Q&A: Santino Hassell, Karen Stivali, and Damon Suede on Movies

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Today we have the second round of our Q&A with Santino Hassell, Karen Stivali, and Damon Suede. They are all on tour together for their newest releases, Sunset Park, Moment of Silence, and Pent Up respectively! Enjoy their answers, and be sure and pick up their books today too!

What are your favorite movies with romance or romantic elements?

Karen’s movie picks:

For romantic NY movies:

Keeping The Faith: Friends to lovers, love triangle, family struggles, and a mind-blowingly accurate portrayal of my own experience where Jewish and Catholic families are involved, all set throughout the city as if the whole movie is a love letter to NY (which I’m guessing is exactly what director (and star) Edward Norton was going for with this film). I love it.

Kate and Leopold: Time travel, destiny, Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman…what’s not to like? I’m the first to admit that I have a weakness for good bad movies….and this kind of fits into that category. I just find this sweet and funny and it’s one of those movies that if I notice it’s on TV, I’ll wind up watching the whole thing.

Moonstruck: Unlikely pairing, enemies to lover, fiancé’s brother, finding your true match after you’ve given up all hope of it ever happening—can’t get much more romantic than that. And the depiction of the dynamics of an old-school Italian family were so spot on I actually wonder if people without similar families even recognize how spot on the portrayal is.

For non-NYC romantic movies:

There are so many I’ll watch literally any time I see that they’re on50 First Dates, Jerry Maguire, The Princess Bride , Chocolat, (I could go on, but I won’t)—but my favorite may actually be Cousins (with Ted Danson and Isabella Rossellini) because it’s all about fate and meeting the right person in the most unexpected way, at the worst possible times, with seemingly insurmountable obstacles—and love winning out anyway.

Santino: There are SO many awesome things set in NYC that I don’t know what to recommend, but I’ll try…

You’ve Got Mail:  I get picked on all the time for my love of You’ve Got Mail because I’m Mr. Cynical and Gritty totally watching a romantic comedy with Meg Ryan every time it comes on. It has all of those missed connections between strangers in NY that finally add up at the end, which is my jam. It’s also super atmospheric in terms of how it depicts the city through every season.

Hackers showcases a couple of interesting and sometimes ignored NYC subcultures that existed in the 90s–the club kids and cyber punks battling a Big Corporate Bad. There’s also an amazing romantic subplot that includes Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller trying to out-hack each other.

Silver Linings Playbook This is a non-NYC movie, but it’s still very East coast to me. It’s also amazing. I’m not sure how the book is, but there’s nothing better than watching two neurotic people fall in love while everyone else runs away from them. Sometimes only another person who’s been through shit will get you.

Bridget Jones’ Diary is my official non-NYC pick. I will watch this every time it comes on. If you haven’t watched it, you’re missing out. And I appreciate it way more now that I’m single and in my mid thirties. And drink a lot of wine.

Damon’s picks:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: kissing in the rain with Cat.

Holiday: classic screwball comedy starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant at the height of their powers, tart and bittersweet. My favorite scene is the two of them waltzing in the playroom at midnight while the world falls apart downstairs.

Duplicity: ingenious sexy thriller about corporate espionage with two megastars; a phenomenal film which remains woefully under appreciated…the two spies meeting at the airport with the formula “confessing” that they trust each other.

For most insanely romantic film of the past decade, Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement, but that’s only if we’re allowed to venture outside NYC. Thrilling, extravagant, and impeccably crafted in every frame. A perfect movie.

Did you have any of these scenes in mind when writing scenes from your latest release?

Karen’s response:

I didn’t base any scene in Moment of Silence on scenes from these movies, but subtle references are there. Jason’s mom is a cross between my grandmother and the Anne Bancroft mother in Keeping The Faith—stubborn and meddling but under it all, loving. All of the old-school traditional Jewish and Catholic references in the book relate back to my own life and my upbringing in a half Jewish half Catholic family. Those were mirrored so accurately in Moonstruck and in Keeping The Faith that it’s hard to not pay homage to some of those moments. Also, the friends-to-lovers tale that’s present in most of the movies on my list is just my all-around favorite trope to read, write or watch. I’m especially fond of the talks the characters have when it’s clear they both want each other but neither is willing to admit it yet. That’s the UST that makes the moment when the characters finally do get together so goddamned delicious.

Santino: There are no scenes in Sunset Park that were based on my favorite movies, but I will say that I tried to capture that atmospheric sense of NYC through the seasons that You’ve Got Mail  demonstrated so well. SUNSET PARK starts in the middle of July which is when the city is sweltering with humidity, then it goes through Halloween and late fall when the character experience the first snowstorm of the year. I think Bridget Jones’ Diary has more themes in common with book 3 of the Five Boroughs series which will be out in April— that one is all about two characters in their mid thirties who still have no idea where they’re supposed to be in life.

Damon: No. I feel like books need to be able to stand on their own and I worked in film for too long not to understand the vast chasm between fiction and movie visuals. Pent Up definitely has a noir vibe and I certainly know the noir film canon, but if anything I was eager to create my own noirish mise en scene without resorting to homage.


Tea or coffee?

Karen: Tea- Hot  Coffee- Iced with cream and sugar (Dunkin’ Donuts, not Starbucks–I like my coffee like I like my men: unpretentious)

Santino: Tea when sick. Coffee with tons of cream and equal on a daily basis.

Damon: Both and in great quantities with heavy cream.

Wine or beer?

Karen: Beer (ice cold and pale—the beer, not me. Well, both actually, it’s freezing!)

Santino: Beer for relaxing, wine for stress drinking.

Damon: WIne.

Cake or pie?

Karen: Cake. Or even just the frosting.

Santino: Pie!

Damon: Cake. Anything creamy and cold.

Scruff, beard, or clean-shaven?

Karen: Scruff looks awesome on a lot of guys but I prefer the feel of clean-shaven

Santino: All *easy*

Damon: All of the above, depending on the face. That’s really bonestructure dependent

Blue-collar or white collar?

Karen: Leather collar (almost said priest’s collar, but I’m being good).

Santino: I like corrupting white collar boys, but I mesh better with blue-collar.

Damon: Blue collar. Tastes great, more filling.

Jeans or a suit?

Karen: Jeans (although the real answer is pajamas…or no pants at all).

Santino: Sweatpants

Damon: Jeans, I dig dressing up but luggage can only hold so much.

Car or motorcycle?

Karen: SUV (I live in the mountains—4WD is not a luxury it’s a necessity).

Santino: Truck.

Damon: Car. I like my spine and skull in one piece.

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Santino Hassell is a writer of queer romance 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. He can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and SantinoHassell.com.

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She’s also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary and erotic romances. She writes novels about love…like real life, only hotter. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and KarenStivali.com.

Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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