Transcript: 5. Charlie Novak

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Full episode transcript

Lee: Welcome to episode number five of the Low Angst Library podcast. Today we have an interview with Charlie Novak.

I’m your resident librarian Lee Blair. This library is your stop for all things light, fluffy, funny, sweet, spicy, and everything in between. I not only published low angst queer romances, but I’m a voracious reader of them too. I created this podcast because I wanted to talk to other authors who write romances with main characters on the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum so that I can learn what draws them to the lighter side of angst, learn more about their books and they’re writing process.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Charlie Novak for this episode. We talked about Charlie’s path from fanfiction to original fiction, inspiration from tabletop RPGs, and trying to write a snowy Christmas book during a brutal heatwave.

Charlie lives in England with her husband and two cheeky dogs. She spends most of her days, wrangling other people’s words in her day job and then trying to force her own onto the page in the evening. She loves cute stories with a healthy dollop of fluff, plenty of delicious sex and happily ever afters because the world needs more of them. Charlie has very little spare time, but what she does have, she fills with baking, Dungeons and Dragons, reading, and many other nerdy pursuits. She also thinks that everyone should have at least one favorite dinosaur.

Before going into the fun interview I had with Charlie, I want to share a note about timing. This interview was recorded about five months ago and due to many tech issues and delays with tech support, it took ages to get this first batch of episodes finished. So when we started talking about Charlie’s upcoming projects, know that the timing is a bit off. So I’ve recorded a brief update at the end to share a bit about what’s going on with their books now as of March 2023.

Okay, onto the interview.

Charlie Novak, thank you so much for hanging out with me in the Low Angst Library. I’m thrilled you’re here.

Charlie: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me along to talk to you about all things awesome and low angst.

Lee: I’m just pumped up to keep talking to people about low angst and have these conversations. Low angst is the best. I mean, everything’s great, but.

Charlie: Yeah. Low angst is my favorite and I absolutely adore it. So I’m so excited.

Lee: I would love to know, just starting right off. What got you into writing books and writing romance specifically?

Charlie: So I have always kind of written on and off throughout my whole life. Mostly kind of fan fiction and just little bits and bobs just throughout my life. A couple of years ago, I say a couple, but it’s more than that now, because time inexorably continues to move and I end up losing all track of time itself.

It would have been about like, five years ago, I got super into the TV show Supernatural. I was also suffering from insomnia at the time. So I ended up joining Tumblr, which is, you know, great for my, uh, my insomnia. But it also meant that I connected a lot with the Supernatural writing community, and I started doing a lot of like, writing challenges. I’d been writing, going back into writing a bit of fan fiction, but that was kind of where I started writing romance was specifically writing, like Destiel fan fiction. It was where I kind of started writing MM romance and romance.

It kind of just went slowly from there. Like I was reading a lot of fan fiction and writing a lot of romance-based fan fiction, which was great because I got to play around with so many tropes and learn how to write smart and all these kinds of fun things and figure out what I really liked writing.

And then somebody I knew- Oh, I picked up a low angst, like novella, like a YA novella about two teenage boys who were like, it was a best friends to lovers with a little misunderstanding. And I mentioned it to somebody I knew that I’d really enjoyed it and she was like, oh, do you like your books with a little more spice like your romances? And I was like, oh, go on what is this? And so she introduced me to Kindle Unlimited and to like MM romance through Kindle Unlimited, which was a game changer. I did not realize this was a thing. I was like, oh my god. It’s like fan fiction, but in books.

RIP my productivity forever, uh, because I can get the Kindle app on my phone. Because I thought you’d had to have a Kindle, which I didn’t have. But then there was the Kindle app on my phone. There was a Kindle Unlimited subscription and there were all these books. And so that was it really. And that was, yeah, about four years ago, I think.

Then I just devoured everything I could read and I kind of really quickly, because I already from reading fan fiction, I already knew the stories I liked to read. So it was really easy to find stuff that I really wanted to read. And I had always wanted to write fiction, like novels and stuff. I had always thought I would write science fiction and fantasy because that was what I read a lot of growing up. It was my big passion, but I had never been able to write more than 500 words. I had all these amazing ideas, but I just couldn’t make them work on paper.

And then I had an idea for an MM romance story. And I suppressed it because I thought just ignore it. It’ll go away. Because you never actually going to be able to write it and it wouldn’t go away and it wouldn’t go away.

So one evening, and it was like September, about four years ago. And I sat down and was like, well, if I just start writing, by the time I hit the bottom of the page, that’ll be it. I’ll never be able to write anymore. It’ll be gone and I’ll never want to do it again. And then that 500 words turned into Breakaway, which is the first novel I published.

