Haley Walsh Talks Skyler Foxe, Writing, Mysteries and More!

Hi Haley and welcome to BookWinked. Before we start, can you introduce yourself to the readers and tell us a little about your background?

I’m the author of the Skyler Foxe LGBT Mysteries, and I’ve been writing them since 2005. But I’m also the author of a medieval mystery series under another name, the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mysteries, and a new urban fantasy series, called Booke of the Hidden, to be released this Halloween. I started out life as a graphic artist/art director, freelancing in Los Angeles for some fifteen years, put it aside for a time to have a baby, and then when my son was two, looked into get back into it and discovered the whole graphics/advertising industry had turned to computers whereas I had not! I had to come up with another way to make a living and work at home. Since I’d always written novels for fun, it seemed the perfect opportunity to get serious about it and explore what it would take. I mean, how hard could it be? Plenty hard, I discovered. While I wrote and worked on getting an agent and trying to get published in those intervening years, I did all sorts of things to try to make a living: created a line of custom-painted baby furniture; became a tasting host and tour guide for a winery; became a soloist and choir director for a local church; and finally spent eight years as a newspaper reporter. Four agents and fourteen years later I finally bagged that big New York publisher for my medieval mystery series. But it was only last year that I finally crossed that threshold into making a living by my writing. It’s a ridiculously tough career to actually make a living at.

You’re the author of the famous Skyler Foxe Mysteries, a series I love very much, can you tell us how the Skyler Foxe Mysteries came about?

Well, after being steeped in the Middle Ages with my Crispin Guest series, with its tons of research and heavy prose, I just wanted something light and fun to write. Some gay friends were giving me these m/m books to read, some with some truly tragic endings, and they begged me for something fun and light. One of my jobs had been working with teens so I combined the idea of a high school teacher and an amateur sleuth who was a sexy and unabashed bottom, throw in some wacky friends to round out the comedy, and created the Skyler Foxe Mysteries. I wanted a little love and romance and lots of fun and heart, and I think I’ve made that balance work. It’s a lot of fun to write and a good respite from the dark Middle Ages.

I was first published by MLR Press, but as I slowly get my rights back I am self-publishing the series. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with my publisher and I’ve been treated very fairly indeed. But I find, with a small press, there isn’t much they can do for me that I can’t do for myself, so I might as well get a bigger piece of the pie. Between self-publishing and self-publishing the audiobooks with the fabulously entertaining narration by Joel Leslie, there’s at least a good chunk to be made from these sales.

What does your writing process look like?

It looks like a mess sometimes. But since this is a full time job, I treat it like one. I do my business of emails in the mornings (because my agent and my urban fantasy publisher is in New York) and try to get all that out of the way by 9 am. Then I sit down to write. I write at minimum ten pages a day, including rereading and editing what I wrote the day before, any research I have to do—yes, there’s still research—and then get those pages written. They don’t have to be good pages, just written. Theoretically, if I stuck to this program I should have a 300-page novel by the end of the month. But of course, life intervenes and that doesn’t quite happen, but in at least three to four months I have a finished manuscript, all edited and ready for my copy editor and formatter. I don’t skip from medieval to Skyler to paranormal. I write one book at a time. So that’s writing three books a year which is really my limit. Anything more than that and the quality of all of them would suffer.

Do you have a writing kryptonite?

Anything and everything distracts me, especially the older I get. I used to be able to sit my arse in the chair and pound out writing for eight hours a day and more. I just can’t do it anymore. Between Facebook and watching Netflix, it’s a miracle I get anything done. But writing is a seven-day-a-week-even-on-holidays sort of gig so I’m no slouch.

Skyler Foxe is quite the character, funny, witty, smart, cute and more. Can you tell us about his character?

Skyler is in a way me when I was twenty-five. Thinking waaaay back now to that time, I was at my peak and pretty invincible. And being a guy adds just that extra bit of invincibility to the character and his too-stupid-to-live-ness. He’s young, he’s a bit of a player, he’s sexy, and men love him. Okay, so THAT wasn’t me, but I can dream, can’t I? I wanted a character who was fearless and living his life to the fullest. But I also wanted to show that a person can have different faces he shows to the different people in his life. He’s the dutiful son to his mother, sort of the man of the house when his father left when he was twelve, so he never came out to her. She needed to rely on him and he didn’t feel he could add to her burdens of being a single mom raising a child. He’s “Mr. Foxe” to his flock of high school students, some of whom he becomes quite attached to and mentors. And he’s Skyler the Twink to the men he meets around town and to his cadre of friends who all used to be hook-ups, the Skyler Fuck Club, or SFC. They become the “Scooby Gang” when he begins sleuthing, the Jiminy Cricket in his ear when he inevitably gets himself in over his head. And speaking of which, he also gets in over his head when he begins falling for the new assistant football coach, Keith Fletcher. So now he has to navigate the very unfamiliar territory of relationships, when he so carefully avoided them all these years. He’s a likable guy who cares very deeply for his students and his friends, and for righting wrongs in the world, with just the right amount of school spirit.

