Author Spotlight: Heidi Cullinan

Happy Tuesday, Peeps! 

Because of Labor Day, I delayed posting the author spotlight. I’m sure everyone was too busy enjoying BBQ’s and relaxing to miss it, LOL. In any case, I’m baaaaaack! ;-) 

Today’s spotlight features a lady I’m incredibly lucky to know. I first met Heidi last year at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference. In the year since we first met, she has taught me so much in regards to the business and marketing side of being an author. It’s rare to have someone be candid about their failures and successes. We’re all very guarded when it comes to displaying vulnerabilities, but Heidi has been amazing! Authenticity is an attractive trait to me, and I usually flock to other writers who don’t mind sharing their highs and lows. In the end, we all want to succeed and spreading knowledge helps us to reach our goals. Not to mention, she’s so damn supportive of me and my career. She gets massive ♥ for that!

Take some time and read a little bit about Heidi, she’s freaking fantastic! 

I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?

Um…well, since I’m not the evil doppelgänger, I’m not going to reveal that…

Honestly I don’t know that this is much of a surprise, but there isn’t much to reveal about me. I’m pretty straightforward, and I’m not full of secrets, interesting factoids, or even hobbies. For fun I’m a hermit and I work or research things. I’m bad about keeping my house clean, I’m behind in my correspondence, I don’t call my family or friends enough—normal, boring, and horribly uninteresting. My books, however, are a different story. I hope.

What’s one piece of advice you wish you received before you began your writing career?

I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and I received good advice that I wasn’t able to hear until I’d lived enough live to implement it. The thing I crave most now is silence and space to explore my ideas, and it’s the thing I don’t have. This week, for example, what I want most is to not answer any email or be on social media and to just be in my own space—I want so much for a week like that, just a week, but it will be months, maybe a year before I can afford something like that. Just seven days! When I was unpublished, published authors told me to cherish that silence and that space to explore my ideas, but all I could see was the emptiness it held. I think this is one of those things where space is different depending on who you are when you try to fill it, but that’s the advice I think of a lot lately, to take advantage of that lack of activity and cherish it, not hate it so much, when you don’t have it. Yes, you want the activity, but if you have enough success it will eventually eat you too. Someday you will miss that silence you hate so much.

What are you most passionate about?

My readers. I’m not always good at talking to them, because I feel self-conscious, but my patrons have taught me a lot about how to behave, how to be gracious and comfortable with compliments (I would rather just talk about the work and the story, not myself) and have allowed me to give back too. But this year especially, with my wacky production schedule and so much upheaval, has taught me how much I value producing story for my readers. I always want to welcome new readers, of course, and this is my living, I want to make money, but I am grateful for and cherish forever the community which has somehow grown up around me. It makes me excited, and I want to keep making more story for them. But they’re so good, they yell at me to slow down and eat and sleep and watch anime too. I don’t deserve this, but I got it anyway.

If you could eat one food for the rest of your life what food would you choose?

CAKE. Cake forever. I mean, I’d be sick of it in an hour, but I’m assuming this scenario fixes that issue. Honestly I just love food, so I’d want to be able to eat without getting sick or fat, but if I’m picking one and not getting sick on it or of it, CAKE.

You write gay romance, and you also live in Iowa. Big city gal here! Born and raised in NYC. Are you open about your profession in your community? If so, how do you think you’re perceived? I ask because I have a skewed perspective. I doubt life in NYC is the same as life in Iowa. I’m curious as to what your experiences have been like. Romance writers already get slack but does writing gay romance add additional obstacles? Am I way off base here? School me, Heidi!

Well, Ames is pretty liberal, being a college town, and I’m basically a hermit. I think I know twenty people here well enough to have them over. But people receive me well when I tell them. They’re curious and excited. My piano tuner found out (I write under my legal name) and now gets excited whenever he sees me. I let it slip at Target to an employee (I forget how it was relevant, I was tired at the time) and since half the staff there is queer suddenly I’m the gay celebrity whenever I shop, which is actually disconcerting. There are a few other people here and there who know, but it’s fine. 

You’ve been a super fangirl when it comes to Yuri on Ice! Tell the people out there who aren’t familiar with the series what you find appealing about it.

Oh my god. How many hours do you have?

