May 14, 2012

Interview: JL Merrow

As you guys know, I love M/M Romance. And today I’m interviewing one of the best M/M authors out there: JL Merrow. We have reviewed some of her books on the blog and she never fails to impress us. Help us give her a warm welcome and stick around because at the end of the interview there’s a giveaway.

Hello JL, welcome to Romance Around the Corner. I have enjoyed every single one of your books so I really appreciate the opportunity to interview you. 

Q. For all of our readers who may not be familiar with your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your books?

JL. Well, the J stands for Jamie, and I’ve been writing m/m romance since 2009. I’m British, so that’s reflected in a lot of my settings—although you’ll often see German themes/settings creeping in too, as I spent half a year living in Germany when I was 18 and I’ve never lost my love for the place.

Q. If I had to describe your backlist using one word I would say diverse. Within the M/M Romance genre you have written Contemporaries, Paranormals, Comedies and Historicals, as well as some M/F and ménages. And they all come in different shapes: novellas, full-lengths and shorts. Is this due to the fact that your taste is just as diverse, or is it because you don’t want to be labeled under just one category? Is there a genre that you enjoy more than the others?

JL. LOL! That backlist is a record of my struggle to write something longer than a short story, which when I started out didn’t come at all naturally! It’s also, as you guessed, a reflection of my diverse reading tastes. Before I discovered m/m romance, I was an avid reader of urban fantasy, humour and mystery novels. I like my romances to have a bit more to them than just romance—I think it’s more fun that way.

The m/f and menages came about because I didn’t think I could do them, so I challenged myself to give it a go. I can’t see me going back and doing any more—that’s not where my interests lie.  I’m planning to stick to m/m from now on—with the occasional foray into f/f. 

As regards genre – I’m moving more towards the contemporary romance side, than the paranormal, but basically I just go where the muse takes me. :)

Q. I would like to know more about your writing process. Which comes first, the characters, the plot, or in the case of Paranormal stories, the world building? Where do you get your inspiration?

JL. The characters, always—I can’t start without them, whereas I can and frequently do start without a vestige of a plot! I generally have a vague idea of the sort of thing the book’s about, and maybe some scenes I want to include, but I’m constantly surprised by where my characters take me.  Muscling Through and Midnight in Berlin, for example, were both originally going to be short stories, but the characters refused to tie things up so quickly.

I’ve several times found myself stalled on a story, unable to go forwards, until  I realised some essential facet of my character. 

Q. Regardless of how different and unique your stories are, there’s one thing they all have in common: humor. Even if you’re dealing with serious issues, there’s always some underlying comedy to lighten the mood. So when I read your books I always wonder if that humor is you as an author coming through; if it is a character trait inherent to you as a person that leaves its mark in the pages; or if maybe you just like to add that lighter touch to your stories. Are comedy and humor important to you as a person and as a writer? 

JL. Humour is very important to me—I think it is to most people. It’s a way of bonding, of defusing tension. And it’s fun! I find stories come along a lot more quickly if I’m having fun writing them.  It’s also very satisfying for me as a person – you know how you always think of a snappy comeback hours too late to actually say it? I can just use it in a book! ;)

Q. What can you tell us about Hard Tail? 

JL. Hard Tail came about entirely because of a throw-away remark in Pricks and Pragmatism!  There is a real mountain bike shop in Totton, the small town near Southampton, England, which is the setting for Hard Tail and part of P&P, and I happen to know the owner very well. So I thought I’d throw a sneaky plug for his shop into Pricks and Pragmatism. And then, of course, I got thinking....

Bicycles are an important part of Hard Tail and I was impressed by how detailed that aspect was. It almost acts as a secondary character. What type of research was involved in the creation of the book?

I read magazines, trawled the net, watched videos, even got on a bike myself(!) but there’s no substitute for someone who lives in the world you’re writing about. And I was very fortunate to get a lot of help from my bike shop owner. Matt would not have been nearly so believable on the techie stuff without Keith’s input!

Q. Both Matt and Tim are charming characters. They are also very different from each other, and this is something that I often see in your books. What is it about “opposites attract” stories that readers find so compelling?   

JL. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I just love the opposites attract dynamic! If two people have a lot in common and are obviously made for each other, where’s the story in that? I love watching people work out their differences, and find common ground despite them.  In Hard Tail, willingness to compromise is a key theme.

Q. What else are you working on? What can we expect and look forward to reading in the future?

JL. I’ve got another novel coming out with Samhain in September, Pressure Head: this one’s an m/m mystery with paranormal elements, set in an English village. I’ve also recently completed a time travel novella set in Victorian and modern London (title still under discussion with my editors!) which I believe will be out in early 2013. Then there’s a sequel to Pleasures with Rough Strife, set in 1926, and provisionally titled Iron Gates of Life; this one was written in response to a lovely email from a fan.  Not sure when it’ll be coming out as I haven’t submitted it anywhere yet!

