Q: Why do you write fiction?
A: Because it is a creative act in which one can exert a great deal of control. So often, in real life, our options seem to be limited by external forces beyond our control. But in fiction the writer is that omnipotent external force: he determines who a character is, what a character does, what choices a character makes. We literally have the power of life and death over our creations.
Q: How did you get your start as a writer?
A: As a horny, impecunious teenager, writing “true confessions” stories and pornography. And yes, I did it for the money. This was back in the “manual typewriter and carbon paper” era; contrary to a malicious rumor, the printing press had already been invented.
Q: Does your fiction reflect your own experiences?
A: Only in the sex scenes. (I’m exaggerating, of course.) The true answer is: not directly. I’ve noticed, though, that virtually all of the M/M books I’ve written, recently deal, to at least some extent, with bereavement, loss, or disappointment of some sort. Writing them serves a therapeutic function, as I work through these feelings along with my characters.
Q: Do you write with a specific audience in mind?
A: As a gay man, I write from a gay male perspective. I believe one of the reasons we turn to fiction in the first place is to experience, vicariously, lives that might be very different from our own. With that said, I’m still intrigued by the fact that such a large portion of the M/M romance readership consists of women. (And so many women are drawn to the genre, as writers.) And I’m curious about whether many straight men read the genre. If so, I’d love to hear from some of them. I’d like to know what goes through their minds when they read one of my books!
Q: As a writer of M/M fiction, what do you think you bring to the table?
A: I believe my books are edgier and more sexually explicit than some. My characters tend to be fundamentally decent but imperfect individuals, who are trying to wrest a little happiness out of life. They are pragmatists who recognize the necessity of compromise. They enjoy sex, and may not insist upon monogamy, but they do know the difference between sex and love. Love, when it comes, often takes them by surprise (and scares them off, at first) because they’d stopped hoping to find it. Although my stories contain elements of melodrama and fantasy, they are generally grounded in realism.
Q: Some of the sex scenes in your books are kind of gritty. Are you kinky?
A: Very. As I warned one editor, “It wouldn’t be a Roland Graeme book if it didn’t contain at least one episode with a little kink.”
Q: Do you feel any pressure to be politically correct?
A: I don’t censor myself when I write, although obviously I don’t want to offend anybody. And editors are very good at pointing out anything that might be misconstrued. I think most readers are sophisticated enough not to confuse an author with his characters. In other words, if a character says or does something that might be considered to be in poor taste, or displays poor judgment in his behavior or choices, that is part of the characterization; it’s not necessarily indicative of the author’s own personality and beliefs. On a related note, I am a firm believer in safe sex. Yes, things can get a little wild in some of my sex scenes, but that’s the fantasy or exaggerated element. In my books with contemporary settings, the characters always use condoms. An historical novel with any pretenses to realism is almost by its very nature “pre-condom,” by contrast. Again, I believe that most readers understand this distinction, and don’t insist that the characters in a piece of period fiction behave with the kind of responsibility we should exercise now. Or have access to the kind of prophylactic technology that simply didn’t exist, at the time.
Q: What do you enjoy most about fiction writing?
A: Those rare moments when the characters and events do seem to take on a life of their own, and you write almost without conscious input. You just “know” that a character would say or do a certain thing, or react in a certain way, because the character has become so real to you.
Q: What you enjoy least about fiction writing?
A: It can be a rather lonely occupation. No doubt there are writers who discuss work in progress with their friends or significant others, but I am not one of them. From the moment I get the idea for a book to the moment the MS is ready to be submitted to a publisher, it’s just me and the computer, and the cat. And the cat can’t type!
Q: How do you deal with rejections from publishers?
A: I’ve been in this business long enough to have developed a fairly thick skin. When an editor takes the time and trouble to explain why a MS didn’t suit the publisher’s needs, or to offer constructive criticism, a smart writer pays attention because the editor is usually right. You’re never too old to learn, or to improve.
Q: You seem to be a reasonably well-educated man. Are you a literary snob?
A: I hope not. I’ve always been an omnivorous reader, who will pick up just about anything in print and give it a try. I admit to having a Ph.D.; my academic specialties are nineteenth-century fiction, and English and Italian literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am reasonably fluent in Italian, French, German, and Latin. I love classical music, especially opera, and have published classical music criticism. I am an enthusiastic (though lousy) amateur musician, myself. None of this has ever prevented me from getting “down and dirty,” so to speak, either in my fiction writing or in my private life. I don’t live in some sort of an intellectual ivory tower. I enjoy down to earth things, and purely escapist entertainment, as much as the next person.
Q: What kinds of stories would you like to attempt in the near future?
A: I would like to try my hand at a science fiction book, because I have never done one. Also, I have written heterosexual and bisexual fiction, lots of it in the past, and I would like to do so again, just to prove I haven’t lost my touch. I love the basic idea of one strong, independent woman being involved in relationships with several men simultaneously. (“Been there, done that,” as they say; so you go, girl!)
Q: What’s the strangest criticism anyone has ever made about your work?
A: That the characters in my M/M books all have nice bodies, large penises, and unusual (sexual) staying power. To which my response is, “So, you want to read about guys who possess attributes that are the exact opposite? Is that what you’re telling me?”
Q: If you could write your own M/M romance “in real life,” with yourself as the protagonist, what would it be like?
A: No publisher would dare to print it; we’d be faced with obscenity charges. But it might go something like this: A certain porno actor (oh, you know who you are!) decides he’s had enough of his hedonistic lifestyle, with its glamour, fame, fortune, the adulation of countless men, etc. He gives all that up, to go live with the poor but honest writer Roland Graeme in a cabin in the woods. No, in a cottage on the seashore. No, in a rundown villa in the Italian countryside. No, in a mobile home in a trailer park--where doesn’t really matter. (Okay, so far this sounds like a gay version of La Traviata.)
Roland’s meek, gentlemanly exterior conceals (barely) the heart and soul of a dedicated, uninhibited, filthy sex pig. (Now it’s beginning to sound more like a typical Roland Graeme novel!) When the retired porno star isn’t taking dictation from Roland and typing out his manuscripts for him on the laptop’s keyboard, the two of them enjoy a ménage à trois with a lumberjack. No, a tattooed sailor. No, an Italian cop. No, a tattooed and pierced biker. The porn studio offers the actor a (small) fortune to make a comeback. He accepts, over Roland’s objections, but only so he can make enough money so Roland can quit his day job and write M/M fiction full time. Roland, thinking his lover has abandoned him, consoles himself by indulging in lots and lots of meaningless, purely physical sex with other men (as though he needs an excuse!) and then writing all about it. Once the two lovers iron out this little misunderstanding, they celebrate their passionate reunion by inviting the lumberjack, the sailor, the cop, and the biker to join them in an orgy. (Wait a minute. Now that I think of it, I believe I’ve already written this one, or something a lot like it!)
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