LS: Welcome to the blog, S. A. I’m glad for the opportunity to hear you talk about your work and your unique approach to M/M Romance.
SG:Thanks for this opportunity to come toot my own horn. Sigh, I do realize I don’t write normal m/m tales. My joke is I need to write a modern day tale set in Kansas about a fireman rescuing a kid from a tree and then being attracted to the kid’s policeman stepfather who thinks he might be gay but is still married to his high school sweetheart. That is never going to happen. I’m more concerned about whether a secluded doctor in a remote Scottish castle will hook up with the unstable descendent of H.P. Lovecraft and… you get the picture. As writers we all have different approaches and my stories tend to sneak in through the crooked back door.
Q: Before we start talking about your work, I’d like to ask a few questions about your background and life as an author. To begin, I’m curious about where you’re from. Your bio leaves that information out! Are you willing to tell where you’re from? Other places you’ve lived, and where you live now? Most authors I’ve asked say that their hometown, so to speak, greatly influences their writing in one way or another. Is that true for you? Please elaborate.
A:Nothing too exciting there! I was born in a blizzard in Racine, WI. My father was stationed there as a Marine Corps recruiter. When he retired in 1963, the family moved back to the Philadelphia suburbs. Both parents were from Philadelphia and they wanted their kids to be near the grandparents. Like I said, I’m pretty dull. I spent the first 29 years in Pensylvania and the last 22 years in New Jersey in the small, battered riverside city of Burlington.
Where I live really has no impact on what I write, although I really want to set a scary story in the Pine Barrens. No, it will not involve the Jersey Devil, but the story will involve how lost one can become in that eerie wilderness. When darkness falls there, it falls like black wool, thick and dense.
In my case where I have traveled has had a huge impact on my writing.
Q: You used to run an Indie music magazine! That’s something not everyone can say. You mentioned that the people you met in the process allowed you to accumulate potential characters. Have you found a way to use them? There’s a lot more involved in running a magazine, small or large, than meeting people, travel, deadlines, and of course writing. Besides finding characters, are there other ways in which that experience helped you become an author, or define yourself as an author?
A: The traveling really has greatest impact on my writing. What a great perk. For instance, we had planned to do a cover story on the Cranberries. Whoops, no one had contacted us when the band was in the States doing publicity. The publicity person asked, “want to travel to Dublin over the weekend to do the interview?” I countered with, “Fly us in and arrange for us to stay the week and it’s a deal.” The record company covered the air fare and we paid for everything else. Boom, instant vacation and the chance to travel around Ireland. Ireland is the star of a story I’m not quite ready to speak about yet.
A story I’m working on has a scene set in Paris. I was lucky enough to stay in Paris for a week, so I have a great sense of what I describe.
As far as characters, Amando from Temptation of the Incubus is roughly based on a singer I was good friends with who adored himself. This singer was a deliciously androgynous dude, long red hair, leather and eyeliner, and he fell into a pout if he wasn’t the center of attention. I’m not finished mining his character.
The amusing thing is we were terrible business people because we trusted people. That sounds harsh, but it is true. For example, we discovered that a print broker who we considered a friend wasn’t finding the cheapest printing for us. At one point we nearly went bankrupt because he had us paying $25,000 for one issue’s print run. I started investigating and discovered that we could have the magazine printed in full color for $9,000 at another press house. Something like that hurt on a financial and, even worse, a trust level. I put a little of that trauma into the character Mads from Temptation of the Incubus. He had a business partner screw him over, which tainted his trust in people.
We also sucked at self promotion. It always seemed rude to toot one’s own horn. I’m still getting over that problem.
A rock and roll character driven story still lurks inside of me. I wrote a short story touching on characters from that time frame but ahh, there is so much more to explore. I’ve read a few m/m novels set in the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll realm, and shook my head in despair. I’ll be nice and clam up.
Q: Your work—content, style, and prose—is unusual, and probably even more so in the M/M genre. To me, Divine Devine’s Love Song has a certain “Cyber Punk” feel to it. Are you familiar with that term, and if so, do you feel it describes your work? If a potential reader asked you to describe this novel other than content, how would you describe it?
A: I never in a million years thought I’d ever write anything vaguely “cyber punk,” but then Divine Devine came along and bit me in the ass. I’m a devoted reader of sci-fi and fantasy. When a teen, I devoured sci-and fantasy as an escape mechanism just like every other closeted geek. Never had a problem writing fantasy, in fact many of my abysmally written m/m tales from 30 years ago are fantasy-driven, but sci-fi? Ouch. I gave it a shot and aside from the length, I’m happy with Divine Devine’s Love Song. The story should have been longer. Tren and Shatter needed more time to develop their relationship.
