J to tha M: Trailers

The Book Kind of Trailers

medium_1369495998J:  I’m working on a book trailer. Let’s talk what we like, if they’re helpful, etc.

M:  Sure. you know a lot about them

J:  I don’t know if I know a lot about them

but I’ve seen quite a few

and I know what I do and don’t like about them

It’s like a dynamic way to read the book blurb

as the creator, you can set a tone for the book that the blurb might not completely convey

M:  I haven’t seen very many

J:  What did you like or dislike about the ones you saw?

M:  I get such vivid mental images from reading – the characters, the settings

and I’ve found trailers tend to change my perceptions

and honestly, I like what’s in my head better

I like the trailers that are more conceptual, ones that give feelings rather than images, because that’s what reading is about for me

J:  I’ve done some experimenting with them. Told full stories and just given the basic idea

I’m with you, after several attempts

conceptual

ideas, moods, the blurb

I actually saw one that had “acting” in it once

(acting in quotes for a reason)

unless the trailer is for a movie, I don’t think there should be speaking parts

M:  it’s kind of a fine line

I guess depending on what purpose the trailer is to serve

I mean, so many books are turned visual, into movies

and with the obvious huge success, we do like visual interpretations of books

but that’s completely different than a trailer level, I think

J:  I think, if done right, a trailer can hit that perfect note

that visual interpretation while still leaving plenty to the imagination

M:  and it still does go to what an individual likes

some want to give visual representations of what is in their head as they write

and some readers really enjoy that anchor

and some don’t.

so it’s kind of all back to personal preference

like with us – you like to have an actual picture of the characters

and to me, it doesn’t matter. I kind of prefer not to have anything concrete

J:  Oh, I do, but it’s usually one I create in my own

head. or associate in my own head

when given the image from the author, I usually don’t agree

M:  I can never find an actor or model or photo that looks like the characters do in my head

I can get inspiration, or a type

but I don’t usually think about having an actual physical image until you bring it up

heh

J:  when I’m writing, I like to have that concrete image so it doesn’t change throughout the book

blue eyes, curly hair, etc.

if my perception of the character changes over time, so does the description

M:  for me, once I’ve got the character, they come to complete life in my head

they’re like a real person. I see them, know them. they don’t change

and images just kind of mess with that

J:  I’m so backwards. I get to know my characters as I write them

M:  not backward, just we have different styles and methods when we write

J:  that’s why my editing process is so messy

because in the beginning, this character’s kind of an ass, but by the end, maybe he’s not so bad. But then I have to rearrange his behavior in the beginning so it makes sense

hahaha. I devolved from trailers to editing

welcome to my head, everyone. make yourselves comfy.

M:  but that’s character growth and development

heh

and now we’ve moved on to craft

J: know what stands out to me every time we have a chat?

we’re almost always on opposite sides of the debate

M:  that’s because we’re debating

you can’t really debate if there’s only one side

or the same side

J:  true. but they’re always so successful because we’re always on opposite sides. I kind of like it.

to sum up, as with almost anything, I’m a fan of trailers to a point. Not to the point of telling the whole story

or having the thing acted out by “actors”

M:  I honestly don’t watch them much. Not the first thing i go to when I’m looking at a book

I make my interest and purchase decisions more on the blurb, word of mouth, and excerpts or samples

but I do know a lot of people really enjoy them

and I do like them when they’re done well and represent the atmosphere of the book

just like anything, I guess

J:  careful now. we might actually agree on something

M:  we tend to take the way around but generally agree on stuff

just different views

and the view today is too gorgeous to be behind a computer screen. Going for a beach walk to mull character points.

brb

photo credit: debaird™ via photopin cc

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J to tha M: Writer’s Block Blues

When Did Writing Become WORK?

overcoming writer's blockJ:  have you been working on your Wraith novella for Rory lately?

M:  not much

J:  having Jonas out there hasn’t inspired you?

