Sam reviews ‘The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye. The audiobook was published by Dreamspinner Press on August 10th, 2015 and is 7 hours and 39 minutes long. EBook was released on September 18th, 2014 and is 214 pages long. Narrated by Dave Gillies.
This audiobook was provided free of charge by the author for an honest review.
At twenty-five, Hank owns a small parcel of land in Australia’s rural southwest where he supplements his income from the property with seasonal shearing. Hank is a “shearing gun”—an ace shearer able to shear large numbers of sheep in a single day. His own father kicked him out when his sexuality was revealed, and since no one would ever hire a gay shearer, Hank has remained firmly closeted ever since.
Elliot is the newbie doctor in town—city-born and somewhat shell-shocked from his transplant to the country. When a football injury brings Hank to Elliot’s attention, an inappropriate sexual glance and the stuttered apology afterward kickstarts their friendship. Romance and love soon blossom, but it’s hard for either of them to hope for anything permanent. As if the constant threat of being caught isn’t enough, Elliot’s contract runs out after only a year.
Hank owns a sheep farm in Dumbleyung, Australia. He is one of the best shearers around. Hank doesn’t get much downtime. So on the rare occasion it happens, he likes to get with his friends for a game of football or drinks at the local pub.
At one of these games, Hank is injured and has to get it looked at. This is when he meets the town’s new doctor. Hank immediately notices how attractive Elliot is. However, he never fishes close to home, so the doctor is off-limits. Hank believes that if his small rural town finds out he’s gay it would affect his ability to get work.
Elliott is new to the small town, being used to the big city he is out of his element. The residents of Dumbleyung are nice but he is lonely. He yearns to have a special someone in his life, but he knows it’s not possible at this point. He thinks in order to plant roots he needs to hide his sexuality.
When Elliot walks into the exam room to see his next patient, he is taken off guard for a moment. This isn’t the first time he has seen Hank, but the man is gorgeous. Without realizing it he openly checks out his patient. Once Elliot registers what he has done he is mortified.
A few days later Elliott shows up at Hank’s to apologize for his behavior. This wasn’t easy for Elliott but, Hank assures him that his secret is safe and no hard feelings. Hank and Elliott begin to hang out more often and become friends. When Elliot learns Hank’s secret things get interesting. Overtime their friendship eventually turns to more but knowing there are obstacles in their wake how will it ever work? Coming out isn’t an option for Hank and Elliott is only here for a limited amount of time.
I really enjoyed listening to The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye. Dave Gillies did a great job with the narration. I loved his Australian accents and the different voices he created. The author did an amazing job. I was able to visualize the characters and animals, as well as the events taking place in the story easily. I have always wanted to visit Australia, so having a vivid description of the scenes was a bonus for me.
One of the greatest things in experiencing a story is when you are able to connect with the characters and be affected by what they endured no matter if happy or sad. The author was able to portray this throughout the entire story.
Elliot is adorable. He is sweet and just wants to fit in. Even though he is way out of his element in this small country town, he takes everything with stride. Never shying away from trying something new that is thrown his way. Hank is more complex. He is hard working, funny, a great friend and has good heart, but he is also guarded. There is several occasions that Hank’s teasing and their witty remarks had me laughing out loud.
From the first time Elliot and Hank meet the attraction is there. This attraction only grows the more time they spend together. The sexual tension gets so overwhelming Hank eventually caves. After that there is no holding back. The sex is hot but doesn’t overtake the story. There is plenty of sweet heartfelt moments along with real life events.
The secondary characters add a lot to the story. I enjoyed their banter with the main characters and how supportive they are once the learned of Hank and Elliot’s relationship. I loved Uncle Murray and his partner. It was interesting to see how many similarities their relationship has with Hank and Elliot’s.
Overall, The Shearing Gun was a delight to listen to. I am looking forward to more books by the author in the future.
Renae, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. We are excited to have you at RGR and to have the opportunity to talk with you about your writing and specifically ‘The Shearing Gun’, which was voted the third favorite LGBT book by our readers during our 2 year anniversary party.
