Blog Tour + Giveaway: Solid Ground by Jeff McKown

Join Jeff McKown and IndiGo Marketing on the Solid Ground blog tour! Learn more about the author and his book! Don't miss the NineStar Press eBook giveaway!

Title:  Solid Ground
Author: Jeff McKown
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: April 24
Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Length: 114200
Genre: Literary Fiction, drug/alcohol abuse, family drama, gay, homophobia, humor, infidelity, literary, religion, writer

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As Conor McLeish’s fortieth birthday approaches, the life he’s always dreamed of has finally taken shape. He has a steady day job, a debut novel, and Will, his Buddhist boyfriend of nearly a decade. He should be happy. The trouble is, Conor wouldn’t know happy if it smiled, winked, and offered to buy him a drink. With a hard-earned penchant for self-sabotage and an unfortunate Jameson habit, Conor frequently finds a way to disappoint himself and those he loves.

Solid Ground is a story of personal evolution—how we are each sculpted by the past, carved out of childhood, shaped and molded by what we’ve done and by what’s been done to us. For better or worse, who we are is the unavoidable sum of it all. But how we are, how we choose to love, and whether we stand alone in the end, that—at least in part—is up to us.


Solid Ground
Jeff McKown © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I was never worth much. Growing up, I wasn’t particularly clever or funny or handsome. I didn’t sing like an angel or say the darnedest things, and I was never the adorable kid in the tiny plaid vest and bow tie. I played Little League for a while, but I was mostly tucked away in right field, which in retrospect didn’t matter much since no one was there to watch me. My mother was too busy drying out my father to have time for shit like that.

Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t a bad kid. I didn’t light fires or torture cats. I just wasn’t a kid anyone fought for. If it weren’t for my grandmother, I might never have known there was anything decent in me. June was my one true believer, the only one who waved my flag, tattered piece of shit that it was. She was busy with her own life—sipping whiskey at blackjack tables and flirting with strangers—but she found time to pay attention to me, which in the end is all a kid really wants.

Some people learn from their childhood bullshit. They overcome nearly insurmountable obstacles and get invited to appear on Oprah, where they shine like beacons for the rest of the less fortunate. Others just grow up and make one awful mistake after another. I’ve always been somewhere in the middle, half fuck-up and half hidden-heart-of-gold, the kind of guy you love in spite of the horrible shit he’s done.


I heard Will through the screech of grinding metal parts and the clatter of a thousand porcelain dinner plates crashing to the floor. “You have to let it go, Conor.”

“I can’t.” I glanced down at my phone.

“You can, but you won’t.”

“Who even taught her to text?” I took one hand off the wheel and mashed my reply into the small, flat keyboard.

“Pay attention to the road.”

“I’m being careful.”

“Jerking the steering wheel back after you swerve out of your lane isn’t being careful.”

“I’m using the little bumps in the road the way you’re supposed to—to make corrections.”

He shook his head and sighed. “If you have to keep texting, let me drive.”

“Calm down. It’s bumfuck I-10 on a Saturday morning.” I checked the rearview mirror and turned my attention to an incoming text.

“Bitch,” I whispered as I pounded another reply into the phone.

“Nice. She did give birth to you.”

“It’s not my mom. It’s Aunt Doris.” The phone beeped again and my eyes darted back to the screen.

He rested his hand on my thigh. “Try not to get so worked up. It’s not good for your heart.” I was barely middle-aged, but Will was ten years younger than me. It was a difference he liked to play up.

I smiled and rubbed the top of his hand. “You make me feel lucky.”

“Show your gratitude by keeping me alive all the way to your mom’s house.” His voice was soft and earnest, as though by not sending him to his death in a fiery crash I was doing him a solid.

“Is it too late to turn around?”

“Just keep going.”

Driving across Florida isn’t all palm trees and pink flamingos. There’s plenty of that shit down south, but up north there’s plenty of rural nothing. My dad calls this lonely stretch of the Florida panhandle the “Eglin Desert.” Other than the desert’s namesake air force base, there’s just mile after mile of pine tree-lined interstate, and a light sprinkling of highway exits, each of which leads nowhere and offers little more than a depressing, albeit useful, combination Exxon-Burger King-convenience store.


I looked at Will, seeking his permission to check the phone. Two raised eyebrows implored me to stay focused on the road.

I checked the rearview mirror again, turned up the radio, adjusted the air conditioning vents, and then finally snatched at the cell phone in the console, knocking it to the floorboard in the process.

“Fuck.” I fished around blindly on the floor mat.

“Let it go.”

“Not a strength for me.” I hunched low in the driver’s seat, keeping one hand on the wheel as my other hand traced methodical rows across the faux carpet beneath me.

“Jesus Christ!” He thrust his hands onto the dashboard as we veered center and a twenty-ton Peterbilt rocketed toward us. I jammed the brakes and jerked the wheel, steering us out of the overgrown median and back into our lane. A rush of blood raced to my temples, blurring the outside world.

I took a long slow breath and eased the car to the shoulder. “Fine. You drive.”


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Author Interview

When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?

I was a poet in my early years, and I don’t think I wrote any fiction until I was in my twenties. The first story I remember writing was a supernatural tale about a boy who gets inexplicably lost as he bicycles around his own neighborhood trying to find his way home. I named the story “Jeremiah Blues,” a title I took from a Sting song of the same name. In the song lyrics, Sting references the Shakespeare line, “...when something wicked this way comes.” I decided if Sting could borrow from literature for music, I'd borrow something back from music for literature.

Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?