M:  I haven’t had much time for anything. Jonas just came out on kindle, and I need to get notice out into the world

and try to write

and try to edit

and try to get through the million things that keep popping up in life

summers are crazy, and we just bought a new house–yikes

so there’s that

J:  I’ve definitely been there. To go from hours in the day for writing to only one or even less

to sit down with even the intention of writing, only to find that you

need more than that hour just to remember what you were doing last time you had an hour to write

M:  it’s not even just the sitting down part. The characters are getting pushed aside in my head

I’m not getting the conversations and scenes just popping in or developing

that’s so frustrating. Damn writer’s block

At the same time, we’re all kinds of fun busy, so I guess it’s a trade off just like everything.

it stinks when things that were fun and an escape become work

more like chores

or cause stress

J:  but it does become work after you publish

there’s the editing, the marketing, the organization

it’s a job

and it’s harder than any other job I’ve ever had

M:  it is

I’ve never worked so hard in my life

never shuts off or ends, it seems

there’s always something else to do

J:  in a way, those other things will help…eventually

they’ll take your mind off the story you’re having trouble telling

clear that blockage

you’ll sit somewhere, happy enough to be where you are, and Rory will suddenly speak

M:  most likely

but the problem is, now I can’t just sit around and wait for that

to happen

J:  the inspiration always comes when you’re supposed to be doing something else

M:  there are these things called deadlines and expectations

J:  we should re-institute the WC

and hold to it

I’ve been writing on Sunday nights with Susan

M:  I never did well with those, though

you know this

I never look at word count

J:  but the true goal isn’t word count

it’s setting aside time just for writing

M:  that’s not my problem

J:  putting down words even if you’re not sure you can use them

M:  it’s having something in my head to write

J:  sometimes you have to force it

M:  that just doesn’t work for me

trust me, I’ve tried

J:  my problem is definitely just trying to find those minutes to work

with no “other job” distractions

or husband distractions

cooking dinner

having a social life of some sort, however pathetic it may be

M:  when the words are there, I can make myself do all that

carve out the time

right now, it’s just figuring out how to get those pesky characters playing again

J:  remember we used to do brainstorming sessions?

would one of those help? where you tell me where you are, what needs to happen, and we figure it out from there

M:  that might work

make me think more

I’ve got the plot and major points plotted out

it’s all the little scenes and details that actually make the story I’m having trouble with

J:  you know I love it

M:  let’s schedule a day to do that

brainstorm our stories

when it won’t interfere with your WCs

I love it, too

J:  I have several stories I need to finish. I think I’ve got Jinx under control now

but I want to finish Soundtrack and get moving on the third Kingdom book and the second

Oracles

M:  and…and…and…

J:  hahaha

I know

plus, I got a fun idea for a follow-up to Jinx

M:  Yay – fun! I love blarghing out story ideas. Let’s schedule a date. Let me move things around on my damn calendar. Let me find my damn calendar.

brb
photo credit: john.schultz via photopin cc

J to tha M: Music as Inspiration

Gettin’ Our Jam On

music as inspiration for writing

freedigitalphotos.net/imagerymajestic

M:  You use music to write quite a lot, don’t you?

J:  oh, yes

it’s my favorite

and it’s important to me

M:  we use music with writing so differently

J:  I think so, too

you’re usually a silence only

M:  I can’t have any distraction while I’m actually sitting in front of the computer writing

J:  exactly

and sometimes I can’t write that first word unless music is filling my head

M:  when I listen to songs, I get distracted by the music and the lyrics and tend to sing out loud and get into it too much

J:  for me, it becomes a setting, a mood

if I’m writing action, I like to have driving, hard, fast music going

and for romance, something lush and chill-inducing

M:  I use it before I sit down to write, but pretty much for the same things

I use it more during my mulling stages for a scene or a character

Listen to songs that fit my character, what they would like

or ones that fit a scene, or ones that inspire a scene

J:  I actually use it that way, too

but accidentally

sometimes I’ll hear a new song out somewhere, and a scene will come to me

maybe something I’ve been contemplating for a while but couldn’t get quite right

and all it took was that tiny door opening

whatever trigger that song tripped

M:  I love that inspiration

when a melody or lyric or combo of the two hits a nerve – an emotion

and I want to translate that into a story or scene

J:  music has always been so important to anything I do

it is my first love

I can’t imagine not including it in my daily activities

I’m listening to music right now

while I chat and work and train. I think I’d freeze up without it

M:  music has been a huge part of your life – more than just a basic appreciation

