interview: Nell Iris comes to chat!

I’m really pleased to introduce a New Thing this week! I’m going to occasionally invite other authors to answer questions about themselves and their work and anything else they want to chat about. The first person brave enough to subject themselves to this is Nell Iris! Welcome, Nell.


Firstly, why are you doing this interview? Inquiring minds need to know!

Because answering questions is always fun? 😉 Nah, just kidding. I have a new book coming out on August 3, a M/M contemporary short (app 5500 words) story called Team Luker. It’s a story about a couple, Jools and Ellery, who have been together for 25 years and who love each other dearly, but now face some difficulties in their lives.

What started you writing?

I’ve always adored books and reading. I learned to read as a very young child due to my mom’s illness that made her unable to be as active as she wanted, so to keep me occupied, she taught me how to read. Since then, I’ve always existed with my nose in a book and have always been interested in the art of writing.

I’ve always loved writing, since my early school days. My teachers encouraged me and for a while, after high school, I thought writing was something I was going to pursue. But then life happened, as it so often does, and my plans for my future changed. Not until decades later, when at 39, me and my husband left our old life in Sweden behind and moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, did I decide to actually try to achieve my dream. It wasn’t even my idea at first; when I was out to dinner with my husband one evening, he looked at me and said, You know, honey, I think you should write a book. So I did.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I have actually written in some form or other most of my life. I started a personal blog back in 2006 and wrote every day until 2018 when I decided I was done with that blog. In my day job back in Sweden, I did a lot of writing: I wrote routines for our customer service, I wrote offers, I composed letter templates, and I wrote campaign letters.

So I guess I’ve been writing my entire life. But not until 2016 did I sit down with the intent on writing a book I would try to get published.

Where do you write?

Most of the time I write at my desk, that’s jammed between the couch and the dining room area of our living room. It’s where I have all my pens and notebooks (I write longhand), where I have a little Funko-Pop Professor Snape glaring at me if I don’t do the work, where I feel most comfortable. But sometimes, I take my notebook and venture outside the door. Sometimes I like sitting in a coffee shop, or someplace I can have a glass of wine and write. Mostly, because I don’t want to end up becoming a complete shut-in recluse 😊

What do you like to read?

Right now, I read mostly M/M romance books. But I also love poetry and am so happy about the Instagram poets who are bringing back interest to this long ignored artform. I’m also in love with children’s books, mainly middle-school books. It’s before all the teenage drama sets in, when kids are curious and still innocent, wondering about the world and their place in it. Where they still believe in magic and are open-minded, and the books written for that age group reflects that. My dream is to one day write for kids.

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

The Complete Works of Jane Austen (it’s ONE book, I swear, I have it!!) – because it’s six fantastic stories in one (all right, five, I’m not that fond of Northanger Abbey) and I love Jane Austen.

I would bring the book of Catullus’ poems. Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Roman poet who wrote love poems to a married lady who he called Lesbia in his poems, and some witty, and very vulgar stuff, about life in Rome. I discovered him in my Latin classes in high-school and have read and loved them ever since.

And I would bring Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren (the author who wrote Pippi Longstocking) because it was my favorite book when I was a kid and all Lindgren’s female characters are strong and independent and excellent role models even for grown-ups.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I’m a member of a Goodreads M/M writing group which is currently not very active, but it’s where I met a couple of my most cherished writer friends. And over the years (I haven’t been active for that long yet) I’ve collected a couple more. All my writing friends are online; I currently live in Malaysia where homosexuality is against the law, so my genre isn’t very big here. I don’t know of any other M/M writers here, and only one reader that I’ve encountered so far (Hello Amanda! *waves*)

I kind of like it that way most of the time, because I’m an introvert who easily gets overwhelmed in busy social situations. But sometime,s when my friends are going on writing retreats, I wish I could go. Maybe someday 😊

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I LOVE reading. I read all the time, every second I get. Music is also very important to me and I listen to it a lot. I like to listen consciously, and by that I mean not just something that’s on in the background as I do other stuff, but put on a vinyl record (yes, we have those!), pour a glass of red and listen. I love going out to dinners with my husband, I like drinking bubbly with my friends (not too often though, introvert remember?), I love my bullet journal, going to bookstores, and drinking tea. And I’m currently trying to revive my old German skills (I took a lot of languages in school – except for Swedish since I’m a Sweden, I learned English, French, German, and Latin) and right now I’m trying to un-rust my German. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy learning languages.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

My husband had a health scare recently, of the “we have to rule out cancer”-kind. For a while, I was really frightened and anxious; we’ve been together for more than 25 years, he’s my best friend, and I can’t imagine my life without him. And the c-word is just so damned scary, especially considering a couple of my friends have just recently battled it (or is currently battling it). So to deal with my anxiety, I decided to write.