I don’t know why, but romance just clicked. It was the genre. It was just like the genre had been waiting for me and there it was. All of these words came spilling out. It was definitely a learning process because I had never written something of that length before. I remember saying to one of my best friends, Toby Wise, who is an MM omegaverse author but who I met through Supernatural fan fiction. We sort of started writing about the same time. I remember saying to Toby, oh, this is not going to work. And then actually being like, I think, I, I think I’ve written a book. I think I’ve written a book. Yeah, that was where it came from. And then I suddenly managed to do it again. And then by that point, I didn’t ever want to stop. And now it’s like three and a bit years later. And I can’t imagine ever stopping. So it was a very long-winded answer. But yeah. Like I started with fan fiction and now I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

Lee: That is amazing. And I love that you have been so prolific in this time because you’ve written a lot of books. Like you’ve got quite the backlist already.

Charlie: It surprises even me, to be honest, because I have a full-time day job as well. So I work full-time and I write. Um, so I am not quite sure. I’m very surprised, when people say to me, how many books have you published? And I have to sit down and count because I know Always Eli was book 10 and that was September last year. And then I have to count forward from Eli, and I think it’s about 15 now.

Lee: Wow.

Charlie: But also I’m trying to work out because I have to also do the mental maths of what has come out what hasn’t come out yet. Does this count? ‘Cause I’ve written it’s just nobody knows, nobody’s read it knows yet.

Well, so

Lee: you mentioned a full-time job. That’s a lot to juggle publishing at any level, plus a full-time job, especially with the quantity that you’re writing. So how do you juggle that? How do you keep them both going?

Charlie: Honestly, I don’t know. ADHD? Uh, it’s a terrible answer but it’s half true. I love writing. It’s the thing that I love doing. And it’s a really nice escape. It’s how I de-stress, even though writing and publishing is very stressful. It’s something I love doing. I can’t seem to stop. I try and take weeks off. I do try and take breaks. I don’t take as many as I should, but I do try and take breaks. But I don’t write at the weekends for example unless I’m on a deadline and I’m behind where I should be.

It has taken a lot of work to kind of figure out the balance. So I write first thing in the morning, for example, before I start my day job. Then I tend to write in the evenings as well, like I’ll sit on the sofa and write and that. It has taken me like two or three years now to figure out the balance to work out how long it takes me to write a book, what my process is. I think, for me, having that streamlined does help. But At the same time I would encourage nobody to do what I do because I walk a very fine line with burnout half of the time. It is definitely a balancing act. It is one I don’t think I will ever get a hundred percent right.

But I was really lucky recently I went to the UK LGBTQ fiction meet in Southampton and there was a really cool panel that a couple of other authors did about how they balance writing with a day job. It was really interesting ’cause it seems like everybody has a slightly different approach. It was very validating to find out that hey we all do things slightly differently. But, you know, it was just really nice to get different people’s approaches and there’s couple of people who use like lots of spreadsheets. I do love a good spreadsheet.

It’s definitely been a balancing act and it still is. I’m very lucky that my boss does know that I write. I don’t write during daytime hours, but he’s very aware that I’m going to GRL in a couple of weeks or that I go to these events and stuff like that, and he’s very supportive which is really helpful.

Lee: Oh, that’s amazing. And I like that validation that the other authors indicate that they do it differently because it seems like if something stops working, then you know there’s other ways you can try. For me, I changed day jobs, I’ve got a full-time day job as well, and I changed jobs about nine months ago. And that completely changed my writing because the intensity and stress for my last job didn’t carry over. And I noticed that that has affected, like just my energy to write in the evenings and weekends. So it’s, it seems so difficult to balance and how that shifts around.

Charlie: It’s definitely such a balance, and I think it catches people by surprise. One of the things that caught me by surprise is that there’s just so much around publishing and writing. Like, you know, you write the book, that’s step one. And then there’s all of the other things that go into it. It can be very time-consuming, especially when you have to balance day job and other things like that.

I’m very lucky I have a very supportive PA, Charity VanHuss, who is just A-plus excellence, and I love her very much. She organizes me when I forget to do things and she makes everything a lot easier. So I’m very lucky that I have a sort of supportive team around me, which does help take the pressure off sometimes when I have like very stressful days or I have big projects at work that just require a little bit more of my mental attention.

Lee: That’s amazing. Oh, I love that. I’m so glad that you’ve got that support.

Charlie: I think it is really important. Yeah, I’m really lucky in that respect.

Lee: Nice.

So I would love to know about low angst specifically. What drew you to writing low angst stories?

Charlie: The world is a terrible, horrible place, and I can’t cope with angst. Um I’m quite an emotional and emotive person. I’m a very empathetic person. I tend to feel emotions quite strongly and I have noticed that if things in books are very stressful then I really struggle. Especially if the world is very stressful and then I’m like, oh I can’t deal with it. I get really overwhelmed and very stressed out. If there is going to be angst in books, I’ll often like on my Kindle app zoom out so you can see like the lay of pages and then I’ll look skim forward to see how long the angst is going to last. And then I’m like, okay, I can deal with this now.

Lee: That is such good idea.

Charlie: I’m also one of these people who doesn’t mind spoilers. So if I have a book that I really want to read, and I’m not sure if it’s going be angsty or not, and I know someone who’s read it, I’m like just tell me all the details. They’re like, oh, do you want spoilers? I’m like, yes. Spoil everything because I want to know all of this stuff going in, and then I know what’s going to happen. And then I feel calm about it because they’ve said, oh, this is going to happen and this is going to happen. But then it resolves and this happens and it’s all fine. I’m like, cool.