and it’s interesting how you integrate them in your creative processes

J:  I imagine most musicians would be the same–even when they’re not creating more music

like, I wonder if some of them need music in their head just to walk around

can’t function without it

M:  just like writers

finding constant inspiration, ideas, scenes and stories floating around in their heads

J:  what song inspired you most recently?

M:  oh boy

the oddest things inspire me from songs. A line, a thought, an emotion

One of my all time favorites is “The pleasure, the feast, and the memory, the soar of kissing her lips”

just yes

from Bobby Long’s “Being a Mockingbird”

and Foo Fighters’ “These Days” was a big inspiration for our hockey hero Brody. The song itself, and as something he’d listen to.

It’s so great to have a song trigger a visceral response – happy, sad, romantic, tragic – and then try to interpret and take that feeling, that response, and put it into a story and character. I love that tug right in your heart or belly

That’s the response I think we all aspire to, no matter what you write in any discipline

J:  I have a playlist for every story

like a soundtrack of sorts. And an unofficial/official song for each. Like “Do Not Hang Your Head” by Elizabeth and the Catapult for Side Effects, and “Visions Part II” by The Ugly Club for Oracles.

M:  a lot of people do, and a lot of readers really enjoy them

I just am not that organized

J:  I think it helps me keep the mood consistent throughout the story

but I often add to the list as I find new music

M:  Inspiration is great no matter where you get it

J:  Getting some right now

brb

On Writing: Keeping the Faith

What to Expect When You’re Reading Christian Fiction

Guest post by TC Slonaker

writing christian fiction

freedigitalphotos.net/anankkml

I am a Christian. What does that mean to me?

Here’s the main point of what I believe – I have sinned. Even though I couldn’t help it, I still deserve to be punished for my wrong. Why? Because when I die, there are only two possible outcomes: being with God forever (in heaven) or not being with God forever (eventually in hell). There was only one way to erase all sin. God had to cast away His perfect Son, Jesus, as the  sacrifice for sins.

Christianity is not my religion; it is my way of life. From the time I first discovered Jesus, God, the Bible, and church – when I was seven years old – until now, there has been one thought always in the corner of my mind:

“Is God pleased with the life I am living for Him?”

My theology in a nutshell. I believe a lot of other details, but that’s the crux of it.

Back to the original question: What does that have to do with my life?

God has put more in my life than just worshipping Him in church. While my regular job is in my church, I also have kids and talk to their friends’ parents. I play softball. I dawdle on Facebook and Goodreads. I have an extended family. All the while, trying to make sure I am giving the best Christian example I can.

I am also a writer. How do I incorporate the above into my writing?

Well, the Bible has already been written. And we are encouraged in the good book not to add one iota to it for dire consequences. So what’s left to write?

Writing about people.

Here’s the problem. Remember how I said that all people have sinned? That actually works pretty well to make for interesting books. But wouldn’t God frown on reveling that sin?

As a Christian, shouldn’t I be writing about how to do it right? What being a Christian looks like?

The truth would be more honest, wouldn’t it?

For example, there is a situation in my first novel, Amity of the Angelmen, where a young priest (Father Mackenzie Abel) falls in love – and perhaps takes it a step too far – with a 17-year-old girl. Especially in light of all the bad press the Catholic church has received recently about abuse among priests, I was extremely nervous about putting this in.

Here’s the deal. Mackenzie is not perfect, even though he is a priest. He makes mistakes. When you read the book, you will probably like the character. (The most frequent question I receive about the book is, “What happens to Mackenzie?”) So, if I have done my job as an author correctly, you will feel his pain in knowing he did what he shouldn’t have done. Some of you will think, “Good for him!” Others of you will think, “What are you doing?” But you will all know that he knows he has sinned.

