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Author Interview: Johana Gavez Chats about Tell Me What You Want

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Get ready to learn more about the book Tell Me What You Want in this discussion with sapphic author Johana Gavez.

Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Johana Gavez about Tell Me What You Want, writing, reading, and more.

This book is part of the Valentine’s Romance category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.

Why did you write Tell Me What You Want?

This book didn’t start as a book. It started as a fan fiction. Like most fan fiction, I wrote it because I fell in love with two characters and wanted to explore more about them. It wasn’t supposed to be long enough to be a book, just a short smutty scene written for fun and to give back to a fandom I enjoyed, but writing about these two characters and exploring their connection came so naturally that I wrote a chapter and then another and before I knew it I was halfway through a book. It was also a really fun experience to have feedback in real time about what people enjoyed and wanted to read as I posted each chapter.

The fan fiction in its original form is still available online, but later I revised it and fleshed it out to turn it into what became Tell Me What You Want.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

Isabela Santamaría, the love interest in this book, is a character I absolutely adore. The book is told from the main character POV so we only get to know Isabela through her eyes. The main character is seduced and fascinated by Isabela, and that’s the way I wanted readers to feel. Isabela is smart, sexy, confident, a little cold on the outside but melts around the people she loves. I’ve always felt drawn to that kind of confident but vulnerable character.

I also have to give a shout-out to Caleb, the son of the main character, a sweet little boy who is happy to play matchmaker any chance he has.

What was the biggest challenge writing this book?

When I took what I had initially written as a fan fiction and turned it into a book, the biggest challenge became to make people who didn’t know these characters fall in love with them and feel the connection between the characters.

When you write fanfiction, the people who read it already have a connection to the characters. They’re already invested in their story and know who the characters are because they’ve been following them for several episodes of a TV Show, for example, but readers meeting these two characters for the first time wouldn’t have that connection yet. My biggest challenge was to build the foundation that would allow readers to get invested in the story and the characters and feel as strongly about them even without the backstory a fan fiction reader would have.

That was the biggest challenge I faced. To not assume the readers would know or understand a backstory they didn’t know, but I did. To make sure I build a foundation strong enough that anyone meeting these characters for the first time would connect to them.

In that regard, having beta readers that hadn’t read the original fan fiction and could tell me with fresh eyes if the story landed was more crucial than ever.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments about the title of this book and I love it too. This book is an erotic romance where communication and explicit consent are predominant themes. At one point, one character says to the other, Tell Me What You Want. And that sentence encapsulates a lot of what the book entails and how the characters are exploring their relationship in the book. Is about the sex, yes, but mostly is about that connection between them that allows them to share openly their wants and desires. I felt it encapsulated perfectly what the book was about.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

I’m planning a sequel. In fact, this book is the start of a series that I hope will have at least three or four books.

The sequel will follow a different couple that was tangentially introduced in this book, but we will still get to catch up on Olivia and Isabela, the protagonists of Tell Me What You Want. I’m really excited about writing a book that interconnects with this one and grows the relationship between the protagonists of Tell Me What You Want even if they’re not the main focus.

The second book in the series will follow a married couple, Lara and Sabine, as they explore new challenges and expand the boundaries of their relationship. Sabine is the ex-wife and current best friend of Olivia, the main character from Tell Me What You Want, so that’s an interesting dynamic that I think it will be really fun to explore.

What is your favorite line from your book?

“Sometimes relationships are a choice. And if there’s one thing I’m sure of right now, it’s that you’re my choice.”

I love this line. It was my way of having the characters say I love you without saying I love you. There are a lot of things that can be said about falling in love, but I wanted to highlight that sometimes, a lot of the time, love is a choice we make. A choice to take a risk, to believe in a future, a choice to stay, a choice to expose ourselves to having our heart broken eventually because the here and the now and the possibility of forever are worth it.

Where do you usually write, and what do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

I always write in my office. I love my office and it has everything I need. It’s probably not healthy, but I spent around 99% of the time in my office. On a normal day I’ll wake up, shower, have breakfast and then sit in front of my computer to work (my day job is 100% remote) then when I’m done with the day job I’ll spend the rest of the day doing author stuff and where do I do that? My office. If I want to watch a movie, even though we have a living room with a nice couch and a perfectly nice TV, I will watch it on my computer at my office. I think it’s safe to say my office it’s my absolutely favorite place.

I’ve only had it for two years. I used to have my desk and computer inside my bedroom but since I spent so much of my time, be it work or leisure time, in front of my computer I wanted a dedicated space for it and in January 2022 I converted a small space in my house that used to be a closet into my office. I built some nice custom shelves for my books and DVD collection, turned a couple of postcards I had saved from travels around the world into artwork to decorate my walls and since then that small space has become my refuge.

