Tea Time Talks With R.M Virtues

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Hi, friends!

Welcome to my chatty new feature, Tea Time Talks! This will be a series of fun interviews that I will be conducting with authors, bloggers, influencers, and industry folks. I'm excited about this feature because I love coming up with interview questions catered just for the folks I'm interviewing. 

For the first edition, I've invited the wonderful debut author, R.M Virtues. In case you missed it, I reviewed R.M's book, Drag Me Up, on Monday, and spoiler alert: I freaking loved it! So I knew I wanted to have him over to chat with me. I hope you enjoy reading this interview and you get to learn a thing or two about R.M and his books. :)


First question, since this is a tea time chat, what beverage and snack of your choice are we having? Would Hades & Persephone approve?

It’s gotta be a red bull (the yellow one always) and sour gummy worms. I doubt Hades would be impressed, but Persephone wouldn’t hate on me at least. She’d probably steal a worm or 5 while telling me it isn't a meal.

*insert gif of Nick being affronted because she was expecting pastries*

 DRAG ME UP is your debut novel. How does it feel to have your first book out? What was the writing and publishing process like for you?

It honestly still feels so surreal to not only publish a book but for people to actually read and enjoy it. I’ve been writing since I was little, so it’s been well over 20 years since I started, but I could never finish anything. I would get too immersed in the characters or the world-building, and that’s all I wanted to do. To finally move past that and still get to create new versions of these characters and a whole new world has been amazing. Being stuck at home for a year, I decided to try again while giving myself some structure, and it worked out this time around. Now, it comes easier than ever.

As for the process, it was a whole lot of trial and error. I only knew how to write. I had no clue what all went into publishing, and it was a struggle just to research because ADHD is not a good research companion, but it was a fun process overall. I wrote Drag Me Up’s first draft in roughly a month or two, and I had to space out the edits because I was already fed up with the project by the second round. I’ve fallen in love with it again through the eyes of others, but at the time, it felt more like work than a hobby which is a real adjustment. I wouldn’t change it for anything though. I’m learning every single day about software to use, do’s and don’ts of publishing, the best ways to market my book, and just being a professional author so it’s a fun and exciting journey that I’m on. I’ve met so many cool people along the way, both authors and readers, and they’ve been helpful and supportive, which I love because I love interacting with people, and it’s been great.

 For readers new to your book, would you mind describing DRAG ME UP using a few sentences and GIFs?

So Drag Me Up is a Greek Myth reimagining wherein I’ve basically taken the Greek Pantheon and remodeled it in my general image with a majority Black/POC and/or LGBTQ+ cast. There’s not just romance but familial love and friendship as well as rivalry and tension between the districts in the city. It’s a look into a life where the gods are no longer gods, but they still answer to no one but themselves, which can always become a mess quite quickly. Hades and Persephone are two people the world seems too small for, who make room for each other, and in that process, make room for themselves.

And these are some of my favorite GIFs that other people have used to react to the book!

Nick: These gifs are 100% accurate.

This question is from both me and my friend, Ari, who quickly became obsessed with your characters and novels. We loved how despite being this feared and revered personality, Hades was a big softie around Persephone (or like Ari says, "He's a simp!") What motivated you to characterize Hades in such a way?

He IS a simp! That’s exactly what I was aiming for. I guess I was tired of Zeus being the hero and Hades always being the villain, so I thought, why not flip that on its head? Why not show how Hades only gets a bad rap so he can protect his brother’s reputation? It’s also the reason I wrote him as a Black man, because he defies these stereotypes and misconceptions the way many of us black men do every single day, even as he constantly sacrifices himself for Zeus’s gain, so that was the more personal reason. He is a family man first and foremost. I love a family man. More than that, I love Dionysos, Hephaestus, and Hermes enough to want them to have a strong, positive role model, and so I gave them this version of Hades that is kind and nurturing and just a big lover even if he hides it from the world so that Zeus can keep using him as a representation of Zeus’s worst characteristics. Hades can still be the villain when he needs to, but it always comes from a place of love. Plus, he’s so much more than that and allowing Persephone to peel back those layers and show everyone this side of him felt like something long deserved that I could really take pride in. I just love a cinnamon roll hero that no one KNOWS is a cinnamon roll at first glance, and it’s Hades I’d never seen before, so I claimed him for my own.

Nick: In this house (website), we stan cinnamon roll heroes!

I also loved Persephone's journey throughout the book and how much she grows. Is there anything you would want readers to take away from her journey?

Persephone’s journey is so important to me as a trans person, but it’s also so different from mine, and not just because I never got into a Cirque show. It’s always been difficult writing female characters for me because of my own dysphoria, but it was easier with Persephone because we had this base experience in common. I think the most important thing to take away from her journey is that you should always choose yourself when it comes to being who you are. People will try to fit you into boxes that are convenient for them, and they will call you selfish and ungrateful for not conforming, but it is better to live as you are than to exist for the comfort of someone else. It’s okay to choose yourself even when the world tries to tell you it isn’t. 

There’s also a line that says “I don’t want to be brave. I want to be seen.” which really just means she doesn't want to be commended for dealing with discrimination and adversity. She wants that discrimination and adversity to stop because she would rather be comfortable than brave, and I think that’s a common sentiment. We don’t want to be brave. We want to be respected. We want to be allowed to be ourselves, and the lesson there is to demand that. Demand respect. Demand comfort. Do whatever it takes to protect your peace of mind. Don’t settle for the bare minimum from society. Demand to be seen.

