Damon will pick a winner today. Leave a comment to be entered!
First Wave Winner’s Choice: Pick any one backlist book from Rachel Haimowitz, Aleksandr Voinov, L.A. Witt, Brita Addams, or Cat Grant (“Frontlist” books, i.e. Riptide releases and newest non-Riptide release, are excluded, as are the Courtland Chronicles).
Welcome to miz love, damon!
What do you do for a living?
I’m a writer for film and stage mostly, although now I write fiction too, natch. I’ve been writing full time for twenty years. I grew up working in entertainment and started writing professionally right out of college.
Do you find you have enough spare time to write, or do you have to manage your time wisely?
Since writing is how I earn my crust, managing time is essential. And far as I can tell, spare-time is mythical creature on the order of hippogriffs and manticores.
I write every day and I tend to write in long marathon stretches as if possessed. My boyfriend stays incredibly patient with me when I’m working and he wants to interact with me because I zone out so totally that I won’t hear him saying my name. I tend to submerge myself completely in projects and he always describes me finishing work for the day as “resurfacing” or “returning” because I lose track of what’s around me. I forget to eat, to sleep, to stand up sometimes. This sounds horrible, but when I’m under a tense deadline, my friends sometimes call intermittently to make sure that I stop and eat food at regular intervals. When I’m in the zone, I focus like a starving leopard.
For scripts, I’m on tight deadlines generally and I have a schedule that determines when drafts/pages are due (and also when I get paid) so I can’t afford to faff around or I won’t be able to live. LOL For the fiction (which is a new wrinkle), I set aside blocks of time within my schedule to draft, revise, edit etc. I’ve found that working on the fiction while tackling other projects actually keeps both fresher. The work has an energetic give and take that cross-fertilizes coinciding stories in amazing ways.
How does writing make you feel? I mean, could you live without doing it?
Exhilarated. Challenged. Connected. Satiated and ravenous at the same time
Articulating things seems to be my life’s work and it’s a task I love deeply and revisit daily. Writing is a weird, wonderful way to earn a living; I’ve been doing it for so long that I cannot imagine a life in which it wasn’t my axis. Living without it would make me a different person; that is to say, I would have to be a different person entirely to not write.
Actually my boyfriend teases me because I will sneak down to work at 4am sometimes when an idea gets ahold of me. The Muse is a demanding mistress and I court her obsessively. In truth, I’ve been writing so much for so long, that I can’t really imagine the way my life would fit together if I wasn’t writing regularly. I might be able to survive but it would be in a room with soft walls and no corners.Are you a plotter, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
Plotter, no question. Genre fiction requires an essential structure; in fact some lit-crit types argue that genre IS structure. Avoiding structure seems like a waste of energy.
Working in entertainment I often get paid to write outlines long before I get paid to draft a script. Treatments, likewise. Even rewrite jobs, I go in, see what’s what, and then bang out a skeleton to see how the bones go together. Producers wouldn’t pay me if I couldn’t break a story down into beats and identify a structure before wading in and splashing around. So I’m never caged or crushed by my outline, but a clean, sturdy outline is the most powerful tool of the working write, hands down.
In fact (and I know I’ll hack people off by saying this)… I believe EVERYONE is a plotter, even those that insist they’re pantsers and quail at the idea of planning a book in advance. That is to say, anyone who writes a book keeps a structure in mind when they proceed… Except many people write these enormous, garbled overstuffed outlines that they call rough drafts which they must use as an outline to go back and actually write the novel. Some people love to work this way, but I don’t have time and can’t imagine scattering my creative energy that way. Whenever I get “stuck” it’s because I haven’t outlined properly or I’ve veered off course.
Outlines sometimes evolve as I proceed. I still make discoveries as I get inside a project, of course. Writing leads to shocking discoveries that may alter characters and their courses. I’ve had stories open up so radically that I had to go back and hash through my outline to help get me through safely and sanely, but that structure offers me a map through dangerous woods!
Do you like edits?
Well now. It depends on the editor doesn’t it? LOL Getting at what makes a story work and working with editors who relish the process can be invigorating and inspiring. I come from a film and theatre background so dealing with notes and processing a spectrum of opinions comes easily to me.
One of the great challenges of e-publishing is the sheer expense and energy required to edit fiction properly. Of course that means that M/M is often a mixed bag and readers have learned to “but slack” on the basis of lowered expectations. That’s a bummer.
