First, let me take a moment to say welcome and thank you for being here today! It’s always a pleasure to have guests in the hot seat…erm, I mean interview chair.
Why don’t you start out by introducing yourself (where you call home, how long you’ve been writing, etc.)?
My name is Etienne, and I’m a native and life-long resident of Florida, which is definitely not the norm, these days—most people in Florida seem to have come here from somewhere else. In fact, I’m a second-generation Floridian on one side of the family. My mother was also born here, but my father didn’t move to this state until he was eleven years old.
I’ve been scribbling for quite a few years, but never did anything with it until three years ago when I finally summoned enough nerve to submit a book to Dreamspinner Press. To my surprise, it was accepted, so I set about polishing my earlier writings for submission, and writing new stories.
Please tell us a little bit about your current release. What inspired you to write this story? How did it come about?
The release I want to talk about is Bottoms Up, which will be book one of a trilogy titled About a Bottoms. The tentative release date for this book is November 20 of this year.
The inspiration for the story came from a man who once worked for me. He was a great guy, but had suffered at the hands of a Navy surgeon. During abdominal surgery, the surgeon accidentally cut an important nerve, the one which carries a signal from the brain telling the bladder sphincter to open and close. Because of this, the guy not only has to deal with an ostomy bag every day of his life, he also has to catheterize himself in order to urinate. I thought about his problem many times over the years, and finally decided to build a story around it.
I don’t usually put the characters in my books through a lot of angst (there’s far too much of that in life, and I don’t like to read about it, let alone write it), but this story certainly called for it, so I created Christopher Bottoms. Chris was regularly sodomized by his stepfather when he was between the ages of 12 and 15, as a result of which, he is conditioned to be a total bottom. Colorectal cancer surgery leaves him wearing an ostomy bag and with his anus sewn shut, which is not a good thing for a guy who has to have prostate massage in order to achieve sexual release. In addition, the surgeon, who’d been drinking at the time, accidentally cut an important nerve, leaving Chris unable to relieve himself without a catheter.
Chris finally manages to achieve sexual satisfaction absent prostate massage, but only after going through weeks of counseling, and only with the understanding and help of his best friend turned lover, Mickey O’Donovan. They settle down to enjoy their lives, and are doing so when Chris’s past rears its head and changes their lives forever.
Sounds like one for my to-read list (I love angst in my fiction--it's just real life that I prefer to remain angst free).
- What drew you to write M/M fiction? What sub-genres do you enjoy the most?
The old adage ‘Write about what you know’ is true, and I’ve been a gay male for more decades than I care to think about, so I write M/M. As for sub-genres, I like mystery and fantasy.
- Would you categorize your stories as romance, erotica, or something else? Why?
Despite the fact that the publisher of twenty of my twenty-two books specializes in M/M Romance, I don’t think my stories can be so characterized. They are love stories, to be sure, but they don’t quite fall in to the traditional ‘romance’ category. For that matter, fully half of my stories contain no explicit sex. I’ve always felt that it isn’t really necessary to follow the characters into the bedroom. We all know what happens there, and anyone with an imagination can conjure up the necessary images.
Robert Heinlein’s immortal man Lazarus Long once said “How much variety can there be in the slippery friction of mucus membranes?” and sums it up quite adequately.
Most of my stories are contemporary gay fiction, although I do have a trilogy that can be properly characterized as speculative fiction. Why? Because I write the kind of stories that I like to read.
- What are the best and worst reactions you’ve gotten from people after telling them what you write?
Most people whom I’ve known for a long time don’t seem terribly surprised to learn that I’ve become a writer. So far, I haven’t had anyone react badly, not even a couple of relatives whom I know to be excessively religious.
- There’s some controversy about women who write M/M? Do you have any thoughts on the subject you want to share?
I’ve seen those reactions, but I don’t have any strong feelings about women writing M/M. One of the best books ever written about a boy coming of age and discovering who he is was written by a woman. I’m referring to the Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey.
Awesome trilogy! And you know, I don't think I've ever heard anyone point to Lackey or Bradley when the debate about women writing gay men comes up. You make an excellent point.
- Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones and do you use a different pen name? Why/why not?
- “They” tell us that writers should write what they know—do you think that’s true? Why/why not?
That’s very good advice, and I’ve followed it. I lived in a particular neighborhood for some 26 years, and I’ve set a lot of my stories in that neighborhood. Readers seem to love the details about restaurants and places. I’ve even have a couple of them e-mail me to let me know they’ve visited that neighborhood. One person even wrote to say “Oh my gosh, I used to live on that street.” When you write about what you know, your stories will have a ring of truth to them that they might not otherwise contain.
- Pantster or plotter? Why?
A bit of both, perhaps. I always have a general idea of how a story is going to end, but when I create the characters I let them tell the story and take it where they will—never losing sight of the goal.
- What’s your favorite part of the writing process? (the spark, the research, character oultines…?)
Writing the dialogue.
- What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?
Writing the synopses that publishers require for submission.