Nick: I highlighted quite a few quotes in this book, but that Persephone line is my favorite too.

In a lot of romance novels, the conflict tends to be internal between the couple. I thought it was refreshing that in DRAG ME UP, the conflicts were all external. I was wondering if you could speak to why you chose to not include any between-couple conflicts.

I was just thinking about this today as I started writing book 3 because I was so proud of myself for being able to keep the conflict external in Drag Me Up, and honestly, the answer is ridiculously simple. That’s what I like. I like external conflict for couples. It’s why I usually prefer watching horror movies with couples to romcoms because, for couples in horror movies (even if it doesn’t always end well), they’re most often working together for a common cause instead of against one another. I like adventure, but I also like this added escapism of not having to write about people feeling like they aren’t good enough for their loved ones and other insecurities that sort of hit closer to home. That’s not to say internal conflict is always bad or anything like that. I know authors who do it very well, but I think I’m much better at external conflict, and I prefer it overall. Plus, it worked especially well with Hades and Persephone because once they really went for it, they communicated so well. Even the one scene where it seemed like a breakup (you know the one), Hades and I solved that conflict quickly because I just didn’t see them as being people who held onto misunderstandings too long and let it fester. I mean, Hades literally had her dragged up to his office to talk things through, and he barely knew her then, so you know. It made sense to me, and I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect!

Nick: OK, I think this whole interview has been great but I think this is my favorite answer.

Obviously, this book was Greek mythology-inspired. Were there any personalities you wanted to include that you didn't in the book?

Oh, there were so many. As you probably noticed, there were already a ton of characters introduced or mentioned despite there not being too many that actually appeared in a meaningful way. That was on purpose though, and it’s why I made this a series. I have been a Greek Myth nerd since I was a kid, so all these characters mean something to me. There aren’t many gods or heroes that haven’t been slated somewhere in the series, and while not everyone will get a book for themselves, I feel like the inner circles I’ve built around main characters will suffice. I just love character and relationship building the most out of anything, so I definitely had to refrain from adding everyone in at once. However, this series really gives me a chance to write couples some people wouldn’t think of, so I’m looking forward to that.

Which character in the book do you think you would get along best with in real life?

In real life, I’d definitely get along well with Persephone, but I feel like I’d have to either pull her out of fights or jump into them with her, and I’m not good at being responsible either way, so our time together would have to be limited. I think I’d probably get along with Hades pretty well. Neither of us is great for small talk, but we could have deep, intellectual conversations about the world and things like that, and dinner at his place is probably better than the stuff I throw together at home. Additionally, Hestia, who you’ll definitely see more of down the line, because she’s a lot like Hades in that quiet, calm, and collected way, and she’s also very clever, so I think we’d be good friends. Dio’s a bit too wild for me, but I love him a lot. Just from a distance!

Nick: Dio would be such a good time though! Love that boy!

Changing gears a little bit, but tell us a little bit about the last book you read or the last book you loved?

So I’ve actually read a lot more this year than I have in the last 5 or 6 years combined, which sounds really bad, but it’s just true. I’m very new to the romance genre though, believe it or not. I read If She Says Yes by Tasha L. Harrison in January though, and I absolutely devoured it. I loved every second, and I read it again then started it a third time before I got sidetracked. It’s just a really good story with very light angst that I could handle. I highly recommend it! I also read His Beauty by Jack Harbon recently, and let me just say, Jack’s writing is absolutely beautiful, and he really did this Beauty and the Beast retelling so well, so I enjoyed that one too. I absolutely loved Cemetary Boys by Aiden Thomas, which was about a trans boy, so I definitely vibed well with that one. Plus, I love lore, and it had a ton, so I recommend this one as well!

Nick: Chiming in to say that Tasha Harrison book was *chef's kiss*! I still need to pick up His Beauty and Cemetery Boys, but I've heard nothing but high praise from trusted readers!

Finally, what can fans expect next from you and from the GODS OF HUNGER series? (Feel free to share any teasers here if you want to)

This series is my heart and soul. I have other series and standalones planned that I’m excited about, but this one is special. As I said, I love Greek Mythology, and I love these characters. I love this world they’ve helped me build, and I want to live in it as long as I can now that I can see myself in it, which was severely lacking before. So right now, I have 8 books actually outlined (very lightly because I am not a plotter at all), and I’ll also be doing a lot of shorts and stuff on Patreon, for people who are like me and don’t want things to end. There will be a lot of new, unorthodox couples included as well, so it’s a really fresh look at the Greek Pantheon. I’ve been teasing an HEA for Hera on Twitter, and I do plan to deliver on that. I really just want to take these old tales and make them over, so I’ll do that every chance I get. Book 2, which is Hephaestus and Aphrodite, will be out this fall, and I’m unbelievably excited for it because I’ve never read a story where they get a happy ending, and I think Hephaestus deserves that. Book 3, which is Dionysos and Athena, will be coming in early 2022, and they’re also a couple I’ve never seen written, so there’s a lot to look forward to. I just want to thank everyone who has already joined me on this journey and those who will in time because it means the world to me to be able to do this and create a world that everyone has a place in. And thank you for inviting me to tea time with you. This has been phenomenal!

Nick: I can't possibly wait!! Thank you for being here, RM! It was a pleasure!


Find R.M Virtues


Many thanks to R.M for stopping by on the blog to chat with me! I hope you enjoyed our chat!

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