January 12, 2017 by Anne Barwell
MM Times Two Times Two Again Equals Splendid: Summer and Bonnie
A devoted reader of popular MM romance novels soon becomes aware of a long series of books with titles like THE PROFESSOR AND THE SMUGGLER, THE SHEPHERD AND THE SOLICITOR as well as other Regency and Victorian-era novels that pair, unlike partners who seem as counterintuitive as romances but turn out to be just each other needs. Each of the authors, Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee, write many more novels than these unique twosomes. The individuals, and as a partnership, write more MM novels from similar eras, and what’s more, they each also write heterosexual romances as well. Their combined and individual works are so well loved and appealing, I couldn’t help but ask the two women, Kate Rothwell, as the real name of Summer Devon, and Bonnie Dee how they happened to find each other and crafted a working relationship.
Christopher: How did you come to know about each other as authors?
Summer (left): I’d read a book by Bonnie (BONE DEEP) and loved it so I wrote her a fangirl letter. I think we helped each other with plotting and beta reading after that. It was a while ago now! Almost twenty stories together, I think?
Bonnie ( below right) : I feel like we also chatted at a forum or something, but I might be imagining that. Summer, writing as Kate Rothwell, had published several historical romances so I knew she was good at getting historical detail correctly. She loves research and finding unusual tidbits to add more color and authenticity to our stories.
Christopher: Who got the first idea to write books together? How did that come about?
Summer: Bonnie had an idea that lead to THE GENT AND THE ROGUE and asked if I wanted to cowrite it. I think the stories are fairly evenly split about who has the initial idea of “hey, let’s write this!”
Bonnie: I’d cowritten before and realized it was a good way to add more diversity to a story than one author’s POV alone can do. Whichever author has the original germ of an idea is generally in charge of the story’s flow.
Christopher: You have many unique pairings in your story I personally think were brilliant. In fact, I wish I’d come up with them first. I love your Regency and Victorian pairings that always seem to be people from different classes or professions. How did these stories come about?
Summer/Kate: One of my favorite nonfiction reading is about strange professions and social settings of the Victorian era that are long gone now. That’s how a novella I wrote on my own, THE GENTLEMAN AND LAMPLIGHTER, came into being. I’m writing a novella about a lector—a person factory owners hired to read to workers who are doing quiet work.
Bonnie: I’ve always been attracted to a romance across social divides. Guess it’s the Cinderella theme indoctrinated into all of us.
Christopher: Do you two share the actual writing or do you separate the stories into parts that each of you can take care of? What led you to take on different roles?
Summer: We pass the story back and forth, and each writes a few thousand words. It’s just like that kids’ game where you write a few sentences of a story and then let the next person go where she wants. Although we do have a map for the story it’s usually not more than suggestions. Sometimes one of us suddenly strays from the path. I think that’s a lot of fun and keeps the story interesting.
Bonnie: I tried the former on the very first book I cowrote, FINDING HOME. Lauren Baker and I split it by the different elements we were interested in. It was a messy, patchwork way of writing. Linear fashion is much more manageable, keeping the story coherent and requiring less editing.
Christopher: Do you ever disagree about how a section should be handled? How do you resolve these disagreements?
Summer: I think neither of us are so attached to plot points that we will cling to an idea if the other person dislikes it a lot. Generally speaking, I think the person who came up with the initial idea is the lead writer but not really in charge. The time we’ve had real issues with a story, it’s been because there were flaws with action and characters—and we both agreed that there were problems.
Bonnie: We sometimes disagree on the path the story should take, but we hammer it out.
Christopher : You also each write your own books I notice. They are every bit as good as those you write together. Do you discuss these before you write them? Or are you completely independent of each other? I just want to applaud your ability to work both together and separately.
Summer: We’re pretty independent at this point. A couple of times we’ve turned to each other for help with plots that are not working—brainstorming someone else’s story is a lot more fun than trying to work out issues in one’s own work.
Bonnie: We come up with our ideas independently. I think I kind of snaffled Summer’s policeman idea, only much darker and different, for THE COPPER. I told her she should write a cop story too. There are plenty of different ways to interpret the theme.
Christopher : Please, each of you answer this question: Of your various pairings or novels, which were your individual favorites?
Summer: I think this is an easy one—both of us have a fondness for THE GENTLEMAN AND THE ROGUE. We both love Jem. Whichever book we are working on tends to be my favorite (or least favorite, depending on how the writing is going). There’s also a matter of discovering fun reads for me. I liked THE GENTLEMAN’S MADNESS because the research into treatments and asylums was fascinating—and horrifying.
Bonnie: Yep. Gent and Rogue because I fell in love with the Artful Dodger after watching Oliver! at age nine. I love Jem. I’m also really fond of THE PROFESSOR AND THE SMUGGLER. I think the professor character is adorable.
Christopher : I also noticed that both of you write heterosexual as well as gay romance. Make any comment you want about this.
Summer: Writing romance for me is based on a study of the characters, who they are, their arcs—and how the two main protagonists spark. If a person feels more intriguing or real as a woman, man, or shapeshifter, I’m perfectly willing to make the story change to fit around them rather than the other way. At least one of our stories started featuring a heterosexual couple, but that person or situation just didn’t work as well as a traditional m/f setup. It improved the story (and the person’s conflict and personality) to shift the character into a man. By the way, nearly all of my books written as Summer are m/m. I write my other romances as Kate Rothwell.
Bonnie: I wrote het first. Never even considered gay romance. Then I read a few and thought, Well, yeah. I can do this. My first attempt at gay romance was a contemporary, UNDENIABLE MAGNETISM. The stakes for a gay couple in historical romance are high because of the danger of discovery, which adds an element of serious tension not so easily achievable in contemporary romance. In contemporaries, the drama behind the couples’ separation is quite often of their own making.
Christopher: I have gone through a phase of reading nothing but Dee/Devon books. Gay ones anyway. All I can say is that I hope you never stop writing
Summer: Thank you!
Bonnie: Thanks. I’ll put in a plug for my January 18 release from Dreamspinner, a contemporary titled The Mighty Have Fallen. And here’s the blurb:
Theater headliner Trevor Rowland is at the peak of his career when disaster strikes. In one fell swoop, he loses his eyesight, his fame, and his boyfriend, who absconds with most of his money. Trevor must take on a flat mate, hardworking East Ender Jack Burrows, to afford rent. Anger and bitterness have taken up residence in his heart—but Jack shines light into the shadowy corners with his relentlessly sunny disposition.
Jack introduces Trevor to a local drag club and convinces him he can enjoy the stage again. Trevor’s defenses slowly come down as Jack becomes much more than a barely tolerated roommate.
But will Trevor’s fragile trust be destroyed when it appears he’s been manipulated yet again by a man he’s come to care for? Will he reclaim his life or crawl back into a shell of defeat? Trevor must learn to trust not only a man, but himself, once more.
Follow your rainbow!
Christopher Hawthorne Moss