“His Name was Pumpkin Spice” is Greer Thompson’s contribution to the Coffee: Hot anthology. I loved this science fiction tale in which a spy’s trip to a safe house takes an unexpectedly sexy turn. Greer was kind enough to answer some of my emailed questions. Find out more about him at http://www.humming-rain.com/greer-thompson.

"Pumpkin Latte Art"How did you come up with the idea and the setting?

I’m honestly not too sure, it just came to mind. Which I realize is a terrible answer! I started with the idea of spies undercover, flavoring a drink with fragments of memories and sensations, a night in the rain, threw in the layout of a coffee shop I knew, and just worked from there. I’m a bit of a seat-of-the-pants writer when it comes to plot and worldbuilding, and that was the case here, as well.

Will we see more of Turner’s adventures in the future?  Or Spice’s?

I’ve been toying with the idea. I really enjoyed both characters. They’re fun to write, and I like how they contrast each other. It could make for some interesting stories. But I think part of what works with this story is its implication of the bigger world, of adventures past and future and the interstellar conflict that employs the two main characters. If I wanted to do more stories with Turner and Spice, I’d need to flesh that out a lot, and I’d want to be careful to make it worthy of the implications set up in this story. I think it’d a fun challenge, though, especially if I managed keep the lighthearted tone of Pumpkin Spice, at least somewhat, so maybe I’ll give it a crack someday.

One of the aspects of the world I enjoyed were the deliberate anachronisms.  Nano-technology and brain implants, set against a rather typical coffee shop complete with chipped cups.  How did you decide on these details?

I wanted a setting that felt approachable, like it was, more or less, a coffee shop. Most of the science fiction I write is set on spaceships, or other places where the technology and the futurism of the setting takes front and center. With this story I wanted there to be hints of the sci-fi world beyond the scope of the story, but not to delve into it too much. To that end I decided to include the nano-tech coffee machine and the brain implants, as they’re essential to the action, but to try and keep the rest of it low-key as far as the fancy technology, and see what I could do with those constraints. I also wanted to make a lot of this setting feel like it could be plausible sooner in the future rather than later, which meant I wanted to limit the tech level of the coffee shop a fair bit.

Seattle is famous for its coffee houses. Did you use one as a model for Turner’s?

Funny story, while Seattle is famous for its coffee shops, Turner’s shop is actually based off of one from my hometown in California. I went there almost every weekday while I was growing up, so I have the layout cold memorized. I could probably navigate it with my eyes closed, with a little allowance for banging my hips on the back of chairs. I love that coffee shop, though it closed recently. That said, I won’t mention it by name, just in case the owners don’t want to have their cafe popping up in an erotica story. 😉

I love the way you interspersed technology into the sex scene, making it more sensual and more intimate.  These characters definitely have a vibe together.  What went into creating that scene and the chemistry there?

A big part of it was just focusing on what I thought would be fun for the two characters. Sex is so often a very serious affair in stories, and I wanted this to feel like it was just two people who were attracted to each other having a good time. I also wanted to explore the sensory technology without making it a magical psychic power device, so toying with what would be possible with just touch and other basic sensory inputs helped guide the scene.

For the chemistry between the characters on a personality level, I just let them bounce off each other. I tried to include jokes and lots of communication, because I think being able to have that sort of casual, low-pressure atmosphere makes for a good sexual relationship. (Though it’s hardly the only way!) Using that inclination as my guiding light, I let the characters take it from there.

A freedom afforded to genre erotica writers is the ability to explain away the need for safer sex practices with technology or magic. Why did you choose to have your characters use condoms?

Safe sex is really important to me, and it doesn’t get mentioned much in erotica. (Or, that’s the impression I get from what I’ve read.) So I wanted to take the chance to put it into my story, and to have the characters engage in it like it was no big deal, and try to show that the whole process can still be sexy even with a condom involved. Hopefully I succeeded!

Related to this, Victoria Pond gets mad props for pointing out to me when the level of safety being practiced was inconsistent, and helping me make the safe sex practices more consistent throughout the story.coffeering_small

Your bio says this is your first erotic sale.  What inspired you to try a more sexually explicit story?

I actually know the editor (Victoria Pond) in person, and she told me about the anthology at a party. I’d been thinking about trying my hand at writing some romance or erotica for a while, and this anthology seemed like an interesting chance, so I jumped on it with minimal additional prodding. And I’m so glad I did, this has been a total blast. Plus, I had a chance to explore a very physical, intimate romance, which is something I haven’t seen see a lot of in genre fiction (at least not in a way that feels fun).

Are there any erotica or erotic romance authors that you see as role models or just admire?

Delilah S. Dawson, full stop. She does an amazing job writing across a diverse set of genres, and was my first real foray into reading romance (and erotica, where she writes as Ava Lovelace). When I first started getting interested in romance, I was worried I wouldn’t find it very approachable, so I started with her books since I loved her Twitter presence. Her books are very fun, with strong plots interwoven with the romance, and that helped me get past my initial nervousness to just enjoying romances without any reservations.

Do you have a routine or ritual for your writing?

I try to write 1000 words a day, a goal I make about half the time recently. Some seasons it’s more consistent than others, and when life gets hectic that count tends to slide. That said, I still try to write every day no matter what. I get off-kilter otherwise. I always try to do my writing in the morning, before I go to work, since it makes me feel better the whole day if my writing’s already done. If it doesn’t get done then, I’ll try to work on it in the evenings, but between a lot of social obligations, housework, and a wonderful boyfriend, the chances of that happening are a coin toss at best.

break-791434_640_resizedHow long have you been writing?

Let’s see…I took some short story classes when I was younger, starting around age 13, but I first really got into writing when I did my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2005. After that I did NaNoWriMo every year (and have won every time, so far!). NaNoWriMos were most of my writing for years, but sometime around 2010 I started taking my writing more seriously and aiming for 1000 words a day.

How do you like your coffee?

If I can get it, decaf drip coffee. I’m simple like that. I also like mochas, when I can get them with a lactose free milk. And, of course, pumpkin spice lattes are the bomb when they’re in season. 🙂

Where can we find out more about you?

Everything Greer Thompson (such as it is, given that this is my first published story) can be found at http://www.humming-rain.com/greer-thompson. For my main web presence (outside of my Greer Thompson work), just check out my main page at www.humming-rain.com. I’m also pretty active on Twitter: @hummingrain.

Where can a reader find your science fiction and fantasy stories?

Those can be found at my website, www.humming-rain.com, under the writing category or under the flash fiction tag. Most of the stuff up there is pretty rough, but it gives a decent idea of the sort of sci-fi and fantasy I enjoy writing. (And anything I publish professionally will of course be listed there when the time comes, as well.)

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I had a great time doing this story and working with everyone on the anthology. It was a ton of fun and has inspired me to try and do more romance and erotica work in the future! Also, everyone reading this should go and get the anthology, read everyone’s stories, and send them all fanmail to make their day awesome! ^_^

(Credits: “pumpkin latte art” photo by meetsinfinity on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/meetsinfinity/6300847855. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License. The image was cropped slightly. Coffee ring clip art from open clip art: https://openclipart.org/detail/185884/coffee-ring; photo of computer and coffee used under CreativeCommons CC0 license, image from https://pixabay.com/en/break-work-working-workspace-791434/. The image was resized.)