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Title: The Sparky
Author: Marek Moran
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Genre: M/M Romance
Aaron’s been living in what his friend Howie calls a sexual desert. But an oasis appears on the horizon when Paul, a divorced electrician with a five-year-old daughter named Sam, moves in next door. He’s a country boy from northern Australia, and although he’s never been with a guy before, he has an impression that anything goes in the city. They find that the ordinary things in life—books, footie in the park, looking after Sam—lead them into an unlikely relationship.
But as their relationship slowly deepens, with Aaron spending time on Paul’s family’s cattle station, it becomes clear that Paul might have a harder time leaving the country behind. To him, happiness means a conventional life—including a mother for Sam. Being with his old friends convinces him he’s on the wrong path with Aaron, and he starts a relationship with a girl from his hometown. If he cannot find the courage to go after what he truly needs, he and Aaron will become nothing more than awkward neighbours.
Hello, Reader! First-time author here. Thanks very much to Alpha Book Club for this blog post opportunity.
So, writing …
I listen to music when I’m writing; sometimes I choose to listen to an album that fits with what’s happening in the story, and sometimes the music I’m playing pushes the writing in a slightly different direction than I’d expected. I guess a lot of writers do something similar, so I’ve wondered why songs don’t appear more often in stories. Recently I read A Brief History of Seven Killings, and lots of music was referenced there, to give a sense of time and place: it wasn’t all reggae, there was Millie Jackson’s very 70s “If You’re Not Back in Love by Monday”, and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” which two characters talk about and dance around to, and a bunch of other songs too. But as a writing noob, I hadn’t been aware of what might fall foul of Fair Use provisions. I’d thought that if you only used a couple of lines you’d be OK, but I now know that, to be on the safe side, it’s not unusual for publishers to make sure you only use the title and maybe some heavily paraphrased lyrics. Not having any music is definitely easier. Still, I wrote The Sparky before I knew any of this, so there’s still some in there.
As you’ll see from the blurb, the story has an essential Australianness, and the music is part of that feel. So most of the music that appears in it is Australian in some way or other; here are three instances.
• Hunters & Collectors, “Throw Your Arms Around Me”. Wikipedia describes them as a blend of Australian pub rock and art-funk (whatever that might be); they’ve been around since the 1980s. Although “Throw Your Arms Around me” is more of a hook-up song, the second-person lyrics here make it feel really personal. It’s the kind of song a country boy might use to be romantic.
• Lee Kernaghan, “Boys From The Bush”. Australia has a pretty active country music scene, although it doesn’t get much coverage on urban radio. Paul’s kind of music.
• Guy Sebastian, “Amnesia”. Guy won Australian Idol, and has had a lot of popular songs—pop, soul, gospel, R&B—since then. While his music was for a long time seen as pretty uncool, he’s recently been been acclaimed by various members of the hipster demographic; but I still hum along to his uncool songs. “Amnesia” is an angsty one, but he does cheerful as well, like “Summer Love”.
There are also a few other songs that I included for other reasons, including:
• Everything But The Girl, “Missing”. This is related to a theme in the story. Since I first heard the song, I thought it was slightly odd (as does Aaron in the story—I feel very close to Aaron, I do): it’s about how the deserts miss the rain, but really, the deserts don’t miss the rain. Everything that lives there has evolved to do without rain.
• Britney Spears, various (like “… Baby One More Time”). One of the locations in the story is (loosely based on) The Imperial, an inner-city gay-ish pub in Sydney, the kind of place that could have drag shows featuring Britney. It’s the sort of place that gives Paul a bit of culture shock.
• Boney M., “Rasputin”. Just a fun song. Ra-ra-rasputin!
Sam and I manage to assemble about half of the Mystery Machine before dinner is served. Paul talks about jobs he’s been doing around the neighbourhood—he seems to have been getting more of them, which is good—and I read between the lines of a couple of his comments about a repeat customer who comes to the door wearing a negligee.
“What’s a negligee?” asks Sam.
“Her pyjamas,” says Paul. “I guess she’s a sleepyhead.”
Sam’s news is about her friend Bec and how they did some painting today, and she painted a horse, and Bec painted a doll. For my news—it’s become the pattern, really, having dinner here and talking about what we’ve been doing, and this is my catching up after a gap of a couple of weeks—I open my phone’s photo gallery and pass it to Sam.
“Hey, that’s you! And he’s old now!”
Paul has a quizzical look on his face.
“Pass it to your dad,” I say.
He takes the phone, pauses a second. “Joxer.” He smiles. I like how much he’s been smiling this evening.
“Yep. Ted Raimi is the actor. He was at a fan convention the middle weekend I was there, so I couldn’t resist.”
There’s been some music playing in the background, which I hadn’t really noticed, apart from a vague awareness that I liked it, some typical Australian rock.
“Do you like Hunters and Collectors?” Paul asks. That’s who’s playing. Right now it’s a song I know, one of their most famous. “Throw Your Arms Around Me.” It’s at the chorus now, exhorting me to shed my skin and get started.
I smile. “I do.”
About the Author
Marek Moran is, in his day job, a computer science professor. If you want to know about shortest path graph algorithms, he’s your man. However, that’s probably not why you’re reading this. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia, and has previously lived in France, Germany and the US, enjoying travelling around and listening to people talk: he’s learnt to respond to enquiries after his wellbeing with a ça va merci, sehr gut danke or copacetic, thanks.
The only member of his book club to like George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, he’s discovered that he enjoys writing romance as well as reading it; the other members of his book club don’t yet know this. He plays piano, squash, and his cards close to his chest. The Sparky is his first novel.