Thanks for stopping by, Meg! Where did the Strangers on a Train idea originate? I believe the origin myth begins with the “Hot Guys on the Train” Tumblr, which roused much spirited lady-perving in my shameless little corner of Twitter. I think it was basically Ruthie Knox’s brain nugget to turn this concept into fiction (though don’t quote me on that) and before I knew it, I’d been recruited to write a story! It was such a great crew—Ruthie, Serena Bell, Sam Hunter, and Donna Cummings—I couldn’t pass it up. Our theme was, simply, “romantic novellas about strangers meeting on trains.” Annnd, go!
Did you have any idea what sort of story lines your fellow authors were penning? I did, yeah. As we began a furious email chain, brainstorming the project, we declared our settings first, hoping to feature a variety of trains. I immediately called dibs on the subway, because, come on—what’s more sexy than a subterranean tube full of festering humanity? But aside from deciding on which types of trains and agreeing on a general heat level…we all really just seized the prompt and ran with it, as individual inspiration drove us. It was a really fun, spontaneous project.
Where did you find your inspiration for Thank You for Riding? From my many many trips on Boston’s MBTA, and my many many hours spent camped in recliners at the American Red Cross, donating platelet cells. And from my many many daydreams fostered in both those places through my twenties, springing from the speed-crushes I developed on random guys, knowing I’d likely never see them again once we reached our respective stops or finished our charitable bleeding.
I know you’re a Boston-ite: do you frequent mass transit yourself? (I lived in NYC for five years and have quite a few bizarre/hilarious/horrifying subway stories) I live a few towns north of Boston now, but when I go into the city (often to bleed for charity) I do take the commuter rail, and then the subway if it’s lousy out (otherwise I walk—Boston’s exceedingly walkable.) In the thirteen years since I moved here from Maine, I’ve lived on all the color lines except Blue—Red, Orange (both ends) and Green (C, D, and E branches.)
What’s the craziest public transit/train experience you’ve ever had? (I think mine would be the one where the tiny little Asian man dressed normally and carrying take out on a crowded C train had *somehow* managed to catch his penis in the zip of his jeans and was just spacing out, holding to the bar for balance until he got to his stop. It was just…hanging out there, like a little thumb.) You win. I think one of the most mystifying—yet recurring—subway phenomena I’ve endured came when I lived on the Oak Grove end of the Orange Line. I don’t know what it is, but the tiny little old people on that end always seem to be clipping their nails on the train. Like, snick! and the little slivers start piling up at their feet. Or mine. Snick snick…snick…SNICK! (That last one was a thumb nail.) This is something I find even more nauseating than people crunching Doritos or snapping gum near me, so my earbuds got cranked up a lot on the north end of the Orange line. Once I saw a grandmother clipping her eightish-year-old grandson’s TOENAILS on that train. I could not look away, even after my eyes began bleeding.
I love how adorable Mark is. So totally dorky and endearing (…mom, Justin, Paul Pierce…). There’s no question here. Just stating a fact. Actually, that’s one thing in particular I really love about your work, how relatable and real, for lack of a better word, it feels. You characters are so multifaceted yet human. Oh, go on! Do you find it easier to write characters for novellas or full length novels? Do you go as in-depth in character development for a short story as you would for a novel? In response to the second question, I’d say I do. I do the same amount of pre-draft pondering over a novella’s characters as I would for a full-length book. The complexity of my characters stems totally from, well, my characters. In this story, Mark and Caitlin were both reasonably angst-free, so I didn’t have to parse nearly as much damage as I might for say, an agoraphobic male prostitute. I didn’t feel like a lighthearted 20,000-word romantic novella set in a subway station was the right place for my occasionally baggage-laden, eccentric characters. These two have absolutely no history with one another as the story starts, unlike some of the Strangers on a Train couples, so they didn’t have time to work through too much damage and get to know one another, if I wanted time leftover for orgasm-swapping. For this story, I really just wanted to have fun.
I love how sexually charged Thank You for Riding is, even though there’s just some naughty rounding of the bases. When you’re brainstorming plots, what’s your process for figuring out the level of steaminess? Normally I just naturally go steamy—explicit, if not downright kinky. But given the length constraints, the characters being perfect strangers, and the setting, it didn’t ring true, to me, to get too freaky. I mean, their physical spark doesn’t ignite until they’re locked in a brick subway station corridor. It’s also freezing cold, they have no condoms, subways are pretty filthy… Lots of reasons. Plus they both really like each other. There’s a bit of that, “This feels special. I want this guy to ask me out, once this ordeal’s over. Much as I want him, better save something for next time.” That said, they go pretty damn far, considering the setting 🙂
What’s up next on your plate? As Meg, I’ve got a couple more Harlequin Blazes coming out later this year—August and November—in my series set in the Boston boxing and MMA gym. And as Cara McKenna I’ve got my first erotic romance with Penguin releasing on April 16. That one’s full-length, set on a locked psychiatric ward. Sexy, right? I sure know how to pick me some erotic locales! And I’ve got another single-title with Penguin, coming out in October. Thanks so much for having me, Amanda! And extended thanks from all my SoaT co-authors, as well!
Thank You for Riding by Meg Maguire
If you’re new to her work, check her out! She’s one of my favorite authors, and many of her works have been featured here on TRD.
Also, check out the fellow Strangers on a Train authors and their books:
Ticket Home, Serena Bell
Big Boy, Ruthie Knox
Back on Track, Donna Cummings
Tight Quarters, Samantha Hunter