I’ve been writing for a damn long time. And let me say this first: I don’t mean to imply that writing for a long damn time in any way leads to writing well. At all.

What it does lead to is having had many thousands of characters pass through one’s writing life, and a few of the more compelling eventually make their ways into current works.

And so it is, kind of, with Gage Maher.

I used to write into this town when I was a teenager. It was my personal Castle Rock, if you will. I knew it incredibly well, could map you the streets, understood the undercurrents and politics of the place. I’m actually not sure I ever finished a story I began that featured the town, and while I could track down its name, I’m sure it’s no longer stored in my memory.

And in this town there was a bar.

The owner of the bar was a local boy who didn’t want anyone to know he was gay, even though he wasn’t particularly ashamed of being gay. He considered himself private, and mostly stuck to the idea until something jolted him out of his comfortable little cocoon.

I never finished that story, but I always wanted to know what happened. And I wasn’t a romance reader, or writer; it could have been a murder, a suicide, a mysterious new figure in town. I had an idea that there was a big event of some kind, and the bartender would discover that as terrifying as it was to be open, he couldn’t go back into hiding.

When I wrote Fairy Tales, I knew my might-be-gay bartender would be starring in the next book. I knew New Halliday would be the place where his story would be told.

Man, you guys, I love The Real Life Build. I know I’ve said this at least half a dozen times, but every time I think of it, it makes me happy.

Gage I knew pretty well by the time I wrote him a few mentions in Fairy Tales; but all I knew about Dillon Aldham was on most days he’d prefer to live inside Minecraft. He was kinky, but he wasn’t your usual kinky young guy looking for an older dominant daddy. So what was he?

Dil’s an awkward kid (“I’m awkward, not shy”), but in other ways he’s entirely confident. He knows what he wants, he’s willing to take risks, and while he’s iffy in person, he’s not insecure.

Seriously. I loved writing this book. I love reading it. I love Dillon’s growing friendship with Neil; I love Roscoe and Tam; I love Gage’s local network and well-loved traditions.

I remember being a teenager, furiously writing about a bartender who hid mostly from himself. I knew story had meat to it, and I wondered if I’d ever be good enough to write it. I like to think I did it justice.