Archive for February, 2014

A Chat with Jeffrey Ricker and ‘Nathan Burgoine

BY JESS FARADAY

I’m always saying that I’ve never met a BSB person I didn’t like. From everyone I’ve dealt with on the business end, to my various editors, and the authors that I’ve met at conferences and online, y’all are pretty darn terrific. And there are some really excellent writers among us as well—go figure!

 

Recently I had the pleasure of reading two fabulous new books—Light by ‘Nathan Burgoine and The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker. On the surface, they don’t sound very much alike —

 

 

LightLight  300 DPI

Kieran Quinn is a bit telepathic, a little psychokinetic, and very gay—three things that have gotten him through life perfectly well so far—but when self-styled prophet Wyatt Jackson arrives during Pride Week, things take a violent turn. It’s not long before Kieran is struggling to maintain his own anonymity while battling wits with a handsome cop, getting some flirting in with a hunky leather man, saving some drag queens, and escaping the worst blind date in history. One thing’s for sure: saving the day has never been so fabulous.

 

The UnwantedThe Unwanted 300 DPI

Jamie Thomas has enough trouble on his hands trying to get through junior year of high school without being pulverized by Billy Stratton, his bully and tormentor. But the mother he was always told was dead is actually alive—and she’s an Amazon! Sixteen years after she left him on his father’s doorstep, she’s back, and needs Jamie’s help. Putting his life on the line, Jamie must find the courage to confront the wrath of an angry god to save a society that rejected him.

 

 

But after reading them, I couldn’t help noticing a few similarities—and not just the fact that they were really, really enjoyable.

 

So I thought I’d ask the authors about it =)

 

 

 

 

JF:  ‘Nathan, Rainbow Man (sorry… Prism =) is a fabulous superhero—and at the same time, charmingly flawed and human. Tell us about your inspiration in creating this character.

 

NB: Somewhere between my geek childhood love of the X-Men and my own wish that there were more gay superheroes out there, Kieran sprang to mind almost fully formed. When I was younger, there were none. It’s gotten better, but I wanted a story rooted in the LGBT culture. I didn’t know what sort of power I wanted to give him at first, but I was having a conversation with my mother-in-law in her kitchen and there was a suncatcher in her window and I bumped it and rainbows scattered and something clicked. Making it a side-effect of telekinesis came later, but I always wanted him to be “somewhat underwhelming” in the power department. If Jeffrey will forgive me, I always preferred Marvel to DC because the Marvel characters weren’t invulnerable powerhouses – the mutants often had one good power (or two) but took their lumps a lot more often. They came across as more human to me.

 

JF: Jeffrey, your book gives an interesting take on a common YA theme–the discovery that one has royal/magical/otherworldly origins and/or powers. Your main character is the rejected offspring of an all-female group that now need his help. Tell me about that particular plot twist. Why Amazons?

 

JR: Jamie doesn’t think he’s special. I didn’t want to make him too “chosen-one” gee-whiz spectacular. He’s just a kid trying to get through school without getting pulverized. What makes him remarkable, I think, isn’t his Amazon bloodline or any powers that derive from that. It’s that he keeps going even when he’s deathly afraid. 

 

Why Amazons? I guess it all goes back to Wonder Woman. I’ve been captivated by the Amazons ever since I first read one of the comic books and then saw Lynda Carter on the TV screen. She was like magic to my little gay mind. I was always drawn to Diana in a way that Superman and Batman couldn’t equal. I think, being a gay kid, I identified in particular with the idea of a secret identity, that who you were on the outside hid something remarkable within. Yes, all of the big three had secret identities, but hers resonated. I can’t explain why, but I know it was more than just the bracelets and the lasso and the power. 

 

Of course, that has little to do with the real Amazons of antiquity. And I was surprised at how little I could find when I started researching for this book. I found one or two volumes, mostly thin on information, and then just passages here and there in the epics. Why was there so little?