Thank you very much for having me. I had a blast at the anniversary party, talked to lots of people, gave away freebies and danced the night away. I was humbled to see The Shearing Gun voted third favourite. It’s very much a “wow moment” for me.
1. When did you first realize that you were meant to be a writer and what made you want to write M/M romance about gay and bisexual men?
I think I realised I was a writer about October 2014. No, that’s not a typo. Loving Jay was released in April 2014, The Blinding Light in July 2014, Bear Chasing in August 2014 and The Shearing Gun in September 2014… and yet I only felt comfortable in admitting to myself that “Yes, perhaps you are a writer, Renae” in October of that year. When I wrote Loving Jay, it was only for my own pleasure. I didn’t expect it to be published.
Now that I look back on my life, I was often scribbling down little stories, but was told that it was a waste of my time and that I couldn’t write, so I believed people when they said that.
Only after The Shearing Gun was released did I think that perhaps, yes maybe, could be, might be, it’s looking likely that you are a writer.
I first wrote Loving Jay believing that I would be the only one to read it. I was exploring and enjoying the genre of M/M Romance, so it made sense that my book was in that genre. I also couldn’t find a lot of books about femme guys. I have friends that are gay and often very much like Jay. Yet there was a remarkable lack of non-Alpha type guys in the books I was reading. I find them so much fun, and just wanted to chill-out with them. Not all gay and bi guys are attracted to the uber-masculine man. And so I wanted to write about Liam and Jay – two men who are not your normal M/M Romance heroes.
I continue to write M/M Romance because it’s so much FUN! I really hate stereotypes. So I like to write about people I think either break the mould, or are so “normal” they’re like your next door neighbor.
2. How do you come up with story ideas and how long does it take you to turn them into a finished story?
Story ideas are easy. I would have dozens per day. Usually I start with a theme or a scenario. For Loving Jay I thought, “I wonder what a straight man’s reaction is to someone like Jay?” From there I began writing, and the idea evolved with the story. Liam changed from a straight guy to a kinda straight guy. But the whole story started with an idea.
The Shearing Gun started with me wanting to highlight some true-blue Aussie country. I thought of writing about a guy who works in the north of the state on one of the big stations (ranches) herding cattle on horseback with helicopter support. But in the end I didn’t have enough personal knowledge for that. So I took a risk and changed it to south of my state, to the wheatbelt area where they run sheep. I had an idea of a firmly closeted shearer who meets a new guy in town, and a relationship develops.
The Shearing Gun took me about 6 weeks to write the first draft. I wrote it, then some tidying off for another couple of weeks, and off to my publisher for assessment. Dreamspinner take about 8 weeks to assess your manuscript, and 20 weeks to edit it. So it’s a very long process, even if you go straight into editing once you’ve signed the contract.
Other books take a lot longer for me to write. My new release, Safe in His Heart took me 15 months to write the first draft. I had a lot of interruptions, and so many times I put the story aside because I didn’t think my readers would like it.
Being a mother of two primary school aged children also means my attention is pulled in many directions. I could have plans for writing, but then a child is sick and I have to do something else. Writing fits around my life, so when things go pear-shaped in my world, the writing is packed up for another time.
I’m also a chronic eight-manuscripts-at-once type of writer. So at any one time I have a large number of stories on the go. This slows things down in the time taken to finish a story, but will hopefully mean eight stories finished in quick succession.
3. What kind of research do you do for stories like ‘The Shearing Gun’? Do you have personal experiences you can draw on, friends you can ask or do you read up on the technical aspects of the work and the ranch culture you write about?
The Shearing Gun is my childhood. My father was a shearer. Two of my brothers were shearers, and one still is. He’s married to a shearer, and his oldest son is a champion Australian shearer who holds some titles.
Most of the stuff for this book came out of my head. Google is the best friend of a writer, so there were a lot of things I had to look up, some I had to ask, but most of it came from my own knowledge. Other books are not like this, but The Shearing Gun was.
