Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Rob. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you stepped into writing?
I’ve always been a reader of books and always felt like I had a good story to tell. With over 200 published short stories around the globe, in every medium imaginable, plus 4 novels, who could’ve guessed I had so many? I started writing 10 years ago and haven’t stopped since.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I’ve always written m/m romance. It’s my favorite genre. Boy meets boy, boys fall in love, happily ever after. It warms my cockles, so to speak. Then I toss in a good dose of mystery, smut, and zaniness to make sure that my work stands out. Though my first novel, “Sparkle”, is mostly a coming-out story. That’s what I mostly read when I started reading gay fiction, so that’s what I wrote about first. But even my erotica falls into the romance genre. Romance and comedy. It’s a great pairing. Like Doris Day and Cary Grant, only with Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.
How long did it take you to get published?
Which time? Some short stories take a day. Some take a year. My novels have ranged from 3 years down to one day. It’s all a crap shoot, I guess. Just a bit of luck and fate and who’s reading your work that day. Gotta have thick skin in this business, and a lot of patience.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I was reading gay books back in the late 80’s, and most of them were kind of on the sad side, with very few comedies. So I decided that I’d write happy, unPC gay books, somewhat farcical, but always with a happy ending. I just knew I had the talent. Just felt it boiling up inside of me. So I guess the profession chose me as much as I chose it. And, with my track record, I guess we both chose correctly. In fact, I can’t imagine not being a writer. If a week goes by and I haven’t written anything, I start to get really tense.
On a typical day, how do you spend your time?
9-5 work, 5-10 life, with about 10 hours a week writing, more if I can.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
Write a thousand words or so, revise, write another thousand, revise, lather, rinse, repeat until the story is done, then edit.
Coke or Pepsi?
Mexican Coke! Cane sugar all the way!
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Freely with a smidge of planning. I usually have a beginning worked out right away and an idea for an ending. The middle goes directly from my brain to the keyboard with very little pre-thought. I like my characters to come to life on their own that way. Then even I get surprised.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
None before. Some while I’m writing. Especially location research. All my books occur in places I’ve lived in or travelled extensively in, so research really isn’t that necessary. Write about what you know, as the saying goes.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
Fuck the line! No lines! I spit on your line! I love my characters to be as far out there as possible. I love nelly queens and butch dykes and lunatic drag queens. The wackier the better. I write from a way-gay perspective. But then again, I’ve always lived in gay cities, surrounded by gay people, where being gay is fairly the norm. So, for me, the stereotypes are the most fun and the most real to life. Though, to be fair, I do want my characters to be loved by the reader, and I make sure that they’re equal parts loveable and wicked. As for them being based on me or people I know, sure, it’s more fun that way. My narrators are usually me-centered. (BRAVO)
What is your favorite color?
Chartreuse. Really. I know, uber-gay, right?
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
All 4 of my books took right around 6 months to write and edit. I write and revise as I go along. I write a bit, go back and reread, and then move forward again, over and over until it’s done.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
Never ever. Fingers crossed it stays that way. I can sit down and write a 3,000 word story from start to finish with barely any pre-thought to it. Which is why I think I was born to be a writer. It comes way too naturally for me if you take fate out of the equation.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Zany. Off-beat. Dark. I’m a New York Jew. It’s inherent. And I love drag queens. They can do and say anything. So every book of mine has at least one drag queen moment.
What is the most frequently asked Rob question?
Do I write my erotica under a pseudonym. And the answer is HELL NO. I write it, so why would I be embarrassed by it? Heck, my mom loves it that I wrote erotica for 5+ years for MEN and Freshmen magazines. Rob Rosen, that’s what my mama named me, so why go by any other?
What are you working on now?
Novel #5: “Queerwolf”
It’s my first novel that’s a romance mixed with speculative fiction. But it’s still mostly a comedy, like the rest of my books. And a romance, of course.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
Never, ever give up. If you love what you’ve written, eventually so will someone else. If someone turns you down, just move on to the next person. It might take one or it might take 50, but eventually you’ll work will find a home if you keep at it.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Marketing takes as much time as writing. I call it a necessary evil. Your fruit will languish on the vine if it’s not tended to, so I email, email, email and contact everyone I can to get my book noticed.