 

The more I though about it, the more it made sense. All those old stories were written by men, and they focused on the men. No wonder the Amazons got short shrift. I wouldn’t be immune from that criticism either: I may be gay, but I’m also a white guy in the western world, which translates to a lot of privilege. Even here, who do I end up focusing on? Jamie, one of their sons. But I hope I do that in the context of the powerful women around him, not all of whom are Amazons—his friend Sarah in particular; she’s such a hero and she has no magical origin to base that on—and not all of whom are human. But I don’t want to give too much away there, either.

 

JF: ‘Nathan, Light addresses some pretty serious themes, puts the main character in nail-biting peril, and sees him take his lumps. Yet the story is suffused with wonderful humor and a lovely romance. The combination of excitement and lightheartedness is irresistible. How do you do that?

 

NB: I wholeheartedly believe that if we stop laughing, we lose. In the face of what can seem like relentless pressures from all sides for the queer community to cave in, give up, or go away, the times we spend laughing and celebrating how far we’ve made it are the things that keep me going. I wanted to show that balance, and could think of nothing better than setting the story during Pride Week for exactly that purpose. You don’t have to look far to see how much further we have to go – Kansas, Russia, Uganda – it’s not hard to find the bad news and the fights still ahead to be won. Those fights are still there, and just as serious and important no matter what you do. I just know I fight better when I’ve recharged myself with the company of good people and that kind of dark humour that serves us well.

 

I also listened to my editors. I feel like I should repeat that again: I listened to my editors. If parts felt too dark or too action-focused, they helped me find a way to break it up a bit and use the romance or the humour to diffuse the tension for the reader. Did I mention you should seriously listen to your editors?

 

JF: Jeffrey, in The Unwanted, you turn the theme of bullying on its head by binding Jamie to his bully early on in the story, and forcing both characters to grow and change. It’s a fresh take and an interesting choice. Can you tell us how you came to make that choice?

 

JR: Thanks. I was really worried about that, to be honest. Billy has treated Jamie like crap before and at the beginning of the events in the book. I didn’t want to give Billy a free pass or let him off easy, but I also wanted to show that even the people you expect it of the least can change for the better. Without giving too much away, I wanted to illustrate that real connection and understanding can overcome fear. 

 

JF:  ‘Nathan, your short fiction is prolific and well known, but this is your first novel. How different was it working in this longer format?

 

NB: This should come as no surprise to anyone with a brain, but it turned out that having some sort of outline or plan was way more important for a novel than I’ve found it to be in a short story. What that says about my brain I’ll leave up to you. Also, with a short story, the turnaround time for some sort of feedback is so quick. With a novel, I worked on it for over a year before I had enough to hand to someone and get criticism. I’ve had rare moments where a short story has gelled in the space of hours, and had feedback on the first draft within a day of finishing that draft. Writing a novel felt a lot more isolated and required a lot more patience and self-confidence, and I’m sure not overstocked in either.

 

JF: Jeffrey, you’re currently studying for your MFA in creative writing. What, from your education, have you applied to your writing?

 

JR: This is a really good question. You hear a lot of criticism of MFA programs as encouraging a sameness in students’ voices and subject matter. (At least, I have.) That may be the case in some places, but I haven’t experienced that here. At the moment, I’m knee deep in revising my thesis, which is a speculative fiction novel, so this is probably not the best perspective from which to figure out how my own writing has been changed by it. I feel like I’m taking more chances in my writing, trying things that I might not have done in the past, and diving deeper when possible. All that being said, spending two years in an environment where I’m surrounded almost daily by other writers who are this generous with their time and feedback and encouragement is probably the nicest thing about it. That, and Vancouver is really a beautiful place to live.

 

JF: I loved both of your books and would love to see Jamie and Prism again. Any plans for future adventures for these guys?

 

NB: I have a short story idea for Kieran wherein Detective Stone drops by for some help on a case he thinks might be similar to the events of Pride Week, but the timing is bad: Sebastien is away at a leather competition, which means Kieran is left wrangling Pilot. Which, as you can imagine, wouldn’t go smoothly. I also have the barest of bare ideas in outline for a sequel, but I don’t think I want to write a novel back-to-back with the same characters. I will say that – for the first time ever – I have a title from step one: Flame.

 

JR: I kind of love them too. When I wrote the ending, I didn’t see how I could possibly continue the story after what I do to them. But, I do have an idea that I’ve been working on sporadically. We’ll see.