When speaking “the language of the bush,” I just had to think back to my childhood. My dad had moved to the city by the time I was born, so I wasn’t born in the bush, but some of my brothers and sisters were. But once the blood is in you, it’s in you, and Dad could never give up the country completely. He moved us to a small hobby farm on the outskirts of the city, and there we had horses, sheep, cows, chooks and lots of other farm-stuff on a small scale. We had our own small flock of melanian sheep – just like Hank runs in The Shearing Gun. My mother hand spins – just like Hank’s Uncle Murray – and so Dad ran a flock of coloured sheep just for her. Lilly the sheep was real. She is one of my best childhood memories.
When I was about 12, Dad brought a parcel of land in the Wheatbelt. About half the size of the property Hank has, but I used the layout of the house and property to visualise Hank’s farm. (Farm – it’s a farm. We don’t have ranches in Australia. They’re farms until they reach a certain size, and they we call them stations.)
So weekends and school holidays were spent up at the farm. Shearing weekend was a big deal, as was seeding and bailing weeks. Those days were special… and also hell. Until you’ve stepped on a double-gee thorn, you don’t know what pain is.
4. How much input did you get on the audiobook version of ‘The Shearing Gun’, do you think the narrator managed to do the book and characters justice and is the result very different from the voices you gave the characters in your head?
How much input? None. Apart from writing the book, of course.
Going through a publisher is wonderful because they take care of the nitty-gritty stuff. They talk to the narrator and organise the contracts. They proof the final copy and upload it. I just sit back and wait. But it also means I have no contact with the narrator unless he tracks me down through social media, because I have no contacts for him.
After a number of narrators mispronouncing Australian words in my audio books, I’ve become smarter and scoured my books for the hard words, then provided a pronunciation guide. Dreamspinner are able to hand it on to my narrator to use.
And always, the voices in my head are very different from the narrator. For a start, he doesn’t slur and mumble like the voices in my head – LOL. Australian English is a very lazy language, and we don’t do a very good job of enunciating all the letters in a word. For example, most Australians I know would say “Aus-strayl-ya” – ie only three syllables. You can tell the non-Aussies by the extra syllable they put in the word.
Overall, I think the narrator did a fantastic job on what must’ve been a hard project for him. I am very satisfied with the result. It’s also interesting to see how someone reads a line. I often stress a different part of the sentence than a narrator does. I also give little thought to how a word sounds, as I’m more interested in how the word looks on the page. It’s something that I should be more aware of as I write more.
5. What’s the most difficult element of being an author today and what advice would you give to an author, just starting out in the gay romance genre?
I think the hardest part of being an author today is comparing yourself to others. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of looking at another author and thinking, “They’ve just released another book, and my new WIP is only up to chapter three” or comparing your Facebook friends count to theirs. The world of authoring has changed a lot which makes being on social media necessary. But that also means we have a lot of access to them. We can see their stats and their posts… and often think we’re not doing enough. Do what you can, is my motto.
Advice I would give to an author who is starting in the M/M romance genre is to tread carefully on social media. Once you’ve published a book, you’ve crossed an invisible line with some people, and the actions and reactions you have will be scrutinised.
But also remember to have fun, and be true to yourself. I made several vows when I first published. My first vow was that I was not going to lie about my personal life in order to make me seem “better” than I was. People would accept me as I am, or not at all. I also vowed not to cheat for better ratings or sales (ie I don’t lurk on Goodreads in a different name or give myself reviews) and that I would be satisfied with my small successes. I’ve been true to myself with this. I try to avoid negative people and be happy. Because happiness will shine through in your writing.
So don’t compare, be true to yourself, tread carefully, have fun… and write like the wind, friend!
6. The setting of a story can really draw readers in. Is it difficult for you to describe your home country to readers across the world in a way that is accessible for them, even when they have never been to Australia?
Yes. It is very hard. It’s even harder when you’re writing in first person, which is my preferred form, because a person doesn’t stop to explain what a willy-willy is, he just notes the willy-willy in the distance and moves on. So I have to do some creative writing at times to explain that a willy-willy is a small, circular dust-storm. Wikipedia tells me the other parts of the world call it a “dust devil.”
