Well now… I grew up down South raised by a very out, political lesbian in a very conservative part of Texas in a VERY liberal house. I started out young in showbiz and transitioned into writing and directing when I realized that I had stories of my own I wanted to tell. I’ve been writing for a living since I was 21 or 22, mostly in film and theatre. I came to New York for college and though I left on various sojourns in other places (a couple years in London, Prague, etc) I always wind up coming back to Manhattan. I’ve been with my amazing boyfriend for over 10 years and I wouldn’t trade places with anybody! LOL
When did you discover your passion for writing? Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?
Well, it started onstage. I had a “freak” four-octave voice when I was a little boy so I started out belting numbers in musicals. Since I’d grown up working with scripts, I always had a keen awareness of the ways that writers bent the world into shapes for their audiences. Likewise, I grew up in a ferociously literary family and read obsessively from an early age…so storytelling limned my world for me at all times in all directions.
At a very young age, my teachers began encouraging me to write, and then adults I worked with in showbiz did the same. I read about 1200 words a minute so tearing books apart became one way I taught myself what a story was. Plus, I was always analyzing plays I was in (no better point of view for that than IN the piece). Little by little, I developed a sense of how stories go together and what makes audiences connect. To my eternal gratitude, I had teachers and directors and professional colleagues who kept pushing me to take it seriously and to learn the craft form the inside out. Now I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t tell stories.
My first novel was Hot Head and it took about 52 hours.
That sounds awful, but it’s the truth. I had already identified Dreamspinner as my number one choice because of their sleek professionalism and the way they position contemporaries within gay romance. I had been characteristically methodical about that decision: I made a list of what I perceived to be “house” strengths, watched the top ten lists at various retailers, factored in my own personal favorites within the genre. Doing that narrowed my list down to three publishers, with Dreamspinner in the lead based on secondary factors like covers, promotion, and market focus. I finished my last proofing of my manuscript and built my cover letter late on a Friday night and sent that critter in, expecting to hear back in four to six weeks. It took just over two days.
Elizabeth [North] contacted me late Sunday night with a glowing letter of acceptance and an offer, although I didn’t get the message until Monday morning. Pure magic! I’d expected to go through the normal will-they-won’t-they authorial anxiety for several weeks and —wham— my first romance novel was coming out in a couple months. Moreover, Elizabeth and her entire team went above and beyond to make sure I had whatever I wanted and that Hot Head had a smooth ride to market. Amazing and instructive.
Is there a particular sub-genre in which you enjoy writing more than others? (i.e. paranormal vs. historical vs. contemporary)
Honestly, no. I love the perspective different subgenres afford. It always comes down to the story. There are some stories that kick my ass, and some that just pour out of me in a flood. The story determines the genre and consequently I never think to myself, “Ah hell, it’s a western. That’ll take forever,” or whatever.
That may be a function of my life writing scripts for “The Man” in the corporate sense because I feel like you have to find a way to love the world you’re building even if the project is not your first choice, even if the producers are asking for something nutty. I feel like every genre has elements that make it embraceable and singular…so I’m always looking for a toehold so I can make the story mine. Given the right angle, I’m good to go.
Do you prefer writing in the 1st or the 3rd person? What advantages do you see in writing in one vs. the other?
Third person, no question. I think first person works really well for certain genres (e.g. thriller, gothic, Bildungsroman, noir) and with certain authorial voices, but generally I’m not a huge fan of it for my romance work. Third person allows so much more freedom and latitude operationally. First person, by definition, limits the scope and scale of stories and encourages a lot of not-so-great habits in genre structure. And generally I think it works better for narratives which benefit from an unbalanced, limited perspective for mechanical reasons. I’m in awe of people who do it well.
Now, readers often tell me that in my fiction I tend to get VERY close in my third person in ways that borders on first person intimacy. It’s a weird habit of mine but probably just part of the way I see stories. A literal first person story would feel too narrow and rigid for the kinds of stories that get my juices going. Again, just my personal beef, and one that’s not completely logical.
How long does it generally take for you to finish a manuscript?
