TNA: Hi, B., thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, interests, odds and ends things that make you, you.
B: Hi, TNA! Let’s see….I got into writing original fiction because I was a Harry Potter fan, and learned about fanfiction and slash from online fandom. Unfortunately, most of my fandoms’ canons have ended. Non-fandom/writing, I like to dance. I’ve taken at least one class in pretty much every dance that exists on the planet. I also knit (especially during the winter, when you can lay the knitting on your lap to keep warm).
TNA: I have to make this the first question because, really, how could I resist? Will you tell us a little bit about your “amorphous blob/shape shifter” theory?
B: LOL. Okay, so the idea of a shapeshifter that can shift into ANY shape is porntastic, right? But then I started to think, what would be the true form of that sort of a shifter? If it can be any shape, does it have a single “true” shape that’s recognizable, or would that true shape be an amorphous blob? But that doesn’t hit very high on the “sexy” scale when we’re talking about romance novels. OTOH, if one fell in love with an amorphous blob, well, that’s true love, right there.
TNA: Have you always written M/M Romance? What is it that compels you to explore gay relationships in your writing?
B: I haven’t been writing original fiction that long, only since 2006 and semi-seriously only since 2010. But all of that has been M/M and/or gay romance. I guess I’m compelled to write gay romance because it seems (to me, anyway) somehow less predictable than straight romance, especially some of the awful ones I read when I was much younger (romance has really gotten a lot better in the past 20 years, though). A lot of my characters seem to be men who are newly out or not even out yet, so there’s a lot of conflict built into a character like that, at least currently. Someday in the future, when no one blinks an eye about same-sex couples, I’ll have to put some effort into finding other sources of conflict. J Oh, also, two guys together are hawt. :P
TNA: What was your first published M/M title? Do you remember the precise moment you came up with the story idea and knew you wouldn’t rest until it was told?
B: I started out writing fanfiction, but my first original published work was a short story in Alyson Books’ anthology Dorm Porn 2. I read the Call for Submissions and started to think about what I could write for it. I remembered an incident from my freshman year in college, when some guys down the hall got a keg and were playing Quarters. (This was before beer pong, but it’s a similar idea.) With no warning, one of the guys threw up on the keg, and somehow, that memory spawned What I Learned From My Roommate.
TNA: If you could go back in time, to the moment you sat down and began writing that first story, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
B: Wow, that’s tough. Sometimes I think my creativity has been tapering off since then…. :-P I think I would tell myself to not wait so long to start something else.
TNA: Let’s chat a little bit about your new book, A Cunning Plan. Will you tell us about it and how you came up with the idea for the story?
B: Heh. Actually, the story started out as an anthology story for another publisher. It very soon shot past the maximum word limit, so I decided to let it roam and turn it into a novella. I’d always wanted to write a M/M Regency, but I didn’t know it would be this soon.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from A Cunning Plan with us?
B: Sure! In this scene, it’s the morning after a very bad night for Alec, Earl of Whittlesey. A redheaded stranger wakes him up, gets Alec out of an unwanted engagement (for the time being, anyway), then takes him outside to chat.
“It’s going to be a bit chilly without an overcoat, but that’s for the best,” the stranger said, taking Alec’s arm and pulling him from the room.
“Let go of me.” Alec jerked his arm free, lost his balance, and fell against the wall.
“Still drunk from last night’s wine?” The man put one of Alec’s arms over his shoulders, and then practically dragged him along the corridor, down the back stairs, and out of the house before Alec could find his tongue.
The cold air slapped at Alec’s face. “Who are you?” he asked.
“Morgan Villenie. I’m here to help you.”
The name seemed familiar; however, Alec couldn’t concentrate with this stranger grabbing at him. “I don’t need help.” He punctuated the statement by removing his arm from Villenie’s shoulders and then disproved it by starting to topple. Villenie caught him, worked his way underneath Alec’s arm again, and pulled him tight against his side.
“I should think you do, if that scene upstairs was any indication. Your mother is the one who is concerned about you, and from what I can see, I agree with her.” He hurried Alec along the gravel path. “Some fresh air and a chat, then breakfast, then we’ll talk more. How does that sound?”
“Miserable.” Alec tried to pull free from Villenie’s grip, but the man was stronger than his lean frame suggested. “Let go of me, you blackguard! And how do you know my mother?”
“All in good time.” When they had moved away from the house, Villenie loosened his grip and slowed his step, allowing Alec to get his feet under him. “Better?”
