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Category: Guest Appearance

Posts, interviews or other contributions from people I listen to.

Happy Holidays! Join me in welcoming my friend and fellow author Ash to my blog today with his newest novella, Heartifact. It sounds like a fascinating story!

heartifact-cover-401x609By the way, net proceeds benefit the The Trevor Project in the US, le Refuge in France, and Arcigay in Italy

Heartifact is available from Men Over the RainbowAmazonAmazon UKAll Romance eBooks, Barnes & NobleSmashwords

 

THE MYTH OF ATLANTIS

A very special thank you to Lloyd for hosting me today. It’s great to be here!

The myth of Atlantis (Greek, Atlas) stems from two Dialogues written by Plato in 360 BC, Timaeus and Critias. The dialogues speak of an island utopian society destroyed by a cataclysm of some sort. It is correct that these Dialogues represent the written record of the myth of Atlantis, but it is incorrect that they are the source of the myth.

Egyptians told the story of Atlantis to Solon, one of the seven sages of ancient Greece, during one of his pilgrimages to Egypt. The Egyptians showed him several records of antiquity speaking to the incomparable power and prestige of the utopian empire which dominated the world 9,000 years before; and further pointed out that the Greeks had been wiped off the face of the earth alongside the people of Atlantis, with whom they were at war. Few survived, and the Egyptians purported that this is why Greeks had no memory of Atlantis. Solon passed the story on to Socrates. Socrates was Plato’s mentor, and one night at a dinner party when Plato was a youngster, he snuck in to listen to the tale told by Socrates. He recounts Socrates’ retelling of the myth in these Dialogues. It is important to note that the hieroglyphs of Egypt represent some of the most accurate historical records in existence today (and the story of Atlas does not mention the Atlantic Ocean).

In 1453, the Turks invaded the Holy Land cutting off Spain’s land-faring trade routes with the Far East. Along came Christopher Columbus who had a secret desire to find Atlantis. Under the auspices of finding seafaring trade routes for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he sought to find Atlantis and, instead, bumped into the Americas. But his belief that Atlantis was in the Atlantic Ocean lingers in the myth today.

In 1665, Don Carlos de Sigüenza, set out to demonstrate that his Mexican ancestors had formed a civilization to rival Rome by proving that the pyramids of Teotijuacan were like those of ancient Egypt. To make a long story short, he ultimately believed he’d found Atlantis because the wipeout of the Teotijuacan civilization corresponds to the biblical prophecy that people disbursed around the globe after the flood, the flood purporting to correspond to the destruction of Atlantis. (No mention of Noah’s animals.) But his belief that Atlantis was destroyed by a flood lingers in the myth today.

In the 17th century, a dude named Sir Francis Bacon writes a fable entitled The New Atlantis. This is the first reworking of Plato’s Dialogues and sparks renewed interest in the search for Atlantis. In this fable, he ascribes advanced technology to the people of Atlantis. From this point forward, people believed Atlantians were extremely advanced, so much so as to exceed the advancements of today.

Along comes John Dee, a magician and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth who, through crystal gazing and a series of horrifying occult experiments, claims he can communicate with the spirits of Atlantis. From this point forward, people believed the Atlantians were to have had all sorts of special abilities such as mindreading, prescience, etc.

In 1870, a French guy by the name of Jules Verne writes a fabulous tale, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and credits the story to the myth of Atlantis. At that time in history, most people didn’t know how to swim, hadn’t been in the ocean, but somehow knew sea monsters existed that may eat ships and most certainly ate people. Verne paints a picture of a utopian society beneath the sea (no sea monsters included). From this point forward, people believed Atlantians lived beneath the sea.

Around the same time, German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, discovers the ruins of Troy by reading a literal translation of Homer. Homer’s works are fiction, but Schliemann’s discovery confirms the fact that all fiction is based in some truth. From that point forward, people deemed Plato’s Dialogues to be a reliable source to locate Atlantis.

In 1880, loser politician, Ignatius Donnelly, finds himself with time on his hands and, galvanized by Schliemann’s find, becomes obsessed with finding Atlantis. He performs all manner of armchair exploration and learns a mountain range stretches from Iceland to South America deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, the highest peaks of which are the Azores and Canary Islands. Thereafter, people believed one could walk from Egypt to South America at one time and this explained how like pyramids, cultures, hieroglyphs, etc. ended up on opposite sides of the globe. He writes a pseudoscientific book, Atlantis, the Antediluvian World, and has now added fodder to the idea that Atlantis was once above the sea, but sank into the depths during a flood.

Around the same time (1873), Helena Blavatzky, a penniless Russian grandmother, self-proclaimed occult guru, and confirmed nutcase, alleges that only Arian Hindu’s retain Atlantean racial superiority and are the oldest people in the world. It is her attribution of a fair complexion and blue eyes to the people of Atlantis that survives in the myth today. The Third Reich later seizes upon this idea. You know that story, so I’ll move on.

In 1899, archeologist Arthur Evans unearths the remains of a hidden civilization on the island of Crete. These mysterious sea-trading people worshipped the bull, built labyrinthine buildings, and painted incredible frescos. Having nothing to do with Atlantis, this civilization was named Minoa (after Greek mythological figure King Minos, who happened to be the father of the minotaur). What is unique about this civilization is that it demonstrated highly advanced water technology thus lending to Sir Francis Bacon’s theory of Atlantians having advanced technology. Minoans are the single greatest mystery in all of classical history. We don’t know where they came from or what happened to them.

Thirty-five years later while excavating on the island of Santorini, Greek archeologist, Spyradon Marinatos, uncovers a mysterious civilization buried beneath thirty feet of volcanic rock lending to the idea that the destruction of Atlantis occurred as a result of a massive volcano eruption and not a flood. He excavates the village in 1967 and headlines around the world read “Atlantis Found!” This civilization was not that of Atlantis and was named Akrotiri. Yet, anyone who lives on Santorini will tell you that the beloved island is Atlantis.

Along comes another clairvoyant who claims Atlantis will rise from the Caribbean island of Bimini in 1968 or so. Expeditions occur only to learn that many Spanish Galleons wrecked on the coral reefs and dumped giant Corinthian stones used for ballast, thus creating what is now known as the undersea Bimini Road, and not a long lost road of Atlantis. This story adds more fodder to Atlantis having sunk into the Atlantic sea.

What is important to note from the above is that each event involving Atlantis has added something to Plato’s original description of nothing more than an island utopia destroyed by a cataclysm.

All fiction is, in part, based in truth, and everyone reads the accomplishments and reasons for destruction of Atlantis differently. As people, we tend to project the things we most admire (highest aspirations), and at the same time, the things we’re most afraid of (dangerous fantasies of perfection). All said, we can’t resist the notion that somewhere in the gloomy deep, Atlantis exists.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Lloyd! Go read Heartifact! It’s a great book. Besides, you can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card and two signed books from me!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR AND ENTER TO WIN

TWO SIGNED BOOKS AND A $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD!

ENTER THE RAFFLE!
About Heartifact

Harper Kidd is a highly respected marine archaeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division. Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.

Harper’s spirits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.

When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and saving the pelora he’s fallen in love with.

 

Heartifact is available from Men Over the RainbowAmazonAmazon UKAll Romance eBooks, Barnes & NobleSmashwords

Read an excerpt on Love Bytes Reviewsen français

 

About Aisling Mancy

Ash is an author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes mystery thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary. Ash does respond to emails because, after all, it is all about you, the reader.

