GLBT Bookshelf page: http://bookworld.editme.com/AnelViz
Silver Publishing, July 2012
ISBN: 9781614956297 (e-book)
Buy link: https://spsilverpublishing.com/product_book_info/new-release-c-1/products_id/1164/?zenid=f9763b251a069bb23bf11713d21a2117
New Lives (novel)
Silver Publishing, August 2012
ISBN: 9781614955597 (e-book), 9781614957621 (print) [print release date TBA]
Buy link: https://spsilverpublishing.com/product_book_info/coming-soon-c-2/products_id/1164/?zenid=226c2fd79ef4728e40af352e748a017e
Welcome back, Anel. It’s been about a year and a half since we last chatted with you. Have there been any major changes in your life?
Glad to be back. And this time it’s for a triple whammy—tow spotlighted books and an interview. Give me a hug.
What’s new? I retired from my full-time teaching job three months ago. I find I’m ten times as busy as I was before and can’t do as much writing as I’d hoped to. I’ve undertaken a number of new projects, but would you believe I’m working on the same novel I was the last time I dropped by? And if you compare this interview with my last one or if you follow my comments on the author groups I belong to, you’ll see I’m still the same old Anel Viz, whereas you guys have changed your name twice.
How did you happen to become a writer?
It’s a long story. I wrote a lot when I was kid; I even had ambitions of becoming a writer. I decided in junior high that my stories were crap (I was right) and gave up that idea. Then, back in December 2005, I was temporarily separated from my boyfriend by distance and at the same time happened to stumble on a gay story Internet site. I said to myself, “Hey, I can do that,” and began writing and posting dirty stories to relieve my frustrations. Call it “thinking off.”
It wasn’t long before my brief foray into brazen obscenity led to my present vocation, for another person on the site emailed me to say that my writing was “too elegant” to be wasting my time on porn, introduced me to m/m, which I didn’t know existed, and invited me to join his Yahoo group. I posted some stories and poems there, and almost immediately a woman who was working on a bookbinding degree asked me if she could publish some of my work as her master’s project. After that, I submitted a couple of stories to a now-defunct magazine and they were accepted. Another story was accepted by Forbidden Fruit (now resurrected as Wilde Oats). I also joined a flash fiction group and began to hone my skills. Then the guyfellow first “discovered” me asked me to write a vampire story for an anthology he was editing for Aspen Mountain Press. “Val” was my first publication with an established house.
I found it a lot harder to place my books after those first few were published, but the rejection letters I received were too flattering to discourage me. If a publisher told you, “I loved [Title]. It’s a wonderful book. You write beautifully. However, it’s not the kind of thing our readers are looking for,” you wouldn’t give up on a novel would you? Every book I’ve won an award for was turned down at least once, and I didn’t revise a single one of them before submitting it somewhere else. By now I have a fairly good idea of who is likely to accept what, and I seem to have found a home with Silver Publishing.
How many books have you written thus far?
Written or published? Not counting flash fictions and the smut I posted on line when I first started writing, by November I will have published (including the stories I wrote for Wilde Oats) five novels, seven novellas, twenty-two short stories, and four prose poem cycles — three of those novellas and eleven of the stories in single-author anthologies. Unless I’m forgetting something. It’s all on my GLBT Bookshelf pages.
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?
If writing was how I made my living, I couldn’t afford a life-style. An idea for a story is all the creative spark I need, and the effort that goes into turning it into a book fans it to a blaze.
So where do you get the ideas for the stories you write?
Except for my flash fictions, all of which began with a prompt, and one or two things I wrote in response to a call submissions, I really haven’t the slightest idea. I can say what the germ for all my stories is, though: characters in a situation. The plot and back story evolve from there. Once in a while, I’ll use a flash fiction as my point of departure.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Writing. Forgetting everything else I’m supposed to be doing. Eating, for example. At least I know when I need a potty break.
How do you handle interruptions when you’re totally wrapped up in writing?
I seethe internally. My mother has a knack for phoning me when I’m in the middle of composing an especially difficult passage or one that gets my juices flowing. (I mean my creative juices.) I wouldn’t mind if it were an emergency or something important, but 99% of the time it’s just to tell me she bought new cushions for the couch or what we’ll be having for lunch next time I visit. Then, five minutes later, she calls again, maybe even a couple more times, and my concentration is shot to hell. It may be hours before I can write another halfway decent sentence.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along? When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I’ve said this often, but it’s worth repeating. I revise as I write… constantly. And even if I didn’t, I couldn’t say I write straight through since I don’t begin at the beginning nor do I end at the end. I usually start somewhere in the middle, jump around, and gradually fill in the gaps. That means I have to check very carefully for internal inconsistencies when I’m done. On top of that, I’m almost always working on various bits and pieces of several stories at once. Since I don’t know what the plot is going to be, especially for longer works, there’s no way I can plan in advance. I would not advise anyone else to write like this (and I know of no one else who does), but it works for me.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?
