Interviewed by Jon Michaelsen
Stephen, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.
My pleasure. This is my first interview, so you know, very cool.
Let’s start off with, where do you live?
I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
As you probably know, writers rarely like to toot their own horns, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Well, I’m still a fairly “new” writer, but I think what I’m most proud of so far is my first novel Dark Love. It came together pretty quickly while I was working on another book. I finished the first draft in something like 10 weeks, which is blazing fast for me. We got it edited pretty fast and published. I was a little nervous because it is a rather wacky and strange story but the feedback has been great. When people want to know when the next one is coming out, I take that to be a good sign.
Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?
Aha, I’m supposed to have a home life? Do they sell those on Amazon? I’m a single guy working two jobs and trying to find time to write. Fortunately my parents and the sibs all live in the Tampa area so I get to spend time with them.
Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines in detail?
I’m a total pantster. Nothing blocks me faster than trying to outline something. I know this sounds silly but for a long time, I’m talking years and years, I didn’t get any writing done because I was always told that you had to start with an outline. A few years ago, I reconnected with a friend from high school, who is also a writer, and she asked me why the hell I hadn’t gotten any writing done. I explained that I always got hung up on the outlines and it never went anywhere. She very patiently explained to me, that it was okay to just make stuff up as I went. I haven’t looked back since. I have thirty years of storytelling to catch up on.
Can you share something about yourself most wouldn’t know?
I’m sure I could, but I don’t know what that would be. You mean like how I don’t like beats? Really, don’t feed me beats. Oh and I have dyslexia, which can make writing a bitch. Thank God for editors and proof readers.
Have you ever had to deal with homophobia after your novels are released, and if so, what forms has it taken?
That’s a really good question. I’d say, no, because I really don’t tell a lot of people I write, let alone what I write. I live and work in the more rural and conservative areas of Tampa and well, they tend to be suspicious of those with book learning and I tend to write about men doing unnatural things with other men, so I’d rather keep the pitchfork action down.
You have published numerous short stories, novellas and novels in several genres, such as gay contemporary, mystery/thriller, paranormal/ghosts and gay romance; Do you have a favorite genre for writing?
No, well other than stories with gay men in them, I don’t think I have a genre. I write what the muse gives me. Back to the pantster thing, I guess, an idea for a story comes to me and I start writing it. For example, “Slay me,” said the dragon. is a fun little urban fantasy story. I didn’t plan on writing an urban fantasy story, I just had this flash of a leather bar, which was really a dragon bar and in walked a twink that was really a dragon slayer. Suddenly the gears started turning and a nice little short story came about.
Okay, maybe I need to re-think my answer. Although I have some broader fantasy and a sci-fi series on the to-be-written list, I think the genre I’ve really settled into is some kind of broad neo-gothic southern thing. One of the hallmarks of southern writing has been setting as character, sometimes the central character. I’m really having fun playing with my Bennett Bay series, using the same setting and many of the same characters for contemporary stories as well as more paranormal and fantasy stories.
“Him” is promoted as a short psychosexual horror story about madness, delusion and murder, and I found it to be that and much more. Few writers choose to delve into the psychotic mind as the main character as you have. Did writing the story freak you out as it did me reading it?
You have no idea. That is one of my first stories. I did it more as a writing experiment where I wrote something really dark. I really had no idea what I was doing because I do not read that kind of story.
The seed for that story comes from a bit of real life. I went to grad school in the Twin Cities and I used to work in the mental health field, so I know a bit about psychosis. And I’m also very aware of the stigma the mentally ill face, so I’m always trying to be sympathetic when I meet the obliviously ill folk out in the community. So there was this guy on the bus I took that presented as mildly delusional and I said hi to him one day and tried to chat with him a bit. Over the next few days I realized he had started including me in his delusions. I choose to start taking a different bus. (You have to love the mental health care system in this country where we let sick people fend for themselves on the street, but that is a rant for another day.) Anyway, I took that experience and tried to imagine what it would be like to slip into a very dark place. And just to make it more fun, I wrote it in first person, so I really was the crazy guy. I have a whole new respect for writers who write regularly in this genre. I couldn’t do it.
Several of your short stories include ghostly themes. One in particular I greatly enjoyed is “The Demise of Bobby and Clyde”. What was your inspiration for writing this dark ghost story?
Halloween, I think. I wanted to write a good old fashion ghost story that could tie in with my Bennett Bay location. I of course wanted to give it a fun little gay twist so I have two naked guys exploring an old house. Half the fun was getting them naked in a believable way. Sadly, things don’t end well. There is a follow up story planned. Not sure when I can get to it. Three sisters, who are witches, buy the haunted house and want to turn it into a bed and breakfast. Not a good idea. But things end better in that one, maybe.
Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
Dark Love is my current release. It started out as my little poke at paranormal romances, you know the whole sparkly vampire thing, but it transformed along the way into something with a bit of depth to it. “Dark love” is a metaphor for gay love, how our love had to be hidden for so long. It’s a story about letting go of the past and finding and forming family. There are no vampires but there are witches, fairies and a guy named Boris.
Return to Cooter Crossing is my current work in progress. I’m about 75% done with the first draft. I really want to release this by the end of summer. It’s contemporary gay fiction with a strong romantic element but also a southern family story. I have genre issues.
After that I need to write a sequel to Dark Love otherwise my fans will hunt me down and do unpleasant things to me.
On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre want to know.
Thanks for doing this Jon. It has been a real honor.
Find Stephen del Mar on the web: http://www.stephendelmar.com