Playwright, Emmy Winner & Author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries – Mark McNease

Interview by Jon Michaelsen © 2014

Mark, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I’ve lived in New York City for the past 21 years. I moved here from L.A. in 1993 after losing a partner and too many friends to AIDS. I needed a big, drastic move. My husband Frank and I have an apartment in Manhattan, and a small house in (very) rural New Jersey.

MurderatPrideLodgeWithout getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

After being single for 12 years, I met Frank Murray. We’ve been together 8 years this December and got married on August 22, 2013. We live with three cats when we’re in the City, many more deer when we’re in the country (the cats don’t travel). We travel as much as we can and especially like cruises. But we’re homebodies, too, and socialize with a fairly small group of friends, some who’ve been friends with Frank since his grade school days. I always marvel at that, since the only friends I have from my childhood are on Facebook.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? 

One of my greatest accomplishments was caring for my partner Jim for the last two years of his life. That was hard. If I have to name a more traditional accomplishment, I’d say starting and maintaining, the website I launched almost four years ago for LGBTQ people over 50. It’s an accomplishment because I’ve touched people, had them tell me it meant something to them in some small, isolated community they live in (we’re not all in Philly and NYC), and the many interesting people I’ve met through it. When someone tells me, as they have, “What you’re doing is important,” that’s an accomplishment. The rest, as they say, is gravy.

Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels were released, and if so, what forms has it taken?

I’ve seen this question in your other interviews and I’m glad you asked it, because for me the answer is yes. Specifically, when I did a book giveaway, on Goodreads, and especially the ebook giveaway on Amazon. It came in the form of 1-star “reviews” that should not be considered reviews by any definition. They were “content warnings” that a few readers felt entitled to put on my first book, Murder at Pride Lodge, to warn other unsuspecting readers that there were homosexuals inside those pages. That’s all they said. Shocking! When you give your book away (several thousand people downloaded it) you have no control over who is reading it. It was nice that several other readers came to my defense, and the homophobia was transparent, but it was there. One person warned that there were “graphic homosexual encounters” in the book. I don’t write graphic sex scenes, so I can only assume that to her more than one gay person in a room is a graphic homosexual encounter.


You won an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program for “into the Outdoors”, a Wisconsin show for tweens: Congratulations! What possessed you to want to pen novels?

Fiction was always my first love. I was writing short stories as a young child. I spent about 10 years writing short stories and poetry, then 10 years writing plays. I fell into children’s television because I worked at Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop) for 7 years, the last 3 as the Story Editor for foreign co-productions. A good friend asked me to co-create the kids’ show with him and that’s how the Emmy came about. Once I had that I realized I’d been seeking validation for years, someone to tell me I was good at what I did, and I wanted to just go back to writing for the magic of it, the mystery of the blank page and a fevered imagination. The novels came about because I wanted to write a gay mystery series featuring older characters.

In reading your bio, I understand you’ve been writing for a long time and have numerous short stories under your belt. What was your influence to create Kyle Callahan?

I wanted to write a mystery featuring characters my own age (now 56). My husband and I go to a place called Rainbow Mountain, in the Poconos. I love it there, and one day I said to him, “This would be a great place to set a murder mystery” (lodge, cabins, 26 acres, winding roads, dead bodies), so I did! I told the owner of Rainbow Mountain about it (he was delighted), changed the name, moved it to outer New Hope, PA, and wrote it. As for an influence, I will say without shame or blush that Murder, She Wrote, was an influence. These are not police procedurals. I wanted to write what I think of as “popcorn mysteries,” fun, if diabolical, lighter fare you can read with a bowl of popcorn on the couch. As far from the brooding, dark, literary fiction I’d been writing for 30 years as I could get.

You have extensive experience as a playwright, script writer and author; Why did you decide to self-publish your Kyle Callahan Mysteries?

I’ve always been a DIY guy, always. About 15 years ago I wrote a novel and had one of the best agents in New York shopping it around. She called it literature, which should have been a portent. After failing to sell it, she stopped returning my calls. When I wrote a second novel, which was the first Kyle Callahan Mystery, I had no desire to shop it around and get the inevitable rejection letters, the “almost” notes, the “if you change this, this and that we might be interested” responses. I knew I could publish it myself and if it sold, I’d write another one. If it didn’t, I’d had fun trying. It’s still selling after two years.

I’m also publishing a couple other things, as MadeMark Publishing. My sister, an herbalist and teacher of Traditional Chinese Medicine (as well as a practitioner) and I put out a book recently of her advice on herbs and nutrition, and very soon I’m publishing (having co-edited) a collection of short stories from LGBTQ writers over 50, with a foreword by Patricia Nell Warren. ‘I Am My Own Wife’? Well, I am my own publisher. I believe very strongly each of us should do what we love because in the end we’ll all be in a box or a grave. Why wait? I publish a successful boutique website for older queer people, I do a podcast, and I publish books. And I have an Emmy on the shelf to always remind me that validation is an inside job.