Things that have happened to me and people I know show up as incidents in my books. I may have someone I know in mind when I create a character, but only rarely, and once I’m writing, the fictional character takes over and becomes his or her own person and any resemblance to the person I used as a starting point is at best tenuous. However, I am very much myself in my attitude toward my characters. I let my heroes “do their thing” and seldom develop an emotional attachment to them, though it has happened. As one reviewer said, “the more you read his work the more you recognize the wry, even ironic smile lurking behind the professionalism. It is a kind if somewhat amused or even skeptical view of people who struggle through their lives.” I think she’s absolutely right.
I don’t exactly understand why my characters take over my stories, but they do, and many authors claim to have a similar experience. In extreme cases, a minor character will decide to take over the story, and the plot goes careening off in a direction I never anticipated. That happened in my Wilde Oats novella, The Father of Free Men, where two women made the man who was supposed to the main character play second fiddle. I think that sometimes characters change because they conform to a name I innocently chose for them, but other characters change so drastically I have to give them new names. Bizarre, isn’t it?
Sometimes I pick names out of a hat (figuratively speaking), other times—especially with foreign names—I go to a “name your baby” site and choose a name for how it sounds or what it supposedly means. I took two characters’ names in “Les Ardoises” from French songs: Jules, qui rit quand on l’encule (= who laughs when he gets fucked in the ass), and Félicien (a rather out-of-style name in France) because the name is juxtaposed with Jules in a song by Georges Brassens.
Rumor has it you don’t like HEAs.
False. What I don’t like is facile HEAs I can’t believe in. I’ve lived long enough to have learned that “fuck and make up” doesn’t work. Or when it turns out after pages and pages of anguish that it was all a misunderstanding. Let’s face it, if a simple misunderstanding can send an entire relationship into a tailspin, there are some pretty serious underlying issues that need to be addressed, and until they are or the characters at least recognize the need to address them, your HEA is pie in the sky. Similarly, when the main characters struggle with a situation external to their relationship, such as the hostility of family members or the community, I find more cause for optimism in their ability to stand up to and endure that hostility than in everyone seeing the light and having a change of heart at the end. A lot of people say they read romance to escape from the awfulness of life, but when something is too good to be true it only reminds me of how bad things really are. On the other hand, even a sad story can show me worth is worth living. A bullied teen isn’t going to fall for empty promises like “Everything’s going to be hunky-dory,” but “It gets better” may give him the strength to go on.
So I would say all my endings are happy. (And let’s face it: even HEA is really HFN. Your hero could be run over by a truck or his house could burn down the next day.) The final pages of City of Lovely Brothers are a real tear-jerker, but just look at the wonderful years Caliban and Nick have had and how depressing their lives would have been if they hadn’t found each other. In the same novel, Darcy loses almost everything, but she can’t be broken. The resilience of these people is far more life-affirming than if some deus ex machina showed up to serve them happiness on a silver platter. An ending is truly unhappy only when the characters give up and succumb to adversity. My characters never do.
Have you ever written something and decided it was too controversial?
No, but my editors have.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I try to take nothing for granted and double check everything, mostly during. I’ve looked up dates, street maps, local architecture, railroad timetables, weather conditions, sentencing guidelines… you name it. I visited every location in P’tit Cadeau. When I write a passage in dialect, I run it by a friend who’s lived in the region. Of course, it inevitably turns out I took something for granted I shouldn’t have. A thousand blessings on my betas and editors.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
Reese Dante does all my covers for Silver, and every one of them is fabulous. What I love most is collaborating with her to create them.
Okay, now tell us something about the two books we’re featuring today.