My office has a nice, big monitor connected to my laptop, an ergonomic keyboard and a comfy chair and I rather have all of that when I’m writing. Taking my laptop with me to write at a coffee shop? Not happening. I’m not that type of person. I’ve tried a couple times and I fail every single one. Here’s a picture of my office. In the background, you should be able to see the shelf where I keep a copy of all my published books.

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

I almost never drink coffee, so in the mornings I will have either tea, usually black tea, but sometimes chai or matcha tea, always with milk and honey. I’ll also drink herbal infusions like chamomile or lemongrass. I just buy a box of herbal tea bags so there’s not much of a recipe except for adding hot water and a little honey to it.

The rest of the day, I’m more of a juice girl. I love to keep hydrated, but I don’t enjoy drinking water. I know I should but I don’t like the taste (and don’t tell me water doesn’t have a taste because it does! It tastes like water!). I don’t know if this is common in other countries, but in my house growing up every single day, there would be a jug of freshly made juice. Passion fruit juice, pineapple, mango, guava, tree tomato, and a bunch of other tropical fruits. I can easily drink an entire jug of juice in a day.

As for snacks, I’m not one for snacking. I’m a creature of habit. I like to follow a routine so when it comes to eating I’ll have breakfast when I wake up, lunch at noon and dinner right after finishing work around 6:00 p.m. If I get hungry and need a snack, I simply go for a sandwich. It is more common for me to crave something sweet during the day, so I always have a stash of chocolate or some type of candy at hand for when that craving hits me.

What has helped or hindered you most when writing a book?

Discipline has helped me the most when writing a book. I’m not a fast writer at all, and sometimes finishing a book looks like an uphill battle. The way I did it the first time was with reasonable, small goals and committing to writing every single day. First 100 words, every single day. Then it turned into 500 words every day, but the routine. It’s important for me. The longer I manage to write every day, the easier it becomes. There are days that are harder than others. There’s work, there’s personal stuff that drains my energy and makes me want to shut off my brain and scroll mindlessly or do something else, anything else, but writing is important for me and I know that if I overcome that initial hurdle to just start writing I’ll be a lot more happy so I try to keep that discipline of writing every day.

I take a break after finishing a book, for example, but they have to be short breaks because the longer I spend without writing, the harder it becomes to start again.

Since I published my first book, something else that helps me when things get hard is to remind myself that I already did it once. I already wrote and published a book once, so I can do it again. I just need to keep trying, step by step, a 100 words after a 100 words each day until I get there again.

If you could be mentored by a famous author (living or not), who would it be?

There are two authors that immediately come to my mind. The first one is Agatha Christie. I love her books and she was so prolific. That’s something I would love to learn about. I also find her books have an addictive quality. You can’t put them down and feel compelled to read one after the other. She was such a master of her craft, of the formula she used in her books to make all of them fresh but deliver the same fulfilling experience with each one.

The second author is Isabel Allende, one of the most important representations of the Latin American post-boom literary movement and the only woman to make part of it. She has been my favorite author for a long time. I’ve read and re-read her books and every single time I’m fascinated by her storytelling.

What books have you read more than once in your life?

There are plenty of books I’ve read more than once. The Hunger Games Trilogy, for example. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, a lot of Agatha Christie’s book, especially my favorite one, Five Little Pigs. For me, knowing how a story ends is never the point. Not when reading, not when watching a movie or a TV Show. I enjoy the ride. If I’m reading something again is because I love it, I love how it made me feel while reading it; I love the experience and want to relieve it again.

If you enjoyed something, why wouldn’t you do it again? As a matter of fact, I’m the opposite of most people when it comes to spoilers. I don’t mind them at all. I actually seek them out sometimes.

I’ll let you all in on a little secret, a secret I know some people will find outrageous, but back when I did most of my reading on paperbacks, the first thing I would read when I picked up a book was the last line of the book. Reading the last line just made me more excited to find out how we got there.

Describe your favorite reading spot.

Well, there’s the ideal favorite reading spot and the real favorite reading spot. I have a hammock I hang on my house terrace, where I love to read. It’s just so comfy and relaxing, I get fresh air and a nice view while I read. It is my favorite spot to read, but I rarely take the time to actually go up to the terrace, sit on my hammock and read. When I read, it’s always right before going to sleep, in my bed, with the lights turned off while I read from my kindle.

Meet Johana Gavez

Johana Gavez is a proud Colombian that loves writing low-angst, fluffy novels where love always wins.

Visit Johana’s Website

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