When Jadette asked me to do this post, I wasn't sure which book I'd talk about. They all have stories. But of all the books and stories I've written with the most in-depth background story, it would have to be THE VIRGIN BILLIONAIRE. And it probably has something to do with the fact that I didn't want to write it at all.
When I was contracted to write THE VIRGIN BILLIONAIRE (TVB) I was also contracted to write ten other novels. TVB was published with Ravenousromance.com, and the process there is often a collaboration between author and publisher. In other words, the publishers will brainstorm several times a year and come up with concepts they think will work. And then they will contact me and we'll talk about whether or not I can produce these concepts. It's a process that works well for me.
The books I was contracted to do at the time were all titles that didn't have a set order. The publisher didn't care which I wrote first. As long as I delivered on the deadline it was up to me to choose. And out of all the titles, the one book that really stumped me was TVB. I wasn't sure where to go with that title, so I kept putting it off, hoping I'd find my inspiration somewhere. It didn't happen. When I finished one book, I'd skip over TVB and move on to the next title. And this loomed in the back of my mind for almost one full year. I almost asked if I could drop TVB and do another title.
But I didn't. When all the contracted books were finally submitted and released, I sat down and wondered how the hell I was going to write a m/m romance about a virgin billionaire. The idea for the book finally came to me the next day when I went out for an early morning run. I'd already been writing books loosely based on storylines from hetero romance films. The reason I did this...and still do sometimes...is because I've always felt there was a huge void in pop culture when it comes to LGBT material. A good deal of what is, and has always been, published by LGBT publishers is on the dark or quirky/arty side, and tends to be on the fringes of the mainstream, so to speak. And I've always been more interested in pop culture. I wanted to write a book/books that were concepts I would like to read for a change. I also wanted that happily-ever-after ending.
So I decided to loosely base TVB on the old movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. Partly because I love the basic storyline, and partly because Truman Capote, the author, was one of the most notorious gay men of his time. Though he was never open about this as in "coming out," it was "understood" and he came off as a cross between a great artist and the court gesture for all his wealthy "swans." The wealthy "swans" were the powerful women in society he "courted" for many years. They found him amusing and colorful; he gossiped and dished with them just like one of the girls. Only he lived on the fringes and never quite fit in with them. In the end, he died in the home of one of Johnny Carson's ex-wives in a guest room.
I've read a lot about Truman Capote, but anything else I say would be speculation and I don't want to do that. And the gay community itself is very diversified, so it's hard to make generalized statments. But I can say that I've always been the complete opposite of Truman Capote, speaking as a gay writer and a gay man, and I took that into consideration while I was writing TVB. I've always been open and I've always used my own name in public with my work; I wanted the characters in TVB to be the same way. And I wanted to write a book with gay male characters that were like all the gay men I've known all my life, not just like the gay men we see on TV and in movies.
I also based one minor character in TVB on someone I know. Though this isn't a major character and this character never actually is involved in any scenes in the book, she is talked about often. The fictional character is a woman named "Elena" who runs a m/m romance blog in France. I based her on my good friend, Elisa Rolle, who runs a blog similar to the one in the book in Italy. "Elena's" blog in the book is the perfect escape for Luis Fortune, in the same way Tiffany's was the perfect escape for Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I didn't want Luis to be a one of the girls, so to speak. But I did think it was important for him to have that one perfect place to go where nothing could ever harm him. And I found that with "Elena's" blog and used it as a sort of literary device throughout the entire VB series. I also wanted to make the book current, and move it into this century with respect to technology and the interwebs. And I think we all have a favorite blog or web site we go to whenever we need to escape. I know I do. I have a feeling Jadette's blog will be one of them for me.
At the time, when I submitted TVB, I never thought the book would become a series. So far, I've written seven or eight (I'm not sure) books about Jase and Luis and they've all been motivated by the very first VB book. These are all stand alones and readers don't need to read them in any consecutive order. But I've worked hard to maintain the original goal with the first book. Which is to keep it real, with respect to what many gay men are really like, in ways that Truman Capote would never have been allowed to do during his time.
