Author Name: Alysia Constantine
Book Name: Sweet
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/AlysiaConstantine
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: C.B. Messer
Release Date: February 4, 2016
Not every love story is a romance novel.
For Jules Burns, a lonely baker, it is the memory of his deceased husband, Andy. For Teddy Flores, a numbed-to-the-world accountant who accidentally stumbles into his bakery, it is a voyage of discovery into his deep connections to pleasure, to the world, and to his own heart.
Alysia Constantine’s Sweet is also the story of how we tell stories—of what we expect and need from a love story. The narrator is on to you, Reader, and wants to give you a love story that doesn’t always fit the bill. There are ghosts to exorcise, and jobs and money to worry about. Sweet is a love story, but it also reminds us that love is never quite what we expect, nor quite as blissfully easy as we hope.
Praise for ‘Sweet’ by Alysia Constantine from Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-941530-61-0
Pages or Words: 246 pages
Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance
"Speakerphone. Put me on speaker so you can use your hands. You're going to need both hands, and I won't be held responsible for you mucking up your phone. Speaker."
Teddy set his phone on the counter and switched to the speaker, then stood waiting.
"Hello?" Jules said. "Is this thing on?"
"Sorry," Teddy said. "I'm still here."
"It sounded like you'd suddenly disappeared. I was starting to believe in the rapture," Jules said, and Teddy heard, again, the nervous chuckle.
Their conversation was awkward and full of strange pauses in which there was nothing right to say, and they focused mostly on how awkward and strange it was until Jules told Teddy to dump the almond paste on the counter and start to knead in the sugar.
"I'm doing it, too, along with you," Jules said.
"I'm not sure whether that makes it more or less weird," Teddy admitted, dusting everything in front of him with sugar.
"It's just like giving a back rub," Jules told him. "Roll gently into the dough with the heel of your hand, lean in with your upper body. Think loving things. Add a little sugar each time—watch for when it's ready for more. Not too much at once."
Several moments passed when all that held their connection was a string of huffed and effortful breaths and the soft thump of dough. Teddy felt Jules pressing and leaning forward into his work, felt the small sweat and ache that had begun to announce itself in Jules's shoulders, felt it when he held his breath as he pushed and then exhaled in a rush as he flipped the dough, felt it all as surely as if Jules's body were there next to him, as if he might reach to the side and, without glancing over, brush the sugar from Teddy’s forearm, a gesture which might have been, if real, if the result of many long hours spent in the kitchen together, sweet and familiar and unthinking.
"My grandmother and I used to make this," Jules breathed after a long silence, "when I was little. Mine would always become flowers. She would always make hers into people."
Teddy understood that he needn't reply, that Jules was speaking to him, yes, but speaking more into the empty space in which he stood as a witness, talking a story into the evening around him, and he, Teddy, was lucky to be near, to listen in as the story spun itself out of Jules and into the open, open quiet.
When the dough was finished and Jules had interrupted himself to say, "There, mine's pretty done. I bet yours is done by now, too," Teddy nodded in agreement—and even though he knew Jules couldn't see him, he was sure Jules would sense him nodding through some miniscule change in his breathing or the invisible tension between them slackening just the slightest bit. And he did seem to know, because Jules paused and made a satisfied noise that sounded as if all the spring-coiled readiness had slid from his body. "This taste," Jules sighed, "is like Proust's madeleine."
They spent an hour playing with the dough and molding it into shapes they wouldn't reveal to each other. Teddy felt childish and happy and inept and far too adult all at once as he listened to the rhythmic way Jules breathed and spoke, the way his voice moved in and out of silence, like the advance and retreat of shallow waves that left in their wake little broken treasures on the shore.
Only his fingers moved, fumbling and busy and blind as he listened, his whole self waiting for Jules to tell him the next thing, whatever it might be.
Buy the book:
Interlude Press: http://store.interludepress.com/products/sweet-by-alysia-constantine-multi-format-ebook
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing, Alysia Constantine, author of SWEET. Hi Alysia, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
1) How do you feel about e-books vs print books?
Politically, I think it’s a great new resource. So much energy is saved in their creation and distribution (think: paper bleaching, delivery trucks), and it makes books available in ways they weren’t before, though it requires you to have more fiscal means (you need an e-reader or a computer), so perhaps it’s only revolutionary for the wealthier among us. They are certainly a convenience—you can take 10 books on the road with you, as long as you have a good battery (travelling used to be a balance for me between how many books I estimated I would need on a trip and how many was reasonable to carry). But I have a pretty sensory relationship with books: I like how they feel in my hands, I like how they smell. I like knowing how far I am within the story by seeing how much of the book is left (there’s a kind of mourning that sets in on me when I can see I’m nearing the end of a book I’m really enjoying… that’s part of the enjoyment). Also, as a college professor, I’ve seen students using electronic texts, and you just can’t make notes on those the same way—I know there’s a way to make a notation, but it’s not the same as being able to scribble all over it. One of my favorite things to do is to find a book in a library or used bookstore that has someone else’s marginalia in it—I love seeing how someone else marked up a text, the little notes they make in the margins, both what they wrote and their style of writing. It doesn’t necessarily tell me much about what that person was thinking, because those notes are usually pretty cryptic, but I like the evidence that someone else was there before me.
