Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day Ten - Rachael Haimowitz

Today is the final visit from Riptide here at IRM. 

We end with the boss, or one of them, Rachael Haimowitz. I met her at GayRomLit, she was such a joy to talk to and she's always so pleasant online. Please welcome Rachael to close out this fantastic event and thanks to everyone who's become new followers because of RIPTIDE.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Blurb Master Class: Broadway darling Nicky Avery is a shooting star by night, but by day he bounces from one heartless one-night stand to the next. A quick flogging, a rough lay, a new whip-hand to manipulate—yet still he yearns for something he cannot even name.

He finds his first true hint of satisfaction in Devon Turner, a self-possessed film star and expert Dom. Devon knows what he wants the moment he sees it, and what he wants is Nicky Avery. Nicky’s never learned to trust and has a nasty habit of topping from the bottom, but he learns fast that in the bedroom, Devon won’t tolerate his actor’s masks.
Nicky's a broken boy, but Devon knows exactly how to put his new sub back together. With patience, care, and all the punishments his little pain slut can handle, Devon breaks Nicky down one scene at a time, revealing a mind that yearns to trust and a heart that hungers for the ecstasy of true submission at last.

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

* * * *

Thank you Rachael. Her giveaway is anything on her backlist except Crescendo

This will conclude our Riptide event at Michael's. Thanks to everyone who's visited and mostly thanks to Chris, Rachael, Aleks, and company for being such great guests. Remember, all comments will be entered in for the grand prize.

Have a great day everyone


BLMorticia said...

TY Rachael for stopping in

Sarah said...

Rachael loved masterclass :-D going pick up sublime after I've bought all my Xmas pressies

Sarah S


Debby said...

Great interview. I have to check out Aleksandr Voinov. I think several mentioned him
debby236 aT GMAIL DOT COM

Rachel Haimowitz said...

Hi guys :) Sorry for the late response; this post went up on the first day of a long vacation without internet. Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and thanks so much to our gracious host, as well!