Find Ash on blog, Twitter @AislingMancy, Facebook, Google+Goodreads, Booklikes, Dreamspinner Press Author Page, and Amazon!

 

It’s a pleasure to have Jackson Cordd here today, a very interesting author I’ve just met recently. His most recent novel, Shamrock Green, is due for release from Dreamspinner Press on April 2nd. Welcome, Jackson!ShamrockGreenLG

Thank you Lloyd for your interest in my latest novel, Shamrock Green, and for inviting me to talk a bit about it.
I’m thrilled at how the book is already garnering so much attention. When I began writing it, I struggled a bit because the work is much more epic, with a larger cast of characters than any books I’ve ever developed before.
My inspiration for the story came from a trip I took to Ireland in 2012. While touring about the green hills, I learned quite a bit more of the Celtic and Gaelic mythologies, expanding my knowledge of the stories I had heard from my Granny while growing up. Naturally, such a Granny also became part of the back-story for the main character, Hank Lear.
As for the magical elements in the story, I decided to stick closer to what I thought might be real possibilities, by postulating that the Fae are energy creatures that reach our world through a portal from a dimension of pure energy. So what the humans in the story perceive as ‘magic,’ is merely the Fae manipulations of energy to change their appearance or create plasma balls.
The story also involves several concepts of psychic ‘gifts’ in the forms of psychometry, empathy, projection, and premonitions. As part of his hero’s journey, I gave the character Hank a budding empathic gift.
I know many readers may consider such talents to be magic or mere fiction, but I have had personal experience with all of those gifts, most notably the empathy. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been sensitive to the emotions around me, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. Most of the time I think of the empathy as a blessing, but I must admit there have been times when it felt more like a curse to be constantly bombarded with feelings that weren’t mine.
For the antagonist of the tale, I chose to have a misguided dullahan be the primary force. He enlists a phouka as a reluctant sidekick, by promising to grant him a pleasing human form.
The main conflict begins in the back-story in the early 1200’s, when an important human wedding brings together the factions of the green and blue Fae, who bestow their Fae gifts upon the wedding attendees, creating a group named ‘The Ten Families.’
Infuriated that the Fae are mingling and sharing so openly with the worthless humans, the dullahan orchestrates the theft of the bride’s wedding ring, then later circulates rumors that the bride lost her ring during an illicit affair. He continues fanning the tense flames heating up between the families and factions, eventually leading to a huge conflict later called ‘The Tempest.’ For the next few hundred years, the dullahan continues creating strife and trying to close the portals and end all of the unnatural co-mingling of the Fae and humans.
The novel picks up the story in modern Dublin, when nine of the families, aligned in a group calling themselves ‘The Antiquer’s Guild’ continue fighting the dullahan, who has since co-opted the church in his quest to end the unnatural behavior.
Hank Lear, our main hero visiting from Texas, who is a descendant of the unrepresented family, happens to buy the bride’s Claddagh ring in an antique shop, which soon pulls him into the middle of the ongoing mess after he meets the infatuating Darren O’Connell, one of the members of the Antiquer’s Guild. Darren is a descendant of the original groom, and has the other artifact from the wedding set, a choker amulet depicting the Celtic Tree of Life.
I had a great deal of fun writing this work, and I hope the readers will enjoy the ensuing roller coaster ride as well.

I’m sure they will! While I’ve got you here, may I ask a few questions?

Of course, ask away.

I rarely run into someone with double-edged psychic gifts related to my own, and I’m fascinated. Can you say more about your experience with them?

Empathy is the only gift that I’m really strong at. I occasionally have bits of emotional psychometry (I can pick up the emotional state of the owner, but not any real details). Even rarer are premonitory flashes or dreams. Those are so unreliable though. Invariably, I see some distant point, like ten years into a possible future, which can exist only if factor A, B, C, D, E, F, G… all line up just right over the course of the next decade. They aren’t very helpful, other than to highlight what might be the best potential in a situation and depending on how great that potential is, I can decide if the situation is something worth fighting for.

It would take more than a short blog interview to compare our journeys in detail, but how do you think those gifts have changed you as a person, and how central are they to your writing?

Well, since the empathy is something I was most likely born with, I can’t see where it had a ‘changing’ point. But I know that ability has certainly shaped my life in slightly different ways.
In my earlier years, I shied away from any large groups because of how I would get bombarded by so many external emotions, especially in the teenage years. Just imagine attending a party, feeling waves of depression from Sally, anger from Jake, horniness from Tom, boredom from Michelle, elation from Kathy, and fear from Amy all hitting you nearly simultaneously in random pulses. It’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself with that kind of assault going on in your gut. So I grew up a bit of a loner wallflower, not participating in clubs, dances, and parties very much.
On the plus side, I had a very good ‘gaydar’ during those early years, so I didn’t suffer any of the ‘I’m the only one like this in the world’ isolation many gay kids experience when they first come to terms with their sexuality. I got pings everywhere I went.
Over time, I’ve learned to ‘tune out’ those things a bit, but even now, I can still have issues in big crowds (like Dragon*Con), and I spend so much of my effort just trying to protect myself that I can’t relax and enjoy the event.
The empathic nature has had a direct effect on my writing, because I invariably have one character in each work that has some bit of empathy. Indirectly, I think it has an even stronger impact, because I tend to see the world as an ‘emotional ocean’, I put more mention and notice of character’s feelings and how those feelings motivate them into my work.

Turning back to Shamrock Green in specific, please say more about your dullahan. What would make him likely to hate humans so?

His character developed as I thought about the details of the dullahan. As the notions rolled around in my head, it seemed likely that an essentially immortal, judgmental non-human creature who sees into the darkness of people’s hearts, would likely become very cynical in just a century or two of constantly seeing the petty inadequacies of humans. At first, he might try to weed out the worst offenders in hopes of giving the others a better chance to rise above their baser natures, but after seeing the pettiness repeating from generation to generation without any signs of improvement, the dullahan begins to see the human condition as a hopeless struggle.
Of course, I think the guy is a bit impatient because often evolution advances take time. From what we know of the fossil records, our modern brain structural capacity developed practically overnight, and after 200,000 years or so, we’re only beginning the process to use our new brain size to its full potential.

I love the modern hope I feel in your comments about Shamrock Green, the hope of re-uniting the families of the wronged bride and groom from the 1200’s. Did you encounter any particular obstacles in your fae world-building by making the modern couple both men?

I took quite a bit of creative license with the back-story of the novel. From what I found of the mythology, it’s mostly short little passive vignettes in the flavor of ‘I met a leprechaun once.’ So I chose to create a mythical major event between the Fae and humans, which I set in the 1200’s.
During my research, I never found any historical references to homosexuality, at least not until the time the Christians arrive, who of course brought their anti-gay messages along with their teachings.
Which I saw as an interesting point. I do know from the sorts of attitudes I felt in Ireland, ‘Live And Let Live,’ is almost an unspoken rule in their culture. So my guess is, that like most other early cultures, homosexuality had a place that was common and natural enough to them that they never felt the need to mention it in writing. Much like us, our ancestors mostly wrote about the odd and unusual things they saw around them. So if homosexuality were neither odd or unusual, it could easily go undocumented in a culture.
Another point to support that notion, was the church’s loud stance on the issue shortly after arrival. I don’t think they would have been so vocal, had they not seen it as a prevalent problem.
Since the bulk of the story takes place in our modern European world, where attitudes are quickly shifting to acceptance, I didn’t see the need to add any ‘homosexual’ conflict for the gay characters. They already have enough to worry about, anyway.