Have you considered releasing the Kyle Callahan Mysteries in audiobook?

I would absolutely love to, and I think they’d make really fun audio books, but I have no idea how to pursue it, and I have no money to! Any advice would be most welcome. Seriously.

I read somewhere that you would prefer to the Kyle Callahan Mysteries to be “mysteries” vs “gay mysteries”. Can you explain what you meant?

As one reviewer said in response to the 1-star “content warning” person: why do these have to be classified as gay mysteries? We write plays, novels, short stories, poems. It would be nice to live in a world where the qualifiers weren’t necessary—in fiction and in life. Quite a few straight people have liked my books. On the other hand, I’m not stupid. Writing in a niche can do a great deal to get you an audience. If you search “gay mysteries” on Amazon, you’ll find me fairly quickly. I don’t begrudge being in a niche category, I would just like to have the books judged as mysteries, gay or otherwise.

Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

This is a multiple-answer one: In the next few weeks I’m publishing ‘Outer Voices Inner Lives’, the collection of LGBTQ writers over 50 (your interviewee Michael Craft is one of them) with my co-editor Stephen Dolainski in Los Angeles. Up next (by year’s end, I’m trying) is ‘Death by Pride,’ the final book in the Pride Trilogy with Kyle and the gang (after ‘Murder at Pride Lodge’ and ‘Pride and Perilous.’ And then, for a stretch, I’m planning to write an urban suspense novel that is not gay, about a man who hears his daughter murdered on a Manhattan street while he’s talking to her on her cell phone. Tentatively called ‘Speak to Me’ (his last, pleading words to her after he hears the gunshot), it’s about his ruinous obsession to find the killer or killers of his 17 year old daughter. It destroys his life, from outer appearances, but he has no choice—he has to see this to its end, even if it means the end of him. It’s a chance for me to go very dark and more literary. I’m not sure I’ll succeed in writing it, let alone in getting a significant readership, but I said before that life is short, don’t wait. I just hope I finish what I start.

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On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

UPDATE: The Latest happening with Mark McNease – What a difference a year and half makes. Since this interview, the anthology I mention, ‘Outer Voices Inner Lives,’ was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in the anthology category last year. ‘Death by Pride,’ the third book in the Kyle Callahan Mysteries trilogy, was just #1 on Amazon’s LGBT mystery list. The fifth book, ‘Kill Switch’ was released last August. Audiobooks for ‘Murder at Pride Lodge’ and ‘Pride and Perilous’ were released, and the third, ‘Death by Pride’ will be out this summer with the same narrator, K.C. Kelly. Just this morning I contracted with the fabulous Daniela Acitelli to do ‘Death in the Headlights’ featuring Detective Linda, and I hope she’ll come on board to do ‘Last Room at the Cliff’s Edge,’ the first Detective Linda mystery now two-thirds complete. Rural New Jersey’s baddest lesbian with a gun gets her own series this fall! I’m also now a contributing writer for the Shreveport Times (from my home in NY), doing profiles and lifestyle pieces as my dreams slowly but steadily keep coming true.

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Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden: Discussion between Characters

JamieFassendenThursday, October 31st – NH State Police Barracks, Concord, NH

The office door opens and Detective Kyle Dubois stands in the doorway, looking hesitant.

Chief Osborn:  Come in, Detective.  Close the door behind you.

Dubois does as he’s told, then takes the seat in front of the Chief’s desk when the Chief waves him into it.

Chief:  Do you know why I called you in?

Dubois:  Yes, sir.

Chief:  Most of the case was handled professionally, but there’s the matter of, uh… what’s the name…?

Dubois:  Jesse Morales.

Chief:  Yes.  Would you care to explain how a civilian came to be so intricately wrapped up in a murder investigation?

Dubois:  He found the body, sir.  On the summit.

Chief:  So you got a statement from him.

Dubois:  Of course.

Chief:  At which point his involvement in the case should have been over.  Yet you filled out not one, but two ride along forms for him—one of which was filed after he accompanied you on the summit.  Would you care to explain that?

Dubois shifts uncomfortably in his chair.

Dubois:  I didn’t think it would do any harm.  He wasn’t a person of interest, since his whereabouts were accounted for during the entire day, and he wanted to learn about police procedure.  He’s a budding mystery novelist.

Chief:  You know that’s not the way things are generally done.  He should have been submitted to a background check before the form was approved.

Dubois:  He passed the background check.

MurderonMountainChief:  Yes.  After the fact.  And what was all this about him checking into the hotel where your primary suspects were staying?  More or less conducting his own investigation?

