By Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
As crazy as it sounds, rather than “becoming” a fiction writer, I think fiction writing is sort of my default setting. I always remember writing stories—in third grade I co-wrote a play that my class performed. In junior high I tried my hand at journalism, with mixed results, and in high school I tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to sell a musical comedy I’d written to a local stage company. Really, all that changed was I finally managed to get other people interested in what I wrote. It took awhile…
What type of stories do you write? And why?
Hmm, I’ve never thought much about writing in any specific genre. I tend to get ideas and let them take me where they may. So, I’ve ended up with two quasi-historical westerns, a fantasy, and now a crime noir. As to the why, well, in the latter case (Cheap as Beasts) a lot of the initial impetus was an angry reaction to the first sixty pages of The Big Sleep. Okay, I’m mostly joking, but those early chapters of Marlowe’s premiere adventure tend to rub me the wrong way.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
Do they? I’m not sure I accept the basic premise of the question. They tell me it’s all sorts of amazing and how happy and excited they are for me, but I’m not entirely convinced they understand what exactly I do. I’m often asked—at weddings, funerals, family picnics, etc—if I’m working yet.
Where do you get your ideas?
I’ve actually stopped that. I’m middle-aged now, and my head is so full of ideas for stories I shall never have the time nor energy to write that I’ve refused to think up any more. Which is sad because I still have chronic insomnia, which is mostly where the early ideas arose and took shape—and now I just lie awake in bed visualizing a blank screen.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I’ve found for the mysteries (in addition to Cheap as Beasts, I’ve also written two sequels) that I need to, at the very least, draw a timeline of events. My detective, Declan Colette, who narrates his own adventures, can stubbornly take the story in unforeseen directions, and the timeline proves essential for getting things back on track.
What makes Cheap as Beasts special to you?
I really like the MC. He’s sad and slovenly and sarcastic and wants to think he’s just beyond caring anymore, but, of course, he’s not. I also like the period—what Gore Vidal calls The Golden Age—that brief, heady time between ending WW2 and sending troops to Korea. I’m not sure I’d have fit in, mainly because I can’t really pull off a hat, but Declan allows me to indulge myself, vicariously.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
Well, to wax Swedenborgian (if for no other reason than it sounds so intellectual), I suppose everything I create is transfused with me. To talk like I do in real life, I’d say no, not really. Certainly, there is an idealized version of myself in Declan, but, much like I don’t have his hairy chest, neither do I have his affinity for alcohol and cigarettes—nor sad, massage-parlor blow jobs (wait, is that a spoiler?). We also share very little (pretty much no) backstory. I’d say the key thing we have in common is we both like to wrestle, only he’s better at it because, come on, it’s idealized! He actually looks (in my head) a lot like a guy I used to date, but the similarities end there.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
Shall I just list my favorite gay books? Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan. The Boys on the Rock by Jon Fox. The author who inspired me the most, however, was Dashiel Hammet. I’ve read everything of his I could find. As far as I know he wasn’t much into sex with guys, although I’ve seen pics of Lillian Hellman…<rim shot>
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
First off, write. Write until you write well, and then try to polish it up and sell it. So, basically, I guess my answer is no, I don’t have much advice—at least not much advice that’s worth a damn. I’m still pretty new to this whole idea of getting paid for the things I write. If I had to concentrate I’d probably add: read a lot as well. And really, if you can work in a field where part of the training is nothing but sitting down to read a good book, then jackpot!
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
A better question would be what can I do for fun while I’m writing? Jeez, if I could figure out an answer to that I’d have it made. Writing is hard—I mean the physical act of transferring my thoughts to the page.
But, to answer your question, I play way too many video games (seriously, my 2013 income tax should have listed my residence as Skyrim) and I watch a lot of TV. For many years I wrestled and did MMA, but in 2001 I broke my neck. I know, that sounds bad, but apparently necks break just like arms and are often mended the same way. I was pretty lucky, I guess, because I walked around for two days before even going to the doctor. Wait, did I say lucky? I meant blessed with childlike idiocy. I still wrestle when I can. I also read—a lot!