Please give a big Top 2 Bottom Welcome to U.M. Lassiter!
Thank you for taking some down time and spending it with us. Let’s start this off with a beverage. We have coffee, tea, some sort of juice (I think it’s been in here a few weeks) and soda. What would you like?
A cup of tea would be nice.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m just an ordinary middle-aged person from Southern California. As you may have gathered, I write under a pseudonym. Writing stories is an intensely personal experience for me, and knowing the work will stand on its own merits rather than what someone may know about me is very liberating.
When you received news that your manuscript had been accepted what were the first words that fell from your mouth?
Wow! Now I can buy that private island!
Well, no, not really. I had a lot of confidence in my work, and if I could only get the right people to look at it, I was pretty certain it would sell. The people at Devine Destinies are real pros, so I guess I just let out a smug, self-satisfied sigh.
What forces brought you over to the MM Genre and what made you want to write it?
Why, the internet, of course! Oh, you want me to be more specific. For some years, I frequented a couple of private web forums where people posted these kinds of stories. Most of what was posted was pretty amateurish and written for the benefit of lonely men that, um, couldn’t get a date that night.
On the other hand, occasionally someone would post a real story—and I mean a good one with all the elements; interesting plot, fully formed characters, the works. After years of lurking, I started posting, and I was thrilled by the response. Everyone was very supportive—especially the members that wrote the stories I admired. After a while, I realized I had enough material for a book—or three.
Would you care for some cookies? We have chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal with or without raisins and a package of mystery ones. We have cake too. Your choice.
I never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like.
How many hours a day do you spending writing?
I have a day job, so I have to find the time wherever I can. I try to write a few hundred words a day, usually in little bursts, whenever I’ve got an active project.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
When something’s not working, I usually realize it at the time, so I guess you could call that revising as I go.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I’d written non-fiction for years, so when I first tried my hand at fiction, I thought it was important to have the entire plot meticulously planned. What I found was that the story takes on a life of its own, and you often end up going off in a completely different (and better) direction. You know when it just feels right. Now I start with just the broadest of plot points and see where they take me. It’s very satisfying.
Of your characters do you have a favorite and why?
Gosh, that’s like asking me who’s my favorite child. If I had to choose, I’d say Alex Johnson, the lead character in my Growing Lad series. Alex is literally a gentle giant that looks to his heart to do what’s right, even if it’s painful. I wish I could be as kind and guileless as Alex.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
When it comes to writer’s block, the subconscious is your friend. Let me explain what I mean. There are two kinds of writer’s block—one is where you are literally stumped which way you’re going to go next with your story. The other is just procrastination; you need to work, but you find a million excuses to avoid it.
When I experience the first type of block, I find that it usually means I’m trying too hard. I set the story aside and try to concentrate on something else. I’ve noticed that throughout my life, whenever I’m faced with a pressing problem, the subconscious continues to work away in the background, regardless of what I’m doing. When I least expect it, an idea will pop into my head and I’ll realize I have a solution. I suspect this is true for most people.
I sometimes suffer from procrastination, the same as everyone else. The important thing is just to get started. It helps to really believe in what you’re writing.
Do you have a particular spot in your house that you call your comfy zone? (The place where you write.)
I have a home office set up in a quirky little room off my kitchen; I think it was a breakfast room or something. It has lots of windows that I can open when the weather is nice, and I can look out into the street to see what’s going on. I call it an office, but I really just use it for writing and storage. I do all of my bills and things at the kitchen table.
When you’re in the mindset to write, do you put a sign up that warns others not to disturb you while at work?
I live alone, so that’s not really a problem.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Other people have described it as dry or wry. I have a well-developed sense of irony, and I can find humor in almost any situation. The best humor is just shy of reality, and it’s those kinds of situations that make me laugh. I love listening to a good storyteller.
What is the most frequently asked U.M Lassiter question?
If I have a web site (I do).
What are you working on now?
A series called Berkeley Daze. It’s a prequel about one of the characters in the Growing Lad series. Ryan Miyashi is Alex Johnson’s boyfriend in those books, and he’s a self-confident, well-adjusted young man with a joy for life. The new series goes back to Ryan’s earliest high school days in Berkeley, California, where we learn that he is anything but out-going and confident. Finding his first love is a transformative experience for Ryan, and it changes his entire outlook and he learns that life is a precious gift.
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?
As I said earlier, I haven’t been able to give up my day job—yet. You’re absolutely right when you describe writing as a life-style. I’ve always loved words and phrases and odd snippets of information and stories. I have a dictionary on my desk at work, because you never know when a new and interesting word will pop up.
Years ago, I had an excellent writing teacher, and she told me that to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. She was absolutely right. The best way for me to keep my creative juices flowing is to read as much as I can. I come from a long line of voracious readers, and I have a large personal library with books passed down to me from my ancestors that go back more than two hundred years.
What kind of books do you like to read outside of the MM Genre?
When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of science fiction, as well as some young adult stuff. College pretty much put me off literary fiction, and for a long time I didn’t read fiction at all, preferring books on history and science. Mysteries by P.D. James and Tony Hillerman got me back into the fiction habit.
The book section of the local paper has a column called “Not Just For Kids,” reviewing young adult and kids’ books that could also appeal to adults. The best tip I got there was the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians—simply outstanding. Anything by Neil Gaiman is worthwhile; I just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane (I think American Gods is his best). I resisted the Harry Potter books for years until a friend pressed the first volume into my hands and I found them very enjoyable. I also thought The Perks of Being a Wallflower was outstanding. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of kids books with action heroes and the like, mainly because I’d like to write one.
Pick one: Scientist, Astronaut, Retail, or Horse Trainer-
Definitely scientist. I’m curious about just about everything.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Traveling, working on old cars, gardening.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Watch for the aforementioned super hero book.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
It was a pleasure having you here with us today. Please come by and let us know how you’re doing from time to time. OH! And before you leave, can I get your help here in the kitchen? Thanks!!
It was my pleasure. Wash or dry?