I don’t get much work done without structure and scheduling (I sound like a load of fun at parties, eh?). When I wrote the first draft of Solid Ground, I worked in the afternoons for 4-6 hours each day. Oddly enough, when I reached the editing stage, I shifted my writing time to early mornings. If I'm serious about a project now, I still enjoy writing before the sun comes up.

Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

I’m a hardcore outliner. That’s not to say I don’t seek out inspiration (especially from the music I listen to as I write), but at the start of the project, I plot things out as best as I can. I write a one or two page story synopsis and a basic biography of each important character. Then, I break the story arc into acts and outline key moments and scenes within each act. Having said that, once I start writing I’m open to following whatever rabbit trails I come across. With Solid Ground, I veered off course several times and those side trips yielded some of the best elements of the story.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love Scrivener writing software. I’m like a TV evangelist for this software, only I’m not asking for donations.

Where did the desire to write LGBTQIA+ stories come from?

I like to write about character flaws and individual struggles, how the seemingly tiny moments in life can ultimately define us. For me, the details of the experiences and challenges LGBTQIA+ characters face may differ from those of their CIS hetero brothers and sisters, but in the end, our stories are all just human stories.

How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?

My stories are set in everyday places among everyday people, so I’m not a big researcher. To make sure my characters sound real and compelling, I draw from my own experiences and from a lifetime of paying attention to books, movies, music, and pop culture. I’ve also been lucky enough to have some excellent beta readers and writing group buddies who have been willing to spray paint the awful parts of my manuscripts when I’ve been off the mark.

What’s harder, naming your characters, creating the title for your book or the cover design process?

Hands down, naming the characters is the most difficult! Actually, naming them is...a cakewalk. Renaming them once you realize a few names need to be tweaked is…a challenge. BUT, getting used to their new names and calling them by those names as you edit and discuss the story...that's torture! First, it’s just mentally challenging to make the switch. Second, and more important, it feels like you’re being unfair and maybe even unfaithful to the characters. But hey, Conor is a more compelling name than Rob. So, there you have it.

How do you answer the question “Oh, you're an author...what do you write?"

Fiction. I write intimate stories about people who try and don’t always succeed.

What does your family think of your writing?

I think they’re proud, and as surprised as I am that I finally finished a damn book.

Tell us about your current work in process and what you’ve got planned for the future.

My current work-in-progress is my second novel, Selfish. Like Solid Ground, Selfish is a first person narration that revolves around the small wonder and giant burden of family. The setting is a fictional town in Michigan, and the main character, Max Becker (or so he’s named for now), is forced to make a harrowing and deeply personal decision that will mean life or death, though not necessarily his own. Unlike Solid Ground, most of the characters in Selfish are not LGBTQIA+. I’m about half way through the first draft of the book and I’m excited to see if the storyline actually ends up where I originally told it to go.

Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?

It’s cliché, but write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. Some days, you’ll put in your fifteen minutes, bitch and moan a little, then shut your laptop and get back to the business of life. Other days, a quarter hour magically becomes three or four hours, and you’ll have to drag yourself away from the keyboard. Both kinds of days are okay.

If you could travel forward or backward in time, where would you go and why?

I’d go back to my twenties to tell myself to write fifteen minutes every day.

We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us right? If you could be a fly on the wall during an intimate encounter (does not need to be sexual) between two characters, not your own, who would they be?

Hmmm. I suppose I’d like to peak in on Louis and Lestat, Anne Rice’s characters from the Vampire Chronicles. I loved their love, especially in the first hundred or so years when it was fresh and new.

If I were snooping around your kitchen and looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?

Milk (for my Apple Jacks), grapes (to drop in my brandy), and cheese (the most versatile of all the dairy products).

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

To sleep through the night without waking up to pee.

If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

I’d trade with Conor, my main character, so I could make better decisions than he does and spare him a shitload of grief.

If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?

A small cabin in the redwood forest around Arcata, CA. There would be no television, telephone, or Internet, and I’d use a wood stove for heat. On the cozy front porch, I’d have the most comfortable writing chair known to mankind – an Eames lounge chair and ottoman (if you have $5,000 to spend on one, you’ll thank me). I know that’s how my fantasy sequester week would be because I was in that cabin in Arcata for a month in 2012. I’d go back tomorrow if I could.

What's the one thing, you can't live without?

Ice cream, Maker’s Mark, and tennis. Okay, that’s three things, but if I can’t have ‘em all it’s not worth it.

What internet site do you surf to the most?

I have a serious Twitter problem. Add me if you’d like to help keep me awake nights. (

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three author guests be and why?

Christopher Moore (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, etc.) – because he’s not only a terrific novelist, he’s also hilarious and kind.

Dave Eggers (Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, etc.) – because he’s brilliant and I’d probably be a better person by the end of the interview.

JK Rowling (Harry Potter, as if I needed to say that) – because she’s an unbelievable creator of compelling stories and characters and her British accent would make me giddy.

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

I don’t recall my exact reaction, but it was in the ballpark of, “Seriously?” followed by some overzealous fist pumping and jumping about. I told both my partner, Paul, and our roommate (and live-in editor), Kyle as soon as I read the letter. Kyle got weepy and Paul said something akin to, “Holy shit!”

Meet the Author

Jeff McKown writes fiction. In his work, he is especially fond of exploring tragic flaws, unfortunate circumstances, and the small moments that matter. In life, he obsesses over tennis, politics, and whiskey, not necessarily in that order. He endeavors to be a better Buddhist — which hasn’t always worked out that well. He lives near Monterey, CA with his partner Paul and their best friend, Kyle. Solid Ground is his first novel.

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Tour Schedule

4/24 - Dean Frech
4/27 - Love Bytes


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