First is a novella that came out in late July. I have my fingers crossed the French title doesn’t discourage readers from giving it a shot. Les Ardoises is just the name of the restaurant where the main character, Félicien, works as a waiter. It’s a traditional boy-meets-boy romance—at least, I think it is. It’s also the third book I’ve set in France. I’ve lived a good chunk of my life in France, about fifteen years on and off, and I feel very much at home there, but you’re always taking a risk when you write about a culture that isn’t really your own, even when you write a part of your own country you didn’t grow up in or haven’t made your permanent home. It seems I nailed it this time, though. The book was reviewed on a French site, Blue Moon, and they say I captured their country “without sounding a false note” and my French characters are “so deliciously authentic we adopt them all without hesitation.” The review was posted over a month ago and I’m still walking around with a swollen head.
New Lives was released at the beginning of August. It’s a novel… sort of. It’s made up of four separate stories that with a little rounding off could stand on their own, each very different in tone—they run the gamut from pessimistic to madcap—so there’s something there for everyone. It’s equally possible everyone may find something in it not to like. I have no idea how it will be received, but the people I’ve shown it to have liked it a lot. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have shown it to them if I thought they wouldn’t. It’s probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever written. No, I take that back—ever published.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Silver Publishing will release two-volume paranormal anthology, Horror, Dark and Lite, on October 20th, in time for Halloween. The “lite” volume contains four comic short stories, the dark, three gothic novellas. There’s a re-release of an earlier work from multi-author anthologies in each volume, including that vampire story I mentioned at the beginning of this interview.
What else are you working on now?
Nothing and everything. I had to drop whatever else I was working on to attend to the edits of Les Ardoises, New Lives, the two anthologies, the second half of Mom’s Boy for Wilde Oats, and a book of translations that will be published under my real name. What I pick up first when I’m done with those is anybody’s guess. I haven’t given up on my monster Egyptologist novel, The Pyramid of Nepensiret (I mean it’s very long, not that it’s about monsters), which is coming very slowly. Then there’s a historical novel set in France during the Hundred Years’ War, a contemporary novel about a married man in lust with a male stripper, a winter solstice story that might just turn into a novella—none of these have title yet—a Valentine’s Day story called “Epithalamion” that might also become a novella, a futuristic/SF novel called The Procedure, two sequels to The House in Birdgate Alley, and more. I can’t promise I’ll finish any of them, but I hope I do.
What future projects do you have in the works?
All my current projects are future projects.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Gee, I don’t know—there are so many possibilities. A brain surgeon? the captain of a submarine? a big game hunter? an inside trader? a prophet? a tester for a sex-toy manufacturer? Actually, now that I’ve retired, I’m sure I’d be bored to tears and at loss to figure out what to do with my life.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
Many people have told me my writing isn’t for everyone. (As if I didn’t know that!) Since nothing is for everyone, I assume they mean “not for all readers of m/m romance.” I do hope, however, that even readers who don’t like one of my books will recognize that they’re well-written and original and it might be worth their while to try some of my other books.
Above all, I don’t want to write the same book twice. I think m/m has enormous potential. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what the genre could become. I want to experiment with new themes, new structures, new approaches to a story; I want to extend the boundaries of the genre, to open new vistas; I want readers who think they “know what they like” to discover they like other things, too. Some readers will be confused, some will resist, but I firmly believe the genre will be the richer for it. Literature is a living organism, and what’s alive needs to grow or it will atrophy, die out, and be forgotten. I’m not talking about my books in particular—I’m not that vain—but of the genre as a whole.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I read tons of all different stuff—fiction, history, biography, philosophy, poetry, theater, criticism, science, etc. When it comes to fiction, I read a lot of literary classics and books by contemporary non-American authors. Right now, however, I’m reading primarily m/m romances in an attempt to read at least one thing by every author I’m going to meet at GRL this October. It may be a mistake. Not that it hasn’t been enjoyable—I’ve read some damn good books—but I’ve never before read so much in a single genre at one time, and I’m starting to have trouble keeping track of who wrote what and which book is which. Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Maybe I should have been taking notes. Now I’m going to have embarrass myself and ask, “Remind me what it was about.” At least I can remember my own books. I’d like to think that’s because they’re one of a kind, but it’s probably because I wrote them.
Speaking for yourself, what makes something a good read? An exciting plot? Characters you can relate to? Hot sex?
Beautiful prose. The most interesting story cannot hold my attention if it’s told in clumsy, limping sentences.
What is the greatest challenge for you as a writer?
