Tinnean on *Call Me Church*, creative titling, and the lack of unexpected pregnancies in gay fiction

Click on the cover to buy this book at the Dreamspinner store.

It’s the height of the Depression, and people are desperate for a distraction from their lives. Film director Church Chetwood wants to help them forget—and he manages it with his documentaries and travelogues. But when the saber-tooth tiger he captured escapes, Manhattan’s grave situation only worsens. Now Church is facing ten years up the river.

Black Tuesday left John Smith a homeless sixteen-year-old orphan, and in the past four years he’s survived as best he could. When his path crosses Church’s, Johnny’s looking for a meal, nothing more. Surely after all he’s done, no one could love him—especially not Church, who insists he isn’t “like that.” But Church does have a plan to get away. Maybe if Johnny’s lucky, Church will let him tag along.

Tinnean has been writing since the 3rd grade, where she was inspired to try her hand at epic poetry. Fortunately, that epic poem didn’t survive the passage of time; however, her love of writing not only survived but thrived, and in high school she became a member of the magazine staff, where she contributed a number of stories.

It was with the advent of the family’s second computer – the first intimidated everyone – that her writing took off, enhanced in part by fanfiction, but mostly by the wonder that is copy and paste.

While involved in fandom, she was nominated for both Rerun and Light My Fire Awards. Now she concentrates on her original characters.

A New Yorker at heart, she resides in SW Florida with her husband and two computers.

Ernest Hemingway’s words reflect Tinnean’s devotion to her craft: Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.

She can be contacted at tinneantoo@gmail.com, and can be found on Live Journal and on Facebook. If you’d like to sample her earlier works, they can be found at http://www.angelfire.com/fl5/tinnssinns/Welcome1.html.

The Interview
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: This is an interesting question. I just did a blog on this very topic. Names are just as important a part of the character as eye or hair color. Yes, a rose would smell as swell, but would we be inclined to take a sniff if it was called stinkweed? I have links to naming sites online as well as the book 20,001 Names for Baby, which is really helpful in that I can find both first names and surnames from the book. What’s difficult is when names need to be changed because they’re too similar and there’s a possibility of confusing the reader. (i.e. Emma/Elle, Hughes/Hayward/Humphrey) I’ve had to come up with something else, and it takes a while to get used to the new name. One of the things I enjoy the most is playing with names. In a story I’ll post online, a character’s parents are Elizabeth and Bernard—Betty and Barney. And in another story a young woman calls her future father-in-law “Father Marcus”. After I’d written that, I wanted to change his name to William in the worst way. *g*

Regarding titles, I’ve found that I can’t write comfortably unless I have one of some sort, even something as lame as Looking for a Title. I get titles from lines of poetry (“Ah, Me! Full Sorely is My Heart Forlorn”) or songs (“Blue Champagne”, “Blue Velvet”, and “Blue Moon” and yes, that was a trilogy), although sometimes the stories name themselves, (Call Me Church for instance.) No matter how they’re named, once I’ve titled them, the title generally stays. However… (You knew there’d be a however, didn’t you?) On occasion the story itself will change its mind. A novel that will be out in February/March started life as Here Comes the Groom. From there it went to The Wedding Vow, Brown-Eyed Handsome Man, and finally settled on Two Lips, Indifferent Red, which is from Twelfth Night.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Call Me Church is set in Manhattan in 1933. This was the only locale where it could take place. And that’s how it works for me: the story chooses its own location, which in some cases becomes a secondary character. Lately, though, I’ve found it’s easier to create a city (as in Two Lips) or towns where I can come up with malls, streets, schools, and even beaches.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Seriously? I’m just along for the ride. They’ll let me write until there’s something they object to, and then they’ll drag their heels. It can reach a point where I’m no longer enjoying what I’m doing, so I’ll have to stop and try something else until we’re all happy. It can be as simple as introducing another character, but it can be as complex as tossing out an entire chapter and starting from scratch. But you know what’s the best? It’s not written in stone that I have to continue that plot thread. I can change it as often as necessary. (And believe me, there are times when it’s really necessary!)

