Thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today, Lou. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Thank you for having me!
My background starts in Southern California (Los Angeles County) where I grew up and survived despite myself. In my twenties I moved to the Puget Sound region in Washington State, home of a living temperate rain forest. I came late, age-wise, to my college studies, attended a non-traditional school, and concentrated on music, literature, psychology, cultural studies, and (of course) writing. My non-writing work history includes sawing lumber in a mill, selling reservation fireworks, counseling adolescent girls in a therapeutic group home, and a range of things in between. I have an amazing family and a cat, Boudreau, who assists me in every possible way with my writing. Among other delights, I love strong coffee, rich dark chocolate, ocean beaches and forests and the outdoors in general, wildflowers, and sunshine—which is at a premium where I live.
When did you discover your passion for writing? Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?
When I was seven, I walked quite a way to school, and one day I spent the entire time writing a brand new song in my head, about the yellow rose of Texas. My mother wasn’t impressed. As a teenager, I wrote a poem about a soldier returned from Viet Nam in a coffin. I thought I was another Poe. (Who was in fact an influence at that time.) But in 8th grade advanced English, I had a teacher—Mrs. Horne, a beautiful, quiet woman—who did encourage me. I wrote a science fiction story about which I have no recollection except that she was impressed and told me I should write more and told me over again until I listened.
I did keep writing, but for a long time my most creative writing was in letters and journals. In college I wrote creative non-fiction as well as academic papers, and there was some satisfaction to that. But I always came back to stories. Truth—I didn’t discover my real passion for writing until I let myself fall in love with my characters and discovered that they often have a penchant for doing what they want to do despite my intentions.
Loving Luki Vasquez is your first published novel, is that right? How long did it take to write the book, then to get through the publishing process?
I have another published novel, young adult fantasy, under a different name, so this is actually my second, and writing it went much smoother and faster than the first. The whole thing, from concept to submission took about four months—working on it part time, and then another three or four to get through edits and so forth with the publisher. (That’s a general timeline, not at all exact.)
Did the title of the book come to you as you were writing, or did you have the book titled before you began?
In this case, I actually had the title in my head soon after I started—the phrase had come up in the writing. But I thought for a long time I would change it!
If I were to ask Luki and Sonny how they felt about having their story told, what do you think they’d say?
Oddly, though Luki seems the most private, I think he’d be secretly relieved to let people see how difficult it is for him to keep everything together, not let anything slip. Sonny, however, might be a little belligerent.
Do you think they’d be comfortable knowing they’ve acquired a group of adoring fans who are cheering them on to a happily-ever-after?
Again, I think it’s Luki who would enjoy having a throng of admirers. He’d pretend to take it in stride, but he probably would have a hard time not straightening his curls repeatedly. Sonny wouldn’t have to pretend, he really would take it in stride. I’m sure he’d find humor in the situation, but mostly he’d just go on doing what Sonny does.
Sonny is a gifted artist, while Luki is, for lack of a better description, a gifted arse-kicker. How do these two opposites balance and complement each other?
I think I can best phrase this answer in terms of need. Luki needs (desperately) to have someone see inside him and find that little core of beautiful Luki that still lives there, to help him acknowledge it, and to open up the world to him as a beautiful place. Sonny on the other hand needs a champion and needs someone who will be a sort of scaffold for him to climb out into the world and be unafraid to suit up, show up, and just be Sonny.
I would like to add, though, that Luki loves music and cooks, and Sonny wrenches on cars and drives like every road is a NASCAR track.
Asking this question might be a bit like asking you to choose a favorite child, but which character did you enjoy writing more: Sonny or Luki?
Luki was lots of fun. He surprised me constantly, and had me laughing a lot, and there always seemed to be so much that he needed to say. Sonny was especially gratifying to write in other ways; it was a wonderful thing to experience the world through his artist eyes for a bit. So the answer is: both. Yes, that’s a bit of a cheat.
Is there any one message you hope your readers will take away from Luki and Sonny’s story?
