BookView with Laurie Boris, author of Playing Charlie Cool


I learned, as a writer, to trust my instincts more. I’ve always believed that done with empathy and respect, a writer can step outside his or her own experience to see the world through other characters’ eyes.

Laurie Boris – 8 October 2014

The Back Flap

With a few humble words, mayoral staffer Joshua Goldberg comes out to the New York press, resigns his post, and leaves his wife. Three months later, he is still skittish about making his relationship with television producer Charlie Trager public.

Charlie understands Joshua’s stress over the divorce and his desire to step back into the political spotlight. But he’s tired of schedule conflicts and frustrated about getting put on the back burner while the pressure ravages the man he loves. Managing some of the most demanding divas in network television has taught Charlie patience. But his cool façade is wearing thin.

Longing to ease Joshua’s anguish and burning for control in a situation that seems headed off the rails, Charlie takes a huge risk that could destroy everything he and Joshua have worked so hard to build.

About the book

What is the book about?

Three months after leaving his wife and coming out to the New York press, Joshua Goldberg, heir-apparent to a political dynasty, is still reluctant to make his relationship with television producer Charlie Trager public. Charlie, a patient man, is trying his hardest to be supportive through the firestorms of an ugly divorce and Joshua’s flirtation with the political spotlight. But there’s only so much Charlie can take and only so long he can sit on the sidelines and watch the man he loves crumble from the strain.

When did you start writing the book?

I began last November. I didn’t intend to tackle it as a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project. But I ended up doing one informally, as a sort of challenge to myself (inspired by Martin Crosbie) to see if I could keep up a daily word count.

 How long did it take you to write it?

The first draft took three months, which for me is pretty fast. First draft, time to let it rest, revisions, beta reading, more revision, editing…all told, it took about ten months from start to finish.

 Where did you get the idea from?

The seed was planted in Don’t Tell Anyone, one of my published novels. Charlie is a secondary character in that story, and I was curious about his secret romance with a closeted, married politician, which was only revealed off camera. The nugget of the conflict is one I’ve seen several friends and acquaintances struggle with over the years: the fear of being who you are, the fear of telling family and friends, and the sometimes awful consequences of either being rejected by your loved ones or the secret anguish of attempting to mold yourself into the kind of life your culture “expects.” I’ve always wanted to explore it in fiction, with the right set of characters and the right story.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

The first draft came so quickly and easily that I began to second-guess myself. Did I tell it right? Did I forget something important? Was I true to the characters? And for a while I lived in dread of the question I knew I’d be asked one day: “What right do you have to tell this story? You are a straight female, in case you have not taken personal inventory lately.” So I had to keep that out of my head while I was writing for fear it would completely shut me down. I struggled on some of the rewrites, because I needed to get deeply into the characters and I needed to be clear about their motivations. The biggest problem most frequently lay in one of the smallest words: he. Toss a few guys in a room and you need to be clear about which “he” is doing what. This is one of the many reasons I love beta readers and editors.

What came easily?

Charlie moved into my writing room, poured a virtual scotch, and started telling me stories. That part was fairly easy. He trusted me all the way, and he is one of the most forthcoming characters I’ve ever worked with. We’d been through a couple of books already, so that helped, too.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Bits and pieces of them are borrowed from real people—there’s quite a bit of me in Joshua, more than the other characters. We overthink nearly everything to the point that it can drive our loved ones mad. But other than that, they’re mainly fictitious. The woman from Mendota, Illinois, however, is entirely real.

Do you have a target reader for this book?

I expect most of the readers will be women, especially women who like a romantic sub-thread in their books. This isn’t an all-out romance novel, and the sex is not explicit, but there’s a story that runs independently of the boy-meets-boy, boy-wants-to-tear-his-own-hair-out aspect. My target reader is someone who enjoys character depth and good dialogue but also wants a bit of humor with the realism.

How was writing this book different from what you’d experienced writing previous books?

This is the first book I’ve written from an outline. Okay, it wasn’t really an outline, because those give me hives. It was more like a rough plot—story beats. I learned that from Lynne Cantwell. It really helped me craft a tighter plot and keep an eye on character motivations. Playing Charlie Cool is also my first sequel, and that had its own rewards and problems. As I’ve mentioned, it was an advantage to have gone into this already knowing some of the characters. But because I didn’t think I’d ever write a sequel to Don’t Tell Anyone, I’d painted myself into a couple of corners, one of which included having two characters with the same name. It took a few fancy moves to get myself out of that.

What new things did you learn about writing, publishing, and/or yourself while writing and preparing this book for publication?

I learned, as a writer, to trust my instincts more. I’ve always believed that done with empathy and respect, a writer can step outside his or her own experience to see the world through other characters’ eyes. This book—actually part of a two-book (so far) journey with Charlie—put an exclamation point on that. I’ve also learned that there will be readers who don’t care for what I’m doing, and that’s okay. Maybe they’ll like something else I write. I hope.

End of Interview:

For more from Laurie, visit her website where you can join her mailing list. You can also follow her on Twitter and like her page on Facebook.

Get you copy of Playing Charlie Cool from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

12 responses to “BookView with Laurie Boris, author of Playing Charlie Cool

  1. Thank you for letting me stop by! Always a pleasure.

  2. Oh, man, I’d LOVE to have a virtual scotch with Charlie… Love him so much. You’re awesome Laurie, in case anyone doesn’t tell you that often enough 🙂 (thump)

  3. Great interview! Good luck with the book!

  4. Laurie, I really enjoyed this interview. I loved hearing about your writing methods and I can sure relate to your hive-inducing consideration of an outline. I am trying one for my third novel and it sure takes getting used to, but I suspect it will speed up my actual writing time. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Dianne. It’s definitely a process. I thought the outline would be limiting, but it did allow for some flexibility when I wanted to see where a potential plot tangent took me. I’m trying it for my current project. So far, so good!

  5. That was a great interview Laurie. I wish you lots of luck with the book!!!

  6. Congrats on the new book, Laurie! I’m practically salivating in anticipation of reading PCC. Yours is some of the best writing I’ve come across in a long time. Good luck!

  7. Great interview, Laurie, and not just because I got name-checked. 😀 (It’s to the point now where I get fidgety when I *don’t* have a set of beats to work from.)

    Also, what DV said. I love reading your work. You have such a wonderful gift for storytelling. 🙂