- How much of your real life experiences go into your writing? Where does your inspiration usually come from? Ever based a character on a real person (friend or enemy?)
Real life experience? A bit. I’ve written a couple of books about an organist/choirmaster, and that was once my avocation. And bits and pieces of my life pop up here and there in my books. As for basing a book on a real person, see above.
- Do you listen to music while you write, prefer absolute silence, run off to the coffee shop…? If you do listen to music, can you name a few songs off your playlist?
I listen to music while a write, but I don’t listen to “songs.” Far from it. When I’m deep into creating a story, you’ll hear Bach, Mozart, or Vivaldi (or others in that genre) coming from the speakers in my den. As for “songs” from my playlist, my two CD set of Glenn Gould playing the Bach Partitas gets more use than any other CDs in my collection.
- What do you do to get in the mood to write, especially when you don’t feel like it?
Read a good book to clear my head.
- What makes for a great hero/heroine?
A good hero shouldn’t have very many flaws, or at least he shouldn’t have flaws that dominate his life. For example, I love reading books by James Lee Burke, but I really, really get tired of Dave Robicheaux dealing with his alcoholism. I hear fellow writers talking about resolving primary and secondary conflicts in their stories, and I ask myself why is that necessary? Can’t a well-written story hold the reader’s attention without all that conflict?
- What makes for a great overall story?
When you finish a book and are left wanting to read more about the characters, you know it’s a good story.
- What advice would you give to a writer who’s just starting out but who hasn’t been published yet?
- City boy/girl or Country Mouse? Why?
I was raised in a small town (village of about 200 families, actually), and currently reside less than a mile from the house in which I grew up. I’ve enjoyed living in cities, because of the amenities they have to offer: restaurants, theater, etc, but my heart has always been in the country.
- Of the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite? Which would you recommend to a new reader and why?
The Forever Series. I like the characters, and I enjoy returning to their world and putting them through more exciting/interesting things. As for recommendations to a new reader, I’d have to know what that reader’s likes/dislikes were before making a recommendation.
- Do you miss your characters when you finish a story? Do you try to come up with ideas for sequels, or are you too excited by the prospect of a new project to feel sad that the previous story is over?
Depends on the story/characters. I’ve experienced both scenarios.
- Of all of the stories you’ve written, which setting or location (city/country/time period) has been your favorite? Why?
The Independent Duchy of Aragoni featured in the Forever series is my favorite, because I dreamed it up and created every aspect of it.
- If you could have a lunch date with anyone in the world, living, dead, or fictional, who would it be and why?
Katharine Hepburn. Why? Just to be able to sit and listen to her talk about anything.
- Do you have any heroes or people you look up to? (Real life mentors, public figures, fellow authors, living or dead). If so, who and why?
I love the writing of the late Robert B. Parker, creator of the Spenser mystery series. He was a master at writing eloquent but spare dialogue, and he is sorely missed. I also like the military fiction of WEB Griffin.
- One of the hardest things for an author to take is a bad review. How do you handle those one and two star reviews?
- What’s your favorite genre to read? Why, what about it do you love the most? What are your favorite books/authors in that genre?
Fantasy. Because it stretches the imagination to its limits at times. Mercedes Lackey; Raymond Feist; David Eddings; and David B. Coe are writers in that genre whose books I’ve read and re-read more than once.
- What book are you reading right now? What do you like best about it?
Someone gave me The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I’m trying to slog my way through it, but it’s slow going. So far I don’t like much of anything about it. It might be an interesting read if the 450 pages were pared down to 200 or so. The author is anything but succinct in her writing, and the paragraphs are long, dense, and repetitive. The word ‘pretentious’ comes to mind.
- What are your favorite movies of all time?
In no particular order: Ladyhawke; Auntie Mame; Cold Comfort Farm; The Stunt Man; The Lion in Winter; Suddenly Last Summer; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof;
- What are your favorite TV shows of all time?
The Closer. The writing was consistently good through all seven seasons, and the ensemble cast bounced off of each other perfectly. And no, I don’t particularly like the successor program—without the character of Brenda Leigh Johnson it just doesn’t work.
The Closer is one of my faves, too *G* I do like the spin off, but I think that’s just because I’ve got a total fangirl crush on Mary McDonald *G*
- What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have a favorite musical artist?
Classical and some opera. The late Renata Tebaldi was probably my all-time favorite singer, and I am totally mesmerized by the voice of Cecilia Bartoli.
- What television shows are you currently watching?
Are you kidding? It’s been more than fifty years since television was first referred to as a “vast wasteland” and nothing much has changed for the better. The set stays off most of the time unless we’re watching a movie. I will say that I’m waiting for the new season of Grimm to begin, as well as the return of Ripper Street. My partner and I have watched the first three episodes of Sleepy Hollow, and agree that it’s off to a good start.
- What’s next on the horizon for you? WIPs, writing goals, personal goals…?
I have to finish volume three of each of two trilogies before I can think about anything else.
Bottoms Up is available for preorder from Dreamspinner Press