MM: Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing ZA Maxfield, one of the great authors in gay romantic fiction. Thank you for joining us today. So tell me, how long have you been writing?
ZA: I have been writing all my life. That’s pretty typical of writers, we play with words when we’re kids, we take the creative writing option instead of the essay option for those little reports we have to write. But I’ve been writing with a career in mind since 2007.
MM: What is your favorite subgenre to write?
ZA:I love to write the subgenre of m/m “romance”. Is that sub enough? I would say that contemporary, m/m romance, with a humorous twist probably best describes the kinds of stories I tell, although I have dabbled in paranormal -- vampires and psychics -- and mystery. (My mysteries can best be described “romantic suspense”)
MM: I see. Is there one that you haven’t tried that you see yourself doing in the future?
ZA: I would absolutely LOVE to write a cozy mystery, a la Agatha Christie. There are some who deride that kind of novel, but I really enjoy them and my daughter and late mother thrived on them. I guess I feel like I want to write something I know my mom would have loved to read…
MM: That's awesome. So here is an interesting question for you. I’m of the opinion that erotica doesn’t have to be real all the time to make a good story, what are your thoughts?
ZA:Great erotica isn’t real at all, in my humble opinion. In great erotica, no one is inside their head thinking, I wonder if I should have shaved my legs? No one is self-conscious, everything works, no surface leaves bruises on your back, gravity doesn’t seem to work effectively, cause no one falls down or off of something and everyone can keep going over and over like energizer bunnies.
My life’s not like that. If yours is, please don’t tell me. :D
MM: *laughs* It's not, no worries. Who are the authors that you look up to?
ZA: There are so many it’s hard to say. I really admire Lillian Hellman and Joan Didion. Both of them exhibit a kind of naked emotional bravery that I admire very much. Dickens, Twain, P.G. Wodehouse, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaimon, Christopher Isherwood. Mary Renault. Playwrights William Shakespeare, Noel Coward, George S. Kaufman, Tennessee Williams, Peter Schaffer, and Mary Chase.
J.K. Rowling. I love the Harry Potter series so much. People can say what they want about popular writers, yet I love a good story, something that keeps me glued to the series and puts me first in line to buy the next books in the series because I HAVE to know what happened. I like to be entertained.
MM: Me too. So, what are you working on now?
ZA: Right now I’m finishing up a novel called “Rhapsody For Piano And Ghosts”, which is a ghost-facilitated love story for Loose Id and I’m beginning St. Nacho’s Four.
MM: Very cool. How about when you create your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?
ZA: I use traits I admire in the people around me but very, very rarely real people. The odd thing is, when I make people up they seem more real to readers. (I literally borrowed one of my daughter’s friends, a teenage computer hacker for ePistols At Dawn and a few readers said he was the most unrealistic character in the book.)
MM: As an M/M writer, do you feel that the trend is changing where it is becoming more mainstream?
ZA: I hope so. I’d like to think so. My instinct was always to create a traditional romantic story (like the thousands of het romance novels I’d read) whose characters just happen to be two men who fall in love. That hasn’t changed. I’m not planting a flag or anything. If I get them right, if they ring true, people should see them a mainstream stories, because falling in love is something that can happen to anyone.
MM: I agree. Here's another for you. Recently, a writer sabotaged her career by answering a bad review on a blog. How would you have handled this and do you think authors should answer their reviews?
ZA: I just talked about this on my yahoo group this morning. I’ve only once answered a reader on a review, and it was an Amazon review where the reader said something about a plot twist that I knew I hadn’t written. I wanted to apologize for not making myself -- and my language -- clear enough, because I’d actually received several notes asking the same question. That was a while ago. I doubt I would do that now…well, I know I wouldn’t.
Reader/reviewer opinion is exactly that, and I don’t have a right to argue. I would prefer that reviewers remember there are feelings involved, but it’s not my job to censor someone else.
Bad reviews hurt but that’s why God made chocolate and booze.
I do, however, try to always thank a reviewer BEFORE I read the review, if I’m notified that there will be a review so that my heartfelt gratitude for their time (and I truly am grateful whenever someone reads my books) isn’t subsumed by whatever I feel after I read the review. :D
MM: That is the right approach. Do you think it’s time for publishers to begin calling gay fiction/erotica what it is instead of m/m? Why or why not?