“No.” Although the air and the walk had cut through the effects of the brandy, he wouldn’t give Villenie the satisfaction of knowing how good it felt. “Let me go.” He tried once again to pull away.
“If you promise you won’t run away or fall over. We’ve got to talk, and I thought you’d want this conversation to take place away from other ears.” He allowed Alec to move away and slowed his pace.
“It’s cold,” Alec complained, looking back at the house. It wasn’t as cold as it could have been; they were having an unusually mild winter, but Alec knew, somehow, that he would not like what Villenie had to say.
“We won’t stay out long. But I do need to speak to you about your marriage.”
“My marriage?” Alec’s wits had now fully returned to him. “There is no marriage, nor will there be.” He hesitated, then added, “I suppose I must thank you for that.”
Villenie shook his head. “That’s not what I meant, although I was more than happy to help. I’m speaking of the fact that you are unmarried, and not even engaged to be wed. That’s the problem. Your mother has sent me to remedy the situation, since you won’t discuss it with her. She seems to think I will be able to convince you.”
“No.” Alec stopped. “You will explain yourself, now. Who are you, and why have you come here?”
Villenie’s narrow, freckled face split in a grin. “I’m the man who’s going to solve all your problems.”
TNA: What drew you to set the book in this particular point in history?
B: I love Regencies, and somehow the plot just set itself in that period. Honestly, I can’t even remember now how it got there, just that it all made sense for that time.
TNA: Did you have to do a lot of research to make sure you got the setting and language just right?
B: Heh. I spent some time with Google Maps and Wikipedia for the setting, but I didn’t do much other research than trying to remember other Regencies I’ve read. I intended to write a “wallpaper” historical, i.e. not so much historical detail in the story. But the plot is specific to the Regency period, so the historical editors at Dreamspinner were, shall we say, thorough (i.e. tore me several new ones, but nicely), telling me what I needed to correct in order to make it more accurate to the period. Anything that’s incorrect or sounds anachronistic are things that I refused to change, citing creative license. :-D I did pretty much live on http://www.etymonline.com as I was writing and revising the story, to make sure I wasn’t using anachronistic words/expressions.
TNA: Did either of the main characters give you fits as you were writing, not wanting to cooperate with where you saw their story going? If so, which one?
B: Alec was the hard one to write, but it wasn’t his fault. It was just hard to sort out his backstory in a way that made sense (at least, I hope it does).
TNA: I know this is sort of like asking you to name your favorite child, but of all the stories you’ve written, do you have a favorite? If so, which and why?
B: I haven’t written that much, really. A Cunning Plan has turned out well, I think. A few times during the revision process, I’d be surprised at how much I liked parts of it, thinking, “Did I really write that myself?!?” One of my favorite pieces of writing is one of my fanfics, based on (or rather, ripped off of) A Christmas Carol, which I love. I guess I like everything I’ve put out there for people to read. If I didn’t like it, it would still be buried on my hard drive.
TNA: If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would you choose and why? What makes him or her someone you think would make an impression (good or bad) upon the world?
B: Interesting that you worded it “him or her”, since I write gay romance, but I have written female characters. I’ve got a pirate novel in the works – conceived of in 2007, won NaNo 2009 with it, then finished the first draft in 2012 – and there’s a character in that story named Jeanette, who has her own import/export company in Jamaica in 1819, when the novel is set. William, my pirate captain, accuses her of having The Sight, but she’s just very smart, and she’s seen enough of human nature that she can make very good guesses as to what people are going to do. I think if she were living now, she’d be Richard Branson’s right-hand woman at Virgin, or a Prime Minister, except she’s really too smart to go into politics.
TNA: What would you say are the best and worst parts of the writing process for you?
B: Best is when the story LEAPS into my head and writes itself. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. :-P So I have to slog, and I’m not a fast writer. The worst parts are the revisions. The reason the pirate novel isn’t finished is that the first draft is over 140,000 words and I’m DREADING having to revise it. Even if it will be awesome when it’s done. :-D Another Best part is when I find what I call the “sweet spot” of the story – something that makes it all make sense. I also like to include at least one real-life incident in each story. I told you at GRL how my story The Idiots’ Tango (written for the Goodreads M/M romance group’s “Love Has No Boundaries” event) was based almost entirely on real life events, but usually, there’s just one (like ralphing on the keg in the Dorm Porn 2 story).
TNA: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Whichever you are, why do you feel that method works best for you?