Very interesting question. I didn’t have anything in mind when I wrote it, but of course every story has some message. I have some vague answers, but I’m not sure it would profit for me to bumble through. I’d love to hear from any readers that might have an answer for this question—what message, if any, did they find?
Would you do us the favor of maybe giving us a bit of a teaser as to what we can expect for the two men in their sequel?
One of the things that some readers and reviewers have mentioned is that they’d like to get to know a little more about Sonny and his background. Book two, Delsyn’s Blues delves deeply into that. As for Luki, his love for Sonny is really put to the test. The two men have a lot of growing to do to make their romance work and keep on track for their happy-ever-after. It would be easier to do that if they didn’t find themselves in the way of some criminals seeking to make a buck, and killing people who get in the way.
I think it’s safe to offer this very small excerpt, though the manuscript isn’t finalized. Tentatively, Dreamspinner will release Delsyn’s Blues sometime around January 2012.
Black. Black shoes. Black socks, black jeans; calf-length, tailored, black wool coat. Sonny took the clothes out of their long stored plastic shrouds, his eyes of their own accord seeking out the white silk strips across the chest and shoulders of his ribbon shirt, the short white streamers which would be anchored over his scapulae and left loose to flutter as he moved, or danced, or stood in a breeze. Not that they would move today—they’d be buried under the black coat. And Delsyn would be buried under the black ground.
“Nephew,” Sonny whispered into the air that he’d let go cold, so cold indoors that he could see a faint shadow of his breath float into the room. So cold it hurt, which was one reason he’d let the fire die. The pain could replace the tears he would not cry. And then, too, the fire had no right to live, to crackle and sway, brighten and warm the day. No, if Delsyn had to die, then the fire would die, too. Sonny would see to that.
He needed tight braids bound far back behind his ears, but braids like that are impossible to do for oneself, so he gathered his white ribbons and took his hair to Margie’s, resolving not to cry no matter how many times she tried to tell him it would be okay to do so, no matter how much she tried to comfort him.
Before minutes passed, or so it seemed, he stood at the grave. The cold March wind biting his face with sharp teeth like tiny arrows. The man he’d called to say words at the graveside, a Lummi elder he knew from the few years he’d spent north, in Bellingham, where frost was likely to coat the rooftops on a grey March day like today. Sonny knew the elder’s words, his prayers in four directions, the sage and cedar he kindled and passed to the small band of mourners around the grave, all of these things, were meant to help Delsyn’s spirit pass.
And to ease my pain.
Sonny couldn’t let that comfort happen. My nephew, my boy, is dead. And it’s my fault.
(Sorry, readers, that’s not very cheerful, but I guarantee the book will have humor, sex, and happy moments.)
How much creative input did you have in the cover design of the book?
Much to my surprise and delight, Dreamspinner sent me a questionnaire, and I sent it back with probably more information than they wanted, all about the characters, setting, type of cover I preferred, elements, etc. Then, I got nine mock-ups. Nine! It was tough choosing but I’m in the end very happy with the cover Reese Dante created.
Is there a particular sub-genre in which you enjoy writing more than others? (i.e. paranormal vs. historical vs. contemporary)
Right now, I’m pretty focused on the suspense/mystery M/M romance. I love it, and I don’t see that changing in the near future, though I have stories I want to develop in other genres.
Do you prefer writing in the 1st or the 3rd person? What advantages do you see in writing in one vs. the other?
I generally prefer 3rd person limited POV.
First person makes for an easy intimacy with the POV character, and also can set a tone for locale and time period, character age, etc, pretty easily. Also it works great as a filter for information. I have used it, and even written with multiple characters all presented (serially) in first person. But it limits the writer to seeing the world exactly as the character sees it.
In 3rd person limited, I find I can achieve the intimacy and the tone but I might have to work a little harder to finagle it. It gives me just a little more freedom with language and a slightly broader point of view.
Do you write full time? If not, how many hours per day do you attempt to dedicate to your writing?
