Transcript: 13. Susan Scott Shelley and Chantal Mer
Full episode transcript
Lee: Welcome to episode #13 of the Low Angst Library podcast. Today, we have an interview with co-authors, Susan Scott Shelley and Chantal Mer.
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 publish 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 who are queer to learn what draws them to the lighter side of angst, learn more about their books and their writing processes.
First, I want to think Jen and Frances for supporting the podcast through Buy Me a Coffee. Thank you so much! If you’re interested in contributing to help offset the costs of recording, editing, transcription, and hosting for the podcast, you can buy me a coffee through the link in the show notes.
In the last episode I mentioned that I was participating in the Love is All charity anthology, volume six. And guess what? It’s out now. It’s available on all major retailers and I’ll put a link in the show notes. The anthology has 10 brand new stories and all proceeds go to three organizations that are currently supporting and defending LGBTQIA2S+ rights. Those organizations are the Unity Coalition, Out Memphis and Lucie’s place. The anthology is only available for a limited time. So I hope you check it out while it’s still out.
In addition to my novella that’s part of that anthology, called Up My Alley. I love puns and this has a recreational bowling in it, so I had to name it Up My Alley. I’ve been working on expanding and a novella that I released a year ago as part of the MM class of 2021-2022 group promotion.
That project had a word count limit. But for the book that I wrote, I really wanted to share a bit more in that story. So I’ve added about four new chapters and some other bits throughout. It’s called Perfect Blend. And it set during Pride month and has an amateur drag show, a high school crush come back as an adult and a secret online identity. I’ll be publishing that later in July. So I will keep you posted.
Let’s get to the interview with Susan and Chantal. It was so much fun to do my first co-author interview. We talked about writing sports romance, a love for found family and the origin of the Love is All anthology and so much more.
USA Today bestselling author Susan Scott Shelley writes romances with heat and heart that celebrate love without limits. Enormous mugs of coffee and tea make her happy, as does reading romance novels and binging episodes of her favorite British TV shows. Susan also works as a professional voiceover artist, and while she’s definitely a city girl, she likes being out in nature as often as possible. A fan of mythology, word games and hockey, she lives in Philadelphia with her husband and has yet to meet a plant. She hasn’t. Wanted to take home. Same as Susan, same.
Chantal Mer never set out to write books. Yet, here she is, and she’s having a blast. Happily ever afters for everyone make her heart sing. And when she’s not writing, Chantal can be found walking her adorable dog, going to musical theater with her daughter, observing the night sky with her husband and his telescope, and learning about the latest advances in video games with her son. Give her a book and a glass of wine, and she’s in her happy place. Chantal lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, two teens and her sweet pup. Miss Toffee. Cutest name.
Susan Scott Shelley and Chantal Mer, thank you so much for hanging out with me in the Low Angst Library. I’m really happy you’re both here.
Chantal: Thanks for having us.
Susan: Thank so much for having us.
Lee: This is gonna be exciting. I can’t wait to learn more about your books and co-writing. You’re my first guests who do co-writing, so this is gonna be so fun to learn about that process.
Lee: I would love to know right off the bat from each of you, what got you into writing books and writing romance specifically? Whoever wants to take it first.
Susan: Okay, I’ll go.
Chantal: Go, Susan. Go.
Susan: So, I started writing probably about, God, I don’t even know how old I am now, but like at least 10 years ago. Cuz my first book came out in 2014, so add four years prior to that. I’ve always read romance, like I just, I like happy endings. I don’t like when things don’t work out for people. And just after about a decade or less or around that of reading them, like I had these stories in my head and I was like, I wanna give this a try. More love is good. Got myself a little netbook and just started throwing characters on a page. So that’s about it.
Lee: Oh, that’s so cool. Fun. What about you?
Chantal: Yeah, so I actually- I had kids later in life. I was almost 40 when I had my kids. So I was going through this transition of working outside of the home to, I was home with these two babies. And when they started going to preschool, I like, it started, I guess I had one kid who would only nap on me. And so I would sit and he would be napping on me and I would have my Kindle and I would just like read.
And then when they went to preschool, I had these two and a half hours, three days a week that I was like, oh. And I was just like, I’m gonna try to write a book. I was reading romance, so I was like, I’m gonna read romance, or I’m gonna try to write romance because I like the happy ending, like Susan said. I want a happy ending. And I figured, you know what? I’ll try to write something. No one has to read it. I’ll just see if I can do it. And and then I did it, and then I was like, oh, this is horrible. It sucks so badly. Let’s see if I can get better at it. So then I started, yeah. Then I just started. I joined writing groups and kept trucking at it.
Susan: That’s actually how we met.
Chantal: It is how we met. Yeah. Yeah.
Lee: Oh my gosh. What kind of writing group was it?
Susan: So it was the Valley Forge Romance Writers who at the time were a chapter of Romance Writers of America. And so we just met there. I honestly don’t even know how we even started talking.
Chantal: Well, because you’re nice, Susan.
Susan: I’m like, she’s nice. We’re both like the shortest people here. We just started talking and then I forget, one of us asked the other one to critique, like to beta reader or critique something, and then it just was like, hey, this is a good fit for that. So we were critique partners for oh God, I forget how long I’ve known you because it’s been like a few. We did that for a few, we did that, what, five years before-
Chantal: We did that for several years. Yeah. Yeah.
Susan: Time just like literally. I haven’t known what day it is for three years now or more.
Lee: The pandemic. I swear the pandemic changed how time works.
Chantal: It really did. Yeah.
Yeah. But yeah, we did yeah, you were so kindly cuz you were, I think you were like one of the first people who like came up and like really talked to me in that group. It was just cuz like when you go people are talking and you know, like, I didn’t really know anyone.
You just came up and you were so kind. Susan is like the nicest person, like ever. And then you were just- She was just so gracious and so she’s so just generous with her time and her knowledge and yeah. She just helped me so much. It was like, yeah.
She was just yeah.
I adore you.