B: I think I’m a plotter. I like to know what’s going to happen, even if some of the best stuff is what comes out when I’m not planning it. But if I had no idea where the story was going (or had to end up), I would panic – it would be like swimming out into the ocean in some random direction to try to get somewhere.
TNA: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
B: Not flight, that’s too scary. Super-strength would be good, since I have no upper-body strength. Or the ability to communicate more clearly with animals. Then I could find out why our cat thinks it’s okay to pee on things.
TNA: If time travel were possible, where would you go and why?
B: Man. I’ve often wondered what I would do if I got zapped back in time. That’s why I need to learn how to spin wool, so I can earn my keep by knitting sweaters if I got zapped back to pre-industrial times. I do kind of wish I could go back and stop my mom from getting polio, although I probably couldn’t have talked her out of visiting the neighbor whose kid had it, which is how she caught it. And if I could have talked her out of it, would I have been born at all? She’d wanted to have four kids, but after she got sick (while she was pregnant with my brother), the doctors told her she shouldn’t have any more kids. I was a “surprise”, born way after my sister and brother. So if my mom hadn’t gotten sick, would she have had her four kids in the 1950s and then stopped before I came along? It’s an interesting idea.
On a more cheerful note, I do have a story with some time travel in it – yet another finished first draft that I haven’t gotten around to revising. It’s called Emily’s Magical Bejeweled Codpiece and yes, it’s about a magical bejeweled codpiece. The main character gets sent back to Renaissance Italy. Personally, I’d rather not go back before the era of indoor plumbing and penicillin.
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?
B: Whew. Okay, those finished first drafts I mentioned? The pirate novel is called Here Lies Treasure, and it’s rather porny. Okay, very porny. There’s the codpiece/time-travel story, a noir-ish short story called Fiscal Cliff, about a financial advisor named Cliff, and a YA mystery called Coming Out Is Murder, about a kid in a small town in north Georgia who wants to come out but every time he does, the person he comes out to winds up dead. I’m hoping that revisions will render it less grim and more black-humorish.
Actual WIPs (stories that are partially written, and maybe listing them will make me accountable for finishing them):
1. The drag queen story. It’s about masculinity, effemiphobia, self-confidence, and being authentic. Plus showtunes.
2. The “My roommate is not gay” story, also called “the Amsterdam story” because the first part takes place there. It’s a response to the Dorn Porn 2 story, because this time the hot roommate really isn’t gay. It’s sexier and more interesting than it sounds, I promise. :-)
3. The script for Ray Park (the actor/martial artist who played Darth Maul). I may turn it into a novella first. When I started it, he was too young for the role. Now he might be too old. :-( A closeted martial arts instructor kicks ass and takes names when he’s not macking on his boyfriend.
4. The Christmas anthology story that will not cooperate. Maybe because it’s actually about Hanukkah. A comedy of errors, with parents.
5. “True* Stories of C___ County (*Meaning ‘False’)”, a collection of lies about my neighbors and co-workers. Gay orgies, a former Madam, EU spies, groping in the office. (I may end up not writing these, because I feel a little guilty basing the stories on people who are very nice in real life.)
6. Super-porny story about a young man who drifts through life having sex and smoking weed. Currently has no real plot or conflict. *headdesks*
7. The short story for an anthology that Anna Martin is coordinating, the theme of which is “bedtime stories”. A recently separated man who believes himself to be straight struggles with the emotions (and other things) that come up when he hears about the sexual exploits of his son’s babysitter.
8. The story for the Project Fierce anthology, created by Piper Vaughn. The anthology will be published through Less Than Three Press, and all proceeds will go to Project Fierce, which aims to provide transitional housing for homeless GLBT youth in Chicago. For some reason, my story is F/F– where did that come from??? It’s a sort of parallel Cinderella story. Eh, you’ll just have to buy the book. :-) But seriously, buy the book, which I think will be out in the spring of 2014.
Um…was that TMI?
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
B: I waste a lot of time on Facebook, I have a blog I never update, and I do check email occasionally, email@example.com I’m not very fun on Twitter (the only time I ever tweet is to send angry replies to homophobes’ tweets), but that might change someday.
TNA: Thanks so much for being here with us today, B. You’re a delight and a great cha-cha instructor, and it was great getting to know a bit more about you. :-D
B: Thanks so much for this opportunity! My first-ever interview, and I felt kind of sick while answering the questions…
TNA: . THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED