Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Author Interview: NEIL S. PLAKCY

Meeting the "Mahu" Man - Interview by A.J. Llewellyn

1. Hi Neil, thanks for your time. As you know I am a big fan of the Mahu books. If I am correct, then Kimo first made his appearance in a couple of shorts before the first Mahu book came out. What was the reaction to such a provocatively titled book?

Kimo first appeared in print in a short story called Refuge, published by Blithe House Quarterly. The novel was then titled Death in Waikiki, a pretty generic mystery title. An agent who considered representing it suggested that Mahu might be a more interesting title, one that put the emphasis on the detective rather than the crime. I liked it, and I didn’t realize how provocative a title it was until I was talking about it to a woman who’d lived in Hawaii herself. She’d just taken a sip of water, and nearly spit it out when I told her the title.

2. Do you feel Hawaii is as homophobic as Kimo has found it to be?

I relate Kimo’s experience to my own in South Florida. I think that in both places there are individuals, and ethnic groups, who strongly disapprove of homosexuality. I find there’s a lot of curiosity, which translates to sensationalism, and sometimes you can read that as homophobia. I don’t think the islands are homophobic as a whole, and I try not to represent them that way.

3. You seem to have a lot of female readers. Obviously, your writing speaks for itself, crossing boundaries and finding broad appeal. But why do you think women are becoming increasingly drawn to gay erotic fiction?

One straight woman reader/writer of gay erotic fiction I know said, “One man is hot. Two men are hotter!” Straight women like to read about men—and the male characters in straight romance often stick to rigid gender roles. In gay fiction, men can be strong, weak, active, passive, dominant, submissive—they can have a whole range of behaviors. I think that range is what’s fascinating to a lot of women.

4. How did you feel about the new law in California approving gay marriage? Did you attend any?

I believe that anything that moves us toward equality, and provides GLBT couples the same rights and benefits accorded to opposite-sex couples, is a great thing. I know many couples who have married or had commitment ceremonies, and I applaud them. My friend Anthony Bidulka, a wonderful mystery novelist himself, recently married his husband in Canada, and I wish I could have gone!

5. Congratulations to Anthony! Do you find a lot of support careerwise from other writers or do you find it a solitary experience?

At this year’s Lambda Awards, all the gay men’s mystery nominees sat together, and we had a great time. We’ve all been supportive of each other, and I’m proud to call many my good friends. Since writing is so solitary, it’s great to have these online pals to share and commiserate with, and then to see them at conferences and events. I’ve even done some mini-touring with Anthony and Mark Richard Zubro.

6. Kimo has found a new love in fire investigator Mike. They have an upcoming story in the Alyson anthology Island Boys - something about massages, LOL...is this going to show us Kimo's sexy side?

I’ve always been interested in exploring all the different aspects of Kimo’s coming-out journey, but in the mystery novels there hasn’t been time for him to have a lot of sex. So I’ve written a number of what I call “Kimo-Rotica” stories, as he explores his sexuality. Lomi-Lomi Massage is one of those.
For the most part, those stories were about Kimo meeting a hot guy, hooking up with him, and exploring something new—a big guy, a threesome with an ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, a pro baseball player, a paniolo (a Hawaiian cowboy.) But I intend that he will stay in a monogamous relationship with Mike, and so it was a challenge for me to write an erotic story about two committed partners.

7. Do you think the two are not connected for readers – long-term, committed partners and erotic romance?

An awful lot of erotic romance is based on the thrill of the new—an encounter with a new guy who may be “the one.” There’s the delight of exploring a new body, of pleasing and learning how to please. I don’t think that the readers care—but it is a lot tougher to write erotica when you skip that “getting to know you” phase. How do you make sex between partners who are accustomed to each other fresh and exciting?

8. I’ve been doing it for over a year now with my own Phantom Lover series…I still haven’t run out of ideas…or positions. LOL…Any news on a new Kimo book? And will Mike still be around?

Alyson Books is reissuing Mahu, which was originally published by the now-defunct Harrington Park Press, in spring 2009. I’m hoping that the fourth book in the series, Mahu Vice, will follow soon after that, but I don’t have a definite publication date yet. And yes, Mike is going to stick around, though they go through some rocky times together. I’ve just started playing with ideas for a fifth book, and Mike’s definitely still there.

9. Mahu Vice is a great title. Does he move over to vice temporarily or otherwise? How have you researched HPD for your books?

As the only openly gay detective on the Honolulu Police Force, Kimo gets roped into a number of cases where his supervisors think his sexuality will give him an edge. In Mahu Vice, he’s asked to help find out who is behind blackmail attempts on high-profile closeted men. There’s also a double edge to the title, as both Kimo’s and Mike’s vices get aired as they prepare to commit to each other.
I’ve done a ride-along with the cops in Waikiki, and toured the headquarters building in Honolulu. I’ve also taken the Citizen’s Police Academy in my hometown in Florida to understand police procedures. I do a lot of research, and fortunately have a couple of cop friends I can ask for help as well.

10. Will Kimo and Mike ever get married?

The books are about Kimo’s journey as much as about the crimes that he solves. I hope that the journey will lead them to marriage, but they haven’t been together long enough to know when that might happen.

11. Kimo has an endearing habit of telling us what he buys and cooks for dinner. What's something we will never see Kimo eating?

Great question! Kimo’s a much more adventurous soul than I am, so I can see him eating all kinds of stuff in the future. But I doubt you’ll see him drinking wheat grass or eating tofu—he’s a carnivore.

12. Will all of Kimo's adventures be in Hawaii?

Kimo is a guy who is intimately connected to the islands—it’s his heritage, and he loves getting out in nature, whether it’s surfing or swimming or riding his bike up the slope of Diamond Head. And his job as a homicide detective for the city of Honolulu keeps him there.

But who knows what the future holds? I’ve already written a story in which he goes to San Francisco to track down a missing man. I am waiting to see if his personal growth motivates him to perhaps work as an investigator for the Hawaii Sheriff’s Department, which would allow him to work on islands beyond Oahu. And at some point, if the series needs a boost to stay fresh, he might leave the police force and become a private eye. But honestly, I’m waiting for him to tell me what happens next.

13. How much time do you spend in the islands researching your books?

My little secret is that a lot of my observations about Hawaii are based on my knowledge of South Florida. Although the landscape is more mountainous there, and the ethnic groups are different, there are a lot of similarities. I like to think that living in a hot, humid climate, isolated at the end of the country, where there’s such a mix of cultures and a strong contrast between light and shadow, gives me a lot of insight into Hawaii.

I had been to various islands several times before Mahu was published, but I haven’t been back since that first book came out. I’ve relied on research, on watching Dog, The Bounty Hunter for language and scenery, and the help of friends in the islands. I’m excited to be going back next March, for a mystery conference on the big island called Left Coast Crime, and I hope to spend some time in Honolulu as well soaking up atmosphere.

14. Dog, the Bounty Hunter, eh? I love the show myself and was dismayed when he was recorded using the N word by his son, which resulted in the show being taken off the air for months. It’s now back on and I’m watching it avidly…but what was your reaction to the controversy?

I know that any “reality” TV show is heavily edited to present an image, but I still believe, despite things other people have said, that Dog and his family are good people. Flawed, certainly, as all of us are. But there does seem to be a genuine humanity behind all the posturing, and that appeals to me.

15. If you were to meet Kimo in real life, would he be your type of guy?

I’m not sure. I tend to like my men bigger and beefier (my partner is 6’5”). But I’d certainly like to be Kimo’s friend and hang out with him!

16. Pretend I just gave you a credit card with a limited time use and it could only be used for entertainment purposes…not for saving the planet. Not for something useful. What would you do with it and who would you invite?

I’d grab my partner and book us on a first class trip to all those places I’ve wanted to visit—the European countryside, the South Pacific, the Australian outback. A luxury safari, a couple of cruises—what did you say the limit was on that credit card?

17. I have to ask you this because I really want to know. What does your muse look like and also, what’s the best piece of advice anybody ever gave you about writing?

I have a feeling that my muse looks like Kimo. At least, he’s the guiding force for a lot of what I write. Even when I’m not writing about him, I try and retain the characteristics I’ve given him—humor, sexiness, respect, and intelligence. He’s the reason that I kept plugging away at his story when it didn’t look like anyone would publish the first book.

I think the best piece of advice I ever got about writing, and the one that took me the longest to absorb, is that readers want to read about characters who want something, and how those characters overcome the obstacles that stand in their way. It wasn’t until Kimo came into my life, and I realized how much he wanted to reconcile the disparate parts of his identity, how much he wanted to be respected as a cop and loved as a man, that I really got this lesson.

Beautifully said, Neil! On behalf of Dark Diva Reviews I would like to thank Neil Plakcy for his wonderful answers. To learn more about Neil and the Mahu books please visit his website at:


Amazon Purchase Link: http://tinyurl.com/6jt4ft


Roberta said...

Great interview AJ and Neil!
Those were some very interesting questions and answers.

I will also be checking out the Mahu books...thanks!


AJ Llewellyn said...

Thanks for stopping by Roberta! You will be glad you checked them out!