Meet R.L. Merrill
Hey-o! Remember how we met Regency romance author Katherine Grant a few posts back (whose book, by the way, was a FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS 👏)? Well, here's another awesome author for you to check out, R.L. (Ro) Merrill!
Ro and I met through the Inclusive Romance Project's Slack workspace, where she's been a steady presence, always ready with a great piece of advice or an encouraging word. Ro is very active in supporting newer authors and serves as one of IRP's mentors, on top of her work as a high school teacher, writer, and mom to both kids and several pets. When she heard about my release of Falling for You, she even invited me to write about the Music Behind the Story back in early June! (Thanks, Ro!)
Given all of this, it's obvious why I wanted to learn more about her. I hope you have as much fun getting to know Ro as I did! 😊
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Congrats on your new release, Gator Me Twice, in the Magic and Mayhem (M&M) universe! I haven't dug into it yet, but (a) the blurb makes your book sound pretty sexy and fun and (b) it's part of a HUGE universe of books, with several contributing authors. I've never written fan-fiction before. How does it work for M&M? Are there rules? Is there a canon series and each author bases their books off of that, or do you all read each other's books? Spin off your own characters?
Author Robyn Peterman wrote the first book, Switching Hour, about five years ago. It was well received and so she invited folks to write stories set in the world she created. It started out as part of the Kindle Worlds project. When Amazon ended that, she moved over to Draft2Digital and voila! We’ve continued the Magic and Mayhem Universe and we just released Blast Off Five with 20 books! Gator Me Twice was my third in the universe. I started off by inserting my characters Maggie and Louis from the Mindedverse into Robyn’s world and away we went! I have some of her characters that pop into my stories and then I follow the few rules about how the supernatural works. I’m just starting my next book for the October Blast Off and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me.
I love it when authors tie their books together in fun ways! I'm looking forward to digging into Gator Me Twice and the M&M universe.
ALSO, congrats on your other new release, Love is All: Vol 3. It's great that all proceeds of this book benefit the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Given that there are several authors, how does something like this come together?
Thank you! I’ve been involved with several anthology projects and they are all different depending on who is organizing. Xio Axelrod has done a great job gathering a diverse group of folks to contribute to these collections and chosen worthy organizations to receive the benefits. It’s a lot of work for the folks in charge for sure. I prefer doing charity collections rather than for-profit. It’s easier to not have to worry about divvying up the funds.
Ooh, I will keep this in mind for the future! I'm definitely an organizer-type...
And it's so nice to see authors come together to help people achieve real-life happy endings. ❤️
Speaking of diverse, you've written all kinds of books, from horror to contemporary romance to paranormal, all under the same pen name! How have your marketing and release strategies for these books differed? Or are your readers hungry for all of it?
I’m definitely not the best person to talk about marketing decisions and release strategies. Other than my trad pubbed books, I’ve kind of adopted a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach to all things marketing and promotion. Some things have paid off (Bookbub, blog tours, ARC review service), and others remain a mystery (Facebook and Amazon ads). I asked my previous publisher if they were okay with me keeping my penname and they were so there you have it. I think I wanted to show that I write romance for all kinds of folks and I feel like romance is romance, doesn’t matter if it’s queer or straight, everyone deserves to have their love stories told. Having separate pennames means keeping it separate and I’m tired of separate. Does that make sense? I have readers that read both and some that respectfully decline to read one or the other and that’s fine. I’m still me no matter what I write. You’re going to recognize my voice.
I totally understand. I'm also hoping to write broadly and inclusively, so that's great to hear that your previous publisher didn't mind that you'd done it all under a single pen name.
One recurring theme across all of your books is music! What is your relationship to music, and what role does it play in your writing?
Music has been my best friend my whole life. My mother played all kinds growing up. We always had the local AM radio station KNBR playing or eight-tracks, records, cassette tapes...I also started dancing at age three. Music has provided a soundtrack to all of my experiences. Money from my first job paid for a stereo system with dual cassette players so I could make mix tapes, which I did for years. I still have my cassettes, my CDs and my vinyl collection has grown exponentially the past few years. When I started writing, music inspired me. The first book I published was about a metal band. All of my stories have music involved in some way and I create playlists on Spotify for all of my books. Even Gator Me Twice...Elle Sammiot plays a Shifter in the Bayou who’s known as the Pied Piper (or the Boogieman depending on who’s telling the story) because his beautiful singing voice led children into the swamp. He also has a bushy mustache and speaks in a drawl...I’m wondering if folks have figured out the inspiration yet? Maybe I wasn’t clear enough haha.
I love it when there are more ways to immerse readers in the world that you've created. I've also created playlists for my own books so far, and they actually help me with getting into the right emotional space for writing, too!
So given how much music you listen to, maybe you could give us some recs! Which musical artist/s should we all be listening to these days?
Well, first of all, we should all be listening to music because it soothes the soul and makes this insanity a little easier to stomach. I’m always happy to make playlists for folks, especially those who say there’s no good music coming out these days. Depending on what you like, I always have suggestions. Like indie rock? How about Ida Mae or Devon Gilfillian? Like metal? Motionless in White, Bring Me The Horizon, Nonpoint or The Amity Affliction are some of my current favorites. Classic rock? Rival Sons is bringing it old-school rock style, Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album is amazing...Rap? I’m a huge fan of Run The Jewels, they’re my most recent find, but I also absolutely love Yelawolf.
*ADDS ALL OF THESE TO MY SPOTIFY QUEUE* I'm always hungry for new music, so thank you!
Book-wise, what's coming out next for you?
I’m re-releasing several books in the next two months and I have a new release coming August 24th titled Brains and Brawn. It’s the second book in the Summer of Hush series, which follows a metalcore band on the last cross-country Warped Tour that took place in 2018. The band is having a comeback moment when tragedy strikes and their drummer ends up with a broken leg and a health scare that threatens his and the band’s future. Thankfully he falls into the capable hands of a nearly-retired Navy corpsman who is happy to help with his rehabilitation. Hope, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll on the road...which we can’t do in real life now so enjoy the fantasy! After that will be another Magic and Mayhem Universe in October and a holiday novella...then in early 2021 will be the follow up to Healer: Havenhart Academy Book One. That’s the plan now, but you never know what’s going to happen. The best way to know is to sign up for my newsletter-y thingie or to follow me on BookBub.