Indelible Ink is the debut Romance of author Marie Lark and her foray into Erotic Romance with publisher Ellora’s Cave. This novella is the second in the Boys Will Do Boys series which includes such authors as Lucy Felthouse, Karenna Colcroft and Ari Michaels. Thanks for being part of Making Love 101, Marie!
Marie Lark’s Making Love 101:
What do you believe is the most important relationship element of any “true love” love story?
Emotional honesty, definitely! I am so invested in honest love stories. Which isn’t to say that the characters need to always be honest with each other (because conflict!), but they should always be struggling with honesty. They should wrestle with being honest with themselves and their partners. My favorite love stories, the ones that I find most emotionally satisfying, all involve struggling toward honest, sometimes painful, communication.
Indelible Ink was one of the most non-idealized novels I have ever read. You didn’t build up Jon to be any overrated inked up and rock n’ roll tattoo artist. And Arthur wasn’t the beautifully broken and tragic angel that was looking for his puzzle piece. The imperfect perfect that so many authors mold their characters to be was set aside in Indelible Ink. You made Jon and Arthur honest to God everyday people. What made you choose to write fiction that everyone lives rather than something that people can escape to?
What a great question!
Honestly, I think the everyday struggles of finding work and making it satisfying, making ends meet, and finding someone with whom you can share all that is intensely romantic.
Jon and Arthur both have some serious baggage and they both wanthappiness so badly and it is not easy to come by. The fact that they work so hard to find it makes them big damn heroes. I want them to be people readers can recognize and also root for. I want readers to fear for them and hope for them and worry that they might not pull it together. For me, the emotional impact is that much greater when they succeed.
Jon Park is a rather put together guy. He is a middle of the road man with a sense of right and wrong, just trying to make it through day by day. When you were creating his character what was the vision you had in your mind? Did your initial thought of him and your final draft look the same? How do you feel readers might interpret him?
You describe him quite well! From the beginning I wanted Jon to be both put together and a little messy. He cleans up nice but is also very cautious and afraid of failure. I worried in a few places that readers would find him off-putting, that they would find him a little too cool and uptight, but I really identify with his struggle to be self-sufficient and put-together. I think everyone worries that they’ll fail or that they’re not good enough and I wanted Jon to wrestle with that while at the same time being *really* good at what he does. So actually–Jon emerged fully formed and required very little tweaking.
I think tattoos are innately sensual for the reason that they show the beauty of one’s skin. What was it about tattooing that inspired you to write a story like Indelible Ink? Do you believe that there really is some truth in the classic Frank Sinatra song, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”?
I love, love, love tattoos. I have a few myself. They are flowery like the ones Jon does. I find the whole process fascinating (and sometimes, under the right circumstances, wink, wink, very sexy). I think the choice to put art on skin is a lot about agency and reminding ourselves that, yes, our bodies are our own. We are the lords and ladies of the manor. If we want skulls or flowers or birds or swirly lines, we should have them!
In the case of Jon and Arthur, tattooing carries some significant symbolism. They don’t want to mess around–they want something lasting. For them, tattooing each other is about more than art and more than sex. It’s about trust and intimacy.
When you first introduce Arthur’s character and he’s being shook down by some beefers outside a pub; I had a flashback to where I had grown up. The entire situation is something I could envision back home in the dark of night with some town yokels. We get the idea that Arthur is the victim of a bad situation, but later on we find that he flits from one prospect to the next until he finds a comfortable candidate for a while. When you were being so honest about Arthur’s habit of searching for the best ride were you at all concerned that it might turn readers off of him? You make him so open about his people surfing, is that supposed to be one of his more redeemable characteristics?
This is one of my very favorite things about Arthur. You know, he is kind of tragic and he *is* in need of rescuing, but he’s also very slippery and manipulative and self-aware. And I think Jon, with all his put-togetherness, recognizes a fellow vulnerable soul and is drawn to Arthur for both his vulnerability and his competence.
Arthur knows exactly who he is and I think that’s one of his best qualities, even if he is himself quite flawed. If Jon is always upright and looking to do the right thing and generally be good, Arthur is much more morally ambiguous. Meeting Jon changes him, though, for the better. I like that he wants to be a better person for Jon, while at the same time remaining unapologetic about himself.
Jon and Arthur’s relationship is based upon Jon’s faith in him. Even after Arthur keeps telling Jon about all the stupid and screwed up things he has done and Valerie has her words of caution, John doesn’t give up on Arthur. Does this come from a self philosophy–a belief in the goodness of humanity, a character trait of Jon’s or something about Arthur particularly?
Jon knows intimately the struggle to make good. He wants Arthur to succeed, but he also really wants to succeed himself and, part way through, he realizes that he is better with a partner than without. I think Jon comes to need Arthur, with all his flaws, as much as Arthur needs him.
As far as the love story between the two men is written, do you think this is the ULTIMATE happy ending for these two men, or as realistically as you have written their romance do you believe that this is likely only a stage in either man’s life? If you were to write a book for either character five years in their future would you see them still in each other’s lives?
In my head, Jon and Arthur are it for each other–they get their happy ending. Five years from now, I’d put them on a train out west to some big-deal tattoo convention, trying to have sex in their sleeper car, and laughing too loudly about it because Jon is too tall to fit in his own bed, let alone Arthur’s.
