Posts Tagged 'Gay Romance'

BSB Author Interview with Richard Compson Sater

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer? I discovered I had the knack for writing stories as a sophomore in college. I was a theater major concentrating on performance when I took a creative-writing class as an elective. The professor loved my work and encouraged me to continue writing. I dropped the theater studies the next year (too impractical for a guy with my limited acting talent) and switched to an English major with an emphasis on fiction-writing.

 

What type of stories do you write? And why? For a long time, I resisted writing stories with central characters who were gay (like me). My heterosexual couples didn’t quite ring true, but I was afraid to come out as a writer and as a person. Only when I started creating characters with whom I shared an emotional core did my stories begin coming to life.

 

The central characters in my fiction tend to be gay men caught in the complexities—the little and large setbacks and victories—of daily life. I usually place them in a contemporary setting, though I’m working now on a novel set in the 1940s, just to see if I can pull it off.

 

rankWhat do your family/friends think about your writing? I can state with confidence that no one in my immediate family has read any of my fiction, so I can’t really answer that question. They’re uncomfortable with the gay content, even though it isn’t overtly sexual. I’ve given copies of RANK to my dad and one sister as holiday gifts this year, and I hope they will read it, but I don’t know. Another sister has already told me she will not read it or even have it in the house. Several good friends offered to read RANK in its draft form, and they were complimentary and encouraging. Their feedback was invaluable during the revision process.

 

I have a bad habit of writing stories and putting them in the drawer for later…I’ve put little of my fiction on the table until recently. I have posted a couple of brief stories on my website, http://www.richardcompsonsater.com/fiction, if anyone is curious. One of these days, I hope to put out a collection of short stories. I have a dozen or so that will make the cut!

 

Where do you get your ideas? I’ll overhear a conversation. A scene from an old movie will start me wondering “what if?” Once I dreamed a whole perfect story, woke up, and wrote it down. I’ll fall in love with a guy and want to explore a relationship that could not otherwise be, except in fiction. Every story has had different inspiration, a different genesis.

 

How do you write? Do you plan everything out or just write? I carry a small notebook around with me to jot down ideas in. I’ve grown very comfortable sitting with my laptop and just writing. I tend to edit at least a bit as I write. I rarely outline, though I usually have a general idea where the story is heading before I start. When I began working on RANK, I had in mind the story of a lieutenant who fell in love with a general, and I knew it had to have a happy ending. The first scene I wrote was the retirement dinner where General O’Neill dances with Lieutenant Mitchell. The second part I wrote concerned the lieutenant’s misadventures on the softball team because, at the time, I had been recruited to play on my air-force unit’s team with my very limited softball skills. (Much of that section is autobiographical!)

 

What makes Rank special to you? RANK is my first novel. I wrote it over the course of several years, during military deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and stateside service at Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu. I became so invested in the characters—and I was fighting my own battle to stay in the closet during “don’t ask, don’t tell”—that RANK became very personal. It’s a testament. RANK doesn’t depict the air force as it was during my time in service but an air force I wish had existed then.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters? I wrote RANK from the first-person point of view, because it was easiest for me to put myself in Lieutenant Harris Mitchell’s head. He and I are much alike. I remember being a brand-new officer at twenty-nine and struggling to cope with a deep and serious crush on a senior officer (who was not my boss, incidentally). General O’Neill is unlike any actual general I ever knew, but he contains traits of some senior officers for whom I had great respect. Most of the other characters are composites of friends (and enemies) from my twenty-four years in the service, but no one would ever recognize him/herself.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite work by these authors? I’ve read—and continue to read—a number of gay authors, and I am most inspired by the fact that they tell their (our) stories so bravely. I confess that some of my favorite “gay” writers predate the term and thus never actually “came out”: Herman Melville, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Mann, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), E.M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, poets Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson—and Abraham Lincoln. Favorites? Lincoln’s collected speeches; Langston Hughes’s collected poems; SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM by T.E. Lawrence; DEATH IN VENICE by Thomas Mann; MOBY DICK and BILLY BUDD, FORETOPMAN by Herman Melville.

 

One key inspiration of mine is playwright Eugene O’Neill, who may or may not have been gay, but he is known to have “experimented,” and thus I am eager to claim him. His plays are full of characters and symbolism that must be read as gay to make sense of the drama. I love his fearlessness and his willingness to write a play about anything that intrigued him, regardless of public opinion. His best gay plays: THE GREAT GOD BROWN, STRANGE INTERLUDE, BOUND EAST FOR CARDIFF, MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, HUGHIE.

