A BSB Author Interview with Brian McNamara

By Connie Ward


What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I’ve kept a journal since I was fourteen years old and have always enjoyed writing in it. A couple years ago, I had the idea to write a story loosely based on of my senior year of high school. The first chapter that I wrote came surprisingly easily, and then it took off from there. As the story unfolded, it became much more fictional, yet the way in which I’ve written is reminiscent of my journaling. Fiction is especially exciting because it allows me to have a creative outlet, which is a welcomed break from my corporate job!


What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I feel very connected to my teenage years, and many of my favorite memories reside during that time of my life. It’s so important for teenagers to have visual representations of LGBT individuals who are out and comfortable with who they are. I write Young Adult novels so I can not only reflect back on a wonderful time of my life, but so I can show readers the journeys that LGBT individuals take on their way to self-discovery and how rewarding it is when they come out on the other side. For those readers struggling with self-acceptance, I hope my book will help them live an authentic, out life.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My friends and most of my family are very excited for me, especially because it’s my debut novel. They remind me how proud I should be of my accomplishment. Up until now, I have not shared much of my writing with them, as it has mostly been very personal journaling. I’m eager to have my friends and family read Bottled Up Secret, BSB_Bottled Up Secret_covas they will finally be able to see a cohesive, full-length story that I have written. Some of my family members don’t even know about my novel, but someday maybe they will read it and find that its themes of love and friendship are the same as the ones they experience in their own lives.


Where do you get your ideas?

I use events from my life as inspiration but then let them play out in a somewhat alternate world where I can inject fiction. I didn’t want to write a memoir, so as I write, I frequently ask myself, “What if?” This then leads me down a fictional path. The Young Adult genre lends itself to so many great situations as characters transition from adolescence to adulthood. I use these to show how the characters are growing and learning about themselves and about life.


How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I plan out a high-level storyline with major events and character arcs, but the most exciting thing about writing for me is discovering how the story unfolds as I write. In some instances, I expected the plot of Bottled Up Secret to go one way, but as I was writing, it became clear to me that a character would choose a different path instead. Because the characters in my novel are clearly defined in my head, they become independent entities, somewhat out of my control. Instead of asking myself, “What do I want this character to do?” I ask, “What would this character do? How would he or she react to this situation?”


What makes Bottled Up Secret special to you?

My high-school years were an amazing time for me, so as I was writing this novel, which is about a group of high-school seniors, I was able to reflect on my own experiences during that time. It also became therapeutic as I wrote about the characters’ struggles, which were similar to some of mine. It’s special to me because I think it’s a great story that combines humor, sadness, excitement, and confusion, just like real life does.


How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Based on my bio, readers will quickly realize that the main character of Brendan is very much like me. He is the narrator of the book, so it was fun to snap back into my mindset as a seventeen-year-old as I was writing. I had a very close, diverse group of friends in high school, and they were perfect inspirations to use for the other characters in this novel. As for the main love interest in the book, my high-school crush was a big inspiration for him, but after a few chapters, the character quickly took on a life of his own.


Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

As a gay man, I often think about my community in the context of our larger society. Alan Downs’s The Velvet Rage is a novel that I found fascinating. It offers good commentary on what it’s like to grow up as gay, especially when a society deems you unequal. Fortunately, I can read that book and be hopeful for the future, as the tide of acceptance is moving very quickly.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write about something in which you have a strong interest. That way, the writing process will be fun and exciting. It won’t feel like work. Also, don’t get discouraged if you have a not-so-productive day of writing. There are days when I sit at my computer, waiting for inspiration to come, but end up throwing in the towel after an hour. Then a few days later, I have a flood of ideas and immediately dash for the nearest pen. That’s what makes the writing process challenging but also incredibly rewarding.


When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I’m very much into low-key nights with my friends. We go out to dinner, play board games, and go see movies and Broadway shows. As long as there is good conversation and laughter, I don’t care what we’re doing. I grew up doing performing arts, so I also love singing and acting, and have been able to have some experiences with these while living in New York. I also spend a good amount of time at the gym to keep up an active lifestyle, although I wouldn’t call it fun!

