A chat with BJ Irons, author of The Cul-de-Sac and Rippling Waters
Join us as we discuss the LGBTQ+ writing community, Matt Bomer and cathartic writing!
Andrew: Thank you so much, BJ, for joining us in our first in our interview series with LGBTQ+ authors. Firstly, can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
BJ: Sure. I am new to the author world. I currently work in educational leadership and I am also a graduate level college professor. Writing LGBTQ+ works was a fun hobby and "escape" for me from my busy life. Then, I had a few friends read some of my first work and they really pushed me to actually publish my novels. So that's where I'm at today. One of my favorite hobbies is having Wednesday wine nights and watching all things Bravo!
Andrew: Can you tell us a little about Rippling Waters, your most recent book?
BJ: Yes, I would love to! Rippling Waters is my second novel (first was The Cul-De-Sac). This gay psychological-thriller (with plenty of steamy scenes) follows the story of a gay married couple, Scott and Garrett Pedrick. Their marriage has been very tumultuous and on the rocks for the past few years. They decide to move to a new home thinking that a change of scene would bring back the sparks they once had. Their new home has a pool and therefore, they decide to hire a pool boy. Little did they know that this new pool boy, Logan Rippling would completely change their lives. As to whether or not it's for the better or worse, you'll have to read it to find out!
Andrew: What is your favourite scene in Rippling Waters, and why?
BJ: This is a bit tricky. There are so many scenes that I love! I had a blast writing this book. However, if I did have to pick a scene, it would have to be the summer pool party scene. It's already a fun and crazy chapter from Scott's point of view, but then when you re-read about the summer bash from Logan's point of view, it's crazy to see all the drama and things that went on at the party you weren't privy to, from Scott's angle. Let me just say, I've had my fair share of gay speedo pool parties in my life and they were one hell of a time!
Andrew: What inspired you to become an author?
BJ: Definitely my voice and experiences as a gay man. It was about 1-2 years ago that I read my first gay (MM) novel, which was HIM by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. My good friend, Cate, recommended it to me, and I fell in love with the story #Wesmie. After some further research, I was actually quite surprised that most of the MM market has straight female authors at its base. The amount of gay male authors in the genre is not as prominent. So, I definitely wanted my personal experiences as a gay mine to shine through these stories, especially the sex scenes. No discredit to any of the many amazing and talented straight female MM authors or anything! But, it would be nice to see more MM stories told from gay men with actual real life experiences. Their voices need to be heard! I then had so many fun gay-themed story concepts and ideas in my head that I decided to put my fingers to the keyboard strokes and type them out. The rest is history...well, recent history that is, since I'm a fairly new LGBTQ+ author.
Andrew: For most writers, it would be a dream come true for their writing to make it to either the big or small screen. What songs would feature in Rippling Waters if it became a movie, and who would you like to star in it?
BJ: Oh, I love this question! Here are some of the songs I would love featured in Rippling Waters if it were a movie:
Dream a Little Dream - in the style of Nicole Kidman
I See Red by Everybody Loves an Outlaw
Moving in Stereo by the Cars (especially for that scene of Logan strutting across the yard into the party)
Never Knew Love Like This Before by Stephanie Mills
Ride It by Regard
Swish Swish by Katy Perry
Take the Crown by CRMNL
Twisted Games by Night Panda
Wildfire by Tinashe
Those are some of the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure I would definitely add more!
As for actors to star in the movie, I'm thinking:
Cheyenne Jackson or Luke Evans as Scott
Matt Bomer as Garrett (scruffy version of Matt Bomer of course!)
As for Logan, this one is a bit trickier, but I'm leaning towards either Jonathan Bennett or Brandon Flynn.
Andrew: You mention that your personal experiences as a gay man have contributed to your novels. Do you find it cathartic writing this way, or does it bring up some more difficult memories?
BJ: Yes! It is very cathartic to add my own personal experiences into my stories but with a dramatic twist. As I'm writing some of the scenes, I often find myself busting out loud in laughter, remembering how crazy and ridiculous some of them were in real life for me. For instance, in Rippling Waters, the pool party scene and some of the sex scenes (I won't say which ones *insert winky face*) have happened in my life. Many of the scenes from my first book, The Cul-De-Sac have also happened to me being a gay male moving into a lavish suburban neighborhood. The "property line" dispute between Bennett and Jonathan Candor...totally experienced that! Going to the male poker nights and lady bunco nights in the neighborhood...been there done that! So, it's always a pleasure to put my own spin on those events into my literary works!
I try not to view revisiting some of my former memories as "difficult," per say. Even those that were just absurd or outlandish and sometimes offensive, you just have to laugh about them and move onward. Yeah they suck at the time, but to those who were ever ignorant to me, I even laugh about them and just how juvenile and narrow-minded they may have been. Being in the field of educational leadership, I've learned to often "pick and choose my battles." That practice has often transferred over into my social life as well. At the end of the day, yeah, some people should totally be called out on their shit and poor behavior especially those who do make derogatory and homophobic comments and remarks. But most of the time, I smile and just realize how much better my life has been compared to theirs. Seeing someone else's insecurities about me, only add to my own securities, if that makes sense? Actually let me copyright that quote...might add it to my next novel!
