Thursday, April 2, 2015

Blog Tour - Author Interview & Giveaway: “Carry the Ocean" by Heidi Cullinan


I jumped at the chance to review "Carry The Ocean" for two reasons. One, the blurb just captivated me and I wanted to see how Heidi was going to create this world. I wasn't disappointed. When I found out that there was going to be a tour, I squee and asked to interview Heidi! She graciously agreed and here we are! 
  

Hi Heidi and welcome back to Enchantress of Books! We are extremely happy to have you here with us today to chat about “Carry The Ocean” your latest release! 

Thanks! It’s great to be here.

Allow me to gush over and say I LOVED “Carry The Ocean”! The characters, the plot, the development… I could go on and on, but lets start by having you share with us the how did this story come about/to you?

Thank you so much. Well, this is one of those that definitely walked up to me rather than me seeking it out. I was watching another TV show featuring a young autistic character, and I had the idle thought that would make a great romance novel. Next thing I knew, Emmet was knocking at my head, first politely, then more insistently. I jotted down some notes, then tabled the idea as too daunting to tackle right then. A few months later my schedule got jostled and I found myself needing to start something new, and while I debated my options, Emmet rushed forward again. I decided to give it a try. Though I was nervous, for the most part this story laid itself out for me. It was truly a pleasure to write.

It was a pleasure to read! I read it in one sitting! Like I said, loved it! You write in different genres, and while there are liberties a writer can take in Paranormal Romance or Fantasy and even when creating a town in contemporary romance, you can’t do that regarding Autism and/or Depression. How much research did you do and how did you go about that research, meaning, I know you just didn't Google ‘signs of depressions’. 

Well, I’ve worked rather extensively with special needs populations over the years, which was a good start for Emmet. I did do a lot of book and online research too, plus I had my agent read it as a beta reader to check me, as she has a son Emmet’s age with autism. She said she was convinced I had an autistic teen boy I hadn’t told her about.

As for the depression and anxiety, that’s very close to home, as both my husband and daughter have anxiety, and my husband has also had several bouts of depression. I’ve watched his struggles with the condition and with the world regarding his condition. I’ve used anxiety in my novels several times, overtly and subtly, but Carry the Ocean was my moment to really get my hands in there. I had a lot to say about it. I could probably write seven or eight more novels with this issue front and center and still not be done.

You did a great job with it all, I like your agent, thought perhaps you had a son as well! I see now you have first hand experience as well as knowledge. You did a fantastic job describing the anxiety and depression! It had me thinking about those around me and how I could better be aware of things! I have a nephew who is Autistic and it made me want to reach out to get more info about his therapy. They live in another state and they don't share a lot... I'm thinking that if I start the conversations it may make it easier for them. "Carry the Ocean" has provided me with a better understand of what he might be going through (though he's only 9 years old) and how to better interact with him! THANKS!

I was chatting online with a mutual friend of ours when a commented that Emmet is a bit of a DOM and Jeremey is a Sub. Our mutual friend had an “aha! OMG you’re right” moment and we discussed it some more (One of the things I love about our book community is being able to discuss awesome books with fellow book lovers!) This works for them and its completely subtle and not at all addressed as BDSM, it’s just something I picked up based on their personality and their relationship dynamic. Did you write them as such on purpose and/or labeled them D/s, if not… thoughts? 


Well, they were never D/s for me in that this absolutely isn’t a BDSM novel, but yes, in most relationships someone ends up being more controlling and someone else more passive in the bedroom. Though of course a lot of times people switch it up no matter how that plays out. I didn’t really plan it here, more that they sort of worked that out among themselves.

I did, however, feel strongly about letting Emmet shine brightly as the put-together character who led Jeremey more than the other way around. I wanted that because Emmet is someone people would glance at and make assumptions, most of them wrong. Ditto Jeremey, though they’re more devastating because he absolutely cannot handle other people being so wrong about him. He really needed an advocate. The characters naturally went to these places, but I did everything I could to highlight how much our assumptions about people can be not just cruel but dangerous.

