Friday, July 1, 2011

Welcome Rachael Haimowitz

Greetings fans!

Welcome to the first day of July here at Michael's.

We are back to regularly scheduled programming with guests on Mon, Wed, Thursday in most cases but today, I have a special lady on so I opened my door for her.

Rachael Haimowitz has a new book coming out today. (at left) 

I love the cover and she is doing a give away to one lucky commenter.

Please enjoy her interview and stayed tuned for more posts by me later on after 6pm tonight. We'll have numbers, winner congrats and the recap of the best moment in Taboo  history!

How long have you been writing?

For pretty much as long as I can remember. I was six when I wrote my first story—it was about a killer ceiling fan that came unmoored and chased a family through the house and down the street. Not everyone made it. In retrospect, I’m kind of shocked my parents didn’t send me to therapy after that J

What made you decide that you wanted to put yourself out there to publish?

I’ve been working around writing for a long time—first as a copyeditor, then a developmental editor, both freelance and in mainstream publishing. I loved and still love doing that work, but I really wanted to be focusing on my own writing, not on other people’s. And since paying the bills was also important, I had to try to publish if I wanted to make writing my primary focus. I’m so grateful it’s gone as well as it has.

Before you started, had you done any fanfiction? If so, what fandom?

Yep. That’s actually where I first discovered the concept of M/M romance. After that, there was no looking back for me—I don’t even read het anymore, let alone write it. I started where many my age did: in X-Men with Mulder/Krycek.

Are you in agreement that writing fanfiction is a great way to practice ones craft, why or why not?

Yes and no. I mean, on the one hand, the more you practice, the better you’ll get, no matter what you’re writing. Certainly you can improve mechanics while writing fanfiction, and because the passion for the fandom is often so strong and there are so many supportive readers waiting to devour your fic, that helps to keep you motivated while learning what it takes to write longer works.

On the other hand, fanfiction comes with a lot of crutches. The characters and the worlds are all fully developed, so you don’t have to do any of that work. And that shows a lot in writers who first move from fanfic to original fic; they forget that they have to do the character building and worldbuilding on the page now, because in fanfic they didn’t. It’s like spending years and years honing a really bad habit, and it’s hard to break. At least, it was for me. The other potential negative in fanfic is that the communities can be so warm and welcoming and nonjudgmental (well, okay, not all of them are like that, but the ones I was in sure were!) that you get a lot of clapping and cheering for work that often doesn’t deserve it. You don’t get a lot of genuine concrit, which makes it very hard to grow and improve. And sometimes I think you can get maybe a little too confident in writing that’s frankly not very strong because so many people are praising it, and that can make you stagnate—not to mention completely skew your expectations.

Wow, didn’t mean to write a whole essay about this J But despite the potential negatives, I think fanfiction is a wonderful birthing ground for writers.

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?

I think it depends what kind of story you want to tell. If you’re writing a sexual fantasy, then no, I don’t think it needs to be “real” either. I mean, I expect the things people do to be physically possible (like, please don’t leave your submissive bound tightly for hours, or fist someone past your elbow), and I want the emotions to ring true given the circumstances. But I still think that leaves a lot of leeway, especially in the various speculative fiction genres where maybe magic or technology or mythical creatures might bring something wild and creative to the table (or, er, the bed). On the other hand, if you’re telling a story that’s otherwise very real, moving into the realm of fantastical sex can throw me right out of it. So, it’s all a matter of what services the story best.

What books are you reading at the moment? Its okay to give a fellow author a plug!

I’m slowly making my way through Aleksandr Voinov’s massive backlist. He’s an extremely gritty writer with a remarkable talent for making readers care about and root for morally ambiguous protagonists. I love how his stories are all so many shades of gray.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just wrapped up the first draft for Crescendo: Book II of Song of the Fallen, and will spend the next six or eight weeks buried in edits for it. I’m also working on a short for a Storm Moon Press anthology called The Weight of a Gun, which obviously focuses on gunplay in sexual situations. And I’m just beginning work on the sequel to Anchored: Belonging.

When creating your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?

By models, do you mean physically or personality-wise? I’m not a very visual person, so physically, I rarely have a picture of a character in my head while I’m writing, but when it comes time to fill out the cover art form, you usually need to go find some models for the artist. At that point I’ll pull from real people, though rarely do I look at a model or an actor or whatever and think, “That’s my character, whole cloth.” It has happened a couple times, though. Personality-wise, nearly all my characters are totally fictional, but of course even a totally fictional character is built from bits and pieces of all the other people who’ve ever floated in and out of your life—be they real, or be they TV or movie or book characters. You take a quirk here, a childhood memory there, mush them all together with some things you’ve only ever imagined, and boom, you have a character who hopefully suits the story and its needs perfectly.

If you write gay romance or erotica, just how descriptive are your in their sex scenes?

