Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Author Interview: JOSH LANYON

Author Interview by A.J. Llewellyn

1. Hi Josh and thank you for coming to the Divas’ Den! It’s a pleasure to have you here. Not sure where to start with you…but I will plunge in head first. You’re such an interesting guy. First of all, are you aware that the title of your first stand alone book The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks is the one book people say they buy just based on the title? Please tell me how this story and the title came about.

Hi, A.J., thanks for inviting me to the Divas’ Den. It’s a pleasure to be here. Let’s see…Ghost. Well, this is a story about this frail artist kid who has a little bit of a thing for pulp fiction. He works in a library and reads those wonderful old hardboiled novels with titles like The Blonde Died Laughing or The Corpse with the Brass Knuckles. Eventually the kid gets involved in a murder case and meets a tough guy of his own, an embittered ex-Navy SEAL; so I tried for a title that captured the feel of those old pulp novels, but still had humor because I am ALL about the funny.

2. Death of a Pirate King is I think the best in your Adrien English mysteries. Of course, being Hollywood based myself and somebody who reads screenplays for a living, the movie angle tickled me, as did the murder. You of course bring back Jerk, I mean Jake…please tell me who are your inspirations for Adrien and Jake? They are so realistic!

I don’t know. I get asked this a lot. One thing I don’t do is lift people directly from my own life. I guess the answer is…I’ve been around, I’ve both experienced and observed a lot, and I’m good at translating what I’ve seen into readable prose. Having a lot of experience is not, in itself, going to make a strong writer, but at least it gives someone a foundation for storytelling. I think being able to observe without drawing conclusions or making judgments gives one an edge in writing characters. People are complex, but sadly you don’t often get that sense in romance fiction.

3. I have to agree with you completely there. Some books, the characters are so ridiculous that a group of us authors seek them out…we call them, “Too Stupid to be Alive” …without naming names, doesn’t it frustrate you to come across these characters when you spend so much time working on such wonderfully flawed characters?

I think it’s okay for characters to make mistakes and show bad judgment -- this is part (in my opinion) of creating nuanced and realistic protagonists, but those bad choices need to be something the reader can understand and believe in. If the reader is sitting there going, NO DAMN WAY! then the writer has failed. Two things really bore me in romance fiction: characters who are too good to be true, and the lack of believable or interesting conflict -- those two things often go hand in hand.

4. You manage to blend humor with romance and plenty of plot twists. How well thought out are your books or are you a punster?

Ha. Good one. You know, the pun is a sadly unappreciated art form.

I prefer to outline full-length novels, just to make sure I keep on track with pacing and the right balance of mystery/suspense versus romance. There are usually a number of subplots, and I want to make sure I hit all the marks. Novellas…I just start writing. The subplots are usually minimal or simplistic and it’s pretty easy to keep track of all threads for thirty thousand words.

5. Your readers and critics always talk about the complex, yet everyman qualities of Adrien. In Death his book is optioned for a movie. If this happened in real life, who would you like to see cast in the roles of Adrien and Jake?

Well, since the idea is a total fantasy, I like James Murray for Adrien. For Jake…I still lean toward Russell Crowe.

6. Your latest book co-authored with Laura Baumbach, Mexican Heat came out a few months ago. You’ve worked together before and obviously it is a successful partnership. How did this come about?

We’ve never written anything together before, and I think that probably ended up being more stressful than either of us expected.

AJ says: really? I thought the Crime and Cocktail series was a joint effort?

Mexican Heat is the first book in the Crime and Cocktails series -- it’s the first thing we’ve written together. I do the Partners in Crime series -- originally with Sarah Black and now with Jordan Castillo Price -- but those aren’t co-written. Those are each of us taking a theme and writing a novella based on it.

Laura and I are each good at what we do, and we each respect and enjoy what the other does -- but do we want that for our own work? It becomes a very different thing. Also…compromise for creative types is not always easy, especially for two people who have their “art” down to a science. The fact that readers seem to be loving this collaboration is a two-edged sword. No one wants to hear that their best work is in a partnership.

7. How do you write together? Is it emailing back and forth? Do you yell at each other?

We talked out the general -- very loose -- plot ahead of time. This was where we made our mistake. We should have talked it out in depth and nailed down every scene because what happened is Laura then wrote the first draft based on this really loose outline, and then I came in and rewrote, cut, added, polished. The problem was, because we hadn’t talked it all out ahead of time…there was a lot more cutting than either of us would have liked. On the other hand, that did create terrific synergy. Laura was constantly surprising me, and then I would riff off those scenarios where I could. It really did generate some amazing stuff -- but it was harder on both of us than it needed to be.

We never yelled, but by the end we were pretty terse with each other and I think we were both suffering some serious hurt feelings.

8. Okay time for the really tough question. You ready? What was your favorite toy growing up and what became of it?

God. What was my favorite toy? You know…very embarrassing, but I’m one of those kids who had imaginary friends. And for way too long. Even worse, I persuaded my real life friends to create their own imaginary friends so…lunacy reigned in my hood.

