Our Time With Anel
find out what’s under his bed!!
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Anel. We are very excited and can’t wait to learn more about you.
Thank you forlistening. I only hope I deserve your interest and I’m crossing my fingers Iwon’t lose it before we finish.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Isuppose I should start by saying that I’m a bisexual male. You can’t tell thatfrom my pen name (pronounced ah-NELL).I’m in my mid-sixties and teach at asmall liberal arts college in the Midwest. I’m still a big city kid at heart,though, having grown up in New York.
Iwas married for twenty years and have two grown sons. Now I’m in a gayrelationship with a man I met 13 years after I separated from my wife. I didn’tset out to live as a gay man; it just happened. And since I started writingstories after it happened, I write mostly gay stories.
I’vealways written – scholarly articles and literary translations, under my realname – and I do freelance editing under yet another alias. I started creativewriting about six years ago. It was something I came back to when I discoveredthere were story groups on the Internet and I would have an audience. Writinghad been one of my favorite activities when I was kid, but I stopped in juniorhigh school.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
Ina sense, less than no time. My first publisher contacted me. Laura Thomson wasstudying bookbinding and letterpress, and had founded Doppelganger Press forher projects. I had been posting stories and poetry on various sites for abouttwo years. She liked my stuff and e-mailed me to ask if I had something shemight use for her Master’s thesis. I obliged with two prose-poem cycles, LuxCarnis and Our Acreage, which sheput out in a hand-made dos-à-dos letterpress edition. There may still be copiesavailable, but it is a very expensive little volume.
By the time those two works came out, I had had two novellasaccepted and was regularly publishing flash fictions. Then Wilde Oats (formerly Forbidden Fruit)started picking up my stories. But it was another two years before I had anovel accepted. Not the first I wrote, though. That was P’tit Cadeau, acceptedby Silver Publishing last summer. It came out in January.
How many books have you written thus far?
Written?I have no idea. Published: 3 novels; 5 novellas, including one in an anthologyand two in on-line magazines; 11 stories (one of them a chapter from anovel-in-progress), two published separately, one in an anthology, and the restin on-line magazines; about three dozen flash fictions in four differenton-line magazines; and 4 prose-poem cycles. Then there’s the stuff I’ve simplyposted on one group site or another. Then there’s stuff that’s been acceptedbut not yet released. I know how many there are, but there may well be more bythe time you post this interview. I hope there are at least a couple. I’vesubmitted a lot.
When did you start writing gay fiction? What about this genreinterested you the most?
Aboutsix years ago. I was surprised to find it had a large audience on the Internet,and felt it was something I could do well. Also, the subject of gay men doesn’trestrict me to any one genre. You can do romance, historical fiction,paranormal, mysteries, erotica, humor… just about anything. A lot of my workcontains explicit sex scenes, but I like to think they are always relevant tothe story and elucidate the characters, and I try to make every sex scene different,which I assure you is no easy task!
Writing is obviously not just how you make yourliving, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative”spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
Whatdo mean, “not just how I make my living”? It’s not how I make my living,period. If it were, I’d be homeless or dead of starvation. Writing has become my life-style, though. But it’s thecreative spark that keeps that life-style alive, not vice versa. When the sparkgoes out, I’ll have to stop, won’t I?
On a typical writing day, how would you spend yourtime?
Atmy laptop. Then I’d suddenly notice it was night and I hadn’t eaten all day.Only then would I realize I was hungry. But most of the time I have tointerrupt my writing to go to work. And yes, I have arrived at my job latebecause of it.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely orplan everything in advance?
Neither.Short stories I write freely; with novels I start writing freely and jot downnotes as ideas comes to me, and the notes turn into a a vague sort of plan –nothing like an outline – which constantly changes as the work evolves. I haveto, because my characters have as much input into what will happen as I do,maybe more. The Memoirs of ColonelGérard Vrielhac,for example, was supposed to be a love story about Gérard and Julien. It waspart of the plan for them to be apart for many years and for Gérard to haveother encounters, other partners, but I didn’t foresee he would fall in lovewith them.
Forme, plot is not the most important aspect of a book. I don’t just want to tella story, I want to tell a story that says something important about life, thattouches on issues that concern us all, and I want to create real,multi-dimensional characters. After all, they make what happens in a bookhappen. I believe in free will. Sure, often things will happen that are beyondtheir control, but it is how they deal with those things that counts.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifestinto your characters?