There’s so much going on. It’s the first major anime to have a queer romance in the story and then have a satisfying ending, to start. There’s another, No. 6, which also had a romance and a kiss, but the end was not as hopeful and I can’t rewatch it because the whole show is a little darker and the end matches. I don’t blame it, it’s the show, but it’s not Yuri on Ice. YOI is a sports anime, and it’s about overcoming your limitations, working with your rivals and coming to love them, meeting your heroes, falling in love, traveling the world—it transcends so many things, and it makes me so damn happy. I was in such a funk last winter, to the point I couldn’t write or even function, and that show pulled me out. It’s twelve episodes of joy. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Also, the POC quotient? There are a mere handful of white people in this show, and they’re all minor characters except for Victor and Yuri Pliesetsky, the love interest and rival respectively. The Asian characters, especially the lead, actually look Asian, not westernized. Plus you travel to China, Russia, Spain, see the food, the sights—the show runners traveled to all these places on their own dime and modeled everything off of photos and memories. They bled into this show, and this is the result. It’s just so amazing. You have to watch!

Favorite cartoon as a kid?

Probably Scooby Doo.

First car you ever drove?

Family car. It was some horrible station wagon.

Describe your worst date in three words.

Back of a bus. (Sorry, it’s four.)

Finish this sentence: If I could retire tomorrow I would _____.


**Bonus Question**

Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?

Um, maybe? I did have someone flog me once, lightly, so I could know how it felt. It was over clothes, in a bar. I enjoyed it! I think I would be into it, but it’d have to be carefully done as my partner is not, and so it would take a lot of conversation and consent. And right now I am too busy and overwhelmed with life for fun, alas. I also worry because of my EDS (a condition from birth) it would be too easy for someone to hurt me without meaning to, or me knowing, so it would take a lot of research, which seems like more work and then I get tired thinking about it. I could be on the other end too, but that seems like even more work, and so, probably no. There’s no siren call, I’m just curious and always open to trying things.  


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at

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Author Spotlight: L. Penelope

Hey, Folks! 

First, before I begin the weekly spotlight, I want to extend my thoughts and well wishes to those who were caught in the path of Hurricane Harvey last week. Since I’ve tuned out of social media except for Instagram, I have NO IDEA what the hell is going on in the world (and I like it). I just found out last Friday Steve Bannon is gone from the White House. Crazy, right? I’m delayed when it comes to news updates, and it’s wonderful for my mental health. I’m supposed to rejoin the social media fray in September, but I can say for certain, moving forward the time I spend on it (except for Instagram) will be limited. I get ragey and antsy doing casual scrolls, and that’s not healthy. When the world is overwhelming, you have to bury yourself in things that make you happy. I have been in such a good place since tuning out two weeks ago. My happy is out of control! YAY!

Anyway, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and sound. Sending those impacted by the storm virtual hugs and tons of positivity. ♥ 

This week, I have the honor of featuring one of the coolest authors I’ve come to know in this business. We first connected earlier this year at RT where I shouted her name across the bar. I was totally sober! LOL, that’s how I introduce myself, peeps. I YELL YOUR NAME IN A CROWDED BAR TO GET YOUR ATTENTION (I don’t really) I was just super excited to meet Leslye in person. Luckily, she didn’t curse me out. If paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy are your go to romance subgenres, you’ll definitely want to give L.P.’s work a whirl. Did I mention she’s super cool? I did, didn’t I? It can’t hurt to give you a gentle reminder. ;-)

Get to know a bit about L. Penelope!

I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?

I go to the gun range with my husband regularly, and I’m a pretty good shot (better than him). Originally, my reasoning had a lot to do with a potential zombie apocalypse, but these days, being prepared just makes a lot of sense.

What state were you born in?

New York. The Bronx specifically. My father was a Secret Service agent and worked undercover in the city. But we moved to DC when I was still a baby.

What are three words that describe your first sexual experience?

That’s a difficult one because my first sexual experiences—everything from making out as a teenager to first having consensual intercourse as an adult—were all very fraught. Maybe that’s why I love romance novels, you can disappear into a world full of happily ever afters. And I was very fortunate eventually to find my own, hard earned, HEA.

How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?

I don’t remember, 6 or 7, I think. I do know that I never figured out what all those gears were for on my 10 speed, and the whole bike riding thing lost its luster after around sixth grade.

What inspired you to write paranormal/sci-fi romance?

