Gale Stanley was born and raised in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. She writes romantic stories because she believes the world needs more love and happy endings. It’s the best job in the world—and she doesn’t mind living vicariously through the smokin’ hot alphas she loves to write about.
Q: In Collars and Catwalks, Jayme’s professional stint in the modeling world is such an arresting backdrop for a ManLove setting. Do you think that any future heroes within the TomCats series will have a career in the industry?
A: Clothes, drama, beautiful men—what’s not to like? Of course, the shape-shifting cats who own TomCats, the gay resort in Key West, don’t want to leave their tropical paradise. On the other hand, there’s definitely a story brewing about Peter Benson, the former model and owner of Man-akins, who gives Jayme Alan a job when he’s down and out. Now if Peter can just convince cat-shifter Seth he needs a change of scenery…
Q: The villains in Collars and Catwalks, oppressive Victor Velasquez and irksome Felix Lloyd, are dynamic and understated. How is your approach different when writing about heroes than when you create villains?
A: Ah, good and evil. Two sides to the same coin. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective. We all love the heroes, and as the main characters they get the most attention, but I’ve always loved to create villains. They’re such interesting characters. And let’s face it, the villain doesn’t think of himself as the bad guy. He feels perfectly justified in what he’s doing. In fact, he probably thinks the hero is the bad guy. I just try to make both men as real as possible without going over the top.
When I create the good guy, I want him to be believable and likeable. My heroes are beautiful but flawed, strong but vulnerable, and often plagued by doubt in their own abilities. When I create the bad guy, I want him to be believable, but not likeable. I try to show that his actions pose a real threat to the hero. He’s there to make life miserable for the good guy because the happy ending is so much sweeter when the hero has to work for it.
Q: Are there any villains in the upcoming titles of the TomCats series that particularly disgust you?
A: I hate to see defenseless animals treated with cruelty and that’s just what happens in TomCats 5—no official title yet. The idea for the story came to me when I got a newsletter from Defenders of Wildlife, an organization I belong to and support. The article talked about critically endangered Florida panthers. The adult population numbers only about 100, and Florida panthers are a top Defenders priority. I had no idea there were so few of these animals left, and I immediately wanted to write a story about them. The villain in my book is hunting these beautiful cats for his own sinister purpose. When the TomCats find out, one of the shifters decides to make the panthers his priority, but he ends up in danger himself.
Q: In Collars and Catwalks, Torque’s cat, a beautiful black Chausie, seems to fit his flirty and dominant demeanor perfectly. How do you choose each character’s cat form?
A: I have two Tonkinese cats that have been the inspiration for many of my cat-shifters. Buffy and Spike were named after characters in one of my favorite TV shows. They’re ten years old now, but before I got them I checked out different breeds online. That’s how I researched cat personalities for the TomCats series.
I love an impossibly hot bartender and I defined Torque’s character pretty much before I even started writing the story. He comes across as confident and cocky, and I wanted his cat to have those same traits. The Chausie was a new breed to me, and after doing some research, I realized it was a perfect match for Torque. It’s a large cat, weighing about twenty-five pounds full grown, and it’s the result of breeding a domestic cat with a jungle cat (Felis chaus). They’re heartbreakingly gorgeous, curious, fun-loving, loyal, they love water, and they need minimal grooming—just like Torque.
Q: Many of your characters have had difficult pasts and often meet when they are at their lowest point. What draws you to write these kinds of characters and situations?
A: My love for dark, sexy paranormal heroes goes way back. I’ve been fascinated by fangs and fur since I first watched Lon Chaney Jr. transform into The Wolf Man. Through the years, movies like that one fed my fantasies, and I always sympathized with the tortured hero. I love the contrast of feral predator with vulnerable human. Troubled and broken characters grab at my heartstrings, and I want to fix them. For me the perfect ending is when the characters finally let down their guard and find out love conquers all.
Q: In addition to having complicated backgrounds and personal issues to overcome, what other kind of qualities do you like your heroes to have?
A: No one is perfect and even heroes have their flaws, but there’s a fine line in romance. A hero can be a bad boy or full of angst, but he needs some good qualities, too. Otherwise, the object of his lust wouldn’t give him the time of day. At a first meeting it’s usually appearance that attracts the lovebirds. The men are good-looking—at least to each other. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. And I like my hero to be devoted and protective. There may be trust issues between the men, but in reality they only have eyes for each other. And pity the villain who tries to hurt one of them. He’ll get what’s coming to him.
Q: Is there a particular character that was memorable to write?
A: I love them all, but Jack Monroe and Alex James in Point of Beginning have a special place in my heart. Computer geek Jack is a CAD technician in a survey construction office, and hunky stud Alex James is a surveyor/stripper who works on a survey crew.
I did both of those jobs myself (not the stripper), and modeled their office after the one I worked in, which included a diverse group of fifty-some men and six or seven women. There were some real characters among them, crazier than any I could make up, but I took bits and pieces of my friends and coworkers and put them into Jack and Alex. Last year, one of my closest friends went to that last stakeout in the sky, and I dedicated the book to him. Miss you, big guy.
Q: Your different series often vary in tone and the type of conflict the heroes must face. However, are there any reoccurring themes that span across all the series?
A: Some series follow the same characters as they evolve and face different conflicts. In each of my series, the books are set in the same world but they focus on a new couple—or a ménage. Characters who were introduced in earlier books usually show up as part of the supporting cast. I like the idea that a reader can pick up book four and enjoy the story without having read the previous books. But one central idea is common in all of my books.
Love conquers all.
My stories have explicit sex scenes, but at heart, they’re love stories, with all the emotion and conflict that goes hand in hand with romance, be it paranormal or contemporary. The main focus is always on the relationship between the characters— the conflicts they face and how their love develops. And of course, there’s always an emotionally satisfying happily ever after.
Q: When you start a series, do you plan all the books and heroes out beforehand or do you make them up as you go along?
A: I actually do a mix of both. When I start writing the first book, I focus on the characters and the story as if it were a standalone. Usually it’s the supporting characters that start planting the seeds of another book or books. Those voices in my head get louder and start clamoring for attention. That’s when I know I have a series on my hands.
Another good indication is when I start to uncover so much research material that I know I’ll need several books to cover it all. I set up files on the computer, using working titles and I start keeping track of things like the characters, timeline, and settings. Everything I know I’ll need to reference for later books.
So for me, planning the series happens after I’m already immersed in the world I’ve created.
Q: One of your books is going to be adapted into a film. Which one? And who plays the main characters?
A: Right off the bat, I think of Love Bytes. The story goes back and forth between the 1800s and 2013 and starts off with a terrifying storm at sea—think The Perfect Storm. I’d love to see that scene on the big screen. When the action shifts back to present time, we’re in California and then London, where geeky Ben meets Rhys, the sexy Welshman who’s hiding a secret. He’s a vampyre. The two men fight their growing attraction to each other. Rhys has already lost one soul mate and he won’t put Ben at risk. Can love conquer all or will history repeat itself?
Gorgeous cover model Jimmy Thomas portrays Rhys on the cover of my book—thank you, Harris Channing—and if he would accept an acting job, I’d cast him in a second. I picture Matt Bomer in the role of Ben. He’s thirtysomething, adorable, and he comes off as down-to-earth and totally approachable. He might have to lose a few pounds so he doesn’t look quite so toned, but in my mind he’s the perfect Ben.