Alas! No, I don’t write full time (yet). I work 40+ hours per week at the job that pays most of the bills. A little difficult to pin down a number of writing hours. More if I’m “writing hot” (can’t stop my fingers), less if I’m feeling stuck-ish. More if I have a deadline, etc. Probably, in general, about 25-35 hours per week. I am working toward full time writing.
Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
I start with an attempt to outline, have to stop and write something before I forget it, get back to trying to outline… Rarely do I actually end up with a whole outline in the beginning. But, about halfway through, I outline. Something I do that’s a little different than some, I like to write the beginning, the climax/end, and a middle scene, then start up front and work through. I’ll almost certainly change that final climax, but in the meantime it gives me a direction toward which to write.
How much do your characters resemble you and/or the people you know?
Me—not much. People I know—quite a bit but only in general. In other words, a ‘type’ of person I know, rather than an individual.
How much do you draw upon your own life experiences in your writing?
I’m never thinking in those terms, but of course what I write has to have a basis in what I’ve experienced. I think it comes through in impressions, rather than in a literal sense.
Are you surprised by the ever growing female fan-base of Male/Male fiction?
No. I’m not surprised by it, and I’m not surprised that non-gay men generally do not seem to be reading it yet. I have recently thought about working out why I’m not surprised, but I haven’t. I do think many women simply find love, and healthy sex, beautiful in its own right.
When did you begin writing in the Male/Male genre? What about it interests you the most?
Loving Luki Vasquez is my first M/M romance. I have written M/M stories before, the first being about three years ago. I didn’t set out writing LLV thinking about the M/M romance genre. I just had these characters and they had all this stuff going on. When I was nearly done, I started looking for possible publishers and realized there is a whole market grown up around this particular genre. What interests me is the same thing that interests me in writing other genres—the people and what happens to their worlds when they interact. I think there is a lot of opportunity for beauty, for the occasionally raunchy, for strength.
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?
Never end a sentence with a semi-colon.
And, avoid selling your reader short, underestimating their savvy. Don’t tell them what they already know, or what they should expect, or give them a blow-by-blow description of your character putting his shorts on. (I’m being facetious, but you get the idea.) In terms of my approach, it encourages me to let the storytelling/showing flow more naturally, and it helps keep the pace up.
Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
I know now that what works in fiction is readability, bottom line. Beautiful words used sparingly and very carefully, if at all.
I know that for fiction to be marketed, it not only has to be good writing, it has to be offered to the right market at the right time.
I know that readers are the icing on the cake, the really good stuff, and they are not to be taken for granted.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
Three words: Persist, listen, wait.
Persist in your efforts, write no matter what.
Listen to your admirers, teachers, critics, and bystanders. You don’t necessarily have to take the advice, etc, but listen to it and figure out where it belongs.
Wait. After you submit. Before the next idea comes. For your computer (especially that).
What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
I think the question I most often get asked is where my ideas come from. (I don’t have an answer.)
What is your most memorable fan experience?
I can’t really come up with a single instance or event. I have been blown away every time someone I’ve never met goes out of their way to contact me to say they loved my fiction.
In another vein, however, a group of readers had a discussion with me online about whether Luki and Sonny should acquire a dog in book 2 (Delsyn’s Blues). The verdict was yes, and I’ve taken it to heart—by the end of book 2 they will have a dog. That’s memorable in another way, and fun.
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?
That is an interesting topic. I recently heard that e-books now account for more total book sales than print books. Whether that is precisely correct of not, I think even the fact that it could be bandied about is evidence that there’s no going back. I think that in the future we can expect to see even more usable readers than we now have—lighter, etc.
Something that I believe has already changed dramatically because of e-publishing is the increased market for short fiction—both in terms of a way for authors to market their work, and in terms of getting the stories out there and accessible for readers. In the past, you could market shorts through zines (including ezines), anthologies, or if you already had a ‘name,’ a collection. Now, publishers actually accept and publish free-standing short fiction, complete with cover art, etc. A fabulous development. There is already much more self-publishing—it’s cheaper and easier. That could be a good thing for some but has the potential to compromise quality. One thing I’d like to see but may not, is publishers make full use of the capacity of e-books for a beautiful product—styling, perhaps limited illustration, etc.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
The answers to both those questions are fluid. For the time being, I’m reading lots of M/M romance, some mystery, some het historical romance. I have read lots of fantasy—recently urban fantasy—and some sci-fi and will undoubtedly return to that, and more recently urban fantasy.