Depends on the manuscript. Hot Head was 105k words and I finished it in six weeks. Grown Men was 30k and it still took a month, because it was more complicated and compressed as a narrative. I’m a fast writer, I s’pose, because I’ve been doing it for so long and under such weird time constraints. Length seems to have less to do with the time required than the prep that gets me ready to groove on a story. Worldbuilding is always a factor, but contemporaries require worldbuilding as well, more than readers might suppose. Still, a contemporary definitely takes less time than an elaborate steampunk saga or a paranormal regency. I feel like it comes down to the kinds of conflict and suspense built into a narrative…some plots/characters just need more gestation time to ripen fully so you don’t slide into ruts and retreads.
How much creative input do you have in the cover design for your books?
So far, a lot! I have a background in visual art and design so I’ve had definite ideas about my covers. For both Hot Head and Grown Men, Dreamspinner and Riptide both turned themselves inside out to give me what I wanted. I wrote enormous essays for their respective Art Departments. Those documents included model references, style references, period research, color swatches, even discussion of filters and preferred medium. I’ve written for comics a good deal, so I’m used to the back-n-forth with artists to get at a dynamic image that gets the job done.
Anne Cain’s gorgeous Hot Head cover satisfied everything I’d asked for, without being literal about any of it. Using all my notes and references as a jumping off place, she captured the vibe of the book perfectly and her artwork contributed greatly to the book’s success. And Roberto Quintero’s breathtaking painting for Grown Men became an elaborate labor of love arising from a wacky idea I had about retro sci-fi covers and our shared obsession with Frazetta and Vallejo covers. I’m eager to see gay romance covers that push the envelope in several directions and I had high hopes which he matched. Again I sent his reams of research and references and descriptions (in translation!) and then Roberto worked his way around to the dazzling final painting.
Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you attempt to dedicate to your writing?
Yep. I’ve written full time since I was in my early 20s, primarily for film and theatre, with a little television for my sins. I write every day, generally between 6-10 hours a day. 2000 words is the baseline amount, although that varies based on whether I’m writing script or prose. I have kind of a rep with producers for being able to sweep in at the last minute and save things, so speed and precision are always my goal with commissioned work. I tend to be relentless about it and when I’m on deadline I will often go for days sleeping and eating only when my boyfriend forces me to step away from the work. My most creative output tends to come in the early morning before I’m fully conscious. My best revision generally comes in the late afternoon, when I’m feeling calm and precise.
Additionally, every summer I take a house upstate to rough draft projects, and in that intense 6 week crucible in which I take myself hostage out in the boonies, I can wind up writing 16-20 hours in a 24 hour period. It gets a little nutty, but I am always at my most productive and inventive in that window of time because there are no distractions or digressions.
Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
Outline. Constantly and relentlessly. I’m a total hard-ass about it as anyone who knows me will attest. Here’s a terrible not-so-secret: I don’t believe it’s POSSIBLE to write without an outline. Even the barest germ of a story IS a structure, albeit a very spare one: Crazy Captain hunts White Whale, Young Lovers divided by Family Feud. Frankly, I have to outline to earn a living. In theatre and film, I often get hired to produce outlines in varying degrees of specificity before I’m permitted to write an actual word of a treatment, let alone a script. I wouldn’t get paid by producers if I couldn’t outline effectively. Writers outline, period. Don’t believe me? Go look at the bios of the writers you read; there is no such thing as a working professional author who doesn’t outline because that is part of the way the job functions. All evidence anecdotal and empirical indicates that outlining is an essential part of the gig.
I know some people outline in their heads. I know some people find their story’s structure while they slosh around in doodles and fragments. Fair enough. But when people say that they are “pantsers” or that they just “wing it” while drafting, I understand the belief, but I disagree deeply. I’d suggest, respectfully, that what they’re doing is writing these enormous, sprawling, messy outlines they call “rough drafts” which get revised and organized, and THEN they write the book. There’s simply no way to write full time and work that way. It’s not efficient or practical in any sense. Whenever writers say they’re “blocked” or they aren’t inspired I believe that outlining can and will save them.