Many of the political demons which bother me in this time frame haunt this novel. Corporate greed, disregard for the environment, disenfranchising of dissenting voices, yes, they all were stirred into the novella.
How would I describe the novel? An anti-hero hacker meets the alpha male warrior of his dreams and discovers his own inner hero. Okay, lame-o!
Q: Getting down to the nitty gritty about your novel, Divine Devine’s Love Song—Where did this complex story have its origins (an event, a dream, a conversation, or…)? Perhaps you’ll share a little about how you go about taking a kernel of an idea and turning it into a work of fiction.
A: A few years ago there seemed to be a huge interest in the post-apocalyptic in the m/f world. I also saw submission calls for m/m post-apocalyptic stories. I thought what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I wanted to write a story using more intrigue than slam-bam action. I didn’t want to create a world where danger via the threat of cyborgs or the like lurked around every corner. I wanted an amplified version of our current world but gone to completely hell. People are still the worst predators. They make machines look puny. Human cruelty trumps other power.
No wonder I like bunnies as pets.
Q: Divine Devine’s Love Song is post-apocalyptic, and not mutated human life seems to be hanging by a thread. Yet, when I read this material I have a feeling of lush, almost jungle-like density of life—in whatever form. I’m also taken by the apparent beauty of things that are perverted from their natural forms, like the Howlers. I realize those feelings may be my experience alone, but in any case, can you talk a bit about how and why you created the atmosphere in this sci-fi?
A: You are not alone. Despite my fear of hurricanes and tornadoes, I love the Sea Howlers. In the novella, the Native Americans regard them as earth spirits seeking revenge against what damage has been done to the ocean. The Howlers own an elegant beauty poised to destroy humanity. If we’re going to be snuffed out, let it be by nature’s cruel grace.
Yes, certain types of greenery such as kudzu has taken over areas to the point of lethal suffocation. I will say watching shows that described what will happen when humans are gone influenced my thinking. I loved thinking about tidy garden herbs growing into proud bushes. I saw that in Italy in a 1600’s mountain top ghost town. The rosemary bushes had developed into tall hedges. Lovely. I hugged them.
Actually if nature rebels against us, so be it. We’re only guests on this planet.
Q: Temptation of the Incubus seems to be really a bird of a different color from Divine Devine’s Love Song. Supernatural, macabre, and humorous, if the excerpt is anything to judge by. Although your writing is certainly your own, there are a couple of author’s that spring to mind when I consider this piece. Rather than guess, though, I’ll ask! Were there any particular authors that influenced you in this particular style of writing? Perhaps you can share some things about the origin of this story, and what you most enjoyed about writing it.
(Readers, here’s the blurb for Temptation of the Incubus: Hybrid incubus Amando Renato is a true man-eater. Consuming life force to exist makes committing to romance a difficult task. The ancient Amando fears he is destined to be lonely, until he meets electrician Mads Massimo, a human who innocently bites back. Is their love a match made in Heaven or Hell?)
A: Anne Rice. The Vampire Lestat is one of my favorite books, and I have always dreamed of writing a an outrageous character along the lines of her Brat Prince. Hello Amando.
The story’s origins started in a fan fic group. There was a call to write a story with one of the heroes being “working class.” An early, unfinished version of Mads was born in that short story, but I realized even back then that Amando felt determined to be the star. Over time I realized that I loved the characters. They deserved something beyond a short story which led me to grow their story into a novel. Odd thing is as the novel developed so did the morbid comedy. I quite enjoy how the black humor turned out although Amando’s back story is one of the most violent things I’ve ever written.
I keep saying this, but writing Amando gave me true pleasure. He wrote himself. Writing him involved throwing aside any self censoring and taking off at light speed. He’s one of those vivid characters a reader needs to click with or the story fails even if Mads is the story’s true hero. Wait, that’s not fair , at the end they both are heroes, only as usual Amando wants everyone to know about his status.
Amando and Mads will return.
Q: So sorry, S. A., but I have this question that I ask everyone, and you cannot be granted an exception. You have to answer this even if it seems like you are not the right person to ask. Keep in mind here that there are rules. (1)These are essay questions, so one word answers are not allowed. (2)Fudging is allowed, cheating is not. In other words, you can’t say “both.” Here’s the question(s). Between Sam Devine and Pokatawer who is the sexiest, and why? Between Mads Massimo and Amando Renato, who has the greater sex appeal, and why?