What kind of books do you like to read?
All kinds. A good book is a good book. But I do love a carefree beach-read the best. Light and airy and happy.
Pizza and Chicken Wings? What kind?
Are you kidding? I have a 32 inch waist. And I plan on leaving this world that way!
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Travelling. I get some of my best ideas for a story or a novel while on the road. Plus, my mind is more free to create when I’m not weighed down by my normal life.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Look out for “Queerwolf” down the line. Apart from that, I have a short story published at least once a month in some sort of anthology or another.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
And check out my celebrity encounters page. Somehow, me and my hubby constantly run into D-list stars.
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from your book with us?
How about right from the beginning…
Fresh Baked Biscuits
Psst. Hey, hey you up there. Yep, you, you looking down all confused like. I know we’re not supposed to talk, you and me, but, heck, if I’m gonna be in it up to my ears, might as well take as many innocent bystanders right along with me, right? Not that you look all that innocent, mind you, but still.
Anyway, the shit already hit the fan — fuck it, fans, plural — and damn if I didn’t leave my shit-smock back in New York. Who knew it would come in handy, right? I mean, funerals are sad and all, but they’re not supposed to be friggin’ deadly. Least not for those of us still around to witness them, I mean. Granny, on the other hand, well now, it couldn’t have been more deadly for her, I suppose. Still, from what those nice people down at the mortuary told me, she was the prettiest corpse you ever laid eyes on, which, considering she was ninety when she kicked that old proverbial bucket, that’s really saying something. Heck, they said that by the time they were done with her she didn’t look a day over sixty. Kind of bitter irony, I suppose: looking your best and never getting a chance to see it. Though with Granny, I wouldn’t put it past her. She was probably hovering over the service the entire time.
“Wait a darn minute,” I bet she was hollering over to that angel, Gabriel. “Yeah, yeah, I see your damn light; just hold your horses. Gotta find out what these folks really thought of me.”
Truth was, it wasn’t a whole hell of a lot. People respected her, for sure, but love is such a strong word. And so is hate. Oh, I certainly loved her, of course, but she was my granny. Only family I ever really had. But she was more of an acquired taste. Sort of like escargot. I mean, you can cover it up with rich sauces and charge a pretty penny for it, but when it comes right down to it, you’re still just eating a bunch of snails. That was Granny, all right: a bit of a slug with one damn fine, pretty shell.
Sorry, Granny, but I’m not telling this nice person anything they couldn’t just as easily find out for themselves. I mean, you just had to listen to the scuttlebutt outside the funeral home if you wanted to get yourself an earful. Not that they weren’t trying to keep it from me, her only living relative and supposed heir to her fortune, though. Except I heard it just the same. Loud and clear.
Wait, wait. You caught that supposed heir, huh? Well, and rightly so. See, I assumed everything was coming to me, too. Like I said, we were all each other had, in terms of blood. My parents, my mom being Granny’s only daughter, see, both of them were killed in a car accident when I was just a baby. No other family from what I’d been told. No aunts or uncles, maybe some distant cousins nobody ever talked about. No one sending Christmas cards who wasn’t on the payroll, though. So the estate should’ve come to me. Lock, stock, and barrel.
Smoking barrel, as it turned out.
Cue the doom and gloom music.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I mean, you have to be wondering why this is the first time I’d been back home in nearly ten years, right? Well, that was Granny’s doing, too. Come to think of it, everything was Granny’s doing. Always was. And, based on the reading of her will, would be for quite some time to come.
“Nothing for you down here, Trip,” she told me, way back when, a week shy of my eighteenth birthday as she packed me up and shipped me off, first and last time she ever stepped foot inside an airport. “Just me and a bunch of pissy servants out in the middle of nowhere. Best for you to go up North, get yourself a decent education.”