I also don’t always realise that non-Australian people need terms explained. And sometimes I come up against something very unexpected. In my new release, Safe in His Heart, I have a scene where Paul is over at Andrew’s house for the first time, and he asks Andrew’s son to show him where the toilet is. Upon exiting the toilet, Paul is disconcerted to find the little boy still waiting for him, so to cover his embarrassment, he asks the boy to now show him where the bathroom is, so he can wash his hands.
Two editors picked me up on this. “Isn’t the toilet located inside the bathroom?”
No. In Perth houses, we have a separate room for the bathroom and toilet. Our bathrooms typically house a basin, a bath and a shower stall (sometimes there is a shower in the bath). The toilet room is separate. And sometimes the toilet is located off the laundry room, and so people generally use the laundry trough to wash their hands after using the toilet.
So I have to be careful not to confuse readers.
Describing something like The Shearing Gun is even harder, because it’s a world that is very unfamiliar to most. The greater population of Western Australia live in the city of Perth. The isolation, the heat, the flies and the sheer beauty of life in a small town can be startling.
Sometimes, when describing these sorts of worlds, less is more. Allowing people to imagine the look of the town by themselves… as an author, this is a powerful tool.
7. ‘The Shearing Gun’ has really resonated with a lot of your readers. A big part of that is the way the relationship between the main protagonists develops. At first they form a wonderful friendship and it turns into more from there. How important do you think it is for the book that the guys don’t start having sex on the first page and was it difficult to find the perfect timing for the relationship?
I’m really against portraying gay relationships as based on sex only. Just because they’re both men, it doesn’t mean they can’t speak to each other and have conversations. I’m also a firm believer of on-page sex in an M/M Romance should be constructive to the story, not just there because “we need a sex scene every now and then.” I try to only put in a sex scene if the reader is going to learn something from the encounter.
The theme of becoming friends before they became lovers was something that just fitting in with the storyline. Hank is not out, and no one knows he’s gay, so how could he be having sex?
I usually don’t plan a lot when it comes to the story, I just let the story lead me to where it needs to go.
Pacing a story is something that comes naturally to me. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s probably me ingesting thousands of romance books over the last 20 years. I have a “feel” for how a story needs to flow. From my understanding, some authors need to learn this by practicing, before it becomes a regular skill. For me, I always think of “unpacking the story” when I write. With each chapter you need to learn a new piece of the puzzle for the whole story to come together. You need to learn the next part, or sometimes you need to go backwards and reflect on the past so that the character’s actions make more sense.
With The Shearing Gun, it didn’t make sense for them to fall into bed immediately. Hank was closeted, and Elliot had already admitted it was the social side of life he was missing. Neither of them were ready for anything sexual. Both really needed a friend more than they needed a lover. To write anything else would be a contradiction to their personalities.
8. In the book, Hank comes up with the adorable nick name ‘Quackle’ for the equally adorable doctor. When and how did you get the idea for that name?
When planning a story, I usually allow the characters to percolate in my mind for a number of weeks before I start to write them. I don’t plan anything on paper like plots or storylines, it’s all in my head, but I really like to flesh out their characters before that first word is written.
A lot of the time I don’t have a storyline. For The Shearing Gun, I started with the premise, “What if there was this closeted shearer who kept his sex life firmly out of town? And then along came this other guy, new to town, who accidentally showed his interest to the shearer? What would the shearer do?”
That was my story. I had no idea HOW their story would develop, I just knew there would be a happy ending. At that stage I didn’t even know that Elliot was going to be a doctor. My plan was to simply build these two characters, place them on the page in a situation where this new guy makes his sexual interest clear, and see how they both react.
I began to imagine Hank and his personality. I would “hear” his voice and his way of speaking in my head. I gave him flaws and personality traits. I knew he wanted nothing more than to be a farmer and shearer. He was humble with his lot in life, and didn’t dream for fast cars and fancy clothes. I knew he had a bit of a problem with his temper, and went in with his fists instead of stopping to think. I learned him physically. I created him a history. Before I write the story, I know whether my character likes broccoli or not, what type of movies he watches, how many brothers he has, and what his first kiss was. I know the character.