 

More contemporary favorites include John Cheever, Alice Walker, Alison Bechdel, Harper Lee, Chuck Palahniuk, Edward Albee, James Baldwin—and Maurice Sendak! Favorites include Alison Bechdel’s FUN HOME, Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Alice Walker’s THE COLOR PURPLE, and John Cheever’s FALCONER and his collection of brilliant short stories.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers? Read, read, read—EVERYTHING. Listen to what people say and how they say it. Take notes so you remember. Take a class to hone your craft. Join a writing group. Write, write, write. Revise ruthlessly. Write more.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun? I love being outdoors, on or near the water. I love hanging out with my spouse Wayne and our energetic dog, Mark Twain. I love watching old movies. I’m enrolled this year at the University of Washington, a student in the screenwriting program, learning the art and craft of writing the perfect script. My acting career never panned out, but maybe I can still win that Academy Award…

BSB Author Interview With Michael Vance Gurley

by Connie Ward

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

Fiction is in the blood. When I was young, my grandfather and his brothers were storytellers, sitting around the living room making grand adventures come to life. My father and grandmother were always voracious readers, always leaving a paperback around for me to read. They could both speed-read and I was so jealous, thinking it was a superpower. My father and my uncle James had written short stories and poetry. One small-town Mississippi family visit found me sitting in my father’s childhood bedroom at the desk with my uncle’s old typewriter, dreaming of werewolves and comedy capers, clacking away at what I thought would be the great American novel. It turned out to be a poorly typed, grammatically incorrect copy of the movie Strange Brew that, despite its juvenile feel, is now kind of funny to read. The desire to entertain people with stories started early for me. Stephen King and comic books, with their fantastic tales, fueled my passions. I remember sitting up all night reading a paperback copy of King’s It, visualizing the clown and being enthralled and terrified about kids my age being able to face down evil, always hoping I could make someone feel that way with writing. I put out countless knock-offs of the Friday the 13th world that were passed around school, kids pushing me for another chapter. Nowadays, if a teacher found what I had written I would be in a hospital getting assessed! Classes in creative writing in high school and poetry in college pushed me to think critically about writing. Then life inserted itself in my path, like it tends to do, and I took some years off. Creating never left my blood, and after writing some comic books I made a pact to write that novel before I turned forty. I beat the mark by a few days.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

The Long SeasonThe Long Season is my first published novel and is historical romance New Adult fiction. It’s a coming-out story with a sports background. I didn’t set out with one genre in mind. The central idea was that my main character would reflect something that was missing in most of my teen and college reading, a gay main character. Don’t get me wrong. Now there are plenty of examples of that. When I was young, authors putting that out were not exactly mainstream enough for a kid in a conservative area to know about, and I didn’t have the Internet because Al Gore hadn’t invented it yet. My goal is to make sure the main characters speak to me and what they are going through represents something meaningful to me. It has to be something I want to read and has to be driving me crazy not to write. I wanted to be a comic-book writer and create a gay main character that brought something worthy to the table. After a year or so of receiving letters from Marvel telling me they liked my work but wanted me to keep working with an editor there and nothing coming of it, I went into self-publishing. I did a little funny comic book, One Angry Koala, and what would have been a gay main lead in a supernatural thriller, Premonitions. They sold well, but I found my own art talent wanting and working with other artists with full-time jobs impossible to maintain. I finally devoted myself to a novel that had been digging its way through my subconscious. I want to write different things with each book. I love hockey and grew up in Cicero, Illinois, home of Al Capone, which made The Long Season. I love YA, magic, and sci-fi, which inspired my current steampunk project. I have a children’s picture book inspired by a trip to Australia and a YA coming-out novel on the burner next. I want to write things that speak to my emotional experiences on some level, things that might mean something to someone going through a tough time like I had. Ultimately, I strive to create something new with each work.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

This question makes me laugh a little, thinking about the late-night phone calls with friends listening patiently to me ramble on about some idea I have to create a whole world or how some great reveal I’ve been planning needs to change. I’ve repeated so many useless facts from research their eyes must’ve been rolling in the backs of their heads at times. I also reached out to a book critique group to proofread and give feedback on TLS. I joked with people that I have my mom to tell me I’m great! I needed critical feedback. My family has been so supportive of the process, no matter how obsessed I became with locking myself away on a vacation to finish a chapter. I can’t imagine how many times I made some friends read and reread it. I gave a copy to my 88-year-old grandmother in Mississippi before she passed away, and she read it in two days and loved it. She asked all kinds of questions, wanting me to write a sequel, wanting to know what happened next. She helped and pushed me. My mother-in-law said it felt like a movie when she read it. It is difficult to keep explaining to my friends and family how slow the publishing process can be. Everyone kept asking me what was happening. When I won the pitch contest, Pitchapalooza, it seemed everyone thought it would be mere minutes before they could buy a copy. I don’t think they were ready for the never-ending waiting to hear if anyone would pick it up, and then when BSB did, how long editing, proofing, etc can be. I was mostly patient. They weren’t, and that was cool. They were into it, many of them having heard bits and pieces already. Little did they know it was a marathon, not a sprint. I truly believe all the time and the process have made the book much sharper, and I hope the great community of friends and family I have will feel rewarded for the wait. And if they don’t…no refunds.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

