"Most of what I've written about gay relationships in the past has been dark, about loss and grief and betrayal," he told SheKnows. "Writing romance makes you very vulnerable. You really have to be willing to lay your hopes and fantasies out on the page. You have to be willing to say, 'This is how I would like things to work out.' I am working up the nerve to write a gay romance, which may seem ironic since I've always been out, but writing the gay happily-ever-after is not as easy for me as it sounds."
With his Desire Exchange series for 1001 Dark Nights, the man is no stranger to getting down and dirty between the sheets. (I mean on the page, of course. Our interview wasn't that personal.) In The Flame, he explored the fantastical realm of threesomes. In The Surrender Gate, he took readers undercover (and under the covers) to a place where fantasies became fact. Now, in Kiss the Flame, Rice goes hot for teacher.
Laney Foley is focused on school, but her focus shifts as she gets to know her sexy teaching assistant, Michael Brouchard. Fans of Rice get to revisit the magical candle shop run by mysterious ghost, Bastian Drake. However, despite the magic of Bastian's candles, something is amiss in this world of romance. The consequences of Laney's decisions could be dire. Plus, if she decides to fight her feelings for Michael, not only do we miss out on some excellent sex scenes, but she could be cursed, forever.
I asked Rice if he ever had his own teacher crush. He said, "Probably in high school. The more inappropriate the better, I think." He also joked about the possibility of writing some Kingsman fan fiction. He's got a thing for Colin Firth and Taron Egerton. Rice said, "I like the May-December thing, a healthy, consensual age difference between two partners." No complaints here, which brings us back to the idea of Rice writing gay romance.
Thanks, in part, to the world of fan fiction, man-on-man action has become pretty popular with the female population. Not only are women reading it, but they're writing it. Rice isn't surprised. He said, "It's a stereotype that men want to see two women roll around in a bubble bath, but oh, women don't want to see two men. The real fact is women may not want to see it, but they do want to read it." And trust me, I'll be first in line when Rice writes his first gay romance, especially since he alluded that said gay romance would involve two of my favorite Desire Exchange characters.
The power of scent is a primary focus in all of Rice's erotic work, centered around the magic of Bastian Drake's candles. According to Rice, scent is something authors often overlook in their fiction, focusing instead on imagery, which is a huge mistake.
He said, "Nothing triggers memory as powerfully as scent. I think there's actually a neurological explanation for why that is, but I'm not a neuroscientist. People do have a particular scent. The challenging thing about using it in books is that you have to break down the scent of a person into kind of organic elements. I'm always struggling to come up with a new combination of scents that seem to suggest someone's personality: Vanilla and sandalwood or leather and lemon…"
He continued, "There's a perfume shop in the French Quarter called Hové. I went there on a visit about three years ago and I think it inspired Bastian Drake's candle shop. One of the perfumes there was worn by someone who used to choreograph plays I was in as a kid in New Orleans, and the scent of that just completely took me back. I've had ex-boyfriends who've worn Dolce and Gabbana cologne, and now, I brush up against someone who's wearing it and I'm like, 'Whoa, man.'" (Yep. My equivalent is Polo Sport.)
Laney's conflict in Kiss the Flame is not merely whether to light the magic candle, but whether or not to give herself over to the idea of love, a scary proposition. When I asked Rice if he thought love was risky, he said yes. "Most of us avoid the risk by hooking up with people we don't really love," he said. "I hate to be that jaded, but I think most of us get together out of necessity or fear or a sense that nothing better will come along. Because we're in that pattern of thinking, we're thrown off our axis when someone comes along who we really have passionate feelings about."
As teased, Rice will continue in his Desire Exchange world with two follow-ups, featuring characters we've already met in previous volumes. He's also writing some Texas-set cowboy romance for the 1001 Dark Nights series, which made me just about fall out of my chair, because really? Why not? Then, there's the top-secret two-book collaboration that he said he can't talk about until next year.
In the meantime, be happy to have Kiss the Flame in your hot, little hands, because if anyone can write sex well, it's Christopher Rice. I guess it runs in the family.
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