Then Hank began to speak to me about his life. I decided that the second character should be a doctor, because I wanted someone who would be important to a small community. Someone who was important enough the people could maybe “overlook” his sexual orientation, if it meant he would stay in town. Automatically Hank began calling this man “The Quack.” Then the nickname Quackle just came to me. I actually think I was driving when it emerged as an idea. I immediately knew I had to give this doctor a name starting with “El” so it would work. Elliot, Ellison, Elvis, Elmo, Albert…
And Quackle was conceived.
9. What was the last book you read that was a true 5 star read for you and do you have favorite authors, who inspire your work?
I have a lot of favourite authors. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Sandra Hill are two that inspire me to write the humour inside me. Julia Quinn inspires me to create a world of people, not just two isolated individuals.
In the M/M world, I have a number of authors I look up to. Sean Kennedy, Amy Lane, John Inman, TJ Klune, Anne Tenino – they all tell me that humour works, and go, go, go – go and create, Renae. Any author who writes M/M Romance and has managed to turn it into a fulltime job is also my hero.
My last 5 star read wasn’t M/M. It was The Martian by Andy Weir. It was actually a reread, since I recently watched the movie and was horrified at how much the movie left out. So I had to go and reread.
My last 5 star M/M Romance was The Lion and The Crow by Eli Easton. Eli is a wonderful author – sensitive, funny and her tales are expertly woven. For me, a 5 star read needs to have a number of elements – a good storyline with no plot holes, realistic characters with hard challenges to face, entertaining to the point I can’t put it down, and (maybe most importantly) when I finish reading, I sit back and think, “Wow – why didn’t I think of writing that story?” This book had all of this.
10. Do you have any upcoming releases you can tell us about or can you give any hints about projects you are working on?
I’ve just recently released Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) which is the first book I’ve had for a spell. Do you know how I mentioned I have eight stories at once on the go, and hopefully they all finish quickly? Well, this is what happened here. Safe #2 was finished around the same time as two more books that follow Loving Jay.
I’ve decided to call the series Loving You and readers will meet some of Jay’s friends in book #2 and #3 which should both release before the end of the year. Everyone will get to catch up with Liam and Jay, and a couple of old friends from Loving Jay will reappear. This series is a lot of fun and very light-hearted.
In contrast to this, my Safe series is not as light-hearted. I touch on some serious issues with Safe. In Safe in His Arms (Safe #1) we had characters who had been sexual abused or carried a heavy burden of grief. I enjoyed exploring some of these harder subjects. Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) won’t change in this. In this book I’ve explored two hard subjects of religion and cheating. Andrew has been told his whole life that being gay is a sin, so he entered into a marriage of convenience in order to present a façade to the world of a straight man. Paul is attracted to Andrew, but doesn’t want to get involved with a married man still in the closet. There’s no future in it.
Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) is Andrew’s journey of coming out, and coming to terms with his sexual orientation and belief in God.
Thanks again for visiting our blog and answering our burning questions.
Thank you ever so much for having me. I’ve had a lot of fun, and I love to answer burning questions, because I often don’t realise people want to know about this stuff. I hope you had a lot of fun with The Shearing Gun and that readers and listeners will have a lot of fun too.
Renae Kaye is a lover and hoarder of books who thinks libraries are devilish places because they make you give the books back. She consumed her first adult romance book at the tender age of thirteen and hasn’t stopped since. After years – and thousands of stories! – of not having book characters do what she wants, she decided she would write her own novel and found the characters still didn’t do what she wanted. It hasn’t stopped her though. She believes that maybe one day the world will create a perfect couple – and it will be the most boring story ever. So until then she is stuck with quirky, snarky and imperfect characters who just want their story told.
Renae lives in Perth, Western Australia and writes in five minute snatches between the demands of two kids, a forbearing husband, too many pets, too much housework and her beloved veggie garden. She is a survivor of being the youngest in a large family and believes that laughter (and a good book) can cure anything.
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