For those that know Heidi’s writing, her characters are sweet and loving, but that doesn't mean there isn't steamy love scenes. It’s still very sweet though! I LOVE how Emmet is very OPEN about sex and how he isn’t shy about it (i.e. doing the research). Was that a bit freeing for you as a writer to have the character not be “shy” or “embarrassed” and that he was that open?  How did you determine how steamy they were going to get?

Oh, everything about Emmet was a joy. He’s just about replaced Randy Jansen as my favorite character, and that’s not easy. For the sex scenes, I was okay with them going as far as they wanted, and showing only what they wanted to. I was pretty adamant, though, about letting them not only have on-screen sex but having it the way they wanted. That became part of the fun, having them face their own expectations about what intimacy looked like and then having to make their own way within it. For Emmet in particular showing his sexual adventures was important, because there is this social tendency to view people with special needs as not whole people, not real people who fall in love and have sex.

As reviewers and members of the author/book community in one way or another, one of the meme’s we’ve seen float around from authors is the “delete my browser history”, any funny or interesting searches that came about from “Carry the Ocean”? 

You know, not really. Most of my research was on autism and a little on anxiety, and there’s not a lot of ad base that comes up from that. Mostly I found a lot of great stuff which I immediately found a way to weave into the book. And what I couldn’t use in the text I turned into goodies for the blog tour.

What do you love most about Emmet and Jeremey, individually and as a couple?

How absolutely natural and easy they are, how they’re in a lot of ways a better, stronger couple than most able-bodied people. Of all my characters I feel like their HEA is the most solid and assured. Life will bring them challenges forever, but their relationship with one another will always be a rock they can come home to.

“Carry the Ocean” is the first book in “The Roosevelt Series”, which is named after a residential building. Can you share with us what’s next in the series? Will David get to share his love story with us all? For those who may not have read “Carry the Ocean” just yet, David is an awesome character that is straight but hugely accepting! He’s also funny and sarcastic (sigh… love that!)! And totally has Jeremey’s and Emmet’s back! He’s also a C4 quadriplegic who I’d love for him to get his HEA! 

Yes, David is next, and he’ll be my first straight romance. I think it will be single first person POV, though I’ve gotten a few peeks at Carolyn and she might change my mind.

Ohhh your first straight romance!! I thought that would be the case. Love is love and it will be awesome!! Will we get to see more of Emmet and Jeremey and if so, how? (What? You didn’t think I was just going to leave it at a Yes or No question? LOL)

Like the Love Lessons series, lead characters from previous books will be supporting characters in the new books. Jeremey is still working for David, and Emmet will feature prominently in David’s search for how to be a quad boyfriend, particularly when it comes to researching sex.

Well, Emmet is very good at research!!  Heidi, THANK YOU for hanging out with us today and sharing Emmet’s and Jeremey’s story with the world! It’s a much better place with people like you in it and stories like this! Can’t wait to read more! 

Thank you so much for having me!

I simply adore Heidi and love having her here with us! I hope you enjoyed your time with us as well! As you scroll down, you'll find some more information about "Carry the Ocean" which includes an excerpt and where you can stalk, I mean find Heidi! There's also an awesome and I do mean awesome giveaway, so make sure to enter and please share!! 


Carry the Ocean 
(The Roosevelt #1)
by Heidi Cullinan

Blurb: 

Normal is just a setting on the dryer. 

High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.

As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.

Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues. 



Available for purchase at 

               



Excerpt


It took me ten months to meet Jeremey Samson.

I saw Jeremey the day we moved into our house in Ames, Iowa. We moved there before I started my freshman year at Iowa State University. Jeremey’s house was across from ours in the back, on the other side of the train tracks that ran through where an alley should have been. When I walked with my aunt Althea to the organic grocery store down the street, I made her go the long way so I could memorize his house number and the license plate of the car in his driveway. It took a lot of online digging, but I learned his family’s name, and eventually I discovered his too. Jeremey Samson.