If a sex scene happens, it’s pretty frank and graphic; I don’t really believe in euphemisms or flowery language. But a lot of times, sex scenes simply fade to black. If I don’t see a way to make a sex scene add something legitimately new and interesting to either character or story development, then there’s no point in writing it. This isn’t porn—there’s no sex for sex’s sake.

What is your opinion as to why publishers only want to group all manlove stories under erotica? Do you feel this is a hindrance to our genre?

Not all publishers do that, certainly, but those who do are indeed doing a great disservice to our genre. Erotica implies both a certain level of explicitness and a focus on the sexual journey over all other considerations. I’ve written three novels, two novellas, and two collections of shorts in the M/M genre so far, and only two of those things—a BDSM-focused novella and its related collection of shorts—could even begin to be considered erotica. The rest I’d call erotic romance, by which I mean there is explicit sex, but the sexual journey is by no means the focus of the story. Heck, in Counterpoint—which is a 120,000-word novel, by the way—I think there are only three sex scenes, and the first one doesn’t happen until two-thirds of the way through the book. Why would a publisher ever call that “erotica”?

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?

Actually, no, because to me, “gay fiction” implies fiction about the experience of being gay. I hear “gay fiction” and I think “coming-out story” first and foremost, even though that’s admittedly a very narrow reaction and certainly doesn’t encompass the whole genre. But when I hear “M/M romance” or “M/M erotica,” I think, “Oh, that’s a story about two men either in or discovering a relationship with each other, but doesn’t focus on it being a gay relationship any more than the average M/F story focuses on it being a het relationship.” In other words, to me, M/M romance and M/M erotica involve stories where it’s just taken for granted—no big deal, not even a thing to be thought about or remarked upon—that the characters are gay. Whereas in gay fiction, the experience of being gay is the focus.

Of course, that’s just me. Others may think very differently about that. I’d be curious to hear from people about this in the comments.

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?

Oh god, just BE QUIET. It’s not gonna end well. It never does. Just let it go.

As a fellow fem in the genre, what is your stance on the difference between male and female gay writers?

To be honest, I find a truly offensive double-standard in this question. Nobody ever asks male writers how they can write a female character (or female writers how they can write a male character) in a het romance or in a non-romantic genre. So why should it be some giant mystery or thing that I’m not capable of just because I don’t have a penis when it comes to M/M romance? The fact is, writers write about things they haven’t experienced or lived all the time. If we only ever wrote what we know, there’d be no sci-fi, no fantasy, almost no mysteries or thrillers. A good writer is an excellent researcher and a diligent student of human nature. Male, female, it doesn’t matter. We’re not being ourselves when we write; we’re crawling into the well-observed, well-researched skins of other people, and the sex you are when you start that process just doesn’t matter at all.

What are your thoughts on the fact that some gay male writers discriminate against women?

I think it’s very unfortunate, and again, a terrible double-standard. That’d be like me discriminating against an effeminate gay writer who writes butch characters. It’d be like me saying, “How can he know what it’s like to be a bear? He isn’t one, he can’t ever be one.” Doesn’t mean he’s not perfectly capable of climbing into those shoes as a writer.

What is the major difference between male and female writers?

The plumbing?

Fun questions pick at least 3

Name two male celebs that you’d like to see in a hot make out session?

Michael Fassbender and Alex O’Loughlin. You so know Alex would be owning that ass.

Your favorite gay tv show or movie?

For the men in your books, commando or underwear?

LOL, depends on the character, but I’d say most of them wear underwear. My boys are generally pretty practical guys, and also pretty physical; they wouldn’t want the bits-n-pieces flapping in the breeze while they’re chasing (or running away from) bad guys.

Favorite character in one of your books?

This is a tough call between Ayden from Counterpoint and Cyke from Break and Enter (a cyberpunk action/adventure novella releasing December 2011 with Samhain). They both have a very sharp, sardonic sense of humor, and they’ve both isolated themselves unnecessarily from others. Cyke’s kind of hilarious because he curses so much that, when in doubt for dialog, just write “Fuck.” Which, honestly, gets to be pretty amusing from a writer’s perspective.

If you’ve watched gay porn, tell me your favorite movie and or star.

You know, it’s weird. I have definitely seen my share (and your share, and probably half my town’s share) of gay porn, but I can’t think of a single movie or star who stands out to me. Hmm, maybe I need to go back and watch some more . . .


Blurb for Where He Belongs:

The hottest name in network news is Daniel Halstrom. He is a sensation, a rising star. He is also a slave, owned wholly and completely by NewWorld Media. 

But before he was a star, he was a frightened child from a bad place with a promising, if limited, future ahead of him. In "The New Kid," young Daniel begins his schooling. Then, for a slave, the simple pleasure of a "Bathroom Break" is sometimes the only pleasure to be had. Later, Daniel doesn't know it, but "A Chance Encounter" might be the most important of his life. Next, in "Camera Obscura," one of Daniel's colleagues reflects on the fact that as much as the camera may show, it can hide even more. Finally, when you're a slave, "Independence Day" is just another day.
This collection of vignettes is set in the world of Anchored's "Belonging" universe, but it is not necessary to have read Anchored to enjoy them. 