 

JF: OK, fellas, last question. If there’s one thing you’d like readers to take away from your book, what would it be?

 

NB: You’re not alone, and there’s nothing – absolutely nothing – wrong with asking for help.

 

JR: I didn’t really have an idea or a message in mind as a takeaway for readers when I wrote this. I think there’s this sort of magic that happens between the reader and the book that is sort of outside the writer’s influence—and that’s how it should be, I think. I just wanted to write something I thought the teenage version of me would have wanted to read, since there weren’t any books that I found at that age that featured gay characters that were suitable for teen reading. I later found wonderful books like Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming Pool Library, and E.M. Forster’s Maurice. By then I was eighteen and my reaction was like, “We do exist.” 

 

I just hope readers enjoy The Unwanted and consider it time well spent.

WRITING ABOUT WRITERS

BY VALERIE BRONWEN

I’ve always enjoyed books with writers as the main character.

Well, maybe not every book; many times I find myself wanting to reach into the book and slap the snot out of some of them. Stephen King is one of my favorites when it comes to this; he frequently is criticized for always writing about writers. But no one understands the creative life, and the pressures, of being a writer more than Stephen King.

But two of my favorite books about writers aren’t just about writers, but are about gatherings of writers: the writer’s conference. I personally only know of three such books; as I have not read everything it’s entirely possible that there are more. I’ve only read two of them myself; one has been out of print for quite some time. As an aspiring writer I began going to writer’s conferences, both mainstream and queer, and the germ of Slash and Burn Slash and Burn 300 DPIbegan to formulate in my fevered brain.

I was a teenager when I read Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA. Asimov is primarily known, and remembered for, his enormous contributions to science fiction. He wrote a ridiculous amount of books in his lifetime, and all on typewriters. But Asimov was also a huge fan of mystery fiction; several of his science fiction novels also doubled as mysteries (The Robots of Dawn, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun). Murder at the ABA  was his first mystery set in modern times, and it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Set at the American Booksellers Association convention in New York (which is now called Book Expo America—BEA), it is an insider’s look at the glamorous world of publishing and promoting one’s self. The main character, a literary writer and writing teacher named Darius Just, is between contracts and has never been a very big seller: lots of critical acclaim, no sales. One of his former students has become one of the top selling writers in the world, in no small part because of Darius’ mentoring. The student has a second book being released, and being heavily promoted, at ABA—only he is found murdered in his hotel room. Part of the fun is Darius’ snarkiness about publishing, but also in the contentious relationship (equal parts jealousy, annoyance, and resentment) with his former pupil, but also with agents, publicists, editors, and the while circus atmosphere of BEA. Making the book even funnier is that Darius is reluctantly assisted in his amateur sleuthing by another author he truly despises: Asimov himself. The entire book is littered with insults for Asimov, not only as a writer, but as a person—with footnotes from both Darius and Asimov further ‘explaining’ the interactions between them. The book is absolute genius. I reread it a few years ago and it still holds up.

Another brilliantly hilarious book about writers is Elizabeth Peter’s Die for Love. Peters was an exceptionally brilliant and successful writer; she routinely made bestseller lists throughout her forty year writing career and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America for her contributions to the field. Die for Love is a part of her Jacqueline Kirby series; Jacqueline is a beautiful (and snarky) college librarian at an unnamed Midwestern university, and one of the perks that makes her job bearable is finding conferences for the university to send her to, all expenses paid. In Die for Love, Jacqueline comes to a romance writers’ conference in New York—and soon enough, one of the writers is murdered and Jacqueline is on the case. The book is hilarious; I’ve never been to a major international conference for romance writers, and this book was written in the 1970’s, so it’s entirely possible that this hilarious send-up is a product of Peters’ vivid imagination—but one cannot help but wonder, while reading, if the horribly behaved writers in the book are based on real people. (The book is also a transitional one; in the next book in the series Jacqueline has become a world famous best selling romance writer. Naked Once More is equally hilarious.)

Having been to any number of writers’ conferences, I thought writing a book set at a queer one would be fun, and it was certainly a lot of fun to write about the life of a writer; the deadline thing, the blank page with a cursor blinking on it, and so forth. It was certainly fun creating a writer who straddles both the worlds of lesbian romance and mainstream mystery.

