Author Interview & ARC Review by Annie: Game Changer by Rachel Reid

Happy monday to you all! We’re really excited to have Rachel Reid on the blog today! Her debut, Game Changer, releases today and if you like hockey this should absolutely be on your TBR!

Scroll down for an awesome interview with Rachel and Annie’s review for Game Changer! Spoiler: She loved it!

GameChanger_WebSynopsis

New York Admirals captain Scott Hunter takes his pregame rituals very seriously. In this case, it’s not just a lucky smoothie he’s craving—it’s the man who made it.

Pro hockey star Scott Hunter knows a good thing when he sees it. So, when a smoothie made by juice bar barista Kip Grady precedes Scott breaking his on-ice slump, he’s desperate to recreate the magic…and to get to know the sexy, funny guy behind the counter.

Kip knew there was more to Scott’s frequent visits than blended fruit, but he never let himself imagine being invited back to Scott’s penthouse. Or kissed with reckless abandon, never mind touched everywhere all at once. When it happens it’s red-hot, incredible and frequent, but also only on Scott’s terms and always behind his closed apartment doors.

Scott needs Kip in his life, but with playoff season approaching, the spotlight on him is suddenly brighter than ever. He can’t afford to do anything that might derail his career…like introducing the world to his boyfriend. Kip is ready to go all-in with Scott—but how much longer will he have to remain a secret?

Content Warnings: Mention of homophobia and homophobic slurs

Goodreads | Carina Press | Amazon
Release Date: October 22nd

reader-break

Hi Rachel, thank you for stopping by! Let’s jump right in! You’ve been a hockey fan your whole life, so that your debut is a hockey romance is not a surprise. When did you have the idea for Game Changer?

I think the story idea first worked its way into my brain four years ago? I wrote the first few chapters and then walked away from them for months. I seriously almost deleted them. But then I went back and read them again and I decided to keep them, though I didn’t know what I was going to do with them. I honestly had no idea that it would ever end up as an actual book.

Then I decided to alter what I had written so I could post it as AU fanfic, which I did. I posted the first chapter on ao3 and waited to see what people thought. I got a surprisingly good response, so I kept posting chapters until the book was finished. But then I immediately began editing it so I would have a non-fanfic version. I still didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I knew I wanted a version with my original characters. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d never posted the fanfic version, which I now consider to be a very early first draft, but I will say that the positive feedback and support I got while posting that version really helped me gain the confidence to submit Game Changer to publishers. I am very grateful to everyone who read it and posted nice comments.

This is a very long answer, but I just wanted to mention the fan fiction roots in case anyone reads it and thinks it sounds familiar. I removed the fanfic version from ao3 a few months after posting it, so it’s been gone for a while.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

So, way back in 1993, CBC Radio’s sports show, The Inside Track, aired an episode about homosexuality in sports. The episode was called “The Last Closet” and it featured interviews with closeted gay male athletes who had their voices obscured for anonymity. I was a huge sports fan at the time (I was thirteen), and I was just fascinated and heartbroken listening to the interviews. Because I was obsessed with hockey–and I was playing hockey then, too, on a boys’ team—I immediately considered how hard it would be for anyone who wasn’t straight to play the sport. The interviews changed my thinking from “obviously no gay men play hockey”, which I think is what most people assumed then and probably many still do today, to “there are probably gay men playing hockey who are having a really rough time.”

I realize this is probably going back way too far, but that episode of The Inside Track really had an impact on me, and I have been very interested in homophobia in sport, and especially hockey, ever since.

I also read a lot of hockey autobiographies, and, obviously, I watch hockey. I love all those compilation videos on YouTube of mic’d players yapping at each other during games. Those are very helpful to listen to if you want to get the tone of hockey banter. I also read a ton of romance novels, and erotic short stories. So when the only stuff going into your brain is hockey and smut, I guess Game Changer is the result.

You’ve already been through quite a bit before even publishing your book. Is there something you learned from this? Is there any advice you have for other new authors?

It’s been kind of a wild ride! I made the decision in March to leave my original publisher. I had signed contracts with them for two books: Game Changer, which was scheduled to come out in July of this year, and Heated Rivalry, which was going to come out in December. It was a tough decision, but only because I am new and I don’t know many people in the industry and I really wasn’t sure what to do. I am thrilled to be with Carina Press now, and I am so grateful that they were able to fit Game Changer into their 2018 release schedule.