Alot, but you have to include the fictional characters in books I’ve read amongthe people I know. One reviewer detected the influence of Balzac in The City of Lovely Brothers, and, in fact, I had the fictional world of his Comédie Humaine very much in mind while I wrote it. I don’t model acharacter on any one person in particular; they’re composites. And once thestory is underway and my characters have taken on a life of their own, I stoptrying to impose my ideas or concept on them. Many of the incidents in my booksare based on things that happened to me or people I know, but my characterswill react to and deal with those incidents in their own way.
Ialso draw on my experience when I describe a contemporary setting. A theater ordisco will often resemble one I’ve been to, and friends who have read mystories recognize their houses, apartments or neighborhoods.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writingit, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Inever start with a title. I may have a title in mind before I begin the actual writing,but in those cases I’ve already written a few pages in my head. I’m sureeveryone must think that I wrote The City of Lovely Brothers starting with the title, but I had already written closeto 50 pages – not the first ones, either – when I got the idea. I went back and wrote the opening, changed the nameof my ranch to Caladelphia, and made all the brothers’ names begin with “Cal”.SometimesI have to rack my brain for a title even after I’ve finished a story. However,I usually come up with a working title before I’m halfway through, and I almostalways stick with it.
How long does it take for you to complete a book youwould allow someone to read?
Aflash fiction, anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour; a short story, anywherefrom two days to three months; a novel, anywhere from two weeks to a half a year.A poem can take anywhere from half an hour to a lifetime. Of course, thatsomeone would be a beta or an editor. The public has to wait until I’ve polishedit.
Do you write straight through, or do you revise asyou go along?
Notonly do I not write straight through, I jump around and write different partsof the book I’m working on as the ideas come to me. Only one or two very short storieshave I started at the beginning and continued writing until I reached the end. Manyof them I start in the middle. What’s more, I tend to work on more than onebook or story at a time. And I revise constantly as I write; every time Ireturn to my laptop to write some more, I start with revisions as a kind ofwarm-up. That doesn’t mean I don’t go back and revise a book after I’vefinished it. I do, all the time. I suppose it must drive my editors andpublishers crazy. Of course I make no substantial changes in the galleys.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you eversuffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I’vewritten hundreds of pages of books I know I’ll never finish either because I’velost interest or I realize it’s crap. But if I draw a blank while working on somethingI think has potential, then I turn to another section of the same book, wait afew days, and come back to the troublesome passage later; or I start another storyand put the first on a back burner. Most of the time I’m working on severalprojects at once, and I’ve never had my inspiration dry up on everything. MaybeI’m just lucky. I have had a couple of fallow periods when I was sick, butthat’s lack of energy, not writer’s block.
New writers are always trying to glean advice fromthose with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Read,read, read, read, read. You can’t help but learn from what you read. Don’t justread the kind of books you write, be they romances or historicals oradventures, etc., because the more diverse your reading, the more ideas you’llget on how and what to write, and your “voice” will become more individual,richer. So much of “genre” writing is same old, same old. Especially, read theclassics, and the Nobel, Pulitzer and Booker Prize winners – not just best sellers– and authors from other countries and cultures.
Also,if you don’t know your grammar, learn it. Editors are there to help you polishyour writing, not correct basic mistakes. Cultivate your love affair withlanguage. Get yourself a good thesaurus and use it. Build your vocabulary. Thebest way to do all this is to read.
When someone reads one of your books for the firsttime, what do you hope they gain, feel, or experience?
Youcan’t please everyone all the time. At the very least, I hope readers willrecognize that my work is well-crafted and will find the characters believableand complex even if they don’t much care for them. I hope they’ll understand thatsex is only a part of their relationship and the book is more than an excuse towrite sex scenes. I hope to make them focus on the problems gay men face everyday. And I hope they don’t come away thinking “I’ve read all that before,” evenif they never want to read something like it again.
What are you working onnow?
Lord!What am I not working on now? Oneis “The Physiology of the Male Invert”, the 2nd sequel to my mystery novella,“The House in Birdgate Alley”. I wantto write a number of Johnny Rice stories. He’s just too endearing a character to let go after only one story. Ihave another historical in the works that could turn into anything from a shortstory to a medium-size novel about Richard II and Robert de Vere, and a longishnovella called “Resolution” that follows the main character over 2 years, 3 NewYear’s Eves and the time in between to be exact. Plus a couple of stories. Ialways have a few stories on hand in various stages of completion. I’d like toput together a themed anthology some day. But the project I find mostoverwhelming – I won’t hazard a guess how long it will take me – is a novel, The Pyramid of Nepensiret (provisional title). It will take over a year to complete. It’s not yourtypical historical novel in that it will be composed of 6 interconnectednovellas about Egyptologists in different countries and at different times whoare all trying to solve the mystery of Queen Nepensiret, who is mentioned innone of the ancient lists of rulers and whose pyramid is now submerged underthe waters of Lake Nasser and inaccessible. All we have is her mummy, sarcophagus,and a handful of artifacts from the burial chamber. Most of the artifactsinside it were looted, and the notes of the man who discovered it havedisappeared. I’ve written the first and last novella and about 1/3 of thethird. For the others I know where they will be set, who the characters willbe, and what they will learn about Nepensiret, but the plots are still veryiffy except for a number of similar incidents or recurring themes that will runthrough all the novellas. I have a ton of research to do – Napoleon’s Egyptiancampaign, the Franco-Prussian War, the London blitz, and more.
