the Carina Adores line of LGBTQIA+ romance, and I’ve never deliberately set out to write fluffy, sweet, internally driven low-conflict romance before. I never really imagined that it’d end up being a book that’s kind of an escape from the world as it is right now, but it’s something of a book about unfulfilled longings and wistful fantasies suddenly turned into reality when a former student at a boarding school returns as a teaching assistant, in training to take over from the very man who used to intimidate and electrify him during the years of a boyhood crush. It’s a story about transformation, about becoming who you’re meant to be, about hope–and I feel like right now, we could all use a little hope.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

This is probably silly, but the game Final Fantasy VII (which recently got a gorgeous remake) made me realize I wanted to tell stories that evoked feeling in others. When I was in high school I saw the first cinematic trailer for the game on TV, and it filled me with this breathless sense of wonder and emotion, and I realized that not only did I want to play a game like that…I wanted to create things that gave others that same sense of their heart-strings pulling too tight.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

That’s a hard one. I read widely across so many genres and love so many authors, but at the same time I’m intensely private about what I love. But if I had to pick, really, I’d say Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman, So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane, Prey by Michael Crichton, A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole, and Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

Mary Shelley! To me she’s the mother of science fiction, and there’s so much in the story of Frankenstein and his creation that touches on these complex layered nuances of human fears, hopes, desires, all framed by this inhuman monster. Honestly, I’d want to hear her first-person recounting of the rainy day she spent at Byron’s with her husband, swapping ghost stories that led to the birth of Frankenstein.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

It’s probably a cliche if I say “finishing the book.” Even if it’s a relief to finish, though, I think the best part is when I get so caught up in writing that I don’t notice hours passing as I churn out thousands of words at a time, completely caught up in the stories until I forget to be myself. I also sometimes forget to breathe until I get a little light-headed, but, well, autonomous systems kick in sooner or later and remind me my brain needs oxygen to function.

What is a typical day like for you?

No such thing. I’m a human chaos engine and my every day is a wreck. Every time I try to establish a consistent schedule, something throws me off and sends me into a tailspin, so I just…take each day as it comes, and steal what hours I can to write in between putting out the numerous fires burning in my life at any one point in time. I just kind of attract the unexpected, and you never know when I’ll be dealing with exploding plumbing or a neighbor having a meltdown or who even knows what else.

What scene from Just Like That was your favorite to write?

The scene where Summer comes back to apologize to Fox for kissing him impulsively and without permission, the first day he’d seen him after seven years away from his hometown. It’s not just that I think showing respect for boundaries that way is important; it’s that the conversation demonstrated who they really are. Summer is immensely shy on the surface, but he breaks that trope in the conversation to show that he’s got a hidden strength that makes him brave in his own sweet, stubborn way–while Fox, seemingly icy and hardened on the surface, shows that underneath he’s grieving and lost and has completely forgotten how to connect with other people. I like taking character archetypes and breaking them out of their mold, and what happened there resulted in an intimate, revealing moment that really let them start on new footing with each other as equals versus former teacher and student turned coworkers.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“Shouganai.” It means “it is what it is,” loosely translated, and it’s pretty much the only way I keep moving sometimes with the endless string of catastrophes that is a life governed by Murphy’s Law. It’s a more complex concept than what it seems on the surface, but it’s basically born of a mindset that knows loss, hurt, and struggle are inevitable, but so is the ability to take a deep breath, re-assess, and rebuild what was lost or taken away. Sometimes I can get pretty bad about dwelling inside my head and blaming myself when things go wrong or I fall out of step with my goals, but when I remind myself of shouganai it’s a reminder that what’s happened has already happened and can’t be changed, so it’s time to focus on what I intend to do next.

Cole McCade is the author of the new book Just Like That.

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