[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to bring you this interview with author Lauren Blakely and the narrators of her latest novel, A Guy Walks Into My Bar! You don’t want to miss this.]
FROLIC: What made you want to write an M/M romance?
LAUREN: I have been a fan of MM romance ever since I came across André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name in an indie bookstore in San Francisco when it first came out in paperback years ago. That was such a wonderful love story, both sexy and rich with longing, and it introduced me to the genre. I have been an avid consumer of the genre since then, and many of my readers over the years encouraged me to try my hand at writing MM. But the reason I started writing A Guy Walks Into My Bar in particular is that I was so entertained by the relationship that Joe and Shane have on Twitter–teasing each other, poking fun at each other–that I thought it’d be fantastic to put them together in a duet fashion on a romance. So I originally started A Guy Walks Into My Bar as a short scene that would be a bonus at the end of an audio book. That short scene evolved into a short story, which then evolved into a novella, which then evolved into a short novel, which then evolved into my longest novel ever! And I am so excited with what these two amazing narrators did with this epic romance.
FROLIC: What was different about writing M/M vs F/M?
LAUREN: The biggest difference in writing MM versus FM romance is that, quite frankly, I didn’t have to worry about any perceptions that a heroine might face when it comes to society and her decisions about sex and her interest in it. I was able to solely focus on what two men might feel and what they bring to the equation. That was freeing, in a way, to be able to tackle an entire book and an entire romance solely from the point of view of two men. But beyond that, the love, the feelings, the desire in my mind is entirely the same. It’s about two people who are intensely attracted to each other, who fall deeply in love, and who want to find a way to be together. It doesn’t matter if they’re two men, or two women, or a man and a woman. The biggest difference was honestly that I could write both points of view with a bit of swagger to them, and that was a lot of fun.
FROLIC: What challenges did you face when writing this book?
LAUREN: The biggest challenges I faced when writing this book was how long it kept being! The characters had a lot to say, and they insisted on having me tell a very detailed epic love story, and I’m thrilled that they did!
FROLIC: Which character do you relate to most and why?
LAUREN: I am a lot like Dean in the sense that I like to think things over and weigh them and make lists in my head. But I think I also have a lot of similarities to Fitz in terms of his passion and his intensity.
FROLIC: What is one thing you hope people take away from your book?
LAUREN: What I most want people to take away from the book is joy and passion and desire and love. I hope listeners are swept away in a deeply passionate irresistible romance because that’s how this story felt to me while writing it.
FROLIC: What’s it like hearing your book come to life in audio form?
LAUREN: Since I wrote it with Joe and Shane in mind from the get-go, it was intense and intimate to hear the nuances that they brought to every single scene, line, and emotion. I’ve read the book many times, and I’ve listened to the audiobook probably close to six or seven times now. Each time I feel like they show me a little bit more of these characters, and that’s a really exciting thing to happen as an author.
FROLIC: What are some challenges you face when narrating an audiobook?
SHANE EAST: Keeping everybody straight when you reach book 5+ in a series – especially fantasy/PNR – after there’s been a long(ish) break in the releases. AND of course you’ve been recording non-stop in between! It can feel a little “that way madness lies” at times! The hours even for very experienced narrators can be long and tiring. You definitely have to watch getting burnt out. And sometimes how an author writes can be tricky. Their style might be unusual or sometimes just not so “audio friendly”. Beautifully crafted on the page in literary form but that doesn’t always make for a seamless translation into audio. I will say LB’s books are a dream in that sense though because she writes with audio heavily in mind, as well as specific narrators.
JOE ARDEN: This may be embarrassing for a romance narrator to admit, but stamina is a big issue for me in the booth. Haha. This work is actually a lot harder than it looks and keeping my energy levels up day in and day out, staying fresh and focused, that can be challenging. I keep a small stuffed elephant in my booth to remind me that someone, somewhere is listening. That helps.
FROLIC: After recording in the romance genre, is there anything you’ve taken away from the genre in general or realized?
SHANE EAST: It is a far more in-depth and complicated world than outsiders give it credit for and they shouldn’t dismiss it! The fans are some of the best you will find ANYWHERE! Once they love an author or narrator or both they are ALL IN. It’s wonderful. And partners should take a look at what their respective others are reading. It’s very insightful and could give you some excellent ideas!
JOE ARDEN: People want to be heard. People want to be seen. People want to be loved. Also, women love abs.
FROLIC: What is something you learned or realized while recording A Guy Walks Into My Bar?
SHANE EAST: It was great to work so closely with another male narrator. Usually I’m partnered with a girl and any duet productions have been that way. I learned a lot from just listening to Joe, seeing how he approached things, how he told the story, what was similar to me and how I work and what was different. Recording can generally be very solitary and even if you work with someone you don’t record together. It was just good to feel another highly respected male narrator’s energy and how he engages with romance.