In a broader sense, writing is structure. The very act of telling a story (Once Upon a Time… and The End) establishes a structure, which of course IS an outline. An outline isn’t a straightjacket; it’s a ladder that lets you climb higher. I believe the strongest writing elicits powerful reactions and satisfies the requirements of the form without sliding into formula. Anyone who has a structure in mind IS outlining, so despite all protestations those writers who claim they NEVER outline are fibbing or fooling themselves. They may not outline on paper, they may not revise their outline in advance, they may not be conscious of doing it, but there IS a shape to what they’re making on the page or else they’re scribbling gibberish.
Now that might irk folks who claim they aren’t outlining, but in 20+ years writing full time I have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t outline in some wise. And all of the authors I know who claimed they didn’t, either learned to love outlining or learned to live with it.
How much do your characters resemble you and the people you know?
Not very much actually. I mean, the voice of my characters always has elements of my voice because that’s just part of the deal, but I’m kind of a freak about language and tone and pace when it comes to specifying character dialogue. I plot out vocabularies and educational backgrounds and slang and insults and expletives and verbal tics and speech patterns. It comes from a lifetime writing for stage and screen, because in those dialogue plays such a massive part in the creation of audience connection.
Likewise, when I’m first exploring a character, I swatch and research like there’s no mañana! I never want a character to resemble an existing character or person because otherwise I run the risk of regurgitation and shortcutting them into clichéhood. So as I’m gearing up, I pull photos and paintings and clothing samples and music, and voice tapes and cultural references. I assemble their bodies a piece at a time: a nose from here, a butt from there, a tricep from that one, a cowlick from this snapshot taken in 1948. I assemble their wardrobes and habits and sexual proclivities. I build histories for them and backstories. A pile of data that no one will ever see but me. But all of that mulch winds up flavoring the character on the page ineffably. Makes a huge difference in productivity to, because when I’m writing on deadline summoning a character’s distinctive voice is as simple as glancing at their swatched profile in my research.
How much do you draw upon your own life experiences in your writing?
Constantly and not at all.
The thing is, in my own reading tastes, I detest “memoir” and “creative nonfiction.” Most of it is self-indulgent and dull and written for the lowest-common denominator like reality-television-in-print for a world that’s forgetting how to parse books. Blecch. Drives me batty. The thing is memoir itself is sort of a misnomer because the very act of writing something down fictionalizes it. And frankly I don’t understand how you can write more than a couple books if you only draw on your own literal experience. Rant-rant. That’s just my reading tastes. So no: I don’t ever “write my life” into my stories. Not my bag at all.
On the other hand, having said that, I use real slivers of my experience in everything: emotions, moments, observations, sensations, pleasures, and upsets. Not episodes from my life, but shimmering splinters I’ve picked up in my travels. I feel like that’s the real alchemy of fiction: to take something from your three-dimensional life and boil it down into a thought that can transmit itself using black squiggles on a piece of paper into someone else so that THEY can experience it.
What has been the most difficult topic you’ve ever approached in your writing?
The toughest subject to write about is probably the 9/11 content in Hot Head. As a New Yorker, I felt a real responsibility to treat the topic honorably and not whitewash things, but simultaneously didn’t want to the tragedy to overbalance the romance at the core of the book. Tricky-tricky-tricky. I tackled it by doing obsessive research: walking the site, interviewing first responders, reading reports and firsthand accounts, piecing together a complete sense of what and where my characters were on the day and in the aftermath.
The toughest challenge craftwise in a romance has to be Ox in Grown Men. When I was prepping the story, I gave myself a claustrophobic two-hander and then out of nowhere, one of my heroes turned out to be MUTE. Can you imagine? Gah! There I am, writing close third person and trying to establish empathy with an eight-foot tall, genetically enhanced assassin who cannot speak at all. Brutal thing to do and all by indirection and environmental cues. Great challenge, but it almost drove me insane, I’ll tell you. And I learned a TON doing it. Yowza.
Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one in particular who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?
Gah! Impossible question. That’s like asking parents to pick their favorite child.