And I think one the other things that I love about romance especially is that even if I to deal with the angst a little bit, I know that it’s going to end happily. Which is the big thing for me. I know it’s going to get a happy ever after, and that makes me very happy. But I have still discovered I can’t do a lot of angst in my romance.

And I know there’s some amazing, like angsty authors out there who write the most amazing books and I really want to read them, but I just don’t have the sort of emotional stability or capacity to deal with them because I just know they’re going to absolutely rip my heart out. I’d probably love it. I’d probably be like lying there like sobbing into my Kindle. But, um, at the moment I just need a lot more low angst stuff and it’s, personally, just what I prefer to read.

And I can’t write angst, it turns out. I will write things that I think are angsty and everybody’s like, wow, this is so sweet and fluffy. And I’m like, okay, well clearly writing angst is never going to be my thing. I can do the tiniest, like little bit, like a small blip. I’ve written one book that has maybe a tiny bit more angst in it, but it’s still not that angsty compared to a lot of other people’s books. So it’s just a natural kind of thing for me. I just can’t really deal with a lot of angst, so I don’t write it.

Lee: I’m the same way. And I love that we’ve got this terminology for low angst so that readers can find what they’re in the mood for, and that we can have access to lower stuff when we want it or heavier things we want it. And that’s been really amazing.

Charlie: Yeah, and I think it’s so nice for readers to be able to go and find those things because I think sometimes we all just want something that is like a little bit more of a comfortable, squishy hug in book form. And, you know, sometimes we do want to have our heart ripped out, stomped on and then handed back to us. And we’re like, oh, thank you so much. This is beautiful. Um, but I think sometimes we will just need like the equivalent of a hot chocolate with marshmallows with like cream on the top in book form. And I think that’s what a lot of like low angst books are.

Lee: Yes, I totally agree. And building off of that, what is your definition of low angst?

Charlie: Uh, for me, it’s. It’s just, um, oh gosh, that’s really hard. I think it’s definitely books that have more of a sort of fluffier side, maybe. I think you can still have a third act breakup in a low angst book, but I think often in low angst, if there is a lot of drama in the relationship, it’s not huge. It’s much more easily resolved.

Or I think a lot of the time in low angst, the drama comes from outside of the relationship. So it’s something that your MCs have to overcome together. Even if it’s an issue specifically affecting one of the MCs, it tends to be something that, you know, we’re a couple now, we’re a team, let’s overcome this issue together. Or if it is something that they have to deal with personally, then maybe the other MC helps them deal with that personally, or it’s something that they get some help with that from their friends or their family to overcome.

I think, for me, low angst is it’s a little bit more, it’s the issues that are a little bit more often easily resolved. It’s quite hard to define because I think everybody has slightly different definitions of what low angst is. Um, but I think there’s like certain things that just, you know, for me, they just make it a little bit more low angst. And then you get like the stuff that’s really almost no angst where it’s very sort of soft and it’s really focused on the MCs coming together and that kind of really lovely- I guess like, uh, no plot just vibes, which I adore.

Lee: Yes, I totally agree with you. And it’s been really interesting starting this podcast and talking to people because everyone does kind of have exactly, like you said, a little bit of a different definition of what low angst is. But it feels like a spice scale. What is spicy to one person is going to maybe be like, whoa, too much. Or I guess? That’s spicy? To another person. So difficult.

Charlie: Yeah.

Lee: So I would love to know a little bit about your reading habits before we go into your writing. Well, you’ve talked about this already, so you read primarily low angst, but do you read while you’re writing or do you need to just focus on your writing and not read at all?

Charlie: Um, it depends. Sometimes I’ll read while I’m writing. Sometimes I won’t. If I get towards the end or I’m editing. I don’t tend to read as much because I just need to make sure I have the same voice in my head. If I’m finding writing tricky, I might read a little less because I will sometimes get the writing style of somebody else, especially if they use a different perspective or tense, kind of stuck. And I’ll get stuck in that. But it really varies on my personal stress levels and how much of on a deadline I am. And sometimes I just need to kind of take a break, but sometimes I just I’m like, oh, give me something cozy and fluffy to read. So that I can just de-stress and read something very sweet.

Lee: That’s great. Do you have any low angst book recommendations?

Charlie: Oh my gosh. Uh, so many. I’m just going to be really terrible every time I’m just going to pull my Kindle up because I’m terrible with-

Lee: Oh, I’m the same way. I remember vibes and like sometimes character names, but book titles? I’m so bad at that.