I’m not condoning it. I’m simply saying it happens.

A book I have slated to come out possibly next year gets even darker with the life of the suicidal child of an alcoholic. I really struggled writing it, because I have no experience with a life like that. But I know it’s out there. And this is a story of how God can use even someone with no self-worth to become the commander of His army.

My books aren’t about perfect people. (Amity is afraid to do as she’s told. Asher is prideful and uses his popularity in using girls to fill his loneliness, Malachi is an angry delinquent with plenty of blood on his hands, and Caedmon could be responsible for the death of his parents.) None of that is new to God. There is hope for these four. When the Israelites needed to get through Jericho, they used the help of a prostitute. That prostitute wound up being in the bloodline of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you don’t necessarily write Christian fiction, but you are struggling because a book you are writing is going to a place that scares you. What do you do when you have to write something you don’t believe?

Take a deep breath. Remember you are writing fiction, not a Guide Book to Life. No one should be reading your book for advice on how to live their lives. If they do – just blame your character. (And be sure to escape your character’s mind after he does the dirty deed.  You don’t want to get any ideas of your own!)

So, I am a Christian writer. What does that mean?

I tell it like it is, and God gets the glory for any good that comes of it. So read on, and be comforted that you are not alone.

On Writing: World Building Through Research, History, and Just Good Ol’ Imagination

Vikings and Chatting and Travis Fimmel, Oh My!

Guest Post by Sandi Layne

Finding Inspiration for writingFirst, I want to thank J and M for letting me hang out on their blog. I’ve been here since Day One (on the blog. . .) and I love to watch them “chat” and so on. So much fun!

The only place I’ve really posted in a “chat” format was on my blog in conjunction with author Lissa Bryan. She and I discussed the History Channel’s original series VIKINGS every Monday for nine weeks.

It was fantastic. You see, I write about Vikings myself. Just not the same breed of Vikings as were on the show, so I enjoyed very much seeing the variations in the culture of those in Scandinavia and those in Nordweg—today’s Norway. The latter are what I’ve spent years growing a bit close to, in one way or another.

Compare and Contrast

In my book Éire’s Captive Moon (book one of my Éire’s Viking Trilogy), I researched and wrote of the Northmen from Nordweg, who had a different social system from the people who lived in what are now Sweden and Denmark. Though I use the word “viking” in the title, the men themselves did not use that word so it isn’t actually used in the stories. They called themselves Ostmen,while others in Europe used the term “vikingr.” This could refer to a man who lives near a vik – or one who sails or roams on the sea. It is an Old Norse word, and I use Old Norse dictionaries as I write these stories.

I did not use the old sagas as a basis for my writing, in general. Instead, I used what history I could glean from accounts from Éire—Ireland—and what has been found in archeological digs in Norway and Ireland. When Lissa indicated that the series has used some of the legends that came from the warrior Ragnar Lothbrok (there are alternate spellings, of course), I knew I’d have little knowledge of the plot that the series would take, though I did recognize much of the clothing and housing and crafts used in the series.

And, of course, the fighting styles. The Northmen fought with battle axes and spears, mostly. Very few had swords as they were costly and hard to make.

I did compare many things that I saw in the series to what I had found in my research, and many of the cultural references are the same. The leadership was different, involving a different political structure. Norway was not yet bound together as a cohesive body under one ruler at the time of my writing.

Timing

I am really kind of relieved that I had the first book in the trilogy written many years ago, initially. Self-published as Captive Irish Moon, the book was finished in the summer of 2004. My research didn’t end there, though! I’ve kept at it and new finds have been discovered, which made my original timeline off and it was very frustrating.

Getting the opportunity to adjust some of the details was great when ECM was accepted by my publisher. The original book is still the original story, but I’ve allowed myself to expand it through my notion of getting to the leadership of the only Viking who ever claimed the High Kingship of Ireland: Tuirgeis (also known by other names). Each of the three books in my series deal with the Norse culture of the early ninth century, including their clothing, beliefs, social structure and marriage customs.