Dubois:  (spreads his hands helplessly)  It’s not against the law for him to check into a hotel, no matter who might be staying there.  And we can’t stop him from talking to suspects.

Chief:  Did you explain to him he was interfering with a police investigation?

Dubois:  (sighs)  I tried!  But he’s not dumb.  He never technically interfered.  He never prevented us from talking to the suspects.  He also never revealed anything to them about our investigation, and everything he learned he reported back to us.

The chief frowns and leans back in his seat.

Chief:  Your partner, Detective Roberts, seems to feel Morales endangered himself during all of this.

Dubois:  Yes, sir.  I felt the same.

Chief:  But you couldn’t think of a way to get his ass out of there?  As I understand it, he went back in to attend a party given by the suspects—after he’d checked out of the hotel!

Dubois shrugs helplessly, but appears to have nothing to add.

Chief:  You’re damned lucky things didn’t turn out worse than they did!  (pause)  I gather this Morales is now a friend of yours?

Dubois:  (uncomfortably)  Yes.  I guess so.

The chief leans forward again and regards him for a long moment.

Chief:  I’m not going to tell you who to be friends with on your own time, but I don’t want to hear Morales’s name again—not in connection with police business.  No mention in the reports.  No ride alongs—not even if they’re done correctly. Nothing.  Is that understood?

Dubois:  Yes, sir.

The chief looks as if he wants to add something, but he merely hesitates and then nods his head.

Chief:  All right.  Now get out of here, before I decide I’ve been too lenient.

Dubois:  Yes, sir.

Dubois stands and leaves. On his way out, he passes by Detective Roberts, who’s on his way in.  Dubois gives him a look—something that could perhaps be a warning—and then he turns away.

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Author William Maltese interviews Stud Draqual: Interview With A Stud


Author’s notes:
The most recent “Kanelli People-Recognition Poll” puts “Stud Draqual” in the 98-percental range. Possibly because he’s the heir to a well-known silk-producing empire; heads an ever-expanding fashion house, including men’s and women’s couture; has been listed on the world’s best-dressed men’s list for the past twenty years; has expanded into boutique liquors and wine; is often pictured on society pages, lately in the company of industrial mogul and heiress Roxanne Whyte; has been the object of worldwide media attention for his involvement in two sensational murder cases that resulted in his first-person autobiographical internationally best-selling books — A SLIP TO DIE FOR and THAI DIED.

I met up with Stud during New York Fashion Week where his couture runway collection had, once again, gleaned rave reviews for House of Draqual. While his penthouse was being remodeled, he was staying in the palatial roof-top condo of Baronness DuVille Falwell-Marget, whose living-room boasts its spectacular 200-degree view of Central Park and the parenthesizing city skyline. The Baroness was on holiday in Corfu.

Stud was decked out in a couture Draqual silk three-piece men’s gray suit and shirt; blue tie; blue-leather Gucci shoes. Evident was his signature emerald-and-diamond pinkie ring.
Throughout the interview, our champagne glasses where kept topped with chilled Falwell-Magret vintage champagne from the Baroness’s French vineyards outside Leon.
Stud appeared poised and cordial.

WILLIAM MALTESE: I imagine you’re quite used to being interviewed by now.

STUD DRAQUAL: You’d be wrong. Most of my press has been the result of reporters out to fulfill their own agendas, no consultation with me whatsoever. If I didn’t personally know your publisher, Jon Michaelson, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to this interview.

WM: You’ve said publically that the reason you wrote your two books was in order to set the records straight.

SD: I still can’t believe all of the false information and ludicrous spins the press put out to make those murders seem far more sensational than they really were.


WM: Although, you do have to admit, each case had more than its fair share of sensationalism. I mean, male corpses, in the one, turning up in Draqualian-silk women’s lingerie; a Thailand boy/girl, in the other, heading an international crime syndicate.

SD: I did not, however, participate in any three-day orgy with the latter, as reported by one British scandal rag whose name I won’t even bother to mention.

WM: Do you see all that coverage by the media, true and false, to have been a boon to your expanding business empire: All publicity chocked up as good publicity?

SD: At the end of the day, probably yes.

WM: Tell us something about the Draqual silk worms which, unlike others of their kind, secrete silk that’s already colored without any labor-intensive dying.

SD: Purely the sheer luck of my father who stumbled, quite by accident, upon a small colony of hybrids whose anomalies of DNA sequencing has even had Draqual scientists, until recently, unable to produce silk from outside the primary-and-secondary colors spectrum.


WM: The gray of your silk suit indicating recent progress?

SD: Yes.

WM: Your competitors having tried for years to garner similar results, even without variations.

