Congratulations on your new release. It’s great to have you visiting us at Two Men. Thanks for providing us with the opportunity to ask you a few questions.
This is the fourth book in the Neighboring Affection series. The other stories highlight the menage relationship between two men and a woman. This story is focused on the m/m relationship. Why have you focused on Henry and Jay this time?
M.Q.: Henry insisted. Becoming His Master is the origin story for Henry and Jay’s relationship; it can be read as a standalone or before or after the other books in the series, which are narrated by Alice, the woman they invite into their relationship later.
Jay shares bits and pieces of his background in the other books, but as I was writing those scenes, Henry began demanding to tell the whole story from his point of view. I couldn’t help but give in; Henry can be very closed-off with his emotions, and the opportunity to get inside his head and heart for a whole book was too exciting to pass up.
Falling for Jay fundamentally changed the course of Henry’s life at least as much as being rescued by Henry changed the course of Jay’s. Over the years, the two of them have built an incredibly strong, loving relationship. How they got there is a story that deserved to be told.
Jay or Henry? Does one of the characters hold a special place in your heart?
M.Q.: Oh, they both do, absolutely. Jay’s the sweetheart and Henry’s the stoic.
I can count on Jay to lighten a heavy moment or to drop a stunning bit of intuitive knowledge that changes the situation entirely. He’s as restless as Henry is reserved. But his charm comes in two forms – the fidgety-flirt surface kind that deflects strangers and the deeper contentment he finds in submission to Henry. Jay grows so much stronger over the course of the series, and I’m proud of his evolution.
Henry, on the other hand, is the seductive dominant gentleman. He’s constantly observing others and refining his impressions. He gives little of himself away while he’s gently, insistently coaxing information from his quarry. He makes mistakes, but he’s confident enough and honest enough to admit when he does and to correct them. He’s devoted to the health and welfare of his submissives, and they love him for it.
I love the sound of the blurb. It sounds like just the type of story I like reading – something to tug a little on the heartstrings. How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?
M.Q.: I write in short bursts, one scene at a time, and whenever possible I make sure I have some emotional recovery time afterward. I try to sink deep into the characters’ headspace when I’m writing. Coming out of that mode is foggy sometimes.
But the thing I like to remember is that pain can lead to character growth. I often write the last scene of a book first, and I’ll re-read that scene when I’m having difficulty, because it reminds me that the characters’ struggles are meaningful and bending toward a beautiful outcome.
What book is currently sitting on your bedside table?
M.Q.: Actually, I never have a book on my nightstand – I have a notepad, a pen, and a small flashlight. The time right before falling asleep is a fertile one for ideas, and I’ve long since gotten tired of traipsing out to my desk to write one down before I forget it.
But the books I’m itching to read next are the newest ones from Jim Butcher, Scott Lynch, and Elizabeth Haydon. I’ve been a fantasy reader since I was young, when I’d lose myself for hours in Pern and Valdemar and a dozen other worlds.
What’s next in the series? Can your readers expect another installment?
M.Q.: They can! I recently finished writing the manuscript for the fifth book, and I’m editing that now. I also write a short fiction exclusive every month for newsletter subscribers (www.mqbarber.com/newsletter); the Tuesdays with Jay stories are from Jay’s point of view and cover events that aren’t shown in the main novels.
Are you able to surprise us with any little snippets or teasers about the story that aren’t in the blurb?
M.Q.: Readers of the series so far know Jay’s safeword, but they don’t know his reason for choosing it. Henry gets the story out of him in Becoming His Master. And those who’ve read the series short story Three-Way Tie might recognize a familiar toy the first time Jay gets to play with it. Becoming His Master is structured so that you don’t have to read any other part of the series to enjoy it as a standalone, but it’s particularly rich and rewarding for those who want to immerse themselves in the Neighborly Affection universe.