What I’ll tell you is that, like all parents, I’m protective of the younger ones…so I’m always more tender and solicitous with the heroes of newer stories. And like all parents, I have more distance and perspective about my older characters because they’ve gone out into the world and made friends and had adventures and taken their lumps…so I probably respect them more and coddle them less. But to pick just one? Impossible! 🙂
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they take away from it?
A world they haven’t seen before and characters they’d know if they met on the street.
I write the kinds of books I want to read, and I like books that linger and stories that bear rereading. My hope is that the book feels like a world they’ve entered which continues to live on when they close the cover and to which they love returning when they haven’t seen those friends in a while. If I did my job then my book will stay with you and you can revisit it with pleasure.
Are you surprised by the ever growing female fan-base of Male/Male fiction?
Nope. I think it’s awesome. I think that gay romance affords female readers and writers a way to push back at generic gender roles in powerful ways. Actually I have a short essay about the role of gender in M/M authorship (“Worse than Girl, Better than a Woman”) on my website that’s about this. Romance is one of the most primal and defined genres because at its core is that essential relationship and that positive outcome. To take the central relationship and transform its dynamic so fundamentally without rejecting the romantic form lets readers and writers annex a whole other world of intimacy and possibility. That’s awesome! The beautiful dividends of tolerance and liberty at play in so many unexpected imaginations makes my heart do flips. We are changing the world.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?
Write every day without fail. Respect the writing you do and the writing you will be doing someday. If you don’t treat writing like a job it will treat you like a joke. Take it seriously, or you will never be taken seriously. If you want to write, write and write well, and get better constantly and don’t settle for anything.
I learned that lesson from old hands early on and it made me RUTHLESS with myself and my work. That may be because I grew up in entertainment, which is also mistaken for a “fun” non-job when it is gruelling and thankless in a lot of ways. Art is a hard dollar and anyone who wants to earn a living at it needs to earn that living. Rigor and vigor. No excuses.
Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Everything matters. Folks tease me because I tend to be obsessive about details when I’m working but in truth that lust for specifics made a tremendous difference in my book’s launch and reception. Pay attention to the little things because they aggregate.
Don’t obsess. Some folks will hate whatever you do, either because it’s successful or because it sucks. Unless it’s a relentless chorus of well-meaning voices, don’t spend too much time worrying about anyone who shrieks at you. If writing is a job, then you cannot take it personally. Would you puke on a sick baby in retaliation? If folks are getting personal, they are not worth your attention.
Write harder. If you want to grow as an author, push yourself towards “impossible” things with regularity. It’s very easy to get caught in a rut of grinding out the kneejerk stuff people expect and admire. Kick your own ass and learn the limits of your capabilities so you can develop them.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
Write! Write every day. Good enough isn’t. Take everything seriously. Build your brand. A great book is the best argument. If you CAN give up then you should give up. Be polite and professional if you want people to be the same. You can only compete with yourself. Write the best book you possibly can and then top yourself every time.
Do you generally have the titles of your work planned before you begin writing, or does that occur later on in the writing process?
It varies. I’ve had projects where the title appeared right alongside the plot bunny. That’s more common with me: knowing the title in advance. But I have had books where the book is nearly finished before the correct title presents itself to me. I guess it depends on how I come to the project and the impetus behind it. I knew Hot Head was the title of that book from day one. Grown Men named itself on day three, if I remember rightly. But Spring Eternal came from my boyfriend.
What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
“Where do you get your ideas from?”
All of my writing life my projects have varied widely in tone and topic. They’re all identifiably mine, but I definitely cover a lot of ground in genre, format, and perspective. The thing folks want to know is where spark comes from, and I always tell them it comes from being in the world in the moment. The word “inspire” literally means to take in air. Breathing is literally inspirational and I believe that to my marrow: being alive, living fully, gratitude for this moment right here and now gives each one of us more material, more beauty, more power than a million writers could use in a million years. Anyone who’s alive is inspired at every second, but very few people notice it. I think what writers do is pay attention to that gift. For me that’s what writing is: paying attention in ways that help other people pay attention. Dreams big enough to visit. LOL
What is your most memorable fan experience?
