By Mark McNease
Welcome to another ‘6 Questions,’ a recurring feature here that allows me to bring you a variety of interesting people, their lives, accomplishments and perspectives. If you’re familiar with gay mysteries or M/M romance, you’ll be no stranger to the name Josh Lanyon. As successful as he is prolific, Josh has amassed a legion of fans for his books. His most recent, The Boy with the Painful Tattoo, is available now. I was delighted when Josh agreed to answer a few questions and provide a glimpse into his life as a working writer. – Mark McNease/Editor
“I think writing is not just a job. It’s a state of being.”
– Josh Lanyon
MM: How and why did you get into the mystery genre?
JL: I grew up reading mysteries. I was reading Agatha Christie and Rex Stout before I was in my teens, so it was probably inevitable I’d eventually turn to writing mysteries. It just didn’t feel like enough was happening in a story if at least one person wasn’t dead by the first fifty pages. I still sort of feel that way, to be honest.
MM: Your first book was published in 2000. That’s not a terribly long time ago. What was your experience having your first book come out? Did you always anticipate a second?
JL: Well, actually my first book came out in 1984. And that does feel like a while ago. But my first mystery was Fatal Shadows and that came out in 2000, yes. The thing is, I always took it for granted that I would be earning my living as a writer, and I was young enough that I was just completely blasé when my first book was published. Even when Fatal Shadows came out I was sort of… Hm. Great. Check that off the list. Next?
I don’t believe I really appreciated being “an author” until the internet and social media.
MM: You’re a prolific writer. Do you write every day, hours a day? What’s your writing routine?
JL: I write almost every day and I aim for an average of about two thousand words a day. But that’s just an average. When I start a new story, two hundred words might be a good day, and by the end, four thousand words is not unusual. Also I usually take a couple of weeks off after I finish a story. Not least because when I’m deep into writing, it’s almost impossible for me to do anything else. I fall way behind on everything from email to buying groceries. So I need a little time to regroup once a book is finished.
I went through a period of extreme burnout a couple of years ago, and what that taught me was even when the job is creative—maybe particularly when the job is creative—you have to take time to refill the well. So now I try to take planned vacations—and leave the computer at home.
MM: You have a very large fan base. How do you interact with them? Goodreads, I know, but how else? Does it present any pressures you on?
JL: I used to feel very pressured. Nowadays I make life easier for myself by only interacting when and where I can also enjoy the interaction. So my Goodreads group, yes. And my Facebook pages, my blog, email, occasionally Twitter—though mostly I use Twitter for announcements—and I’ll participate irregularly in a few online groups. That’s about it. I don’t do many interviews or chats anymore. You can definitely wear yourself—and your readers—out by trying to be everywhere at once. I think that it’s paramount to keep the interaction with readers genuine and meaningful, and to me that means not trying to be everything to everybody.
Even so, even cutting back, I still can’t keep up with my email.
MM: What do you think of the changes in the publishing landscape (eBooks, audiobooks, self-publishing)?
JL: It’s a very different world from when I started out. A lot of the changes are terrific for writers. Small presses and self-publishing, especially since ebooks came along, have presented amazing opportunities for all of us. But it’s also created a little bit of a wild, wild west out there. Changes in technology have made it possible for anyone to turn out a professional-looking manuscript, but looks aren’t everything, and there are no shortcuts for learning one’s craft. Also I think this brave new publishing world has created a lot of false expectations. Because along with all these wonderful opportunities in publishing has come a LOT more competition. A writer today is competing with legacy publishing, self-publishing and everything available in public domain.
So this is an exciting time—DIY audio books, how amazing is that?!—but it’s also a challenging time. And everything is in flux and is going to continue that way for the foreseeable future.
MM: If Josh Lanyon stopped writing tomorrow, would you be fine with that, and what else would you do?
JL: No. I can’t say I would be fine with that. Well, I might stop publishing, but I can’t imagine not writing. I could see writing other things though, maybe even eventually moving onto non-fiction. The thing is, even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking of writing—I look at a sunset and think of how I would describe it—I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else for a living at this point. And even if I didn’t have to earn a living, I still write for my own pleasure. So…no. Unless someone wants to pay me to read!