Authors have often altered mythic tales to suit the stories they write. When you approached the body of traditional fae mythology, how free did you feel to modify it? Did you feel any constraints? If so, how did you honor them?

As I mentioned, I took the flavor of the little vignettes and wove together a major event in the form of a unifying wedding that wouldn’t really be common knowledge, except to those families involved. The only real modifications I made to the mythology were adding the Eirestones (green diamond crystals collected from a geode given to the Neill family by a banshee) and adding a new creature, Skeena. I also tried to create a bit of theoretical scientific underpinning to help explain the world as it exists in the novel. With each step, I carefully thought through staying true to the spirit of the mythology to maintain respect for those old stories.
One myth I used as a template is the tale of the creation of the Blarney Stone. As one version of the story goes, a young lad who had gone deaf and mute after a bought of the pox, wandered into the woods feeling a bit depressed at being left out of the craic (Irish version of a pub-crawl). He stopped to rest at a stream, where his tears falling into the water caught the attention of a nearby sprite. She flew up out of the water to observe. Feeling moved by the lad’s plight, she stood on one of the large bluestones in the stream and beckoned the lad forward.
Impressed at the sudden appearance of the tiny sprite, the lad moved closer to the stream and leaned down to her. She kissed his chin with a magical pucker, restoring the lad’s speech and hearing. The magic also passed into the bluestone on which she stood, and to this day, kissing that stone can give the gift of Irish gab.

Generalities are dangerous, he said, stating a generality, but do you have a particular kind of reader you want to reach with your stories?

I grew up enthralled with sci-fi and fantasy, but in most cases I felt a bit left out from the lack of LGBT representation in those stories (except for the occasional 50’s style fag that has to be despicable and justifiably die at some point in the book).
Such a state of affairs makes my heart hurt. I still see a prevalence of self-deprecation in the gay community, and such stories I’m sure has some basis for furthering, if not actually creating, those problems for us.
So, my goal is to write positive, hopeful stories in those genres with gay characters that, although they may not necessarily be the hero, they at least don’t have to die to fulfill some formula in the plot.

Dreams of millions of sales and months on the Times bestseller list (which I share, too) aside, what creative direction do you see your writing headed now? Or maybe more accurately answered, where would you like it to be heading?

I always strive to put some deeper philosophy into my stories, and my dream has always been to create the sort of epic work of significance that readers would feel deserved to be on their shelves right next to ‘Dune’, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘The Stand’, and ‘A Single Man’.
With each new project I’m finding myself opening up further, putting more of my heart and soul into the work, so maybe someday, I’ll reach that point. Until then, I’ll keep writing stories that I hope readers not only find entertaining, but maybe a bit thought-provoking and brimming with my optimism for a brighter future.

Thank you, Jackson Cordd, for coming by. I’m looking forward to reading Shamrock Green as soon as it’s available.

And folks, Jackson has an author page on the GoodReads website, as well as a ‘Jackson Cordd’ Facebook page and Twitter. He also enjoys receiving e-mail — you can contact him directly at JacksonCordd@gmail.com.

In preparation for my attendance at GayRomLit in Atlanta next month, I’m a guest blogger at Joyfully Jay, talking about fantasy and its essential roots in the familiar. Oh, and am giving away a copy of Enigma

I hope you’ll check out what I have to say. “I Love Fantasy”

Last Monday Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk won his second Lambda Literary Award. His unique voice and his dedication to his craft has established him as a real force in LGBT fiction. Please join me as he answers questions about his writing and his remarkable life.

Mick, Coney Island 1958

Mick, Coney Island 1958

You just won another Lambda Literary Award, Mick – congratulations! Your first was in 2009 in Bisexual Fiction, this year in Gay Erotica. That’s wonderful recognition of your work.

Yeah, I feel nice, happy really, but now I’m on to editing another piece with very tight time limits and it’s getting close to the end that I’m a bit mangled, you know but nothing I haven’t handled before.

You never stop, do you? Your bio says your family immigrated to New York’s Lower East Side when you were two. What was it like growing up there?

Nice and quiet, peaceful, really. But then I started going to Ukrainian grade school… Boy, oh boy, oh boy, end of any peace in my life but all of the Ukrainian kids were like that. The majority were like me, exiles from World War 2 devastated Europe, as if we knew what that meant; we were nothing but “strangers in a strange land” and if I uselessly got in trouble I only was repeating what I’d seen my elders doing, that is being a rebel. Ukrainian school educated me into expecting nothing from anyone but the back of the hand from the world, of which there still were more whacks to come.

Your stories are often set in a New York that no longer exists but comes alive in your writing. When did you start writing them?

I more or less have been writing my entire life, even in my early teen years I always carried a little notebook and I would always be jotting things down. My dream of being a writer came when I’d won a 5th or 6th grade poetry contest; the teacher even hung the poem on the wall. I used to carry the notebooks but funny thing is, I’d jot them down, come to the end of my notebook, pick up another and forget about ever having kept a notebook in the first place! It wasn’t so much the actual writing, word for word that trained me, but just the mechanics of writing, the getting it all down. That’s why writing has never fazed me, also why I can do so much so often. And there is always something else to write about.

I read a comment from you somewhere that you didn’t expect to go back into the city again, even though you live nearby in New Jersey. Why is that?

New York City has drastically changed, I don’t mean a block or two here and there but entire communities have been erased, as if they never did exist in the first place. They’re been replaced by the Big Bucks of the wealthy and powerful. The community I grew up in, the Lower East Side, no longer exists. Gone are the mom and pop stores, the little bodegas where you get a can of cerveza and move on, all replaced with fancy clothing stores and chic boutiques, meaning if they cleaned up the Bowery of bums and winos they also cleaned up the Lower East Side of the writers and poets. But they’ve pretty much gone through all of Manhattan, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Ukrainian and Polish neighborhoods. Mayor Bloomberg had the right idea, make poverty neighborhoods trendy and chic while raising the rents sky-high, that’s the way to get the old out while moving in the new. But you have to give it to Bloomberg at least he knew what being a mayor is like, erase the poor like they never were there to begin with.

I don’t think I’ve read any author that carries the same intensity of focus on character, as if the story itself needs much less attention. Or maybe the character IS the story. Is that a fair assessment? How do you approach character and story?

I really don’t know, stories seem to come at me, sort of knocking me on the head. Some writers have specific techniques I don’t, I just write.

And you’ve got a lot of them down in writing. That’s a lot of work. Your writing has an immediacy to it that makes me think you draw heavily from personal experience. Is that true?

Personal experience? Perhaps, but I do recall many times as I’d wander the streets I’d see someone go by and instantly wonder what would happen if I went with him or her? Nothing, maybe everything, you just had to let yourself be open to life. That’s the trick, most of us simply can’t or won’t. Life calls…and we ignore it and go on with what we were doing. Cleaning bathrooms, eating trash or writing novels, I’ve done them all.

In 1998 you had a massive stroke that changed your life. I deeply admire your courage and tenacity in recovering. May I ask you a couple of questions about that?

