Brandon Ringer has a dead man’s face. His grandfather, silver-screen heartthrob James Ringer, died tragically at twenty-one, and Brandon looks exactly like him. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Brandon is unknown, unemployed, and up to his ears in bills after inheriting his grandparents’ Hollywood mansion. He refuses to sell it—it’s his last connection to his grandmother—so to raise the cash he needs, he joins a celebrity look-alike escort agency.
Percy Charles is chronically ill, isolated, and lonely. His only company is his meddlesome caregiver and his collection of James Ringer memorabilia. When he finds “Jim Ringer” on Hollywood Doubles’ website, he books an appointment, hoping to meet someone who shares his passion for his idol.
Brandon? Not that person.
But despite their differences, they connect, and Percy’s fanboy love for James shows Brandon a side of his grandfather he never knew. Soon they want time together off the clock, but Percy is losing his battle for independence, and Brandon feels trapped in James’s long shadow. Their struggle to love each other is the stuff of classic Hollywood. Too bad Brandon knows how those stories end.
1. What would you say inspired you to write the book?
Heidi brought the idea to me, but once I started watching 1950s movies—and stopped thinking that the only movies from the fifties are the terrible Westerns my dad watches constantly—I fell in love with the melodrama and the sweetly tough male leads. Writing DEAD RINGER gave us a chance to incorporate some elements from those films while subverting others. For example, the genre-typical melodrama is definitely present, but our lady characters have just as much agency and independence as our leading men, unlike most of the films we watched for research.
2. What was the source of inspiration for your protagonist? What about your antagonist?
Ohhh, we had lots of sources. We watched a TON of James Dean movies, so his mannerisms and his life story certainly were the basis for our James Ringer—which is why we gave him Dean’s first name as an homage. As for Brandon and Percy, I think most of their inspiration is that struggle a lot of new adult-aged people go through. We’re stranded between high school and adulthood, and technically we’re SUPPOSED to be adults, but no one taught us how to do half the things we need to be able to do to survive, and what if we don’t want to go to college, and what if we do? How do we balance directing our own life with the hold our parents do—in Percy’s case—or don’t—in Brandon’s case—have over us?
As for our antagonist, we have several people antagonists in the book, but I’d argue that the antagonist is actually life and the limitations it throws at us. Brandon and Percy struggle to defeat the people holding them back, but they also battle self-doubt. Their arcs are both about discovering themselves and being proud of who they are—both as individuals and as a couple.
3. Have you ever been hit by the infamous “writer’s block”? What did you do to escape it?
Yes! Writer’s block tells me I’m doing something wrong. If I don’t want to go back to working on my manuscript, that means something is wrong with it. If I’m bored by the scene I’m writing, something is wrong with it. Having writer’s block tells me I need to restructure my story or rewrite the last scene I worked on. I’ll moan and whine about it, but at the end of the day, the new version is ALWAYS better. I also get writer’s block between books, because for me, the start of a book has to be pretty much perfect before I can go on and write the rest. The first chapter is the absolute rock foundation, so that HAS to be right. That can take anywhere from one day to a few weeks to figure out, but from there on, I’m good to go…unless I hit a “you totally did not plot this well enough” snag later. 😛
4. Your all time favorite book?
This question is impossible!!! Honestly, I have two. I know, I know, that’s 100% cheating. But the book I’ve loved since childhood and have reread and reread so many times it’s falling apart is STRAYDOG by Kathe Koja. It was absolutely formative to me as a person. The book I found as an adult that’s absolutely formative to me right now is FOR REAL by Alexis Hall.
5. What made you pick that one above all others?
Oh, now I’m really in trouble for cheating. 😛
STRAYDOG was a book I ordered on a whim from a Scholastic catalog when I was in the fifth grade. The main character, Rachel, is a high school student and writer who becomes attached to a feral shelter dog. She has a lot of problems with her parents, and she’s fighting to understand herself as a writer. There’s a little romance, too. I connected with her, and rereading the book so many times at so many stages of my life gave me new insights into her.
FOR REAL I picked because wow is it gorgeous. It’s gorgeous in so many ways. I guess you could say I have a little bit of Laurie and a little bit of Toby in me, and it’s incredible to see those two halves come together and just…work.
6. What’s the longest time you’ve spent working on a project?
DEAD RINGER took three years from conception to completion. The actual writing only took a couple months, but we planned and hemmed and hawed for a full two and a half years before we ever put fingers to keys.
