B.G.: You don’t know how happy I am to be here.
TNA: Would you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
B.G.: Well, I just recently started my fourth year of professional writing and sometimes I can barely believe it. My life has seemed more like one of my stories than “real” life. My dreams are coming true left and right and my heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude.
That’s the key thing too! Gratitude. Never forget to be grateful for every single blessing in your life. I am doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing, telling my stories. People are responding to them and send me the most lovely letters and cards. And to top it off, I just got legally married in Baltimore to my partner of nearly fourteen years. And it was my readers that made it possible. When legal stuff happened to try and stop us from making it legal, fans raised over three thousand dollars to help make it happen. Now is that something out of a MM Romance novel, or what?
It is strange to think that so short a time ago I had never had anything published but some…ah…adult stories back in the nineties (when I was barely a child *cough*cough*). I grew tired of that rapidly because the only thing the publishers wanted was sex, and I didn’t like that. So when I discovered the genre of MM Romance I was terribly excited. Finally I could write the stories I had always wanted to write—good, fun, character-driven stories than just happened to have two men at the center of everything that was going on. Not only that, but two gay men who could fall in love. I had tried writing for years and years to write typical stories—love, contemporay, romance, action, science fiction, etc) with heterosexaul heroes, but it wasn’t working. I found I couldn’t write what I didn’t feel.
MM Romance made all my dreams come true!
TNA: If you could go back to the moment you sat down to write your first novel, what advice would you give yourself now that you have the benefit of experience?
B.G.: To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I would give myself any advice. A man who I greatly admire likes to say, “Fail your way to success.” In other words, keep trying, even if you do it “wrong,” until you figure it all out and succeed. Not that I think my first novel, “All Alone in a Sea of Romance,” was a failure. On the contrary, I am quite proud of that story.
What I mean is that I learned so much from actually writing the book. Then I learned so much more (!) from writing my second novel. That’s not counting all the short stories and novellas before and between. I have kept learning from book to book, story to story.
Who knows where I would be without the mistakes? Because I learned so very much from all my editors. So there! There is some advice I would give. Trust your editors! Don’t think you know it all. They are professional. They’re there to help. They want you to be the best you can be and help you tell the best stories you can tell. Learn from their experience. Do not be a prima donna! Trust! Only dig your heels in when it comes to a line or a scene that is deeply important to you.
Oh! Read out loud! Especially dialogue! Sometimes something that sounded good in my head didn’t sound natural out loud!
TNA: Let’s talk a little bit about your Seasons of Love series. The first was Spring Affair, now we’ve got Summer Lover, and I assume there will be an Autumn and Winter coming out respectively. How did you come up with the idea for the series? What prompted you to base a series around the seasons of the year?
B.G.: You know, I used to think that Summer (my favorite time of year) flashed by in no time, and Winter (my least favorite) went on for about a year and a half. But then a friend of mine who celebrates the turning of the “Wheel of the Year,” asked me to go to a year of her religious celebrations. What I discovered, among other things, was a spectacular perspective on the passing of the seasons and I have now come to love watching that “Wheel” go round. It is amazing and I see it so much more clearly now how beautiful and balanced it all is and that really, it’s all balanced. I can appreciate the entire year and not just my favorite parts. So that has had a profound effect on me.
Second, I have what I like to call “Porch Nights,” a social event that you will find in the books. They’re get togethers with close friends, sitting out on my porch late into the night (and sometimes the morning) where we discuss everything from movies to love to religion to that hot guy that moved into the house across the street. I began to think about what a rich experience it was and how it helped me grow and how cool it would be to share that with people.
Finally, pretty much all my stories take place in the same “Universe.” My readers like that a lot. Characters you meet in one story pop up in other stories and you get to see them again and again, and you get to see them grow. You get to see that their romance is still going strong or a single secondary character find his own love story.
So I was thinking about that and I was thinking about the season and suddenly I thought, “Hey! Why not combine all of that? I could present four best friends and they could all appear in each other’s books, but each book would be totally stand alone. No one would have to read all four novels. BUT! If they did, they would get to know each character more and more, and maybe even get excited waiting to read the book about their favorite character.