Charlie: Uh, so I mean there are a couple of authors who I just absolutely adore and a few books that I’ve read recently that I just really, really loved. I’ve really enjoyed so far KM Neuhold’s Big Bull Mechanics series, which is just super fun and sort of vibes. And I loved her Four Bears Construction as well. So I’m super happy to see those ones back. I recently read a Play by Heart _by Ariella Zoelle, which is so sweet and just lovely. Just absolutely adorable. I really loved Eden Finley’s Pop Star series. One of my all-time favorites is still Lily Morton’s _Rule Breaker, which is actually at times a little more angsty, but I just love Dylan Gabe. And Lily’s stuff is just always super wonderfully snarky and British and just fabulous and I absolutely love it. I love Annabeth Albert’s books as well. And there are so many amazing low angst books that I’ve read or authors that I read and like, oh God. I’m so going to forget somebody. Um, but there are some amazing stuff. Like Noah Steele’s stuff is just. His is just all vibes and I just love them so much. So that’s always really nice as well.

Lee: Yes. And I’m so excited for Noah’s new release to set up the new series. Oh my gosh. I can’t wait at the time of recording-

Charlie: I’ve read bits of it as well.

Lee: Oh my gosh! I think we’re just a few weeks away. I’m so pumped.

Charlie: It’s going to be so good. It’s so lovely. And I have to mention Carlie Marie as well if you do like a little bit of kink or stuff like that as well. Her stuff is just so sweet and low angst and I really love her books as well. And she’s just a lovely person as well.

Lee: Oh, great. Thanks for all those recommendations.

So, where do you get your ideas and inspiration for your own books?

Charlie: Kind of from all over really. They often will just like pop up. Or I’ll start with one. And then they just unfold into a whole series without me really thinking about it. Where they’ve kind of been simmering away in the back of my brain. And suddenly I’m like, oh, I didn’t mean to do this, but here they all are. They just kind of write themselves in. It’s the side characters. They just write themselves in.

So, for example, like my Roll for Love series and my Kiss Me series. Well, neither of which were intended to be series. They were just meant be standalones. Natural 20 _was supposed to be a standalone. I started writing _Natural 20 and I kind of had got Edward in the background. Just like, oh yeah, he’ll be Jay’s best friend. And then it just unfolded from there. I was like, oh, well, hello. Okay. Hi, nice to meet you all.

And it was the same with the Kiss Me series where I had a couple of rough ideas, but I wasn’t really sure. And then I just started writing Strawberry Kisses and half of it unfolded. I was like, oh, okay, well, hi, nice to meet you all.

Sometimes. It’s just from, you know, things I’ve done that I think, oh, this would be really fun to include in a book. Sometimes it’s places. So last year I went to the beach with my other half and our dog. And I have always loved the sea and the seaside. And I was just paddling. I was like walking along the beach. I was just paddling by myself. And I was like, oh, you know what? I’d love to set a series by the sea. I really should do that at some point. And then I went away and sat and thought about it. And Heather Bay just kind of unfolded. It started unfolding. Like where that might be. It was a little bit more planned, but it was definitely like one of those series that the characters just kind of unfolded themselves. So sometimes it’s just like one small thing just magically sparks off a whole series or world. And all the characters just start introducing themselves, which is quite nice. I’m really lucky in that respect.

Lee: Oh, that’s wonderful. And I was curious, that was one of the things I wanted to know about was how Heather Bay came about. And I love that you were inspired by an actual trip. This series, I adore the series and the books and the novella and everything. They’re so sweet. I love the guys and the friends.

And so we’ve got Like I Wish coming out very soon at the end of the month, right? Toward the end of the month.

Charlie: Yes. Yes. The 27th.

Lee: Oh my gosh. Are you excited?

Charlie: I am very excited. This is probably one of my lowest angst books. It’s definitely just a lot of vibes. A lot of like Halloween and best friend’s brother and adorable baking himbo. It was just so much write. It’s such a lovely- It’s one book I would describe, I think, as a cozy hug in book form, and it’s very sweet. And it was so much fun to write, especially because I wrote it in the summer where here in the UK, we had a heat wave. So we had 40 degrees centigrade heat, and it was unbearably hot. We don’t have AC here.

We don’t any kind of- Our houses are designed to keep heat in. So it was really not fun. And I was writing, trying to write this book in this weather, clinging to my fan. And I’m thinking, oh, autumn vibes. Like Halloween and cold and spooky and cold mornings and crisp mornings and just clinging on to the sort of vibes of that sort of season of October thinking this might put- Like, if I can just imagine it, it’s not going to cool me down, but it might just make me realize that one day that will happen again and I will not be melting on my living room floor.

Lee: Oh my gosh, that had to be so difficult. Trying to write and focus when I could just imagine just like sweating and just trying to keep your hands to the keyboard and oh.

Charlie: I am not very productive in the heat it turns out. I don’t think a lot of people are, but I’ve definitely discovered I’m not the most productive in the heat. I just kind of melt and become a little like sofa gremlin. I’m like, I can’t do anything. My brain is just overheated.

Lee: Oh, that’s so rough. And without air conditioning and the trapped heat. I hope next summer is better.

Charlie: Oh, I hope so too. I hope so. I don’t think it will be, but, um, uh, yeah, it’s definitely not the most fun I’ve ever had trying to write a book, but it was fine. We got there and it was nice to just be able to think about that instead of the fact that I was too hot and everything was horrible.