Well, I’d like to share two if I can…
The first was a letter I received from a man who’d read Hot Head, a gay firefighter in Alaska, who works with the forest service and lives deep in the closet. He contacted me initially because he believed that I was in the fire service myself. Even after I wrote him back to thank him and to explain that I had done research, but had no direct experience, he seemed unconvinced. But he went on to say the most beautiful things about the book and how much it had affected him. And then he revealed that the book has begun to make the rounds sub rosa within the LGBT first responder community… that readers had begun passing Hot Head along to other firefighters and EMTs and cops because they thought it had been told from the “inside.” Any doubts I’d entertained about the importance of gay romance vanished at that moment. Amazing.
The second memory is my first in-person experience as a romance writer… The day I arrived at GayRomLit, I shared a cab with Ellis Carrington and she warned me, “It’s gonna get crazy in there. I may never see you for the rest of the weekend.” At the time I laughed and told her I’d probably be sitting in the corner. After all, I only had a single book out and I was so new to the genre. We walked into the Bourbon Orleans and the lobby exploded. I’ve never experienced anything like it. This amazing group swept over me and hugged me and claimed me and got my ass checked in pronto. While my room got sorted, they began GRILLING me about Griff and Dante and the Hot Hookers as if my characters were coming to the conference as well, as if there was a cab full of hot gay firefighters on the way and we’d all be going out later. They asked gritty, hard questions about what I was working on and where my writing was headed, and what my plans were… The entire GayRomLit weekend wound up being like a nutty, loving family reunion full of old friends I’d just met for the first time. To sit with smart, funny fans that loved my guys as much as I do, to see how closely they’d read Hot Head, to chat about story possibilities and share a whiskey and just vibe on each other was such a gift! Again, totally amazing, and a reminder that romance fiction makes a real difference.
Digital media—the e-reader/tablet computer/Android apps—is changing the way people access and enjoy books. What pros and/or cons do you see surrounding the business of e-publishing? How do you see digital media evolving in the years to come?
E-publishing has opened the floodgates because anyone can get their work in front of people. The issue becomes which people. A lot of what’s being e-published is shit, but a lot of talented people who think outside the box have found a way to get their work into happy hands. Up until now the difficulty with fiction was the limited avenues between the writer’s imagination and the reader’s eyes. That’s gone away. Anything can find an audience. Now the challenge is, how do you find the right audience and how do you find a large enough audience that you can earn a living as a writer? As with all entertainment industries at the moment, the real battle will become ATTENTION.
E-publishing has been the Wild West for the past couple years. Much like the early days of the internet, the lawless, every-bandit-for-himself quality made for BIG drama and BIG publicity. That’s nice and that’s not lasting. As things settle down, I think e-publishing will begin to act more and more like an actual business, and less like a lucrative hobby. Digital media doesn’t require a new model, as much as it requires an honest appraisal of the essential model that keeps businesses healthy and dynamic.
How do we make folks pay attention to the book we’re offering? How do we even let them know it exists in the churning quagmire of self-published genre fiction? The answer is (as it always has been) e-publishing has to act like a business if it’s going to become a business. As long as it acts like a hobby, it will only be a hobby. We get exactly what we ask for.
