Book Interview: Everything you wanted to know about Wake Up Call by J.L. Merrow

Hello JL, welcome back to BookWinked. For those readers who don’t know you yet, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, Larissa, it’s great to be here again! I’m JL (Jamie) Merrow, and I’ve been writing since 2009, with over 20 novels and novellas published, and goodness knows how many short stories. Most of my books are contemporary MM romance or mysteries, but I occasionally dabble in historical or paranormal romance, among other things. I’m British through and through—apart from my rebellious distaste for the national beverage, tea, which fellow Brits can find quite unsettling—and my books tend to be set in the UK, with very British characters. Oh, and I like to add a touch of humour, because real life’s serious enough.

You recently released Wake Up Call, the first book in the Porthkenack books, which is a book series written by different author. Can you tell us how that came about?
It’s all down to those lovely people at Riptide, who already had a US-set shared world series, the Bluewater Bay books, and came up with the idea of doing something similar set in Britain. I was delighted to be invited to take part.

How did Wake Up Call came about? Where did the inspiration come from?
Honestly, it was impossible to read about the town and the people of Porthkennack (see below) and not be inspired!  The tone of the book, which is darker than many of my novels, comes from the landscape and scenery of Cornwall, with its wind-swept cliffs and treacherous seas.

In the book we can see quite a bit of dialect, especially by main character Dev and his younger sister. How important is language and dialect for you in a story?
For me, language and dialect are very important, because I always hear my characters speaking—dialogue is always the first thing that comes to me with a story, which means that some of my first drafts look more like scripts. I like to use dialect—although not, I hope, to excess; anyone who’s struggled through Sir Walter Scott’s faithfully reproduced Scottish dialect scenes will know what I mean—to show a little more about my characters: eg. what part of the country they’re from; their social background; whether they’re under stress.

As the town of Porthkennack is a joint project, how was the town created and how did it work thinking up a town and the world around it with the other authors?
I can claim no credit for the creation of Porthkennack as a whole—this was all done by the very talented Alex Beecroft, who built the town and its environs and added a rich, gothic history to inspire us all. She also gave us snippets about long-established local families, including the Roscarrocks, who appear in my novel—although all the modern-day Roscarrocks are of my own invention.

Of course, we all had to be careful not to contradict each other when writing! Round-robin emails and a couple of Google spreadsheets proved invaluable for keeping track of details any of us had added about prominent people and places, and I had some fun discussions with other authors about how to reference each other’s books.

Dev is quite the character, sweet, level-headed, funny and caring. Can you give us an insight into his character?
I’m glad that Dev’s good points came over to you, as one key aspect of him that you haven’t mentioned is that he’s angry. He’s got a lot to be angry about. He was abandoned as a baby, then orphaned when his adoptive parents died—and living in the care system, he’s got to know, and care about, other kids who were let down by the people supposed to be looking out for them. In particular, there’s his adopted sister, Tasha, who was abused by a carer. As a mixed-race young man, Dev’s experienced racism—and without any of the benefits of a multi-cultural background, as he grew up with no knowledge of his heritage. Dev has a huge capacity for love and caring, and he’s desperately searching for the family he’s never had.

Kyle was diagnosed with narcolepsy, not something you hear every day in romance. Did creating his character involve a lot of research? How did the come about – the inspiration – to create a character with narcolepsy?
This was one instance where stepping away from the internet and getting on with work would have been a mistake! I happened to click on a link posted by a brave young woman who’d intended to shoot an instructional dance video—and been assailed by sleep attacks. Not only did she carry on filming the video, which showed her stumbling and fighting to stay awake, she uploaded it with a commentary to tell the world about her condition, and went on to answer questions on Reddit. I was inspired to research further into what it must be like to live with a seriously debilitating condition that many people just treat as a joke.

Reading Wake Up Call, the characters are everyday people you can meet on the streets, this is something we often see in your stories. Yet they are special in their own way and never boring. Can you share with us how you create characters for your stories and the inspiration/basis for them?
I know some writers swear by creating full biographies for their characters before they start a new book, but I tend to find out about my characters as I write. Putting them into situations they have to react to helps me work out their backstory—for example, why would Dev be open to understanding the needs of a stranger with a condition like narcolepsy? Could it be because he has a family member (his sister) who also has a chronic illness?

One thing I do nowadays is go through image sites to find a picture that encapsulates my vision of the character, and this becomes my reference while writing. It doesn’t always happen, but in this case, I’m pleased to say the guy on the cover of the book is the original photo I found for Kyle.

Can you give us a fun fact/tidbit about writing Wake Up Call?
Usual editor’s comments on my work are on the lines of “You have used the word ‘look’ 357 times in the document. Please cut this down.” For Wake Up Call I was asked to add eggs!
Not as daft as it seems, as this was to reference Garrett Leigh’s book House of Cards, which has rescue hens. But it made me smile—and, rebellious to the last, I added hens instead.  🙂


About the author
Hi, I’m JL (Jamie) Merrow. I’m that rare beast; an English person who refuses to drink tea. I write gay romance: mostly contemporary romantic comedies and mysteries, but with a fickle muse that occasionally ambushes me in dark alleyways and drags me off, cackling, to write historical or speculative fiction. Some might call all this pillar-to-posting tragic evidence of a short attention span; I couldn’t possibly….er, what were we talking about, again? Within these pages you’ll find details of my current publications and those coming soon, plus a few free reads.

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