I got the best opportunity ever! I got to have an interview with Megtino aka Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell. Their new collaboration, Fast Connection, just released this week and I wanted to get a chance to see how these two really work together.
Warning! There is mention of beer, porn, zombies and a lot of hilarity.
1. First off, how did you two meet? And when did the decision to write Cyberlove develop?
Megan: We met online! Apropos, huh? I think we just started entering each other’s writing social circles. We began to chat and realized we get along super well. And Strong Signal happened a little as an accident. I’d planned to write it as a male/female book, but it wasn’t coming together for me. Santino and I started brainstorming a gay romance and the rest is history. :)
Santino: Yeah, it was the best decision ever! I was really excited and surprised that she wanted to write with me. I'd read Trust the Focus before we'd ever spoken, and I loved her writing. Her M/M was very fresh to me and I admired her ability to write about serious issues in a way that was optimistic instead of heavy with angst.
M: I’m such a fan of his books. He’s kind of ruined me for writing lately and I exist on scraps of his WIPs he sends me.
2. What’s the hardest part about balancing writing life and adult life? Are there any preconceived notions out there about romance writers that you agree or disagree with?
M: Everything about balancing writing and adult life is hard for me. For real, I’m awful at it. I’m either writing like a mad woman and living in squalor and feeding my kids tuna out of the can, or I have a clean house, gourmet dinner, and zero words. LOL.
As far as preconceived notions… That it’s easy because every romance is a formula? I hate that myth. Because it’s WORK to write any book from beginning to end, and it’s HARD to write believable happily ever after. There’s nothing easy about it.
S: Yeah, sometimes I think people assume writers swan around coffee shops all day or gaze out the window and whimsically tap out these magical words because it's easy and fun, but it's so damn hard. Writers are usually self-conscious as it is so there's constant doubt and questioning, the pressure of deadlines, the worry about meeting expectations… there's so much that goes with it.
And as for balancing? I have no balance. The past month has been me buying a house, moving, getting in a car wreck, missing two deadlines, releasing another book… yeah. My balance is gone. I'm now coping with beer and porn.
M: Beer and porn is honestly the best coping method. We should write a self-help book.
3. What are the pros and cons of being Megtino, the writing superduo?
M: LMAO at writing superduo. Uh, there are tons of pros. We get to bounce ideas off of each other. It’s fun. We make each other laugh, and best of all, we only have to write half a book each! There aren’t many cons for me. Probably the only one is just that our schedules are hard to get matched up because we each have our own individual projects. But that’s a good thing too!
S: I second all of Megan's Pros. Also, I would add in that there is a built in support system here. We were already friends but we started writing together and then being connected financially, and uh I'm pretty sure Megan has heard way too much about my angst and house buying and expenses to last her a life time LOL. But she was always there to be like "You can do it! Our royalties are coming in! It's going to be great!". There aren't many cons for me I guess, except I live far away and I can't pester her in person as much as I'd like? Her family likes to butcher my name and I want to meet them and keep track of all the different pronunciations tbh.
M: They call him Santonio, Sabbatino, Santorelli. It’s pretty amusing. And my parents really want to take him out to dinner, so he’s gotta come visit meeeee. Also, yes to built-in support system. When I wallow and whine about not being able to write a decent word, he encourages me.
S: Bring them with you in the fall IMO. (Sabbatino is my favorite)
4. Do you both have a hand in writing each character or do you divide and conquer each guy?
M: I think in both books, the characters really are a joint effort. For example, while I wrote Luke POV for Fast Connection, I wrote the Costigan dialogue/reactions when in Luke POV (I hope that makes sense, haha). And Santino and I talk over how each character will react to certain situations.
S: Yes, it's a joint effort. Actually today I was talking to my editor at Riptide and she said after reading Fast Connection, she couldn't tell whether I wrote Luke or Dominic. I was thrilled. For my editor to not be able to tell who was who means we're doing a good job of flowing together.
5. In the Cyberlove series, and your other respective series, there is a lot of gaming. Are either of you into the gaming lifestyle? If so, what was your first console and game?