A Bold Strokes Books Author Interview with Robin Summers

by Connie Ward

RobinSummersLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

My first real foray into writing was inspired by a high-school English teacher. As we were leaving for winter break one year, she handed me two books—Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy—and told me I had to read them over break and tell her what I thought when I came back. After I got over being mad that I had to do extra work on my vacation, I dove into two of the best books I’ve ever read—completely different but equally vivid and amazing. After the break, I wrote my first short story, and I’ve been writing ever since.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write the types of stories I’d want to read. I have eclectic taste—adventure, sci-fi, mysteries and thrillers, nonfiction, romance, even horror—so I tend to genre hop. But I’m fascinated with people who have experienced loss, who are damaged and broken but fight to overcome their pain and not just survive, but thrive. If there’s an overriding theme to what I write, that’s it.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

I’m blessed to have a very supportive partner, family, friends, and coworkers. I was lucky enough to have my first book, After the Fall, BSB_After_the_Fall_smallpublished before my dad passed away. He was always supportive of me, but I was a bit nervous that reading the post-apocalyptic lesbian romance novel penned by his daughter might be a little much for him. His only complaint with the book? That the main character’s father was described as clueless with technology, and that his friends would think I was saying he was clueless!

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I can be inspired by anything. Sometimes I find myself in the mood to read a particular type of story, and if I can’t find anything that fits the bill, I start to think about what it would look like if I wrote it. That’s how Season of the WolfSeason of the Wolf 300 DPI came to be. Other times, an idea just pops into my head and my brain runs with it, which is what happened with After the Fall.

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

My instinct is to just write—to take an idea I have forming in my head and follow it wherever it takes me. But a good story requires planning. Narratives are a progression of plot points and emotions, and it’s important to understand in advance how each step of your story will build upon the previous one. That’s not to say you can’t change things along the way—I often find as I’m writing that something I planned doesn’t quite work, or I need to add more or move things around. But when you plan, you generally avoid writing yourself into inescapable corners.

  

What makes Season of The Wolf special to you?

I was part way into writing Season of the Wolf when my dad got sick. He was my rock, and the best man I have ever known. Writing took a backseat while he was sick, and for many months after his death. But when I finally was able to write again, everything that had happened with my dad and the things I was feeling connected me in an unexpected way to my characters. There is a scene toward the end of the book that is very much in honor of my dad, a final good-bye that I didn’t have a chance to say. And the whole book is dedicated to him, so it will always be very special to me.

  

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

There’s always a little of me in everything I write, but how much is inspired by me, my life, or the people in it differs. After the Fall is a work of fiction, but it also has a number of elements inspired by my life and the people closest to me. In many ways, it pays homage to my family. Season of the Wolf is completely different. The characters are nothing like anyone I know, especially Billy. I thankfully have never met anyone like him, ever! At least…not that I know of—scary thought.

 

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

of this author(s)?

There are many authors whose work inspires me in different ways: to be more creative, to find better words, to dig deeper and think bigger. I take inspiration wherever I can find it.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Just write. You don’t have to be published to be a writer, but you do have to write. During the nearly three years it took me to write and edit After the Fall, when I would get frustrated by how long it was taking or how bad I felt the writing was, my partner would say, “Just finish the book. Even if it never gets published, you’ll have written a book. How many people can say that?” Also, I would tell new writers: be true to your own process, whatever that process is. I don’t work well when I feel like I must do things in a certain way or in a certain time—it’s too constraining, and it robs me of creative energy. Don’t feel like you have to follow anyone’s rules but your own.

 

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

I have some hobbies—lately I’ve been really into making music mash-ups, though I’m not very good at it—but between work and writing, I don’t have a ton of free time. Mostly I enjoy spending time with my partner. We spent about five years apart while she was in school, and we’re finally now living back together, which is such a blessing. So mostly right now I’m just having fun with her, getting into adventures or just hanging out at home.

 

Which is the favorite of the books/stories you’ve written and why?

