Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TnT Confidential: Nephylim /Cheryl Headford: The Face in the Window (YA)

Greetings and happy Thursday! Today I am proud and honored to have author Nephylim / Cheryl Headford here with me with her upcoming YA release The Face in the Window.

Ace is blind and Haze is damaged. They live in different worlds and not everyone is happy when they become boyfriends. Haze is struggling with the after effects of a traumatic event in his past that has left him at the mercy of an uncontrollable rage. When Ace’s brother steps up his campaign of torment against Ace, they’re all in danger from Haze’s outbursts, though it isn’t until things get completely out of control that the healing can really begin. But with Ace unseeing and Haze perched on the edge of a cliff, will either of them survive long enough to benefit?

I've had the opportunity to read this novel before it's release date and I was blown away. It had been a while since I'd become so engrossed with a story that I forsake everything else just to finish it. (I even told my sister about it!)
In true Nephy style (if you've ever read her Wednesday Briefs you'll know what I'm talking about), these two young man go through hell, but they also come out stronger than ever. The Face in the Window was a heartwarming, emotional story (I laughed, cried and got excited with them every step of the way) which I will be reading again and I hope you pick up as soon as it's out. Now, enough of me stealing the spotlight. It's Cheryl and Nephy time! 

Welcome to In A Dream Beyond, Cheryl! Though this is not your first visit… *g* You’ve been here before as Nephylim and though I’ve been fairly warned, I simply have to ask: Where did this split personality come from? Has it always been this way? Why do both of them like to write and when did they start writing?

Well, I’m not sure, now I think about it, that ‘split personality’ is the right term. We’re not even two sides of the same coin. We’re never that separate.

The real writer is Nephy. She’s a bit of a bad girl and a lot wilder and more carefree than Cheryl, who’s the good girl. Cheryl goes out to work to earn the bread while Nephy would spend all her time writing if she could – well either that or creating something artistic.

However, both of us are, at heart, YA writers and YA publishers think Nephy is maybe a bit too naughty for their readers. So Cheryl gets her moment in the spotlight. This has its benefits because, now people I know will know it’s me, so to speak.

Nephylim was the name I came up with a long, long time ago for the part of me who wrote. She was the one with the muse, who wrote anything and everything that came into her head. Cheryl is far more reserved. I identify so much more with Nephylim and I think I’m growing into her as I get older. I already feel more at home being Nephy than Cheryl. Even the name makes me  cringe

We both started writing in primary school. Even at age eight or nine the teacher was teasing me that one day she hoped I’d dedicate a book to her. It was obvious even then I was going to be a writer, and I’ve been a writer ever since. Not that I’ve always shared that writing, or that I ever will share some of the stuff I wrote back then.

It wasn’t until about 4 years when, after a visit from two friends and my first attempt at writing gay characters, I discovered the wonderful online story site Gay Authors, did I start sharing my work with others. Before that I’d forced a few family members to read a chapter here and there but never got positive feedback so stopped bothering.

Once I started posting on GA I became hooked on the fact that people were reading, and enjoying, what I was writing. Of course, that was Nephy and it was very dark.

The Face in the Window was an experiment for me. It was the first story where I reined Nephy in and deliberately tried to write a story that was sweet and gentle rather than dark and dangerous. I half succeeded.  I should have known Nephy wouldn’t be far away. To tell the truth I don’t bother trying to keep her out of the picture anymore because it’s Nephy who truly loves writing and she’s better at it than I am. I’m the one who writes legal documents and she’s the one who writes stories.
The real bottom line is that I want to draw a distinct line between my YA writing and my erotic writing. YA is important to both of us and I’ll explain more later.

Your upcoming release The Face in the Window, touches topics such as anger, guilt, and disabilities.  It looks like Nephy, the other half of your personality is still torturing characters. Is it possible to keep the two apart? Or do they inevitably influence one another?

Whichever way you look at it, writing is a therapy for me, for us both. If I’m stressed or worried or angry or just plain crazy, I write. Not that I don’t write when I’m calm and happy , but I find that my day to day stresses tend to leak into my writing and that’s why I’m so calm and laid back and why my writing isn’t. J
Nephy is the one with the creativity. She’s the one who keeps our muse in a cage and taunts him with apples (don’t ask), so she gets most of the work out of him. He tends to get sulky and un cooperative with Cheryl. When he does deign to provide nice, calm, sweet inspiration he takes malicious satisfaction in leading the story down paths that can only lead to Nephy’s world.

I’m an ageing goth, with a strange relationship with death and a liking for all things dark and dangerous. How can I not let Nephy take the lead?

Why the decision to write YA? What’s your favorite thing about this genre?
There was never a moment when I decided to write YA. It’s something I always wanted and intended to do. In fact, it’s the foray into erotica that was the surprise adventure for me.

My daughter is gay and has been since she first explored her sexuality. Attempts at boyfriends were disastrous from the word go and, as soon as sex was involved she was almost physically sick the first time she saw male genetalia. The poor boy ended up with a red face in more ways than one.