7. Would you say becoming an author has changed you? In what way?
Oh, for sure. For one, I understand Twitter now, hahaha. But seriously—the most fundamental change about me has been my ability to connect with people. Before I published, I was a lonely high school student stuck with a bunch of Catholic peers, and then at 19 I signed with Riptide and suddenly I was surrounded by tons and tons of queer and queer-positive people who were writing and publishing the kind of representation I wanted to see. The kind of representation I needed in my high school library. So becoming an author has made me far less afraid to reach out to people I respect, and far more willing to strike up a conversation in order to tell them how their work affected me positively.
8. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
Actually, when we first started talking about it, we tried writing some. Not much—a chapter or two. It was in first-person, and I was honestly too scared of Heidi to really put myself out there and just WRITE instead of worrying about what she thought of me. Needless to say, that draft was scrapped, and it took me like six more months to not be intimidated by her success. Advice for young writers who are working with veterans: just write the dang book! If they asked you to cowrite, they believe in you.
9. What does your day-to-day life consist of? What else do you do, aside writing?
School. So much school. I’m in my last semester of journalism school. I got married this past summer, and my wife and I just rented a house, so that’ll be my day-to-day after I graduate in December. Right now, we’re stuck living apart, and I spend most of my time in classrooms or my university’s library. I also work at a local paper. Basically my day is: wake up, roll over, go back to sleep, get up, stuff some caffeine in my body, go to class, go to class, tweet about something, go to class, come home, answer publishing emails, write for a few hours (I shoot for 2k a day), do some publishing administrative-ish work (proofreading, writing blog tour posts), fall asleep with my Nook on my face.
10. How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?
I’m about to admit to a cardinal sin: I read all my reviews. The good ones, the bad ones…all of them. Here’s the thing—bad reviews have helped me become a much better author. I wrote one fantasy piece that got SLAMMED for having an ending that was cut horribly short, and, well, it WAS cut horribly short. So that taught me to maybe not let myself run up on deadlines and therefore panic and cut my story off 8,000 words early.
But just because I read reviews doesn’t mean I engage with reviewers. I don’t comment on bad reviews. I don’t comment on good reviews. Reviews are spaces for readers, not authors. So whether I like a review or not, I keep my nose out of the reviewer’s business. And that’s what I suggest other authors do, too. If you don’t like a review, you’re allowed to whine about it in private to your friends. But don’t slam the reviewer. Don’t be nasty to them. Don’t tell them they didn’t get your vision. Hug a cat instead.
11. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
Nope! Sorry. Though I totally want to write books about several side characters…
12. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
I’m planning a series! It’s a new adult series set at a university. There’ll be at least four books, and each book will focus on a queer student who’s involved with the university’s LGBTQ center. I’m super excited about it, because I’m in love with writing contemporary right now, and I’ve been wanting to write a university series for SO LONG. Figures that I’m finally writing it right as I’m about to graduate, huh?
1. If you could wish for any one thing, and it would immediately come true, what would you wish for?
Financial security for myself and my family. Begone, student loans!
2. If you were stranded on an isolated island, what’s the one book you’d absolutely wish to have with you?
STRAYDOG by Kathe Koja. It’d be like having my best friend with me.
3. Name your favorite fruit.
4. Coffee or tea?
Coffee, coffee, coffee. Though I have had espresso at a very small, hipster coffee shop in Cincinnati that tastes exactly like iced tea, so I could theoretically be persuaded to cross over…
5. Favorite season?
Fall! Mm, mm, mmmm, give me that crisp fall smell. Also, endless rewatches of Hocus Pocus!
6. How about fav time of 24 hours?
Night. I’m a HUGE night owl. I do my best writing after midnight.
7. Were you a boyscout/girlscout?
I was very, VERY briefly a Girl Scout. I joined because all my grade school friends were in it and I wanted the cool badges. But it just didn’t stick for me.
8. Favorite food for breakfast?
Anything but actual breakfast foods. My usual when I’m home and lazy is a microwaved Stouffer’s mac and cheese with PB&J toast.
9. Latest book you’ve bought and read?
Oh, hmmm. . . My Nook is out of battery (gasp!), but I think it was…oh! Dahlia Adler’s UNDER THE LIGHTS. A great f/f NA.
10. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes?
I collect movie tickets and buttons (not shirt buttons; buttons-that-say-stuff buttons).
11. Favorite color, you know you want to tell us!
12. Drama or comedy?
Awww, both. Drama with a mix of comedy. I’m pretty dryly sarcastic at all times IRL, so that tends to carry over into my book preferences. Ask my wife about the time someone was trying to break into our apartment and I was cracking terrible jokes to lighten the mood.
13. Have a fav quote or personal motto?
My favorite quote is a verse from Hozier’s “Arsonist’s Lullabye,” which is quite possibly going to be my next tattoo:
“All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach
Don’t you ever tame your demons
But always keep ’em on a leash”
14. Cats or dogs?
Dogs. But I love both.