Thanks so much for having me—this was quite the creative interview and I had a wonderful time J


Thanks you Rachel for being here. What a great interview and thank you for offering your book!

You make a lot of great points and nice choices on the male celebs.

Oh and IDK if you've watched more gay porn than me... Okay maybe, I digress!

Thanks so much again!

Readers, make sure you comment and stay tuned fir the recap of the Taboo Tens Month!


Rawiya said...

TY for being here Rachel!

Rachel Haimowitz said...

It was truly my pleasure--these were some very fun and thought-provoking questions!

Erica Pike said...

Hi Rachel,

You have very mature insights on gay romance. I enjoyed reading this interview and learned quite a bit.

I personally would like to see sellers split up the GLBT category - well, they can have it together as a head category, but it would be nice to have it split further into Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender. It's a simple html formatting matter. It would make things easier for people who are looking for just one of those. I mean, how are people who like to read Transgender, for example, supposed to find those few books among the vast numbers of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual?

Anyway, I really like the cover of your book. It's pretty. The story itself also sounds interesting. I've seen your other titles around.

Alex said...

Great interview.

While I'm not sure that calling it "gay fiction" is the answer, I feel like limiting it to M/M romance is..well limiting. So many stories would fit into other genres (fantasy/sci fi) if they didn't have two men as leads (and love interests). Fantasy novels have romance in them all the time, but they are categorized under fantasy, not romance. While logically I know why m/m romance is a category of its own and anything gay is shoved in there, do you think it'd be better/best/awesome if novels that happen to have gay leads and a gay romance could fit under other fiction headlines without requiring it to be labeled "gay"?

Eden Winters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eden Winters said...

Wonderful interview, Rachael. I enjoyed your answers, and will now promptly Google Michael Fassbender and Alex O’Loughlin.

Damon Suede said...

Lovely, R! A delightful interview, natch... and a perfect capper to seeing you last evening! Totally agree about the ridiculous Male/female silliness. For me the divide is always bad writer/good writer. Fantastische!

BTW, remind me to tell you about my connection to Were the World Mine. :D

marybelle said...

That was a very comprehensive and fascinating interview. Fun to read.


Rachel Haimowitz said...

@Erica: I agree that it'd be useful to split those categories up, but I think what ends up happening is that something like 95% of the books in the "GLBT" category are actually just gay, and the 5% that falls under the "LBT" part is itself 95% bisexual. I've seen so little lesbian and transgender work that most publishers probably feel it doesn't justify its own category. Hopefully, though, there's at least a smart application of tags that will make it easy to find such books even when they're lumped in the larger category.

As for the cover of Where He Belongs, I'm rather fond of it too :D It's done by the same brilliant artist ( who did the Counterpoint and Crescendo covers. I've definitely been blessed by the cover art gods :D

@Alex: ZOMG YES. THANK YOU. Though I do think that depends in large part on how much romantic or erotic content a book has. Like, if the majority focus of the book is romantic or erotic, then you probably need to call it M/M romance or M/M erotica respectively. If the majority of the book is, say, a mystery that just happens to have a detective in a gay relationship, then I think calling it M/M romance is way off the ball. A good example of that is Andrea Speed's Infected series. They're brilliant books, love them to death, but Dreamspinner sells them as gay romance (and possibly as gay erotic romance), despite there being literally not ONE sex scene in the first two books (and probably none in the third book either, which sadly I've not yet had the opportunity to read). Not only is there no sex, but the focus of the stories isn't really even on the relationship, which is well-established and not really going through a crisis point. The focus of the story is definitely the story itself: the mystery.

And then there are books like my Counterpoint, which I think really straddle the divide. It's very much a traditional high fantasy book, and I've had straight male readers who aren't squicked by all the peen write to tell me they enjoyed it tremendously. But it's also very much a gay romance, and the romance is just as integral to the story as the high fantasy is. Remove either element and the book falls apart. So classifying that becomes tricky. Even in a perfect world, I'm not sure which shelf you'd put a book like that on in a bookstore.

@Eden: LOL, a fine, fine use of your time :D Careful, though--both boys are highly addictive!

@Damon: ZOMG did you work on that movie? I luuuuuuuuuuuurve it! It's just so adorable--the whole thing is like a warm fuzzy blanket and a cup of cocoa with marshmallows in it.

@Marybelle: Thank you! Credit to where it's due though: my lovely host asked some really fascinating questions.

Rachel Haimowitz said...

The winner of the free book drawing is Eden Winters! Congrats, Eden (I'll be sending you an email shortly), and thanks to all who stopped by :D