SD: Our managing to keep a lid on the worms has, indeed, provided us with a definite edge in the business.

WM: How much, roughly, did your expanding empire net this last fiscal year?

SD: Since Draqual Industries is privately owned, I’m not legally required to release financial information, and, therefore, never do.

stud4WM: A net figure, though, somewhere in the millions?

SD: That’s safe to say, yes.

WM: And, while you started out in silk and ladies’ couture lingerie, you have now expanded; not only in those two areas — more than one man and woman wearing Draqual silk couture on red carpets, these days — but you’re, also, now into boutique liquors and wine.

SD: So far: vodka, tequila, and a vintage cabernet sauvignon.

WM: Not to mention the eventual gargantuan result of the predicted hook-up between Draqual Industries and the Whyte Consortium. By the way, congratulations on Roxanne Whyte and your recent announcement as regards her pregnancy with your son.

SD: Empires always have need for heirs. No combining of ours, however, until Roxanne and I are both ready for retirement, our son old enough to take over the reins.

WM: A wedding anywhere on your immediate horizons?


SD: Not at the moment. Roxanne and I cherish our independence, although I’ll likely have an active part in raising the boy.

WM: There are people, you know, including, by your own admission, your long-time psychiatrist, Dr. Melissa Doolittle, who think you disingenuous in the writing of both your best-selling books when you emphasize your sexual liaison with Ms.Whyte while downplaying whatever sexual relationships you may or may not have had with Inspector Don O’Reilly, and with the mercenary Jeff Billing, and with the Thai underworld boy/girl kingpin “Ram”.

SD: Less disingenuousness, on my part, than my simple refusal to pander to prurient interests by providing details that never happened.

WM: You’re still officially insistent, then, that there was no sexual relationship between you and any of those three men? Certainly, not the result of Billing or Ram’s lack of trying. And there was your own admission that you were thinking of sex with Billing while actually having sex with Ms.Whyte. Plus, you did spend one whole voyeuristic night with only Ram and you in witness. Nor have you ever denied having been aware of the physical arousals of these men, in your presence, and, sometimes, even your own sexual arousal, by way of direct reciprocation.

SD: I merely state it as it is. Arousals never really my problem. Acting on them, each and every time, is something else again.


WM: Your reluctance to confirm homosexual activities, do you think, is still the ongoing result of your previous on-record admission that so many people have always thought you gay, their judgment only reinforced by your exceptional good-looks, and by the fact that homosexuality is so often associated with the fashion industry?

SD: During my associations with O’Reilly, Billing, and Ram, probably, yes. At the present, I’m more inclined to admit that I may, very well, be bisexual. Then, again, there’s that underlying suspicion I may not really be “sexual” at all. I have no problem performing the sex act, even enjoying it, to a certain degree; I mean, an orgasm is an orgasm is a pleasant orgasm. Have I ever been in true rut-mode for any man or woman, though? No. Have I ever concluded that sex, in general is, more often than not, more bother than it’s worth? Yes.

WM: Have you seen O’Reilly or Billing recently?

SD: I’ve seen O’Reilly, on occasion, in passing; after all, he’s still an active member of the New York Police force. And, although I’ve not had any recent reason, like murder, to call upon his professional services, we have ended up in some of the same crowds. As for Billing, there were occasions I tried to locate him, but with no success. Black-ops don’t provide easy avenues for tracking down its membership.

WM: Any possibility of giving either man a second chance?

SD: I’ve never been convinced that O’Reilly was genuinely interested in me — in that way. As for Billing, I suspect that’s all water under the bridge, too. Then again, who knows? I’ve seldom found anyone as good-looking and charming as he is, and I work in an industry filled with good-looking and charming people.


WM: Any immediate plans for your future? Another book?

SD: Since another book would likely require another murder, I’d just as soon pass on that, if you don’t mind. Frankly, I consider myself having experienced more than enough life-threatening events to last me a life-time.

WM: There are rumors that you plan to launch men’s and women’s fragrances in the very near future?

SD: Stay tuned for a definitive announcement on that within the next six months.

WM: With thanks for this interview.

SD: You’re very welcome.

About William Maltese: He first published in the late sixties an article for the men’s magazine “Argosy” that documented his search for Inca treasure in the jungles of South America between his junior and senior years at university. Shortly, thereafter his three-book pulp-fiction “Adonis” detective series was launched. Over two-hundred published books, and at-one-time-29-pseudonyms later, he can boast a whole list of writing in the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense genre, including SLAVESSS MANN HUNTA CONSPIRACY OF RAVENSBEYOND MACHUTHE GOMORRAH CONJURATIONSGOLDSANDSTHE MOONSTONE MURDERSTUSKSSNAKES … and his four-books-to-date SPIES AND LIES series



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