Author Interviews

Author Spotlight Interview: Max Watson

By: Hidden Gems on September 12, 2023

Hidden Gems Books ARC service.

By: Hidden Gems on September 12, 2023


Today’s interview is with author Max Watson. Watson write new adult romances with notably strong women. It was an honor getting to know more about her writing process and life outside of writing.

HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?

MW: I write new adult romances and I specialize in deep first person POV. I love to develop my characters and really focus on the aspects of the human struggles we each face and handle differently. Cinnamon roll type men and strong women are my personal character type favorites to write!

HG: Love it! When did you know you were ready to take on the title of author?

MW: I have always been an avid reader. In fact, my first ever job I was paid in books because books are more valuable than money to me. But even though I devoured a book a day in my youth, I almost always felt dissatisfied, and at times angry, because of how certain situations were handled in romance books of the time. The troupe of men needing the female love interest so badly they can’t control themselves really bothered me. Or how women were portrayed as innocent even into their mid-twenties while the men were shown as players who would then “teach” the female love interest all about love and romance felt so far from reality. To me, it painted women as a thing worthy of true love only if they remained “pure” until true love found them but men were allowed, and expected under the guise of becoming great lovers, to play the field. When it got to a point that every book I read would end in me going on a long-winded rant about all the things I couldn’t stand, my husband got fed up, pushed me into our spare bedroom, and said “Don’t come out till you can write it better.” And the idea of writing a romance novel suddenly became something I could do, something until that moment I’d never even considered.

My first book was a mess, unfocused, too dark and outside of genre conventions. But it was a good experience that managed to win a super fan. I ended up unpublishing that book and trying again with The Drunken Promise, based on some true events. Three people in my life had illnesses or accidents that led to their lives being upended where they needed to relearn how to walk. One person never recovered, gave up, and we had to watch them wither away. I was distraught and rewrote their story with a much happier ending. And to this day, I get readers who reach out saying how the book deeply affected them. A quick browse through the reviews will tell you all you need to know, a box of tissues is required for this reading!

After deciding to write what I’d like to read, and turning life experiences into happier endings, I knew being an author was the path for me.

The Drunken Promise

HG: What a fantastic response. I’ll certainly be adding The Drunken Promise to my TBR for when I need a good cry. You write in multiple genres. Is there something all of your writing has in common? Maybe a certain feel or theme?

MW: All of my stories focus on depth of character and coming into who they’re meant to be, realizing the path in life they want to strive for. Their struggles and heartaches, their hardships and difficult decisions. Nobody in my stories does anything conventionally. My characters live in converted school buses, quit their miserable jobs to restore a childhood hangout in Victorian ruins, put their life savings into a small café in a rural town, live nomadically and travel the country, or turn away from familial wealth to try running a construction business.

HG: Wonderful. What feeling do you hope readers are left with when they finish one of your novels?

MW: I hope when readers follow my characters’ lives that they feel they’ve made friends in real life, people they grieve and root for, and think about and wonder how they’re doing. I want my characters to feel so real that readers have to remember they’re fictional.

HG: Any interesting writing or brainstorming quirks?

MW: I do what I call percolating. When I’m working through a big plot hole or story idea, I have to lay down, have some soothing music like Nina Simone in the background, close my eyes and just lay still. I call it percolating because it takes a long time but the result, like that slow brewed cup of coffee, is so much smoother.

HG: Oooh, sounds great. What have been the challenges you’ve faced in your publishing career?

MW: I think the biggest challenge is connecting with readers. The book market is so saturated that needle in a haystack isn’t even comparable anymore, it’s more like expecting readers to find your grain of sand in the desert. And with constant changes in algorithms, what worked five years ago, one year ago, last month is no longer effective. Today’s authors, especially those still building or just starting out will have to put their main focus on staying on top of the constant changes effecting visibility. Facebook used to be a great way to connect with readers and now that focus has moved to TikTok. By the time an emerging author establishes a following there, something new will pop up and take center stage. This has been my biggest hurdle. I’ve been publishing since 2019 and I still struggle regularly keeping up with these frequent changes. The moment I’ve found a groove that works, some term or policy or algorithms changes and what I’ve been doing is no longer working so I have to start all over again.

HG: Very frustrating indeed. What was the best advice you ever received related to writing and/or publishing?

MW: You only fail as an author if you give up.

HG: Great advice. Your most recent release is part of your Bubble Bath Romance collection. Tell us about these books and who they are perfect for.

