Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Johnny. We are very excited and can’t wait to learn more about you.
Are you kidding? Thank you for having me! The excitement is mutual.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Well, I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York and of Puerto Rican descent. I grew up in East New York, which is a ghetto and was exposed to a lot of fighting, racial tension and drugs. I think that’s probably the reason why books were such an important part of my life.
In high school, I figured if I was going to be a writer I’d better learn how to type. So I did! I was the only boy in a class of 33. Everyone called me crazy, among other things, but it worked out to my advantage. I had a pretty good speed with low errors and because of that my typing teacher recommended me for an afterschool job in the Graphic Arts department.
Since then, I’ve had all different kinds of positions – telephone sex operator, customer service rep, massage therapist, caterer. I was even in the adult entertainment industry for a while but so far, hands down, my favorite is writing.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My very first book was “Summer For Two” and it was never published. I wrote it when I was…15? 16?. I remember working on it day and night during the summer when I was off from school. Like a lot of young writers, I thought it would be an instant bestseller! It was 500+ pages, double-spaced, on onion skin of all things! And it was complete trash. In a way I wish I had kept it but I threw it away.
I’ve written other books since then but they’ve been self-published. It’s a fun, exciting and sometimes frustrating process but not nearly as exciting as having a book published by someone else and getting paid for it.
In that sense, “Casa Rodrigo” is my very first. It’s a M/M historical romance between a plantation owner and a slave. It took about 9 months from start to distribution.
How many books have you written thus far?
I have a total of 5. Three are self-published and are very graphic M/M stories; “Casa Rodrigo,” which was published by Loose Id, and I’ve just completed a fifth. But it’s not ready for submission just yet.
When did you start writing erotic romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I’ve always written gay erotica. Back then it was called porn, though. I wrote for a lot of now-defunct magazines then stopped for almost twenty years.
Then, in January of 2009, my partner and I went on a cruise where we met Treva Harte. She and Bobby Michaels both encouraged me to write an erotic M/M romance. I had never done so and thought, what the hell? How hard could it be? Boy was I ever wrong!
It was much, much harder than I thought. Writing good sex is one thing. Writing a good story is another. Writing a good story where you get to mix the hot sex into it is, in my opinion, akin to being a Master Chef. The ingredients have to be just right and go in at the right time or the flavor is all wrong.
Do you write full time?
Not one hundred percent but I’m working towards it.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I’ve always written. Ever since I was a little boy. But in Junior High, my homeroom teacher assigned us a project. I can’t even remember what it was. All I know is that I wrote, from memory, the story of “The Wizard of Oz” after having just seen the movie.
Of course, coming from a Spanish household where English was my second language, I had no clue it was already a story! The teacher pulled me aside and told me I couldn’t do things like that but he was impressed and suggested I should give serious thought to becoming a writer. Years later, I would discover that what I had done was to be called “novelizations!”
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
It’s quite boring, really. After seeing my honey off to work, I answer my e-mail, chat on Facebook for a bit and then immerse myself in whatever project I happen to be working on. I usually take a half hour for lunch and then keep going until my partner comes home. Sometimes, if I’m particularly inspired by the fickle muses or if I’m on deadline, I’ll get back to work immediately after dinner and work until it’s almost bedtime.
See? Nothing glamorous I’m afraid. Though I DO eventually want to get back into a good workout regime. I used to have really nice arms; or so I was told.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I sometimes do research before starting a story but usually it’s more of a research-as-I-go type of thing. I go online to check things out but I’m not a good researcher. I get frustrated too easily when I don’t find the answer I want right away; especially if something in the book hinges on a certain detail. That’s when I usually ask Treva. Or I throw it out there on Facebook. Most times, though, it’s “Ask Treva.” I think she should start an advice column!
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
Parts of me? Definitely. Other people? Sometimes. Mostly, up to now, my writing has been about fantasy. Though some characteristics do come from real people at times. But I don’t emulate people outright. I like to people watch and make up stories about them so it’s easy coming up with character bios for personal use.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
The one I just finished was completed in under a month. My critique partner read it almost immediately after it was done or rather, as I would complete a chapter. My partner is reading it now. But that’s it. I don’t think I’ll be able to let anyone else read it until I’m done editing. Hopefully by the end of the month!
If you weren’t sitting there right this very moment answering our book of questions, what else would you be doing?
I have a freelance project I should be working that will help me pay some immediate bills but if that weren’t on my plate to do next, I’d probably be editing or working on another story. I like to work with a schedule or I just sit in front of the computer researching – yeah, that’s the word – researching, xTube and get nothing done.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
Writer’s block is a very real thing. It’s a horrible nemesis and a writer’s worst nightmare. It happens to me frequently and sometimes I’m at a loss for days on end. I used to force myself, thinking I had to keep going, that it would flow again. But I’ve come to realize that the thing to do is step back. I’ll do housework or some other mundane chore that I let pile up. Once, I started working on a new story but then I got sidetracked and didn’t want to work on my previous piece so I’ve decided that’s no good.