What kind of research do you do before and during anew book?
Mostof my stories are firmly grounded in the current events of the time they takeplace, so I check and double-check dates even before I have a clear idea of whothe characters will be and what will happen to them. For NepensiretI had to research the chronology of the construction of the Aswan High Dam andsalvaging the monuments, as well as the events leading up to the Six Day War,which occurred while it was being built, and the history and religion ofAncient Egypt. I usually wait until it comes time to describe a location beforeresearching the places, and I’ve sometimes moved events to somewhere else atneed. I check everything – distances, time required to travel from one place toanother, street maps, old photographs, what was built there when, etc. For The City of Lovely Brothers I researched ranch architecture, building of the NorthernPacific Railroad, late 19th century Billings (Montana), and Davenport and St.Louis during the Depression. I even had to research the Indian Wars which don’tfigure in the novel so as not to put my characters in the middle of one! For The Memoirs of Colonel Gérard Vreilhac, my French Revolution / Bourbon Restoration novel, I had to check the order of battle forNapoleon’s campaigns. I had most fun researching P’tit Cadeau,because I wrote most of it while living in France, and I visited every city,castle, beach, museum, etc. in the book.
Mindyou, even with contemporary settings I’m a stickler for correct geography, whatthe houses look like, what plants are blooming when… you name it. And if mycharacters speak a regional dialect, I always send the dialogue to a friendfrom that part of the world for correction.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes youlaugh?
Sickand eccentric. And intellectual. I love word play. Read my work and see –almost everything I write contains at least some humor. So much of what goes onin this world of ours upsets me, so I do my best to find something to laughabout in what’s upsetting me. Even bitter laughter helps.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have yougone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Istink at promotion. I try to find people willing to review my work and Ivolunteer for interviews when the occasion arises. It took me forever to set upa blog, and I’m still not quite sure how to use it. Maybe after I retire I’llwork harder at promoting my books. If any authors out there are looking fortips on how to push their books, I’m not the tree they want to bark up.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislikeabout them?
Everycover artist I’ve ever worked with has always followed my suggestions to theletter, and Reese Dante, who does the covers for Silver, involves the author inevery step of their creation and the results are spot on. So I can’t complain.But I’ll complain anyway. You see, I’m not visually artistic, so I wonder: ifthe artist had read the book first, would s/he have come up with a better ideathan the picture I requested? That is, something that would grab a prospectivereader. It’s sort of a corollary to my promotional cluelessnes.
What pros and cons surround the e-publishingindustry, and how do you envision the future of e-publishing?
I’vejust started buying e-books because I finally bought an e-reader a week or soago. The few I bought before that took me forever to read because my back cantake only so long at the computer before it gives out and I already spend toomuch time at it writing. Now I can take them to bed with me unless my eyes havegiven out along with my back. I prefer print books. I love to read, and to meturning pages and cracking bindings is part of the reading experience. But Ialso like to be read, and more people buy e-books.
What kind of books do you like to read?
Fiction,history, essays, poetry. I read surprisingly little gay-themed literature andvery few romances. When I do, it’s almost always because I’m editing orreviewing the book. Maybe I’ll read more now that I have an e-reader.
What is your favorite TV show?
Idon’t watch television. No cable, no dish, no antenna. My set is just forplaying DVDs.
Without getting up, can you tell us what’s under yourbed? (yep, another sneaky question.)
That’seasy – laundry. What’s under yours?
Michele- puzzles and lots of notebooks
Lisa-Shoes, shoes, and then some shoes.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
WhatI am, a university professor, soon to retire. Writing is a sideline, strictlyfor fun. And I don’t intend to stop when I retire.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Listeningto music, mostly classical. Watching movies. Cooking. Playing with my dog.Camping. Any kind of activity one does in or on the water. Travel. Mouthingoff. And, of course, reading.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
I’vementioned them already. But readers should keep an eye on WildeOats magazine. They’ve published one ofmy stories in every issue so far, and they review all my major publications.
If you weren’t sitting there right this very momentanswering our book of questions, what else would you be doing?