Each one is special for different reasons. After the Fall will always be a favorite because it was my first novel, and in many ways it is a reflection of my family. Season of the Wolf is a favorite as well, for so many reasons. I absolutely love the characters in this story, and the story itself, but it’s also special because of the connection with my dad. But probably the favorite thing I’ve ever written is a short story that’s never been published, called “January.” It is a deeply personal story, and it forced me to push myself as a writer.

 

 

Bad Medicine

BY CARI HUNTER

There are quite a few perils involved in my day job as a paramedic: driving fast on blue lights, drunkards with lively fists, an abundance of spilled bodily fluids, and patients who decide—for whatever reason—to answer the door naked. If I’m honest, I can cope with pretty much all of the above, but one side effect of the job is more disconcerting: my wife will no longer watch medical dramas on the telly with me.

The onset of the problem was early in my career and quite subtle. I began to notice that IV drips didn’t drip, those little reservoir bags on the oxygen masks remained deflated (“turn it on, mate, she might feel better!”), CPR revived people within minutes, and everyone shocked the hell out of a flat line even though you absolutely don’t. I think it’s safe to say that bad medicine will throw me out of a story—be it on the screen or on the page—more quickly than I can drive my ambulance back to station after a late finish, and, believe me, we don’t hang around. I assume the same sort of thing applies for legal professionals taking issue with courtroom dramas, crime scene types scowling at CSI’s super speedy lab analysis, or vampire slayers watching Buffy.

Bearing this in mind, I have such a mortal fear of buggering something up that I have become a compulsive researcher. My latest novel, Tumbledown,Tumbledown 300 DPI turned me into a temporary quasi-expert on legal proceedings in the state of Maine, the geography of the Eastern Seaboard, crime scene forensics, the structure of small town police forces, Pride and Prejudice, and the canal district in Holyoke, Massachusetts, amongst myriad other subjects. Despite hours of Googling, poring over maps, teaching myself how to analyse tyre treads, studying photos of rundown warehouses, and amassing a bizarre Internet “favourites list”, I might still have made a mess of something, but it won’t have been for lack of effort.

Somewhat ironically, I still find medical scenes amongst the most difficult to write. The balance between getting it right and not sounding like a pompous arse is always tricky; I hope Tumbledown manages to walk that fine line. Emergency medicine is often an unpleasant, gory, distressing business, and there are a few scenes in the novel that still make me wince when I reread them. Subconsciously, I might be trying to correct a few wrongs, reversing the trend whereby trauma victims survive unscathed after a couple of rounds of CPR (and the prerequisite shouts of encouragement), vomit doesn’t exist, a punch doesn’t really hurt, and no one involved so much as musses up their hair. Dispelling those myths might be a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