There are two pitfalls every author of romance, and gay erotic romance in particular, faces that I believe I have for the most part managed to avoid, although it has meant I must pay close attention when I write. One is creating dialogue that doesn’t sound like something lifted straight out of a self-help brochure when a character is baring his soul or offering another character advice (unless he’s doing it the the context of a support group). The other making every sex scene unique, no easy task since there’s only so much you can do to vary the mechanics. It follows that if all that happens in a sex scene is that two or three or more people have sex, you’ll give your readers something they’ve read countless times before whether the sex is loving or vicious, hot or unsatisfactory. One way I get around this is creating sex scenes in which a person’s bedroom behavior allows the reader to see more deeply into his personality. For Nick and Caliban in The City of Lovely Brothers, sex is an opportunity to let their hair down, and they always approach lovemaking playfully; in The Best Christmas Ever, Donnie is almost embarrassingly disingenuous in bed; F’elicien becomes a more sexual being under Joel’s tutelage in Les Ardoises; and Gérard Vreilhac is very different lover with each of his partners. Or, to choose an example from another author who individualizes all his sex scenes, consider Buck’s cocky come-ons or Les’s visit to the whorehouse in Victor Banis’s Longhorns. I also make an effort not to use certain turns of phrase that show up so often in sex scenes as to have become clichés.
But the greatest challenge for me is something I referred to earlier: walking the fine line between digging too deeply into my characters’ motivations and feelings and holding them at too great a distance for readers to feel close to them. I tend to err in the direction of the latter. Give out too much information and characters will remain the author’s creation; they will never take on a life of their own. When I start analyzing a character who has become a living, breathing person, I feel I’m editorializing, making assumptions I have no right to make, since I don’t know that person inside and out. The same applies to first person narrators, for while we are aware of our thoughts and emotions, do we know for sure why we feel that way? Do we really know what makes us tick? This is one of the issues I grapple with in the Kaleidoscope stories, an example of how I experiment with stretching the genre. The last thing I intended to do with that volume was conform to readers’ expectations, which is probably the reason why it left some of them puzzled or feeling somehow cheated.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
1) It takes a long time to build up a readership.
2) Promotion is vital. It’s how you sell books.
3) I suck at promo.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing?
Trust your instincts. (On the other hand, I have read some books by authors who should not trust their instincts.) Also, take everything your editor says seriously, then make up your own mind and explain your decision. In other words, trust your judgment but remain open to criticism. Your instincts will tell you if the criticism is worth anything.
As usual, we sent you a batch of joke questions to liven things up. Which three have chosen to answer?
a) If I came to your home and looked inside the refrigerator, what would I find? – I don’t know about you, but with all the leftovers in my fridge, I can’t find anything.
b) If I gave you an elephant where would you hide it? – In my refrigerator.
c) What would you do if you had a time machine? – Slow it down so I’ll have more time to write..
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Alas, my blog is moribund and my website long dead from neglect. I will eventually get my shit together and make a new one when I’m not quite so busy. I sincerely hope that doesn’t mean I’ll never get around to it. In the meantime, readers can access information about my published works on my GLBT Bookshelf page: http://bookworld.editme.com/AnelViz, and fans can email me at email@example.com.
Could you please share some excerpts from one of more of your stories with us?
I thought you’d never ask.
from “Les Ardoises”
Félicien works as a waiter at Les Ardoises, a café-bistro in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. When his girlfriend leaves for a two-week visit with her family, he hooks up with Joel, an American in France for a business conference. Félicien has swung that way before and, secure about his sexual identity, thinks he doesn’t risk getting involved with a man as he might with a woman.
As it turns out, Joel will be in town more than just a day or two. He wants more than a one-night stand, and Félicien isn’t one to pass up a couple of days on a yacht with the handsome and sexually talented American. Before long, they’ve been seen together often enough for people to wonder if they’re in a relationship, and Félicien finds himself questioning who he is and what he wants from life.
excerpt (from chapter 3):
After half an hour of silliness, they returned to their private inlet and ate the oysters. They took turns slurping one of the briny creatures into their mouths and feeding it to the other with a kiss.
“Do Americans have a word for this kind of kissing?” Félicien wanted to know.
“I think we invented it. You make one up.”
“Un baiser à l’huître.”
The last oyster was for Félicien. Joel pulled him close for the kiss, his hands tight on his buttocks. “Get below deck and I’ll show you how it feels to be taken out of uniform,” he said.
“Why not here?”
“It’s homier there.”
“Don’t just throw everything on the floor when you undress me,” Félicien warned as they started down the steps. “I have to look good for work.”
“Being extra careful with your clothes is part of the fun. But you always look good, even without them.”
“I have to pass inspection.”
“It really is a uniform, isn’t it?”