Sure, shoot…

You had to teach yourself how to type again. What was that like?

carrots and me

carrots and me

I have to thank computers for being around in the late ‘90s otherwise I probably wouldn’t write at all. I can’t imagine using a manual typewriter, inserting in a sheet of paper, hitting the return shift after each sentence, pulling out the paper at the end, only to begin the process of inserting it again. Whew, that’s already got me tired and disgusted. Yet typists have been doing just that for so many years and years and years. I think it was Steven Jobs and Bill Gates who suspected something was wrong, that I needed help in the weird process so they got to work of creating computers. I’m glad they did that but I’m still waiting for my royalties. Oh, well, life goes on… but I’m not gonna wait forever!

I understand that all to well! How long does it take you to type a thousand words?

About an hour and a half to two hours. Don’t forget I use only my left index finger to do most of the typing, with sometimes my thumb or pinky when I use different capital letters. Anyway, that’s my usual writing for the day, a thousand words, but then comes the grueling editing and that seems to take forever! But it’s never done to my satisfaction while some publisher demands it and I give them what they want. It’s out of my hands. I feel like Pilate washing his hands of Jesus when I give my manuscript up.

Yikes–you’re faster than I am! Your style is compelling and unmistakable. Can you say something about how you came to it, and what view of the world fuels it?

By just doing it every day and never mind where the publication will come from. The first thing I wrote after I had the stroke was “Times Queer,” a memory on Times Square in the 1960’s when I first started going up there. Those were the days…. And in the slow way I was doing the typing, I never got more than a few sentences but the next day I added a few more until the story came out. And I think it’s a very good story, it shows the mood and feeling of what Times Square was like in those days, sexy but very playful unlike the crime and drugs which pretty much put the finishing touches into the Deuce, the name which 42nd Street was called back then.

I get a sense that you consider yourself an existentialist, and something of a literary outlaw. Is that true?

Sure, existentialist, but I don’t know of literary outlaw, that’s the first time anyone has called me that, but I like it! Anyway, I like William Burroughs, there’s a book about him called Literary Outlaw, I read it some years ago, he used to live on the Bowery, not too far from where I lived. But many writers once lived there, I used to live a few buildings away from Allen Ginsberg on 13th Street, but the entire Lower East Side was writer’s heaven, not so anymore.

You won a Lambda Award in 2009 for best bisexual fiction, and you often write transsexual characters or characters that blur gender lines. Can you say something about what these people bring to your stories that others can’t?

Maybe that’s the kind I go for, feminine men, you never know what you’re going to find under their skirts, a real woman or a somewhat man. I’ve been with both before the skirts revealed what they were. One was as good as the other to me. I adore female clothes. The hardness is there in any case, male or female. That never bothered me, I could go with anyone. You could say, I’m bisexual but I’ve always hated the term or any term to describe me, I’m simply a hard-up fellow, take me as I am, before I’ll take you!

(Laughing) Thanks for fair warning! Which writers do you admire?

Most I’ve read over and over since my teen years, Henry Miller, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo and assorted other classic writers. As for the living, there’s Victor Banis, whose Lola Dances I’ve read three or four times and will read it again. Victor has a way of taking you into the story and before you even know it you’ve read over fifty pages without even knowing it. Any writer who can suck you in like that is a writer I admire and want to be like.

Erastes, whose Standish, is a masterwork describing English gentleman in the 1880s (I assume, it’s the 1880s but the books not in front of me) who weren’t so very gentle with each other.

Alan Chin, with the book Island Song burst upon the gay literary scene sweeping all other so-called literary books aside. I loved his book.

There have been others, I intend to read Dorein Gray, Jon Michalsen, and a few others but I still haven’t read either but will do so sooner or later

Most of your stories have frequent sexual encounters — some with emotional context, but others, not so much. What does sex mean to you?

What can it mean? Sex means fucking!

Relationship?

Hmmm… Nope, never did it to someone I was related to. Sorry… (but I do know what you mean by relationship, I’m simply not that perverted though many have called me sick and a weirdo.)

You seem to be producing more shorter works lately. Is that a deliberate decision, or just the way your stories have been coming out?

They just come that way, no plan when I first start but beginning, middle and end that seem to fit together. I have no real scenario just get the story out and see where it goes. A fifty-page book, more or less, seems the ideal size to tell the story in.

Is there one piece of yours that you could point to and say, “That’s the work I’m most proud of?”

My favorite is my novella Baby Doll, concerns a boy who discovers his gay sexuality in the 1980s when AIDS was just rearing its ugly big head for all to see. Alan Chin wrote a strong review.

I wrote it in remembrance of a boy I used to see some years ago in the neighborhood, who used to experiment with teasing men in the same way that they used to play with him. These were seemingly straight men that would sometimes disappear off in hallways. I, too, was aroused by him but sadly we never seemed to hit off each going our own way. He was dead before we ever learned of AIDS existing, which it was for him.

Anyway, I wrote the story in about a week’s time. I had just lost a job and had no prospects or leads of getting another. Was a hot summer, really sweltering, and I recalled the boy I used to see a few summers ago on the streets. The story came out full force as one very long sentence. Sally Miller, my editor at the time, put in paragraphs, periods and commas, and I suppose that did very well. In my eyes, I wrote it as a Jack Kerouac On The Road unedited scroll sentence which I think still is the best sentence I ever wrote but of course my editor frowned at it and changed it. But really she made it readable so I thank her for that.

What are you working on now?

Tentative title: A Ukrainian Melody, Sort Of…

Do you have plans for another full-length novel?

Yes, at least I’m trying to do one. Was in touch with Cerevana Brava Press, Somerville, MA who asked to see a novel I’ve been working on, A Ukrainian Melody, Sort Of… which looks at my early years of growing up in NYC. They publish mostly Eastern European authors or those who have had contact with the language and culture. My childhood years fit in with them completely. Just a rundown of how I became how I am, of course all fictionalized but I have to keep the story going.

I examine my life in the 1950-60s, way before my Times Square days, oh, what innocence that was, at least that’s how the world was befuddled into seeing me and my kind. It’s really about an accordionist who gets involved with a young girl at a wedding social with assorted other Ukrainian characters around, men, women, gays, you name it. I’ve still have a way to go with the story but I can guarantee it will be a good one, that is, if you like the kinky kind of stuff I write.

Sounds like a powerful story! If you could travel anywhere to see something particular, where would you go?

Russia at the age of revolution 1917. I was in Berlin in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell but the constant celebrations proved to be too boring for me. Is this a Revolution? I wondered. Was there about a week and took the train to Vienna. Nothing there either. Rested a few weeks and caught a flight back to the USA. I’m still here.

And I’m very glad you are! Thank you so much, Mick. And thank you for making me ask myself about my own commitment to my writing: If I had to type with only one finger of one hand, would I push to produce stories with the productivity of Mykola Dementiuk?

Mick’s work and website can be found here:

various e-books
print books

I’ve been enthralled reading Victor Banis’ autobiography Spine Intact, Some Creases. I’d love to talk more about what’s already in the book, but I don’t think that’s fair to him. So please, readers of this blog — if you want to know more about Victor Banis, one of the true pioneers of gay fiction, read his memoir, available HERE.