I didn’t approach him, though. I watched him from a distance. I studied him across the yard. I found his Instagram. He was quiet online, which is smart but makes it hard to learn about someone you’re too shy to say hello to in person. I would have introduced myself in social media, sent a message and gotten to know him first in text, but he only posted maybe one picture a month, and he never left comments.
He was a high school senior then. He had a friend named Bart, which is probably short for Bartholomew. Bart liked to post selfies on Instagram with his tongue sticking out. I followed Bart’s account because sometimes he took pictures of Jeremey.

Jeremey never stuck out his tongue, and his smile was always small, with his lips closed.

Sometimes I tried to find a logical reason why I liked Jeremey so much, but romantic feelings have nothing to do with logic. Sometimes what I liked best about Jeremey was the way he spelled his name. Jeremey, with an extra e. I made a computer program to spell his name out in a pretty font, and I always smiled at the third E. It made him special—ordinary Jeremys weren't good enough to have all the Es.

Sometimes I liked him for his smile. Sometimes I liked him because he didn't smile. Sometimes I got an erection because of the way he brushed his hair away from his face. It didn't matter to my brain that these were odd reasons to care for someone. My brain, my body, my everything wanted to be Jeremey’s boyfriend.

I wanted to introduce myself, but I was nervous. My first year of college was challenging, and I didn't have energy enough to deal with so many new things and making a new friend too. I kept hoping I would run into Jeremey on the street or at the library, but it never happened. As the school year wore on, Jeremey came outside less and less, and he posted fewer pictures, sometimes not posting anything for over a month. One day in May he had a graduation party, but not many people came to sit on his back deck with him. When I did see Jeremey, he looked sad.
I wanted to meet him and find out why he was sad, maybe make him happy. But I couldn't. The truth was, I had a crush on Jeremey Samson. I didn't just want to be his friend. I wanted to be his boyfriend.

Most people would say, Good job. You go get your boyfriend. If I went online to a message board, I could get anyone in the world to root for me. People hardly mind anymore if I’m gay, and nobody cares in Ames.

There’s one little issue though, something that would change most people’s minds about me. It’s the reason I had to wait so long to introduce myself to Jeremey, the reason I didn't want to tell my family I had a crush. This tiny problem is the reason moving made me nervous, made college a struggle for me. Though I have tons of online friends, one fact about me changes what everyone thinks when they meet me in person. Because even though the me who writes like this is the same me who walks and talks and rides the bus to college, nobody believes it when they see me face-to-face.

My name is Emmet David Washington. I’m nineteen years old, and I’m a sophomore at Iowa State University studying computer science and applied physics. I got a perfect score on my ACT. I’m five feet nine inches tall with dark hair and blue-gray eyes. I enjoy puzzles and The Blues Brothers. I’m good at computers and anything to do with math. I remember almost everything I read and see. I’m gay. I love trains, pizza and the sound of rain.

I also have autism spectrum disorder. It’s not even close to the most important thing about me, but as soon as people see me, watch me move, hear me speak, it’s the only thing that seems to matter. People treat me differently. They act as if I’m stupid or dangerous. They call me the R word or tell me I should be put in a home, and they mean institution, not the house where I live.

When people find out I have autism, they don’t think I should be allowed to be in love, not with Jeremey, not with anyone.

Which is crap. It’s like Elwood Blues says: everybody needs somebody to love. I’m an everybody. I get a somebody.

The problem is, getting a somebody is trickier if you have autism. If I wanted to introduce myself to Jeremey to see if he would be my friend, maybe something more, I couldn't ignore him or let my autism make me uneasy about possible rejection. I tried to tell myself someone with such a quiet face and nice smile wouldn't say mean things to me or call me the R word. I told myself to be brave.

It took me ten months to introduce myself to Jeremey Samson. To learn and memorize the etiquette, to find the right words that would show me to Jeremey, not my autism. It took a long time and a lot of work, but I did it.

I shouldn't have worried so much about it. Frankly, I’m awesome, and anybody who doesn't agree should get out of my way.




About the Author


Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state's LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage. 

You can stalk, I mean find Heidi here: 

                                


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