IfI had something else to do right at this very moment, I wouldn’t be sittinghere answering your book of questions. I’d answer them later.
Can you please tell us where we can find you and your books on theInternet?
Peoplecan follow me on my brand new blog: http://anelviz.blogspot.com/.I try to post on it at least once a week. For my books, go to my publishers’websites and click on ´authors’, then ‘Anel Viz’. So far I’ve published with AspenMountain Press, QueeredFiction, Dreamspinner Press, and Silver Publishing. Anddon’t forget Wilde Oats and GayFlash Fiction online magazines.
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s)from one of more of your stories with us?
Hereare 3 short excerpts from each my most recent books, all with SilverPublishing.
From The City ofLovely Brothers (released 13 Nov.), PartII, chapter 6:
[Situation: Caleb and Caliban Caldwell have built ahouse for themselves in a far corner of the Caldwell ranch in order to remainneutral in the on-going feud between their two other brothers, Calvin andCalhoun.]
The house was so far from everything that onesummer day they took Jaggers for a naked stroll on the prairie wearing onlytheir boots. Half a mile from the housethey saw two people on horseback come over the rise about three-quarters of amile to the north. Caleb turned andhigh-tailed it back to the house with Jaggers at his heels, but the bestCaliban could manage was a limping half-lope, his penis and ball-sack hangingfree and swinging between his legs as he hobbled swayingly from side toside. Clay and Jared, Calhoun’sfifteen- and fourteen-year-old sons, overtook theirtwenty-two-and-a-half-year-old buck naked uncle before he had made it halfwayback. They circled round him, turnedtheir horses back and reined them in, and sat in their saddles laughing. “Whatsamatter,” Caliban asked, blushing tohis hairline and feeling like an idiot, “ain’t you never seen a naked manbefore?”
“Plenty, we’re in a house full of boys,” Claysaid. “Just ain’t never seen one lopingacross the prairie. Even the Indiansused to cover up, Pa says.”
“I thought you all got your own rooms. I can’t remember ever seeing your pa or yourUncle Calvin naked. Now me and Caleb,we were in a room together from when I was five, and my brothers all slept inthe same room until your grandpa died.”
“Us three were all in the same room together sortabefore we moved outta Uncle Calvin’s place, and us and Zeke spend alot o’ timeat the swimming hole.”
“Which means you go running around the prairie inthe raw too.”
“But if anyone comes by we can hide ouryou-know-whats in the water. What ifour ma ’da come riding with us and seen you without a stitch on?”
If Julia had seen him, Caliban would probably havecrawled into a hole and stayed there a week, but he made a show ofnonchalance. “Your ma seen me when Iwas about your age, time I broke my hip.”
“Ma ain’t seen me since I was three,” Jared saidproudly.
“Did too,” Clay said. “When we got the chicken pox. I was eight and you were six and a half.”
Faced with such damning and irrefutable evidence,Jared countered, “She saw a lot more o’ you than she did o’ me on account o’where them pox was. She even putvinegar all over your wiener.”
From The House inBirdgate Alley (to be released 4 Dec.),chapter 5:
[Situation:Dr. Wilson and Johnny Rice, a male prostitute who is helping him investigatethe murder of another prosititute, have been spotted together at a restaurantby Johnny’s pimp. After lunch, they go to the brothel where he works so the manwon’t think Johnny has been picking up extra trade on the side.]
We walked the short distance to BirdgateAlley. A bell on the inside of thefront door alerted the proprietors to a customer’s arrival. Hearing it, Mrs. Lansing came out of theparlour. We saw no sign of her husband.
“Look ’oo I run into walkin’ down the ’igh street!”Johnny called to her cheerily. “Yerremember Dr. Warrens what gave us all the medical examination?”
She seemed pleased to see me and took no notice ofthe change of name, which, I believe, had only been spoken when I introducedmyself, and I had not given her my card. “Come all the way ’ere t’ see me boys again, did ye, Doctor? They’re clean.”
“I had just left Guy’s Hospital when I happenedupon Johnny here, and decided to stop by and inquire after them. I’m not here for medical examinations this time,Mrs. Lansing.”
“Except o’ Johnny.” Lansing stood in the open doorway behind us, a large, burly,ill-favoured man, squint-eyed under bushy eyebrows, with a dark beard andyellow teeth.
I turned to confront him. “I beg your pardon, sir. What did you mean by that?”
“I’m Richard Lansing,” he growled, “the owner o’this ’ere establishment an’ this boy’s employer. Ye didn’t just stop an’ say good day t’ each other. I seen yer ’avin’ lunch with ’im.”
“And what of it?”