15. Dinner by candlelight or a night out clubbing?
Dinner!! I’m a horrible dancer. Sorry in advance to anyone who sees me drunk at future conventions.
16. What song have you listened to most recently?
Well, right now it’s “Arsonist’s Lullabye,” haha.
For the past few days, I’ve been looping “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga.
17. What first came to mind after reading question no. 1 of the Fun Facts section? I mean that thing that you reconsidered after giving it more thought 😛
HAHA. I love this question! My first thought was—as I jokingly tell my friends—that I wish I could think a book and have it appear in a document in front of me. But where would the fun in that be?
1. Your top secret, uber guilty pleasure is. . .
I have this weird kink that I have yet to find a name for. It’s somewhere between trust kink, identity porn, teratophilia (attraction to monsters), and power differences in relationships. At its core, it’s like…my best example is, you know, there’s this mouthy, breakable human who’s in a relationship with a terrifying monster, except that monster completely dotes on them? And that monster doesn’t like many other people? This is why I love things like the TV show “Beauty & the Beast” and cute/scary comics about monster boyfriends and girlfriends.
tl;dr: the “monster boyfriends” tag on Tumblr.
2. If you could choose to be someone else for just one day, it would be. . .
Can I go fictional on this one? Because it’s definitely Stiles Stilinski. I mean, you know, on a day when he’s not possessed and/or being chased by the monster of the season.
3. Your oldest memory is. . .
The exact layout of the hotel room my parents rented when we went to Disneyland. I was three.
4. If everyone would receive a prize for being best at something, you’d be no. 1 at. . .
5. The one thing you’d do anything to avoid/get out of is. . .
Hand-washing dishes. I would rather throw them out and buy new ones, no joke.
6. Your favorite part of a date is. . .
That moment where you flip from being kind of awkward—you know, there’s glancing touches, an air of not being sure what you’re allowed to do…and then you get a signal from the other person that totally opens you into each other. I love that moment.
7. If a character from any book could become real and you could spend a day with them, it would be… from the book. . .
Okay, I think I’m cheating again, but my character’s from a book that’s not yet released. It’s Leah Raeder’s CAM GIRL. I would LOVE to spend a day with the book’s love interest, Ellis.
8. You were/are a hardcore fan of. . .
Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comics. So, so good.
9. You’d immediately fall for someone who. . .
Writes well. That’s how I met my wife, and it’s why I keep getting crushes on so many of my Twitter babes.
10. The one thing you could/can never get over is. . .
The fact that I cannot get decent poutine anywhere in Ohio.
11. If you could have any one superpower, it would be. . .
The ability to zap knowledge into people’s brains. You don’t understand bisexuality? Here you go!
12. The one thing that always brightens your day is. . .
Looking at my Google chat list. Is that weird? Even if I’m not talking to anyone, seeing fifteen or twenty little green dots makes me feel like I’m in my friends’ company.
13. The most awkward moment in your life happened when. . .
Ohhhhh, I have a GOOD ONE. Okay, so, I have face-blindness. At my first university, I worked as a student advisor. When I was prepping to transfer to my current school, I helped hire my replacement. I had a HALF-HOUR interview with this guy, really liked him, really voted to have him join the team. . .
And then three days later he walked into the office, having BEEN HIRED, and I looked up and had absolutely no idea who he was, and was like, “Uh…can I help you?”
Face. Palm. Poor guy.
14. The awesomest thing in your life is…
My wife! And the sheer amount of awesome people I’ve met since becoming a Riptide author. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Feeling lucky? Leave a comment with your email on this or any of our other DEAD RINGER tour posts for a chance to win one of our two grand prizes. Each winner will receive a $15 gift card to Riptide Publishing, plus get their choice of either a poster-sized print of DEAD RINGER’s gorgeous cover photo by Marisha Dudek, or a postcard set featuring the eye-catching ephemera of James Ringer’s filmography, designed by Vivian Ng. Contest ends October 31, 2015 and is not restricted to US entries.
About the Authors & Links:
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.
She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!)
When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.
Sam Schooler is queer and nonbinary, and she grew up surrounded by corn, churches, and cliché “Hell Is Real” signs. After twelve years of Catholic school in southwestern Ohio, she applied to the most liberal university she could find and wound up with a degree in journalism. Now, she writes trope-subverting new adult books about people of all genders and orientations—and all the ways they can love each other. Sam lives with her wife and their two cats in Regina, Saskatchewan.
You can find her backlist and details about upcoming projects.
If you’re feeling daring, follow her on Twitter as @samschoolering or on Tumblr as meetcute-s to get the full immersive experience.