Usually, when I get blocked, it’s because something is happening in the story that I’m not happy with or that isn’t working. Sometimes a character has hijacked the story and has taken it in a different direction, only I haven’t realized it at the time. Blockage seems to happen a lot more when I work on the fly, with no plot or story in mind other than, “Okay. Today I’m going to start a new story.”
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel, or experience?
I want them to have a good time. I want them to feel like they’ve been taken to a different place from where they are. I want them to walk away and say, “Wow! That was a really good story!”
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Here’s the weird thing. I can usually help others with their titles. Or sometimes I come up with great titles but I have no story. In fact, I have a list of titles but the stories just haven’t materialized. Even the one I just finished doesn’t have a title.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
My sense of humor is often sick and perverse. I’ve been told deranged. But I can totally do slapstick as well! The Three Stooges always make me laugh. So does “Family Guy,” “The Cleveland Show” and “Golden Girls” – the Fab 4, in my opinion – over and over again.
I used to really love Rita Rudner. She was probably my favorite. Robin Williams. Ricky Gervais is pretty funny as well. Recently, my partner and I got hooked on a British show called “Spaced” which was hysterical!
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a contemporary M/M romance involving a 39-year-old advertising exec who has a heart attack and falls in love quite unexpectedly with a Latin hunk while he’s recuperating in Fort Lauderdale.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
I’ve gotten loads of really good advice along with some that was not so good. Most of it was great, though! And you incorporate what rings true to you, into your routine. The absolute best piece of advice, however, is that I write for myself, in order to find out what happens next.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
Right now, aside from the occasional freelance project, writing has been it since I don’t have an “official” job. I was laid off February of 2009. To keep the spark alive I talk about things with my partner. But I’ve also found an incredible group of writers and readers on Facebook who are not only supportive, open and willing to share their experiences, they’re nurturing as well.
I also watch a lot of movies and read. I love discovering new music and hanging out in bookstores. Sometimes I even sit in coffee shops and watch people as they walk by.
The spark is always there. I don’t think it ever goes away; at least I hope not. I think it’s just a matter of finding what will make that spark flare then stoke it into a roaring fire.
What kind of books do you like to read?
All kinds. Right now I have 13 books by my side of the bed. Some of them are erotic romances, some are thrillers, others are mysteries. One is a book on how to write a good historical, the other is a how-to on romance. And one of them is a fantasy.
What is your favorite TV show?
My favorite all-time show? Definitely “Golden Girls.” Currently, though, my favorite is “Modern Family.”
What is your favorite fast food restaurant? Just thought we’d throw that in for fun…
Ha! Fast food. Yeah. A guilty pleasure. I’d have to say McDonald’s for their french fries and Wendy’s for their bacon cheeseburger. Oh, and Dunkin’ Donuts. Hmmmm. Donuts!
Without getting up, can you tell us what’s under your bed? (yep, another sneaky question.)
Wrist and ankle cuffs. A pair of genuine, BSO issue handcuffs – Broward Sheriff’s Office; I dated a cop once and stole them from him – a paddle and a broken-down weight bench.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Probably a professional escort or a porn producer.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
As far as the self-published books are concerned, I don’t like that the first two have no “real” cover to speak of. It’s just words against a colored background. As for “Casa Rodrigo” I absolutely LOVE it! Anne Cain did an amazing job and I love her work.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Now that’s a loaded question! There isn’t much I’m not willing to try. Sometimes twice! But as far as clean stuff goes, I love dinner out, traveling, movies and hanging out with good friends.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Well, since you asked, I’m very excited about all of them really. The contemporary romance I just finished, which has no title yet. But I haven’t submitted it yet and don’t know if it will be accepted. I’m also excited about a fantasy/sci-fi romance I started; I’ve gotten some very good feedback from a fellow writer. And then there’s a gritty, noir-type story called “Sex Offenders.” I find sometimes I just need to immerse myself into reality and remind myself that life, no matter how pretty or how much of a fairy tale we want it to be, consists of the ugly, tawdry and seedy side of sex and love and violence. Life just isn’t a Disney movie and the grit sometimes needs to be there.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
The only advice I have to offer is what I’ve learned after being laid off. Once I started writing in earnest, I couldn’t stop. Now, I MUST write. Otherwise I feel as if I have no purpose and life just doesn’t have any meaning.
You have to some talent, something to start with in order to build and hone. But you have to really want it. You have to be so hungry for it but you must also be prepared for the fact that a first book more than likely won’t be a bestseller.
You have to be able, and willing, to wear different hats in order to help get your name, and story, out to the public. People won’t automatically make you an overnight sensation. I know my first book won’t change the world. But I’m okay with that. It’s more about the experience and the journey.
Frankly, though? As a newcomer I’m still learning. All the advice I’ve received made any sense until I was actually on the road and going through the process.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
There are several ways actually. I can be befriended on Facebook. Or you can visit my website: http://www.johnny-miles.com./ There are links there to purchase the books. To go directly to the self-published books on Lulu: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=3000562. Finally, for Casa Rodrigo and, hopefully, any future romances, you can go here: http://www.loose-id.com/Our-Authors/Johnny-Miles/