2) What process did you go through to get your first book published?
I got really lucky about this. I started writing Sweet and “publishing” it online as a way to give myself a fun, low-risk writing project. I’ve always been drawn to writing, but my work often doesn’t allow for the time or energy to do it. For me, it was therapeutic, to do something for pure pleasure and experimentation. So I posted it anonymously as fan fiction, which was my way of committing to doing it, finding accountability, but still keeping the risk very low. The folks who started Interlude Press came out of that same community, and were writers themselves. One of the people at Interlude Press, Lex Huffman, who has since passed away, had read Sweet online and sent me a note suggesting that they’d like to publish it. It’s not a very helpful story in terms of “how to,” because it involved a bunch of dumb luck, but I wasn’t looking to publish. I’d sort of given up on writing for publication. You have to be very hearty as a writer, very thick-skinned, and I’m afraid I’m not. I was scared of publication. But I’m trying to get over myself and just do things that scare me. Saying yes to Interlude’s generous offer to publish Sweet was more about wanting to support a new LGBTQ press and be a part of their efforts than it was wanting to publish a story of my own (that part is a bit terrifying for me). think Interlude is a really smashing press, and I’m so happy it’s in the world—and really glad I get to contribute to it. I wish there had been something like this for me as a young gay kid (and for my not-gay friends and family, too… the more we get to see ourselves in stories as LGBTQ folks, the easier it becomes to see ourselves in general).
3) How do you find or make time to write?
I’m a lifelong insomniac, so I usually write in the wee hours of the night, when the rest of the neighborhood sleeps. It cuts down on the tempting distractions of talking to my partner, playing with my dogs, or watching television, too. I do best with large chunks of time to write, to really sink into what I’m doing, but that can be a problem, because it sometimes means I wind up under-slept. Sometimes I have to go teach a class and I feel like a zombie because I was up until 4 in the morning writing. But that turns out to be okay, because the college kids I teach are usually pretty under-slept, too, so it gives me empathy.
4) Name one person who you feel supported you outside of your family members?
I feel like a beauty pageant contestant, because I know this sounds like a trite answer, but everyone at Interlude Press (Lex Huffman, before he passed away, Annie, Candy, and C.B. Messer, who is the artist who designed the book of Sweet) has been so supportive of me. Annie Harper, the Managing Editor at Interlude, has been an incredible source of support and love. Plus, she’s found lots ways to keep me writing, keep me thinking. Candysse Miller, who is the Director of Marketing at Interlude, has been steadfast in advising me, supporting me, shepherding me through everything, and is so understanding of the fact that I’m not a publicity hound by nature. And I got really lucky to have C.B. Messer design the book and covers for Sweet; I wrote to her to tell her how beautiful I thought the cover was (have you seen it? It’s perfect!), and we began to exchange emails on the regular. I love the chance to write letters, and the fact that these sometimes involve talking about our work, and sometimes involve talking about our worlds is really fulfilling to me. There are also some personal friends I’ve got who, when I finally told them about publishing a novel, were so happy and supportive. And even the professor with whom I co-teach a class—a fellow I respect immensely—was really supportive. So, I’m sorry for being noncompliant, but I’d have a hard time naming a single person. I’m very lucky to have found a community of supportive, intelligent, talented people with which to surround myself.
5) Tell us about a book you’re reading now.
Well, I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, but I’m always reading the new releases from Interlude Press and posting reviews on my Tumblr (that’s www.alysia-constantine.tumblr.com, folks!). Beyond that, I was recently reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. It’s a collection of essays by Gay—essays about feminism, identity, culture, politics. It’s really smart writing; I like her voice; she’s really incisive, and she’s got a great point of view on the world. I’m ashamed to say, too, that the essay format works right now for my life—they are bite-sized, one subway ride in length, so I rarely have to bookmark and wait to finish a thought with her. She’s honest and funny and unpretentious, and it’s such a refreshing change from the heaviness of most “theory” that tackles exactly what she’s tackling.
Meet the author:
Alysia Constantine lives in Brooklyn with her wife, their two dogs, and a cat. When she is not writing, she is a professor at an art college. Before that, she was a baker and cook for a caterer, and before that, she was a poet.
Sweet is her first novel.
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Rafflecopter Prize: $25 Interlude Press gift card to one winner, e-copies of ‘Sweet’ to five additional winners