Lee: Well, I cannot wait to visit the fall and Heather Bay. Oh my gosh. I could just feel the cozy vibes. I’m so pumped.

Charlie: Yeah, it’s really sweet and I really hope people enjoy it. I’m super excited ’cause I started thinking about the next one, book three in the series, just recently, like the past day or two. So I’ve started planning that one as well, which is going to be really fun, I think. At the moment there’s plans for another two books in this areas after that. So five in total. So I’m really excited.

Lee: Yay!

Charlie: I think it’s just gonna be really fun. There’s a couple of other characters from other series that I think are going to make an appearance. Pop up here and there. So I’m super excited to be able to share that, like, next year.

Lee: Oh, I love when that happens. When characters pop up. That’s one of my favorite things as a reader.

Charlie: Yeah, it’s something I really love doing as well. Like I’ve started doing it more and more. It’s just kind of bringing people in because they’re there and they exist. Well, I want to make them a part of my world. Uh, and I don’t like letting them go. So I’m excited to bring them back.

Lee: Well going from that. So you have some favorite characters that you’re bringing to the series. What has been your favorite book or characters to write? I know it’s so hard.

Oh, my gosh.

Charlie: It’s so hard. Um, I do adore Edward from Charisma Check. He’s my cosplaying, soft, snarky, goth boy who- I just, I love him very much. He’s everything I wish I was sometimes. The same with Eli from Always Eli. He’s just so sassy and snarky and I just adore him. I love Patrick from Strawb_erry Kis_ses. He’s my soft baker and- But he’s so no-nonsense, and I love that about him. I love the whole crew from the Pear Tree. They were just so much fun to write. Kit, who’s my very eccentric artist from Extra Time who is- When I wrote him, he was just all over the place and he was just so much fun to write.

And oh, some of the Heather Bay guys. Writing Noah and Spencer was so cute and Lane and Oliver were just so much fun. I know I have a soft spot for both Theo And Laurie from that series and because they’re just such a fun, little, like odd couple of roommates. And they’re just, you know- So I love all of my characters in really different ways. And Fin and Oscar as well. I just love little facets of all of my characters. So it’s really hard to pick favorites because I just love them all in individual ways.

Lee: That makes a lot of sense though. I feel like picking your favorite would be really difficult, like picking child or something.

Charlie: Yeah. Definitely.

Lee: So when thinking about how you create your characters in your stories, can you tell me about your writing process?

Charlie: Um, so, it kind of depends from book to book, but usually I go in with an idea of like who the characters are. I usually start with the characters, some might start with the tropes. If I have tropes that I really want to focus on. Usually I sit down with a pen and paper and I write little character bios. I tend to write them by hand. It’s just like a page each that just says this is their name and their age. And I work out what year they were born, because that will often help with like pop culture references and stuff like that, because it’s just really good to know roughly where people are placed. And then just likes and dislikes and their family and if they know the other MC. Just little bits. Half of that stuff might not make it in and then some of it will get changed.

And then I will start building the story. I usually write in Scrivener and I usually layout 30 cards on Scrivener because it looks like a little corkboard. And then I work out kind of, I break it down, like I where my halfway point is. And then often I’ll just sit and kind of stop. I do plot, but it’s not like very detailed. It’s more like one to three sentences for a chapter. And then sometimes I’ll- When I’m writing, I will adjust as I write because often the second half, last third, it doesn’t quite match up with where the book has then gone. So I’ll adjust, I’ll add chapters as I need to, something maybe takes two chapters that I thought would only take one. Actually, I haven’t got room to put all of this stuff in. This hasn’t quite worked out.

Like if I did this thing that I was planning, it’s actually, it doesn’t fit for these characters. It doesn’t work. They’re not going to react in that way. They’re not going to act or do something because they’ve already agreed that they’ve had a conversation that if, for example like that if they are struggling with something, they’re going to talk to each other like mature adults. Well, actually then it doesn’t make sense for one of them to run away because it does- It’s just like betrayal of the characters, of who they’re becoming over the growth of the story.

I’m very much like, uh, yeah, this is roughly where we’re going. Here be dragons. We’ll maybe see what actually happens when we get there. Um, so I do plot as I go. Like, no, actually this isn’t working and I readjust quite a lot because that works best for me. And then I just usually start, just start writing. I try and write 2000 words a day, Monday to Friday. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I write less, sometimes I might write a little bit more.

And I try and write sort of linearly, but it doesn’t often work. I will get bored. I get stuck. I decide I don’t really want to write that bit. And the great thing about Scrivener is I can just move. I chapter hop. Especially if I get stuck, I’m like I know something needs to go here, but I don’t really know what. So I just tend to flag the chapter and then I can come back to it later and then I can see where the missing parts. I don’t have to go try and find them. I can just flag, okay, that chapter is not finished.

