Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Theda. We are very excited and can’t wait to learn more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m from Tennessee—moved up north to Philly after high school, sold ice cream for fun one summer, then stayed on across the river in New Jersey awhile before coming back home. I love the mountains. They’re my home, although the beach is right up there in terms of where I love to be, too. My parents and my brother and I used to make annual trips to Panama City Beach when I was very young—we’d go camping in a huge green tent. I remember heat and bugs and jarflies and moss hanging from the trees. The water of the inlet where we stayed was like crystal. Mostly when I’m writing I set my stories in or around the mountains (so far).
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
After Anna – I sent it to eXtasy books somewhat casually, thinking I didn’t have much of a shot. I remember Tina, the owner, reading what I had sent and asking me “where’s the sex?” They’re an erotica publisher and so they’ve got to have explicit scenes, and yet here I am sending them a couple of chapters with no sex/sexual tension in it at all. I remember thinking, well, it’s not time for the guys to have sex yet, so I hope she doesn’t ask me to put it in there prematurely. She didn’t. She asked for the rest of the story, read it, told me it was good and she published it. I love Tina. She’s practical and blunt, honest and supportive of her authors.
How many books have you written thus far?
Three that are published. After Anna, the follow-up Touch Like Breathing, and the new story involving different characters, Beneath the Neon Moon. They’re all novellas, actually. I only have one unpublished work that’s close to what I’d call a novel and I’ve had it for years, so who knows if it’ll get done. It’s an early effort and it calls for a lot of re-writes, but there’s potential in it, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get it finished. It’s from my alter-ego anyway, Klaudia Bara. A vampire story. Aside from that, as Theda, I have two rough drafts finished and another work in progress.
When did you start writing gay romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I don’t know how to categorize what I write, but gay romance is close, I guess. There are some presuppositions when you label a story as romance and I don’t think my work always fits, but I will say my focus is always primarily the relationship in the story. I’m interested in writing about men who fall hard for each other, to the point that the strength of their feelings is bewildering for them and feels somewhat out of control. I also like to put them through hell. Nothing comes easy for my characters except maybe their feelings for each other. I have fun exploring that all-consuming passion coupled with a trial or ten for them to get through.
Do you write full time?
No way no how. I’d love to do so, though.
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 like creative things and I go through phases, but writing seems to be the thing that took. I actually started writing when I was little and then got away from it for years, turning instead to art, photography, then gardening… then I wrote a thing or two for fun on the internet and it was just so much fun and fulfilling. Now when I don’t have a writing project in mind I feel aimless and unhappy.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Writing, revising, sometimes screwing around on the internet depending on how focused I am that day. I’ve resolved more than a few problems while taking a walk. I’ll email bits to a close friend of mine, too – she encourages me a lot.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Mostly start out with a plan – a launching point. If I’m lucky it flows freely and I get to go with it. Most often I start writing and then find myself stuck in a corner, or have some logistics problem and have to figure my way out. I’m just not thoughtful and organized enough to have a tidy, lovely master plan all nice and neat. I wish I was. You know what it’s really mostly about for me? Setting up a scenario and then asking ‘what if’ questions about it.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
Depends entirely upon the story. One of the rough drafts I mentioned involves a vampire and two young men. I researched how a doctor might treat a patient for blood loss and didn’t end up needing the information because treatment didn’t end up in the story at all. At one point I’d planned part of the story to take place in a psychiatric hospital, so I did some research for that. I ended up not needing that info, either, because I ditched that whole scenario. I researched snake ladies and what kind of foods come on a stick (yes, I really did) for a scene at a state fair. Another story, EROMENOS, caused me to end up buying a pan pipes CD and a perfume called PAN. That’s not really research, is it?
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters?
My youth manifests itself in the stories, I’ve noticed. Back when I was invincible.I go back and revisit some of the fearless times. One of the stories I’ve been working on is pretty close to a coming of age situation (if you were to come of age with a vampire stalking you).
How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I sketch them out in my head in the beginning, their traits and their past. It varies. They always develop more during the course of the story. I’m not quite sure what the question about drawing the line means, but there aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules for much of anything in my brain. Makes me chafe.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
I send it along to the one friend I mentioned before as it unfolds, very rough, in chunks of paragraphs. I’ll also send a really rough draft to my illustrator friend, Sonja, if she wants to see it at that point. Aside from those two, almost no one sees the story until it’s polished. Editing is an incredible, insane process for me, involving a lot of expectations, self-exasperation and a blue million words axed and rearranged. I make myself crazy.
