Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Ryan.
Thank you for doing the interview. From what I’ve seen and read so far about this new blog, I’m looking forward to reading the posts.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I went the Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham Madison Campus, and graduated with a degree in English with a concentration in Journalism. My first job in publishing was working for Conde Nast in NY, as an associate editor. But I found that while I loved to edit, there wasn’t enough time (or energy) to write fiction. So I left Conde Nast, opened my own art gallery, and started writing fiction part time. My gallery was open seven days a week for over ten years, and I was a hands-on business owner. I repped hundreds of artists, built a client list from all over the world, and during the down time I wrote fiction. Most of what I wrote back then was short stories for lgbt publishers like Alyson Books, Cleis Press, and STARbooks Press. But I also did at least two stories a year for magazines.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first book still hasn’t been pubbed. It’s mainstream fiction and I stopped shopping it to focus strictly on lgbt fiction for a while. My first m/m romance novel was AN OFFICER AND HIS GENTLEMAN, which is loosely based on the storyline from the film, but markedly different because it was written with male characters.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I started writing m/m romance over fifteen years ago. But back then there wasn’t as much of a market for m/m romance as there is nowadays. So I wrote a great deal of erotica, and jumped at every opportunity I saw when a call for m/m romance came along. A few of my short stories are in older “Best Romance” anthologies by Cleis Press and Alyson Books.
What interested me most about the genre is that it keeps expanding. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to read more m/m romances when I was growing up. The m/m genre didn’t even exist. Everything for the lgbt community was lumped into one genre, “Gay-Lesbian,” and the choices weren’t there.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
I started getting pubbed right out of college, with lgbt publishers, including magazines and reviews. They were always short stories, often written with different pen names. Unfortunately, I’ve lost track of a few of the earlier stories I wrote. Everything was done in hard copy and there are many stories I don’t have in electronic files. And when I sold one story, I’d just forget about it and move right on to the next without thinking twice. But I’ve started keeping better records. Right now, not including the anthologies and collections I’ve been in, I’ve had twenty-five novels published. Most of them are with my name, Ryan Field, and a few are pg rated hetero romances written with different pen names.
Do you write full time?
I do right now. But this is just in the past few years. I’ve always been a business owner, writing part time whenever I got the chance. When I sold my business, I decided to write full time.
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?
It chose me. At first, in school, it came very easily and I loved it. And I was always inspired by reading a great deal of fiction.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
I’m very strict when it comes to routines, to the point where I always begin a new novel or story on a Friday. I’m usually up very early and I go for a forty-five minute run every day of the week. I begin writing at nine in the morning and don’t stop until four or five in the afternoon. I take a break for a few hours, and then go back to my office and edit everything I wrote earlier that day for about four hours. I like to produce about two to four thousand words a day, depending on how fast it comes to me. Sometimes I take weekends off, and sometimes I don’t.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
It’s always different for me. If I think something needs to be revised, I’ll either make a note or just go right back and take care of it.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Many times plots change while I’m writing. But I always know the basic plot of the next book I’ll be writing while I’m still working on the present book. I just completed a novel yesterday, and I’ve been writing down notes for the next novel for the past two weeks. When the ideas come to me, I like to write them down so I don’t forget them.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I usually do the research while I’m writing. It’s important to get the facts right all the time. In “Valley of the Dudes,” the copyeditor, Jen Safrey, caught something and I had to go back and research it. I had to know whether or not an attorney from Connecticut would be able to practice law in New York, because one of the characters was a young lawyer who wanted to move from Connecticut to New York and practice law. This one took a while to research, and it was only two or three lines in the book. The laws are different from state to state and I wanted to get it right. In the book I just finished, the research I did for one simple fact took longer than I thought it would. The novel is set in l978, and I wanted to know when the word “gay” started being used in the mainstream.
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?
I rarely ever use anything directly from my own life in my fiction. It would be too dull I do, however, develop characters based on many of my own experiences as a gay man, and this includes the erotic scenes. There are only a few things in the books I’ve written that I haven’t personally experienced when it comes to erotica and romance. There are places I don’t go, because I haven’t experienced certain things. But it’s not because I draw a line. It’s because I don’t want to write about something I can’t be sure about.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I usually finish a book, go right to edits, and then send it off to the editor. The only people who ever read what I’ve written before it goes to publication are the editor, and then copy editor. I like to keep things simple. And rather than writing” straight through,” I like to think of it as going “gaily” forward.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I’ve never had that problem. There’s always something to write about. Plus, I had good teachers in college. One actually taught me how to write a short story on the color blue as an exercise.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I hope it touches them in some kind of a personal way, and I hope they remember the characters long after they’ve finished the book. I get fan mail from men and women of all ages, and the fan mail I love the most comes from people who tell me they love to read the happy endings. Life is hard for everyone, and escaping from reality with a romance that has a happy ending helps people forget how hard it is…for a little while anyway.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
- Publishing, in general, is a nice business. People are honest, friendly, and supportive.
- You have to have web presence these days, even at the expense of losing a certain amount of privacy.
- Never take a bad review too personally, unless you think there’s something you can learn from it (sometimes there is).
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?
