>Seven Questions With Sullivan Wheeler

>Billionaire’s Row
By Sullivan Wheeler

Paperback & eBook, Dreamspinner Press, July 2010

The basics first: what’s your new book about, and how can readers get their hands on it?

My new book, Billionaire’s Row, is about a closeted police detective named Michael Weiss. When the body of a wealthy defense lawyer turns up on the front lawn of Sam Christiansen, a former television star, Michael is assigned to investigate the murder. Things quickly get complicated, though. Before Michael knows it, he’s being drawn into a world of money and fame, unsure of who to trust, and finding himself drawn more and more to the handsome and enigmatic Sam. The book is available at the Dreamspinner Press website (see links above), Amazon.com, and AllRomanceEbooks.com.

Where did the inspiration for your story come from?

With this story, that’s actually a difficult question to answer. With this murder mystery, I worked backwards: I knew who did it before I knew how Michael was going to find it out. So, if I were to tell you how I came up with the story, I would be giving away the ending. Other things, though, I can say. For instance, the setting—Ponte Bonita, Florida—is based on an oceanside community I worked in near my house. One of the main characters, Deanna Davies, the victim’s very young, very beautiful wife, is based in part on a woman I worked for (who, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who reads the book, shall remain unnamed). Certain things, like the house fire, came from experiences people I know have had: someone my husband worked for had his brand new McMansion burn to the ground in a possible arson. So, a lot of the details just come out of my life and my experiences, smoothed over with a lot of imagination.

How long did it take you to write and revise the story, start to publication?

I started thinking about the plot a few years ago. Actually, I never intended to publish it. I was just thinking that I would write it to entertain a friend of mine. I turned the plot over in my head for about a year and then I sat down and wrote the first three chapters. For some reason—I can’t really remember what it was, now—I got bored, and I put it away and started working on some other things. I had this other project that I was wrestling with and then it became obvious that that was never going to pan out, so I pulled the manuscript that would become Billionaire’s Row out of the drawer and got to work. It was about three months after that that I sent it to Dreamspinner Press, which scooped it up pretty quickly. That was in March. Alltogether, it’s probably been about four years since I first had the idea. But that’s how I work. There’s always about half a dozen potential stories floating around in my brain, just waiting for me to start putting them down on paper.

How did you get started writing fiction?

It was something that I’ve always done, even before I really knew why I did it. When I was a kid, I used to make up and act out stories in my back yard, just by myself (I must have looked like a lunatic to anyone observing). The first story I ever remember writing down was in kindergarten, and it just sort of went from there. I kept writing as I got older, and in college I was a writing major. That was a decade ago (boy, do I hate admitting that!), and I’m just now getting around to having a novel published.

You know, writing is one of those things that really, really takes practice. If someone says that the first novel they got published is the first one they ever tried to write, you can probably call them a liar (or you can call their novel not very good). Every time you write, even if you don’t necessarily finish the project, you learn something, and I think it takes a lot of these little lessons to have enough knowledge and experience to write 100,000+ words that people want to pay money to read. So, it’s all really been a journey to get from that first story in kindergarten (which was about a farm, in case you’re interested) to a full-length murder mystery.

How much time do you spend writing—by the day, week, month, however you define it?

I don’t really have any defined set of time that I use to write. It generally seems to be that I spend a lot of time thinking about a plot and then, all of a sudden, I will feel ready to start writing. Once I start writing, I’ll spend several hours a day (basically every minute when I’m not asleep or at my regular day job) writing. I shoot for 5,000 or more words per day. There’s a few months of that until I’m done, and then it begins all over again: think, think, think, write.

Do you write just one story at time, or do you usually have several works in progress?

Like I said, I usually have several stories cooking in my brain at any given time. But when it comes to actually writing, I’m generally just working on one thing at a time. Occasionally, I will take a quick break from a big project (novel or novella) that I’m working on to write a short story, but that’s never more than a few days.

What are your long-term goals as a writer?

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said that I wanted to write mainstream novels, and I may still write mainstream novels. I never intended to write gay fiction, and just sort of fell into it backwards. Now that I’m in it, though, I’m finding it very rewarding. Not only do I appear to have some talent for it, but it’s a nice, laid-back kind of world. And Dreamspinner has been a dream to work with; they treat their authors very well and are really helping me to grow as a writer. Definitely for the time being, I will continue to write gay fiction. I think my biggest long-term goal (and I hope it’s not too long term) right now is to be able to make a living writing.

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