Um, this does frustrate Charity, who beta reads for me sometimes. Especially if I skip smut scenes or I’ve started writing like a little bit, and then I’m just like put in square brackets, finish this later, uh, maybe a bullet point or two about what’s going to happen. And then I’ll send her like chunks to read. And she’ll just be like, Charlie, what goes here? I want this bit. And I’m like, oh yeah, I’ll, I’ll get back to that at some point. I’ll finish that later.

Yeah, I try and go and backfill. The worst part is when I have to get to the end and I’ve written the epilogue and I’m like, yeah, I’m done except I’m not because I now have to go and backfill all of the bits that I skipped. I try and do less of that now. I’ll try and get them backfilled before I write the epilogue and that, but it doesn’t always work. Which is a bit. Uh, which we barely get to the end. Oh, come on. Why did you not do this earlier? Oh, that was because earlier I didn’t want to do it.

Lee: Those brackets. I swear, they’re going to be the death of me because in the moment it’s like, oh, I’ve got the freedom. I can, I don’t want to stop the flow and, and Google this, or find a word for this or fill in the scene. I’m just going to leave a bracket. No big deal. 500 brackets later at the end. Okay. I really set myself up to fail here.

Charlie: Um, and then you have to try and find them all. Or if I put names or dates and then we’re like, oh, now I actually have to make sure that this all matches up timeline wise.

Lee: That’s always so rough. I use Plottr and try to kind of fill things in on there as I go, but then I do the same thing where I’ll leave a bracket, like make sure this timeline makes sense. So it’s almost like I have to do a pass read again, like, okay. We’re just checking dates and timeline here. Oh my God.

Charlie: I have actually started doing that the last couple where things take place over specific dates or have a specific time. The last couple of books that I’ve written, I have gone and when I do my self edit before it goes off to my editor, I have a separate document open and it’s like, okay, well, if we’re starting on this date, chapter one is this day. And then, cause I tend to- for my books. Because I personally find it easier. And then I can track when things happen.

So I’ve started making like proper timelines now, right? And I do have a big spreadsheet that I have a public version of, and I had to have a personal version of, because my personal version has books on that haven’t been released yet. Of my Charlieverse of when books happen and take place and what overlaps, where and what happens because technically some of my books in timescales haven’t happened yet and it’s because of where other books happened.

So for example, we’re currently in the middle of the timeline for Always Eli because of the way that the Roll for Love series played out. Because it was meant to be a standalone. There is a real date in January, I think it’s January 2020, when the Lost World opens. But then time passes and in some of the other books, time passes and, and various things happen. And to make the timeline match up, Always Eli doesn’t start until September 2022. The book came out last year. Oh So Oscar technically doesn’t take place until April-May ’23. So some of my books, like although they’ve been published, technically in my own version of the timeline haven’t happened yet. And it’s because I’ve used real world dates. So I have slightly shot myself in the foot with that. So there is a terrible downside to using real-world calendars sometimes.

Lee: I love that you keep track of it. What I’m starting to find as I’m building a series is setting the epilogue will take place after future books in the series. So then trying find that balance of, okay, so what I’m referencing in the epilogue of this book happens after the next book takes place. And so what to reference, what not to. So I feel like I’ve always kind of building that master series timeline to okay, the prologue for this one, or this book takes place here. This epilogue takes place here.

Charlie: Yeah. Yeah. It’s it does get really tricky and I’m sure I’ve made mistakes. But it’s, uh, we’re just going to roll with it, which will be fine. We’ll just roll with it. Yeah. It’s fine.


Lee: Speaking of roll…buh-dum-ch… your Roll for Love series. So you’ve mentioned in your bio that you do have some real-life nerdy pursuits, which I absolutely love. Do you draw on your real life pursuits to help you create when you were working on the Roll for Love series characters and their interests?

Charlie: Yeah, absolutely. I am a big fan of tabletop RPGs. So at the moment currently, uh, I play two different games of Dungeons and Dragons and one game of Starfinder, which is a space-based role, a role play game. So, yeah, I am a massive nerd. I have more dice than is actually necessary, but I’m going to keep buying more dice because you can never have too many. And so I drew on a lot of like little, real world things. A lot of in the Roll for Love series when they play various games or scenarios, a lot of those have actually happened in real life. There’s a couple that were made up. There are a couple that are incredibly real because they were just so wonderful that I couldn’t not immortalize them in fiction.

The best example is in the book Proficiency Bonus, where they play a game of Honey Heist by Grant Howitt. It’s a one-shot so you play in one session. A lot of the characters and a lot of the stuff that happens in that game in the book happens during a game of Honey Heist I played the Christmas I was writing Proficiency Bonus, including Florida Bear. Which the character Izzy plays in the book, um, and which my husband invented. And did some of the stupidest stuff. He basically brought Florida Man to life, but in bear form. And it was the most ridiculous game of any kind of RPG I’d ever played. I just howled. We just like all were just like crying with laughter for about five hours.

And Florida Bear was just too good not to immortalize in fiction so I had to write him into a book including the bit where he turns to someone and says, Hey, you’re the closest thing I know to an American. When I allowed to start chanting USA. Which is something that actually happens because we were playing with a couple of Americans. My husband is British. His character was not. And we were playing with a couple of Americans.