Susan: Chantal’s fabulous as well. So I’m very much like high anxiety, highly sensitive person. So I feel like I’m like a vibrating chihuahua at all times. So and she’s just okay we know what if we approach this at a different angle where you’re not gonna fly off a handle or jump off a ledge.
Chantal: Or not. You need to stop.
Lee: I love that you both found each other. That’s amazing. It’s so hard to find someone that you really click with in terms of just, not just critiquing, but writing together too.
Chantal: Yeah. It really was pretty seamless, wasn’t it?
Susan: Yeah. And the writing together came about cause we, in addition to being critique partners, we would help each other plot each other’s books. And so we were in a group project in 2019 ish
Susan: Into 2020. I don’t know, it was before the pandemic. It was cause the books came out after the pandemic. But we were in this little group. We were in this group shared world, shared universe and we helped each other like plot each other’s stories. But we did that before anyway. But it was just I think because we like plot the same way, like we both are plotters. That’s why writing together worked. And also because we knew each other’s writing styles and we knew that they would be, I don’t know if cohesive is the right word, seamless. They blend well that like we thought it would work.
Chantal: Yeah. And because we were critique partners, so we knew how like we, like Susan’s always like great about what about this? Or maybe this should be worded this way or what. And it was like, so we already knew how we like that critique piece. So that again helps with the writing cuz it’s-
Susan: Because like when you’re having somebody go in and edit your scenes. Or I don’t know, just like there’s a level of trust that like, obviously we’re so both so invested in all of our characters in the world and everything, but like also we get where the other one’s kind of going with things.
Or I’m really good for, if I’m writing and I can’t think of something I have what I call my tagging system where I’ll just write “tag” in giant letters next to a bit of dialogue. Or I’ll be, I know it needs like a say like a physical tag or I know it needs like an emotional beat, but I can’t think of what it is and I don’t wanna get stuck. So I’ll just throw those, like tag lines in there and then go back in with editing.
But like we discovered during critiquing that like she’d be like have you thought of this? Or something like that. And that kind of, I think seeing that was okay, we really could. I think that’s why we both felt comfortable giving the writing together a try, because that worked, that worked really well.
Chantal: It did because then I started doing, cuz I loved your tag system. So I started doing that cuz I was like, oh, that’s brilliant. Cause sometimes I would get bogged down when I was like writing and oh, they need to be doing something. But 20 minutes later I’m still like, okay, he turned, like it’s yeah. So I started using that and then it was great because the same thing. She would go in like when she was critiquing and be like, oh, what about, what if this per, what if they do this? Or what if? And I’m like, oh yeah, great. Yeah.
Lee: That’s incredible. I feel like one of the toughest things about being a writer is finding critique partners who understand what you’re trying to do. I think that’s something, especially in the last year or two, as someone who does critiques, I find okay, this is how I’m reacting as a reader. But I’m not trying to tell the story that you’re telling, like you’re trying to tell your story. So how can I help you try to tell your story? So I can share how I’m responding to it in case this is what you do or don’t want from a reader.
But I feel like so many people, when you know people critique, it’s like you’re trying to change the story how you would tell it. And I feel like it sounds like the two of you just found you are trying to tell stories in ways that are cohesive enough together and complimentary enough that not only can you critique each other’s stuff, but you can co-write. That is just incredible to find. Oh, I love that.
Susan: And, part of the co-writing oh, sorry. Go ahead.
Chantal: No. You go.
Susan: I was just gonna say that the very first thing we did was we wrote like very short, like bonus scenes on our websites. Because we both had series set in Philly, was like how about your characters visit my bakery? And Chantal was like, how about It was actually like, it was like a gingerbread competition at my bakery. And her characters went cause they were taking part in it and my people were like judging it. And so we, like very lightly put each other’s characters in each other’s scenes. And we both were like, okay, that kind of worked.
And then honestly, like I was pretty burnt out a for a while. And so us doing that and then thinking hey, like, why don’t we actually try a series? Got me back into no, I still do writing. Obviously in the middle of book sometimes you’re like, oh God, writing is the worst thing ever. I hate it. But there were really several months where I was I don’t really know what I’m, I’m too burnt out from this.
Chantal: Yeah, you were talking about, that was, I remember when you were talking about I’m not sure what I’m gonna do. Yeah.
Susan: Yeah. So that was but yeah, so anyway, writing together got me back into It’s like falling in love with the whole idea of doing it again. And I don’t know, so it’s been good.
Chantal: Yeah. And it’s fun. It’s fun. We’re going I know you have questions, we’re going off like on a tangent already. I feel like it’s fun because we- There’s something about not having, like for me, I felt like it’s nice not to have the weight of the entire book on my shoulders. Like I’m sharing that with Susan.
And so if I’m, like, like I’m writing the epilogue for and I, we meet every week. Like we meet on Wednesdays every week. We do a Zoom and we, and I was like, I don’t know what to do for this epilogue. And and I said, but I was thinking this morning, maybe you know this. And Susan’s yeah. So then she like, so then like we talk about it, she’s you’re like this and this. And I’m like, oh yeah, and then this so we like, then all of a sudden I’m like, okay, now I can, okay, I can write the scene. Because before I’m like, look, I have no idea what to do. So there’s something about, again, just not having that weight. And it’s fun. We have so much fun talking about our characters and living in their world, like we amuse each other. That’s the other thing I always-
Susan: Uh, the best was we were talking about We did a short like advent calendar thing at Christmas. We took part in that and we did our characters from God- Shine.
Chantal: Who? Oh yeah. I was like, who did we do?
Susan: I was at Tr- this is- I’m sorry, this is probably a very too long with story, but I was at Trader Joe’s and they have those, they couldn’t call them the Grinch Christmas tree. They called them, they call the Christmas trees the grump Christmas tree or something like that. And I bought one cause I real, it looks like a Grinch finger hanging over or like the Whoville trees. So I was like, I think our guys in the scene, I think like the party gift needs to every, everyone’s gonna get these little trees.