Andrew: I considered not adding that last line to this interview and stealing that quote for myself! Your debut novel, The Cul-De-Sac, discusses prejudices and problems that are often faced by the LGBTQ community. Is this based on somewhere you have lived yourself, and have you faced such problems?
BJ: Completely! I sort of alluded to this in an earlier question, but yes. I know the experiences of the main characters Lucas and Bennett all too well, navigating the gay stereotyping and prejudice that comes with moving into a hoity-toity suburban neighborhood and cul-de-sac. Of course, I exaggerate many of those problems in the novel, but that's because it's a book that needs more of a flare for the dramatics!
Andrew: On the contrary to this, what is the most positive experience you’ve had as an LGBTQ author?
BJ: Definitely the family and network I've built with other LGBTQ authors. So many other LGBTQ authors have supported the release of my books and works, and I gladly do the same for them. We're just a small LGBTQ literary family and community that feed off of the positive energy of one another. That's honestly what has propelled me to continue writing more novels at the rate I am. Their positivity gives me so much motivation.
Andrew: What’s the best book you’ve ever read – LGBTQ or otherwise?
BJ: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Usually, it's very difficult for me to read a book in one or two sittings. Because of how crazy my work schedule is, I often find myself reading for 1-2 hours late at night before I go to bed. However, I started this book on a Thursday night and made sure to keep my weekend open to read the rest of it for 7-8 straight hours on Saturday. The storytelling in this book is absolutely phenomenal! Evelyn Hugo is such a powerful protagonist. I could go on for days about how amazing and wonderful the book is. If you haven't read it yet, you are totally missing out. I highly recommend you bump it to the very top of your TBR list.
Andrew: What’s the best piece of advice you could offer to other LGBTQ authors?
BJ: Speak your truth! Hide nothing! Sometimes I question some of the scenes I write in my book, wondering if someone might be offended or if the scene is just a bit "too crazy." Then I realize, as a gay man, who was closeted in high school and during my freshman year at college, I should never hide anything, anymore. My books aren't meant for everyone and we're never going to please EVERYONE with our writing, and that's okay. Focus on the positive comments you get from readers and reviewers. Don't let those 1 and 2 star reviews bring you down. There will always be some. Don't let it eat at you. Grab a glass of wine and toast to those who enjoyed and celebrated your work.
Andrew: What are you currently reading?
BJ: So, I recently finished the Netflix Series, Emily in Paris and fell in love with the show. So, I was determined to find a book to read that is similar to that story. I landed on a book called Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. It's more of a YA novel, which isn't my typical genre I go too, but it's super cute and good so far.
Andrew: What are you working on currently?
BJ: Although I have 2 novels now published, I am currently working on my 6th manuscript. This one is definitely my longest and darkest novel. Already at a little over 90k+ words with a few chapters left to go. It's a gay psychological suspense and horror novel involving a serial killer. I definitely had to dig deep and go into a dark place to tell part of the story from the gay killer's POV. Also, meanwhile, I'm going through and working with my developmental editor on my other works that are soon to be published. Here is a rough timeline of my upcoming releases and their genres:
Book #3 - Gay MM Greek Mythology - November 2021
Book #4 - Gay MM Coming of Age Story - May 2022
Book #5 - Gay MM YA Christmas Story - November 2022
Book #6 - Gay MM Psychological Thriller/Horror - May 2023 (maybe sooner)
Andrew: What have you missed the most during the pandemic, and were there any positive experiences for you?
BJ: Socializing! I am a total social butterfly and love going out to bars, lounges, and restaurants with my friends over appetizers and cocktails. I am soooo glad I'm now starting to get back into the swing of things with that.
As for positive experiences during the pandemic. Writing! I started writing my first novel, The Cul-De-Sac in July of 2020. I can't say for certain if the pandemic was a contributing factor to my explorations for writing LGBTQ+ novels, but I do think it had some sort of influence (even if a small one) on me pursuing my hobby of writing and bringing my works to fruition.
Andrew: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
BJ: Some people may be surprised to learn this, but on average, it takes me 2-4 weeks to fully write a novel. I sometimes can't even believe it myself, with how quickly I can come up with some of this stuff, but I manage to do it! All I need is a glass of red wine or two and it gets my writing juices flowing!
Also, one other thing I want to add, is for anyone who has ever contemplated on writing a novel or ever dreamed of being the author of a book, I hope you do pursue that goal! You may be worried about how much time you have on your hands, or that you can't picture yourself being able to write a 200+ page work, but throw these worries to the side. If you have a story that you think is important or entertaining to share with the world, then share it!
Thank you so much, BJ, for speaking with us. You can find BJ online here:
And you can purchase his books here:
The Cul-de-Sac: https://www.amazon.com/Cul-Sac-B-J-Irons-ebook/dp/B08PD89D33
Rippling Waters: https://www.amazon.com/Rippling-Waters-B-J-Irons-ebook/dp/B094RFSY6K