In essence there’s a brutal, Homeric quality to every human enterprise, if we seek great renown, then we must submit to harsh fate and we must always show honor and hospitality at home and at war. I think the battle will be fought on the fields of content and concept. Books that shine will catch reader attention. Publishers that set the bar high and don’t settle will endure. Authors that build great reputations and push themselves hard will meet with great success. Readers will find what is wonderful only if we make it possible for wonder to occur.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I cannot imagine my life without writing. It feeds every fiber of my being in ways I cannot begin to catalog. Practically from my birth I’ve been spinning yarns and feeding my imagination to keep them interesting to me and to the audience. I love finding a story and building a world and sharing it with folks in ways that feed their dreamscapes. Every part of my talents center on articulating ideas clearly and conveying my enthusiasm about them to other people. That connection, that imaginal sharing thrums in me at every moment. I spend most of my days digging around in words and finding the threads of a narrative. I’d sooner die than give that up. I think allowing that to happen might actually kill me.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
Reading! My tastes range across all genres and I can easily read 3 books in a day… 5 if I’m not busy. I read about 1200 words a minute so I tend to be like a woodchipper with literature and research. So yeah: books are a big part of my life. I also collect crappy movies, which make for great social movie nights. I love twostepping and do it every weekend, religiously. I used to hit the rodeo circuit and ski much more, but my schedule has been crammed the past few years. My boyfriend and I love travel and auctions and weird road trips when we can manage it. The hard thing is free time, because there just isn’t much of it anymore.
If time travel were possible, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?
Yesterday…so I could undo the mistakes I probably made today. No, that’s a lie.
I actually love this moment, right here and now. Whenever people talk about visiting another time I always wonder if they mean the sanitized, Hollywood version of the era in question. Would anyone really WANT to visit the backwaters of human civilization, even out of curiosity? Would anyone want to wade through the abject poverty and hardship and intolerance experienced by 99% of our ancestors? LOL Not so much. I think what people want to visit is the fictional worlds depicting an era…which of course aren’t history at all. I love the escapist dream of history, but I imagine actual time travel would lead to some brutal reassessments of our collective past. 🙂
But I don’t think I’m being fair…if you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick an era despite my reservations and sense of the practical problems, I’d get my shots and say Harun al-Rashid’s dominion as Abbasid caliph in the late 8th century, specifically at the time of the Bayt al-Hikma in Baghdad. Even if I had to live as a limbless, syphilitic beggar, I’d give almost anything to have seen the greatest city in the world in its time at the height of its artistic, magical, and political power blazing like a beacon while much of humanity struggled in darkness. To witness that firsthand would be worth even lice and malnutrition.
If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?
She was such a ferocious wit and she lived at a time that hemmed her in from all sides and still she managed to accomplish so much as an artist and as a woman. By all accounts she’d be a most entertaining companion and I would love to be able to talk about the stories she’d have written in a different social context. I’d love to see what she thinks about the acres of writing (and film) inspired BY her books. Just to sit and listen to her dissect a room or navigate a conversation would be thrilling and instructive. What a mind. What a heart.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
PILES of books on every available surface, unless the housekeeper has just left. My loft is walled on all sides with my library. 7000 books on the walls, another 25,000 or so in storage. My desk faces into the room because I don’t like to work looking at a wall (bad mental mojo, methinks) and it’s a massive partner’s desk across which my boyfriend sits. That way when I’m working, I always get to stare out at a view I love and I’m surrounded by the answers I need. LOL
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
Dark, sharp, twisted, ferocious.
I believe that real comedy springs from pain and truth so intense that the only reaction possible is laughter. I like my jokes tart. I want humor that hurts and heals you at the same time. I groove on irony and incendiary wit and outrageous reversals of expectation. Spare me the bland cutesy gruel that passes for comedy in most quarters! I want comedy to pull me inside out and make us see the world differently, clearly, truly. Real, hard laughter is thin on the ground.
There’s comedy in everything I’ve written, but I write a lot of comedy outside of romance. Actually, for film and theatre I get hired to write humor more than almost any other genre. A lot of my “repeat” producers come to me because my sense of humor is weird and distinct. I tend towards the outrageous and the unexpected. Comedy takes a very strange skillset. In truth, life is difficult and painful so making people cry is always a simpler matter than wringing laugher from them.
I’ll tell you a story. When Coquelin, the legendary French comedic actor for whom Cyrano de Bergerac was written was on his deathbed, a relative asked him, “Is it horrible? Are you suffering terribly?” Coquelin smiled and wheezed, “Dying is easy; Comedy is hard.”
Do you have an all time favorite fictional character?