Around the World

Join me as I catch up with Bold Strokes Book author Yolanda Wallace at Atlanta Pride. Despite the rain and crowd noise, you’ll hear about her recent and most excellent release, The War Within, her upcoming novel 24/7, and there might be an outing of sorts.

Let Them Eat Cake!

While at Atlanta Pride last weekend, I had a chance to catch up with veteran Bold Strokes Books author, Erin Dutton. Tune in to hear what she has to say about her upcoming lesbian romance:


By Connie Ward


What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

There was no decision-making involved. Rather it was something I found myself doing, something inside I could not ignore. That sounds so clichéd, but it’s true and carries through to today: that odd nagging in the back of your mind…or maybe heart…that insists there’s something you need to be doing. I started by writing for my closest high-school pals, romantic “scenarios” embellishing (a lot) on their straight crushes. What evolved into my first attempt at a novel started in tenth-grade French class, when I was bored and daydreaming about a girl becoming a rock star. I’ll never part with it (and maybe someday I’ll tackle it with serious intent) because it really chronicles the changes in my attitudes and lifestyle, not to mention my writing ability through the years.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?

That’s a tough one because I’ll jump into practically anything. I do have a love of history and enjoy “using it” to tell a tale. In a broader sense, I suppose I lean toward strong, bold, female success stories because there just aren’t enough of them. My stories tend to be very visual with lots of dialogue, because I want readers to see and hear exactly what I’m seeing and hearing as I write. I’ve considered writing scripts but know I’d miss digging into all the small details.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?

Family members are very happy for me, knowing that I’ve written all my life, but unfortunately, they have never wholeheartedly accepted my lifestyle. Friends, however, provide the finest, most genuine support system I could ever imagine. My partner Kathy is my ultimate blessing. In the past few years, I’ve found it interesting that my work tends toward family themes, the support and “connection” experienced by my lead characters. I’ve never set out to write such things; they’ve emerged on their own. And I’m a bit proud of that.


Where do you get your ideas?

Anywhere and everywhere. As an only child, I guess my imagination has always been “out there,” making toys, games, adventures out of simple things or nothing at all. (At family parties, I’d be the one with the kids, making tents with them, pretending to camp out in a toy-filled bedroom.) As a newspaper reporter and editor, I believed in “looking deeper” into stories. There’s a root of a good story in everything around us, as long as we allow ourselves to “see.” That includes the woman pushing the double stroller, the solitary oak on forty acres of meadow, or your grandmother’s engagement ring. The literary version of the “photographer’s eye.”


How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

Easy question. I’m a pantster to the core. I bounce lots of ideas off my better half, and Kathy has learned to “play catch” with me very well. I might jot down a few thoughts, but I often joke about what my fingers have typed, as if they’re on their own and leave magical things on the screen for me.


What makes Stick McLaughlin The Prohibition Years  special to you?

As my first novel, it’s beyond special to me; it’s surreal. Stick was a fun adventure to write because I was able to step back—not only into an exciting historical period—but into the city, sights, and neighborhood I remember growing up. And I’m very happy for the characters and their story, to have them so well received at this early stage.Stick McLaughlin 300 DPI


How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Doesn’t every writer, possibly every type of artist, leave fingerprints behind? There are bits of me scattered throughout most of Stick’s characters—the good ones, that is. J


Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

It’s impossible to point to one or two. I can say, however, that three particular novels stand out as having had an impact on me: Curious Wine, by Katherine Forrest, for its gloriously romantic storyline; Lee Lynch’s Swashbuckler, for the timeless character Frenchie; and Radclyffe’s Safe Harbor, for seamlessly blending romance, characters, and a setting I loved into the perfect package. I’ve attended Women’s Week in Provincetown for years and been fortunate to meet/hear Radclyffe, Lee Lynch, and many Bold Strokes Books authors enough times to know these women are special. I’m grateful for the time each of them has spent with me, signing, reading, at Q&As, and simply chatting. Individually and collectively, they’ve been my inspiration.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write. You truly never know when opportunity will strike. It’s okay to start out writing what you know, because you’ll see how much you don’t. Soon enough, you’ll be researching, compiling data that you’ll discover you need “techniques” to use. Next thing you know, you’re studying the craft more, learning how to weave that data into your work, and looking at your piece from a more well-rounded perspective. All good.


