What would be the title of the movie about your life?
A Rakehell of Equal Opportunity. It was either that or “Seducing Straight Boys Since the 90s” but I really wanted to use “rakehell”.
If your life were a movie, what would it be rated (G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17)?
The rakehelling ways of my youth (I was a busy adolescent and new adult) would likely make it NC-17. The edited for television version would just be some guy brooding about things while drinking wine, glaring at blank Word documents, or trying to find reasons to back out of dinner plans with friends.
Who would play you in the movie about your life and why?
Bradley Cooper. Not because I look like Bradley Cooper. I am definitely not as hot as Bradley Cooper (and he’s too short. I have a tall guy complex.). But he can do sarcastic and neurotic really well and those are two of my top qualities.
Finish this sentence: My ideal mate must have the following qualities…
My ideal mate would be patient. I think you have to be in order to date a writer. I write part-time and have a full-time day job, so a lot of my free time is spent scowling at my computer and trying to meet word counts. It’s rough on the people I’ve dated, especially because it’s not like we live together and they’ll just see me when I wander down for dinner (probably the reason I’m usually single). Oh, and they must have a high sex drive. Because of the obvious reasons.
What inspired you to write your latest release?
Bits and pieces of SUTPHIN BOULEVARD are inspired by my real life. The main character is a Puerto Rican teacher working in Brooklyn who has an unexpected sexual encounter after a night of drinking and this leads to the dynamics of a twenty-year friendship changing drastically, and some work-related drama. Aside from that, there are also some significant subplots to do with having a dysfunctional family and him being in his thirties and realizing that he isn’t where he wanted to be at that age.
These are all themes I can relate to as a man in my mid-thirties, so that influenced me while I was designing his character. However, the initial spark of inspiration came from a specific incident I had when I was teaching in Brooklyn and had an unexpected fling with a co-worker. I initially planned to base the romantic plot around that experience, but the characters took their own direction and things changed a lot.
What was the inspiration behind the title of your book?
Sutphin Boulevard is the subway stop the main character gets off at to go home, and it represents him not being where he wants to be in his adult life. Michael planned to be out of his childhood neighborhood and away from the block he grew up on, but because of family circumstances he was drawn right back to the place he doesn’t want to be.
The real Sutphin is also an interesting place. It’s the heart of one of the rougher areas of Queens but it’s also this hub of transportation as well. You have several subway lines, several buses, the light train going to JFK Airport, and the Long Island Rail Road. So, you have all of these people passing by on their way to somewhere else but the area around it has remained relatively crime-ridden since I was a kid. It’s really no wonder that Michael is sick of being there and wants out.
Is there a scene in the book you particularly enjoy? Tell us about it and why.
One of my favorite scenes is between Michael and Nunzio after the second time they fool around (they’ve only recently had anything sexual between them). Michael is trying to pussyfoot around this conversation about what it will mean for their friendship, and he’s being really vague because he’s afraid of talking about it, but Nunzio is 100% not having it. He’s like “You’re copping out. You’re looking for an excuse” every time Michael tries to find a reason to explain their sudden attraction and their intense sexual connection.
It’s one of my favorites because it showcases the closeness they have. Not only are they lovers in the book, but they’re friends and they’ve been friends for so long that they know they can’t BS each other. They know each other too well.
If you could date the hero from one of your books, who would it be and why?
I would day Nunzio Medici from this book. He’s kind-hearted, affectionate and loving, but he has a dirty mouth and is a great lover.
Which hero from your books would you absolutely not date and why?
In my first solo novel, After Midnight, there’s a character named Adam Blake whom I absolutely would not date on account of him being an assassin and a professional liar. However, I’d have a tryst or twenty with him…
What can readers expect from you next?
Readers can expect to see several more books in the Five Boroughs series in the next year. SUTPHIN BOULEVARD is book 1, and the rest of the novels will follow characters in the same group of friends and family as they try to find love in New York City.
Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship.
Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.
When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.
“So you really never thought about having sex with me?”
“Seriously?” He threw back the next shot. “What about when we sleep next to each other or whatever? All those times we wound up in the same bed on a trip or even after going out drinking?”
Nunzio’s brow knitted together. “When we used to pick up guys and spend the whole night wrecking them in the same room?”
“Nope.” He seemed so disbelieving that I chortled, sliding my shot glass back onto the coffee table. “I’m not joking. I never considered it before we had that threesome with David.”
“That’s messed up.”
“How the hell is that messed up?”
“Because, that makes it seem like you don’t find me attractive or something.” Nunzio jutted his chin at me. “That ain’t what you’re saying, is it?”
It was tempting to say yes and make up some flaws about him, but I just waved him off. “We’ve been friends since I had braces and you had acne. I didn’t see you that way for a long time. You remember how weirded out we both were after kissing in middle school.”
“Uh, yeah, that was before I knew how to use my dick.”
Even while flipping a shot glass between his long fingers, Nunzio’s features were creased in an accusatory glare. “Are you really that offended?”
“Hell yeah. You’re trying to play me.”
I snickered again. “You need to relax.”
“Who’s not relaxed?” Nunzio put the shot glass on the table with a thunk. “I’m fine. Just wondering where your head is.”
Unconvinced, I spread my hands. “Anything else to this inquisition?”
“Yeah. You said you never thought about it before this summer, so what about after?” I’d backed myself into a corner with that admission, and the sharklike smile sliding over Nunzio’s face made it obvious he’d clued in to that same detail.
“I thought about it sometimes.”
“What’d you think about?”
A tableau of pornographic stills flitted through my mind like a slideshow on fast forward, but I hesitated to say which one I’d gotten off to for the past three months.
© 2015 Santino Hassell. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.
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About the author
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.