The Amazon Trail

 Softball Memories

Lee and her pinkie ring go to PTown

Lee and her pinkie ring go to PTown

We’re glazed in, said a neighbor. Ice, freezing rain, snow, winds. The streets are sheathed in a thin, treacherous layer of ice. In the yard the fat little dog crunches through the ice, then sinks into snow, one paw, two paws, three paws, four. In Sochi, Russia, the Winter Olympics go gayly forward. Heck, they could luge down our hill. “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Olympic Charter I don’t remember sports quite like that. Here’s what The Federation of Gay Games writes on their web site about gays in sports. “The best gay and lesbian athletes in the world already do compete in the Olympics (with a large majority of them in the closet). But the Olympics, and mainstream sport in general, remain a very difficult place for homosexual athletes to compete, and certainly to compete without hiding their sexual identity. There are countless potential champions who under-perform, or simply don’t participate, in mainstream sport because of homophobia.” When I was a kid, girls couldn’t use the gym very often. Our P.E. teachers taught us demure dances in a classroom, while the boys shouted in the gym, feet and basketballs pounding the wooden floors. I remember once playing baseball in the junior high playground, but never got to bat. Girls who played tennis walked over a mile to courts at a public park and used our own rackets. The gay teachers were, of course, closeted. The straight girls made fun of them. I hero-worshipped them. We got more space and time to do sports in college. We even had a women’s sports association. Again, the teachers were closeted. They had to be in order to get that space and time for women students. As obvious as some of the phys ed students were, they played straight or they left school. Pretty clever, to get a lesbian department head to weed out any gay girl whose profile wasn’t low enough. The male phys ed chair tried to lure me away from the English department, but the pays ed majors avoided my eyes. I stuck with the avant-garde English majors where I felt safer. Later, in my late twenties, I discovered women’s softball. Not to play, but to be a fan at Raybestos Stadium in Stratford, Connecticut where the greatest women’s softball team was located and where the greatest women’s softball player wowed the crowds. Joanie Joyce played with the Raybestos Brakettes, a legendary fast pitch team that won state, national, and international championships. Look up Joan Joyce on the internet; she’s had an amazing career in golf and basketball as well and few people have ever heard of her. I don’t know how I lucked out to live in the same state as The Brakettes and Joyce, but I got to see her play and win there and during the brief professional women’s softball league days in the 1970s. I’d go to those games with a mix of gay and non-gay women co-workers. The small stadium would be half-filled with blue collar straight couples and wildly crushed out gay women. It amazed me that most of the Brakettes’ followers were straight and considered the games family outings. This was a new world for me. I came to enjoy the relaxed late afternoon games and to admire powerhouse player Joan Joyce enormously. She’s 72 now and coaching at a university in Florida, as competitive as ever. She’s still completely gorgeous, a fitting idol for any young athlete. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when you followed her team off the field. The women’s movement came along and proved, once everyone settled down a bit, to have an interest in sports beyond passing Title IX in 1972. Suddenly, we were watching or playing softball instead of talking and talking in consciousness raising groups. The softball fields of the U.S. proved fertile ground for a meshing of lesbian feminists and bar dykes. I went to those games to be part of something. When the lesbian team in New Haven played the straight girls, the dykes could count on  posse of both head dykes and bed dykes to be raucous fans in the bleachers. Head dykes, back then, came out via their feminist politics. Bed dykes just came out. Softball, so to speak, leveled the playing field. Each side had something to teach the other.

Irish Hat

Irish Hat

Today, it’s astonishing for me to see the “free” world taking up the cause of gay Olympians and gay Russians. We haven’t been free about anything gay for very long. Is this just another way of condemning a Communist country or have we at last melted the ice of repression in America and embraced the Olympian tenet of fair play?

Copyright Lee Lynch 2014

Bold Strokes Books Interview with Author Jeffrey Ricker

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Bull-headedness, I suppose. I know that sounds flip, but I think stubbornness and persistence have a lot to do with it. When I was deciding what to study in college and I said I wanted to be a writer, my parents told me, “Well, if you want to do that, do something practical like journalism.” Go ahead, laugh. I know how ridiculous that sounds now, but it was 1987 and nobody really had a clue how much the media landscape would shift.

I kept writing fiction off and on during that time though, and after about twenty years (practically overnight!) I started getting stories published in anthologies. One thing led to another, which led to Detours, my first novel.

What type of stories do you write? And, why?

Fun stories, I hope. I tend not to stick to one particular genre—which probably makes me tough to market! I’ve written science fiction, romance, erotica, nonfiction, and probably a few genres I’m forgetting. I also write straight-on literary fiction, but I do tend to enjoy a bit of the weird and more than a touch of the gay. I like mashing up genres because it makes me look at the usual in a different way. At the most basic level I hope that someone reads what I write and is entertained. If they’re moved on a deeper level, then I’ve really done my job.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

Everyone’s been really supportive. My friends and family are some of my biggest boosters, cheerleaders, and all-around pep squad. Probably the most meaningful review I’ve gotten of my writing was from my dad when he read Detours BSB_Detours_3dsand told my mother, “Wow, the kid can write.”

Where do you get your ideas?

The produce section. I try to buy in bulk.

But seriously, they come from all over the place—random bits of conversation, things I read in passing, eavesdropping. I just tend to jot them down to have them on hand for future reference. I’ve also written stories based on parameters in calls for submission—I think the question on what types of stories I write has some bearing on this. I try not to limit myself; as long as it’s a topic or a genre I’m interested in, I’ll give it a go. And if I say to myself, “Oh, I can’t write that; I’ve never tried” I try to follow it up with, “Well then, how do you know?”