As far as favorite authors, I’ll give that a stab, but I’d like to mention that it’s very likely my most loved books were not written by my favorite authors. I love Tolkien, Jim Butcher, Louise Erdrich, Dick Francis, Anne Perry, Martha Grimes, Mary Balogh. And the list could go on. I haven’t added any M/M authors in yet only because I haven’t yet sorted out faves.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
I read (surprise), play guitar, sing; dabble in artistic endeavors; spend time with four generations of family and some pets; spend too much time in bookstores; go to the movies, live music in small local venues, or theatre; go to fairs and such. I love to walk outdoors—particularly in the forest, and love the ocean beaches. Many things.
If time travel were possible, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?
Wow, I didn’t realize what a difficult question this would be. I think the answer changes depending on “where” I’m traveling. To take a stab at a couple, I might choose the Renaissance if I was looking particularly at Western Europe. For North America, I think the time period might roughly coincide but the term ‘Renaissance’ wouldn’t apply—instead, pre-Columbian.
If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?
Again, way too many great candidates. How about Freddie Mercury? Because wow, what a voice!
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
Um. A mess? Lots of notes on scraps of paper, some notebooks. Some things I printed out when doing research online. Pens that never write. Definitely a coffee cup, more than likely with cold coffee in it. Cat toys. Cat. Possibly sketches. Rodale’s Word Finder, which is like a thesaurus on steroids, dictionary, etc. And a five-inch green baby Cthulu crocheted by my friend Brian Harrison. Cthulu also has a little tiny set of bagpipes.
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
My sense of humor is best described as overactive. There is probably nothing I can’t find something funny in. Laughing is one of my favorite activities and it also has been, for me, sort of a survival tool. Not a very specific answer… Monty Python’s The Life of Bryan. Mel Brooks’ Dracula, Dead and Loving It. Many things.
Do you have an all time favorite fictional character?
Well, no. Again, I’m fickle. For now I’ll choose Lord John Grey, a creation of Diana Gabaldon.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I only know the answer to this when it’s actually bothering me.
Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?
You never know.
Do you speak more than one language? If so, which one(s)?
English is far and away my only fluent language. I was, however, raised in a multi-lingual home. My mother was German, and didn’t get to the States until she married my GI father. And my father was of French Canadian/native extraction, and his first language (spoken at home and in the community) was French. So it wasn’t unusual for me to be told to turn the light out in one language and to shut the door in another. (One of my favorites has always been being told ‘sit down’ in German, and ‘shut your mouth’ in French. It’s an experience every child should have.) Nevertheless, I never really learned those languages, and am only now learning to speak French.
Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?
If television is a convenience, that’s the one.
Do you have any new projects/works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
I do have another Vasquez and James book planned, and possibly one more. That series will end with a novella which is already written, mostly, entitled “Yes.” It definitely is romance, but quite unlike their current adventures.
On a back burner, I have a plan for a M/M romance involving two very different workers at an aviation manufacturing plant. Also a historical romance set in dark ages or early middle ages in what is now France. I have short story ideas I’d like to flesh out and other far flung beginnings.
Thanks again for spending some time with us, Lou. It’s been great having you with us. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
The pleasure has definitely been mine. Thank you for having me!
Here’s my contact info:
Look for Lou Sylvre on facebook and Goodreads
My Twitter user name is Sylvre
And we’d love if you’d consider sharing a favorite excerpt from Loving Luki Vasquez with us.
I’d be delighted! Here’s a sexy one I hope you readers will enjoy.