And I was saying something about trying to take care of my own. And Chantal was like, Val would know how to do this. Val is our plant guy in in, uh, God, In our, he’s one of the characters in our rugby series in Swoon. And I’m like, Val would totally be able to handle this. So like to us they’re, like these like real people.
Chantal: I know. Call Val..
Lee: That’s so fun that you can share that with each other and to that level of detail. Like instead of feeling like you’re burdening a critique partner with trying to brainstorm and download everything about your book to their brain so you have someone to talk to in depth about it. You just have that with each other.
Chantal: Yeah. Yeah. It is fun.
Lee: That’s great. So with your stories, so it sounds like with some of the co-writing that you’re doing, you’ve decided to do low angst in terms of kind of the tone of those stories. What drew you to the stories you’ve chosen to write is low angst.
Chantal: I think Susan, you were probably always low angst.
Susan: I don’t really, I don’t like bad things happening to good people at all.
Susan: I was like, no one’s dying. No, nothing’s, no one’s getting shot. But yeah, that’s, I think, so there’s definitely emotional angst in a few of them. But like the lowest angst ones are- One of ours is like our friends to lovers, Spiral. I like the idea of sometimes you just need a book that’s just a pure escape where like things are just are- Jeff Adams had said from the Big gay Fiction podcast, nice guys being nice. And I like that. And that’s so I think, especially after the, this, the emotional weight of some of the others’ books, it’s nice to just have one where it’s just a lighter, fluffier tone throughout the whole thing. And that’s just, I don’t know, a nice, it’s like sitting down to watch a comfort show in a way.
Chantal: Yeah. And I feel because like some of my books that I’ve written on my own are like, pretty angsty. Look at Susan, she’s they are.
Chantal: People are dying. It’s yeah, it’s a little, they’re a little angsty, but I felt like with the pandemic, and that’s when we really started, it was that like, I didn’t wanna deal with there was already so much angst out in the world. Like I, like Susan said, I just wanted to have like nice people doing nice things and just like having an escape. And just like not having to worry about anyone.
Susan: Not going, yeah like too heavy, too dark. Like there really are some more medium angst in emotional tone for some of our books. But I don’t mind reading that. Like I don’t like violence. I don’t like any of that stuff. Cause I get, I’m way too emotionally attached to fictional characters, so I get really upset and I can’t separate myself from it at all.
But, so I don’t mind though when it’s more of an emotional thing where, you know, maybe the character has to learn something new about themselves or grow or, grow through their relationship with this other person and maybe realize that maybe they had some false beliefs about themself.
I don’t mind that. The ending, even if, I don’t know, like I do prefer low angst just because it’s, I don’t have to emotionally prepare or get surprised by something that’s oh, hey, this character’s doing great. And he’s wonderful. Oh, but book three, when he should be the hero, he dies. And I don’t know. I don’t want that. I get very upset. So spoiler alert, none of our characters die.
Lee: I’m curious, what does low angst mean to you? Because I’m finding with each author I talk to, the definition varies surprisingly, quite a bit. Yeah.
Chantal: Yeah. So I think for me it’s that, I mean there might be, again, there might be some like emotional, like growth. So there might be some like growing pains that come with, but not like that it’s this huge horrible thing. And I feel like with our books, there’s not there’s not, it’s not necessarily a black moment. There’s like a gray like a little-
Chantal: Like I’m upset with you and then, we’re not like breaking up or we’re not like it’s, we figure it out.
Susan: Right. Like even if they do need, a little bit of time apart while one gets his head put on the right way because he’s, clearly not He’s clearly ignoring his love. But it’s, yeah and I also think that I remember like when I was first writing, the advice that people had said back then was chase your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them.
Cuz it was like and I understand you maybe, cuz if everything’s just great, you know that if basically it’s like you have to give ’em a reason to care. But I think you do that, you can do that anyway without chasing them and throwing rocks. I think you can do that just by showing who they are within like the first scene with how they interact with people or how they say or how they think.
But like the chasing them and then throwing rocks at them part, I was just like, I don’t like that and I don’t like that in real life. And I want to be nice to my characters. I love them. So it’s hard to it’s hard to be mean. I don’t know. I don’t, yeah. That’s it. It’s hard to be, it’s hard to be, it’s hard being mean.
Chantal: Didn’t I just say she’s one of the nicest people? Didn’t I tell you, I told you. She’s one of the nicest people. There you go. Like I, there you go.
Susan: I’m gonna change that to my author bio. The nicest person.
Lee: Nice person. Can’t torture characters. But it’s so true though, especially like it sounds like the three of us were all raised from Romance Writers of America. Coming up through those chapters and when I was in the organization, one of the things that I really liked about it was the focus on professional development and the learning and peer sharing with all of that.
But I think now, now that I’ve been out of RWA, what I’m really recognizing, especially now that I’m getting into low angst so much is. That wasn’t an option. Like when we’re being trained it, it wasn’t, it was like, especially if you’re writing contemporary, the emotions are the angst. All external stuff is romantic suspense, the suspense subplot, the paranormal things, the like subgenre part. But if you’re writing contemporary felt like it was always like, that isn’t a choice. You need to have the dark moment, you need to have the breakup. There’s all those beats.
Susan: Emotional wounds, all that stuff. And it’s interesting, like when I saw you had the low angst podcast, I was so excited because like when I’m in a few different reader groups on Facebook, so often now I’m seeing people say, I want a low angst read. I want something that doesn’t have a third act breakup.
When like we were basically taught, no, you have to rip ’em apart so that they can realize, and I get that because like maybe a character does need to experience what it is like from having that and then going back to how they were in the beginning and having to experience again, all this world without love, even though they’ve changed and they do, they feel it.
But and I, maybe it’s, I’m not sure if it’s the, state of the world, the pandemic, maybe a combination of all of that. But I see I’m not kidding, like low angst, low angst, low angst, no third act breakups and yeah.
Chantal: My people. These are my people.
Susan: Exactly. Actually, I’m not, I don’t mind a third act breakup. I really don’t. But I totally get why people don’t want that, and I’m like, are we allowed to do that? So
Lee: It’s true!
Susan: It goes against so many writing rules.