A: Oh you cruel interrogator! Sam, Pokatawer, Mads and Amando stare at me in horror. Wait, Sam and Mads just shrugged and went off to have a drink. They know what I plan to say.
Pokatawer is sexier than Sam, and Sam would be the first one to shout the news.
Humble, sweet Mads doesn’t regard himself as sexy, although he’s wrong. Amando is walking, breathing sex. As an incubus, for him it’s all about sex. If I say differently, he’ll pout at me.
Oh no, now Pokatawer and Amando are sizing each other up. Time to leave them work out their little battle. If they plan a Zoolander-style walk-off I’m not cleaning up the mess.
Q: Is there any other work that’s out and available you’d like readers to know about? (If so please tell what it is and where to find it.)
A: My first novella Canes and Scales is quite popular with readers. That was my venture into a romantic fantasy world detailing the relationship between a heroic serpent prince and a half Elf, half human bed slave descended from nobility on both sides who owns major issues with life. I battled to keep Linden from turning into a heroic cliche. The conflicted Alasdaire never failed to supply intrigue and drama. He owned no chance of turning into a cliche. And whoo-hoo, they loved to make love.
I definitely plan to revisit Linden and Alasdaire. Let’s see, Prince Linden is now the King but he has many enemies. Alasdaire is the half human heir to an Elven throne. Everything sounds poised for messy political intrigue.
To Save A Shining Soul is a romantic fantasy set in hell. It’s also a comedy. I think the story confuses people. The sales on Amazon look like the stock market, up and down, up and down, lately more up than down which is pleasing. Part of me wants to team up Amando and ex demon Marius for a wild supernatural adventure set in the jungle. That will probably happen when I’m 60.
Q: What’s on the horizon, S.A.? Can readers look forward to some more releases in the coming months? Any new projects just getting off the ground that you feel comfortable sharing?
A: I hope they can! I am in the dreaded waiting and crossing my fingers mode about one novel, and two others are in the intensive editing stage. I hope to send them off before the year’s end. It seems when I talk about specifics, karma bites me in the ass. Therefore I am not revealing any more details except that the two in editing mode are, gasp, contemporaries. No kids in trees.
What me superstitious? Damned skippy I am.
I can talk about the other numerous WIPs stamping their feet in heated irritation. One embraces a haunting H.P. Lovecraftian romance set in Scotland. At 50,000 words it’s damned close to a finish but it needs one crucial missing backstory chapter and ouch, a solid ending. Hello, I need to write the ending to know if I have discovered the correct resolution.
Another involves a noble painter in Victorian London saddled with a muse whom the painter fears is driving him insane (36,000 words and wandering badly). Then there’s the vampire trilogy that I have worked on for years (280,000 words). These are nasty, violent vampires, so I wonder who will accept the tale. Wait, there’s another demon story pouting in the corner (150,000 words). I wrote that during a lurid purple prose phase which means heavy editing is required. Time to call in Adverbs Be Gone squad.
This past summer a m/m romance/horror novel which I love to pieces was rejected three times. I spent too much time fussing over the story. I am putting that on hold because one editor’s suggestions were great but basically they point to a complete restructuring. My head can’t handle the stress.
I also spent entirely too much time writing a 25,000 word free novella. Readers loved it, but ding, ding, ding, free is the important word in the mix. With regard to writing, the summer of 2011 wasn’t managed in a smart manner.
And then there are the planned sequels and screaming plot bunnies ripping at my ankles. One story, The 3:05 Solution, is trying to push in front of my other WIPs. Bratty thing! The story might win. The story is a determined bugger and I love the premise. The idea sprang directly from a dream. I got up, wrote it down and now the first chapter percolates in my brain’s basement.
Sorry, folks, like it or not, I don’t plan on vanishing anytime soon. I need to hunker down and finished my WIPs. I figure I’m 51, and have been writing for years. I need to keep going. Writing has always been a part of me, and I love it for being there when I need to escape. I just wish I’d discovered the nerve to start pushing the stories out the door a little sooner in life.
LS: It’s been a pleasure to have you here on sylvre.com, S.A. I hope you enjoyed it as well, and I hope you’ll come back and visit again.
SG: I enjoyed this opportunity to blather away! You asked me excellent questions which made me really examine my work. Hope I didn’t ramble too much. Of course I am more than pleased to visit again. Wish me luck in 2012! Damn, sounds like Pokatawer and Amando are conducting that pesky walk-off. Sam’s, “Youse go like a pro, Po!” is unmistakable. Better break it up. Bye!