Leaning back on the low balcony wall Luki gazed through the glass. Inside, an electric fireplace threw orange light and blue shadows over the room, casting Sonny’s shoulders in bronze. Luki found himself imagining the rest of Sonny’s bare skin glorified in that light. He went back inside and stood at the foot of the bed, couldn’t help it, stared at Sonny’s sleeping form, chewing his lip.
“What are you looking at?” Sonny asked, apparently not sleeping and always the jester. Luki almost laughed. Sonny seemed to be trying to find some moisture in his drug-dried mouth, so he took him a glass of water. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he watched him swallow.
Sonny managed to deposit the water glass on the night table without a major spill, then met Luki’s eyes again, more serious this time. “What are you thinking about?”
Luki waited, feeling his breath go scarce, his heart insisting on heating his blood. “You,” he said. After his treatment of Sonny that morning, speaking his mind now felt like a frightening plunge. “I’m thinking about putting my mouth all over you.”
Sonny returned his gaze. Faint, sober smile. No jokes, no words.
Luki leaned over and kissed his mouth, sweet and soft. “Yes?” he asked.
Luki started with another kiss, sucking honey from Sonny’s lips. He visited tender, fleshy earlobes, dusted the lightest of kisses over fluttering eyelids. He feathered his lips and tongue over the line of Sonny’s jaw and down to the dip at the base of his throat. Sonny moved as if to participate. Luki held him back, gently pushed him down. With tongue and teeth and lips he paid tribute to every beautiful curve and hollow and rise of Sonny’s body he could reach without causing his wound to hurt. He kissed the hollows behind his collarbone, gently nipped taut nipples, poked his tongue into the dip of his navel. Then, the miraculous valley inside each hip—there he started at the fold of Sonny’s thigh and blazed a trail of kisses to the place that made Sonny dig his hands into Luki’s hair.
Once more, on the other side.
Sonny shifted again as if to participate, but Luki took hold of his hands and paused to meet his eyes. “No,” he said. “Be still.” Sonny’s belly clenched and he gasped, as if he thought the words, all by themselves, were sex play. His prick had hardened to the point that the tight skin pulled it almost flat against his belly. Luki ignored it, except to run his tongue beneath to collect the pool of pre-cum that had gathered there, brushing across the head of Sonny’s penis in the process. Downward again, inside the thighs, behind the knees, the sensitive toes and arches. Slowly, then up again, until he came once more to the center of Sonny’s excitement, pleasure, and despair, and began to address the heat arising there. He spread Sonny’s legs, burrowed his hands beneath his ass to hold him still.
Sonny grabbed at his hair again, said, “Luki, please.”
“No,” Luki said. “Wait.” Thick, wet lips, the flat of his tongue, a long, light kiss. He teased at the small, diamond-shaped tenderness just behind the head of Sonny’s penis, circled the smooth coronal ridge with his tongue, closed his mouth over the taut, curved head. Pleasuring. Or perhaps, judging from Sonny’s struggling breath, torturing.
“God, Luki, please,” he panted.
“Wait,” Luki said. He stroked the length of Sonny’s cock, squeezing, and with thumbs gathered the lubricant that emerged. Again cupping Sonny’s ass in his strong hands, he used the now slick thumbs to massage the sensitive rim of Sonny’s anus, sucking at his firm testes before moving his mouth once again to his erection. Sonny felt good to him, tasted sweet. Luki rejoiced in every touch he applied to Sonny’s gorgeous skin. But what drove him on his quest was a deep, unfamiliar desire to please at all costs. Luki applied all his experience and skill, relentless, merciless, demanding, but slow and sweet.
Sonny’s breathing became ragged and his grip on Luki’s hair turned desperate, insistent, almost violent.
Luki dropped his mouth over Sonny’s shaft, opening his throat, and then sucked upward, slow and hard, at the same time pushing his two thumbs just inside, just past the pliant opening.
To Luki’s overwhelming pleasure, Sonny responded just as intended. He moaned long and low, almost silent, and the first hard pulse of orgasm shook him, splashing semen against Luki’s swollen lips.
After a while Sonny’s breathing calmed. Luki flared his nostrils to draw in the smell of Sonny’s sex, like saving it up.