A lot of my recent titles are take-offs of pop culture films. But with those that aren’t, especially when it comes to short story stand alones, I usually don’t know the title until I’m finished. I’ll have several titles in mind while I’m writing, but I’m never really sure until I’m finished writing.
The title for “The Pumpkin Ravioli Boy” came to me immediately, though. I’d read an article in Time Magazine by staff writer, John Cloud, about gay relationships that absolutely infuriated me. It was one of those “research says,” and “studies suggest,” articles, with no solid facts. And Mr. Cloud made gay relationships sound just as frivolous and silly as pumpkin ravioli, and I wanted to fix that with a short story for younger gay men, or anyone else out there, who doesn’t know much about gay relationships.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Quirky. I love humor that applies to real life situations. Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” would be a good example.
What is the most frequently asked Ryan question?
It usually has to do with the erotica I’ve written. And how much of the erotica is based on my own personal experiences. As I said earlier in the interview, almost all the erotic scene’s I’ve written are based on personal experience. And the few that weren’t, were the most difficult to write.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a m/m romance novel for http://www.ravenousromance.com that revolves around one of my all time favourite films, “Dirty Dancing.” I loved that movie in the eighties. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, but I always felt slightly cheated that I couldn’t totally identify with the characters as a gay man.
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?
Don’t let your work ever define you as a person. And, if you’re going to genre hop, use a pen name.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I basically do the same things other authors do. And I’m always looking for a new social network to join.
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?
I always try to have fun doing what I do. And when I start getting too obsessed, which happens, I pull back and take a break. I’ve learned how to do this through years of experience. There are times when things get crazy, and you have to know when to take a break and step back from what you’re doing.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
I started submitting stories to loveyoudivine.com a few years ago. Coming from a background in traditional publishing, I was curious about e-publishing. Then I spoke with Lori Perkins about ravenous romance, and became very interested in them. Though I have no complaints about traditional publishing, I have found that in e-publishing authors are treated very well and the process is very detailed and thorough. Right now, it would be difficult for me to find any cons about e-publishers, because working with lyd and ravenous have been very positive experiences for me.
I do see e-publishing growing fast. The changes in publishing, in general, I’ve seen in the past five years astound me. Every day there seems to be something new happening that you couldn’t have predicted the day before. And where it’s all going should be interesting.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I read romance, contemporary/mainstream fiction, and biographies. I just finished Anne Tyler’s new book, and I love John Irving. And the best novel I read last year was by Jamie Ford, “Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” I’m still in love with that one.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant. In my books, I write a lot about food. In “An Officer and His Gentleman,” the main character is a young chef.
I recently read your novel An Officer and His Gentleman. Where did you get the idea for that story?
The initial concept was suggested by Lori Perkins, from http://www.ravenousromance/. When she first approached me about doing a book like this, and about ravenous romance, the ideas for the book started to flow. The book is set in a small town where I grew up in the summers, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. And the storyline is based upon, “what if?” In other words, what if a good looking young gay guy with limited options in life because of his circumstances met up with a lonely good looking male officer and fell in love?
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
As a former art gallery owner, I look at all e-book covers as works of art. They shout pop culture, and I think they are going to be very collectible fifty years from now. I also think they will help define the times we are living in right now, in the same way a coke advertisement defined the l930’s pop art. I’ve been lucky with my own covers. I love them all. I’m also a huge fan of two cover artists, Dawne Dominique, who has done my covers for the books at loveyoudivine, and Paul Richmond, who hasn’t done any covers for me. But I love Paul’s work so much I framed a Christmas card of his that I received from m/m book reviewer, Elisa Rolle.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Researching the erotic love scenes for future books (big grin).
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
“The Way We Almost Were,” was just released by ravenousromance.com. And, I have a new stand alone coming out soon from loveyoudivine.com. It’s titled, “A Regular Bud.” It was originally pubbed in a short story collection by a print publisher, and I never liked the way it was edited. So I re-wrote it, changed things to read the way I originally wanted them to read, and it will be released sometime in early March. Note: this is what I love most about e-publishing. It’s given me the freedom to concentrate on the love and romance and story as much as on the erotica. And I think readers prefer this. The erotica should be there to promote the love and romance, or at least support the storyline in a realistic way.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Keep writing. Writing improves the more you do it. And balance dialogue with narrative. I’ve seen so many books recently where there’s either all dialogue or all narrative. As a reader, I like a balance. And, like erotic scenes, dialogue should mainly be used to help move the story forward.
What future projects do you have in the works?
I’ll be submitting a new book sometime next week, but haven’t decided on the title yet. And in the next year, I’m working on releasing at least one stand alone every six weeks.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
The most recent e- releases can be found at the publishers web sites. http://www.loveyoudivine.com/ and http://www.ravenousromance.com/. They can also be found at all e-book retail sites like http://www.fictionwise.com/, http://www.allromanceebooks.com/, http://www.1romanceebooks.com/, and http://www.amazon.com/. But I always tell readers to check out the publisher web sites first to get the best deals on books.
And, An Officer and His Gentleman has been released by Alyson Books, in partnership with Ravenous Romance, as a print book and can be found either at http://www.alysonbooks.com/, http://www.amazon.com/, or in lgbt bookstores