It’s an eye-opening read how he endured harassment from federal authorities to write books that portrayed gay protagonists in a positive light; how he introduced the first gay superspy, Jackie Holmes, the Man from C.A.M.P.; how he helped stake out the new freedoms that writers now enjoy. And in addition to the history, learn the best way to cook corn, and how to make chicken bosoms marinated in gin.

Take a journey with him through the glamor and turbulence of gay culture in California from its fascinating early days to familiar current time, while he publishes over 200 titles. See Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York publishing, and Eaton, Ohio through his eyes and heart. It’s quite the ride!

Victor, really the first thing out of my mouth has to be “Thank you,” for doing so much to clear the way for authors of gay fiction today. You’ve seen modern-era gay literature develop from its infancy, really — seen it develop and differentiate. What do you think the next stages of development look like?

It seems to me that we are in another transitional period. Gay fiction blossomed in the late 60s and then trailed off, and all but went belly up, until the women’s movement, M/M fiction, came along and revived it. But now the M/M field seems to be entering a slump; reviewers and readers are complaining about a glut of poorly written and poorly edited books.

Some of this is to be expected—whenever a genre goes into a boom period, there is always more of the mediocre. Not everyone who can put 60,000 words on paper (or, in the computer) is likely to be good at it. This was true back in the golden age as well. There were some good books, and a lot of dreck.

I am concerned, however, that more of the people in the genre don’t seem concerned. The bottom line is, they will clean up their act, or the readers/book buyers will do it for them. A lot of sloppy writers learned that the hard way in the past. That old cliché: those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

The same thing happened in other genres as well. In the 70s, gothic romances became popular. Publishers rushed to get books out, often written by neophytes who weren’t very good. The market got glutted, people stopped buying and reading them, and the genre pretty much just faded away. I’d hate to see this happen to M/M and gay fiction, but it could.

You’ve said you’re still awaiting the “great gay novel”. What would that novel have to contain in order to qualify?

Oh, that’s like pornography, I won’t know it till I see it. One could look at great books in any genre and make up a list of specifications, but the likely truth will be, when it comes along, it will be unlike anything else – as far as that goes, we may not recognize it when we see it, it may take a generation or more to be appreciated. Great books often have.

I think it takes more than one generation for a book to be recognized as of lasting value. Certainly there are writers today with the talent…well, see, I don’t think “talent” is the right word. There were a lot of writers in his day with talent, but only Flaubert could have produced Madame Bovary. And it would be silly, wouldn’t it, to describe Dickens as having talent? Maybe genius is the better word.

Anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mick Dementiuk, who I have described more than once as a genius, were the one, or Alan Chin or Erik Orrantia, both of whom can write brilliantly. And certainly there are a number of writers around today who are gifted and could conceivably write a great novel; but often the genius produces some not-so-good books too, which really should count for nothing. And I don’t think it needs to be universally liked, not at its introduction at least. Nor does volume of work matter much, though I think a writer deserves to be judged by the body of his work.

But, then, where do you put Margaret Mitchell, who surely wrote the definitive book on the old South, and nothing else? What I’m saying is, it may already be out there and I am just too short-sighted to recognize it. I can say that I haven’t run across anything that makes my pulse quicken the way the really great books do. That may be just my old, cold heart, however. As my mother used to say, “Cold hands, warm heart, dirty feet and no sweetheart.” Wait, that says warm heart, doesn’t it. And my hands are warm. Mom got it wrong?

What do you most want to see in contemporary gay fiction that you don’t see often enough?

There is so much emphasis on Happy Endings, on alpha males and soppy romance. Very little of it interests me enough to plunk down my money for it, and that is true even with some very successful authors.

I do know that this is the stuff that sells best for publishers, but I’d like to see writers stretch themselves a little. Older males can be convincing and intriguing characters, and not everyone has to be drop dead pretty, either.

In Lola Dances, my protagonist is an effeminate sissy boy, and a lot of people have told me they loved that book. Life doesn’t always tie everything up with a big beautiful bow on it, either. But then you get into the whole area of artistic integrity, and maybe that’s what’s really lacking in a lot of M/M fiction – gay fiction too, today, I might add.

I think in order to take pride in your career you have to know that you brought something to the table. It’s so much easier to just imitate what everyone else is doing. Being original is hard. Far more satisfying, however. In the end, the critic you have to satisfy is the one looking back at you from the mirror. He’s also the hardest to fool. I know.

Do you think the predominance of happy endings is in part a compensation for all the stories where the gay guy dies or at least can’t be happy? Or is it just a convenient end to another (pardon me) fairy tale – and they all lived happily ever after…

I think that may well be true – and I think it’s one of the things that almost killed gay fiction – if you look at what the major houses did – have done all along – at many of the books that win Lambda awards, certainly – it’s all about killing off the gay characters – just like the old style gay fiction before I came along.

It’s like, they took advantage of the freedom to create happy gay characters in happy situations, and then AIDS gave them permission to kill them off as punishment for geing gay. If you look at most of the books honored by the gay-establishment, it’s like we never got anywhere. It’s still wrong to be gay, and must be punished. And AIDS gave the publishers the opportunity and permission to do that.

So, in answer to your question, yes, I think M/M reacted to that with happy – sometimes silly/happy – endings.

And now to find a grounded balance somewhere… I know you love opera and classical music. Tell me about the first live performance that you attended, and how it affected you.

Well, I wasn’t really into opera as a young man, I was more about Hank Williams, and someone took me to see a performance of La Traviata in Dayton, Ohio, and I thought it was so/so. But there is a point in the second act where the soprano, Violetta, who is a courtesan, realizes she must give up the young man she loves for his sake, and she makes arrangements to leave him without telling him this is what she is doing. But before she leaves, she flings herself into his arms and cries out, Amami, Alfredo – Love me, Alfredo, and then rushes from the room.

I don’t know exactly why, but that scene went through me like a knife – it’s still a favorite opera moment. Maria Callas breaks one’s heart when she does it. If one doesn’t like opera, one can get much the same effect watching the old Garbo movie, Camille. She is so lovely, and such a wonderful actress.

The New York Met approaches you to be the artistic director for one of their productions, all budget and logistical restrictions removed. What opera would you choose to produce?

Oh, if I could use anybody, I’d put Callas and Placido Domingo in Traviata, with Giulini conducting.

Is there anything you’d like to learn/study that you haven’t got to yet?

The older I get, the dumber I seem to myself. I’d certainly work on languages. I always wished I had learned how to write, I mean really learned, instead of just patching it all together. Ditto cooking.

But it’s mostly always been people who interest me. I wish I was wiser, and better in many ways, but I think I’m going to have to accept that what I am is what I am.

I really admire the self-knowledge that I feel from you in that remark and in Spine Intact. So I’d like to come back to artistic integrity for a moment. Can you say more about a writer maintaining his integrity?

Well, I’m not sure I can comment on anyone else and his integrity. It’s a personal thing, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t know where you are coming from, really. But, certainly I – anyone – can see when you are doing it for the crowd, for money, for whatever reason, and not from what you really believe. That just sort of jumps out at you, I think. I think readers can tell the difference.

Sincerity – and insincerity – are really awfully transparent, in life, and in one’s writing. I mean, don’t most of us know when someone is spouting B.S. – and it’s no different when they are doing it in a story. Writers sometimes think they are wearing this invisibility cloak, straight out of Harry Potter, but it ain’t so, we can see you right through it. Maybe even more clearly than in life.

