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Devastatingly handsome pilot Frank Sheldon is doing his best to avoid his inheritance of money, charm, and good looks by rebuilding his life on his own terms after being discharged from the Air Force just before the repeal of DADT. When he unexpectedly meets the eccentric geek Benjamin Kaplan, sparks don’t quite fly, despite Benjamin’s obvious interest. Frank is not one to back down from a challenge, but what does any of that have to do with his sister’s campaign for governor, or the muckraking political website attacking her opponent, who just happens to be Frank’s unlamented, very closeted, ex-boyfriend? It’s hard to fall in love when all you are getting is mixed signals!
Second edition, expanded from first edition published in 2011.
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Five things that inspired Mixed Signals
By Cooper West
My latest release, Mixed Signals, is a fun, contemporary M/M romance about two guys who are not quite sure what they are doing, and are pretty bad at doing it. I had a blast writing it, if you can’t tell!
One of the things I enjoy most about writing stories like this is making the characters both romantic heroes but believably real people too. Frank Sheldon was particularly challenging to write because on the surface, he has everything: good looks, money, and a loving (if annoying) family. What’s believable about that, amirite? Ha! So yes, it was interesting to fiddle with his motivations and personality. Likewise, Benjamin Kaplan had his challenges in store for me too. He’s a bit obnoxious and arrogant, so it took a while to unravel his heart of gold. Along the way, I got inspired by things I had not expected to be a part of the story at first:
- Planes! My father was a pilot in the US Air Force, and while I did not inherit his love of planes and flying, I did grow up understanding that pilots are indeed born, not made. When I decided to make Frank a pilot, I wanted to throw a little bit of my father’s love of flying into the story. When Frank talks about how much flying means to him, believe me, you are reading an echo of things my own father said to me over the years.
- Artificial intelligence! I love AI and the potential that technology has for taking humanity in new, surprising directions, but I also understand the dangers of it. When I first wrote the character of Benjamin, he really was just supposed to be a low level gamer geek, but the more research I did for his back story, the more I got sucked into all the exciting and scary things being done these days (google “Boston Dynamics videos” and stare in awe!). Slowly, I took that fascination and layered onto Benjamin, who turned into something less like a coder nerd and more like a down-on-his-luck Elon Musk: brilliant, overlooked, and fascinated with both flying and AI systems. Doing research for his character became one of the best parts of writing the book!
- Rom-coms! I know, another obvious one, but if you are familiar with my other books (especially those in the Guardsmen series), you know that I generally lean more towards thrillers and romantic suspense than happy-go-lucky rom-com style stories. Initially, when I was rewriting Mixed Signals from a novella into a full-length novel, I considered going a bit darker with a few of the plot points, up to and including a kidnapping! Spoiler alert: there is no kidnapping or other dark elements in this book. I got carried away with the banter between Frank and Benjamin, and instead steered the story into lighter fare. Oh, there is drama and angst, but it owes more to movies like Notting Hill and The Proposal than, say, Silence of the Lambs.
- Beautiful people! I know, that seems obvious, right? But one of the interesting difficulties I know from the people I am friends with who have traditionally “beautiful” looks is that they are usually very untrusting of other people’s interest in them. Why shouldn’t they be? After all, they are so attractive, most people hit on them without caring who they really are or trying to find out about them as people. Frank falls into this category and it was a challenge to make him insufferably gorgeous while also sympathetic. He’s not any kind of average guy, but sometimes, he wishes he was, and I wanted to relate to readers why someone as privileged as Frank would have that kind of desire.
- Politics! No no, don’t run away! There are no heavy-handed political statements in this book, other than the obvious one about queer civil rights (I’m a bisexual, so that’s important to me personally as well!). What I mean here is interpersonal politics — things like Frank negotiating with his meddling sister and father, the bad blood with his former lover, and Benjamin trying to maintain his sense of independence and pride in the face of Frank’s bossy, billionaire family. These are messy and complex relationships, even though most of them are between people who genuinely love and care for each other. Frank’s older sister, for instance, has unrelenting political ambitions and can be a bit machiavellian at times, but she truly loves her brother and only wants the best for him. Writing those connections believably was sometimes a challenge, but worth it.
I hope you give the boys a try! I think they are both adorable and interesting guys, and were a lot of fun to write. Mixed Signals is on sale now through your favorite book seller. Let me know what you think!
About the author:
Busting out of the fanfiction scene in 2012 with the publication of her first original full-length book, Dawn in the Orchard, Cooper West writes stories that capture the heart and imagination. She is now known for her bestselling book The Protector, set in her unique Guardsman’verse of weredogs and bonded pairs, and plans to continue to release more books in that series but also enjoys writing modern, quirky contemporary romance stories.
She’s still a fangirl at heart, with an everlasting crush on Chris Evans and an ever-rotating list of OTPs. Bisexual and raised in a queer household, Cooper has been writing “slash” since she was a teenager and did not understand much about biology. She’s learned a lot since then! *wink wink nudge nudge*
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