With one story, A Forbidden Rumspringa, Keira Andrews, jumped into the hearts and minds of so many readers, including myself. Now Keira Andrews is back with her latest book, Semper Fi. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity (because today is Veteran’s Day) to talk to Keira Andrews about our soldiers, DADT, and the issues they face. Here is my interview with Keira Andrews (and don’t forget to check out the blurb, excerpt, and contest below as well):
Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Commonwealth countries, and I’m honoured to be here to discuss Semper Fi, my new romance novel.
In WWII, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — and its repeal so that queer soldiers can serve openly — was decades away. Anti-sodomy laws were still on the books, and gay servicemen and women had to hide who they really were (with few exceptions). While reading a nonfiction book on the bitterly fought battle for Guadalcanal in the Pacific, I began to wonder about the Marines who fought there. Since I always have M/M romance on the brain, I wondered if any of them were gay, and what their lives would be like after the war. Thus, Semper Fi was born.
This evocative shot from the Korean War so eloquently shows the comradeship and tenderness that can exist between soldiers fighting and suffering together. I wanted to explore the evolution of a close friendship when two Marines fall in love. Intense bonds form in boot camp and foxholes in the heat of battle, but what happens to that relationship back in the real world?
And what happens when the love at the heart of a friendship blooms into something more? For me, an HEA is a necessity as a reader and a writer. What does happily ever after look like in 1948? Can two men have a life together and raise a family?
So many questions! I hope you’ll enjoy my answers in Semper Fi.
As Marines, Cal and Jim depended on each other to survive bloodshed and despair in the Pacific. Relieved to put the horrors of war behind him, Jim went home to his apple orchard and a quiet life with his wife and children. Knowing Jim could never return his forbidden feelings, Cal hoped time and an ocean between them would dull the yearning for his best friend.
But when Jim’s wife dies, Cal returns to help. He doesn’t know a thing about apple farming—or children—but he’s determined to be there for Jim, even as the painful torch he carries blazes back to life. Jim is grateful for his friend’s support as he struggles with buried emotions and dark wartime memories. Then Jim begins to see Cal in a new light, and their relationship deepens in ways neither expected. Can they build a life together as a family and find happiness in a world that would condemn them?
Discover how love finds a way in Semper Fi!
Semper Fi Excerpt
Bellowing black smoke in its wake, the train swayed as it crossed the Rappahannock River, the boisterous singing and chatter of the men inside muffling the creaking wood of the ancient cars. As Cal stumbled, a strong hand on his arm steadied him, and he smiled down at the man before flopping into the opposite seat. He held out a bottle. “Drink? It’s allegedly bourbon.”
A small smile lifted the man’s lips. “Sure.” He took the bottle and tipped it back. He tried to hide his grimace, but couldn’t quite. “I’ve never really liked the hard stuff.”
“Well, in defense of bourbon, this isn’t exactly Kentucky’s finest.” Cal peered out the window past the sleeping man beside him, who drooled against the streaked glass. The sun splashed orange across the horizon as it sank out of sight. “Hard to believe we’ll be in South Carolina in the morning. Assuming this dirty old pile of planks doesn’t disintegrate along the way.”
A pot-bellied stove in the middle of the train car belched, emitting only a small amount of heat in the January chill. Cal shivered against the competing drafts, wishing he’d brought a warmer jacket. But he supposed they’d all be trading their civvies for uniforms soon enough, and he’d yearn for the northern cold before too long.
“Let’s hope we’ll be shipping out in something a little sturdier,” the man said before passing the bottle to the recruit beside him, who stopped screeching an Irish sea shanty long enough to gulp down a quarter of the swill.
“I’m Cal, by the way.” Cal extended his hand. “Cal Cunningham.”
If Jim noticed how smooth Cal’s palm was in comparison to his own, he didn’t let on. His neatly combed hair was a blond that probably lightened in the sun, and there was a general wholesomeness about him that indicated he spent significant time outside. Faded freckles dusted Jim’s pale skin, and he wore a blue button-front shirt that couldn’t match the brilliance of his eyes.