Luis Fortune spends his nights escorting affluent older gentleman to parties, nightclubs and restaurants. And though he's not officially a rent boy because there's never any physical contact, he is paid well. He charms them with his looks and his carefree attitude. He makes them smile by laughing at their jokes and listening to their dull stories. But Luis is only doing this temporarily, until the right older man asks him to settle down. He's looking for something he can depend on, and until he finds it he won't even give the stray dog that followed him home a name.
While Luis is searching for money and security, he takes comfort in reading a blog written by a woman in France he's never met, Elena's Romantic Treasures and Tidbits. She adores gay men and romance, and she posts artistic photos, wonderful stories, and endearing posts about gay men that bring Luis a sense of comfort and security on his darkest, scariest days.
Jase Nicholas is a forty year old high-profile billionaire who can pass for thirty. He's spent the first half of his life running from the fact that he's gay. And now he wants to find out what he's been missing all those years. So he tells his family and friends he's going on a pilgrimage for a couple of months, and then he drops out of sight so he can come to terms with his sexuality and finally lose his gay virginity. But instead of going on a pilgrimage, he rents a small apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. He changes his appearance and plunges into a world of young gay men. And when one of the young men he meets is Luis Fortune, his life is never the same again...
When the taxi dropped Luis off at 95th Street and Riverside Drive, the sun had just begun to rise. He pulled a twenty-dollar bill from his white dinner jacket, handed it to the driver, and took a quick look at his face in the rearview mirror. Though his dark beard was beginning to show, his green eyes were still wide and clear and his short brown hair was as neat as it had been ten hours earlier. If he hadn't been wearing a formal tuxedo, it would have looked as though he'd just had eight solid hours of sleep and he was on his way to the office. At twenty-one years old, he could get away with staying out all night.
He told the driver to keep the change, and jumped out of the taxi with a spring in his step and carefree smile on his face. He jogged across the street without looking both ways and ignored the honking horns, as if the passing cars were merely an inconvenience. When one car screeched to a stop to avoid running him down, he didn't even turn his head. At the edge of the park, he walked up to a food vendor who was setting his cart up for the day. He bought a hot pretzel and a small bottle of Virgin Alaskan Spring Water, his favorite brand.
He took a large bite from the pretzel and walked over to an empty park bench with a view of the river. Before he sat down, he checked to be sure the seat was dry. It was one of those dewy mornings in early May, without a cloud in the sky or a breeze in the air, and he didn't want a wet stain on his tuxedo. He suspected that by noon, it would be warm and sunny enough to wear shorts and a T-shirt. The joggers and power walkers had already begun to infiltrate the park. While they passed Luis on the bench, with their arms bobbing and their red faces pinched and sweaty, Luis pulled out his iPhone and opened his bottle of water.
Then he crossed his legs and shifted his weight to the right. He lifted the phone, pressed an application, and sighed out loud. When his favorite Web site appeared on the small screen, he smiled and held the phone closer. There was a brand-new post on his favorite blog that would help him get through the rest of the day. This particular blog, for Luis, was like a dose of medicine. All he had to do, whenever he felt jaded or disappointed, was to look at the familiar banner at the top of the Web site and his heart stopped racing.
Elena's Romantic Treasures and Tidbits was a web site created by a beautiful young woman in France named Elena who had a passion for artistic photos of handsome gay men. Some of the photos were nudes; others were either partially or fully clothed. But they all had one thing in common: a dramatic, imaginative flair that couldn't be reproduced anywhere else. Whether it was vintage or brand new, each photo was one of a kind. There were days when she posted three or four new photos, and each one had a short, but inspiring, blog post to accompany it. Sometimes she even posted reviews about gay books she'd read, with unusual book covers. Though she was a straight woman, everything about the blog was oriented toward gay men and the people who loved and appreciated exquisite photos of gay men. Luis had been following Elena's blog for two years, and he'd never been disappointed by anything she'd posted.