Personally, I can’t wait to write the book about Wyatt!
TNA: Scott and Cedar don’t sound like they were at all prepared to fall in love. Now that it’s happened, what would they each say is the first thing they fell in love with about the other?
B.G.: Summer Lover is about a gay men’s spiritual retreat. It was inspired by both a festival I attend every year (you are probably reading this while I am attending said festival) and also the Radical Faerie Movement founded in part by the very important gay activists Harry Hay. The festival I attend has helped transform me into the man I am today. It allowed me to grow, to heal, to be weak in front of others, to expose my soul, and even have the guts to get in bad drag and perform on stage in front of “faerie brothers!”
There is something truly magickal about the festival. I don’t know how to explain it. Going to Festival is almost like going to Brigadoon or Shangri La or K’un-Lun.
There is no “true moment” where Scott and Cedar fall in love. They are just lucky to have met where they met, in a magickal place, where they could reveal their inner most selves and not be condemned for it. They slip into love.
TNA: Cedar is a very unique name. How did you come up with it?
B.G.: I usually prefer my characters have very common names, ala Scott. People with names like Scott or Max or Paul are the “every man.” It is much easier to identify with the “every man.” But for Scott’s love interest, I knew he had to have a very unique name. He was born late in the lives of two famous rock stars. Very seventies kind minded and spirited kind of people. They were never going to give their child a “boring” name.
Then one day while I was reading something, I don’t even remember what, I saw where a celebrity (I don’t remember which one!) had named their kid Cedar and I was like, “YES! Perfect! OMG! It fits him perfectly! He is Cedar! And from that second on, I knew everything there was to know about him. It was a very magickal experience.
TNA: Do you find it difficult to name your characters, or do you like to have names planned before you start writing? Have you ever named your characters and then changed them before you finished writing the book?
B.G.: I can’t begin writing until I know the two main character’s names. I also need to know what they look like and I usually base them on a model or someone I know who has allowed me to photograph them. I think about the character and then I start looking at huge-huge-huge lists of names and “see” the character clearly in my head and scan the lists and then quite suddenly, I will spot the name that fits. Yes! That is his name!
Secondary characters get name changes quite often. And once in awhile I have changed a main character’s name once I started, but that is rare.
I will give you an example. In my story “The Real Thing” I named a character after a boss I had a sort of hero-crush on (nothing serious!). Anyway, one day out of the blue, another man I worked with walks up to me and says, “I see you named a character after me!” I had no idea what he was talking about. This guy’s name was Anthony. I don’t have a character named Anthony. What’s more, I was shocked this straight man even knew anything about my characters. It turned out he was talking about Tony, a character from “Just Guys.”
Suddenly I am thinking, “Shit! What if he thinks I am basing a character on my suprevisor?” It could have caused some ugly stuff and embarrassed my boss. So I changed his name during final edits! That was to protect my boss and me!
TNA: What do you think makes a great protagonist? Would you say you write a certain type of character you could fall in love with yourself in real life?
B.G.: My main character it is a man with flaws. There is something he has to work through before he can truly be able to fall in love and have a healthy relationship. I love this type of character in a book, and it also reflects what I have been through personally. I was very emotionally damaged by my first long term gay lover. So I write from what I know. And I want to show that you can heal from anything! What surprises me is when a reader says they want to slap one of my characters upside the head and tell them to “get over it!” My goodness! It’s not that easy! It took my years to get over the trauma. How fast can a character “get over it?”
Now for the guy my hero falls in love with? Hell yes, I write a character I could fall in love with myself in real life! LOL! OMG! Max or Cedar would be awesome lovers!
Luckily, I have a pretty fairy tale lover myself. Correction! Husband! I have a real life Knight in Shining Armor. I know it happens. And that is why I can write about it!
TNA: Of all the characters you’ve created, is there one who’s more special to you than the others? Whom and why?
