1. Tell us about your latest published book and your current writing project.
L.A. Heat is being reissued this month. This is a revised edition with some significant changes which I think make a stronger story. Following that soon will be L.A. Boneyard, the first full length Chris and David novel after L.A. Heat. My current working project is a novel I’m calling The Forest of Corpses, which is the second in a new series about a Santa Barbara homicide detective and his unexpected love affair with Jason Zachary. This series is quite a departure for me, since it involves the BDSM world where Alexander Spider, the cop is a dom and Jason is his too eager submissive. The first book in that series is titled The Geography of Murder
2. How did Detective David Laine of L. A. Heat first come to you?
David came to me through my love of author Jonathan Kellerman’s Milo Sturgis. I loved reading about Milo and it got me thinking about the whole world of gay cops and what they face in their work lives. I wanted to write a mystery set in Los Angeles, since I lived there for 8 years and knew the milieu was ripe with story ideas. The thing that had always struck me about Hollywood in general and the gay community in particular was the love affair they have with image. The way people worship beauty. And I wanted to play with that. What if there was a man who didn’t fit that mold who through circumstances was thrown together with one of those ‘beautiful’ people and they fell in love? Could it work? What would the dynamics be like? I wanted to explore that, and throw the added dynamic of one of them – Chris, the beautiful one – having money as well. David grew up with money (that’s another story) but as a cop lives modestly, so there’s a constant clash when Chris wants to spend money on him and he can’t reciprocate.
3. In the L. A. series, you write about a dark world. How do you keep from being depressed in your non-writing life?
My books may be dark, and some of my characters downright nasty, but I think my protagonists are all essentially good people, even when they’re on the wrong side of the law or walk on the edge of it like the cop Spider in The Geography of Murder does. And for the most part my stories all have happy endings, even if the happiness is relative and may very well not last. I guess I’m the type who always sees the light at the end of the tunnel and doesn’t see an oncoming train. I think part of it comes from being very ill a couple of years ago, to the point where I’ve been told I almost died. It gives you a very different perspective on life to know you almost lost it, especially just as you were achieving your goal. As it turned out my best books hadn’t been written yet.
4. You also write erotica. What fun! What is the most difficult aspect of writing in that genre?
I’d say the most difficult thing is, because I write about gay men sexually is getting it right. I don’t want to write a female fantasy, though I’m well aware that a lot of the readers of gay male erotica are women, I still write in my head for the men. Nothing pleases me more than hearing from readers who thinks I succeeded. I don’t mind providing a one-handed read!
5. Describe a typical writing day for you.
I wake up early. Sometimes as early as 4 or 5 am. I rarely get to bed before 1 am. (I suffer a lot of insomnia, especially when a book is going well) Even on days the writing isn’t going well I still spend several hours in front of my laptop. I recently wrote an entire 72,000 word book (The Geography of Murder) in 3 weeks, the entire thing being critiqued as I wrote, basically revised on the run. I don’t think I slept more than 3 or 4 hours a night during that binge. I think it turned out very well. There was extensive rewriting on it, of course, but all my books are as much rewritten as written.
6. Authors must promote. What has been your most unique promotion?
One day I was in the Toronto airport making a flight to the US. When I passed through the US customs portal the guy who checked over my passport asked what I was traveling for. I told him I was heading for a mystery writer’s conference. He was so intrigued he actually looked me up online right there, knew my name, the name of my book, even that it was a gay mystery. He actually told me he’d have to pick up a copy. I offered him one, but of course he couldn’t take gifts. I would love to know if he actually does read the book and what he thought of it. Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll get an email from a US custom’s officer. Wouldn’t that be a trip?
That they not only read and love my books, but that they will reread them. Actually, just getting an email from a reader saying they like my work is exciting and gratifying.
8. Who or what organization has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
I don’t think it was a person or organization so much as coming within inches of dying 2 years ago. I was literally on death’s door and frankly there’s a period of about 4 months which I have almost no memory of, which from what I’ve been told, is probably a good thing. But it gave me a stark awareness of my mortality and the fact that if I want to do something I need to do it now, not in some future place. So I have taken my writing far more seriously and devote almost all my time to it. It’s paid off too. I have at least 8 books and novellas under contract to MLR Press, and another 3 published or going to be published by Bristlecone Pine Press. It took me 40 years to get L.A. Heat published in 2006. Over that time period I wrote something like 7 books, all of them science fiction except one romance novel. None of them sold, but all proved to me I was a writer. I never thought I’d write mysteries – I was convinced I couldn’t write intricate plots. But I tried it anyway. Now I have something like a dozen mysteries, plus a handful of published erotica stories. I don’t know if I would have been this productive if I had stayed healthy and employed full time. I’ll never know, I guess.
9. What part of the craft of writing has improved since your first book?
I think my plotting has improved. I find my books are growing deeper and more complex in many ways. I don’t believe in writing books that are thinly disguised messages, but I also like to give my books a social conscience, mostly in the form of positive gay characters who are just like anyone else, except they are gay.
Sadly my health has forced me to give up my pets, so right now I have none. I don’t know if I’ll ever get well enough to care for a dog again, and dogs are my favorite. Especially big dogs.
12. What is your favorite southern travel spot?
11. Chat about your pets – we love those, too.