When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I’m a fan of Boston pro sports and have played guitar/sung for years, mostly just for fun. My workday is fairly long, so there isn’t much “free” time until the weekend, and I’m usually very content when my partner, Kathy, and I can just hang out at home. (Yes, I usually end up writing…bless her.)

The Amazon Trail

The Territorial

It wasn’t possible in those days to be young and gay in NYC and not go to bars. One night I ended up at a place in Harlem called The Territorial. It greeted customers in the manner of prohibition speakeasies, with eyes peering through a window in a wooden door.

I was with Suzy, my first girlfriend and, by that time, my ex. Her lover Kenny was there too, a tough as nails old school butch who’d been Suzy’s original connection to the gay world. Kenny had given me a very hard time when I was still in high school because she wanted Suzy. Harvey, also white, was our escort, a nice gayboy who was known, with his slight, funny, darker-skinned boyfriend, at The Territorial.

When I think back to the 19 year old me boldly clubbing on 125th Street with this crew, Kenny and Harvey only slightly older than Suzy and me, it’s no wonder the night ended the way it did. Suzy and Kenny were high school dropouts who both had a long way to go before they got where they needed to be. Harvey didn’t live with his boyfriend, but with his mother in a small apartment in the Bronx.

This was a “bottle bar,” like The Stonewall Inn. You paid a cover and bought a setup, overpriced mixers, ice, glasses, to go with your own bottle. I used to cash $2.00 checks at a grocery store to get me through a week at college, so if I managed to bring had ten dollars with me, I probably spent it on dinner and the subway. Someone, probably Kenny, paid my cover and bought the vodka.

At the time, I knew no other gay people. I had a sort of girlfriend at college, but she knew no one either and was probably out with her boyfriend that night. What can I say; it was the sixties and everyone was experimenting. Except me. I only wanted to be queer, be with queers, in queer places.

My problem was, as isolated as I was at school, I didn’t belong with Harvey and Kenny at all. Suzy moved into their orbit after I left for school. I had a foot in both worlds, but there was no solid ground under me.

I’ve written about The Territorial before. It was a huge high-ceilinged space, probably a former warehouse, possibly owned by organized crime. The management kept the lights low and what light there was spiked the dark like flame. People sat on a balcony above us and across from us. It was typical of the hellish pits allotted to gays.

In those days, I experienced depressions so bad I could barely move. Light disappeared from my vision. I don’t know how I kept from killing myself.  I’d been prescribed tranquilizers called Milltowns so I had the means and I frequently mixed them with alcohol. By this, my sophomore year, I’d added marijuana and hash and speed to the mix. I like to believe some kind of higher power kept me alive so I could perform good works for my people, for gay people, so I could put our world on paper with words.

That night it was vodka and Meprobamate. It was also fear — what was I doing so far uptown and with my nemesis, Kenny, and two strange men? I’d lost my ability to connect with Suzy, or perhaps Kenny intimidated her enough that she had to shut me out. I was lost, so lost, and no one was looking for me, no one even knew I was gone.

I drank the vodka straight, tipping it up and pouring it down my throat. I got blackout drunk. I tried to quench my fear and confusion, tried to douse the conflagration of my unmoored blazing soul with this flammable liquid. Suzy had invited me and I’d gotten out of control. Kenny told Suzy to let me, if I needed to, when I took another and another  draught straight from the bottle. I’d hated the times my father came home drunk and my mother raged at him, but like him, I knew of no other solution. I didn’t even know what I was trying to solve.

Gay people are kind. In the end, we take care of one another the best we can. That night it was Kenny who nursed me when I was sick in the wreck of a bathroom. That night, it was Harvey who skipped whatever romantic plans he had with his boyfriend to, somehow, take me home, to get me past his mother, to give me a bed where I could sleep it off.