MW: The Bubble Bath Romance Collection is for readers who have very little free time. It’s for those of us who used to devour a book every day, binge a series a weekend when we were younger and had so much more free time. My collection of one-hour romances is just that, books that can be read in about one hour, about the time it takes to enjoy a relaxing bubble bath. There are plenty of options to chose from, holiday themes like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, taboo relationships, one night stand with a crush that leads to more, sapphic heartthrobs that get together on a naughty dare, and most recently, a food critic with more than just foodie tips to give the hot new café owner! Avid readers can once again enjoy reading a book a day, but in the small window of free time they might have in these busy times.

HG: Love that! Sounds perfect. Your next book titled Raw releases in early 2024. It is a collection of short stories and poems. What can you tell us about Raw? What can readers look forward to?

MW: When I was little, I had a collection of horror books that were illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark always had such silly stories that were never very frightening. But the images, I loved flipping through and looking at those drawings all the time. As I got older, became an author, and started accruing a nice collection of short stories and poems, I decided it was time to make a horror collection of my own. That’s when I found Dave Dick, an illustrator who has a similar style that I fell in love with. I reached out to see if he’d be interested in illustrating my collection and never thought I’d hear back. But I’m happy to say it’s been about a year now that we’ve been working together and he’s now working on the book cover for the collection. Late 2024, Raw will be out and filled with creepy, terrifying, and spooky illustrations paired with my short stories and poems. The collection’s theme is on the dark sides of motherhood, love, family, and loss. It’s a little outside my norm of romance-focused stories, but each of my characters has a darker side to their stories, a quieter struggle. And this collection of stories and poems reflect those sides of our everyday lives society deems not positive enough to talk about.

HG: That sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to see it. What can you tell us about any other projects you have in the works?

MW: In 2018 I quit my corporate job and put everything into restoring a historical home that the city was going to demolish if no one bought it. My husband and I completely restored it in only four months but we had to work 116 hours every week and by the end, we were burnt out. The transformation was incredible and the result beautiful. I know because of us, that historical home got another 100 years of life. But when we had our son, renovating houses just wasn’t in the cards for the foreseeable future. Not ready to leave that life behind and craving a huge project, I turned our house renovation experience into a new trilogy I have coming out in 2024, The Craving Home Trilogy. In it Leonard, Ulther, and Blake are three foster siblings who find themselves desperate for a place to live when their foster parents are moved to assisted living. The old Victorian ruins they used as a hideout as kids is up for sale for cheap and the eldest brother decides to buy it for his family. But with an open roof, no solid windows, and rotten plumbing, the restoration is a huge undertaking for a man who’s hardly ever swung a hammer. Then he meets Eddie, a spitfire of a contractor determined to make a name for herself and not let Leonard modernize the historic beauty of the home. The books follow the three siblings as they build their forever home and find love along the way.

HG: What an awesome concept! We’ll keep a lookout for book 1 later this year. Switching gears, what do you enjoy doing when not writing?

MW: When not writing, I can be found in the forest looking for bones to add to my collection or trudging up streams and trying to catch crawdads. Or planning my dream homestead. Or baking, cooking, canning. Crocheting. Working to be a full stack web developer. Planning my next house renovation project. Planning my next cross country move since we move on average once a year across the country, just looking for a change of scenery. I have a lot of hobbies which you’ll find in many of my stories.

HG: You stay busy! What was your last 5-star read?

MW: I’ve been reading a manga lately that I love, The Summer You Were There by Yuama. In it, Shizuku takes a novel she’d secretly written to school to thrown it away in hopes no one sees it but her classmate Kaori finds it and takes it home to read. She falls in love with the writing and asks Shizuku to be her girlfriend so that she can be inspired to write their love story. There’s a depth of the characters’ individual struggles and secret pain that makes this such a heart-wrenching and page turning romance!

HG: For fun, before we wrap up, let’s do a fast five! First one…cookies or cake?

MW: Cookies. Specifically, my grandmother’s sour cream sugar cookies.

HG: Movie or book?  

MW: I love to watch the movie first and then read the book in the movie narrator’s voice! This made reading Fight Club absolutely epic!

HG: Pool or ocean?

MW: Oh, this is a tough one. I’d actually have to say neither and go with lake. I love the idea of the ocean but have only been once when I was a kid. Despite it being rare, the one time I went to the ocean there was a shark attack and it was quite a terrifying experience to be around, see the chaos, the human chain formed, the searching helicopter…needless to say, I’m a bit scared of the ocean. But a big lake, I’ll take that any day!

HG: Introvert or extrovert? 

MW: Severely, extremely, all-caps, underscored, and highlighted: introvert.

HG: eBook, print book or audiobook? 

MW: I try to offer all three but am only just getting started with audiobooks, so outside of Apple books, it’ll still be awhile before they’re available everywhere.

As for personal preference, print books all the way. It doesn’t feel like reading unless I can smell the pages, read someone’s notes in the margins, slice my finger turning the page…

HG: For readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?


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