When you are writing from the heart, it’s hard not to show what’s in there. Now, writing from the head, by which I mean from the intellect, that’s a different matter. But a good writer needs less head and more heart, it seems to me. When you are writing from the heart, you are speaking directly to the reader’s heart as well, and that’s when you make those great connections.

Because despite all our differences on the surface, when you get to the heart – to the real nitty gritty inside stuff – we are all of us pretty much the same. That’s why when you read some really terrific insight in a writer’s work, you say, “Yes, that’s true,” and not, “Gee I never knew that.” Because you did already know it, you just didn’t know you knew it.

That’s what writers – all artists, really – do, is reveal to us the truth we already have within. It’s all about those universal truths, that make us all one. In art, real art, all the divisions fall away – time, distance—they become nothing. When you look into the eyes of a Rembrandt portrait, there is really nothing between you and the artist, not even the skin you are standing in.

So, you want to do your best, you want to write from your heart, whether you are writing for your church bulletin or your son’s school notebook, and not just for the obvious reason, that you never know who is going to read this somewhere along the way. But there is a far more fundamental reason for doing your best: there is no real satisfaction in doing anything half-assed.

When you write, you are in a sense alone out there on the stage. It isn’t your writing coach you’re performing for, nor your readers, you are writing for the universe – for the gods, if you will. Sing and dance for them, click your castenets, twirl about. If they try to close the curtains, yank them open and twirl your baton out to the footlights. If they throw tomatoes, juggle them while you tap dance, and if they yank you off stage with a shepherd’s crook, go singing Swanee.

That’s what I mean by artistic integrity.

Thank you. I know you’ve been busy re-releasing your enormous back list, in print, e-books and audio books. How does that feel, to see some of those stories come back into circulation?

I confess, some of them are embarrassing, but then some of them, I re-read and I think, “Hey, that isn’t so bad.” I did an awful lot and as I’ve said before, a lot of it was awful, but I think I got it right a time or two. Especially the characters.

Maggie, in Avalon, is such a pistol – she’s a bitch, but she takes hold of life and shakes the dickens out of it. There’s a scene in which she visits her wealthy “mother-in-law,” and they are enemies, and on her way to the bathroom, stops in the woman’s bedroom and, looking in her closet, sees an expensive pair of silk covered shoes. She takes them out and sits them on the floor and very carefully, very precisely, pees in them. She later tells her husband it’s the only time she really enjoyed one of her visits. Now that is a bitch – but I love her.

And who wouldn’t? Are you working on a new story at the moment?

Oh, I’m poking around at a couple of things, I don’t know if I’ll ever get them done. A new Tom and Stanley mystery, and Nowell Briscoe and I have worked for a long time together on a satirical look at life in a fifties small town, Heaven, Georgia.

But I’m not really doing a lot. I always fear I will embarrass myself writing after I should have stopped. I’d way rather they said, “Already,” than “At last.” And I’ve had a lot of issues the last couple of years, health and age and emotional upsets. But I have given myself permission to take it easy.

And the truth is, I don’t feel I have anything left to prove. If you don’t like my writing now, you aren’t likely to in the future. And if you do like it, well, by the time you get through the whole mess, you will be ready to start over, won’t you?

In your memoir Spine Intact there’s a chapter on your home town of Eaton, Ohio, describing the progression of the seasons. To my ear it’s one of the most lyrical and tender sections of the book. It seems you’re still in love with small town culture, even if the barrier between privacy and rumor is tenuous. If you could live anywhere, what place would you pick, and why?

I do love small towns, and I also love that section in the book. But if I could pick and choose, I’d probably be back in San Francisco, a city I love, and where I have many friends.

Alas, it’s very expensive. The apartment I lived in, $1,100 a month when I was there, now rents for $2,800, and it’s really nothing but a big, open studio with a loft bedroom up top. I’d need a large influx of money to manage that.

On the other hand, it’s been a long, cold winter, and just now, looking out the window, it’s snowing again – I’m like that fox in Gibran’s tales, who looks at his shadow in the early morning and decides he wants a camel for lunch, and when he looks at his shadow again at noon, not having found a camel, he decides a rabbit will do. At this point, I think I’d just like someplace where it’s warm.

Is there a country you haven’t been to yet but would love to visit? What intrigues you about that place?

I always wanted to go to Egypt, because of the historical significance, but the two times I tried, events got in the way. I’d like to go back to Greece. I’d go to India, or China, but I know upfront I’d probably hate both.

I visited a lot of places when I was too young to really appreciate them,and I’d like to go back again, but that’s unlikely. I’m at the stage where I have to find young men to put the bags up on the overhead racks, and young men are harder to find than they used to be. Or, young men who are willing to lift and carry for no reward but a smile from me. Okay, in some instances, I would give more, but a train is not the best place for that sort of thing.

Heh. I’ve heard some have managed on a train, though! But I have no doubt that more have tried than have succeeded.

That could be the story of my life. I never stopped trying, though. I just didn’t always find my train on the right track.

You stopped writing for fifteen years or so because it had stopped being fun. You describe your interest in writing coming back to you like a mysterious lover. You’ve been a prolific team since! And your stories feel like you had fun writing them. Are you enjoying writing again? Do you see any differences in your writing since you resumed?

I think in many ways I was a better writer after the break, because I didn’t worry myself about what editors or publishers (or, for that matter, readers) would think about what I did.

And I discovered I had a penchant for short stories, and I’m very pleased with some of them I have done. For me, writing has always been about the fun of doing it.

You’re right, I stopped because it had stopped being fun. I think writing is a lot harder work than most non-writers would suspect – so it has to be fun or I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m lazy. I think like Mae West – peel me a grape. And I like her statement, “I started out snow white, but I drifted.” She never had any problem getting young men to lift and carry, I’ll bet.

Probably not, and certainly not that I’ve heard! In Spine Intact you describe yourself as reserved, not being a “touchy-feely” kind of guy, but I haven’t come across an author more generous with his time and insight in helping writers become a better at their craft. I’m a big believer in paying it forward, and it seems you are, too. Or is it possible that you’re more of a softie than you let on?

A softie? Yes, probably, but let’s face it, I’m a cynic at heart. I like to tell people that I have this cold hard thing inside my breast where once my heart used to dwell. But, I take an almost paternalistic attitude toward gay fiction, it’s kind of like it’s my genre, and I want it to be as good as it can be. “Hey, you over there, that’s not how you should do it,” kind of attitude, if that makes sense.

Well, seriously, a few years ago, I met the legendary Ann Bannon (and I’m happy to say, we became great friends) , and I was impressed with how much she gave back to her genre of lesbian fiction. And it occurred to me, my name still had some currency, not a lot, maybe, but some, and I made up my mind that I wanted to spend it for the benefit of gay fiction, and I have truly tried to do so over the last decade or two of my life.

In some cases, that has meant traveling to gay events, where I could lend my name, and sometimes it has meant encouraging gay writers. Let’s face it, gay writers today don’t get a lot of encouragement, and if my voice can give them even a small boost, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

I’m not a do-gooder, but no one knows better than I how lonely it can be writing gay fiction, and it’s not a lot better for that writer today than it was when I started. So, yes, I throw my voice in where I think it can do even a little good. I think – I can’t really know – that when GWR posts an excerpt from a new writer, a positive comment from me may give them a shot in the arm. So I try never to miss one.

