Author Name: Alysia Constantine
Book Name: Sweet
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.
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Hi Alysia, thank you for agreeing to this interview!
Q: What’s the easiest thing about writing?
A: I don’t find much about the process easy, to be honest. But sometimes, I hit a sweet spot, a kind of trance, and writing becomes automatic, not something I think about or concentrate on, and I just have to keep up with typing fast enough. I guess that happens most for me when I get to revel in some descriptive writing. Plot’s hard for me; detail is much more natural.
Q: Name one author (living or dead) you’d like to write with?
A: I’m not really sure how to answer this question, because I think any writer I love and respect enough to want to meet would also intimidate me enough that I’d be scared to write with them. But if I could get over that, I would love to work with Audre Lorde. What an amazing, beautiful mind. Also, there’s a scholar called Judith Butler who is just brilliant; I’d love to think like Butler does, or even to see how the thinking happens. The playwrite Suzan-Lori Parks is another great hero of mine, but also another one I’d be totally intimidated by. I’m noticing, from this list, that these are all extremely powerful people—frighteningly smart, self-possessed and—maybe not Butler here—beautiful, beautiful writers.
Q: Tell us about your cover and how it came about.
A: I’m going to assume that “cover” refers to the cover to Sweet and not my false identity or the story that gets me out of trouble. The cover was designed by C.B. Messer, who is the art director at Interlude Press. She read the book (I’ve been told that she’d like the story when she read it in process online, too!), and designed the cover. We talked once on the phone about it (Interlude really included me in so many decisions that other presses don’t consult authors about), and I remember that she’d suggested she wanted to do something light, and I had said that the bakery was dark, jewel-toned, rich. I’m so glad she stuck with her vision, because then I saw the cover, and it was perfect! I absolutely love it! I think she really captured the spirit of the novel. And I love that she’s incorporated the sticky notes, which are an element in the story. I wish I could take credit for any part of that cover, but I can’t.
Q: Is this book part of a series? Do you have ideas that could make it into a series? If it is a series, tell us a little about it.
A: I don’t think this book could be part of a series. The story feels very resolved to me. I’m ready to let these guys go and think about other things now. A couple folks have said they’d like to see ‘Trice have her own story, but I feel rather resistant to writing more about her—I think she works best as someone with a well-kept private life. I do really like the narratorial voice, and I guess I could see a “series” of stories told by this narrator. But I think I’d get tired of that really quickly.
Q: Word association. Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when you read these words.
A: Ketchup: is not a vegetable. I guess you have to be a person of a certain age to remember Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and the controversy that cropped up when his administration tried to claim that ketchup could be classified as a vegetable. It seemed like a sleezy way to feed kids low nutrient but cheap food (vegetables are expensive, but ketchup is pretty cheap) in state-funded school lunches. You slap some ketchup on a hamburger and claim you’re serving a balanced meal. So that word will forever remind me of how little our country cares about poor folks (who often depend on school lunch as their one chance in the day for a nutritious, balanced meal).
Flakes: are the reason I have never felt really good on the west coast. I went ballistic when I visited L.A. There’s a very high-strung attitude on the east coast that I’ve become very dependent upon. You show up when and where you say you will. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. If you make a promise, then you stick to it. The package should reflect what’s inside. If you’re pissed off at someone on the street, you yell at them. New York doesn’t have flakes. We have jerks, sure, and worse, but not flakes.
Elastic: I really like the sound of that word, and I’m trying to react to the sense rather than the music of it. I suppose it makes me remember being a young girl; my mother sewed all our clothes, and I got paid a penny a pin to crawl around under her sewing machine and pick up the pins she’d dropped.
Timer: Timer? I don’t even know her! My favorite joke in the world. I love vaudeville, and the “don’t even know her” joke is the best of vaudeville sensibility. It is perhaps the funniest thing to me ever. S
Google: My first instinct is to say “time-sucking vortex of non-information posing as information”, but that’s really judgy, and not quite accurate. My second instinct is to point out that it’s both a noun and a verb nowadays. Like Kleenex, it’s become a word that refers to something beyond its brand.
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.
Where to find the author:
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/AlysiaConstantine
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: C.B. Messer
Rafflecopter Prize: $25 Interlude Press gift card to one winner, e-copies of ‘Sweet’ to five additional winners
a Rafflecopter giveaway