Thanks so much for being here with us today, C.M. Why don’t we start by having you give us a bit of background on your first publication? What was it and how long did it take to be published?
The Children of Mother Glory was my first published novel. It’s an historical saga told over the course of a century about a fundamentalist church sect and the struggles of its gay parishioners. It took a little over a year to write and then about a year from completion to publication.
Enter Oblivion is your latest release: would you care to share a bit about the story with us?
Yeah, it’s a Cinderella/Oliver Twist/Star Is Born/Pygmalion mash-up re-set in 1980s new wave London. Vince, a down-on-his-luck gangster, gets a shot at the big time when he’s taken in by an eclectic group of artists and musicians who change his life in more ways than one. And by the end of it, Vince has transformed their lives as well.
What prompted you to begin writing in the Male/Male genre?
I actually wrote the basis for Enter Oblivion way back in high school as an escape from a fairly oppressive environment. As a young lesbian, my sexuality and gender conceptions were still very fluid. The androgynous pop icons at the time represented of a sort of hero class to me. Their experiences were so far removed from the world around me they allowed to me to explore what was going on inside from an abstracted distance. I put the book away for many years and recently picked it back up and did some HEAVY editing.
What about the genre interests you most?
I really like transformative stories, whether they are romances or action adventures. Doesn’t matter if they are set in the past or outer space. I really like characters that battle the odds to learn and grow. When it comes to M/M fiction specifically I think many women perceive gay men as having a sort of no-strings attached access to the world that women don’t fully enjoy yet, and that may explain some of why we love to read and write in the genre.
Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you try to dedicate to writing?
My day job is marketing and advertising. But I work from home, so I’m able to bounce back and forth between work and writing. When I’m really working hard on a novel, it’s probably 4-6 hours per day.
Looking back, is there any one person or one thing that influenced you to begin writing creatively? How long have you been writing?
I’ve been creating stories for a very long time–decades–so it’s difficult to recall the genesis. I do know that I grew up around a group of kids that were very good at forming narratives on the fly.
Do you outline your stories beforehand, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
Depends on the story. Enter Oblivion was fairly organic, and just expanded and contracted over time. The Children of Mother Glory was outlined because I knew what I wanted to see happen. And my next was outlined too.
Do you revise and edit as you go along, or do you write start to finish and revise after?
I try to write as much as I can straight through. But if I’ve written something at night, I always re-read it in the morning and that invariably results in an edit.
What sorts of research do you do before and during the writing of a new book?
Lots and lots. Books, Google, interviews, forums. In fact, if there is a lot of research looming it will completely put me off wanting to delve into writing. But once I get engaged in the process I’m pretty focused. Okay, obsessed.
How much of yourself, your life experiences, and the people you know manifest themselves into your characters?
Sometimes a character grows from research on a historical figure. Other times characters grow from someone I’ve known. I’m also subconsciously splitting off chunks of my own personality and planting them into the mix driving further mutation. I imagine this is a common theme for most writers.
How long does it usually take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
Probably six months to a year, depending upon length. I’m fairly open with my work.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, do you have any exercises you use to get beyond it?
I have plenty of times when I just don’t feel like writing. I’m not a big fan of writing through a “block.” For me that just produces reams of claptrap. I suppose if I was a fulltime writer I’d be more concerned, but mostly I just wait for the ideas to come and if they don’t it’s not the end of the world.
Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
1. Even though your name is on the book, a lot of people and sources go into the finished product.
2. The author needs to take an active role in the promotion, if not the whole shebang.
3. You will learn a lot about your book/writing by what complete strangers say about it.
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?
I get to name companies for a living, so book naming is pretty fun for me. I usually end up with WAY too many usable options long before I finish. Sometimes a name will even inspire the whole story.
What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
“Did this scene happen to you?” Sometimes I tell them the truth.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing?
Let the reader make the judgments and just have the narrator tell the story.
E-readers are changing the way people access and read books. Do you see any pros and/or cons with respect to e-publishing?
I don’t see as many cons as I used to. I do love the printed word on paper but I think a fully interactive, multimedia novel is in our near future and that’s pretty exciting.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A struggling filmmaker or penniless musician.
When it comes to the covers of your books, do you have a lot of creative input in their design?
I’ve been very lucky. My company, Carbon Creative, designed both my covers.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love to bike ride. Road, mountain, whatever. Actually, I come up with a lot of story ideas that way because it really opens the mind. Problem is, unless I have a way to record multiple ideas, I lose a few of them along the trail.
Now that you’re a published author, what advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the business?
Write for yourself. Edit for your reader.
In other words, for a book to truly be unique to you it has to come from your heart, so indulge yourself. But it also needs to ring true to MANY others if you are going to see any semblance of success. So listen to your critiques, find a way to get through to readers and engage them in the story.
What future projects do you have in the works?
A contemporary family drama/satire. It’s the story of a Midwestern hockey mom whose allegiances are torn between her mother-in-law, a conservative state senator, and her old friend from high school who has come back to town as an “ex-gay.”
When you have a minute to sit down with a good book, what genres do you enjoy reading from? Who are some of your favorite authors?
I read a ton of non-fiction for research. I love books on psychology and history. When it comes to M/M specifically I love Ruth Sims’s books, Rick R. Reed and anything from Seventh Window.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I like to laugh at myself and others who can laugh at themselves. Life is so absurd, I find way too many things funny that someone else might find horrifying. For example, I found the movie Black Swan pretty campy.
What’s your favorite food?
Who are you favorite male and female actors?
I like Paul Rudd. He’s dreamy. And funny. The perfect mix. Cate Blanchett is also the bees knees.
What’s your favorite movie(s)?