Woland in The Master and Margarita. Pain and poetry and this dry tickling humor that just pulls you apart a ribbon by ribbon. What a beautiful, sad, majestic, hilarious character and literally rich with Bulgakov’s own suffering living under totalitarian idiots with amputated imaginations. So much gritty depth and breadth and humor on every page. Every time I read that book, Woland unpacks further and shows me more facets. Every time I think I’ve made sense of who and what he is, he shifts under my hand and reveals some glittering contradiction that makes me question all my assumptions. He makes me laugh and cry and lust and dream. As Goethe would have it, he truly is “that force in the world/ forever attempting Evil, forever accomplishing Good.”
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Clichés. They are destroying our culture, our children, our imaginations and our intelligence one mind at a time and we ENCOURAGE it by watching television, worshipping indolence, and (like, y’know) quoting the same 20 jokes on an infinite feedback loop of predigested pablum. Clichés ruin imagination, infect conversations, and reproduce like a plague wherever people allow themselves to be lazy or inattentive, which is to say many, many, many places.
Clichés are the death of human endeavor and we live in a culture that enshrines them. They ruin art, kill conversation, extinguish everything, and reduce the world to a series of bland beige platitudes not fit for human attention. They crush hope and skill out of us all, blunt everything, smother everything. And worst of all, they persist because they are the easy road. Horrible. Repellant. Depressing. They are literally Evil in every sense of the word.
When I read books or watch film that fall back on cliché, it makes me want to throw myself under a truck while eating razors and juggling grenades. The only reason to settle for cliché is if you believe your audience is lazier and stupider than you are, which is saying something, because only lazy, sloppy nitwits would propagate the world’s ruin out of expediency. Clichés are a plague and must be battled at every juncture, at every moment, in every person who gives two shits about human possibility.
Not that I have an opinion or anything. 🙂
Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?
When I was a kid, my mother used to say in the mornings, “Go do something excellent. You might die this afternoon.” No half measures, no apologies and nothing beige. I live in a state of overwhelming gratitude for every opportunity and everything given to me. So I guess that’s my mantra: make magic. Cure cancer. Fight tidal waves. Demolish the cubicles and dance in the rubble. Live out loud and help people stand in the light. Burn bright and dream hard, every single day
Do you speak more than one language? If so, which one(s)?
Sarcasm. LOL No…Spanish was my first language a zillion years ago. We had a Mexican governess as babies and I learned my words in Spanish LONG before I learned English. Nowadays my Spanish is terrible because I don’t use it but I have traces of it. I also have a little German…not to read a novel but to navigate a research with a dictionary handy.
Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?
Lights. I’m a rabid night owl, and the idea of not being able to steal hours of writing and reading time from the night would push me to desperate and felonious measures. We don’t think about how much they’ve changed the world, how they’ve wrested our world from the solar dictatorship…but lights created the modern world.
Do you have any new projects coming up you’d care to share with us?
At present I’m finishing a big steampunk zipper-ripper called Spring Eternal which is set in Gilded Age Manhattan. Wacky slang, of course, and twisted villains. I imagined it as this big sprawling, greasy fairytale and I’ve been having a BLAST with the world and my two dashing heroes. This book is more whimsical and kinky and lush than my other M/M titles though very much my voice. Think in terms of abductions and weird inventions and a dastardly conspiracy that reaches from the airships to the underbelly of a steampowered Gotham.
And then after that I’ve got Hard Head, which is Book #2 in the Head series. It focuses on Tommy, the self-destructive paramedic from Hot Head who has some sexual compulsions to overcome and a life to rebuild in the aftermath of a bashing that almost killed him. And of course Griff and Dante and the other Red Hookers will be back for more trouble. I’m not really supposed to be writing it yet, but Tommy has been VERY pushy with me as a character so I’m already much further into it than I’d planned. It’s on the Dreamspinenr calendar tentatively but several deadlines need to be satisfied befiore I can tackle it in earnest.
Thank you again for spending some time with us, Mr. Suede. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
I’m all over. Well, actually Facebook just today arbitrarily deleted my profile and fanpage because they didn’t like my sexy Grown Men cover, but you can easily reach me (And see the offending cover!) at:
And we’d love if you’d share a favorite excerpt from one of your books with us.