I also explore how the Ostmen invade Éire and settle there.

I am relieved, as I said, because my story is told, in my head, for the most part. Book two was in editing by the time VIKINGS was broadcast on television, so I knew that there would be no subconscious borrowing of legends or materials or anything. For my personal mental health, this is a good thing. The second book of my trilogy is called Éire’s Viking and it should be out early in 2014.

The third book is being written now and I’m calling it Éire’s Devil King as a working title. I know that History Channel is planning a second season of their show in 2014, but by the time it airs, my trilogy will be complete on my end, so I will enjoy the show as it is presented.

Reverb Effect?

I think that I was fortunate to have a book out on Vikings from the same era (more or less) as those in the History Channel show. I confess to shamelessly tweeting to my followers that if they just couldn’t wait for Sunday night and the next episode of VIKINGS, then they could buy my book for their Kindle and get more Vikings immediately.

Did it work? I have no idea. Maybe?

By the time the next season rolls around, Éire’s Viking will likely be out and I would like to hope that the contrast between what is likely to happen in the life of Ragnar Lothbrok and the what is happening in the life of Agnarr Halvardson, who chooses to settle in Éire, will be appealing.

[For any of my readers who were Team Agnarr after reading Éire’s Captive Moon, I think book two will make them happy. And the Team Cowan people? You’ll be happy, too.]

About the Author

Wife of one and mom of two, Sandi currently resides in Maryland. Besides historical fiction, she writes contemporary inspirational romances – one of which will be released this summer.  Her interests involve researching anything, autism, and learning how to spin by hand. Coffee and the written word are her addictions, and she loves the world before the sun lights the sky.

Find Sandi Anywhere…

Website

Éire’s Captive Moon on Amazon

Sandi Layne on Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook page

On Writing: Inspired by the Litha Festival

Inspiration in Old Traditions

Guest post by Brenda Sparks

writing inspiration

UnicornRetreat/veezzle.com

When I wrote A Midsummer Night’s Demon, I knew I wanted the story to center around the Pagan festival of Litha.  Litha generally falls in the third week of June, during the summer solstice, as the midsummer heat creates a fiery passion that leaves people breathless. The more I learned about the festival, the more the holiday intrigued me.

Litha celebrates abundance, fertility, virility, and nature. During the celebration it is customary to wear garland and crowns of flowers made from the yellow blossoms of St. John’s Wort. Litha rites include dancing, singing, storytelling and feasting centered around a bonfire. Often courting couples will join hands and jump over the Litha fire three times to ensure a happy marriage, many children, and financial prosperity.

Those who celebrate Litha believe it is a time when the Sun God reaches the peak of His power, bringing the heat of summer. Just as the power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent so too is the Sun God. He takes His Goddess as His wife and, like the earth in June, she becomes fertile with the bounty of growing life. His marriage with the Goddess makes Him not only Her lover, but her protector as well.

In some traditions, Litha is a time light battles with dark. The Sun God’s potency ensures the continuity of life during the oncoming darkness of winter. For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, it is a time to meditate on both the light and darkness in not only the world, but in their personal lives as well.

This concept intrigued me, for I knew the characters in my story had a similar dichotomy. Ky is a vampire—the night his domain. He is a dark warrior, a protector of his kind. And Daelyn is a demon. The day belongs to her. She is sweet and slightly naïve about things that go bump in the night. She is the goodness to his devilish impulses. The light to his darkness.

Faeries are said to abound in great numbers on Midsummer’s Eve. As part of the Litha celebration people will commune with the faeries and leave them sweet offerings outdoors. Upon discovering part of the Litha rituals involved sprinkling an offering to faeries, I had to find out what might be given. It is widely believed that faeries enjoy milk, cheese, bread, and sweets, and therefore those items are generally scattered in offering.  While doing research for my story, I came across a yummy recipe I’d like to share.

Faery Fruit Compote

Blend together

 ½ cup water

2 tablespoons of Marigold petals

½ cup of sugar

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let cool.