The words poured out of me and I finished the story in a day. Granted, it’s only about 5500 words, but I sat down, wrote a beginning, a middle, and an end in only one day (then it needed some beta reading and editing and all the other frills, of course, like books always do).

The story is about Jools and Ellery and it’s inspired by my husband’s health scare and my feelings at the time. I loved writing it because it gave me something to focus all my nervous energy on, instead of just sitting around thinking “what if?”

In the end, the story turned out great and my husband doesn’t have the big scary C, and when it comes to Jools and Ellery…well, you just have to read their story and see what happens to them, don’t you? 😊

Nell’s new release, Team Luker, is out on August 3rd.

What if this is the last time we lie like this?

Uncertainty is keeping Ellery Luker awake at night and robbing him of his appetite. It’s been five days since the love of his life and partner of twenty-five years, Jools, went to the doctor. Five days since the biopsy. Five days of going crazy with worry and what ifs?

What if Jools suffers from the same disease that stole Ellery’s mother when he was just eleven?

What if all Ellery’s worst fears come true?

What if…?

Read an excerpt and buy from JMS Books


Find Nell elsewhere!

Email:  contact@nelliris.com

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reading roundup: July

I’ve been oxer-deep in reading this month and have seven books to share.


The Cricketer’s Arms, Garrick Jones

A gay romance/murder mystery set in 1950s Sydney. I loved this. I’ve probably said before that I think Garrick Jones’ historical detail is second to none. The combination of a murder mystery and romantic shenanigans is basically my ideal read. Hard recommend. I understand there is a sequel in the wind in the future.


Thrown to the Wolves, Charlie Adhara

The third in Charlie Adhara’s wolves series. Cooper finds out a lot more about wolf pack behaviour and Oliver Park’s slightly bonkers family. I have a complex relationship with shifter books – some I love and some don’t grab me at all. This trilogy falls in to the ‘love’ category!


Tournament of Shadows, S. A. Meade

I went looking for Tournament of Shadows because I met S. A. Meade at an Author Thing a couple of months ago.  Published in 2014, this ticks all my ‘historical detail’ boxes. Set in the mid-nineteenth century in what is now Uzbekistan, it follows two minor characters in the Great Game played between world powers during that period. It has gay romance, political intrigue and journeying through locations I knew nothing about and had to research. A definite re-read.


Hither Page, Cat Sebastian

Set just post-WW2 Hither Page features a shell-shocked country doctor and a spy who need to team up to solve a murder. Of course, they fall in love in the process. There is beautifully realized historical detail with vulnerable and emotionally wounded main protagonists and a richly sprinkling of well drawn supporting characters.  Also, lady assassins. *taps nose meaningfully*


Outbreak, Melissa Olson

This is the final book in the Nightshades trilogy which is a vampire power-struggle-cum-straight-romance with the FBI thrown in for good measure. Vampires have been hidden from humanity until very recently. Hector is still trying to manipulate both vampires and humans for his own nefarious, control-grabbing purposes and the Bureau of Preternatural Investigations is still trying to stop him. But the FBI are also investigating Lindy and Alex. It’s a really good end to the trilogy.


Rebellion, Naomi Aoki

Intricate historical detail about the Boxer uprising from Naomi Aoki in this gay romance set at the end of the nineteenth century in Singapore and China. Alfred falls in love with a Chinese soldier he meets in the public gardens. The tension in their love story is entwined with the rising of the political and eventually military tensions. Neither my historical period or my geographical area, I really, really enjoyed this. Recommend.


Owl and the Japanese Circus, Kristi Charish

The first in the Owl series. Owl is an archaeologist-thief in a world where magic is real and digging up ancient artifacts can get you killed. Obviously the authorities suppress all this knowledge from the general public. Owl doesn’t do supernatural jobs, but this time she gets sucked in to something that she can’t avoid. There are dragons, vampires and (straight) romance. I have got second one in the series on my TBR list but haven’t got to it yet. I thought this was brilliant – really good world-building.