I’ve read interviews with Neil Gaiman—who wished me luck on TLS after I talked to him about it when I bumped into him at the David Bowie tribute concert at Radio City, not that we’re friends, unless you count twitter—where he said that he gets asked that question a lot. He gave a great elaborate story about getting ideas by sacrificing chickens, which you should find and read. The idea that an idea comes from one particular place that could be verbalized didn’t make sense to me until it happened. My idea for historical hockey fiction did actually come from a specific place. There really was one moment in particular that started it. I am a big hockey fan, and someone gave me a copy of a hockey history book. Flipping through the pictures of old teams in thick wool sweaters and unsafe, thin padding, I came upon a picture that spoke to me so intensely I devoted hundreds of hours of my life to the idea it presented. The 1907 Kenora Thistles were underdogs that won the Stanley Cup. One of those guys has a trophy named after him to this day. Hockey is a sport of rough, tough, iron men that played most of a game without changing out. It was, and is, one of the most athletic endeavors. That breeds all kinds of stereotype pressure to be a real man, whatever that means. Back then, you had to remain perfectly still for a long time to not blur your expensive photos. So your position in a photo was well thought out and purposeful, often meaningful. The Thistles took a team photo. The way they were sitting, legs curled into each other, looked very intimate, effeminate, but wasn’t the main oddity for me. One of the men looked like his head was cocked toward, and he was gazing at, another player. That must mean something. In a flash I was envisioning them as secret lovers and what it must have been like for them to hide that from their whole world in a time when the truth could have meant their death. A picture is worth a thousand words, or more! Not all my ideas come from such a lightning moment. My next book idea came to me in stages over years. I had written comic-book scripts and done lots of research that went unused but could never really get out of my head. It had been rattling around for years until I needed to combine everything into one story and write it. A lot of ideas are floating around in my head. Some take purchase and some I get excited about, talk about with friends, and then put backstage because they aren’t as important to me at the time. Time. That’s what I need more of!

 

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

 

I write in my head for a time first, and then I do some verbal storytelling to work out the major kinks, testing my story against other people’s critique, before I sit down to really write it. There are a lot of methods of writing. I more or less used the snowflake method for TLS, writing a sentence description, expanding it to have major plot points I had been knocking around, then fleshing out the characters and writing pages of background on each of them before going back to do a complete outline. I had about thirty pages of outline with bullet points that had grown into pages before I started copying them over to a manuscript and going for it. I also did tons of research, if it can be weighed without printing it out. The research slowed me down because, being a history buff, I went down the net rabbit hole many times. That method has so much stability and planning to it that, for a new writer, worked well for me. The only drawback was that I had to combat the pressure to keep to the outcomes I wanted when the characters started to tell me something else needed to go down. What are you gonna do? I changed things. It’s not my fault really; they told me to do it. My second novel combines comic-book scripts and some notes I had been expounding on for years. Putting all that together required a lot of verbal storytelling to see what I was pushing too hard with and what was actually working. It’s a much more complicated script than TLS but did not have an outline that was finished at all when I started writing chapters in this planned trilogy. Great novel writer Brandon Sanderson said that he writes a series by doing the first one more or less off the cuff and then writing the series outline after, going back to change the first one to suit. That is what I am doing, and not working from an outline has let this steampunk adventure go wherever it wants to go. It is a fun experience, but not doing all of the research until the first draft is finished is hard for me, and having to stop to plan the next chapter has its own drawbacks. I’m a new novelist. Maybe I should have done several successful smaller projects before branching out into historical. I probably also should have done the present-day coming-of-age story first before I arrogantly went into a period setting. I maybe shouldn’t go back further into another setting piece and certainly shouldn’t tackle steampunk. But nobody tells me what I can’t or shouldn’t do.

 

What makes The Long Season special to you?