Joel turned the act of disrobing into a sensual experience. It was neither the kind of peek-a-boo tease strippers perform nor like opening a present. Rather, it was a slow unveiling, like carefully peeling back the petals of a flower just starting to open. When another expanse of skin came into view, Joel would run his fingertips over it, barely touching the flesh, then sniff it, blow on it, brush it with his lips. No one had undressed Félicien before. He felt self-conscious, even though he had spent most of the past three days naked in Joel’s company. For one, Joel was wearing his shirt, shorts, and sneakers. He was dressed when he’d stepped into the kitchen to watch Félicien in the shower, but Joel had acted casually then and being naked in the shower was normal, something Félicien did every day. To be naked is not the same as being laid bare. He’d had people check him out before and his doctor examined him once every year, but to be studied by another person lifts exposure out of the realm of experience into one of sensation. He felt as though he belonged to Joel, and it was a turn-on.
Félicien stood naked in the center of the cabin, wearing Joel’s gaze like the clothing that had been discarded. The longer he stood there, the more aware he was of his vulnerability and the gathering expectancy that enveloped them like a cloud.
Joel’s arousal showed beneath his linen deck shorts. He drew Félicien to him for a kiss, rubbing their groins together. He put his mouth to Félicien’s ear, blew softly and cooed, “You are so hot. I want to fuck you; I want it bad. Will you let me?”
from New Lives
Three people trapped in dead-end situations give up nearly everything they’ve ever known hoping to find a better future:
Otis lives alone and without prospects in a dying Nevada village. He has lost hope the man who took advantage of him years ago will return and now dreams of becoming a porn star.
Jared, an abused runaway, can’t stay forever with the kindly trucker who picked him up hitchhiking. They need to find a safe place for him to live.
Larry Jordan, a closeted collector of valuable gay erotica, fears the residents of his conservative, middle-class community will soon discover his secret life. He has just one friend, whom he met only recently.
Three gay men who don’t know each other and never will, but whose stories intertwine in unusual and unexpected ways . . .
excerpt (from Part III, chapter 3):
About half an hour after he left, the window slid open and a man climbed stealthily in, dressed entirely in black—black jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, a black leather jacket and black leather gloves. He wore a black party mask over his nose and eyes. Heavy black stubble covered his face below the mask, more the result of not having shaved for a day or two than a true beard, and his close-cropped hair was also black. Without the black mask and clothing he would not have looked particularly sinister, for he was diminutive in stature and had a boyish build, lithe and slender, but athletic, with muscular arms and legs.
The intruder tiptoed around the room, then took out a flashlight and left to explore the rest of the house. He did not go up into the attic; he may not have noticed the trap door. Before long, he came back into the bedroom, lowered the window shades, flicked on the light, emptied the clothes from the open suitcase onto the floor, and proceeded to rifle through the closet and chest of drawers. He placed what valuables there were into the empty suitcase, then left the room to look for more, and kept returning with the loot he found—Jordan’s VCR and DVD players from the living room, the clock radio, the silver from the kitchen, and other stuff.
The burglar turned his attention to the second suitcase, fumbling with the lock. It flew open, revealing its contents. “Now what the hell use is all this crap to me?” he guffawed. He slammed the suitcase shut, and began rummaging about the room to see if he had overlooked anything.
At that moment, Jordan walked into his room and smack-dab into the burglar. He had seen the light on in his room when he pulled into the driveway. While it was possible he had forgotten to turn it off, he knew for sure that he had not drawn the shades. He let himself into the house without making a sound and inched cautiously to the telephone to dial 911 before he crept upstairs. Entering the house was a brave if not particularly intelligent thing to do; confronting a burglar in the act of robbing his house was incredibly stupid.
“What do you think you’re doing here?” Jordan exclaimed, as if it wasn’t obvious.
The burglar whipped a handgun out of his pocket and brought it down on Jordan’s skull, knocking him unconscious. Without taking the time to throw anything else into it, he hastily closed the suitcase to make ready his escape. He had been caught by surprise. He hadn’t seen the headlights because he had lowered the shades and the storm had drowned out the sound of the car, but it wasn’t loud enough to cover the approaching siren.
The burglar turned off the light, rolled up the window shade, reached for the suitcase, and tossed it into the yard. Then he climbed out the window and dropped to the ground just as the siren turned into the block. He grabbed the suitcase and ran behind the house, then down the alley and down another to where he had left his car, tossed his ill-gotten gains in the back seat and drove away.