I suppose there are some who yawn and think, who is that? But I do think for a few, if only one or two, it is a positive thing. I have no illusions about changing the world, but I think a rose tossed in one’s path from time to time makes the day a little better. I’m a flower person. So, sue me.

And a big bouquet of roses to you, Victor! Thank you!

My review of Spine Intact, Some Creases will appear Saturday, Mar 23, on JesseWave — hope you check it out!

Today my interview guest is Anel Viz, an author who has a number of excellent books to his credit, and continues to create an expanding list of fine stories. Today I’m talking with him about his historical family saga set in 19th Century Montana, The City of Lovely Brothers. (Silver Publishing, 2011 in both print and ebook.)

I’ve also written a review of this book at Jessewave. There’s a link to it at the end of our conversation.

So let’s get to it!

Anel, you’ve written stories in quite a few different genres, and often used European settings. What prompted you to write The City of Lovely Brothers?

When I begin a story, I very seldom have a particular plot in mind. My point of departure is characters in a situation, and I build out from there in both directions. I wrote this book so long ago, I don’t remember what my starting situation was except that would involve a feud, and I thought it would work well set in the Old West.

I’d been wanting to write a novel in the manner of Balzac for some time, and it wasn’t long before I realized the the story I was working on provided the perfect vehicle for one. I have a longstanding love-hate relationship with Balzac. On the one hand, he’s so damn opinionated, not to mention wordy and always going off on tangents. On the other, he is very much the father of the modern novel. He manages to create a complete and totally believable world filled with a wonderful variety of convincing characters.

The City of Lovely Brothers is Balzacian in the sense that it has a clear moral perspective that allows for shades of grey, brings in people from different backgrounds and walks of life, and focuses on the devastation caused by petty jealousies and greed. Balzac was obsessed with money. Also, the novel opens opens with a detailed description of where the main action will take place, as Balzac’s often do.

Then, finding myself writing a mini Human Comedy, I saw in it an opportunity to do something else I’d been contemplating for a while: to heighten the immediacy of a historical novel by tying it to the present. At that point, I jumped back and wrote the beginning, to the amateur historian who researched the story. I invented the city of Caladelphia, and renamed all the brothers, but since I could only think of three “Cal” names, I called the youngest Caliban, which is what gave me the idea of making him physically deformed, although still beautiful.

So the past continues on into the present. We have the fictional Caladelphia as it is today and how it was over a century ago, and a fictional narrator who has developed an emotional attachment to actors in the story. He reads their letters, searches for photos of them, visits their graves. Because of this, some readers have told me the book feels more like a biography than a work of fiction.

It does read like a biography. Tell me a little about the research you did for it.

I researched this book extensively since giving it a sense of place was so important. The places I describe in detail—the main house on the Caldwell ranch, Caliban’s house, his apartment in Davenport, the layout of Caladelphia city—are my own inventions, so it was easy research.

I examined old photographs, read up on the organization of a ranch and what amenities (such as plumbing) were available at the time, what businesses were open, dates for battles in the Indian Wars and the building of the railroads, the legal requirements of incorporation… in short, a lot of petty but essential details. And it was fun, in part because my fictional narrator is engaged in the same type of research I was doing.

Were there any surprises in what you learned?

No, not really. I’d seen enough westerns, and my family’s values were shaped by the Great Depression so I heard a lot about those times when I was growing up.

What was the most depressing piece of information you picked up?

What prompted you to ask this question? Do you find the book depressing? I don’t.

No, I didn’t find the book depressing. But I certainly found some moments depressing. The hardship of the depression, certainly. Also the lack of more skilled medical care for Caliban, even within the scope of the period. I couldn’t help wondering what would their story have been like without the progressive deterioration of his hip.

Yes, the end is sad—how could it not be when you tell a person’s life from birth to death?—and just about all the characters get the shaft (I don’t mean sexually), but for me the book speaks to the triumph of the human spirit, to people’s ability to persevere in the face of adversity, and one would have to dig deep to find a story about a love as deep and enduring as Nick and Caliban’s.

That said, the most depressing piece of information was something I already knew and was reminded of, not something I “picked up”: how people suffered during the Depression. As I said, my parents lived through it, and I grew up listening to their stories. It’s a period I’ll probably come back to someday.

Tell me something about your approach to writing in general.

For one, it’s character driven. I’ve already said I knew from the beginning Lovely Brothers story would be about a feud, but the direction it would take did not become apparent until Calvin’s and Calhoun’s characters had taken shape. Also, I don’t tell a love story for the sake of telling a love story.

I’d say the brothers’ feud is not the context in which the love between Caliban and Nick plays out; rather, their devotion to each other provides a moral alternative to the petty resentments that surround them. If you removed their relationship from the book, you’d still have a book; get rid of the rest and what’s left is a very moving but somewhat pointless love story.

That’s an interesting view, although I disagree with your conclusion. I don’t believe love is ever pointless, and for me a love story is its own meaning.

In City of Lovely Brothers sex is frequent and explicit, enriched by the good-hearted sense of play Nick and Caliban share. They’re imaginative and unattached to roles. Their inventiveness becomes essential as Caliban’s hip and leg become more of a problem. Do you have any comment on how you handled the sexual aspect of their relationship?

Except for a couple of my shorter short stories, I have yet to write a book straight through from beginning to end. I jump around, filling in parts when I feel inspired and adding details when an idea occurs to me.

When I was working on City of Lovely Brothers, I put “sex scene” in brackets in the places I intended to have one and came back to them when the rest of the book was done. The only one I wrote earlier is the ride back to Cal’s house after the first time they make love.

As a rule, I write all the sex scenes last, because they’re the hardest. (No pun intended.) I want all my books to be different, including the sex scenes, but there’s not much one can do to individualize a sex scene. Making the sex scenes playful allowed me to put a Nick-and-Cal stamp on them and to make their playfulness more poignant as Caliban’s condition progresses.

Also, I think any long book needs some humor, especially one like Lovely Brothers, where the characters face a constant struggle for survival. So I made most of the scenes that feature sex or nudity lighthearted, like Caliban caught walking naked on the prairie near his house or Calvin Junior’s exaggerated modesty at the swimming hole.

The latter also balances nicely with the young Caliban’s embarrassment at being on display after his accident much earlier in the story. Similarly, Calvin sending the girl Calhoun knocked up to rub salve on his backside provides a break in tone from the brutality of the beating scene that precedes it. (I didn’t put off the nude scenes until the end, only the sex.)

When you sit down to write a story, what over-arching structure do you hold?

Whatever structure will work best for the story I have to tell, and I discover it in the telling. Structure is something I like to experiment with, and every one of my books is structured differently.

To quote one reviewer of New Lives: “Is it short stories or a novel? Yes. Is it whimsical or a dark exploration of gay life? Yes. Is it erotica or literary fiction? Yes.”

As I said earlier, I don’t start a book with a particular plot in mind; I most often use characters in a situation as my point of departure, and it’s common for me to have written a sixth, sometimes a quarter, of a book before I decide what structure it will have. Only then do I actually set about planning it and make an outline.

As a writer, what would you like your stories to be remembered for?