On the whole, what I love is bold, purposive edits from someone who gets what I’m trying to do and who knows how to call me on my bullshit. BUT I can’t abide sloppy generic editing that sidesteps problems and treats every book as a bland, homogenous pablum. Slogging through rambling disorganized half-assery is never fun for anyone and in the editorial process it can extinguish what’s special about a story.
An editor with vision can change the course of a genre, but many more people want to be novelists than editors… more’s the pity. We need great editors. It’s worth noting that in the heyday of New York romance publishing EDITORS became celebrities… Harold Latham had Mitchell overhaul Gone with the Wind and changed the course of publishing history; legendary Avon editor Nancy Coffey rescued Kathleen Woodiwiss from the slush pile and made Rosemary Rogers and LaVyrle Spencer household names; Ann Patty practically invented VC Andrews from scratch. But of course, mass-market publishing nurtured those editorial talents, just as those editors nurtured the writers in their charge.
So you’re asking a larger question I think. What IS editing and how can we learn to love the process as well as live with it? But I think that’s a topic for a different day! J
If you had an ideal writing space, what would it be like?
Isolated, spacious, remote, uncluttered.
This question is one that recurs for me in a very real way because I go away every summer to write in the country. I take a house in upstate New York (mostly Hudson Valley these days) on a big chunk of acreage with a separate writing studio and just pound out ungodly amounts of rough- material in a torrent. Very intense, and I can tell you only my closest friends and my boyfriend can really hack how intense it gets up there… so I’m operating without real human contact sometimes for weeks at a time.
This tradition started about 14 years ago and now I can’t imagine my year without it. A bit like taking myself hostage, really. And I develop Stockholm syndrome with my characters. J While sequestered, I write 16-18 hours a day, often not stopping to shave or bathe and only sleeping when I’m tired and eating when I’m hungry. That sounds hideous I realize, but I cannot begin to describe how industrious it makes me… nuclear-powered productivity because there are no distractions and no relief. Often, I can finish two scripts in that time period (up to 75k words) when I’m in the zone.
In the next couple years, my boyfriend and I will probably buy a place (rather than renting) because we’ve narrowed down the particulars (distance from city, size, amenities). I definitely want some acreage (for privacy), and a modernized house (no distractions and a place to stash my man) and then a big barn out back to gut and remodel for my library and my desk. So yeah… that’s my ideal writing space. A remodeled four-thousand square foot barn with a wall of glass facing a waterfall in Hudson Valley and my books covering the walls… and up the slope of the hill my boyfriend snoozing in the hammock wondering when I’m gonna take a break for lunch. J
Have you ever co-authored? If not, would you ever consider it?
Since Hot Head came out, a few people have approached me and I think it’s likely at some point. I’m curious to see how the dynamic would affect a story. I have a pretty distinctive voice and I’d be leery of having a bad “blend” between us. As soon as there’s a project that makes sense to crack open with another person, hell yeah!
What's your fave genre?
Good books are my only genre of choice. LOL
No, seriously… I don’t have just one. I can’t imagine being that monoscopic. I go through phases where I’ll read nothing but paranormal or historicals or whatever, but I think of books the way people think of food: you gotta eat, and when you have time to be indulgent you can pick what you feel like eating, but at the end of the day you’ll starve without it. I dig finding out about new subgenres through new authors who teach me the lay of the land. But my main criteria is always the quality of the writing, and the power of the final product. Genre is just the serving dish; you don’t eat the platter.
Are there any genres you'd love to try but haven't had a chance to tackle?
I’m tackling them! I’m never one to shy away from a challenge. As soon as Hot Head sold I started planning something that would go in a completely different direction. And ended up with a sprawling steampunk zipper-ripper that was kinkier and more arch than anything in Hot Head. And then almost against my will I got sidetracked into a planetary sci-fi novella called Grown Men which Riptide is publishing in October.
That’s true in my other writing as well; I have a reputation for being able to crack almost any genre and get at the gears that make it run. My agent and manager actually sell me that way because I can hit the ground running in almost any context; I’ve spent a lot of my life analyzing genre and structure so each one feels like a different building at the zoo. How can you love the tigers more than the monkeys or the lizards? I think it depends on the mood and the moment.
Plus, I love taking things apart (c.f. a childhood spent dissecting watches in my grandfather’s jewelry store) and then reimagining them. The challenge is always listening for my own voice while honoring the form of the genre in question. So yeah… you name it, I’m game!
What's your fave writing accompaniment? Tea? Coffee? Large slab of chocolate cake with pretty sprinkles?