 

In many respects, TLS took on a life of its own. I wanted to tell a “What if?” type of story about a young hockey player who had the pressures of a hard family, a small town, the big leagues, and all that pressure of fitting in and being macho. I wanted to challenge the sports world to be more inclusive. During the current Chicago Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup run, one of their players pinned up a picture of an opponent from the newspaper wearing a skirt. There was anti-gay sentiment and misogyny all wrapped in for good measure, propagated by a respected news source and players. It saddened me. Just last month, unfortunately, another Blackhawk screamed the “F” word at a referee. It’s all over the sports world. The You Can Play Project is growing, but when I started writing TLS it was fledgling. This idea in sports that men must be so manly as not to be well rounded or that women in sports are stereotyped is so slow to change. My novel is not a political piece, but it is always in my mind that maybe it can help someone struggling to be a hockey player, or whatever they want, who is afraid to also be himself. To have my first novel be able to help anyone in the way some reached me would be amazing. Foremost, I aimed to tell something that felt true and real, with all of life’s trials and tribulations.

 

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

 

Without getting sued, I will say they are all made up! Off the record? The fun is in having people wonder which characters might be them or me. Some authors inject themselves into a character. I think authors write some wish fulfillment in their characters. You were unpopular? Write about being the cool kid. I know that someday I will write something more autobiographical, but for now I probably did more minor wish fulfillment. I really wanted to be athletic and be a fit superstar, so that’s Brett. I was in the jazz band and marching band—although for a brief moment I played defensive tackle in football and scored a freak touchdown on the B team in a real game—so there’s a lot of jazz music in there. I love watching goalies, so there are a lot of the greats in Jean-Paul. I work in the mental-health field so Brett has an issue to face. I do have this free-spirit friend with fiery red hair and some anti-stereotypical ideas about what it means to be a woman. A lot comes from the flappers of the Roaring Twenties, and some filtered back into Margret’s character, even though the two are also very different. Other traits of friends and family enter the characters. I took some historical figures from hockey, like Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, who once scored a goal by beating the entirety of the other team while literally carrying two of their players on his back, and put some of their accomplishments into my characters. Sometimes things in life are so fantastic you can’t make them up. Some of what the characters are like is a product of thinking about what life would be like if things in my life were reversed. My father is loving and supportive and my mother stands up for what she believes and loves, so I wondered what it would be like for Brett to have awful, harsh, cold parents. Sorry, Brett. I’ve been wild and crazy in my life but tried hard to make good decisions about the important things and to treat people well, so Jean-Paul is, um, not that.

 

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

of this author(s)?

 

I visited Oscar Wilde’s grave in Paris. His marker is this ornate tribute to male form that fits everything I knew about him. His Portrait of Dorian Gray was a pivotal read for me, telling us all to live and be proud. I’ve been influenced and inspired by many authors, LGBT and not. I found my way to Felice Picano’s Like People in History, and his Alistaire shocked and intrigued me. Books like that really make us question our realities and what we can make of ourselves. I like being entertained with well-written fun novels like Brent Hartinger’s Russell series. Paul Russell’s novels pushed the edge of dangerous concepts just like Edmund White’s did. More contemporary authors speak to me as well, like Nick Burd’s The Vast Fields of Ordinary. I love superheroes and wish we could have seen what was to come of Perry Moore after the amazing Hero, if he had lived. I read great authors all the time, like Jay Bell and David Levithant. Three people, I believe, have written perfect novels: Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun, and my favorite book, Bart Yates’s Leave Myself Behind. They are very different from one another, but they speak to something so universal through complicated characters and just destroy me.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Being a new writer myself, I feel weird giving advice, so I will do so from a point of reality. I don’t really know what it will take for you to make it because I am trying to make it happen myself. I struggled so much with getting time to write TLS and thought writing a novel would be the greatest accomplishment in the world. And it is and it isn’t at the same time. Authors say writing the book is the easiest part because boiling down the manuscript into a one-sentence or one-paragraph selling point, or a two-page summary, is ridiculously difficult. I shot for 300 pages, not two! Buy my book because it’s awesome. Wait, I have to market it too? Okay. Well, I’d say to enter contests for writing like I did. I put together a sell sheet and the most professional one-minute pitch I could muster and then entered the Book Doctors’ Pitchapalooza contest. I had sixty seconds to convince them to help me get an agent or publisher, and I did it, by editing and practicing my pitch a lot. That helped me find an amazing editor, Jerry Wheeler, who helped whip it into shape and be ready for someone to take a chance on. I had to get over the idea about editing notes indicating a lack of quality and accept them for an act of growth. I can also wallpaper a mansion with the rejection emails or the weird ones from the agent who led me on for months before falling off the face of the earth. You know who you are. Reach out to people and be real. Make connections and treat others with respect. Their time is valuable. I can trace lines between the people who have helped me, so remember that when someone says no and is maybe a little direct with you, and you want to say something witty back, be polite and ask for guidance instead. Authors, agents, publishers have all taken a minute or two each to give me advice. Andrea Beaty, children’s author from the pitch contest, even took me out for drinks a few times and once on a madcap run through two bookstores to research covers and titles on the shelves. Take all advice and run it through the filter that is you. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Someone smart said that.