We were doing this mini game where having like a grocery cart race around the store, like around this abandoned store. And yeah, his character got slightly in front and he asked one of the Americans we were playing with, when can I start like obnoxiously chanting USA? And friend was like, well, you’re about an inch in front, so I’d say about now. Uh, I just couldn’t resist. It was like one of those- It’s like I have to remember that this happens, so I’m putting it in book. Yeah.

And things like the Edward walking the red carpet for the film premiers. I knew that happened. But a friend of mine is a cosplayer for fun. And she had taken part in one of the Star Wars premiers. So she read that for me to check for accuracies. So thank you Jody for that because she did an amazing job. So it’s inspired by a lot of things that I love personally. Like I’m a big fan of small bookshops and nerdy and cosplay and Pokemon and pink hair. All of these kinds of soft things.

Lincoln, the city of Lincoln, it was my local city growing up. I went to university there. It’s a tiny city that is absolutely beautiful and I wanted to set a book outside of London. So I said, well, I’m going to take it to Lincoln because it’s the perfect place for small bookshops and cobble. It’s got cobbled streets and stuff. So, it was sort of really inspired by things that I loved. Because I just wanted to write a love letter in a way to being a nerd and to all of the things that I loved. And that’s where that series really came from.

Lee: That’s incredible. I love that so much. And using the real life gaming examples. Oh my gosh. Just endless, endless fodder for your books.

Charlie: Yeah, pretty much.

Lee: That’s so great. And a departure from that, you had a recent release, Couture Crush. That’s how you say that, right? Couture. I feel like it’s one of those words-

Charlie: Ah, yeah. Couture. Couture.

Lee: Couture, okay. It’s one of those words where I’ve always read it, but I don’t know how often I’ve actually heard it aloud. So I wasn’t sure how to say it. So that was part of a shared universe series called Model Love. How did this come about?

Charlie: Um, so much earlier this year, Colette Davison, messaged me on Facebook and said, Hey, I’m looking at putting this contemporary shared world together around models. Do you think you’d be interested in taking part? And at the time I had seen on Instagram there’s a bridal magazine in the UK called Rock and Roll bride, which is an alternative wedding magazine. And they used for I think their January-February issue, they used their first male model on the cover. He was wearing a very beautiful wedding dress and the editorial- I’d seen some of the editorial photos.

And I just remember thinking, oh my gosh, wouldn’t that be a lovely character for a story? And then Colette was like, oh, hey look, I’m looking at like organizing the shared world about models. And I was like, well, I guess, I guess I’m going to write this now. Um, so it was really lucky to be invited with some lovely authors. And then we all through Facebook sorted out a lot of the details about the agency, what the agency was like. And when we were all writing, um, we’d often pop little details in to the group we were using being like, oh, hey, I’ve just described the agency like this. Has anybody thought of this detail? Ooh, what about this character? So, it was adding little shared details as we went around our own stories, which was really fun.

Lee: That’s exciting. I love that idea of collaboration and the group coming together to make up those details. That’s great.

Charlie: Yeah, it was really nice. It was really fun and we got to play around and think about where things might be or- and obviously it’s an international agency as well. So we did have some flexibility to set it in different locations, which was really nice.

Lee: Oh, that’s fun. Nice. And so-

Charlie: It was really fun.

Lee: Good. And you had that come out recently. You’ve got the next Heather Bay book coming on the 27th. So what else can readers get excited about in terms of upcoming projects?

Charlie: So I have a Christmas novel coming out that I have just sent off to my editor this week. I just finished it this week. Um, and I haven’t actually talked about it publicly, so I’m gonna do now. Hey, I may have shared the details, by the way, when this comes out. But I don’t know. So I have a Christmas novel coming out hopefully at the end of November. It is called Up to Snow Good. And-

Lee: I love it.

Charlie: It’s so much fun. So a couple of years ago I wrote a story for the Prolific Works Winter Wonderland giveaway, which was called Snow Way in Hell. And in that, the main character Quinn has a brother called Max. This is Max’s story because Max was just not going away. And I am in a loving way gonna blame Carlie Marie for this because she is a really good friend of mine and she was like, you know what? Max needs a story. I was like, yeah, I know Max needs a story. I’ll write Max’s story eventually.

And then earlier this year I was talking about- ’cause I wrote my first Christmas novel last year, which was Spiced Kisses. And I was like, well, I wonder if I’ll do another Christmas one this year. And Carly was like, you know, Max is still waiting. And we ended up just bouncing some ideas around. And I was like, well, I guess I’m going to write this at some point. And then I got to the summer and I was like, well, I guess I can- I’m going to guess- If I’m going to write this, I need to get a cover sorted.

So this one has an illustrated cover. My very first illustrated cover, done by the amazing Lauren Dombroski. So beautiful. And I commissioned the cover. And then I said to Carly’s well, I guess I’m going to have to write the book now.