In a bowl combine

1 ½ cups each of orange, lime, and tangerine slices

2 cups blueberries.

Pour water mixture over fruit and chill overnight. Serve over lemon angel food cake.

So make yourself some Faery Fruit Compote and if you get a chance please check out my book, A Midsummer Night’s Demon. Thank you for reading!

About the Author

Brenda Sparks has always loved all things spooky and enjoys incorporating paranormal elements in her writing. She refuses to allow pesky human constraints to get in the way of telling the story. Luckily the only thing limiting her stories is her imagination. Her characters are strong, courageous, and she adores spending time with them in their imaginary world.

In real life, she is married to a loving, supportive husband and together they have one grown son who has brought much joy to their lives. Her idea of a perfect day is one spent in front of a computer with a hot cup of coffee, her fingers flying over the keys to send her characters off on their latest adventure.

You can find Brenda on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

Author Interview: Ben Monopoli

Words and Wisdom from Ben Monopoli

We haven’t made any secret of our respect and regard for Ben Monopoli. Plainly put, we have a serious crush on the way he thinks. After reading everything he’s written (that we know about, anyway), we really hoped for a chance to pick his brain. Smart, funny, and generous, Ben granted our wish in the form of a short interview. We share those words with you here. Enjoy.

*Spoilers right ahead. If you don’t want to be spoiled, read the books. In fact, read them anyway. Carry on.*

The Cranberry Hush

The Painting of Porcupine City

Homo Action Love Story! A tall tale

Ben Monopoli author interviewWe think we can safely say that your stories don’t follow “the formula” or genre expectation, rules and guidelines. Do you think this affords you as a writer greater character and story development? Allow you to explore the not-so-pretty part of people that most fiction and romance/love stories gloss over or ignore. We can be good people but still have those occasional selfish or uncharitable thoughts, and you do such a good job of showing this. How do you tap into that, and how do you think that differs from mainstream or traditional fiction and romance/love stories?

My books, at least the first two, probably do follow a genre expectation, but the genre is literary fiction (“lit fic” sounds less pretentious), which is what I read most often. I like the navel-gazey books that get into the nitty-gritty of people’s lives. I want a lot of detail, a lot of insight. John Steinbeck is my favorite writer—the amount this man understood about human nature, it’s crazy. You read something like East of Eden and it’s easy to see that it’s everything he knew about everything. He put it all in that book. I think that’s what literary fiction tries to do and that’s what I’m most interested in. My first two books represent everything I knew about life, love, loss up to that point. Part of that is that people don’t always do the right things, they make mistakes that are really obvious and stupid; they do the wrong thing even when they know what the right thing is. But they’re also susceptible to moments of real beauty and, for lack of a better word, magic.

While all three of your novels are unique, the tone, subject, and story from Porcupine and Cranberry to Homo Action is quite different. The first two have a similar feel, but Homo Action is pretty unique. Can you give us any insight from where you wrote the first two stories and where Homo Action came from? Dying to know how you plotted (or pantsed) Homo Action.

The Cranberry Hush and The Painting of Porcupine City were finished before I knew m/m romance was even a thing. Maybe that makes them seem fresh to the m/m crowd, because they weren’t influenced by it. They both ended up in the m/m category for marketing reasons, because, I don’t know, writing gay characters narrows your audience so you want to go right to the readers who are looking for that. Originally I was targeting my books at 20something gay male readers; I had no idea straight women would be so receptive to stories about gay dudes, but it’s been a nice surprise. And since that audience embraced my first two books so much, I kind of wanted to play in their sandbox. That’s where Homo Action Love Story came from. It was sort of on a dare. My friend Maggie supplied the name “Boots McHenry” and told me to write a bodice-ripper about him. I think of it as something very “other” from Cranberry Hush and Porcupine City. I couldn’t bring myself to call it a novel, so I call it a tall tale. But I think it’s fun and a nice change of pace.

Ben Monopoli author interviewLoved the detail in Cranberry about bisexual people not being limited to who they can fall in love with – such an intriguing idea, especially for a writer. You’ve mentioned you weren’t sure about that aspect of Cranberry, but it was such a great arc and detail. Thoughts, insights, comments?