Through her, I discovered that what I’d thought was a far more liberal and tolerant society actually wasn’t when it comes to homosexuality. I threw her an engagement party and one of her friends asked if I could adopt him because his parents, whilst ostensibly ‘accepting’ his sexuality, were horrible to him because he was gay. Similar stories emerged all over the place when I started to write for GA and I realized how marginalized gays, especially young gay men, still are.

I made some really good friends on GA and I made up my mind that I was going to write stories of the absolute highest quality I could for people who, let’s face it, have very few gay role models in any form of media. Then, when the opportunity came to publish I kind of went on a mission. I refuse to label my work as m/m or ‘gay’ if I can help it. I write about people – their lives and relationships. They sexuality should be relevant only so far as elements of the story may demand.

This brings me back to the YA genre. Young adults are going through a tough time in every way you can imagine, from bodily changes, to peer pressure, to moving away from their parents (emotionally and/or physically), looking at relationships in different ways and generally coping with a whole lot of life changes and transitions. This is a time when a lot of insecurities and doubts creep in, when eating disorders, self harm and even suicide become real issues for some people, and this is the time when people look outside themselves for role models.

Young adults want to be seen to be grown ups with everything that entails, while still retaining a lot of the insecurities and inexperience of childhood and adolescence.

I think it’s very important that gay teens and young adults are able to look out into the world via the media and see there are other young people out there, just like them, dealing with the same issues and coming through the other side. They want to see the have relationships that work, despite the odds, find love, be strong and happy and make their way in the world.

Where are those role models? Where are the televisions programmes, films, books, soaps etc with gay teens as major characters? Even when they are they’re usually in bad situations.

That’s my dream – to see young adult books, with gay main characters in the windows of major bookstores and not hidden on a dingy shelf at the back. I want to see gay Harry Potters and Percy Jacksons on bookshelves and in Hollywood movies. I’m not even that concerned whether the books and films are mine or not, although it would be nice if they were.

Anyway, that me off my soapbox. I’m not even sure I answered the question.

Did you have to do any research to write The Face in the Window?

Yes. I researched all kinds of things associated with blindness. I didn’t use them all but I was particularly fascinated with Braille keyboards and phones. Phones like Ace’s actually exist and are amazing.
When I was at university I was involved with a project involving reading for blind students. I did some recording and also one to one reading with a blind girl. She was absolutely amazing. I’ve never forgotten her. She was albino like Ace, only with pink eyes. I was totally fascinated by her long white eyelashes and beautiful hair. She was so nice and easy to work with and she was one of only three people in my year who got first class honours.

It was therefore very interesting for me to research into what universities have available for blind students these days and I was very impressed with how things have moved on.

I also did some research on the kind of anger issues Haze experiences and it’s surprising how much information is out there about this kind of thing. I have to admit some the diagnoses of ‘disorders’ and ‘conditions’ make me very uncomfortable but that’s a soapbox for another day.

In Haze’s case, I explored Explosive Anger Disorder, but came up with an eventual diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Where did the inspiration for this particular novel come from?

Five years ago I was diagnosed with epilepsy and had to give up driving. I thought it was the end of the world, and it pretty much was. However, it did mean I got to ride the bus.

In the valley where I live the bus takes a circuitous route. The bus goes up the valley, turns around at the top and comes back down. Beyond the bus turning circle is nothing but mountain.

Right where the bus turns, then pauses before it makes its return journey, there is a big house, set back of the road on a slight rise. One day, I was sitting on the bus looking at the house, and I saw someone look out of one of the dormer windows. That provided the kernel of a story that percolated in my mind for a while.
Then, on GA, I read a few completely separate posts that fitted together over a period of time.  One post, about the stories on GA commented that all the characters were good looking, strong and confident. Another commented there were very few characters with any kind of disability. Whilst the first observation wasn’t necessary true, the second certainly was.

My friend and I made a conscious decision to write about a story with flawed characters and disability. She chose to write about a deaf character and I decided on a blind character. This came at a time when I was riding the bus route regularly and that house was nagging at me. I put them together and Ace was born. My son still refers to that house as Ace’s house.

As a family lawyer, you deal with a lot of stressful and extreme situations, to what the degree do these real stories influence your work as an author?

A lot. Some of my stories were written specifically to explore issues that are raised time and time again within my work and have actually helped me better understand the clients who present with these issues. One example is the issue of why people remain in abusive relationships and suffer domestic violence time and time again. This is explored in Love in Chains, which is on GA and definitely not a story for the faint hearted.
Some of my favourite characters are based on people I have met, either as clients or colleagues.
In my series, Enigma, the psychiatrist in book I is based with someone I’ve worked with professionally. In book II Enigma II – Fighting the Man, I’ve put an awful lot of work experience in there. All of the dealings with Social Services – the case conferences, attitudes of social workers, social work policies etc are drawn from actual experiences.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that I get so stressed at work my fingers can’t wait to get home and write away the stress.

What was the best thing about writing this book?

One of the things I really enjoyed was doing all the research on the special things available for Ace, such as the phone, braille keyboard, books etc.