 

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

 

I love adventures and, as I grow older, consider going out with loved ones to eat and tell stories an adventure. I work at a job I love, but it is time consuming. These electronic devices keep me connected to it constantly, which is tiring. I try to do as many things as I can when not lying on the couch with the dog watching countless hours of The Game of Walking Flash Theory. Thankfully my in-laws love watching the dog, which lets us go, go, go all the time. People joke about how often we travel and that there is always a sightseeing schedule with a hundred things to check off. The second we land we are attending concerts, trying new restaurants, or hosting movie nights in the yard. When not doing that, or sometimes during, I’m always reading one novel while listening to another audio book and reading comics. You can’t grow old if you keep going. I asked my grandmother why she was still volunteering, and she said that if she ever stopped doing she might never get started again. I live by that insight.

What Goes Where, or the Making of Men in Love

By Jerry L. Wheeler

Men In LoveMen in Love is my sixth anthology – four for Bold Strokes and two for Lethe Press – so you’d think I’d have learned something about editing anthos by now. You’d be wrong. Oh, I have a solid grasp of the process, but each one is different. Men in Love was a terrific experience because I got to work with several writers I already admired and respected, plus I found some new writers I wasn’t aware of. I was recently interviewed about MIL by ‘Nathan Burgoine, who asked how the stories were selected and ordered, an aspect of editing anthologies no one talks about. It’s not a secret, it’s just that so few care. However, I am here to plug that information gap.

I received a total of sixty-eight stories through an open call placed on several M/M romance sites as well as the BSB website with a maximum of twenty slots. My time frame was such that I had approximately three weeks to read the stories, select the table of contents, notify authors, send contracts, edit the stories, clean everything up, and put the final document together. Plus write and edit other stuff for money.

I immediately came down with norovirus. I did so much reading in my bathroom, I took an extra home office deduction on my taxes this year.

On the first of those reads, I eliminated stories for obvious reasons—mostly for being over word count or for not fitting the call. Most came close, but….well….there was the Furry Knights of the Round Table thing and two lesbian scat stories. Two. Two people independently came up with the idea of sending me stories about poop fetishism, girls, and romance. On opposite sides of the country. Read the call, please. It’s Men in Love, not Women in Bathrooms. Of course, there was the norovirus…no, no. Wrong theme.

One observation I can make about all sixty-eight stories is that women tended to write about the beginning of the relationship whereas the male writers concentrated on the middle or end of the relationship. That’s not to say that men didn’t write about beginnings and women didn’t write about middles, nor is it to say that bias is reflected in the table of contents, but as an unprocessed group of stories, the tendency was there. I’d be interested to see if other M/M romance editors have noticed a similar split.

After multiple rereadings and a few email exchanges with authors, I narrowed the field down to eighteen stories and tentatively assigned places in the line up. I was fortunate enough to get a wide cross-section of stories, but the problem with that kind of diversity is arranging it in a way that makes sense. I wanted a chorus of well-timed, distinct voices rather than eighteen people shouting at once.

My anchor stories went at the beginning, middle, and end – two straight-up (pardon the expression) romances and a lovely, reflective piece that I always had in mind to end the anthology with. The beginning and middle had to be genre, though. From those three positions, I started making interconnections with subject matter, voice, tone, and word count until I’d found places for all eighteen stories. Then, much like making a mixtape (I’m soooo old), I read the ending of one story and the beginning of the next to make sure I liked the transition. In the end, I was only marginally unhappy with one transition—but you’ll never notice it.

And then on to the proofing and galleys and all that good stuff. The box of books arrived just the other day, and one went on my shelf immediately. I’m proud of this one and happy to have worked with everyone involved. Buy a copy today so we can do a sequel!!

 

JW

A BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH TOM CARDAMONE

BY CONNIE WARD

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I remember the moment so vividly. It was as if I were “literally” struck by lightning. As a child I was serious reader, forever with a book in hand, and then one day, not yet a teen, reading one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars books at the kitchen table in my family’s cabin in North Carolina, the summer sunlight just streaming in, it hit me: “I’m going to do this, too.” I put his book down, grabbed some graph paper, and started mapping out my world.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I have two settings: weird and dirty. Sometimes, if the mood strikes, I’ll write something primarily erotic. Being gay is a risk and a journey, so exploring the sexual nature of existence is, well, natural to me, but I also know that every story is a story of transformation. And no matter what our intentions or the intentions of others are, alchemy happens, and we either turn into gold or are stuck with bat wings that don’t work, so speculative fiction lets me work that stuff out as well. Often with a shudder.

