AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: THURSDAY EUCLID
What is your most current work out?
This summer, Loose ID published my latest novel, Celibacy NOW, co-written with Clancy Nacht.
Tell us a little about Celibacy NOW, what inspired you to write Celibacy NOW?
Celibacy NOW was the result of a late night conversation with Clancy, like most of our stories. We stay up too late talking, get a little wacky, and next thing we know, we’ve got a story idea. In the case of Marshall and Luke from Celibacy NOW, we ended up watching way too much Criminal Minds and thinking about interracial romances as a result of our speculations on the nature of Derek Morgan stealing Spencer Reid’s Jell-o. There was more to it, of course, but that particular TV friendship made me want to explore an interracial romance. As I was writing, a lot of my inspiration for Marshall and his family came from my conversations with my friend Shonda about what she wished authors would express with their black characters. I’d been a little intimidated to try getting it right, but she had confidence in me, and by a chapter into writing, I really felt Marshall inside me, talking to me in a distinctive voice that was all him. Once I found Marshall, there was no way that story wasn’t going to happen.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I like to get a good general idea of what the story will look like at the end, what kind of conflicts I’m working with, but in the end the characters do unexpected things and thwart even my best laid plans. With the story Clancy and I are currently working on, code-named Project Enkidu, I wrote a detailed outline but added to it as we went. I stayed just a couple chapters ahead because the initial plot called for structure and complexity but the nature of romance requires flexibility as the characters develop and adapt and find love in their own ways. At least, that’s my experience with it.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on, some of which had homoerotic themes. I had precocious tastes, but I’d never been in love so a lot of it went over my head. After I’d grown up and developed my own ideas about love and romance, I felt I had something to say, issues to work through and stereotypes to overcome.
Contemporary M/M romance is perhaps not the ideal fit for my philosophies, but it’s a fascinating niche to occupy for the time being. Project Enkidu is sci-fi, which is closer to my personal comfort zone, if it ever gets published. I’ve been obsessing over that storyline and those characters for years now.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
Jett Black from Black Gold. He’s the most like me in a lot of ways, you know, if I was a wild, sexy punk rocker. Which, sadly, I am not, but he shares a lot of my bizarre ethical and moral codes and ideals. He’s a foul-mouthed tough guy whose badass exterior is hiding a music geek with a passion for knowledge and willingness to do anything for the one he loves. When the sequel finally happens, I think readers will see more of Jett’s internal struggles than were apparent in the first, and I’m looking forward to that.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Richard from I’ll Be Your Man. I’m 30 compared to Richard’s late 40s, so there’s a generation gap. He’s a multi-millionaire, and I’m a church mouse. He’s from Boston, and I’m from Houston. There were major life differences, but Richard was such a clear character in my mind that I felt compelled to research every detail. Once I had my facts in place, I found myself inhabiting him in a way that made it tricky to let go at the end. He felt like a good friend by then, someone I really knew, understood, and loved.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
My heroes are never based on real people. They come from inside me. Their foils, friends, and foes sometimes sneak in from the real world, however. For example, Jett’s band mates and manager from Black Gold were drawn from my experiences as a roadie for friends’ bands when I was a teenager. I met a lot of musicians and people in the industry, and when I sat down to populate Jett’s world, some memorable individuals resurfaced in my thoughts. Barker, Jett’s sleaze ball manager, is an exaggerated version of a scuzzy lead guitarist I knew. He and I butted heads a lot, and I resented him immensely but wasn’t in a position to tell him off. Vilifying him a little in fiction really hit the spot.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
The hardest part of writing depends on whether I’m writing alone or with Clancy. When I’m writing alone, the hardest part is finishing the story. I plan stories, have fully-developed characters, know exactly what I want to happen, and then never write more than four chapters. When writing with Clancy, the hardest part of writing is stopping long enough between new rough drafts to edit the previous ones. We have a giant stockpile of rough drafts waiting to be revised, formatted and submitted.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
Oh I don’t think anyone who reads my novels would be surprised by anything I could tell them! The biggest surprises I have to offer are that I’m queer, transgender, and once upon a time wrote fan fiction. Oh, maybe that I was raised in a fundamentalist neo-Pentecostal Christian household and attended a “full gospel” Bible college for a while as a teenager. I still have a strong fascination with the Bible, religion in general, and spirituality. Some of Marshall’s emotional issues in Celibacy NOW reflect my own experiences.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I don’t think one needs to feel guilty about pleasures, but there are a few things I can’t deny loving that sometimes make other people snicker at me. Supernatural. Star Trek. Star Wars. True Blood. Anything with RuPaul. 80s power ballads. Dragon Age. Skyrim. The Old Republic. Okay, that’s a lot of things. And there are more where those came from. I’m a huge nerd.
What TV Show are you addicted to?