Goodness knows what would have happened if they’d let me loose in the post-midnight city, sent me off to Grand Central to catch a train back to school.

Goodness was what it took for them to keep me safe from a world that might not be kind to one more nearly wasted gay kid.


Copyright 2014  Lee Lynch

An American Queer cover 3 14

Lee Lynch’s most recent book is available for order October 1 at http://goo.gl/yg89zg .

BSB Author Interview with Samantha Hale

By Connie Ward

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I’ve always loved books. As a kid, I would read anything I could get my hands on. I was just fascinated with the way authors could create these entire, imaginary worlds, and so of course I had to try it out for myself. It became something that I did for fun, something to keep me amused on a rainy day or when my friends couldn’t come out to play.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I started to take my writing seriously. Up until then it was just a hobby, and I never really considered that it could be more than that. But I think that wanting to become a writer was the inevitable next step.

I’d spent so many years being so captivated by books that I’d read and loved, and almost as many years writing stories of my own that, naturally, I started to think about publishing my own work. My school offered a couple of writing classes, which of course I took. I tried to learn as much as I could about writing, about style and technique. And I wrote, I filled notebooks with story after story. For years. Until finally I felt like I was ready, that I had a story worth publishing.

What type of stories do you write?

I’ve played around with various genres, but the majority of my stories are young-adult ones. Most of them are coming-of-age type stories about friendships, families, and romances.

And why?

I like writing about the dynamics between people. Whether it’s friends, siblings, lovers, I like to explore the relationships by setting up a scenario for my characters and then letting it all play out.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

I think they are, for the most part, bemused by it. None of them are writers, so they don’t really get why I choose to hole myself away in my apartment for hours on a nice day, but they’re supportive.

Where do you get your ideas?

It’s hard to pinpoint, exactly, where an idea comes from. It can be anything, a song lyric that strikes a chord, a quote from a book or movie, something said in conversation, or sometimes seemingly from nowhere at all.

I’ve taken concepts or themes from an older, abandoned piece of work and taken them in a new direction and ended up with an entirely different story. And I’ve sat down in front of my computer without a single idea in my head and just started writing.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I don’t do much in the way of planning. Most of the time I’ll start a story with an opening line and a vague idea of what it’s going to be about. I don’t usually know what’s going to happen in a chapter until I’m actually writing it.

What makes Everything Changes special to you?

Everything Changes BSB_EverythingChanges_covis my first published novel. So, that’s special. Seriously though, Everything Changes was a labor of love for me. It took me almost ten years to complete. I wrote the first draft when I was in my early twenties but was never completely satisfied with it. I didn’t know how to fix it so I put it aside and moved on to other projects. I kept going back to it though, tweaking it, trying to get it right. Seeing it in print, after so many years, and so much time spent working on it, is incredibly gratifying.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

I try not to mirror myself or people in my life in the characters. I try to make the characters as unique to themselves as I can. I want the relationships and interactions within the story to be genuine to the characters and the situations they’re in. And I don’t think I could do that if I were modeling a character after someone in my own life.

Sometimes, traits that I recognize in myself or in a friend will pop up. It’s inevitable, but it’s never a conscious decision to put them in there.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?

The first lesbian author that I ever read was Radclyffe. Up until I started reading her Provincetown series, I wasn’t even aware that gay/lesbian-themed novels even existed. It was an eye- opening experience for me, seeing lesbian characters depicted in print like that.

And it opened up a world of possibilities for me, as a writer, allowing me to be freer in my own writing.

Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

I think Safe Harbor will always be my favorite of Radclyffe’s novels. It was the first of her novels that I read.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

To new writers I would suggest, write as often as you can. Short stories, novels, poems, whatever keeps you feeling passionate about writing. And find yourself a good support system, whether it’s in your real life or online. Surround yourself with fellow writers who will offer honest critiques, support, and encouragement.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

When I’m not writing, I’m probably reading. I’m still as much as a bookworm as I was when I was a kid. I also love to travel. I’ve been all over the world, and there are still so many places that I want to visit. I dabble in photography and am currently attempting to teach myself how to play the guitar.

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