Not that I had a choice, really. Once she made up her mind, that was all she wrote. Besides, she was right. Granny lived deep, deep inside the South Carolina low country, and that’s about as deep as a fellow can get, the nearest neighbor a good several miles away down a barely paved road. More alligators than people in those parts. Still, it was the first time I’d been away, and I was pretty near terrified. And the North? Granny was a die-hard southerner. Most I heard about the North was that it was full of people who talked too loud, too fast, and ate with their mouths open. Meaning, about all I could picture were folks with really strong jaws. Plus, there wasn’t a Baptist in the bunch. Least not her kind of Baptist. But, like I said, that’s what she wanted for me and that’s what I got. A kiss and a hug and a wallet full of cash, and I was on my merry way.
New York City.
And, man, did I ever take a bite out of that apple. Sucked it dry, seeds and all. Two college degrees, a handful of ex boyfriends, and a closet full of Marc Jacobs later, and, wham, you got yourself the man standing before you today. All traces of the South were wiped clean the hell away. Mostly. Which is why, getting off that plane in Savannah, I felt like a fish out of water. Catfish, if I had my way. Southern fried.
Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?
Anyway, not like me and Granny didn’t see each other in all that time. She’d get her chauffeur to drive her up to Atlanta, fly me down, meet me at the Peachtree Hotel, get us a couple of suites overlooking the city. She’d take me shopping, catch me up on her antics, and try to pry me for mine. Though good luck with that, right? Would’ve put her in her grave way before her ninetieth birthday, let me tell you. A boy can antic the hell on out in New York City. Antic enough to leak on over to New Jersey, for that matter. Suffice it to say, Granny got the watered down version. Buckets of water, really.
Oh, she knew I was gay, and all. Would’ve taken a whole ocean to water that little tidbit down. And let me tell you, there’d still be some flame left over. Still, the Southern Baptist in her got put on the back burner when it came to the gay stuff. Granny was a veritable fag hag when she wanted to be, in fact. Dragged me to more than my share of gay bars in Midtown Atlanta. Queen of the ball, she was. Queen of the queens of the ball, to be exact.
But that was the side of Granny only I ever got to see, when she let her hair down, kicked up her heels. Orthopedic though they were. Back at the mansion, and, yes, it was as antebellum as Tara ever was, she was a prim and proper and very, very bible-toting-southern lady: hair in a bun, blouse buttoned up to her neck, lips pursed, eyes steely gray. The woman put the fear of God into you, she did. Me included, most times.
And, man, was it ever hard to go back there, what with her gone. Place was soulless. All shell, the snail now in nothing but plain old wood. I gulped, standing on the porch, a trail of sweat bee-lining down my face, luggage off to the side. Then I rang the bell, I Wish I Was in Dixie gonging from within as I took a deep breath, the fragrant smell of magnolia blossoms wafting languidly up my nostrils, with jasmine close behind.
“Old times there are not forgotten,” I sang, tapping my foot as the door creaked on open.
“Trip, that you?” came the familiar voice, her head poking out, a smile spreading wide across her dark, round face.
My smile instantly matched hers. “Pearl?” I managed, my heart very nearly bursting at the seams.
The door continued moving open. “Who else would it be, boy?”
She held out her arms to me, rolls of fat dangling down, swinging like a pendulum. I ran in and gave her a hug, face buried in layers of cotton and breast. She smelled like fresh cut corn and okra, a splash of vanilla with a dash of Kentucky bourbon. She smelled, in fact, like my childhood. Her arms closed in tight, the hug like a vice as a tear streamed down her cheek before tickling my forehead.
“You’re looking good, Pearl,” I managed, voice muffled.
She laughed. “All you seeing is titty, boy,” she chided, slapping me on the shoulder.
“Well, could be worse,” I retorted, backing up an inch. “You could be much taller and I could be much shorter.”
She paused, letting that image splash across her brain. Then she laughed and smacked me twice as hard. “You’re a foul talking boy, Trip Jackson. Who done taught you how to talk that way?” She winked and led me inside.