M: I’m not as big of a gamer as Santino, but I looooved Atari when I was a kid. I played the Mission Impossible game. And now, we have an Xbox 360 and my favorite game is Fable (II and III).
S: I have just about every console, but my true loves are MMOs--basically the kind of interactive online game that Kai and Garrett play in the series. I love competitive gaming, but also the exploring/questing aspect of those kinds of games. Initially, I got into them because they're a great escape from the real world. Kind of the way reading is. But also I like killing other people in games. My FIRST console was a Nintendo way back when, and I loved the original Zelda.
6. I love, LOVE, that you both feature characters that are people of color in your books. Was there a discussion beforehand when you decided to make Nadia black? (Assuming here, she could be Hispanic or biracial as well lol)
M: We started talking about her character and how we wanted her to be. I think Santino was like, “I’m picturing her as black.” And I said, “Yeah, me too.” And that was it, really.
S: Yeah, that was one of the first things we discussed in regards to Luke's family. Also, that they would have a great relationship and be very supportive of one another despite the divorce.
7. Is there something either of you have wanted to write about but haven’t gotten the opportunity to yet? Or is there something that you’ve written that you wish you could take back and do over?
M: There is so much I want to write. Lately I’ve been into paranormal so I’m starting to dip my toes into some paranormal WIPs and having a blast. I also really want to write a gritty romantic suspense with humor.
S: I'd really like to write M/F romance at some point in the future.
8. If you got to pick 3 of your zombie apocalypse survival team members out of your own characters, who would be on it?
M: This question is amazing. Let’s see. I’d pick Colin Hartman, Alex Dawn, and Cal Payton.
S: HA. I love this. Hsin Vega from In the Company of Shadows (also his father, but I guess that would be cheating), Raymond Rodriguez from Five Boroughs, and Garrett Reid from Strong Signal! He can fix vehicles and that's not a skill I have.
9. Spoilery question to ease my mind. Was the Stephanie that Dominic hooked up with and tried to make amends to, the same Stephanie from Sunset Park? If so, HELL YES! And, how do you pick and choose which characters will make cameos?
S: Yes! I'm so happy that you caught that. :D I fucking love that character. Is it normal to have a crush on my own character? Whatever, I do. She's so fantastic and fun and bold. Anyway, it honestly initially came up at random in Strong Signal with the Raymond cameo. We gave Kai's Chat a cast of personalities and there was one sarcastic wiseguy called BoricuaX1 who just… in my mind was Raymond, and then Megan said the same, and we made it official since Ray is a huge gamer. It was sort of the same with Stephanie--I was thinking of creating another female character when I wrote that scene, but thought it would be fun to use a character that was pre-existing and who could give Dominic a taste of his own medicine.
10. Megan has answered this in the past for us, so Santino, since we are called Lazy Book lovers, what are some things you like to do to veg out when you’re not busy?
S: Honestly these days I veg out by just listening to music and trolling the Internet and social media without the guilt I have about it when I know I should be writing. Also, watching TV. I don't give myself enough TV days.
11. What’s next in the Cyberlove world? Will we get to see Adrianna and Micah get their own spinoff possibly?
M: You are not the only one to ask about Adrianna and Micah! We don’t have anything planned, but we never say never. As far as Cyberlove, we have two more books planned. And the next book follows some of Kai’s beloved Chat members…
S: Those chat members get their own cameo at the end with some definite foreshadowing about what's to come.
12. If you could describe yourself as an author in on GIF, which would it be?
M: I found this under “crazy laugh” and it’s so accurate for me as a writer, haha.
S: this sums it up since I couldn't find one of someone chain smoking and guzzling coffee:
13. Finally, describe Fast Connection in 5 words or less.
Okay here we go.
Fast (is that a cop out? These dudes don’t mess around)
Sexy (like lots)
Funny (Dominic is hilarious)
Frustrating (Luke has a lot of walls to tear down)
Happy (We put the HELL YEAH in Epilogue)
Thank you both for agreeing to the interview. It means so much to me!