In my head Vince was bi from the get-go, and in all my early drafts he was longing for something he knew wasn’t possible: for Griff to fall for him. It was a type of denial. But that just never rang true to me. It took me like five years of working on the book before I realized what Vince’s bi-ness would actually mean for him and the way he relates to other people. What he feels isn’t willful denial of Griff’s straightness, he just doesn’t understand straightness at all—or gayness, for that matter. A person who’s attracted to both genders would find it hard to understand how someone could be attracted to only one. So that’s where Vince is coming from: He loves Griff and he can tell Griff loves him too, so what’s the problem? What’s Griff’s hurdle? Can the hurdle be jumped? Vince doesn’t know. I think that’s a sweeter, sadder thing to deal with.

Cranberry Hush (and Homo Action, to an extent) is about something a bit different, not the “usual” story – the girl wishing her gbf could be straight, or even the gbf wishing he could be straight for his best girl friend, or gbf wishing sbf could be gay, like Cranberry appears to start, but this dealt with the straight male friend wanting to be gay for his best friend. And why does just knowing the fact Griff wished he could be gay for Vince give the happy sighs and make it easier to accept for Vince and (most of) the readers?

I think part of the pain of unrequited love is that it makes us feel a little silly, maybe a little invisible. We go around feeling like, “I love him and he has no idea and wouldn’t care even if he knew.” Unrequited love makes us feel small. So when Griff takes Vince to the lighthouse, it puts them on equal footing for the first time in their friendship. Griff recognizes everything Vince feels and welcomes it, and values it, and is envious of it. That helps Vince realize that what he feels isn’t even quite unrequited, it’s requited in its own way, it’s just something that’s not going to work out. And that’s sad, yeah, but it’s a lot easier to deal with. It’s a lot more affirming. One of the most important realizations of Vince’s life is that he hasn’t been being silly.

And, if you will, settle a personal debate between J and M. How much of Griff wishing he could fall in love with Vince was altruistic – he just truly wanted to be able to love Vince – versus being somewhat selfish and wanting to belong to someone, to go back to the salad days of college. He just broke up with what he thought was his One (and tried to get back with her – tried to sleep with her when they stayed), which he considers to be the end all, be all of life. Who is really the one fooling himself, so to speak – Griff or Vince? How much was all that Griff honestly trying to figure out if he was straight or gay, or how much was trying to get back to what he considers his comfort/goals? Maybe M read way too much into it (and maybe J let her own personal history blind her).

Griff is a guy who’s maybe too eager to be in love. This is part of what draws him to Vince, because he’s entranced by the idea that Vince as a bi guy can love anyone. Griff sees that as having endless possibilities.

Griff is very earnest, and as a result he gets his heart broken a lot. Every person he invests all his emotion into ends up breaking his heart. His breakup with Beth comes at a pretty fragile time in his young adulthood and he feels totally adrift afterward. So he reaches for the person he knows would never break his heart. And maybe that would be a little selfish if Vince didn’t need so badly to be reached-for by Griff, but he does. And it’s not altruism on Griff’s part—he’s not trying to do Vince a favor. He needs Vince and Vince needs him. That’s just love.

I never meant to suggest that Griff is questioning his straightness, though. What he’s trying to find out is whether his love for his male friend can override his straightness, if it can become everything he needs in his life if he’ll let it. He wants to test it.

Ben Monopoli author interviewThe details of Mateo’s graffiti painting in Porcupine City were so vivid and detailed. What did your research for that aspect of the story and his character entail? You did such a great job of making the reader feel his compulsion, his need, how itchy and unsettled he was when we wasn’t painting, when he tried to stifle his need and attempt to prioritize his “hobby” versus his real life, his day job, his relationship with Fletcher. Another example here how you take something most people would disdain—graffiti and defacing public property—and make it sympathetic. Make readers root for Mateo (and Fletcher) to get away with an illegal activity, cheer for him, while still maintaining the balance of “he really is breaking the law,” not going too far in either direction. That’s an amazingly difficult balance to achieve. Did you set out to show that or did it just grow from the story?