Valerie gets a little romance in Indelible Ink with her customer, Cyndi. Would you ever consider writing a book for Valerie?
Hmm, probably not a full-length novel. She’s pretty neat and tidy, though I have thought about how great a scene it would be to bring her young college-girl girlfriend home to the family.
What are your feelings about writing a lesbian romance as opposed to a gay romance? Why do you feel that gay romances are so much more popular than lesbian romances are?
I think lesbian romances are fabulous. There aren’t nearly enough stories about girls loving girls and there should be tons of them. In the interest of contributing to the genre, my next book is a lesbian romance set in the same universe as Indelible Ink. It’s called Stripped Down and follows the adventures of someone very close to Arthur! (Coming to an e-reader near you May 9th!)
As for the difference in popularity between gay and lesbian romances, I have very complicated feelings. Speaking as a heterosexual woman, I find gay romances to be very appealing because, if one dude is hot, why not add another one! I also think that gay romance allows for the exploration of gender roles in ways that can be difficult with heterosexual romances.
I think the same should be true for lesbian romance. Subverting gender roles, exploring the same kind of emotional vulnerability that arises in other genres–it can all be in a lesbian romance. I certainly want it to be. But I just don’t know if the audience is there. I would love to be proven wrong about this.
Do you feel that writing in a sub genre allows you to write with any more or less freedom than you might have if you wrote in a more mainstream genre? Would you change your romance elements at all if you were to write for a traditional couple?
A little of both. As I said, the freedom to play around with gender roles is really fun and also important to me. Sometimes the roles of hero and heroine can feel quite binding and even alien, so exploring that dynamic between two guys throws a lot of the rules out the window.
At the same time, I want to tell a story that feels authentic and true. I want to write something that reflects lived experience and I want to be respectful of those experiences.
I don’t think I do change much between writing gay, lesbian, or heterosexual romance. I still like the same things–emotional vulnerability and honesty, and realistic, sometimes imperfect love scenes.
If you were to review your own book what would you have to say about it? Tell me what you feel are the strong and the weak parts about your novel? In hindsight is there anything that you might have changed?
Well, this is my very first published novel so I am immensely proud of it and fond of it. But if I were reading it for the first time, I’d say that Indelible Ink is at its best when the characters shine through in their love of tattooing. I like the concrete details of the tattooing and how it leads to their attraction and eventual romance.
I worry that, perhaps the book doesn’t fit some of the conventions of erotic romance and that, for some readers, the difficulties Jon and Arthur face and the ways they deceive each other and themselves might be off-putting. But I love them even more for their flaws and I stand by them as true romantic heroes!
What is the ultimate love story ever told as far as you are concerned?
I’d have to say my favorite love story of all time is between Emma and Mr. Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma. I love that they know each other backward and forward yet always have things to talk and argue about. I love that they help each other become better people throughout the story. And, honestly, when Knightley finally confesses his feelings for Emma, I swoon *everytime*. Best-friends-to-lovers is a favorite arc of mine. It feels very honest.
Thank you so much for being part of Making Love 101!
Thank you so much for taking the time to engage with Indelible Ink and with me! Your questions were so thoughtful and fun to answer–I had a ball!
Meet this Love Maker:
Marie Lark is a part-time teacher and a rest-of-the-time writer. She lives in New York with her very respectable husband and very tiny dog in an old house that has many stories of its own. Her favorite hobbies are tai chi and yoga, gardening, cooking, and flailing over her favorite characters in literature, television and film.
When not figuring out how to put her PhD in political science to use, she can be found with her journal or laptop, dreaming in the worlds she builds for her characters.
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Indelible Ink Synopsis:
Fresh from the West Coast and out of a bad relationship, Jon Park wants nothing more than to make a name for himself on the East Coast with his tattoo and piercing parlor. But opening Park Ink in the dead of winter may not have been the best strategy. By February, he’s low on cash with few appointments and enough stress to turn him gray before he hits thirty.
All that changes when he finds Arthur half-frozen on his doorstep. A homeless thief with a troubled past, he ignites Jon’s creativity and charms his way into a quick friendship. Jon’s wary of falling in love again but still recognizes talent and promises to teach Arthur about tattooing, despite what it might do to his heart.
When the ugliness they both left behind threatens to swallow them whole, Jon must make a choice—go on alone or accept the man who’s gotten under his skin just as permanently as the ink he uses.
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Stripped Down Synopsis:
While a standalone story, for maximum enjoyment we recommend reading Indelible Ink first.
Saro has worked as an exotic dancer for four years and she’s one of the best in the business—beautiful, glamorous and talented to boot. But she’s on a downhill slide, stuck with a bitter attitude and sagging tips.
Never let it be said that Saro is without a plan, however. When she meets Red—a fiery, attractive amateur—and brings her on as her dance partner, they take Savannah’s strip club by storm. With big plans to make a name for themselves on the party circuit, the sky’s the limit.
But when Saro’s strict rules about the nature of the partnership begin to fray and unravel in the face of their obvious chemistry and attraction to one another, Saro confronts a difficult choice—to learn to bare herself to Red, or lose her for good.
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