I love a lot of old movies from the 30s and 40s–way too many to mention. Also, Woody Allen’s Manhattan is nearly perfect. And for contemporary films, Donnie Darko is awesome.
If you could sit down to dinner with any one person, past or present, who would it be and why?
My wife is the best dinner companion I’ve met so far.
If you could travel through time, what time period(s) would you most like to visit and why?
Going too far back presents a problem as a woman. What a rude awakening that would be! I guess I would like to go back a couple decades and re-do things with more confidence and wisdom.
If we were to take a peek at the desktop where you sit to write, what sorts of things would we find?
Way too many Post-it™ notes and coffee-rings.
C.M., will you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Thanks again for being here with us. Care to share an excerpt from Enter Oblivion with us?
Sure! This scene comes midway through the novel, when Vince and his love interest, the spoiled English rock star Jik O’Blivion, come to grips–so to speak.
ENTER OBLIVION, C.M. HARRIS
“What the bloody?” Jik reined the Dapple Gray to a trot. He peered down the road.
“What’s he think, we’ve a turbo?” Cyd pointed for the manor, her massive nostrils twitching. She was eager for oats. Jik patted her neck. “All right then,” and they trotted off along the verge.
Before reaching the main gate, Jik saw something dreadful. Perhaps it was merely an illusion within the fog not yet burned off the dale. But no, Vince’s motorbike was definitely over on its side, off the road with its front wheel still spinning. The young man lay a few feet from it, face-down in the crisp winter grass. Jik ground his heels into the mare, driving her down the hill. On dismount, his foot caught in the stirrup. He cursed and hopped until he’d released the boot, then scrambled to Vince and slid down next to him. Once he’d rolled Vince onto his lap, he brushed the dirt from the young man’s face and listened for some sign of life. Breath warmed his ear and he drew back.
Vince smiled. “It’s really nice to know you care.”
“You dirty dog!” Jik pushed him off with a thud. “You’ve got some brass. I nearly beat poor Cyd to death coming after you. Just look at her.”
Vince looked at the horse, which was calmly sniffing the earth next to them. He grinned wider, took Jik’s arm, and yanked him down.
Jik stiffened. “What a rotten th—” Vince kissed him. And protest was pointless with two tongues in one’s mouth.
Vince rose to his knees and pulled Jik up by the shoulders to meet him. He shifted his weight forward, throwing the balance, and they fell to ground.
Once Jik fully grasped the plan, they were rolling about, necking in a pile on the heath. The warm nectar of Vince’s mouth, the scent of exhaust and leather, all shot through to the back of his thoughts, plowing over indignation. Vince tossed him around, struggling with tight buttonholes. Jik gazed up to the thin cirrus cloud miles beyond; his cock was already pounding, trapped beneath denim. What a splendid day to find out what Vince was made of.
Icy water soaked through the back of the herringbone jacket and Jik caught his breath. A maroon Bentley passed slowly on the main road. What if his parents had returned early from the coast?
Oh, Hello there. Haven’t a clue as to why this man’s atop me.
Get up, you filthy bastards! Cecille, my pistol.
Julian, you are giving your father a heart attack!
“All right, Vincent, that’s quite enough, perhaps if we—”
Vince grunted; hands pushing between newly opened zippers. Friction had heated Jik’s riding jodhpurs and now, unfortunately, even more of the frosted soil beneath them.
“Vincent, don’t.” Jik fought back a gasp. “I said!”
“You’ve got me all wet and clammy.” Jik rose up on his elbows.
“Oh, shit. I am really sorry.” Vince took off his coat. He pushed it under them and resumed his offensive.
“No, this simply can’t happen, can’t afford it.” Jik nodded and then shook his head. He tried to scoot away; he also attempted to look elsewhere.
“Don’t worry,” Vince took Jik’s chin and winked, “this one’s no charge.”
“Wha?” Jik laughed and pushed the hand away. “Me, pay you? I can see why Nigel keeps you about. You’re great entertainment. Not done this sort of thing before, have you?”
“I ain’t no hayseed, I know how it all works.”
“Do you now?” The laughter grew a bit crueler than intended. “You’ve no idea.” Jik gave one last push and scrambled up, brushing off. He circled himself in a fruitless attempt to get a look at his soggy back. He stopped turning and placed hands on hips. “What is it that you want exactly, Vincent? Money is it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’ll get much more than you bargained for, I guarantee you.”
“Here we go. You think I ain’t sophisticated enough. Should I go out and fuck every guy I meet? Read every book in Nigel’s study? Interview for the job?” Vince stood up and stared Jik directly in the eye. “You guys ever gonna let me know when I graduate?”
“There’s no need to snipe. Have you ever once considered that perhaps you’re not even my type?”
“I thought you wanted this!”
“Yes, well. Now I’ve thought better of it,” Jik said to Cyd, who cocked her head and snorted in the direction of oats. “Look, Vincent, life is a series of mixed messages.”
“Ah, save it for the wannabes, you conceited little f—” Vince’s teeth stabbed into his lip as he clamped his mouth shut and marched back to his motorcycle. He struggled to lift it, growling as he did, and kicked it to start.
The beast spun out in the opposite direction of O’Shaughnessy Hall flicking bits of sod in Jik’s face. He stood, joints locked, arms crossed, oaths firing from lips. Cyd sidestepped away from the clamor.
“Zut!” Jik flung his cap to the ground. He snapped the riding crop in half over his knee, immediately regretting it. It was a family heirloom after all, and worse luck, no one remained to witness it.
The mare trotted toward the stables, reins dangling. “Wait, Cyd. Ho. We must find some glue. Ho!—HO!”