ZA: What I write can best be considered romance, the genre, rather than gay fiction, although I see what you’re saying. I’m a genre writer. I aspire to a more midlist, mainstream audience, yet essentially, I tell genre stories. But yes. I think labeling it with that “m/m” aligns it with everything that is labeled m/m including slash fic and fan fic, and there are some really, really powerful, literary writers out there who are just first rate writers and therefore a cut above. As far as I’m concerned, they’re mislabeled as m/m or “genre” writers and deserve a more fitting title.
MM: As a fellow fem in the genre, what is your stance on the difference between male and female gay writers?
ZA: I recently attended a story seminar where this much vaunted, curmudgeon of a writing guru just blasted the idea that men or women need to write a certain type of work because they’re genetically male or female. He signed my copy of his book “Write The Truth”, and I’m taking that as permission to dig into my heart and my mind and find whatever characters are living there, male or female, to create and claim and defend. I defy anyone to tell me that’s not how every writer has done it since the beginning of time.
MM: Great answer! I read a blog about M/M writer’s losing their imagination because they are writing the same subjects repeatedly, what are your thoughts? http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/?p=42883
ZA: I think there are some staples in romantic fiction that aren’t told differently enough by different people. There are great writers who will always stand out, and the list on Wave’s website is very strong. I also think there are some people who enjoy reading exactly the same kind of story each and every time (or else why would Barbara Cartland be Barbara Cartland?) and we can’t – we really shouldn’t -- be snobs.
For example: I can’t get enough historical romances with a clumsy bluestocking not-so-heiress, maybe a little too long on the shelf, who doesn’t know her worth, and some gorgeous, amoral, yet tender Earl or something who is determined to prove she’s worth EVERYTHING to him.
It doesn’t get more cliché than that, yet I will read everything with that premise, and I’ll probably enjoy it.
Reading is fundamentally a very personal, private thing. And I would hate to make the lovers of insta-love, or gay for you, or stalkers feel like they just aren’t worth writing a book for. What I see as the problem is not that list of so-called overused tropes, which -- by the way – because they’re overused represent almost all of the books, the films, the televisions shows I see whether in m/m or anywhere else, but the lack of imagination to take those tropes to newer, fresher, and more surprising places. There aren’t that many plots in the world. So the problem isn’t overused themes but under-imaginative writing.
MM: Agreed. What is it about M/M that pleasures you to write it?
ZA: Oh, I think I’ll always like the exact moment in a story where the characters are experiencing a breathless, dizzy, falling feeling, when they realize they’re in love and it’s hopeless and whoosh! There they go!
It’s not unlike the precise moment when sexual climax is a foregone conclusion. It’s flooding one’s senses, tipping over one’s perceptual boat. It’s utterly unstoppable, even if one’s parents or the police were to walk in. Don’t ask how I know this. Just trust that I do…
It’s not so much m/m that brings this. It’s romance. Telling a great honest love story brings me unimaginable pleasure.
MM: So, where can we find you on the web?
ZA: I’m always available at my yahoo group, and my email addy, and I enjoy hearing from readers. My URLs are as follows.
I’m ZAMaxfield at facebook (Be sure and go there to “like” my page) and @zamaxfield on twitter.
MM: Thank you for taking the time to spend with us today ZA and continued success on your work.
ZA: Thank you so very much for having me! :D
All Stirred Up
Sequel to Stirring Up Trouble
April 2011 Release
Manlove Romance Press
Buy @ http://www.mlrbooks.com/
After Brendan and his mother witness a completely random tragedy, his carefully controlled life begins to fall apart. First he has nightmares and panic attacks, then he loses focus in his daily life. His board of directors insists he undergo rehab at a so-called "relaxation destination" and to make matters worse, they've hired newly minted psychiatrist, Dr. Dirk Melovitch, to accompany him.
Dirk, whose job it is to help Brendan learn to relax, walks into the lobby of Brendan's hotel wearing a borrowed suit with an attitude that rubs Brendan the wrong way from the moment they meet. They head for the airport and their carefully planned itinerary goes out the window, one small setback at a time.
From the airports of New York and Dallas, to the long, lonely highways of Texas and an upscale rehab destination in Santa Fe, Brendan and Dirk each try to gain the upper hand until both find out that it's not just life that can get a guy All Stirred Up.
What a fantastic interview and blurb from one of the greats. I really look forward to reading ZA soon. She is one of the most respected in the genre.I wish her continued success.
Thanks so much for joining me and see you tomorrow for the infamous WOW.