My friend and one-time Reuters colleague, Martin Langfield, tagged me to join “The Writing Process Blog Hop.” In addition to me, Martin also tagged D. J. McIntosh, author of two historical thrillers set in contemporary times against the backdrop of the Iraq War. Martin is the British author of two genre-bending thrillers about alchemy, time and loss, “The Malice Box” and “The Secret Fire.” Young adults around the world especially like his work.
At the end of this post I’ll tag two more authors: Dominic Ambrose and Michael Broder. You can read about them and find links to their work below.
1. What am I working on?
I’m currently writing the fourth Kyle Callahan Mystery, ‘Death by Pride.’ It’s also the third book in ‘the Pride Trilogy’, after Murder at Pride Lodge and Pride and Perilous. I needed a break after the first two, so I wrote the third book as more of a whodunit, with the character of Detective Linda Sikorsky in the lead, and set in rural New Jersey. Linda is in all the books and has become Kyle’s partner in crime solving. It’s not as confusing as it sounds.
The other big thing I’ll be doing is writing a “straight” (ie, not a gay mystery), darker suspense novel under the pen name Marshall James, which is a variation on my birth name. It will allow me to be a bit more literary, dark, and with an appeal to a much broader audience – if I’m able to find them (or they to find me).
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Much, if not most, of what’s called M/M fiction (male for male) is now written by women (almost all of whom insist on using initials instead of their first names, go figure). And most of what is written by men, whether M/M romance or mysteries, centers on young characters who look good naked and spend a significant amount of their time that way. Hustlers-turned-sleuths, hot cops with hot boyfriends, so on and so forth. I wanted to write a series that featured older characters (I’ll be 56 this year) and did not rely on sex as a selling point. I also wanted to write a damn good mystery series! The books are intended to be fun reads, fairly fast, and to engage the readers with colorful characters and storylines that don’t need to stop for a shower and a rubdown. I have no shame in saying that ‘Murder, She Wrote’ is an influence.
3. Why do I write what I do?
That depends on which writing we’re talking about. I write the mysteries because they’re fun, they’re in a niche that allows me to sell books (if you do a search on Amazon for “gay mystery” or “gay mysteries” I’m consistently in the top 10). I also write them because the characters’ lives parallel my own. I can keep writing them as I get older and the characters age with me (I can already see a book titled, ‘The Big Six-Oh: A Kyle Callahan Mystery’).
I spent most of my fiction writing life writing ‘literary fiction’ that nobody bought and very few people read. My plans for the book under the name Marshall James will allow me to delve more into a literary mode (a vague term, I know) but still have me writing a gritty, urban suspense novel.
I write because I love to write and have been doing it consistently since my teen years or earlier. Writing is magical for me, it takes me into a ‘zone’ where my imagination ignites. And that’s why I keep doing it.
4. How does my writing process work?
I’m one of those writer who writes at the same time every day and has for decades. Always in the morning, and always very early. In part this is because I need silence and I have that at 5:00 a.m. I don’t use outlines for short stories, but need them for novels. However, my outlines are more like sketches. I don’t want too much detail in an outline because part of the thrill for me is discovery: I don’t want to know exactly where the story and the characters will take me in today’s writing session. But writing a novel can be like steering a ship: it’s massive and the waters are filled with dangers. So I tend to do some character work, then storyline, then map out three or four chapters at a time and write them. I always know my ending, and I like to have a title from the beginning, even if I change it later on.
Frankly, I don’t think a book (at least not the kind I write) needs years to write and dozens of re-writes. First draft, second draft, polish, and that’s it. I think writers can become self-indulgent and use their ‘process’ as an excuse to never finish the book. Just write the damn thing!
I don’t have ‘beta readers’. I give the manuscript to one or two people, and that’s it. I now consider it my job to entertain readers, rather than to impress myself with my own abilities as a wordsmith and philosopher. And guess what … the readers pay me. It may not be much, but at my age and after many years of writing, it’s a glorious thing to have a readership.
And now, please meet two more authors …
Dominic Ambrose is a native New Yorker with a love for his city and for the world far beyond it. This dual interest is reflected in his choices as an author with his three novels featuring very diverse settings. Nickel Fare is set in NYC in the 1970s; The Shriek and the Rattle of Trains is set in Romania in the 1990s and Tzoquito, a fantasy novel takes place in Mexico.
As a stimulus to his writing and a focus of his research he has begun several blogs, … but then continually challenges himself to maintain them. Here is a link to his main blog Blogblot.
I was born in Freeport, New York, in 1961. I have a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University, an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, and a PhD in Classics from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. My poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in BLOOM, Court Green, Columbia Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Classical World, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies This New Breed, My Diva, Divining Divas, Rabbit Ears, and Ancient Obscenities. I have taught at Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Queens College, York College, and the Graduate Center, all of which are campuses of the City University of New York, as well as at Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ) and The University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC). I live in Brooklyn with my lawfully wedded spouse, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and numerous cats, both feral and domestic. My first book of poems, This Life Now, is out now this winter from A Midsummer Night’s Press.