April 14, 2017
When writing stories, authors pull from life. Write what you know, and all that. For fantasy and science fiction, that means drawing on emotions, landscapes, science, and my unique experience of being human, but not very much about actual people or places. With contemporary stories, though, those people and places can mirror real ones. I certainly did it in Breaking the Ice.
When Dreamspinner put out a call for the States of Love series, two states came immediately to mind: Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. I’ve lived in eleven states, but those are the two I know best. I was born in Wisconsin and raised my sons there. I currently live in Pennsylvania.
When writing what you know, it helps immensely if you know it well.
My family still lives in Wisconsin and bits and pieces of them color the landscape and characters of Breaking the Ice. The main characters, Matt and John, are regular guys—just like my brothers. Neither brother is gay, so please don’t read anything into that. It’s just that, like one of my brothers, Wisconsin native John is a man who built his career by going straight from high school to work at a small heavy industry company, of which Wisconsin has a great many. The company John and Matt work for is located in the town of Slinger. Why? Because my brother lived in Slinger, which lies just off one of the exits of I-45 leading to Green Bay and, importantly, Fond du Lac.
Fond du Lac is where Matt lives, and Matt… well, we’ll get to him later.
I’m familiar with the Slinger exit and the kinds of bars and supper clubs nearby. Sam and Sally’s bar is fictional… but Dale’s in Milwaukee is not. My sister used to hang out at Dale’s and maybe still does. They’re famous for their soup. The crowd at Dale’s, and at many small Milwaukee bars I’ve had occasion to visit (with my sister, as I don’t think I have ever gone to a bar alone), is friendly and social. If you’re a regular, everybody does, truly, know your name. Matt’s social group is loosely based on an evening spent at Dale’s.
Or take bowling. I’m a bowler, or was one, so there’s that. The bowling in Breaking the Ice, though, while a minor plot point, belongs squarely with my brother again, who goes bowling with guys from work—just like Matt and John. Brother got promoted into management and still bowled with the guys… also like Matt. All names are made up, but the fact one of the co-worker bowlers is Hispanic is true to life: Milwaukee has more Mexicans, and Mexican restaurants and businesses, than the entire Philadelphia metro area. Seriously, I can’t find a decent Mexican restaurant near me. But in Milwaukee…
Speaking of Milwaukee, John’s mother’s house is real. It stands about four blocks away from my Mom’s. Whenever I visit and we drive past that house, I just… like it. It’s homey and friendly and everything a house should be. Right off Lloyd Street in Wauwatosa. The kitchen of the house in the book, though, is Mom’s. John and his mom talk at my Mom’s table. Matt’s house also exists, with a boathouse that can be seen from boats on Lake Winnebago. The interior of Matt’s house, but not the exterior, is based on my good friend Amy’s house because her kitchen is awesome.
Breaking the Ice owes a huge debt to my sister. She and her husband inspired Matt (remember, I said I’d get to him). They love to fish and hunt; they own a boat and tons of gear; they’ve speared sturgeon… or at least like to party with the folks who spear sturgeon. Matt, with his passion for the outdoors and conservation, is based on them. I wanted to capture the joy of the outdoor lifestyle. A few of Mary’s anecdotes made their way into Breaking the Ice. Babe and his grill really happened. Ice glow. John’s misadventure with a sturgeon hole. The female warden (I’m sitting on a great story about her that needs a MF book!). And who knew sturgeon spearers like to swig blackberry brandy?
Oh, and don’t tell her, because she’ll probably never read this, but I gave Racko my sister’s no-nonsense personality. And another character her husband’s beard.
Matt’s petty, vengeful streak, though? That one’s all me.
Write what you know.
Check out Breaking the Ice today!
For Matt Wasko, February in Wisconsin is the best time of the year, and ice fishing on Lake Winnebago is his idea of heaven. With shanty villages cropping up, barbeques on the ice, monster sturgeon to spear, and plenty of booze to keep everybody warm, things couldn’t be better—until a surprise storm hits and an uninvited guest shows up at his frozen doorstep.
Matt’s not happy to see John Lutz, a coworker who cracks lame gay jokes at Matt’s expense. But John’s flimsy new ice shelter got blown across the lake, and it wouldn’t be right to leave even a jerk outside to freeze. Would it?
In the close quarters of Matt’s fabulous ice shanty, between stripping off wet clothes, misadventures with bait, and a fighting trophy-sized walleye, the two men discover creative ways to keep the cold at bay. And when John confesses his long-running attraction, Matt must decide if he can believe in John’s change of heart—and crack the ice for a chance at finding love.
About Tali Spencer:
Tali Spencer delights in erotic fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of sexual passion. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes high fantasy, science fiction and the occasional contemporary or western. In the real world, she is currently in the process of getting new knees. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, including works in progress, check out her Pinterest boards.