My advice is this: I received revise and resubmit requests from both of the publishers I submitted to. So Game Changer was not accepted on the first submission. I read their notes and took their advice and carefully edited my manuscript. When I resubmitted, I was offered a contract. And also, the book was better! So don’t be discouraged by a revise and resubmit letter! And consider each one of your editor’s notes and suggestions, even if your first instinct is to strongly disagree. Maybe you’re right to disagree, but think about it. I made a ton of changes based on editor’s notes to Game Changer and it is a much stronger book because of it.

What do you love most about Game Changer

Everything I think of would be a huge spoiler. But one thing I like about the story is that it follows the romance trope of a millionaire falling in love with a broke guy, but in this book the millionaire, Scott, is the one who is sexually inexperienced and kind of awkward.

My favourite secondary characters are Carter and Maria. They were the most fun to write. My favourite very minor character is Ilya Rozanov. I loved him so much that I decided to write a whole book about him, and that’s Heated Rivalry.

What was your writing process like?

Writing Game Changer was actually a very lonely experience. I was absolutely terrified that someone would find out I was trying to write something. So I wrote it completely in secret whenever I could grab a second. Most of it was written on my iPad in the dark while waiting for my sons to fall asleep. I think the loneliness is a big part of the reason I posted it as fan fiction; I just wanted someone to read it, but without anyone knowing I wrote it. I was very careful about hiding my true identity when I posted it.

It wasn’t until much later, after I had submitted the manuscript to publishers, that I started telling my friends that I had written a book. I only told my husband about it maybe a week or two before I submitted it? Now that people know about it I kind of can’t stop talking about it.

This is all a long way of saying that I never want to write a book that way again. Now I talk openly about what I am writing, I bounce ideas off of people. I have been meeting and talking to other romance authors. It’s much better!

My writing process now is very different. I use Scrivener, which is very useful for long-format writing, even if I only sort of know how to use it. The first thing I do for any book is make a playlist that I can listen to repeatedly, and that gets me thinking about the characters. Then I plot out the story (though it usually changes a lot), and I kind of just write whatever scene pops into my head so I can get to know the characters a bit. I don’t usually write a story in order, which might be kind of weird, but I find it easier to write out the scenes I have in my head and then arrange them into a book (or delete them, or completely re-write them). When I get a first draft done I edit it pretty heavily myself before sending it to anyone else. With Heated Rivalry, I read the entire book aloud to my husband. I highly recommend reading your book aloud, even if it’s to no one, because it’s a great way to catch mistakes, continuity errors, and frequently repeated words or phrases.

Where do you want to be in 5 years (writing wise)?

Oh man. I hope people like these first two books because I have lots of ideas for future books in the series. But I would also like to branch out and write about something other than hockey! I have some ideas for m/f romance books too. Writing is just something I love doing, so I’ll probably always do it regardless, but if people are willing to read it I consider that a bonus!

And to close this interview we have some rapid fire questions for you.

Favourite hockey team?

Montreal Canadiens, which I know is the most basic answer but I can’t help it.

Go to midnight snack?

You assume I am still awake at midnight. If I have snack before bedtime it’s usually cereal. I love cereal. 

First jersey was from..?

It was definitely a Montreal Canadiens jersey…I believe it was a home jersey and I think I bought it myself with babysitting money. And I got #24 and Odelein printed on the back because I loved Lyle Odelein? I was a weird kid.

Favourite movie?

This is impossible. Clueless maybe?

Favourite food?

Also impossible, but I love a cheeseburger.

Peanut butter or Nutella?

Peanut butter. Nutella is great, but peanut butter is a staple in my house.

Toilet paper: “Over” or “under”?

Over!

First person you told about your book contract?

My husband, Matt.

Favourite smell?

Coffee, probably.

Last country you travelled to? 

The last time I left the country was 2016 and it was to go to New York City.

GC-graphic

reviewedbyannie

*A copy of this was provided via NetGalley

Game Changer has been on my radar ever since it was first added on the Riptide website. It will come to the surprise of no one that as soon as I saw that it was a hockey romance, I wanted to read it. And I’m really glad that it found a new home with Carina Press!

Some of you might be like “oh she’s gonna gush about another hockey romance”, but seriously this is not just another hockey romance. Game Changer is a really engaging, romantic story about learning to be comfortable and happy with who you are but also to trust yourself to achieve more.