Coffee, extremely strong with heavy whipping cream. High caffeine and high fat and I’m good to go. J I grew up down south and we prefer coffee that can strip the paint off an engine. LOL And we also have a weakness for butterfat. I’ve finished entire rushed scripts on little more than the dietary calories present in java and cow-juice.
If you could go anywhere in the world, money no object, where would you go, who with, and why?
Some place with cooler weather and lots of bookstores. I lived in London for several years, and it’s still one of my favorite places to spend long stretches of time. I love skiing when there’s time. And both my boyfriend and I like to travel loosely. We’ll often book flights and a hotel and then just let the trip arise organically by process of investigation. LOL But we’re not beach people. I grew up in Texas where it’s 100% humidity year-round and summer temperatures can get up to 120 degree easily and often. We like searching odd streets and discovering little hidden treasures. Eat where the locals do, as opposed to in “safe” corporate hotels. So… cool temps, interesting streets, weird surprises, long nights. J Hey! Wait a minute… We sound like disco vampires!
What did it feel like to see your name on a book cover for the first time?
Hilarious. Relieved. Shocked. I loved it. I had never wanted to write fiction although my family and friends had been urging me for years. I was a script guy to the core. I mean, I loved reading fiction but it always seemed like other people’s territory. So seeing my name on a book cover that first time made me laugh at how crazy, stupid and stubborn I had been… because all I could think about was getting the NEXT one done.
I should add here that Dreamspinner was fantastic about the Hot Head cover throughout... asking for tons of input and giving me my first choice on everything. Anne Cain designed the image and Mara McKennen did the layout and design. Both did such a superb job catching the smoldery tone that I wanted to convey within the reader expectations of what M/M books need to look like. That gorgeous cover commanded an enormous amount of attention with fans of the genre and definitely helped the book make a much larger splash than I could have managed on my own as a first-time author. People contact me about that cover all the time, and mention how much it drew their eye and stuck in their memory. I owe a debt of gratitude for Anne, Mara, and Elizabeth North for handling it so expertly.
How do you feel when you write "the end"?
Delighted. Drained. Turned inside out like a shirt or a mother holding her baby. I’m always sad to leave the characters, and nervous about the millions of compromises I know will have to come to get it in shape for its audience. It really does feel like being a parent.
After all these years writing, the end of a project always includes the seed of the next.
I have a tradition that I learned from an older writer when I was very young. The night of a first screening or an opening, no matter how exhausted or tipsy or distracted I am, I sit down and I write the first few pages of the next project. As soon as I get home from the party I sit down at my computer and I start the next thing right away. That stops me obsessing and twiddling endlessly with the thing I’ve just completed and it leaves me no excuse to not write. Even if I have to take a short break, I know that those pages are waiting for me at my desk so I can get going immediately. So writing “The End”: always means that I’m going to be writing the figurative equivalent of “Once Upon a Time...” in very short order. And starting a new story is the most exciting thing in the world.
And what's the start of a new book like for you?
The start of a book?
A first kiss! A whispered promise! A meaningful glance across a room! Like infinite possibility and all the time in the world to explore it.
I always go into a book charged and charging ahead. In a way that sweet friction is how I know what project to tackle or where I need to pay attention. I’m always looking for that slight heat you get when things rub together unexpectedly. When the book is just getting going, I haven’t learned any of the problems yet or made any compromises. Anything can happen and I want to get there when it does!
Here's the blurb from Grown Men:
Every future has dirty roots.
Marooned in the galactic backwaters of the HardCell company, colonist Runt struggles to eke out an existence on a newly-terraformed tropical planetoid. Since his clone-wife died on entry, he’s been doing the work of two on his failing protein farm. Overworked and undersized, Runt’s dwindling hope of earning corporate citizenship has turned to fear of violent “retirement.”
When an overdue crate of provisions crashes on his beach, Runt searches frantically for a replacement wife among the tools and food. Instead he gets Ox, a mute hulk who seems more like a corporate assassin than a simple offworld farmer.
Shackwacky and near-starving, Runt has no choice but to work with his silent partner despite his mounting paranoia and the unsettling appeal of Ox’s genetically altered pheromones. Ox plays the part of the gentle giant well, but Runt’s still not convinced he hasn’t arrived with murder in mind.
Between brutal desire and the seeds of a relationship, Runt’s fears and Ox’s inhuman past collide on a fertile world where hope and love just have room to grow.
This title is #1 of the HardCell series.
Grown Men is available for purchase at Riptide Publishing: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/grown-men