Also, it’s a well-known fact that ideas will come to you at the least opportune moments: in the shower, right before bed, or when you’re in the middle of a run and have nothing to write on. The notes app on a phone can be handy on a run, but electronics and showers don’t mix well, and writing in the dark is simply impossible.

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

A little of both. If it’s a book, I usually start by the seat of my pants until I know it’s got legs, and then I pause and start working out a plan. This usually happens after about fifty pages. I’m not sure why it seems to happen in that range, but it does. If it’s a short story, I may just seat-of-the-pants it all the way through.

When I revise, I like to work on a hard copy. One sort of idea I got from writer Alexander Chee, when I’m revising, I lay out as many pages as I can on a big table so I can see the story, this big thing that it’s become. It makes it easier to see where things are too long or too short, and to start shuffling things around and making connections that aren’t as evident when it’s viewed linearly, one page at a time.

Sadly, it means I use up a lot of dead trees. This is why I try to always buy recycled printer paper.

I don’t always write on a computer either. Back home, I have a Remington Quiet-Riter (yes, that’s how the model name’s spelled) typewriter. My partner bought it for me years ago, and I start writing on it when I need to slow down. If I need to really slow down, I grab a pen and paper. I’ve also been known to peck out a story draft on my phone. Writing on buses is a thing, I tell you.

What makes The Unwanted special to you?

It’s odd, I don’t remember when or how I set out to write a YA novel, but now it feels like the most natural thing. I had it in mind when I started writing “The Trouble with Billy,” which was in the anthology Speaking Out. I wanted to get to know the characters a little better, and that story was the result. I think they’ve changed a bit in the transition from that story to the novel, but they’re no less special to me.

When I was a teenager back in the ’80s, there weren’t a lot of options when I looked hesitantly for books with queer characters that I could relate to. I found writers like Alan Hollinghurst and Armistead Maupin, but they were writing about (wonderful) characters at a significant remove from my own age and experience. There just wasn’t a lot of queer YA; Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story was probably the closest, but that felt more like an adult book to me too.

Plus, I loved reading fantasy and science fiction as a kid, and finding a book in those genres with queer characters just wasn’t happening. The UnwantedThe Unwanted 300 DPI is the sort of thing I wanted to read when I was a teenager.

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

That’s a tricky one, isn’t it? When I was doing readings for Detours, someone asked how my mother felt about being in my book. “Well, she’s not in it” was my answer, and it’s true. Rachel, the mother in Detours, is nothing like my mother, who is far more formidable and very much alive (and has never, to my knowledge, worn a peach silk robe).

At the same time, I would be lying if I said my characters were completely devoid of traits from people I’ve known in real life. It’s never a conscious thing, but you assemble characters from the raw materials of your memory, and there’s no telling where those things came from. There is no one in my stories or novels who is cut whole cloth from someone I know. Besides, where’s the fun in that?

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

My friends and peers who write inspire me: Rob Byrnes, Greg Herren, Carsen Taite, Tom Mendicino. ’Nathan Burgoine in particular, because we both published out first short stories in the same anthology (Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction). My favorite author is actually straight (and dead): F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Don’t listen too much to the advice given by other writers. 🙂 Just write, don’t stop writing, and you’ll figure out what works for you.

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

Sleep. I also work out regularly: running, weightlifting, yoga. I just took up climbing, which I’m still terrible at, but it’s a lot of fun. And painful. You’d think I’d be in better shape doing all this stuff, but unfortunately I have an inordinate love of cheese. My partner and I watch movies a lot. At the moment I’m in grad school getting my MFA in creative writing, and when I’m not writing I’m exploring Vancouver, which is an amazing, beautiful place.

And I read. I read a lot.

Which is the favorite of the books/stories you’ve written and why?

That’s like asking a parent which is your favorite kid. For my writing, it’s always the most recent thing I’ve finished. Seriously, if someone asked me a question about a story I wrote even a couple years ago, I’d probably have a hard time remembering the characters’ names, much less the details. I have a terrible memory, which is why I write everything down. The project I’m working on at the moment is the one that commands my attention and my interest.

I guess that makes me sound pretty fickle, doesn’t it?


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