B.G.: I will tell you if you promise not to tell ANY of my other characters! I don’t want anyone to get mad at me! *wink*
There are two. Tommy from “All Alone in a Sea of Romance,” and Wyatt from the Seasons of Love series (and who will star in Winter of Content).
Mostly because I put myself into them more than any other character. They are two very real sides of me. They aren’t me. But they are. And if they lived in this world? They would be my best buds. Not lovers! LOL! But best “girl friends” for sure. If I didn’t slap them “upside the head.”
TNA: Would you like to share an excerpt from Summer Lovers with us?
B.G.: Sure! This scene is where Scott and his friend Wyatt first arrived at camp. Scott is nervous as hell. He saw that episode of “Queer as Folk” where Michael and Emmet go to a fairy camp and he has no idea what to expect…
Scott Aberdeen doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or God. Or love—at least, he knows no one will ever love him. After all, he has carried a torch for his best friend Sloan for a decade, hoping his feelings will be returned one day. But when Sloan finds springtime love with another man, Scott’s fantasies are crushed and his skepticism confirmed.
Cedar Carrington, raised by rock star parents, leads a free-spirited, nomadic life, never staying in one place for long. Due to a dark past he refuses to share or even think about, he is willing to let men into his bed for sex, but never for the night.
When Scott finds himself camping in the middle of nowhere with over a hundred men who all believe in love—and faeries and a magickal gay brotherhood—he’s pretty sure he’s in the wrong place. And when Cedar connects with cynical, critical Scott, he wonders how he could be falling in for this man of all men. But hearts and lives have been transformed at the Heartland Men’s Festival before, and it might be just the place where two very different men can release their pain and find true love at last.
Excerpt: Despite himself, Scott couldn’t help but let out a little gasp when the car came out of the trees. Ahead of them was a lovely rolling hilly area covered in green grass, the road climbing as it went. To his right, Scott saw more sunflowers than he’d seen in as long as he could remember. Maybe ever. They were quite simply stunning in their beauty and covered a long earthen wall of some kind. There were butterflies everywhere—small white ones as well as huge gold-and-black-striped tiger swallowtails, a favorite from his youth.
Wyatt pulled off the road to their left into a small grassy field, where a carport tent had been set up and two men sat behind a plastic dining table. A third was standing beside a motorcycle, pulling off his helmet. Cute, thought Scott. He looked again at the man, who was running his hand through a short Mohawk-like haircut. Correction. The guy was very cute. And it wasn’t really a Mohawk. Just longer on top—dark blond wavy—and almost skintight short on the sides. Scott normally wouldn’t have liked the hairstyle, but it fit the guy in some way he couldn’t put his finger on.
Then before his eyes, Wyatt and the three men seemed to go into a fit of ecstasy. They were shouting each other’s names and hugging while Scott stood by in surprise. One of the men who had been sitting behind the table was wearing simply the largest hat Scott had ever seen—bright pink, with a brim as wide as a Hula Hoop.
But that wasn’t what startled him. It was what happened when the man with the pink hat jumped to his feet and came running around the table.
He was nude.
Naked as a jaybird. Nude as the day as he was born. Except for the hat.
“Rat Bastard!” Wyatt squealed. “When did you get here?”
“Late last night, girlfriend,” he answered and threw his arms around Wyatt, who was cheerfully hugging him back.
The second man behind the table, a handsome older man who looked to be in his middle to late fifties, his hair and beard going gray, was standing up now with a huge smile. He too had a hat, which was a little crazy—wide brimmed with small pompoms around its edge—but at least he wasn’t naked. He was, however, wearing what looked like a woman’s black and silver negligee. He hugged the guy from the motorcycle and, sure enough, was calling him Jockster. What kind of nickname was that?
When the older gentleman was finished hugging motorcycle guy, he turned to Wyatt. “And just who is your friend, Little Bear?” he asked in a thick, and possibly exaggerated, Southern accent.
“Scott, this is Lula Belle,” Wyatt said with a wave to the man who was clothed (even if it was in woman’s clothing).
“Howdy,” said Lula Belle.