Lee: Yeah it’s so fun. I’m glad that we have, my background’s in marketing communications, it’s my day job career, so like for that part of my brain, I’m just like, oh, the fact that readers are asking for the same language and then we can put that language in our blurbs. That just helps readers find our books and helps with that reader satisfaction. That makes my marketing brain so happy that I could put my little blurb I love that so much.
Before we jump into talking more about your writing, I would love to know a bit about your reading habits. What angst levels do you typically read?
Chantal: So I read, I actually read everything. And, but I tend to go through I tend to cycle through. So I might go through a period of time where I’m reading really angsty and and actually right now I’m in the low angst cuz I just came out of reading like a lot of non-fiction that was like a little like depressing.
So now I’m reading, so now I’m reading a lot of low angst romance. It’s just I tend to just cycle, go through these phases. So right now I am actually in low angst romance.
Susan: So I do primarily stick with medium to low. I will read a romantic suspense, like if, like the blurb really drags me in. But I really don’t- Actually I just finished reading Onley James’ Necessary Evils series. And there’s like people die, but they’re bad people and it’s okay. But I could handle that. Although some of that I’m still like, I don’t I can’t, I have a really hard time reading something If there’s like any form of abuse in the past and if there’s abuse in the present no. I don’t want, I, there’s enough of that in the real world.
I don’t want that. I want happy. I want shifters, I want bakeries. I want I don’t know, like I, I can deal with some, like I, I’ll go in a little bit of I dunno if it’s a pattern, like I will binge the heck out of an author’s backlist if I read one book they love, one book I love by them, and then move on to something that might have a totally different feel. But I definitely have like my comfort like rereads that I do go back to, and they typically are like the low angst area of area.
Lee: Nice. Do you either of you have any low angst book recommendations?
Chantal: I just finished actually last night. I just finished. Isla Olsen’s And the Best Man Ran Away with the Groom, which was just so it was just so fun. And it was just, yeah, it was just such a fun, yeah I really enjoyed it. Yeah. So I just finished that last night, so that’s like fresh in my brain.
Lee: Perfect timing since the second book just came out. I need to read that this
Lee: so excited. That’s a good one.
Susan: So for me, I’ll go back to R. Cooper has the Being(s) in Love series, and I will go back and reread those books. I love those books. Those are low angst, there’s magic, there’s faeries, there’s like wolves and it. A new book just came out in, oh, I forgot what the series is called, but the title of the book is A Suitable Bodyguard and it’s in another one of their series. And I can’t wait. I bought it to read for this weekend. Once I get through, I have a little bit of editing I have to get done, but that’s like my reward cause I’m just like, I can just fall into that world and just be like, okay, like mostly everything is gonna be good. And there’s gonna be magic and it’s just nice.
Lee: Fun. Oh, I love that. That’s great. It’s nice when you can just have those comfort authors and comfort reads, and love that.
Okay. Let’s go back to your writing. I am just so curious. What’s your co-writing process like, and how do you decide whether an a book idea that you have is gonna be a co-write project or an individual?
Chantal: So we have actually oh, go ahead. Oh I was just gonna say we have a list of co-writing ideas. Yeah. We actually have, we have an Excel sheet with-
Susan: Chantal is so good with all the spreadsheets.
Chantal: I l I do because I love a spreadsheet.
Susan: Helpful. They really are. It’s, yeah.
Chantal: I should go back though. We haven’t looked at it lately though. I should cross off what we’ve already written. We haven’t done that. I should.
Susan: Yeah. So like we, I think like when we got the idea of okay, we should, we’re actually gonna write together, what should we do? Like we knew, okay, we wanna set things in Philly. Cause we live in Philly, we like Philly. Plus it’s fun to be able to actually go places and then put them in our books.
Or take like your little excursions. But, so our first project, we decided to do a rec league rugby series It’s just fun. They get to have regular day jobs and it’s, I like the idea, like I love doing sports because I love the whole team aspect and mentality, how they’re there for each other, whether it’s rec league or whether it’s pros and I like sports, so I’m like, why? Like why not combine the two things that I enjoy?
And then when we were coming up with, I think everything really starts from like the general idea of what, and then really like the characters. I think the characters then form whether it would be something that’s gonna be like a lower angst book or more medium depending on what kind of backstories we give them or they give us.
Because that’s happened that a few times that someone’s popped up, something about them has just stuck. And then I’m like, okay, he’s gonna get a book. It might be a hard book to give him, but we’re gonna do it. That’s happened a few times.
Chantal: Yeah. Greer he’s the, he’s one of the main, he’s one of the main characters in our book. Surprise. Where did he show up in? He showed up in, no, I know, I see you.
Chantal: He showed up in-
Susan: Cry. We have a creaky door. I’m sorry. I hope that won’t be too much of an issue.
Chantal: Greer showed up the first time. I don’t think it was Spark. I think it was in our second rugby book in Smolder. Was that the first? Yeah. And so Susan just he just showed up. He was like, just this boom kind of, cuz we need, we needed like a name for one of the rugby guys. It was like that’s what it was. And so he has this little boom and then all of a sudden Susan’s like thinking about Greer, talking about Greer and and like before you know it, we were like, oh.
Susan: Kept getting louder and louder. Yeah. And it’s funny, just the way he’s just- I thought when I first, cause he pops up in like the scene I wrote it’s he just I’m gonna talking to Chantal. I’m like, okay, we both know that this character needs to show up in this hero scene and what’s he gonna be doing there? So we’re talking about that.
And I’m like, okay like I liked the name and then I was pulling it from Greer Garson like Hollywood. And I’m like, oh, he’s gonna be an actor. And like just all of a sudden it starts and then we were talking about backstory and just- I don’t even know if it was specifically his, because when we start talking about characters maybe, and that’ll jump off into tangent of another character, and we’re supposed to know, we’re supposed to be plotting this person’s book, but hey, Greer won’t shut up. And oh my God, his backstory’s horrible. Oh my goodness. So that’s just Greer had a lot of emotional- Greer’s been Greer’s through, went through a lot of stuff.