I should confess, for the sake of readers understanding how codependent my bond with my co-writer is, that we watch pretty much everything together. Her tastes are a little different than mine, but the shows that I love so much I’d watch even on my own are: Mad Men, Game of Thrones, BBC Sherlock, and TNT Dallas. Maybe Dallas belongs on the guilty pleasures list, but screw it! I’m not even a little ashamed. While the second season of The Walking Dead wasn’t as great as season one, I’m avidly awaiting season three. Not only do I not miss episodes, I watch Talking Dead afterward, although that may be in part because Clancy’s in love with Chris Hardwick.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
I can write anywhere, anytime, under almost any conditions, but I need my Clancy. Alternatively, a lot of Radiohead will get me there. Never underestimate the inspirational power of Thom Yorke.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Music definitely influences it. I know readers of Black Gold may remember that Bowie’s “Rock’n'Roll Suicide” was a big part of that one, along with “Big Iron” as sung by Marty Robbins and covered by Jett Black. The entire Velvet Goldmine soundtrack was in rotation during writing along with a combination of Dead Kennedys, Ramones, Misfits, and Bad Brains. I listened to a ton of Led Zeppelin while writing Le Jazz Hot, and I think after reading it, people would agree that Going to California is the theme song of that one. It also had a lot of influence from various Broadway musicals given the setting and Julian’s job. With Celibacy NOW, I actually assembled a Spotify playlist called “Marshall’s Playlist for Luke” with the idea that if Luke were to yoink Marshall’s iPod, those would be the songs he hadn’t stopped listening to since he met Luke. Marshall’s theme song from that one is definitely “Welcome” by Maxwell.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
This is a tough question for me. If Celibacy NOW became a film, Shemar Moore and Matthew Gray-Gubler would be the obvious choices since we watched so much Criminal Minds while developing it. They’re good actors and pretty to look at it. The other stories are harder for me to cast. Richard from I’ll Be Your Man is very George Clooney. Andrew Garfield could probably play Tyrone from The WASPs although he wasn’t considered when I created the character. Most of them aren’t patterned on actors so I have a hard time picturing it. I’d be fascinated to know what readers picture, though.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
I was sitting at my desk reading email because I am not cool enough to own a web-enabled phone (or a laptop for that matter). When I saw the acceptance email for Black Gold, I flipped out and told Clancy right away. By IM. From my desk. Because that’s my glamorous life as a published writer.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I read Gone with the Wind the summer before third grade. I was never really into Harlequin novels, but I did read all Jane Austen’s novels and Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights before I was 16. Once I discovered actual sex, I lost all interest in the romances at my local library because they didn’t line up with actual romances. I wanted to read about people lost in the powerful emotions and physical drives I was experiencing, and those novels didn’t seem to have it. Times have changed, though, and there’s a lot more graphic sex in fiction. I think that’s crucial because so much of what we learn about each other as humans in romances stems from what each other is like sexually. As a reader, I wanted to know what those characters were like in bed, not just some overly florid and polite allusion to their fucking.
A reader said that reading my novels with Clancy was like reading about teenage love instead of adults in love. That’s totally intentional on my part. Plenty of people write about the quieter, saner love that most adults apparently grow into. I usually want to read and write about what it’s like to maybe believe you’ll never find true love in your life and then being struck with it and losing all reserve, finding that desperate, wild love that breaks something inside you until nothing matters but being with that long-awaited, unexpected soulmate. I want it graphic and blatantly driven by sexual compatibility and discovery. That’s what’s real to me. That’s how I guess I’m still wired. Nothing less than that would have a chance in my life.
What author causes you to anticipate upcoming books?
Does George R. R. Martin count? I preordered A Dance with Dragons about five years before it was finally released and avidly watched each publishing date rumor.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
I was in college when Black Gold got accepted, and I’ve been kicking around the idea of going back lately. My friend Shonda recently got her masters in psychology and insists I should do the same. It might help me with my writing, so who knows?
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all time favorite?
My favorite movie evolves constantly. I change my mind every time I see something awesome, or when my mood changes, or when I change my boxers. I watch Serenity almost every time it’s on, but the same goes for Showgirls. I love truly terrible Syfy channel movies alongside Hollywood classics and foreign films. The last movie I bothered to go to the cinema to watch was The Hunger Games. I took my little sister and two preteen daughters and we all held hands and left in absolute awe. I bought the books a couple years ago and read them to my kids, then told my little sister she had to read it because she’s my Prim. My older daughter is feeling like a hipster now because she went as Katniss last Halloween. She was Katniss before Katniss was cool.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
In the wings: Gemini, a semi-political thriller about a case of mistaken identity and a dangerous, mysterious mercenary, and the Black Gold sequel. I already mentioned Project Enkidu, then there’s a story Clancy and I call “the crazy cat daddies one” which is about a gay widower college professor who falls for a tough mechanic when the mechanic rescues his lost cat. There are honestly so many rough drafts we need to whip into shape to submit and shop around that it’s a little ridiculous. We write like we’re addicted to word count. We’ve already started planning the next one after this. I think it’s gonna be a modern cowboy story drawing on my experiences working on ranches and growing up with horses in rural Texas.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
My Clancy Nacht is the only co-writer for me. That is, unless Clancy cheats on me when she answers this question, in which case I’ll get back to you.
How do you pick your characters names?
I don’t really pick them. They kind of happen. It’s like the character springs fully formed from my brain like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. The character knows his name, and it’s my job to shut up and let him introduce himself.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I don’t have a preference. It’s up to the characters what they feel. Readers and critics can like it or not, but when the characters fall, they fall in a way that is authentic to that specific character. To me, vicariously experiencing that out of control love–either at first sight or sneaking up on him–is the best part of writing romances.
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
Unless they are a “real” writer, I don’t give a damn. I’m liable to laugh and shrug and ask if they’re living their dream. My dream was to be a published writer. Seeing my ebooks all over Amazon and holding my paperbacks in my own hands did a lot to erase any self-consciousness I felt about writing m/m romance novels. Plus, a lot of the people who mock are, in my experience, straight guys who want to sound cool by putting down someone else’s threatening career success. In which case I like to casually imply that my sizzling hot fiction melts more panties than they ever will. That’s always fun.
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
While I generally prefer dark chocolate, it sounds dull to say that and leave it there.
Something a bit crazy that really elevates chocolate bars to the next level and is a profound addiction: Theo Organic Coconut Curry chocolate bars. Spicy, silky, coconutty… It’s the kind of confection that makes you think maybe you haven’t been asking enough out of your sweets. Hershey just ain’t gonna cut it for me ever again.