 What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My family is somewhere on the spectrum between intensely horrified to mildly proud. My friends are always extremely delighted whenever I‘m sober and productive. And they’re very supportive. My best friend Kate designed the cover for Night Sweats. My partner Leo has done two of my book covers. My friend and old roommate, Jay, took my author photo, my college buddy Mike has been doing my website for years now…I think that’s New York City. Everyone is not only interested and interesting, but also there to lend a hand. I just hope I’m returning the favor.

Where do you get your ideas?

Drugs were good to me. And that’s not a pithy response, When I was younger I was fortunate enough to get into psychedelics with a reverential yet playful attitude, meaning the first time I tripped, I also read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but since the words kept sliding off the page, I went for a bike ride instead. But somewhere in those early experiences, I was able to learn to let my imagination off the leash. I still go for long bike rides, and I often walk across the Manhattan Bridge just before dawn. And sometimes I think about Poe. Didn’t he walk incessantly across a bridge from the Bronx to Manhattan, deep in thought?

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

Oh, all I think about is sex and money. Writing is what happens when I come up for air. So no plotting, no planning, very little research, just a lot of gasping before I sink back down toward the bottom.

Night SweatsWhat makes Night Sweats special to you?

This is my second collection of short stories, and I remember sitting in a bar in the panhandle of Florida, way before I came out. It was a live show, I think the band playing was Man or Astro Man?—and I’d spent several years working on a horror novel that I’d never shared with anyone. Nothing yet published, and I was telling my friends about this idea I had for a werewolf story, and I caught them looking at each other like “here he goes again.” Honestly, that moment deepened my resolve to become a writer like no other. Getting a book out there is a big fucking deal. And to repeat the process, to return to the mine again and find your own peculiar gems, well, it’s not a fluke then, is it? It’s a passion and a profession, and when you get to combine the two, well, that is a splendid moment, and that’s what Night Sweats is to me, a fantastical event. So you can imagine how thrilled I am that Bold Strokes not only decided to publish this collection, but that everyone has come at the project with such interest and care.

I would like to comment on the title. This book has more horror in it, hence the name, a symptom of the virus that causes AIDS. And that’s purposeful. There’s not one mention of HIV or AIDS in any of these stories, but as a community, we’re still in the midst of an ongoing plague. That horror consistently impacts our lives in ways visible and invisible—queer folk have a daily dread, and the resolve we muster to beat it down, well, maybe that adds that extra bit of sparkle I see in so many of us, and that’s also present in this collection, or so I hope, but most of the work here is dark, and for some of us, that’s the same thing as honest.

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

Ha! One of my dear friends, John, who is also a great reader, likes to tease me. He says he likes my stories but particularly enjoys the ones that aren’t “Tom-in-disguise.” So, yeah, some stuff is autobiographical, or just me taking the easy route, so I don’t know what triggers it when I jump into someone else’s skin.

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

of this author(s)?

Tough question! I think I’d like to go at it this way: from childhood through college I was a voracious reader. I’m shocked at how much I absorbed. A small cadre of writers stood out. And before everyone was name-checking Philip K. Dick, he was a huge influence on me in the 80s, like when major books of his were actually out of print and passed around among the acid-heads hanging out in the school parking lot. John Varley was a huge influence, and the fluidity of his characters sexuality was earth-shattering for me. Funny story. A few years ago I got a very nice note from a fan, and I thought, “Well, I should return the favor!” So I looked up John Varley and wrote him an email, telling him how much his work meant to me as a kid struggling with being gay in the age of Reagan, and “boom!” He wrote me back thanking me for thanking him! Like in a few minutes, so I was doubly thrilled. But I digress. Octavia E. Butler, Alasdair Grey, Geoff Ryman, and Kathe Koja, all of them are my pantheon of originality and style. They have inspired me, and I’ve been lucky to interview two of them, befriending Kathe, and I heard Octavia give a warm talk in person, right before she passed. I’ll never forget that night. And I got to drink in a pub in Glasgow where Alasdair Grey worked off a bar tab by painting a fantastic mural. And when it comes to nonfiction, Edmund White is a light. There’s so much focus on his sparkling novels, but man, his nonfiction is immortal, too.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

The joy you felt in creating something is not automatically transferred to the reader, much less the editor and publisher. Worse, that joy is an emotional experience, so rejection doesn’t always lead to rational thoughts/decisions, like “I wonder what I could do better,” or “Maybe I just wasn’t a good fit for this publication.” If your goal is to write and improve, rather than just write, chances are you’ll have a better go at it.