So, this is Max’s book and Max is a golden retriever. Well, he’s more like actually like a spaniel, like a very excitable Cocker spaniel in human form. And that plus a hurricane. And he’s a banker. He’s very sweet and well-meaning, um, he just doesn’t always necessarily go at things the right way. He just kind of like, yes, yes, I can do this. I’ll help out. Uh, so he starts the book deciding that it’s his brother and his best friend who are a couple. George and Quinn. It’s their anniversary coming up, so they’re going on a winter holiday together. He is going to plan them the perfect anniversary. Really can’t be that hard. Can it? He’s got four days. It’s not that hard. In December. Yeah.

Lee: Oh!

Charlie: Turns out planning a perfect anniversary four days beforehand is a lot harder than he thinks. Especially when he runs across chocolatier Luca, who is very busy and very stressed, especially because one of his members of staff, Tony, has taken himself out of action by breaking various things showing off on the slopes.

So he and one other member of staff have got to run a chocolatiers. Uh, chocolaterie two weeks before Christmas. So that’s kind of where we start. Max turns up and, uh, they don’t have the best start ever, but then things end up going from there and it’s really fun. I had so much fun writing it.

Poor Luca spends half the time is a bit like, I’m not really sure what’s going on, but okay. Fine. Max turns up and is like, hey I hear you’re understaffed. Let me help out. And Anya, who’s Luca’s other member of staff is like, yeah, this sounds great. And Luca’s like, do I get a say in this? Apparently not. Okay. Fine. Um,

So I had a lot of fun writing. It’s very fluffy and slightly silly and low angst. And I hope people enjoy it because Max is just, yeah, he’s kind of a hurricane Cocker Spaniel who just doesn’t really think things through, but has a very good heart. But he’s a little bit up to no good. So yeah, that’s coming out at the end of November.

So I’ve had three back to back releases, which is quite intense. Then taking a break because the next Heather Bay will be February. But, yeah, it’s been a lot of fun.

Lee: Nice. Oh my gosh. I am so excited to read this. I am already filling my TBR with Christmas books I read last year that I really love just to get myself in the mood in October for when the Christmas books start hitting in November. I’m so pumped.

Charlie: I think there’s going to be some amazing Christmas books out this year as well. I’m so excited. I know a couple of people who are writing them and I’m just like, oh, this is going to be so many good Christmas books. My TBR is just going to be absolutely full. So I’m so excited.

Lee: Yes, a cup of cocoa and a Kindle and just read through them. I’m so pumped.

Charlie: Perfect. Perfect.

Lee: So what can people expect from a Charlie Novak story?

Charlie: Um, probably the best way to describe them is a lot of hearts, some humor and some heat as well. They’re pretty spicy. They’re very heartwarming and I hope that people go away feeling like they’ve had a laugh, had a smile, made some new friends. Probably curse me out for the amount of delicious food that I write in my books. And just come away with a bit of a smile on their face.

Lee: Ah, that’s fantastic. And where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?

Charlie: If you go to my website, which is, you can sign up for my newsletter. There’s some of my social media links on there as well. You can find me on Instagram and on Twitter. Both @CharlieNWrites. I am on Facebook and I have a Facebook group, which is called Charlie’s Angels. If you are in there when I post every morning, I do or say “good morning, angels.”

Lee: I love it. It’s so fun. I’m in there and it’s great and I love when other authors come in and reference that too when they’re doing their guest visits. It’s so fun. It makes me think of, I think AJ Truman did that when he was in there for his Ancient History release. There was something in there that just made me laugh.

Charlie: Yeah. I couldn’t resist. So my angels.

Lee: Well, thank you so much for being here. It has been an absolute treat to talk to you.

Charlie: Thank you so much for having me and for letting me just ramble on and for some amazing questions. It’s been so much fun hanging out with you.

Lee: Thank you. And we’ll have the links to Charlie’s social media and everything in the show notes.

It was so much fun to talk with Charlie. I was also lucky to meet her at the Gay Romance Lit Retreat and it was so cool that she took a trip across the ocean for that event. As I mentioned earlier, I want to give an update on Charlie’s books. Two books in their Heather Bay series have come out since we chatted, Like I Wished and Like I Needed. Heather Bay book four, Like I Pretended will be out in July. Up to Snow Good also came out in November. This book and Like I Wished are available in audio, and the audio of Like I Needed will be available at any time. I included a link to Charlie’s Amazon page in the show notes.

Thanks for joining me the Low Angst Library. I hope you enjoyed this interview. Is there an author of low angst queer romance that you’d like me to interview? There’s a link in the show notes and on with a guest suggestion form. If you’re an author writing low angst queer romance, there’s a self-suggestion form in the show notes and on the website as well.

A major goal of mine with this podcast is to have guests who write main characters in romance novels representing all queer identities and your suggestions will help me with that.

If you’d like to financially support the podcast to help offset the cost of hosting, editing software and transcription for accessibility, you can buy me a coffee. The link is in the show notes for that. And other ways you can support the podcast or by sharing episodes with your reader friends, leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen. And also sharing social media posts. The show is on social media @LowAngstLibrary.

Until next time, keep reading.

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