(Cool! The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Grown Men, released by Riptide Publishing)
Runt had almost turned toward the habitat when the huge bundle jerked and curled like a monstrous metallic worm.
Runt’s shout sent a few surviving moths fluttering from the bluish palm trees. He fell to the ground and scrabbled back on his ass toward the heavy-duty submachete still planted nearby. Noisy, but the only accessible weapon.
The resurfacing tarp moved again, a wriggle all along its length, something packed alongside the fabric.
Something alive stuffed inside the sack.
What the hell could be that big?
Hogs, dogs, humans . . .
His recruiter had warned him that, if he didn’t meet their terraform schedule, forcible termination was likely. Fuck. His numbers were shit and he was behind schedule.
I’m a dead man.
After a scant eighteen months, they’d finally sent his retirement plan in a corporate Trojan Horse, the cracked container packed with terraformer nibbles, and he’d fallen for it like a hungry idiot.
HardCell means business.
Runt realized HardCell had sent a new pair of terraformers stashed in foam to retire and replace him. Duh. Runt was undersized and had been trapped working solo.
All that’s their food.
Legs braced to pounce, Runt gripped the whirring submachete and circled the enormous squirming life-support duffel. He could see big angled bumps like limbs inside straining hard at the closure.
The reflective packaging moved again and one of its occupants gave a bass groan. Transport anesthesia wearing off. With a tearing sound, the flex-wrap split, and one gigantic hairy arm clawed at the sand a moment as Runt’s assassin struggled free from the life-support sack and the silvered fabric.
A man, large enough to be two people, but no mate.
Because he’s too oversized to share a stasis sleeve.
Huge. Naked. Drugged. Alone.
Runt goggled in confusion as the superhuman body squirmed out of the shiny canvas like a colossal larva to flop on the sand and gulp the briny air.
I sat on him. I ate a mealpak sitting on my executioner.
Runt circled nearer, submachete by his side with the safety off. He took a step. He took another one.
Still shivering from the drugs and the bruising impact, the strapping stranger didn’t react. He twitched and curled on the hot ground, heaving.
Fuck, he’s huge. Runt took another wary step. He’s a fucking mutant.
The stranger unfolded his limbs and rolled onto his side. His bulging arms were longer than Runt’s legs. His broad back was a shifting wall of muscle over a high, square ass. His flaccid penis hung like some kind of blunt trunk.
Runt knew he had about a thirty-second window as the transport tranquilizers wore off. If he was going to kill his replacement, this was the only moment. The submachete whirred softly in Runt’s calloused hand a few centimeters above the ground as he crept.
Closer . . . closer.
Runt’s mouth hardened into a scowl under his salt-stiff mustache. If he slaughtered this circus clone now, he could claim the goon had died on entry like his long-lost wife.
The groggy giant gasped and spat, then rolled onto all fours, his head hanging. He shuddered, and drool ran from his mouth. He had close-cropped tawny hair, bronzed skin, and a stubbled face that looked like it had seen plenty of fights.
He’s a killer.
Brawny slabs of military-grade synthetic muscle covered his frame. Maybe not a full clone, but growth hormones out the wazoo, obviously. The broad paw spread on the ground had a palm bigger than Runt’s entire face.
Don’t look at him.
Runt’s eyes scanned for the sweet spots: throat, kidney, groin. He raised the humming submachete, his hand sweaty on the gel grip. He glanced up at the habitat, his crop terraces, the little kingdom he’d built by himself for eighteen months a millimeter at a time.
Retire him now.
Suddenly, the troll turned his head and looked right into Runt’s eyes and simply smiled in relief . . . as if greeting an old friend. A small smile . . . no triumph, no cruelty, a faint hopeful curve of childlike pleasure which dampened Runt’s murderous thoughts. As if the big dumb freak was happy to be naked and puking on the sand at the ass-end of the universe.
A human smile after so long.
Excerpted from Grown Men,
Released 30 October 2011 by Riptide Publishing
Copyright 2011. Damon Suede. All Rights Reserved.