In this field, all you have is your talent and your relationships, so how do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? I think these are decent questions to ask.

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

I travel whenever I can. There are so many places I want to go.

BOLD STROKES BOOKS INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR STEPHEN GRAHAM KING

by CONNIE WARD

BSB-StephenGrahamKingLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Many years ago, I went to a movie with a friend, and afterward, over drinks, I was complaining about how a scene had played out, how it felt like a total cliché to me. She looked at me over her glass and said, “Okay, smart guy, if you think you can do better, go write it.” So, I did. And it was terrible. What I thought was a story was nothing more than a scene. In my utter naiveté, I actually submitted it. I still have the thirty-year-old rejection letter in my files. After that, I caught the bug and wrote a novel based on some superhero characters I had designed myself. It was marginally less terrible, so I kept on going and have been writing ever since.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write science fiction. I’ve had a deep love of the genre for years, going to back to my first visits to the library with my dad on weekends. He’d go upstairs where the books for grown-ups were and send me downstairs to the children’s section. Somewhere in that time, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Venus series, and they transported me. Shortly after that, the original Star Trek series began playing on TV in the afternoon, right after I came home from school, and I was hooked and made sure I watched it every afternoon.

I love the genre on two levels, really. A part of me just adores spaceships and ray guns and aliens, the physical trappings. I used to pore over designs and photos and soak it all in. On another level, I love how we can explore who we are as a people by projecting ourselves into the future, into alternative histories, into far-flung scenarios that we couldn’t experience in the here and now. And I’ve always wanted to explore those themes and trappings from a queer context. I wanted us to be the heroes, to shoot the ray guns and fly the ships.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

They’ve always been hugely supportive, reading everything I’ve offered them. They’ve proofread and offered suggestions; they’ve talked my books up to their friends and just always believed in me, even when I forget to believe in myself. I’ve had some amazing feedback from good friends who write too. Some of the best advice and criticism has come from them, and even though it sometimes stung, It made my work better.

I even remember once, when working on the original draft of Gatecrasher, which is the follow-up to Soul’s Blood, I sat a couple of friends down (they were hardcore geeks too) with a diagram and explained a scenario. “This is your objective. How do you achieve it?” Their input was fantastic! Almost all of their ideas have survived into the current draft.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere. I firmly believe that writers are thieves. We steal from every source at our disposal. It’s always been a very instinctive, unconscious process for me. I’ll be going on about my business, and then suddenly, something will pop up and there’s an idea. Sometimes, it’s a character or a name or a place. Sometimes, it’s a jumping-off point, a “What if…?” question that leads to a story.

A friend described it to me once as a little office in the back of your head with a couple of people working even when you’re not. All of the information and clues and thoughts go into the office, and the staff works away at it when you’re out buying groceries or at your day job or eating dinner. And then, when it’s ready, the idea pops back out.

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

I tend to write sequentially. Start at the beginning and then the plot unfolds, incident by incident. Once a draft is done, I have now learned to jump around in the edits, because the ideas can come randomly. When I wrote Chasing Cold, it was very much a sequential, chapter-by-chapter thing, though I kept a file of notes and thoughts that I’d jotted things down that I wanted to weave into the story later. And then, at some point, I realized what the ending was, and even what the last line needed to be, and then wrote toward that point. I’m gestating an idea for the third Keene and Lexa-Blue book right now, and it’s really all just random ideas and broad, blurry strokes, though I have the first line and know what happens in the opening scene.

Soul's BloodWhat makes Soul’s Blood special to you?

The first draft of what has become Soul’s Blood has been with me for more than twenty-five years. It was actually my second attempt at novel writing. As I’ve grown and changed, so has this story. The story wasn’t ready then, nor was I. It took a lot of living and growing and learning before I was able to do the story justice. It took some strong, thoughtful criticism from readers that I trust before I could break some of my bad writing habits. So, this book is like an old friend, really, one that has stuck by me through a lot of living. And these characters are very close to my heart. They’re people I’d want to hang out with.

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

I think I’m a huge part of anything I write. I write the kind of things I would want to read and inject bits of my own personality, and the personalities of the people in my life, into every character. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a name or a physical characteristic. Other times it’s an attitude or something they’ve said. It goes back to writers being thieves. We take little bits of everything, and they go into the creative juicer and get mixed up with a bunch of other things and then come out in a very different way.