If you weren’t sitting there right this very moment answering our book of questions, what else would you be doing?
Right now I’d be reading.
Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
Revise revise. Revise. And revise.
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 have had a very serious problem with writer’s block, but writer’s block encompasses more than an inability to write. For me it is as much about being tired and procrastinating and being interrupted over and over until I can’t stay inspired. It’s about duty within the family versus claiming time for myself. It’s self-defeatist and it’s about being my own worst enemy. It’s picking everything I do apart until I am paralyzed with it. The inability to produce anything defeated me until I allowed myself to throw words out that felt clumsy and fragmented and ugly and useless and kept doing it until they started feeling like they had life in them again. It was very hard. I’m not over it but I know more of how to deal with it.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel, or experience?
I just want to tell a story. I hope they get involved with it and that it moves them. I hope they care about the characters and the things they go through. I hope it means something to them, somehow – I want to strike some commonality of feeling.
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?
Rarely before. Sometimes it comes easily as I’m writing it and sometimes it’s like trying on a million damn pair of jeans. My friend basically named Beneath the Neon Moon. She’s my idea girl.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Stupid, stupid things. Vulgar, shouted things, improbable, outrageous, ridiculous, rude, in-your-face things.
What is the most frequently asked Theda question?
What’s for dinner?
What are you working on now?
I’m taking a break and thinking about a sequel for Beneath the Neon Moon. Next I’ll be editing The Vampire’s Boy for publication.
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 remember this and think it’s really important, but I don’t think it came from any one source: keep your characters IN CHARACTER and let the story follow.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I don’t go to lengths I’m too uncomfortable with because it makes me, er, uncomfortable. I’m not a salesman in an age when an author needs to be just that.
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 have to read and think about new things and ideas that delight and inspire me or I’m dull as dishwater. I read some pretty weird things, let me tell you.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishing industry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
To me, the pro involves genre writers finding the small niches and filling them in as their interests lead them. More freedom, basically, for the writer. Con: there’s a lot of clutter and confusion and chaos while e-publishing sorts itself out. The future’s going to be a big, crowded, noisy market with the success stories reserved for the sellers who understand what their customers want and deliver on convenience and ease of use.
What kind of books do you like to read?
GLBT, classic horror, psychological horror, fiction so bad it makes me happy and my teeth hurt, erotica in general, vampires (scary, not sexy, unless they’re scary AND sexy), weres, stories whose authors completely suck me into whatever world they’ve built or scenario they’ve proposed, coming of age works, and angsty, rough, break your heart and put it back together stories.
What is your favorite TV show?
Supernatural. I am also really fond of Justified, Dark Blue (TNT) and oh-my-God over the top SPARTACUS. Batiatus FTW! I love him.
Without getting up, can you tell us what’s under your bed? (yep, another sneaky question.)
Things with black faces and dead red eyes. Ha, I’m kidding. I AM. Maybe I am.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
A rich mofo. I’m sure.
Lemons or Limes?
In anime, lemon means sexually explicit, yes? As opposed to lime? If you *actually* mean fruit, well, I love a limeade – lots of ice, a lemon-lime soda and sliced lime—hits the spot in the summer.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I love the Beneath the Neon Moon cover. It has texture and drama, sort of a grunge thing going on, and there’s a really pretty fellow on there. And chains.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Reading, hiking, being with my kids when they aren’t arguing, being with my husband when neither of us is being a bitch. Girl’s Night Out, cheap wine and cable TV. Maybe some Dante’s Cove.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
The Vampire’s Boy comes out next, so if you like vampires and best friends growing up and finding themselves in love with each other, you might enjoy it.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
I don’t feel qualified, truthfully, but maybe for a very new writer, I can offer this: write a hundred words, then edit it with clarity and brevity in mind. Cut out at least twenty to thirty words. Then go back and cut out your own ego, dramatic flourishes and needless verbosity and hope like hell what’s left is worth reading. If it isn’t, try try again. That sounds harsh when I meant it to sound practical. If the new writers out there are anything like I was, they’re ready to argue it, too.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on the Internet?
Easiest thing is go to my website: http://blackbara.net
Hot Pink or Yellow and why?
No. Just no. Okay, yellow for sunshine and black-eyed Susans. But I wanted black.