What I really appreciated was that as a reader who is also a hockey fan, I could just lean back and enjoy the hockey parts because I knew Reid as life-long hockey fan would get even the most insignificant rules of the sport right. This is not to say that non-hockey fans can’t write great stories featuring hockey, I’ve read those too! But sometimes I feel like that the passion an author has for something really strengthens the story overall. Non-hockey fans will easily be able to follow the story too, because the story is told in dual point of views and Kip is a rather new fan of the sport.

Not only was the on-page hockey great, I also adored Kip and Scott. Kip is 25 years old and works as a barista in the juice-bar Straw+Berry to pay off the student loans he took on to get his degree in history. The job at Straw+Berry was supposed to be temporary, but as his friends continue to be successful in their fields, he feels more and more adrift; like he’s at a standstill and not progressing any. I found that Reid did a great job of capturing that feeling a lot of young people face at the beginning of their career. This uncertainty pops up throughout the story and I really loved to see Kip mature.

Scott is a 28 year-old hockey player, playing for the New York Admirals in the NHL. He wanted to be a hockey player since he was a little kid, but always struggled with the fact that he was gay, when a lot of players just throw around slurs on the ice. He’s deeply closeted and doesn’t allow himself to be with any guy unless he is on vacation  during the off-season somewhere far away.

One thing that I really appreciated was how Reid portrayed the life and struggles of a closeted professional sportsman. To everyone else Scott is seemingly living his dream: he is a professional hockey player who can financially support himself by doing what he loves. But being a closeted gay man makes him lonely too. Looking from the inside his life is not so perfect and shiny as it seems, whereas Kip has a family he is close to and friends he can trust. Scott is keeping part of himself secret from everyone. But that changes when he meets Kip.

From the initial meeting there is a spark between them and for the very first time in his life Scott can’t help but try to get close to that fascinating juice-bar barista. And gosh is it adorable how clumsy he is at first. At the same time it broke my heart a bit because this is reality for so many professional sportsmen out there. But boy does he make up for lost time! I don’t think the expression burning up the sheets was ever more accurate than for these two.

I found both Kip and Scott to be very relatable, because I understood Scott’s fear of coming out and being rejected by the people he trusts the most. And Kip – sweet precious Kip – I could really see myself in him and his insecurities about his job and the sense of aimlessness.

What I really enjoyed was that the conflicts both had to deal with were not related to their relationship. There was never a moment of doubt for me that they were a team and that whatever life would throw at them, they could handle it if they had each other. Naturally there was a bit of a power imbalance between both protagonists, because while Scott doesn’t have to worry about money, Kip is living on a much smaller budget and he is adamant about paying his own way. That does lead to some tension between them because Scott – who grew up poor – wants to help Kip any way he can. I really liked how they found a compromise they were both happy with. Overall I just adored how they adapted and how supportive they were of each other.

By the end of Game Changer I felt like both Scott and Kip had come full circle. Scott is still Scott (obviously), but in some ways he changed so completely. Whereas he was so afraid of coming out to anyone at the beginning of the story he is more comfortable in his skin, confident in who he is and of course happy to live a free-er life with Kip by his side. I’m in awe of how Reid managed to write Scott’s growth in a way that  felt so natural and fluid. Watching his transformation unfold was probably my favorite thing about this book. Though I also loved how Kip grew throughout the story to come out a bit more mature and confident by the end. 

I was kinda sad that their book was over, because these are guys I could just keep reading about, but I’m super excited for Ilya’s book – which is next! – and one can hope that maybe Scott or Kip will make an appearance there.

Also by the Author:

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Rachel Reid is the pen name of Rachelle Goguen. She chose it because it is much easier to say, spell and remember than Rachelle Goguen!

Rachel writes cute, romantic smut, mostly about hockey players.

Rachelle co-hosts a comic book podcast called Living Between Wednesdays.

Rachel/Rachelle lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. She has always lived there, and it’s looking like she probably always will. She has two boring degrees and two interesting kids.

Connect with Rachel: Website | Twitter | Goodreads | E-Mail

Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Carina Press Review Tag: Celebrity / Famous Person Tag: Insta-Love / Insta-Lust Tag: Interview Tag: Part of a series Tag: Sports

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