Bring the Love is the exciting new m/m anthology with eleven stories from nine authors! The stories feature men who reclaim lost love, men who find themselves in the love of another man, and men who defy oppression for the sake of love.
This is one part of a three part interview with most of the authors whose work is included in Bring the Love anthology. Visit the Bring the Love Blog Tour page during the last week of June 25-30 for links to the other two parts of the interview, behind the scenes pieces on the stories, and giveaways of print and ebook versions of the book!
Bring the Love Authors Interview – Part 2 of 3
Since Slow Surrender is a contemporary romance, real-world issues do play a role. In this case, the backdrop of the story is intra-community issues around gender norms and presentation, the tension between “femme” and “masc.” My exploration of these issues is grounded in the characters and how they navigate their lives and relationships. The devaluation of feminine traits within the gay community makes Lucas’s dating life more difficult and is part of the reason why he’s wary of getting into relationships. When I bring in real-world topics, I want to do so in a way that feels natural and makes the characters come to life.
I live in the south, so for me everything is connected to religion and politics. It’s the way I’m wired, I suppose. Political changes (often cloaked in religiosity) have the potential to throw gay lives into chaos or peril at a moment’s notice. I watched LGBT rights (housing, employment, adoption, civil unions, anti-discrimination, etc) voted in and out of local law several times here during the 90s. The legal battles were vicious, public, and divisive and (as in most places) they hinged on small numbers of votes. This volatility is frightening and it’s become one of the central themes of my life as a gay man and my work.
It isn’t something I tend to deal with ‘head on’—it’s rare I’ll feature a character having to manage homophobic family members or colleagues, for instance, as a key part of the plot. It may come up in the background or as an aspect of how characters behave— Jimmy, for example, doesn’t come on to Tom right away because he isn’t sure how Tom will react. I think it’s important to acknowledge the real-world issues when you’re using a contemporary setting, especially in longer fiction, but I think, as a het female writer, I would be over-reaching to make it too prominent, because the commentary I could offer is limited.
There’s a great piece of advice about writing floating around that says you can write a character that is gay/disabled/a person of color/etc even if you are not any of those things, but what you shouldn’t do is try to write that character’s experience as gay/disabled, etc. Obviously, homophobia is a big issue for gay people and discrimination is a universal issue, so while I don’t try to write someone else’s experience, I think it’s important to represent the real life issues and how they affect people, especially relationships to others.
My stories are pure fiction that take place in a world created in my imagination. I generally keep my work out of the real world and our real world problems.
It varies from story to story. I start with characters before issues. When I think about the characters I’m creating, I think about whether or not real-world issues would be a useful way to tell their story. That’s often something I like to incorporate, but not always.
I try to engage very directly with such issues. I never want a gay male reader to think I’ve deliberately ignored the hardships he still faces when it comes to simply having a relationship.
In Designated Driver, for example, I explored gay male insecurities, like the fear of being seen as effeminate. A fear instilled by mainstream culture to the point where even openly gay men can feel pressured to assert their masculinity. Such men will reject, sometime violently, anyone who threatens their macho reputation.
I tackle real-world issues head on. AIDS, homophobia, transphobia, homelessness, prostitution, conversion therapy, struggles with a lack of marriage equality, child abuse, rape, molestation, mental illness, incest, loss, and the search for a voice in a world that only wants to silence difference are some of the issues I’ve touched on in my work.
As both a reader and a writer, real-world issues are what grab me. They make me feel like a story is really vital and relevant for readers, so I specifically look to incorporate them in my work. Sometimes I’ll shape an entire story around one key issue, just so I can dive deep into it to get to explore the devastation and turmoil it causes in relatable, normal people who could easily be us or someone we know. I look for fiction to be eye-opening and mind-expanding. I want it to challenge and make readers uncomfortable. It should rip at the heart and twist expectations upside-down or inside-out.
To find Parts 1 & 3 of the Bring the Love Authors Interview, see the Bring the Love Blog Tour page!