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I read a lot of Harlequins back in the day, and what I find most satisfying about the gay relationships I write is: 1. There won’t be any unexpected pregnancies; 2. My characters are not simply gay, they’re people who just happen to love someone who’s the same sex; 3. I like to think that none of them are TSTL—too stupid to live; and finally 4. No unexpected pregnancies. *cough*

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Yes, on occasion, although the decision as to whether to go their route or not remains mine. In one story, I mentioned Character A was going to take Character B home to meet his family, and because I was tired at that point, I left it at that. Sometime later, a reader wrote me and asked what happened, and since I’d had some time to recoup, I went back and fleshed out a whole ’nother chapter. I’ll also ask on LJ. I was giving a character ringtones for his phone for the people in his life, and I asked my flist what they thought of a selection of music. Their input is valuable in that it gives me something to consider.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: For me it would be a matter of trust. I’d like my readers to trust me enough to know that I won’t lead them down the garden path, and as a result of that they’d be willing to give whatever I write—contemporary, sci-fi, historical, even f/f— a try.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I found a review for Fifty Shades of Grey very helpful, in that it included a list of words that were repeated ad nauseum. This led me to realize that in Two Lips, people did an awful lot of smiling: I smiled, he smiled, she smiled. I went back and reworked the majority of them, thereby fleshing out the sequences.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: This is like asking a mom who her favorite child is. (Okay, okay, but if any of my characters ask, you have to promise you’ll tell them I think they’re all sexy.) I’d have to say Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann in my Spy vs. Spook series. These two men are adults in the prime of their lives, and being in the intelligence community, they’re both competent and willing to do whatever they have to in order to protect the other. There’s also the fact that while they haven’t said those three little words, (no, not “You’re a dope.” *g*) their actions more than show it.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Not sure if this is what you want, but in my own work I tend to prefer what’s hinted at, so I’d have to go with this, from Yours, Jason, a novella that will be out in December.

Ben looked so good in the black suit he’d chosen that Jason couldn’t help dropping to his knees, unzipping Ben’s fly, and blowing him there in the upper level hallway.
“Whoa!” Ben leaned back against the wall, trying to catch his breath.
Jason grinned up at him and caught a stray drop of come from the corner of his mouth.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Right now I’m working on the fourth book in the Spy vs. Spook series, called Complications. The first chapter picks up immediately after the events in the Black Coffee chapter of Not My Spook! The second chapter goes ahead seven months, and then the rest of the book should be two years down the road.

I have an idea for a western that takes place in 1870, (I’d love to name this Green Grow the Lilacs, but since that’s the play Oklahoma was based on, I’ll have to come up with something else.) and I’m giving some thought to the back story. Then there’s what I like to call my gay vampire story. *g*

There’s also the sequel to Call Me Church, which begins with them in the South Seas. This is another one that has no title as yet, but maybe something like Johnny and Church and the Search for the Treasure of the Hidden Temple? *falls down laughing*

Exerpt from Call Me Church

Chapter 1

Life during the Depression was hard. There wasn’t much to be happy about, to entertain us, so when Church ‘Chet’ Chetwood, the renowned film director, returned from the South Seas with what he claimed was the most astounding find in ten thousand years… well, everyone wanted to see it.

No one expected a throwback to the Ice Age to suddenly appear on Manhattan Island, and people stormed the box office to buy tickets.

I’d wanted so badly to go see the creature that was supposed to be extinct, but I couldn’t afford it. Well, I could barely afford to eat.

For once God was on my side, although so many others weren’t as fortunate. I wasn’t there when “Chetwood’s Kitty” somehow managed to escape from the theater where it was being exhibited.

The buildings along 42nd Street still bore splatters of dried blood from the path the giant saber-toothed tiger had taken. It had torn apart dozens of homeward-bound workers. Bodies had been disemboweled, decapitated, literally torn limb from limb. Cars had swerved to get out of the path of the infuriated creature. They’d run over pedestrians and had crashed into buildings, into the beams of the el, into buses, into one another.

A few days later, while I was scrounging in an alley, I’d come across the torso of a woman that had been somehow overlooked in the cleanup. Razor-sharp claws had shredded the shirtwaist she’d worn and the flesh beneath it, and the expression on her face revealed her pain and terror. I’d wheeled around and thrown up, although there had been little in my stomach.

The sabertooth had escaped to Central Park, and for three days the city was under martial law. That hadn’t helped the people who lived in Hooverville, in the drained reservoir. Six of them had been slaughtered before the Army had tracked down the sabertooth and fired enough rounds into it to bring it down.

I followed the story whenever I came across a discarded newspaper. The Daily News, being just a step up from a scandal sheet, had the juiciest stories. Its reporters told in gory, minute detail all the carnage that had descended upon New York City in those three days.

The survivors, as well as those who had lost loved ones, were among the many suing Church Chetwood, along with the city, the state, and the federal government, which was out to get him for bringing an unlicensed animal onto American soil.
However, no one knew where Mr. Chetwood was.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Tinnean on *Call Me Church*, creative titling, and the lack of unexpected pregnancies in gay fiction

  1. Thanks so much, Lou! This was an amazing experience. (Oh, and I just learned that Yours, Jason has undergone a title change. Now it’s Greeting Cards. Pretty intriguing title, don’t you think? *g*)

    • It’s a pleasure, Tinnean! And I love the new title–makes me say, “why?” Guess I’ll have to read to find out… Seriously, thanks for letting me interrogate… er, interview you!

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