And we’re like, okay, he’s going to, he’s going to, he needs a book. And I didn’t think he was gonna be as big as he was until further on into Smolder when I was like, when he just was like no. I’m this guy’s best friend. You need me, you need more of me on the page. And I’m like, yeah, we do. Yeah, we do.
Chantal: So it’s, I feel like a lot of times it’s very I feel like with us it’s pretty organic. Like we just, just, things just happen and we just go with it. We’re like, oh, okay. Let’s just, or we’ll be like, okay, we can’t, like with Greer it was like, okay, we can’t do Greer’s story right now because we have these other two books that we need to write. And so then we were like, okay, when are we gonna do Greer’s story? But like Greer, you will have a story. Don’t worry.
Susan: And then yeah, it’s who’s gonna be the hero of yeah. Yeah. It’s it’s funny. And then like we had like from that series, we had two jumping off points. One was like, okay, we wrote one book first. Like we were in the Love is All anthology two,
Susan: years ago.
Chantal: be yeah.
Susan: Yeah, two years ago, that was the first co-written book we’d put out together.
Wait, did that come out first or No? Did Spark come out first? I don’t know. I forget we wrote them at the same time. It was very confusing to write two books at once. Like in totally different things. Oh my goodness. So most of that is like a whirlwind in my head. But that was a hockey book and we had a, oh God I’m gonna mix up stories, Chantal. You’re gonna have to correct me because I’m gonna put people in the wrong places.
We had, so we have a bouncer. A bouncer who was also a, like hockey player, hockey like, like hockey coach for kids. And he was a bouncer with one of our guys in the rugby series. So there’s a little connection there.
And then we have the Season of Love spinoff of the rugby series because I’m like, we’re gonna do holidays, but they started off being holiday romances and then turned into romances that just happened to have holidays in them. So they totally took on a life of their own. They were supposed to be like very like super tropey. And then they our characters didn’t wanna do that, so they didn’t.
Chantal: Yeah. Yeah. So it is. I do feel like it’s pretty organic the way-
Susan: I think so yeah, it’s that, or like a runaway train, however but organic sounds nicer.
Chantal: However you wanna look at it. Yeah.
Lee: So do you like take turns writing scenes or do each of you take a POV character or how does that happen?
Chantal: Yeah, we each take a character, a POV character. And then we just do, each chapter is, we just alternate POVs. And, but then but then like when we’re, especially when we’re editing, like what, like then, we’re both in there writing know, cuz cuz we’ve got, cuz we’ve got, those tags that we need to fill in.
So we’re in there, we’re in there like writing or we’re in there, oh would he do this or would he like, so it’s, so yeah, we each have a POV, but it’s almost like we have ownership of both of them. Yeah.
Susan: Yeah. And it’s plotted, like the scenes are plotted. Most of the time the scenes are plotted out so we know where we’re going. There’s been a few times where we’re like something happens in chapter seven, we’ll figure it out when we get there. Then we get there. I’m like, don’t know.
Susan: But usually we have an idea of where we’re going and we usually know our end point before we start writing cuz I like, having a thing to follow. I have a harder time when I can’t pants. I, in the very beginning I thought I was more of a pantser, but my brain does not. I might have a scene fully form pop into my head, but then trying to figure out where that goes I like, I need the outline of like, like how they say each scene, each paragraph, each sentence moves the story forward. It’s easier to do that when you know where you’re going. For me anyway. I think people who can pants, I think that’s just amazing. Wow.
Chantal: And I think be when we’re, because we write together too, I think it’s easier. I feel like it’s loose plotting. Like we, like we know what’s gonna happen in a scene or we know at least where we wanna get to in a scene. But in some scenes we know like how we’re gonna get there. In other scenes, we don’t necessarily know how we’re gonna get there. We just know we need to get to this point. And then there are times where we are like where I might write a scene and I’ll be like, okay I know this was supposed to happen, but the characters didn’t want it to happen. This is what happened instead.
Susan: We just, we adjust.
Chantal: We do. Yeah. Yeah. And and there have been times where yeah, we’ve had to go in and change our plot outline because we’re like, okay, this isn’t, cuz we get into writing it and we’re like, it’s not working the way that we thought. And so I feel like we’re loose plotters, if that makes sense.
Lee: Yeah, that flexibility is nice. Just adapt as the story unfolds, and.
Lee: I love that.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration for your stories?
Chantal: It can be anywhere, Susan? Sometimes we’ll send each other something we’ve seen online or like-
Susan: Like a meme or Instagram story or something with oh, hey, this could be something. Or something might have happened or we’ve witnessed something outside, or something else. Or like just, I don’t know, but so sometimes that totally is okay, yeah, we’re totally doing that. Or maybe there’s like a trope and I’m like, okay so for Swoon I’m like we’re gonna do a fireman. And I’m like, okay, I know firemen don’t actually rescue kittens in trees, but wouldn’t it be funny if he got stuck in one rescuing a kitten?
So we knew that, but that’s all we knew about that. But but yeah, it’s sometimes the story it doesn’t really pop out until we are deep into looking at the character and then the character will then inform how the story is gonna go or like where we want him to be at the end. And sometimes, yeah, the story just depends on that.
Like it helps with, I think, when we know with it’s the rugby series, I’m like, okay, we need a couple scenes that have rugby in them or like with hockey, the same thing. Okay, so those, we know those were set. But yeah, it’s just I really feel like inspiration really could be really like anywhere.
Chantal: It really does come in. Yeah.
Lee: And so you both have written a lot of books together and you’ve written books individually. What’s been your favorite book or character to write so far?
Chantal: So my favorite character has been, oh, actually I have two favorite characters. Like my favorite characters are Cam and Greer and I love them. And they’re in our rugby series, and I just think they’re both so fun. I don’t know. I just, I loved Cam and Greer.