The Skyler Foxe Mysteries has a good cast of secondary characters. Is it important to you to have secondary/support characters in your writing?

For any series it is. Because you can sometimes use them as the focus for some of the stories, and it gives the main character someone to bounce ideas off of, particularly in a mystery. The SFC serve as a lot of the comedy relief as well. I always enjoy writing their scenes. So much to riff off of. But it also helps to flesh out the main character. How do they see him through their eyes? And you begin to care about them just as much because they are all so close. It’s also a taste of the different colors of the rainbow of the different kinds of gay men Skyler might encounter. I know that some people consider some of them clichéd, but all I can say is, maybe these critics don’t get out much. They’re all based on people I know. Maybe you know them, too.

How has the Skyler Foxe Mysteries evolved since Foxe Tail?

FOXE TAIL, FOXE HUNT, and OUT-FOXED were designed to be a trilogy, like a pilot to the series. So the first two have cliff-hanger endings. I thought this would be a clever way to keep people reading. I understand now how annoying that can be to people who want to know NOW what happened. But since these first three books are already out, I don’t feel too guilty about that. Anyway, that had a mystery story arc that would get you through those three books while also having another mystery to solve in each book. I had been watching Veronica Mars, that teen detective TV show, and I liked that there was an overarching mystery throughout the season, but each episode had its own arc too. So I tried to emulate that.

Once the first three books were done, I decided to self-publish a novella that didn’t have a mystery in it. Sort of a bridge between mysteries but that would move the story arc along of the two main character’s relationships. So they are terribly important if you want to continue to follow through on the characters and their lives. And they are funny and sexy too! So I continued that tradition after another two mysteries were released. The first one was called FOXE DEN: A HOLIDAY COLLECTION, which took us from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. I wanted a character study of how Skyler was going to navigate a relationship for the first time. Then the second novella was FOXE DEN 2: SUMMER VACATION. The school year had ended and I wanted to show Skyler doing summer things before the school year began again with the next mystery, the first one I self-published on my own, CRAZY LIKE A FOXE. That’s being followed by STONE COLD FOXE to be released late spring, and THAT will be followed by another novella, FOXE TROT: THE COLLEGE YEARS, a series of vignettes on Skyler’s years in college when he first came out and how he actually met some of the SFC. Readers seem to appreciate these little glimpses into the character’s lives when they are just going about their business, without a pesky murder getting in the way.

Can you share a tid bit about the upcoming Skyler Foxe books?

Well, you do have to read them in order to know what’s going on with the characters but I guess I can share that in STONE COLD FOXE, there is a much-anticipated wedding with murder on the high seas on a cruise ship. Skyler is being stalked and it’s up to him and the Scooby Gang to get the would-be killer before Skyler ends up a victim. Lots of love and laughs.

Will you ever stop writing the Skyler Foxe Mysteries?

Yes. I don’t think that a series should go on forever. At some point, it should end. Actually, STONE COLD FOXE would have been a good place to end it because it sort of brings a lot of elements together that would make a good conclusion, but I wasn’t ready to let these characters go quite yet. I still have their stories to tell. I don’t know quite when it will end, but I’m thinking when his favorite high school kids graduate would be a good place. It’s their story, too, and that would make a good endpoint. But they are just beginning their junior year now, so there will be a few more stories. You don’t want to get stale or start repeating yourself. That’s why I think a series needs an endpoint.

What would you say to people to invite them to read the Skyler Foxe Mysteries?

If you’re looking for a series with sexy fun and a lot of heart, you should try the Skyler Foxe Mysteries. There’s always a lot of laughter, and always a happily ever after. (Hey, that rhymes!) And take a look at my website. You can sign up for my quarterly newsletter and sign up for my street team. The street team gets special stuff by doing me a solid of promoting the books on social media and at your local LGBT bookstores and libraries, and making sure you review the books on Amazon and Goodreads. It’s like a Patreon thing without you having to pay for anything. Visit  http://skylerfoxemysteries.com/

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