“Yer ’ave to go through me if yer wants the comp’nyo’ one o’ me boys. They don’t workindependent. Johnny knows that. I’ll deal with ’im later.”
“Mr. Rice was not working. We were having lunch. And he paid for his own fish and chips.”
“Mr. Rice, is it? I ’eared yer call ’im Johnny just now. Our boys’ time don’t come free.”
Lansing was seething with anger, otherwise he wouldnot have addressed a potential customer in that tone. His wife came forward to stand beside her husband and took him bythe arm. “Dick, love, don’t be crosswith the Doctor. It don’t matter nonewhere Johnny finds ’is gen’lemen.”
“’E can find ’em where ’e pleases,” Lansingsnarled, “so long as ’e pleases ’em ’ere an’ they pays us fer it.”
From P’tit Cadeau (to be released 1 Jan.), Part III, chapter5:
[Situation: Ben, an American art professor onsabbatical in the south of France has been invited to the wedding of his friendJean-Yves’ sister, Marceline.]
Themayor, who had agreed to officiate himself, finally arrived. “Is everything prepared? Where are the witnesses? Stand here. Stand there.” Before I knew whathad happened, they were man and wife. Icould tell because they kissed.
Monsieurle maire asked Gilles’spermission to make a little speech, then went ahead and made one. Quis tacet, consentit. It was mercifully short and had nothing todo with the couple beyond pointing out that it had been twenty years since twopeople from the village last married each other.
“Nowcan we go to the church?” asked Marceline.
Gilleslagged behind to whisper to the mayor, “She’s hoping her father will give heraway, but if he’s in no condition to, will you do the honors?”
“Whynot ask Jean-Yves? An unmarried womanis under the authority of her closest male relative.” With the millennium less than fifteen months away, he had yet toenter the twentieth century!
“Mysister doesn’t know that,” Jean-Yves explained.
Wehad to run to catch up with Marceline and her bridesmaids, who hadn’t botheredto wait and didn’t realize they’d gone on without us. Cadot père hadn’t yet arrived. Jean-Yves phoned the nursing home, and they said he was on hisway.
“I’llgive him ten minutes,” Marceline said.
Sheasked twice for the time. Jean-Yvesmade it five, then ten minutes earlier than it was.
Theold man showed up half an hour later, bewildered and complaining about havingto wear a tie. When he saw Marceline inher wedding gown he asked, “Why aren’t you at the store? Did you leave Jean-Yves in charge?” thoughhis son was right next to her.
“MonsieurCadot isn’t having a good day,” the attendant whispered.
We’dfigured that out for ourselves. Themayor gave the bride away.
Itook a seat at the back of the church, wishing I could sit by Jean-Yves. I couldn’t follow the ceremony and thoughtit unnecessarily long, considering that they were married already. I wondered if they threw rice at Frenchweddings and how I should phrase my compliments.
Themass suddenly stopped and everyone began talking loudly. Marceline was livid.
“What’shappening?” I asked the person sitting in front of me.
“Theattendant let old Cadot take communion by himself and he hasn’t returned to hisseat. She’s gone to look for him.”
Jean-Yveshurried up the aisle and grabbed my arm. “Come help me find my father.”
Hestopped outside the church door.
“Wheredo we look first?” I asked.
“Wedon’t. He couldn’t have left thechurch. I just wanted to get out ofthere.”
Thewedding luncheon was to start at one o’clock, and I hear it went on till afterten and the last guest had gone home. Jean-Yves and I left long before that. I asked him when we’d made our escape from the church if we should go onahead and wait for the others at the café.
“Ican’t. I have to stand in line andreceive your congratulations and everyone else’s.”
“Whatam I supposed to say?”
“Itdoesn’t matter. Say something inEnglish. No one listens to thesethings. Except Gilles’s mother. She won’t listen, but you’d better saysomething in French anyway.”
“Vous devez être très fière, Madame. Besure to get the Madame right. It’s not important if you screw up the rest.”
“I’mdreading this luncheon. I don’t knowanyone here.”
“That’sall taken care of. You’ll be sitting atthe head table with me. They didn’tknow where else to put you.”
Jean-Yveslined up beside his sister outside the church. “Why didn’t you take communion?” she hissed at him.
“Ihaven’t taken communion since maman’s funeral. You haven’t either. Besides, it’s not allowed. Ihaven’t been to confession.”
“Confession!”she snorted. “What do you have toconfess? Do you think I went?”
“Thenyou shouldn’t have taken communion.”
“Ihad to. I was getting married.”
“Youshould have taken communion anyway. Everybody noticed.”
Thatwas the last thing she said to him until she returned from her honeymoon.