“My lips are sealed,” I replied, closing the door behind me, the smell of magnolia replaced by Pine Sol, jasmine by fresh baked biscuits. “You got strawberry jam to go with those?” I asked, head craning from side to side, taking it all in after being away for so very long.
“With butter and honey,” she told me, grabbing my hand and leading me inside the belly of the beast, not a stick of furniture moved in well over a decade, and all of it clean as a whistle, not a speck of dust to be found. Pearl saw me staring and nodded. “She’s gone in body only, sugar. I swear, I think she’s still around watching me like she always did. Making sure I keep it just like she likes it. Fussy old biddy.”
I laughed, despite myself. “That any way to talk about the dead, Pearl?”
We walked into the kitchen, the yeasty aroma so intoxicating it very nearly made me hard in my jeans. Then she replied to my question. “Trust me, boy, that’s saying it nicely.” She moved to the oven and removed the tray of biscuits, flaky and perfect, just a smidgen of brown around the edges. She cut one open for me, a puff of steam rising up, before she smeared a slab of butter on top, a swirl of honey, a glob of jam over it all. Then she served it to me on Granny’s favorite china, a glass of whole milk set to the side.
I smiled wide. “It’s a miracle her heart didn’t go out long before now,” I remarked, taking in Lord only knew how much cholesterol and fat. Gleefully. It went down smooth as silk, blocking several arteries along its murderous path.
Pearl returned my smile with one of her own, big and white against a sea of honey-colored brown. “Boy, it’s a miracle her liver didn’t go out long before that. Only reason she died was because we plum ran out of that Jack Daniels of hers.” She made the sign of the cross over her chest. “God rest her soul.”
“And bless her liver, too,” I added, mimicking the gesture.
She joined me at the kitchen table, two biscuits to my one. “Funeral’s tomorrow, huh?” I asked, almost in a whisper. She merely nodded. “Hard to believe she’s gone.” Again the nod, half a biscuit downed. “Then what happens, Pearl?” I looked at her like I did when I was a little boy and I broke something, something Granny was going to be awfully pissed about me breaking. Pearl always knew the right thing to say to comfort me. Sadly, I wasn’t a boy any longer, much as I felt like one right at that moment.
She swallowed and then gulped. “Her attorney is in London. Can’t get back until a couple of days from now. He’s got the will in a safe up in Charleston and then there’ll be a reading as soon as he retrieves it and brings it on down here. That what you meant by then what happens?” she asked, in between another hearty bite.
I swallowed too, but not because I had a thick slab of biscuit gliding down my throat. “I suppose. I mean, it is a pretty big estate, huh?”
She craned her head this way and that, multiple chins sloshing about as she started in on biscuit number two. “I think that’s what you’d call a gross understatement, Trip.” She laughed, crumbs flying to and fro from between lips so thick they’d make Mick Jagger jealous.
See, in terms of money, Granny was rich as Rockefeller and twice as ornery. My family had always been rich, going back to the Civil War. Rich from cotton. Fields and fields of it. All spared from Grant’s torch. Marched right on past us and decided on Atlanta instead. Thank goodness. Anyway, the house stayed put, every last white column and stick of silver of it, all of it passed down, down, down. Stopping dead in its tracks with me, I supposed. There’s that bitter irony again, right? Last living relative is queer as a three dollar bill, which, needless to say, they didn’t have in confederate money. The genes were staying put in my, well, jeans, so to speak. Still, I’d never laid eyes on Granny’s will before. The inheritance was all assumption on my part, and would be until the lawyer arrived.
I finished my biscuit and drank my milk. It went down cold and satisfying. Then I washed my plate and glass and turned again to Pearl. “Mind if I go and have a look around?” I asked. “Been a long while.”
She shrugged. “Suit yourself, boy. Place’ll be all yours soon enough, I reckon.” She smiled, her eyes softening. “I missed you, Trip,” she added.
I moved in and placed a warm, wet kiss on her cheek. “Same here, Pearl. Same here.”