Lula Belle? Really? Lula Belle? Somehow Scott figured that wasn’t the man’s Christian name. “Ah, hello… Lu… Lu.”
“And the gentleman with the substantial… hat… goes by the nom de plume ‘Rat Bastard.’”
Rat Bastard grinned and nodded.
“And this,” Wyatt said, pointing to motorcycle guy, “is The Jockster.”
Scott gulped as The Jockster stepped toward him and asked him if he hugged.
“Ah…. Sure,” he said and then, despite his nervousness, felt a little thrill as the man hugged him. He smelled of dust and the road, and he felt good. Hard and compact and slim under that leather motorcycle jacket.
“Everyone? This is my friend, Scott.”
Jockster stepped back. “Just Scott?”
Scott shrugged, then nodded. “Yeah. I don’t understand this weird name thing.”
“Honey, it’s just a part of it,” said Lula. “Faerie names.”
“Faerie name?” Scott sighed. He glanced at the men, with gigantic pink hats and negligees and leather jackets—and then at his friend. Wyatt. Little Bear? Fuck. What do I do?
All four men were looking at him expectantly. Hell. When in Rome? “So I have to do that? Pick a… faerie name?”
“Nothing you have to do,” said Jockster. “It’s not for everybody. Lots of people go by their own names.”
“Faerie names kind of find you,” Lula Belle said.
“Find me?” Scott asked. Riiiight.
Lula smiled and went back round to the other side of the table. “You preregistered?” He opened a notebook.
“Yes,” Scott said.
“Yup! Right here. I have all the newbies separate. Or our off-site registrar does, actually. He’s fabulous. Got yours here too, Little Bear. And you, Jockster.”
Lula Belle opened the notebook and took out forms and handed them over. “There are a couple of highlighted places for you to sign. I guess I don’t need your car information since you’re here with Wyatt. Little Bear? Don’t forget to fill in car and make and all that shit….”
So Scott sat down and signed here and there, and then Lula Belle handed him a little booklet. “That has just about everything you could possibly need to know. You’ve seen most of it if you checked out the web site when you registered, but it’s nice to have a copy to look at once you get here. Make sure you sign up for community service. Little Bear can show you all that.
Scott nodded. On the cover of his booklet, it said, “Welcome to Heartland Queer Men’s Festival.”
“I hope you have a wonderful time,” Lula Belle said. He came back around the table and offered a hug.
Scott shrugged. He’d never been hugged by a man in women’s nightwear. When in Rome. Scott gave the man a perfunctory hug and, when he turned, found Bastard standing there, eyebrows raised, arms held out slightly before him, a question on his face.
Hell. He shrugged again. Rome. And hugged the man.
“I’ll see you guys at the top,” Jockster said. “I gotta get out of these fucking clothes! I am suffocating. Thank the gods I’m here!” He let up a loud whoop and climbed onto his bike. Then he looked at Scott and said, “If you need a little tour, let me know.” He grinned and winked and shot off up the hill in a little shower of gravel.
Scott’s heart skipped in his chest.
“Damn, girl,” Wyatt said. “He’s never offered me a tour.”
TNA: Would you like to tell us a little bit about your current works-in-progress?
B.G.: Right now I am finishing up a holiday story which I don’t want to say much about except that it is pretty different than any other holiday story that I have written before—except that it still has magic!
I am deep into “Autumn Changes,” which is about Asher, the least likeable character from the Fabulous Four, and his transformation into the wonderful man he really is, his inner child, the man he’s hidden away.
AND, I am writing a book deeply and strongly based on my recent marriage to my partner of nearly fourteen years and the ordeal we had to go through to make it happen, and the amazing outpouring of love from all over the world that MADE it happen! I knew I had to write that story while it was fresh in my mind and I can’t wait to see how people respond.
TNA: Thank you so much for stopping in to visit. Where can we find you on the internet?
B.G.: You’re welcome! And thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me!
And don’t forget! Pursue your dreams. The only way you can make your dreams come true is to wake up.
Leap and the net will appear!