As most of the men around them launched into a recitation of a limerick about a man from Nantucket, a fresh waft of burning coal drifted on the air. Cal chuckled ruefully. “I think this is the Marine Corps’ way of telling us not to expect many creature comforts where we’re going.” He reclaimed the bottle and took another swig. “Where do you hail from?” he asked Jim.
“Outside a little place called Tivoli, New York.”
“We must have been on the same train down to DC. I’m from Manhattan.” Cal thought he’d gotten a good look at everyone, but he’d definitely remember handsome Jim Bennett with the blue eyes. “How far is Tivoli from the city?”
“About three hours or so.”
“Hey, we’re practically neighbors.”
Jim smiled. “I suppose so. I’ve never been out of the Hudson Valley before today.”
Cal laughed before realizing Jim was serious. He ran a hand through his thick hair. “Uh, so what do you do? No, no, let me guess. Farming.”
“Of a sort. My family owns an apple orchard. You?”
“I guess you could say I’m in the family business too. Truth is I don’t do much of anything.” He put a cigarette between his lips and offered the pack to Jim, who shook his head. Cal opened his lighter and struck a flame.
A few kerosene lamps shone through the car, casting shadows and light over the faces of the recruits. In the flickering glow, Jim’s expression was placid. He seemed to be waiting for Cal to say more.
Exhaling a cloud of smoke, Cal leaned forward in his seat, talking quietly in the cacophony surrounding them. “After Princeton, my father just assumed I’d come work for him. Gave me an office and everything. Great view of the Statue of Liberty, but I’ve never had much to do. He doesn’t trust me with anything important.”
Jim took this in. “What’s the business?”
“You don’t mean…Cunningham Savings and Loan?”
“My father’s pride and joy. My grandfather came over from Scotland and built himself a little empire. I’m Calhoun Cunningham the third, so I guess one day it’ll all be mine.”
Shaking his head, Jim laughed incredulously. “Geez, couldn’t you have gotten a commission in the army or navy? How did you end up here?”
The wheels of the train shrieked as it rumbled south. Cal shrugged with a grin. “Couldn’t think of anything that would piss off the old man quite so much as enlisting in the Marines.”
Jim returned the smile. “I suppose that’s one reason for joining up.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for fighting for my country and destroying the forces of evil. What about you?” He sat back, inhaling a lungful of sweet smoke and relaxing against the seat.
“After the Japs hit Pearl Harbor, I enlisted as soon as I could. My father’s not doing very well these days, but my wife will look after him.”
Disappointment flickered through Cal. Not that he expected clean-cut apple farmer Jim Bennett to be anything but a straight arrow. “Wife, huh? Did you get hitched before you left?”
“No, not long after high school. I took a few night classes at the local college and met Ann there. She worked at the café.” He opened his wallet and handed over a picture of a pretty brunette and a young girl. “My wife and my daughter, Sophie.”
“That’s a real nice family you’ve got. How old is she?” Cal pointed to the child.
“Two and a half. She was actually born on my twentieth birthday.” Jim gazed at the photo and smiled wistfully. “She’s my special girl.” He glanced around as another bawdy song began and tucked the picture away. “Are you married?”
Cal grinned. “Nope. In twenty-four years there hasn’t been a woman yet who’s been able to pin me down.” He didn’t add that there never would be.
The train shuddered alarmingly, wheels wailing as everyone held on. A recruit near the end of the car stood on his seat with arms out for balance.
“All right, boys. We’d better all sing this train along or we won’t live to see boot camp, let alone the war!” He launched into “Chattanooga Choo Choo” with a voice that wasn’t half bad.
As they joined in the chorus, Cal and Jim shared a smile.
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”
Contest: Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is offering up a $15 Amazon gift card as a prize for this tour. To enter to win, leave a comment below, perhaps about our soldiers, and Veterans Day. Leave an email address where you can be reached if chosen. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Ends 11/28.