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

of this author(s)?

Oh, there are so many! I love Shyam Selvadurai. His books take me into a culture that is both foreign to me yet, underneath, is so familiar. My friend, ‘Nathan Burgoine, is a constant source of inspiration. Light was an absolute delight to read, and he’s one of the most dedicated and supportive writers I’ve ever met. Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books were some of the first gay literature I ever read, and they changed how I looked at fiction. Samuel R. Delaney is a queer master of the genre. His book Nova got me into Tarot. David Leavit’s Lost Language of Cranes is just beautiful. Tony Kushner. Angels in America blew my mind when I first read it and then again when I saw it on stage for the first time. Rita Mae Brown. Rubyfruit Jungle is an absolute classic, and I still have her book about writing, Starting from Scratch, right on my desk within arm’s reach.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write. Just write. Whenever you can, as much as you can, and don’t beat yourself up if it’s not as much or as good as you’d like. Just keep writing. Write the story that’s burning inside you. Write the story that you think is missing from the landscape. Don’t worry about writing what’s trendy or what fits the market. Write the story you need to share. Seek out thoughtful criticism and examine it. Some you’ll keep and some you’ll ignore, but examine it all and use it as a tool to make yourself better at the craft.

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

I dabble in a lot of things. I paint. The walls of my apartment are covered with my own works. I’ve actually run out of space and have to rotate them around. I’ve been experimenting with photography a bit too. I’m also a big fan of board games. I love Mah Jongg, Scrabble, and Othello: games that make my brain work a bit. I’m a big fan of movies and TV too. I’ve been known to binge-watch an entire season of a favorite show in a weekend. I’ve also been getting more into cooking the last few years, trying out new cuisines and sharing them with my friends.

 

A BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH RJ BARDSLEY

by Connie Ward

BSB-RalphBardsleyLg

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I don’t know; I guess I always wanted to create and contribute. As part of my career in media and marketing I write a lot—mostly about technology and the business world. But to me, fiction is art, and I really wanted to write something I could call art—not just content. I promised myself two things when I turned thirty: first that I would run a marathon and second that I would write a novel. Well, when I turned thirty-nine I realized I had run that marathon, but the novel hadn’t happened. So I got to work and had my first novel, Brothers, completed and contracted to Bold Strokes one week before my fortieth birthday.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write stories that are focused on self-discovery. People and characters that don’t fit into expected molds inspire me. I have always been interested in the concept of people falling into unconventional relationships where there is a struggle and a period of learning.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My husband, Dana, has been very supportive. He has been my rock in just about everything in life, and writing has been no different. My broader family has also been just great: they’ve helped me brainstorm and listened to me talking through characters and plot lines. I’m one of those people who like to talk through things as I think, and my brother, mom, and the rest of my family have been great listeners.

 

When it comes to the editing process my friend Erin is always my first read; she is a total soldier because she gets the worst draft. Her job is to tell me if the concept of the story is a yes or a no. I also had a lot of help from family and friends in the broader editing process. I went through eight drafts of Brothers before I submitted it anywhere.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Oh wow, what a great question. I get ideas from everywhere. The idea for Brothers came mostly from my ma’s brothers and sisters. Ours is a large Irish family, and the way my aunts and uncles took care of me and of each other is amazing. While I was growing up, my ma always told my brother and me that nothing in this world is more important than your brother. That really stuck with me and inspired the book Brothers.

 

My second book, The Photographer’s Truth (out from Bold Strokes in summer 2016), was inspired by a photographer I met on a business trip to France.

 

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

I start with what I call sketches—paragraphs of characters or scenes. Then I work through the story and develop a chapter outline. From there, I dive in to each chapter, usually in chronological order. But sometimes I’ll write out of order if inspiration strikes me.

 

BrothersWhat makes Brothers special to you?

In Brothers, I wanted to explore the concept of family and how our families impact our lives and decisions as gay people. A lot of the book is about the role straight allies play in our lives and how important they are.

 

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

None of my characters are based on actual people, but I do pull traits and situations from things that happen to me in real life.

 

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

of this author(s)?

I love to read, so yes, I have a few favorite authors. Mary Renault and Edmund White are two of my favorites. I love Jane Smiley’s writing too, especially Greenlanders. Armistad Maupin has been a major influence on my writing; I love the Tales of the City series and have reread it probably a dozen times. He has a sublime way with plot and characters; there is just such great harmony in his writing. Whenever things are rocky for me in life, I curl up with one of his books.

 

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

My husband and I love to travel, so we do a lot of that. In day-to-day life, you can usually find me at the pool doing laps or out running if I’m not writing.


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