I’ve also got several short stories coming out over the summer, including one in Lashings of Sauce, the anthology we’re putting together to celebrate the 3rd Annual UK GLBT Fiction Meet, which is taking place in Brighton in September (for details, see:

Right now I’m working on another novel with a karate theme—I thought it would be fun to explore the martial arts world from the viewpoint of a complete outsider. Provisonally titled Slam!, it’s probably my most deliberately comedic novel to date. 

Q. And finally, our standard question: what is your favorite Romance novel?

JL. Eek! That’s right, lull me into a false sense of security then hit me with the tough question right at the end! ;)  That is a very, very hard question to answer, but I guess if I had to pick just one I’d go for Jordan Castillo Price’s first Psycop book, Among the Living. Which may not surprise you after your question about my eclectic tastes, as it’s a romance, a mystery and a paranormal all rolled into one! It was one of the first m/m books I ever read, and the most re-read one I own (in ebook AND print).

Thank you so much for joining us today, hopefully we will see you again soon!

JL. Thank you for having me here! :D

Hard Tail Blog Tour – GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the release of Hard Tail, JL is on a blog tour. All commenters will be entered into a draw for winner’s choice of an e-book from her backlist, PLUS a gift certificate for $25 from Amazon (or the e-book retailer of your choice). The more blog tour posts you comment on, the more chances you get!  Click here to see the list of other participant blogs and go comment.  Draw closes on Wednesday 23rd May. Leave your email on the comment so she can contact you in case you win!

About the author:

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.  

Connect with JL:

Finding love can be a bumpy ride. 
His job: downsized out of existence. His marriage: dead in the water. It doesn’t take a lot of arm twisting for Tim Knight to agree to get out of London and take over his injured brother’s mountain bike shop for a while. A few weeks in Southampton is a welcome break from the wreck his life has become, even though he feels like a fish out of water in this brave new world of outdoor sports and unfamiliar technical jargon. 
The young man who falls—literally—through the door of the shop brings everything into sharp, unexpected focus. Tim barely accepts he’s even in the closet until his attraction to Matt Berridge pulls him close enough to touch the doorknob. 
There’s only one problem with the loveable klutz: his bullying boyfriend. Tim is convinced Steve is the cause of the bruises that Matt blows off as part of his risky sport. But rising to the defense of the man he’s beginning to love means coming to terms with who he is—in public—in a battle not even his black belt prepared him to fight. Until now. 
Product Warnings: Contains an out-and-proud klutz, a closeted, karate-loving accountant—and a cat who thinks it’s all about him. Watch for a cameo appearance from the Pricks and Pragmatism lovers. May inspire yearnings for fresh air, exercise, and a fit, tanned bike mechanic of your very own.

You can find Hard Tail here:


  1. Interesting interview, always interested in what makes my favourite authors tick.
    Def like humour in my reads.

    1. Hi, Suze - glad to hear you like humour in your reads, as I certainly like them in my writes! ;)
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. It's gratifying to see someone have success in multiple genres without getting pigeonholed...especially in romance and erotica, I wonder if the strong guidelines most publishers have box authors in. Great interview!


    1. Hi, vitajex
      I don't think it's so much the publishers that pigeonhole us. With the proliferation of m/m authors these days, there's a lot of competition to get noticed - one way we're advised to do this is the concept of "author branding" (not as painful as it sounds!) Part of that can be making sure the reader knows what she's going to get with, say, "a JL Merrow" in the same way as with "a Stephen King" or "an Agatha Christie". So, perhaps, authors feel the pressure to stick with the genre they're known for.
      I decided I'd rather have less branding and more fun! ;)

  3. An English person who doesn't drink tea? I'm shocked I tell you! Shocked! lol ^_^

    I'd love a chance to win the giveaway, thanks! :)

    ~ Penumbra


  4. *g* Can't stand the nasty, brown stuff! Give me a nice cup of coffee any day. Or herbal tea, that's a habit I picked up in Germany. :)
    Thanks for commenting!

  5. I love "opposites attract" and humor in stories. No wonder I like your books so much! I'm the same way with movies. I love to laugh. My 20 year old son and I have the same taste in movies. My husband is always telling me I need to grow Never!!! :D


    1. *g* I have the same thing in my family - my teenage son and I love quoting Terry Pratchett at each other and cackling like maniacs, while his dad looks on, baffled! ;)

  6. Humor in a story is a big plus to me. Good interview - always interesting to hear about JL's thoughts about her characters and the process of developing the story.

    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for commenting. :)

  7. Thanks so much for the interview. I have hard tail, I preordered it because I love the humor in the other books I have read. Muscling through was just hilarious! I can't wait to get to hard tail

  8. Thank you! I hope you'll enjoy it when you get there! :D

  9. I loved Muscling Through - such unique characters! I have P&P - now I have to go read it :-)

    smaccall AT


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The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.