9. I love it. What were your imaginary friends like? Are they still around? Shhhh…your secret is safe with me…

This gets odder and odder. They were a pair of cowboys….now that I think of it, I wonder why I’ve never written anything with cowboys? Hmmm….

10. Many women have turned their hand to writing – as well as reading gay erotic fiction. What is the attraction for them do you think? I ask this since I read your chapter on “Cheat Sheets for Chicks” in your Man oh Man: Writing M/M for Cash and Kinks. Personally I think the sudden explosion is more about cash (or presumption of cash) than kinks…what do you think?

I think it’s a combination. Did you know that writing is one of the top retirement “businesses” people try their hand at? No wonder the economy is in trouble.

AJ says: (Laughing) no I didn’t know that…that explains a lot!

Frightening, isn’t it? Of course these folks have no idea what to expect -- a lot of them expect to make money through self-publishing.

I think you’re right, though, a number of erotica and romance writers are turning their attention to m/m merely because it’s a hot sub-genre right now. And I think the caliber of the work pretty much shows it. But then writing, like teaching, is one of those things everyone imagines they can do -- as though having a kid or having enthusiasm and a computer was enough.

11. Can you tell if a gay novel has been written by a man or a woman? I asked William Maltese this and he had an interesting answer. He feels he can tell, that women have brought a much needed emotional quality to the field of gay erotic fiction. Would you agree with this? You say something similar in your book but you also make a very interesting case for writers to be aware men and women are different.

I can usually tell. I’ve only been wrong twice that I know of, and once it was me mistakenly thinking that a guy was actually a woman! Which put me properly in my place. I think women writers have an edge in this genre -- not least because most romance readers are women, and women tend to speak to each other in that codified language of the heart. Also, despite what they say, I think many women readers are hesitant to try a male author writing romance, which is why the big publishers usually insist on men taking feminine pen names.

12. Who are your favorite authors and do you get to read much with your prolific output?

God, I love to read. The pity is I get very little time for it these days. Mostly what I read is research for whatever I’m writing -- and I do some freelance manuscript evaluations, which is really a different kind of reading. I do read excerpts and buy books based on those, and I have a huge file of downloads waiting for me. I keep promising myself a week of vacation where all I do is read. I did recently read all the Joseph Hansen novels he wrote under the James Colton pen name, and that was wonderful. Really wonderful. Even when his work is uneven, it’s…so good. I found it inspirational.

13. Do you have a day job or do you write full time? I am curious about your writing regimen. You maintain a consistent blog, as well as your fiction and non fiction output, plus I see you ‘round the traps’ on the promo loops all the time. Do you ever sleep?

I write full-time. Right now, in an effort to get ahead of my schedule, I’m doing fifteen hour days -- that’s including the email and blogging and promo stuff. Currently, I try to do about five thousand words of fiction a day. It’s not healthy -- I’ll be the first to admit that -- and I can’t keep it up indefinitely.

I sleep erratically, as a matter of fact -- which does help. When I can’t sleep, I work.

14. Is JGraeme an alter-ego or the real JL?

Let me put it this way. Regardless of the name, you are getting the real thoughts, opinions, and experiences of the writer known as “Josh Lanyon.”

15. Good to know! Okay, I often ask gay writers what gay movies and TV shows they like. I am curious since you have a hectic work schedule and you’re sneaking sleep, do you have any guilty pleasures, gay and otherwise?

My new secret vice is Irish coffee in the morning -- I assume that’ll change in the warm weather. I watch very little TV, although I like a good scary movie -- or a good film noir. Gay film…I saw a French film called The Adventures of Felix yesterday (I confess to taking a sick day). Very sweet flick and I recommend it. I would dearly love to see more gay mystery and suspense like the Donald Strachey mysteries on here!

16. You have a reading/editing service for other writers…I am curious if you are reading any material that really stands out…I read screenplays as I mentioned…but have found when coverage is sent to the writer themselves (for a script service I work for) they go berserk if I point out plot problems, typos etc. Have you found this to be true too?

I think there’s a perception that I’m going to be a sarcastic hard ass, and so clients often seem surprised -- and relieved -- that I’m actually not that brutal when they’re paying me. As a matter of fact I can be tactful and even kind. I do think there’s always a temptation for beginning writers to want to explain why they’ve made the choices they have as if they could sort of talk me into believing it all actually works if I just….squint my eyes.

17. Great answer, Josh. Whip them, as the saying goes, with lettuce leaves...One final question…you were in California for the Prop 8 catastrophe. Do you think Gay marriage will one day be legal in our state?

I do. It’s only a matter of time, which is why stumbling blocks like Prop 8 are so infuriating. This last election -- it wasn’t an accurate picture of how most Californians feel. There were variables in that voter turn-out -- and while I don’t want to blast any demographic, in general I think Californians are a little more informed and sophisticated on this issue than those particular results would lead one to believe.
On behalf of Dark Diva Reviews, I’d like to thank Josh Lanyon for his time (and giving up some valuable sleeping time) to talk to us today. To learn more about this incredibly talented author, please visit his links:


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