I began writing stories when I was about five years old and everyone always told me how weird they were. I would start out trying to write something simple and straightforward and then poof: a talking baby back from the grave or an invisible fear monster would show up. At one point my parents really thought something was wrong with me. I blame my steady diet of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside, Amazing Stories and any other weirdly speculative show I could devour. I watched Twin Peaks in middle school and The X-Files in high school and experienced a catharsis. These were my people.

I read very widely since I was a kid, and had a brief flirtation with Harlequin as a teenager, but my love for romance didn’t really come about until my mid-twenties. I discovered Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh and JR Ward, and they led me down the rabbit hole of paranormal romance. I’d always loved writing about love, so it was only natural for magic and mythical creatures to creep into my work.

You recently signed a deal with SMP. On a scale of 1-10 how grueling was the entire process of getting your series picked up? Based on your experience, what advice would you offer to an aspiring author regarding queries?

My experience isn’t super helpful to other authors as I didn’t actually query. I started out knowing I was going to self-publish. As a web developer, I’m fairly tech savvy and had plenty of DIY experience with other projects (indie filmmaking and co-founding a literary journal), so I just did a bunch of research on indie publishing and started putting my work out there. Along the way, people kept telling me about Monique Patterson, an editor at St. Martin’s Press, and I really needed to check her out because she loves paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy. I was like, “okay, sure, I’ll add that to my monstrous to-do list,” because self-publishing is no joke.

As it turns out, Monique came across my books online, read them, and contacted me, initially about pitching new projects, and eventually about republishing the Earthsinger Chronicles series, and bringing it to a wider audience. That was the start of a very long process that was probably an 8 on the grueling meter, just because I’m an impatient person. Working with traditional publishing has forced me to exercise my patience muscles. From the time she first contacted me until I actually signed the contract was about nine months. And as of now, it’s still nearly a year until the book comes out!

I would encourage authors, regardless of what publishing path they’re aiming for, to do as much research as possible. Put out the most polished product you can, whether you’re querying or going indie.

Vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate?

If we’re talking ice cream, then vanilla.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Absolutely. At least on one side. I’ve had several, long term, one-sided love at first sight non-relationships that were very meaningful to me, LOL. Reciprocal love at first sight I’m not so sure about. But my gushy, romance-loving heart wants to believe.

What would you say is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

Being a writer is like taking all your clothes off in front of an audience, then ripping open a few veins and hoping they appreciate it. The self-doubt has been the toughest for me. I can both know I’m a good writer and think all my words are trash at the same time. That dichotomy is exhausting. Pushing through it to the other side requires the type of self-work that is never easy.

What’s your favorite childhood toy?

I had a pink, stuffed elephant named Penelope (because I was the type of kid who named toys after myself) that I adored. You wound it up and it played Yes, Jesus Loves Me, which, in hindsight, sounds pretty bizarre, but at the time I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

**Bonus Question**

Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?

I don’t think my husband would like me putting our business in the streets like that, haha.


L. Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is the author of new adult, fantasy and paranormal romance. Her debut novel, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE, won the 2016 Self-Publishing eBook Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. The fantasy series was picked up by St. Martin’s Press for publication starting 2018.
After living on both coasts, she settled in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat. Sign up for new release information and monthly giveaways on her website:

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Get your paranormal romance fix with Angelborn, Book 1 in the Eternal Flame series! This is an older cover but it’s still gorge! 

Author Spotlight: Cecilia London

Happy Monday Folks! 

Some of you may not have noticed, but I’ve been on a self-imposed social media break since last week. I’m getting a shit-ton of stuff done! Okay, I’ll admit I went through a little Twitter withdrawal on Day One, but as of this post, I’m doing alright alright alright! You don’t realize how much time you free up when you’re not aimlessly scrolling on social media.

I’m writing lots and catching up on my reading. This weekend I read two books, and I also rewrote a few chapters on a WIP. Maybe this week I can finally respond to emails and catch up on my insane backlog of book reviews. Oh, I also wrote a pop culture inspired blog post! Maybe I’ll get that up later this week. So yeah, Harper = productive little bee since my social media tap out. I’m also happier. I NEED SO MUCH HAPPY IN MY LIFE THESE DAYS BECAUSE THE WORLD SEEMS TO BE ON FIRE

Speaking of happy, this week’s featured author makes me laugh like crazy because she’s a riot. Check out her answer to the bonus question. LOL, be careful what you ask for ma’am! YOU ARE NOT READY! *twirls flogger*

You all should get to know her. She’s a great lady (and a lover of carbs).