Susan: I feel like writing them lets you play a little bit more because the characters are just like, Cam’s funny. Cam’ll do like crazy things. Greer’s kind of dramatic. He’s an actor. Sometimes he plays into that. He can do accents. So Greer probably just, and I also think too I feel like I have empathy overload sometimes. Like I’ll see something and I’ll be like, oh my God, that’s the saddest thing ever. And I will get very much, it really affects me. And with writing Greer, like Greer really affected me. So I’m like, yes, he must be protected at all costs. So so Greer for me, I think is one of my favorites.
And then like with my solo stuff, probably it’s so tough for me because I like. I have a very soft spot for Ryan who is in Mad Scramble because that was the first romance I wrote. And I knew four years before I wrote that I wanted to do Ryan’s story. And Ryan’s story is like really special to me. So Ryan is my favorite for a lot of reasons, and I just, I don’t know.
But like with some of these guys, like with Greer, I’m he could be in every book. We should make him pop up here. We’re gonna make, we’re going to make him pop up in-
Chantal: What he popping in? Yeah, go ahead.
Susan: Um, so we’re doing. It’s like book isn’t written yet. We’re starting up. So the hockey book that was in the Love is All, volume 4. We had a limit. Like the book couldn’t be over like 20k. Because we’ve been writing so much other, we haven’t had time to go in and, we wanted to, we knew we were gonna expand it by at least what do we do? Four chapters or more? And then we added things to other chat. That’s where our brain has been, our writing has been the past couple of months. So that Philadelphia hockey series is coming out. So Greer’s popping up in this little holiday short we’re doing later this year.
Chantal: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I was like, what is he popping up in? that’s right. He is.
Susan: So, So Greer’s popping up in that, but we can’t talk too much about that yet cuz it’s a secret project.
Lee: That sounds so fun, and I love being able to revisit favorite characters and have them pop up in other stories.
Chantal: Yeah, that’s I and we do that a lot. We like all of-
Susan: I love when authors do that. I love it so much. When you’ll find people like jump in, like all across. Lily Morton I think is like really good at I feel like all of her characters in series are just like, there’s a little, there’s so many like tethers? Threads? I don’t know. Just, I don’t know. It just, I feel like she does it really well and I’ve said that because I’ve read like her entire catalog like a month ago.
Lee: That is fun as a reader just to find those Easter eggs and see people referenced and yeah. I really love in the book rec groups where readers will make these really in-depth maps of how books. I’ve seen that with Lilly’s books too, where they’re like, okay, this character was in this one, and then they draw a line here, then here, and it just, it’s like that gif of Charlie from It’s Always Sunny where he’s got the strings-
Susan: Yes. That’s what I was trying to think of.
Susan: Red, yeah. Yeah.
Lee: Oh my gosh. It’s too funny.
So you’ve co-written the two rugby series that you both have talked about, the Love and Rugby series and Love and Rugby: Season of Love series. What drew you to writing rugby?
Chantal: Actually you, Susan had the idea cuz there’s a gay rugby rec league in Philadelphia. And so Susan like she was aware of that and I don’t even, why did we decide to write rugby? I don’t even know.
Susan: I think it was because, I think because, like I knew that so I had done, like I, I’ve done baseball before. Like I’ve done hockey and I love hockey. And I’ve done football and I had plans for- So I have plans for more football that was set in Philly. And then I had this hockey team idea.
And I was I think Chantal and I should, like I was like, Chantal, do you remember my hockey idea? I don’t wanna do it myself. You wanna do it with me? And it’s got so much better when she was like, yes, and I’ll bring all of my brilliance with me and make these characters amazing. It’s totally true.
Chantal: I was just like, yay, I get to write with Susan.
Susan: so I think we were because we did hockey in that shared universe also. And so what would be something that’s a little bit different but still like really fun and it would be like a fun like rec thing to do? Because I think we wanted to have it where they were like, this wasn’t gonna be a pro thing. This was gonna be like more of your friendship group is formed with, like some of your hobbies. And I think just. Rugby is just, it’s fun. It’s fun to watch, and it’s like physical and it’s just if- Like the Philly Griffins that’s the rec league here, it just looks so happy in all their posts.
Chantal: They do. It’s such a fun. Yeah.
Susan: We’re like, we like rugby could be cool. And prior to writing it, honestly, I knew nothing about it. Like I’ve always been a hockey and football girl. But we’ve learned about it.
Chantal: It’s fun. Yeah.
Susan: Chantal probably knows more than me, cuz-
Chantal: I don’t really.
Susan: She’s watched a little more than I have.
Chantal: I do like to watch. I have, I do. I I don’t know, but I’m not really a sports person. I like the team aspect, but I could care less about the actual sport. But I actually really do think watching rugby is fun. I was like, this is awesome.
Susan: Lot of like
Chantal: There’s a new
Susan: More, yeah.
Chantal: Yeah, and there’s a, like now there’s a league in the states, which started, I think, was it, when did it start? Like 2017 or something like that? Do you remember? A professional rugby league had just started in the states. I think it was like 2017, maybe 2016. But it was like right before, I think it had only been around for like maybe three years. Or maybe it was the third year when the lockdown happened. Like it was this, just this whole, yeah. So yeah. I like, I remember going down that rabbit hole of research. I was like, I didn’t even know there was a league. Like
Susan: I have to say, like watching YouTube videos on that. And there was a great channel I found where they were like, this is how you play. And they broke it down and they were like, it was like very basic things. And it was like, I’m like, these people are great teachers. Like this is like really good. So yeah, it, I think our scenes are accurate ish. I just wanna say that.
Chantal: Yes. Ish. Yeah. Yeah. And we, and that’s why we’re like it’s rec, it’s
Susan: It’s a rec league.
Susan: Fudge things a bit.
Chantal: Oh, it’s practice. What do they- Like they’re, they’re just having their little practice. It’s fun.
Susan: It’s, yeah, so it’s more I don’t know. I just, I think we also were we just wanna have fun with this rather than get really bogged down in details. And especially too, like if somebody’s really not a sports fan, I think they can still enjoy the books because we don’t get too bogged down the details and the entire book isn’t the sport. It’s a couple of scenes.