That’s all! Next week, an interview with Nell Iris.

character sketch: Alec Carter

Alistair Carter, one of the two main protagonists from Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border, is a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. I imagine him as looking quite like the chap on the left on the cover of Shadows, although with a raincoat and a Homberg hat.

He’s in his mid-thirties at the start of Lost in Time in 1919, which means he was born in the late 1880s, to quite a well off middle class family who were pretty upset when he joined the police instead of becoming a solicitor or another professional. He was in the Military Police in the war and served on the Western Front. Afterwards, he came back and took up his old job with the department and works out of the Poplar area of London, at Wapping Police Station, on the Thames. He was promoted to Detective Inspector when he came back from the army and is quiet and insightful and good at working out what people mean from what they don’t say.

His brief, abortive marriage to Kitty has left him with a big empty house next to Hamstead Heath and a lot of guilt. He married a woman because it was expected of him and he could have made it work if they’d become friends, but she was really only interested in being a trophy wife and by the time she died, although he was devastated, there was also an element of relief because he was so unhappy.

He’s cross most of the time for reasons he can’t really put his finger on. Unsettled in his skin. And that only gets worse when he meets Lew Tyler during the course of a murder investigation. He isn’t unused to finding men attractive and has had liaisons before and one particular person he was very drawn to, but no-one as strongly as Lew.

Alec is probably my favorite character from the two books. He’s grumpy and defensive and not at all in touch with his emotions. It makes him really interesting to write.

research rabbit-holes for june

The last few weeks’ research rabbit-holes have been pretty varied. I’m still flailing around in the Himalayas and in eighteenth century India for Flowers of Time and on top of that I’m still fact-checking for Inheritance of Shadows.  This is the stack of reading I took away on holiday last week.

It turns out that Rob in Inheritance needs to know about Trench Code, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I started researching codes used by the British in World War One. I’m reading Secret Warriors by Taylor Downing to get some background on Rob’s career in Signals. Or… was he involved with something more Intelligence-led? I’m also reading A Country Twelvemonth by Fred Archer to give me a chronological background to the farming year in the 1920s and I may give Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee another read – I haven’t touched it since it was one of the set texts for my O-levels in 1986. Although I enjoyed it before then, deconstructing it for an exam completely soured me to it.

The pile also includes a couple of books about Kew and Marian North, who was a Victorian plant collector and illustrator. Edie in Flowers of Time is inspired by her, although Edie predates Marian by a century.

Tabs open in my browser this morning include Keeping Clean in the Eighteenth Century, Ladakh, the index to Lady’s Magazine, a google search for images of deserted forts of the Himalayas, a page about the monastery of Phugtal Gompta, the abstract of an article about eighteenth century circulating libraries, and (still) the article about the eighteenth century seed trade, because I keep going back to it to absorb a bit more.

That’s it for this time!

works in progress: progressing, and that’s about all

I’ve done a load over the last month, but not much of it actual writing.

Because of the shenanigans with MailChimp pricing levels, I’ve ported my newsletter over to MailerLite, which I think will be a good thing long term, but was a pain in the neck to do at the time. And I’ve done the same for Mr AL, who has a much more complex set-up than I do, so it took ages. That done, I’ve also set myself up a proper Ko-fi page that will act as a sort of combination of things I blog here and exclusive content that first goes out to newsletter subscribers.

I’ve also committed to doing some posts for the Queeromance Ink Blog, about author-life in general rather than more bookish things. This involves me sitting down and actually writing them, but they’re coming together in my head.

Which brings me to actual writing! Inheritance of Shadows has another three thousand words, which went out yesterday – newsletter usually goes out on the first Tuesday of the month, barring disaster. If you’d like to get the monthly installments of Matty and Rob’s adventures, just hop on here. You will also be able to follow on Ko-fi as a supporter if you’d rather do it that way. I’m reading Secret Warriors: key scientists, code-breakers and propagandists of the great war by Taylor Downing as background, because Rob needs to know some stuff and I need to know the stuff before he can know the stuff. It’s fascinating.

Flowers of Time has had another few thousand words, but I’m still sidetracked by Katie Hickman’s She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen and feel like I need to get that under my belt before I write any more. I’m writing completely outside both my historical period and my geographical area and I don’t want to mess either up.

This month promises to be more of the same, hopefully with less opportunities for prevarication. Watch this space!