Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Release Date: February 15, 2016
Genres: Gay, M/M, Erotica, Romance
Strong Signal is the first in a new series by best-selling authors Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, and it’s out NOW! It’s a riveting, sexy read, with a relationship that forms online before moving into the real world. Plus, congratulations to Santino and Megan for debuting at #1 for Erotica and LGBT Erotica on Amazon!
Plus I have Megan and Santino joining me today for an exclusive interview to talk about the gaming research they did!
So keep reading, and don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the end, where you can enter to win a Kindle Fire!
I’m joined today by Santino and Megan to talk about the research they did for Strong Signal and the gamers they discovered along the way. Thank you both for taking the time to answer some questions!
Whose idea was it to write a novel about two gamers who meet online?
Megan: I think originally I brought up the story idea to Santino, although at that time, I was thinking of writing an m/f about it myself. The idea and characters never really formed in my head right, though. Which always is a clue to me that I’m missing something or am coming at the story from the wrong angle. Santino and I kept talking about it, and then had some character ideas to make it m/m (because we were super interested in a gay gamer), and it went from there!
It sounds like Santino at least knew a lot about video games going into the novel, but streaming and Twitch were a new thing. Did you just browse the popular Twitch channels until you found one that you liked, or did you go after specific games to get a feel for what Garrett and Kai might be playing?
Santino: When we first discussed the idea, we went to Twitch and the first popular streamer who popped up was a girl named Kaceytron. She was hilarious, and we both got a kick out of watching her (her chat was also really indicative of the toxicity that is pervasive in gaming culture when it comes to how males treat females.) From there, we found other popular streamers such as Summit1G, Sodapoppin, xchica_boricuax, and Sky Williams.
The most interesting thing we learned about Twitch culture is that it really has become this insular community with a specific culture. The streamers know each other, some of them live together, they go to Twitchcon and other events, they date each other, and there’s a ton of drama. Also, because many of them are so young and have become so successful, many of them do not seem to have a ton of experience in the world outside of the Twitch community. I think one of the most interesting moments was when Sodapoppin made a vlog about how difficult it is to get a loan for a house when he has to go justify his income (which is primarily subscriptions and random donations) to “old people” at a bank. These kids are really in a bubble, and I think that came up a lot with Kai. He doesn’t need the real world because he has his Twitch stream, he has his income (which… if you have over a couple thousand subscribers, you can make several thousand a month plus money from sponsors and donations), and there’s no real reason for him to leave the house.
Megan mentioned that you had some pretty hilarious conversations while watching the gamers. What were some of the more ridiculous things that came up, or what were some crazy things that you watched on Twitch?
Megan: The very first time Santino signed onto Twitch, the name of the first gamer that came up was, “I have a pet wussy.” He sent me the screen shot, and I swear we laughed about that like teenagers for a good hour. I still laugh when I think about it.
Santino: Oh God, I’ve gotten sucked into watching Twitch drama. It’s such a time suck. Recently, there was huge issue because one of the streamers was arguing with another guy (while streaming live) and defending his girlfriend (who is also a streamer) because she’s generally attacked and ridiculed by other people in the community. It was a trainwreck. It’s honestly like a soap opera. And of course, every other streamer weighed in on their own channels.
(personal note: I’m not sure if this is the drama that Santino was referring to, but I found this on YouTube and thought it was a good example of Twitch drama.)
What was the most surprising thing about gamer culture that you discovered? Did learning more about it change the way you think about gaming?
Megan: I think my biggest surprise was the Twitch culture. I mean, it has its own dramas and allegiances and it’s really kind of crazy.
Santino: I’ve been a gamer for a long time so I wasn’t surprised by the sexism, racism and homophobia that’s pretty pervasive in these communities (recently an openly gay streamer was attacked for saying another streamer was cute), but like Megan, I was surprised by the Twitch community. It’s very tight knit and extremely divisive in some ways. And like I said earlier, I think a lot of the younger streamers who have experienced success are in a bubble.
Did you talk to any military gamers while you were writing, or did you base Garrett off anyone in particular?
Megan: I have a friend who is in the military, so any questions I directed at him. He isn’t the biggest gamer but he knows guys who are. He helped us out with military terminology and things like that.
Santino: Some of my old gaming friends from World of Warcraft or Lineage II were in the military, and would play while deployed. I think people would be surprised by how many folks in the military are into online video games. A lot of people picture these pimply kids living in their parents basements, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Can you talk about your favorite channels on Twitch and what you enjoy about watching those particular gamers?
Megan: I started watching some popular gamers just to see how the whole thing worked. I started with Summit1G and I really like him. How he interacts with his viewers and chat is the main source of inspiration for Kai. I really think Summit cares about the gamer culture, the games, and his viewers. It’s a job to him and he treats it with professionalism.
Santino: I find Sodapoppin and Reckful to be entertaining in terms of the games they play and sense of humor, but in terms of someone who is a competitive gamer and doesn’t spend time engaging in drama, I’d recommend xchica_boricuax. She’s a queer gamer, and she is a boss at first person shooters.
Sites like Twitch and Hitbox are changing the way gamers interact with each other and with video game fans, making friendships and even romances easier to find. Did you come across any stories of relationships formed over playing video games while you were researching?
Santino: It’s honestly really common for gamers to fall for each other. I know several people who met their spouse or significant other on World of Warcraft or Lineage II. Some people may not get it, but if you’re spending hours a day interacting with the same person whether it’s via voice communication, I think it’s understandable that they eventually form a bond. I think the nature of internet relationships can sometimes bring a closeness and openness that dating someone from Match or OKCupid doesn’t, because ALL you can do is talk to each other and really get to know each other.
In terms of Twitch… we came across several relationships that formed between streamers but I have yet to see a streamer/viewer love story like Kai’s and Garrett’s.
Megan: As far as Summit1G, he’s married and his wife has a Twitch channel.
If you were explaining video game culture to a complete newbie, how would you describe it?
Santino: You have thousands of people interacting because they have this single thing in common (the game), and that can lead to… introverts coming out of their shells in a way they never could in the real world, people of varied backgrounds becoming friends and sharing their experiences, but it can also inevitably lead to severe toxicity. It’s the Internet. You never know what you’re going to get.
I was counting down the months until the end of my deployment. My days were spent working on military vehicles, and I spent my nights playing video games that would distract me until I could leave Staff Sergeant Garrett Reid behind.
That was when I met him: Kai Bannon, a fellow gamer with a famous stream channel.
I never expected to become fixated on someone who’d initially been a rival. And I’d never expected someone who oozed charm to notice me—a guy known for his brutal honesty and scowl. I hadn’t planned for our online friendship to turn into something that kept me up at night—hours of chatting evolving into filthy webcam sessions.
But it did. And now I can’t stop thinking about him. In my mind, our real life meeting is perfect. We kiss, we fall into bed, and it’s love at first sight.
Except, like most things in my life, it doesn’t go as planned.
Where to Buy the Book:
About the Authors:
Megan Erickson is a former journalist who switched to fiction when she decided she liked writing her own endings better. She likes to pretend she has control now, but usually her characters are the ones who hold the reins. Her romance novels have a touch of humor, a dash of nerdy, and always a happily ever after.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and two cats named after John Hughes characters. She’s still waiting for the party she was promised when she grew to five feet… maybe because she never got there.
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.
Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
Santino and Megan are giving away a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner… so click on the image below and leave a comment on this post for your chance to enter!