Another thing I enjoyed was getting into Ace’s mind and getting to know him. It’s an interesting experience trying to ‘see’ ordinary things through the eyes of a blind person. Like the fact that his room has no decoration but lots of different textures and a music system set up for optimal performance in particular spots. Thinking about how a room ‘sounds’ is cool. I enjoyed watching Ace grow and admire how fearless he is.

The descriptions were also very rewarding for me. I like details in any event but the descriptions I give in The Face in the Window have to be more explicit and involve different senses. Little things like Ace not knowing shrimps turn pink when cooked fascinated me as they came to me. Ace started telling me all kinds of things about his world I never would have thought of.

My favourite parts of the book are the first trip to the beach and the party at Uncle Colin’s.

What’s next for you or Nephy?

Cheryl, has been fortunate enough to have another book accepted by Featherweight Publishing, which is about a young man who wakes after a long coma and has to learn to do everything all over again, from walking and talking, to remembering. Not only does Noah have to learn to be himself again, and to remember who ‘himself’ was in the first place, but as his memories return they start taking some very worrying twists that eventually plunge himself and his best friend into a nightmare.

This one is in very early stages though and probably isn’t going to be out until the middle of next year.
Nephy, is in the final stages of editing the third book in the Upstaged series which is co written with Stephanie Danielson and will be published by Romance First Publishing.

She has also had another book accepted by Romance First Publishing which is also a YA about a fairy who allows himself to be seen by a human one too many times and, as a punishment has to be his slave for three months. Draven is a terrible slave and it’s just as well Keiron doesn’t want a slave in the first place. This is the closest either Nephy or Cheryl have come to comedy and I’ve laughed out loud over and over again when writing it.

I’m hoping Upstaged will be out Christmas time or just after and Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden early next year

October Spookiness

A book recommendation for October
Omorphi by Cory Kennedy. Not a spooky book but the best one I’ve read in a long time.
Favorite scary film
Voodoo Moon

It’s Halloween and you are…  standing around a fire in robes with a group of friends doing a Samhain ritual

Favorite thing about autumn 
The colours of the trees and mountains, and walking through crunchy leaves.

*If you celebrate Halloween*What are you planning to dress up as this year? or If you could dress up as something on Halloween, it’d be… ?

Share a scary (or autumn) anecdote with us

Believe this or not, as you wish. When I was about 25/26 I started attending a Druid Grove in WorstonLancs. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as…complete as I did when I was there. I tried to get up there for at least four of the eight festivals every year and I’d go to week long workshops a couple of times a year.
Samhain has always been my favourite festival and the Samhain rituals have been  intense every time.
The house we met had its own stone circle in a grove and we were in the middle of a ritual, standing around the fire in robes when we all heard something crashing about in the bushes. We ignored it as best we could, but hurried the ritual as much as we could. The crashing and scratching in the bushes continued until the end, moving around the circle. When we’d finished, everyone took lanterns and searched the bushes (well, everyone who weren’t too scared (cough – responsible enough to check on the food) ).
Needless to say, nothing was found and nothing was heard again for the rest of the weekend.

Don't forget to get in touch with Cheryl / Nephy:

Want to read an excerpt? I know you do! Nephy allowed me to pick it and it took me quite some time as I couldn't decide what special moment to showcase...but in the end, well, you guys know me, I'm a sucker for romance and first kisses...

The Face in the Window Excerpt

With his face tilted upwards towards the sun and
a huge grin on his face as he felt the sea breeze across
his shoulders he was happy and content, completely
relaxed. It was a humbling experience to realise that
at this time his happiness and security were entirely
in my hands. One step away from him and a few
minutes silence was all that it would take to isolate
and terrify him. Or would it?

Looking at him standing only a few feet away,
his hair literally glowing in the sun, more colour in
his cheeks than I had yet seen, I don’t think I would
have been surprised if he had sprouted wings and
flew away. There was nothing he wasn’t capable of;
he was heroic.

“What are you thinking?”

I jumped at his soft voice which drew me sharply
back from my musings.

“Thinking? I was thinking how utterly beautiful
you are and that at this moment I could believe you
were capable of anything.”

He grinned. “I am.”

Stepping forward he missed my careful gateway
by a few inches with one foot and there was a crunch
as he stood on the dried seaweed and probably the
empty shell of a long dead crab. He didn’t pause or
flinch. Stretching out his hand, his fingers touched
my arm which I had automatically thrown out towards him, afraid he might fall.

The touch of his fingers was so very light as they
slid down my arm to my hand and laced with mine
as he closed the last few inches. Now we were so
close I could feel his breath on my face, smell his
sweet, spicy scent. I closed my eyes and let my hand
fall to rest on his hip.

My fingers hit the handle of his cane, which he
had collapsed and hooked onto his belt. The cane
swung inward and poked into his leg.

“Ha. Shame on you. Attacking a poor blind
boy with his own cane. You should be ashamed of

“Not yet,” I whispered huskily and did what I
had been dreaming about for days.

I could taste salt on his lips and felt them curve. I
had thought that he would be shy and hesitant but
he was neither of those things. He was clearly not
inexperienced either, when he pulled me towards
him so suddenly and so hard that I almost literally
fell into his arms, and it was he who pushed the kiss
on to the next level.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much. Your review was very kind and I loved the excerpt you chose :)


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