Whereas somebody who’s a diehard might be like, there’s not enough rugby here. So it’s also hard to straddle that balance too, where putting in enough in, but not putting too much in or maybe sprinkling it in a little too lightly. I’m not really sure. I’m hoping we balanced it well enough that, as many people could enjoy it. And if we got anything wrong, people out there, we’re sorry.
Chantal: We’re sorry.
Susan: We’re sorry if
Chantal: We tried
Susan: But we tried, we did. We tried our best. So
Lee: One of the things that is really fun in the stories and even in the Love is All anthology stories that are out there, so across your books is you’ve got this really wonderful element of found family in these stories. Why is that an important aspect for you two to convey in the books that you write?
Susan: I think I always want a character to find a sense of belonging and to have a sense of a support network, because there’s a lot of people who don’t have that. And. I think for me, like that’s, you could come from a huge family and still feel like entirely alone. And so I think for and that’s just, it’s heartbreaking and like you just, I just, I think, yeah, it’s really is just it. I wanted them to feel like wrapped in a security blanket that I think everybody should be able to have, and so that’s why.
Chantal: Yeah. Yeah, I would agree. Cuz I think it is and I think it’s like such a, as we become adults and, and grow and stuff like, you’re born into families, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you necessarily maybe like the people that you’re, or get along really well or have the same interest. And so I think it’s, I do think that there is something to creating that space, like you said, Susan and and having that support and creating those. And I guess for me, like I feel personally, I’ve done that. So that’s why I think it seeps into my books is because that’s like my life experience is creating-
Susan: Create your family in a way that’s I don’t know. And I also like the acceptance of, who you are is good enough, and that’s I think things a lot of people can struggle with as well. Whereas like these friend groups are just like, no, how you are is fine. Yeah.
Susan: So that’s-
Chantal: Yeah. It’s that acceptance. Yeah. And we love you no matter what.
Susan: Exactly, yeah. Yeah.
Lee: That’s such important messages to have and to just feel that love when you’re reading books like that. Oh, I love that.
Lee: So the timing for why we’re talking now is very exciting. So we’re all participating in volume six of the fabulous Love is All anthology and both of you have participated before.
You’ve talked about how that was part of, some of your first stories as co-authors. So for anyone new to the Love is All anthology, can you tell us about it?
Susan: Sure. So the Love is Anthology was started by author Xio Axelrod. It’s her baby. And that’s, it’s a charity anthology that comes out every year celebrating Pride, celebrating the universal that is to love and be loved. All of the proceeds are donated to charities that provide either advocacy or assistance or both to LGBTQ + population or population people. I’m sorry. I had it memorized and I messed up at the very end. But all of the money goes to charity and it’s really, it’s a really wonderful project and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Cause it means so much to me that because everybody should be accepted and celebrated for who they are.
Chantal: Yeah. And it’s so great because the stories are like, you have so many-
Susan: So different. Yeah.
Chantal: There’s so many diverse stories, so there’s something for everyone in the anthology, really. There really is. You’re gonna find a story that you like in the anthology.
Lee: Absolutely when reading volume five, last year’s volume, there was just a different, there’s different representations. That’s what it’s nice is terms of just queer representation within the stories and just tone. And it’s just, you’re right, you could absolutely, there’s something for everyone and the stories are fun and it’s a good taste. A good way to taste, get a taste test words are hard. A sample of different authors who might be new to you without investing your time in reading a full book. These are stories of like under 20,000 and so that’s been fun too, is to get to know new to you authors. I love that.
Chantal: Yeah. What are you like? What are, you wanna share what you’re writing?
Lee: Me? Oh, yeah, sure! Along the lines of the rec league stuff, I write in a small town and I’ve created a bowling rec league.
Susan: I love it.
Lee: And so this is a roommates to lovers, friends to lovers, a double bi/pan awakening story that kind of is gonna set up a series around this bowling rec league in this small town that I write in. So
Lee: Really fun to write in.
Susan: I love it. I cannot wait to read that story.
Chantal: Oh, yeah.
Lee: It’s been so fun. It was fun. It was like, play with some new characters. And what about you two? What’s your story?
Susan: We’re going to hockey. So our story, that was in volume four. This is, uh, Thank you. Yeah, Leif and Jaylin are just, wait, those are
Susan: Right? I’m not mixing up characters. Yes. Okay. They’re back. But also, so this focuses on our rookie Caldor. And he is nominated, basically it’s, he’s nominated for rookie of the year and he’s gonna go to the in, the pro hockey, I can’t, we can’t say NHL. The pro hockey awards. And we’re doing a crush that turns to a whirlwind first date with his tailor cuz he needs a suit to wear. And just I love the idea of just the tailor, it’s just I think Chantal came up with it because she found this fabulous guy on, I think on TikTok. Do you remember you sent to me that he designs all his-
Chantal: him. Oh, yeah. But I think, no, but you wanted to do a tailor before that, I think. I
think you wanted to do a tailor before that, but then I saw that-
Susan: We saw him and we were like, we’re going. Yeah. Cuz I remember at, I forget whether it was an NHL award show or whether it was like all-star break or something, but the guys were like walking around and they were showing off like their suits and like the inside lining and you know how they have the suit guy and I was like, oh I’m the suit guy for an NHL guy would be fantastic because they have a hard time finding pants sometimes, like jeans, it’s a whole thing. There’s articles on it.
Chantal: We’ve researched it.
Susan: A tailor-made, a custom-made suit is, it’s necessary sometimes with your proportions. And I was just like, that could be like, really cute that they’re like flirting when he’s fitting him. And I don’t know, it’s just, it could be really fun. So it’s totally low, but there’s no angst maybe not, no, angst, but like very, very, low angst. No real angst between them anyway, they’re great. But it was so fun. It was so fun.
Chantal: is not low angst. This is no angst.
Susan: Yeah. This is really no angst. So
Lee: I am so excited to read this. And one of my friends he reads, he’s a gay man who reads and writes and MM romance, and he’s a tailor. So anytime I come across stuff I’m like, I gotta send it.