JOE ARDEN: I love working with other people. This is probably something I already knew, but ours is a very solitary profession most of the time, so having this rare opportunity to collaborate with other performers was very refreshing. I thank Lauren for creatively and financially creating that space for myself, Shane and many other fabulous actors to shine.
FROLIC: What makes you similar/different to your character?
SHANE EAST: I understand his ambitiousness. His loyalty to his friends and his father. His love of London. His apprehensions and fears in the face of love. I found a lot to relate to in Dean – perhaps because LB wrote the part with me in mind – that it’s hard to think now of differences.
JOE ARDEN: Many stage directors I’ve worked with have often asked me to expose my own emotional truths and share intimate stories to help connect me to a character. Then one time, I worked with a director who asked me all the same bone-deep questions, but before I could answer, he stopped me and said, “Don’t tell me. Trust yourself and let it inform the text.” It was the first time in my career that I realized that I could be an honest and invested performer and still maintain my privacy.
This is my long-winded way of saying that I’m not going to answer this question!
FROLIC: How do you get into character?
SHANE EAST: I read the story before recording. I highlight things in the text that are pertinent to them – said by me or others around me. Through that process and soaking in the narrative – my character’s POV and inner dialogue – I just get a real sense and picture of them. I can almost see them in my head. After that the rest flows in the booth. By then I’ve come to know them so when I voice them and add real time, vocalized emotions and feelings and energy, it elevates and comes into its own and that’s when the character truly “lives”.
JOE ARDEN: This is a great follow-up to the previous question. The Russian-American actor and teacher Michael Checkov spoke of the MAGIC IF. Basically, he wanted to know if we could access something beyond simply our personal experiences to tap into a more universal sense of truth for a character. He suggests that we can train our imagination to open all these doors for us through body and mind exercises. I try to combine elements of my own journey with this heightened imagination to try to fully realize each character. More specifically, in every scene for every character (because I often play all the parts in a book), I determine what each character wants. Then I pursue that objective fearlessly. Everything else (accent, voice, pacing, energy, mood) is a byproduct of the character responding to their attempts to achieve that goal.
FROLIC: Which scene was your favorite to record?
SHANE EAST: Lots of scenes with Joe were great but I will say the one with my Dad played by Ron Butler. There’s a very poignant scene later in the book – no spoilers here! – that you’ll know once you listen. It’s a tight race for the top spot because there are so many great moments, scenes, chapters, interactions in A Guy Walks Into My Bar, but that one maybe sticks a hair more than the others.
JOE ARDEN: Without giving too much away, I will say this. My favorite scene comes near the end of the book. It’s a scene found in many romance books, but being able to experience this monumental life moment with another actor really elevated my connectivity to the material and the moment.
Check out an audio excerpt below!
About the Author:
A #1 New York Times Bestselling, #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling, and #1 Audible Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that’s sweet, sexy and witty. She also writes red-hot, ultra-steamy romance for her Lauren Blakely After Dark line. She’d love to give you a free book today! Check out her web site to grab your free read: https://laurenblakely.com/one-
Connect with Lauren:
About the Narrators:
About Shane East:
Hailing from London, Shane’s Brit accent frequently tops Audible’s bestseller list and is a favourite amongst romance’s top authors. He’s a multi Audie Awards nominee, Earphones winner, and has been crowned romance narrator of the year by Audiofile Magazine, The Romantic Times and SOVAS. Fans enjoy his work so much they’ve even started a fan club called the Shaneiaks (on Facebook). And when not recording you can find him in the kitchen cooking up a storm.
About Joe Arden:
Joe Arden is one of the industry’s most prolific narrators of Romance and Erotica. He has been nominated for multiple Audie and SOVAS Awards and has received AudioFile’s Earphones award several times. When he isn’t in the booth, Joe can be found training and fostering rescue pit bulls and restoring vintage motorcycles. He’s narrated in more than sixteen Lauren Blakely audiobooks.
A Guy Walks Into My Bar by Lauren Blakely, Out August 19!
Every bartender should follow one simple rule—don’t go home with the customers.
That’s been easy for me to stick to, until the night a cocky, confident, and sinfully charming hockey star walks into my bar. This sexy athlete is too hard to resist, especially when he makes it clear how much he wants the “sarcastic, witty, hot AF” guy behind the bar—also known as me.
Still, I’m not keen on breaking my own rules since I know where that can lead—no place good. But when that man makes his case with one bone-searing kiss on the streets of London, I throw resistance out the window.
What could go wrong with a hot, no-strings-attached fling before he leaves town in five days? Trouble is, soon our nights together lead to days, to long conversations, to getting to know each other, and to something I never expected—falling ridiculously hard for a man who’s getting on a plane to America when I live a world away.
My life is here. His is there. And no amount of falling or feeling will change that one big problem.
Warning: contains hot hotel nights, loads of dirty talk, PDA all over London, and two sexy, witty, charming heroes…