Mateo and Fletcher basically have the same compulsion, which is to put words on things. For Fletcher it’s paper, and for Mateo it’s… anything. I did some research into graffiti but it was for the technical stuff. I felt pretty confident that I understood what would make someone do it. Who hasn’t wanted to do it?

As for making Mateo’s graffiti sympathetic, I think street art lends itself to that because it’s romantic. It’s one of those things that, OK, it’s technically a crime, but it’s morally ambiguous. Like, it’s more OK in certain places than in others. It’s more OK if it’s pretty and not just scribbles. It’s like jewel theft or some other glamorous crime. I tried to make a distinction between types of graffiti—sometimes angry people just want to make a mess, but other people are artists. One person’s “defacing public property” is another person’s “enhancing public property.” I don’t know. I can argue both ways, which I think comes across in the book. I’m not saying I’d want it on my car or my house, but I also can’t say I’d rather look at a blank concrete wall in a subway station.

I think we all know by now Jen is a huge Holden Caulfield fan, so we have to ask. Vince in Cranberry seems very Holden-esque. On purpose?

No, not on purpose. But I think Holden is like a god, the god of angst. He’s everywhere you look.

Ben Monopoli author interviewA reviewer of Homo Action mentioned what she referred to as the “non-monogamous” aspect, or more the issue of being faithful, that Boots didn’t wait very long to have sex with someone else after Ryan left. Do you think the different views on casual versus committed sex (for lack of a better term) is a difference between the sexes? Same sex versus opposite sex relationships? No relation at all, just personal reactions?

Boots definitely doesn’t wait very long to hook up with other guys after Ryan’s exile. Part of that was just practical from a storytelling standpoint. I wanted to write a sexy bodice-ripper, so the characters needed to be having sex. Monogamy would’ve been a narrative straitjacket, so for a book called Homo Action Love Story, I had no trouble throwing it overboard. This is not a serious book.

I’ve seen reviews like the one you mentioned. For some people non-monogamy will always be cheating. That’s fair, but I think life is more complicated than that. Boots sleeps with guys he thinks Ryan would approve of. So it’s safe to infer that they’re more monogamish than monogamous. On the other hand, he makes an effort to avoid guys Ryan wouldn’t approve of. There is a moral code he operates by. For some people it might be too loose, but I don’t feel there’s any cheating here.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to generalize about people’s sex lives, either, like by saying opposite-sex couples do this or same-sex couples do that. Sex is the most complicated subject in the world, and also the most secret. I don’t think most people, me included, have any idea what other people’s sex lives are really like. Some couples are monogamous, some are in open relationships, and there’s probably a lot of gray area in between. I think the gray area is where the best stories are.

Any unique, fun, exciting, or frustrating challenges as a gay fiction, self-pubbed, etc. writer you’d like to share?

Being a self-pubbed writer is awesome. People are reading my stuff, they send me nice letters, I get to do interviews like this. Being a self-pubbed bookseller, which is the flip-side of the coin—well, I don’t like that part. Back when I released The Cranberry Hush there wasn’t a whole lot of ebook competition. Word of mouth was enough to take it to #1. These days the ebook presses are rolling 24/7, which makes marketing way more important if you want to get attention. It’s not where my interests or strengths lie, though. I’d rather be writing than selling—which probably means I’m selling myself short. But hopefully if my books are good enough they’ll find an audience.

Ben Monopoli author interviewFUTURE BOOKS! Give us some scoop on what you might be thinking about next.

I’m working on a sequel to The Painting of Porcupine City, but it’s going to take a few years so it may not be the next thing I publish. Totally random—the other day I learned that the soldiers in the Spanish Legion have the sexiest uniforms in the world. Google them. I could imagine a sequel to Homo Action Love Story revolving around those uniforms. But who knows.

Feel free to add anything you’d like to mention, talk about, discuss, etc., and thanks so much for sharing with us!

Thank you! It’s been fun.

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