Chantal: Oh. So oh, please. Because I, oh my God. No, don’t let him read it then. Tell him we did our best I know. I and this was the thing I said to Susan, I’m like, oh my God. I felt like this story took cuz I was like, I, okay. Like I, I am a jeans and t-shirt, jeans and sweater girl. I don’t really like, gimme a pair of jeans, gimme a t-shirt, and I’m happy. So I don’t really follow fashion or anything. And so it was a whole, oh my God, like we did so much research.
Susan: So much research. It was like fantastic. I was like, I didn’t know there were all these options existed. This is great. You can do like the fabric and then the different lining and then the different cut. And then I learned, I probably should have known this already, but like single breasted, double breasted and then whatever they call the pockets that are like, there’s like different kinds of pockets and just. I don’t know, it was a whole world opened up to me like it was like this is cool. So I don’t know. I just-
Chantal: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yes. So if your friend like, okay, we tried our best. That’s again, that, that should just be our disclaimer on all our books. We tried our best.
Lee: Just Just turn that into your audio, your co-writing logo.
Chantal: That’s right. Like we tried our best. Susan Scott Shelley, nicest person ever. We tried our best.
Susan: It’s like that. Have you seen that thing? I dunno if it’s really a meme. I think it’s like a screenshot of a tweet. And it was like author’s friends, she was under a lot of pressure when she wrote this. She really tried her best. She has no other skills, so please buy her book. So just-
Chantal: Yes. Yes.
Lee: I love that.
Susan: We’re worried about her, please just buy her book.
Lee: Please, just any support. Oh, that is too funny.
So you’ve talked a little bit about upcoming projects, but is there any teasers of other just things that you both have coming out that you can share with readers?
Susan: So I have God, how do I say this? Because ugh, it’s not gonna come out probably because it’s way too tangled in my head. But I do have more rock stars coming out this year.
Chantal: I love Susan’s rock stars.
Susan: So the second edition of Falling Faster is coming out relatively soon. And then I have two more in that series to go, which hopefully will be out summer-ish. And then I do have a short Halloween story in my football series that I’m super excited to get back to. And that will be out September. And then we both have secret projects for next year.
Susan: My characters aren’t talking to me yet about that, so I don’t know who will be like saying pick me, but it should be fun when they finally reveal themselves, which I hope will be at some point soon.
Chantal: I know my characters are just starting to talk to me. Yeah. Just starting to talk to me. And it will be and yeah, like it will be, I think it’ll be fun. It’ll definitely be fun. But yeah, they’ve, the one character was talking, but the other one wasn’t. Now he’s starting to talk. So
Susan: And we will have Against the Rush, which was, volume leaf and Ja Leaf. And i’s say Jared, I’m like, who does Jared Leaf and Jaylen’s story Against the Rush. We’ll be out soon pretty soon, like-
Chantal: Yeah. Hope, hopefully. Yeah. Hopefully next month. Hopefully,
Lee: So it might even be out by the time this episode comes out.
Susan: Yes, that would be great. Hopefully. Yes. It, it’ll be near.
Chantal: Yeah. And then we’ll be working on the second book in that series, right?
Susan: Yes. Which we,
Susan: It’s that one. You don’t have our calendar in front of us. But no, we are, we’re doing the second one and that series so the rookie Taylor book is like a offshoot, not really like tech, it’s not a technical book two. Book two, we’ve already plotted. I’m so proud of us. We plotted book two. It is, it again, it’s very low angst, that one too. So that’s that’s gonna be fun. It’s friends to lovers. It’s, And so that, yeah, we’re gonna dive into writing that.
Chantal: Yeah. And then we’ll start, and then, oh, sorry. Yeah. And then we have, but then we have we have Chris, a whole Christmas series that we’re, do for, I mean, obviously that.
Susan: Christmas novellas that are we are assuming right now they’re gonna be very tropey, but we’ll see how that goes again.
Lee: That’s exciting. There’s so much fun stuff coming up this year for both of you.
Susan: Yeah. It’s, yeah, it’s a fun it’s fun to have all of these, sparking things popping up. But I feel like there’s so many that- Stop being shiny. Wait your turn. You’re not doing that yet. But that’s yeah, it’s like we’re having a good time with it and we’ll see where they take us.
Lee: I love that. So to sum up, what can readers expect from your co-written stories? Like just, what’s the vibe?
Chantal: I t’s like good friends, right? Like we have like our stories. There’s always like a friend group. There’s that again, that found family. There’s that good friends.
Susan: There’s a lot of there’s a lot of heat, there’s a lot of like heartfelt moments.
There probably are wild pets involved in some way, like Cam’s chickens. So it’s I think fun. But like the overall vibe is I, I don’t just. I would say, I like to say I like to categorize a lot of my books and I think our books together as heat, heart and happily ever after. That’s what you’re definitely getting with like full friendship or supportive family or found family, ride or die, yeah.
Lee: Nice. I love that. They’re such good stories. Oh, I love them so much. And can you share with us where readers can find out more about your co-written projects and your solo projects? And I’ll make sure all the links are in the show notes.
Susan: Oh, great. Thank you. We have our, we do have a joint website with our co-written projects on it, and that’s ShelleyAndMer.com. And we also have our own websites. I’m SusanScottShelley.com. All of my socials, all the links there are on my links page and.
Chantal: Yeah. And I’m ChantalMer.com. And the same, I have all my socials and links on my website. And we, I think we have them on our joint website too.
Susan: We do. We have. We have links all
Chantal: yes, you
Lee: Love that. So thank you both so much for being here. It was so much fun to talk with you, and I’m so excited to read your Love is All story. This is gonna be such a-
Chantal: read yours.
Susan: Thank you so much for having us. This was so much fun.
Chantal: It was so fun.
Lee: I loved chatting with Susan and Chantal. It was such a blast.
Thanks for joining me in 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 LowAngstLibrary.com with a guest suggestion form.
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A major goal of mine with this podcast is to have guests writing main characters in romance novels that represent identities all over the queer spectrum. So your suggestions will really help me with that.
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