Ah, yes. Being an author confers immortality, does it not? Not to imply that the stories by themselves hold interest, I like to think that the value of my work lies in the following:

1) Finely crafted English prose—rhythmic, lucid, succinct, well paced, literate. Not necessarily easy—I don’t mind challenging a reader with new ways of seeing the world, non-traditional organization, complex sentence structure, “big” words, etc.

2) Substance, meaning I don’t want to write fluff. All my works deal with issues at some level, and those issues are more important to me than the love story I couch them in. Another aspect of what I call “substance” has to do with creating real, multi-dimensional characters, where the reader intuits that there’s more to these people than even the author can possibly know.

3) Originality, that every book I write is different from the others, and only the writing style and the meatiness of the content bear my individual stamp. The same person who reviewed New Lives said about another of my books, “Someday this reviewer will find a predictable story in a Viz work, then will examine the book to discover that the cover has the author’s name incorrect.”

I like that–it fits you, too. What’s your current project? Is there something new in it for you besides the story itself?

I have so many! Novels (or novellas, since I can’t tell in advance how long they will be), including contemporaries, historicals and futuristics. I have a story coming out in the next issue of Wilde Oats called “Epithalamion” that may or may not turn out to be the opening chapter of a novel about Richard II.

I have plans for revising “The House in Birdgate Alley” and making it the first in a series of novellas about Johnny Rice. I’ve written parts of I what hope will one day be a novel about a man whose position in the world is ruined because of his addictive infatuation with a hustler.

Another about a family torn apart by disagreements on how to deal with a terminally ill parent. Another about a man suffering from aphasia—a very challenging project because, since he can’t express himself, it will be told from everybody’s POV except his.

Another set in France during the Anglo-Burgundian conflict in the Hundred Years’ War. A story about escaping from the real world by turning oneself into a book. Some readers have requested a sequel to “The Thought Collector”. That’s just a sample.

And yes, they’ll all have a central love story of sorts, but, as you see from my descriptions, that’s never my primary focus nor my reason for writing them. I’ve started them all. Will I write finish any of them? Wish me luck!

Gladly — good luck! That’s a long list. What’s a pet peeve you encounter in reading gay fiction? Or any fiction, for that matter?

In gay fiction, that the book is almost always a romance and nothing but. As a result, the gay men who inhabit those stories are made to conform to what readers expectation from the genre, and they come off as types rather than individuals. We don’t see the whole person.

Every aspect of a gay man’s existence ends up playing second fiddle to his love life. I can recommend Victor Banis’s “Cooper’s Hawk” as an example of a story where that doesn’t happen. We see the emptiness in his life after the death of his partner. I’m not saying that all M/M gives us nothing but stereotypes or I don’t enjoy reading M/M, but it does raise my hackles when it happens.

As gay man and a member of a minority, I resent being forced into a mold to tickle somebody’s fantasies.

For a pet peeve about fiction in general, I’d single out trivial dialogue that doesn’t advance the story or give any insight into the character speaking.

An example would be someone introducing mutual friends: “Bob, I’d like you to meet my friend John. John, this is Bob.” — “Hi, Bob. So I finally get to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.” — “Gary’s told me a lot about you, too. I’m really pleased to make your acquaintance.” — “Same here.” ad infinitum. Why not just tell us Gary introduced them and leave it at that? Or cut the scene altogether? It’s one of the advantages of writing a novel instead of a play. The so-called “Show, don’t tell” rule should be applied judiciously. Show only the important stuff, and tell the rest.

Do you have any observations or hopes about the evolution of LGBTQ fiction?

LGBTQ fiction has an enormous untapped potential. If only its authors were willing to experiment and worried less about playing it safe! I’d like to see them branch out into other genres besides romance.

Better yet, I’d like to see romance become a more supple genre, open to a greater variety of plot types. Over the past century, romance evolved into something very narrow and, for my taste, too set in its ways. All the sub-genres—westerns, mysteries, historicals, paranormals, etc.—follow the same basic pattern.

I fight against this reductio ad “boy-meets-boy/crisis/HEA” in my own work, but publishers seem to think all their readers are clamoring for more of the same, so it isn’t easy to place my books.

Four publishers turned down Lovely Brothers before Silver accepted it with virtually no changes besides copy edits. It was either too long, or the love interest didn’t get under way soon enough, or I focused too much on events peripheral to the love story. Yet, if I can trust readers’ feedback, none of my other books have grabbed them with as quite much force.

Maybe publishers will be willing to take a chance on me once I’ve made more of a name for myself. I’ve been writing for only a half a dozen years. At the moment, I’m waiting to hear back on a story I’ve submitted about a woman whose obsessive homophobia sends her on a crusade that jeopardizes her marriage.

Very relevant to the gay experience, but it doesn’t have a single element of romance. A good story well told doesn’t have to follow a set pattern in order to enthrall readers.

It boils down to this: I wish there were more LGBTQ fiction that does more than simply tell a story. Okay, I’ll admit it: I’d like to see more literary works. I know “literary” has become a dirty word in some circles. So has “liberal”, and neither deserves it. Nor does “romance”.

A work should be judged on its merits, not by its genre. And there’s no reason a romance can’t be literary. Lord knows they used to be, and many still are. Literary is not a synonym for flowery or pretentious; it means the book is a serious work of art—nothing more, nothing less.

Is there some story that you’ve wanted to write, but haven’t felt strong enough yet as a writer to tackle it?

It’s one I’m working on now and have been for nearly three years. It will be huge when it’s done, a true leviathan, so long I imagine it will have to be published in two or more volumes, but it’s a single novel, definitely not a series. I returned to it a week or so ago after putting it aside for several months.

The Pyramid of Nepensiret deals with Egyptologists from different countries and different eras, all working to solve the same unanswered question. It covers more than three millennia, not in chronological order, with scenes that take place during Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, the Franco-Prussian War, the Dreyfus Affair, Kristallnacht, the Battle of Britain, the Six Day War, and the Stonewall riots.

Fitting all the pieces together is a major challenge, and the amount of research required is staggering.

Fascinating concept! And again, good luck!  Is there a particular part of the world — somewhere you haven’t actually lived — where you’d like to set a story? What is it about that place that speaks to you?

Russia, either under the tsars or Soviet rule, or perhaps during the Revolution. Both my parents are of Russian descent, and I have cousins in New York who emigrated here in the ’90s whom I stayed with for two weeks before they moved here (two weeks doesn’t count as living there, does it?) and others still living in St. Petersburg. And I love Russian novels. My favorite is War and Peace. Problem is, I don’t have an idea for a story yet.

Powerful setting. I think a Russian story would suit your writing so well. What about a place/time that you’re confident you’ll never use as a setting? What’s the turnoff about that? Is there a genre you avoid?

Gee, I don’t know. Borneo? I consider any time period fair game. I’ve even written a story set in an imaginary Bronze Age culture.

I’m attracted to historicals because I’m an old man now and somewhat out of touch with pop culture. Writing something contemporary would require too much research. I don’t have much of a knack for SF; the closest I’ve come to writing that is urban fantasy. I have written a YA story under a different pen name. (You didn’t think my birth certificate reads Anel Viz, did you?) And someday I may write a book—a fiction book—that doesn’t have a single gay, love interest or sex scene in it. And nobody will buy it.

What a provocative end to an interesting discussion — thank you, Anel Viz!

To learn more about Anel, visit his blog is here. http://anelviz.blogspot.com/
My Jessewave review of The City of Lovely Brothers is here.