Take it away Cecilia! 

I always find author interviews kind of boring. We only get to see one side of an author, the polite side. If you had an evil doppelganger, what detail would they enjoy revealing about you to the public that people would find surprising and possibly questionable?

Hmm…that’s a toughie. I’m pretty much an open book. But let’s just say that under my heart of gold, I’m a flaming mad bitch? Although you know me pretty well so that isn’t a big surprise.  

What was your gateway romance book?

I read some really questionable texts when I was younger. I would walk to the library and check out whatever I wanted since my mom trusted me. So I picked up a ton of weird books, none of whose titles I can really remember. Although there was this one called The Next, where some evil spirit takes over a kid and makes him grow (in more than one way, if you catch my meaning) and his aunt falls in love with him once he quickly reaches adulthood. That was some pseudo-VC Andrews shiat right there. That might have been the most graphic sex I’d ever read in a book, at the time.

But all of them were pretty tame in comparison to romances out now. And while she isn’t technically romance (at least, not in my mind) I was addicted to Danielle Steel books as a teenager. They were all being made into TV movies, they had super cool actors (Michael Nouri, swoon), and they were pretty faithful adaptations. Chances is still my favorite Steel novel, with Secrets a close second.

What’s your favorite season?

I live in Texas, so I enjoy that brief period of winter when it’s not 100 degrees and I can wear all the fleece and super cool sweaters and hoodies I own. Note: this lasts maybe two weeks and is hilarious because once it gets below sixty, you see people in parkas and scarves.

What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?

I’m lame and rarely go to the movies…you might have to go as far back as Deathly Hallows Part Two. Tonks! [sniffle]

What would you say has been the most shocking thing you’ve encountered since becoming a romance writer?

Lack of diversity continues to be an issue. Not just when it comes to race or gender or sexual identity, but also when it comes to plotlines. I love reading compelling, intriguing books with gorgeous prose, flowing dialogue, and twists and turns you never see coming. Full disclosure: I am extremely picky when it comes to what I read and when and why. It may even border on pretentious. But I wish there were more epic, meaty stories out there, more crossovers, more minority representation. We have a long way to go and I think sometimes we forget that this is an industry bent on making money above all else and there are still a very few who control the mainstream narrative. We have to change that. I’ve always been politically active and socially aware, but once I started writing romance I realized that these issues cross over into literally everything, big or small.

That and the drama gets a bit tiring. I did not expect that. I spent nine years working in the criminal justice system and I’ve seen stuff in the romance community that rivals my experiences in court.

If you could go back in time, what moment in your life would you give a do-over? 

LMAO. I’d hire a publicist for my first book, which I promoted myself. Big mistake.

Your Bellator Saga has some serious political influence. How has this tumultuous political climate influenced your writing?

I started writing it in 2013 and viewed it as a cautionary tale. Now we’re literally living some of my plotlines, and it’s frightening. I haven’t been able to do much productive writing since Election Night, so it’s a stressor. The saga is finished, it was epic, it was draining, it was inspiring but…it’s also hitting a little close to home right now. It’s kind of funny because now I have this built-in marketing device (hey, it’s metafiction!) but the current climate is so toxic that promoting my books has been almost an afterthought.

Finish this sentence: Life is meant to be _____. 

LIVED, fully and completely. Leave it all on the field, folks. You can’t take anything with you when you’re gone.

What are you currently working on? 

It’s totally top secret, which is why I will share it with you. Eva LeNoir and I may be working on a little something something erotic mess of a political satire. We’ll see where it goes. If nothing else, brainstorming our ideas has been incredibly cathartic.

Who inspires you?

My children. Their innocence and curiosity is a reminder to me every day to not only be a better person, but to cherish the freedom of not yet knowing the dangers that exist in the world.

**Bonus Question**

Ever tried BDSM? If not, would you?

I dunno, Harper. What are you doing next weekend? ;)


Cecilia London is the pen name of a native Illinoisan currently living in San Antonio, Texas. She’s filled several roles over the course of her adult life - licensed attorney, wrangler of small children, and obsessed baseball fan, among others. An extroverted introvert with a serious social media addiction, she is the author of The Bellator Saga, an epic, genre-crossing romance series. You can catch all of her quirky updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or at her website.


Dissident (The Bellator Saga Book 1) is currently FREE on all platforms. Get your one-click finger ready!

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