A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

I-Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery - Q&A

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.



Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery – Q&A



 Well, the time has come to wrap up our series on writing gay and male-male mystery here at Not Your Usual Suspects. I hope you've all enjoyed reading the column as much as I have writing it!
For our last installment I thought it might be useful to do a Q&A session. I had asked for questions last month, but there weren't a lot of them! So I'll answer those here and now -- and if there are any others, just post them in the comment section below and I'll check in every so often throughout the day and answer them.
And if there aren't any questions, I just want to thank you all again for reading along this year!
teko-tenka asked:
 I was wondering, same with the conflict, should the writer also have a general idea of what the series' mysteries will be? Should there be a single theme for those mysteries since it's a series, or should ideas for them come from current interests and events in what's a popular read/theme currently? (making a BDSM related murder because people show unhealthy obsessions with 50shades for example)

Great question. I think this is optional. To some extent the type of mysteries will be determined by the sub-genre itself -- if the mystery is cozy in tone, for example, you probably won't be dealing with serial killers. I don't think it's necessary to chart out the actual plots or to decide what all the cases will be about. I do think you'll want to have a clear idea of the character arcs, but you can figure that out without actually knowing the particulars of the individual cases. For example, I knew Jake and Adrien would break up in the third book -- and why -- but I had no idea the mystery itself would revolve around the occult or devil worship. I also knew they would be getting back together two years later, that Jake would be the catalyst, but again I had no clear idea of the particulars of what that case would be.
Suzanne Gabbay asked:
I wonder sometimes how authors feel about their books being labeled and/or catalogued into such specific genres. And, I’m interested to know if this labeling is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing to an author. I know that in many cases authors are trying to write to fit into a particular genre, and are therefore writing for a very specific audience…BUT, and I suppose this is my question – do you look at your success as an author in terms of this specific audience – in that you are writing ONLY for the audience who wants to read ‘gay fiction;’ OR, do you want to be known as an author who wrote that great mystery series featuring Adrien English (who happens to be gay)?
It's a double-edged sword, certainly. I don't mind labeling up to a point. I want readers specifically looking for gay fiction to be able to find my work. But first and foremost I think of myself as a mystery writer who writes gay characters. Other than erotic content, my traditional mysteries are pretty mainstream -- but that erotic content is a deal breaker for a number of readers. So while I am sorry to lose out on mainstream readers for whom erotic content wouldn't be an issue, I also don't want readers for whom it is an issue to be forced to find out the hard way that my books are also erotic romances.
I'm not sure if I'm properly answering this. I think labeling is a convenience and serves a useful purpose, but yes, it has unintended consequences and those consequences don't always serve authors or readers well.
Have you read any of Raphael’s short stories or non-fiction? I really admire his work, and identify very closely with many of his themes. He has (for me, at least), the ability to cross genre lines in his writing and I (as a married, heterosexual female and mother of 2 children) find that I can relate and identify very closely with his writing (Raphael is male, homosexual; with no children of his own). There is one scene in his first Nick Hoffman mystery, 'Let’s Get Criminal,' a dinner scene in which Hoffman and his live-in partner have invited the former flame of his partner over for dinner, and Hoffman is a bit edgy and jealous – even though this character is an individual completely different from me in so many ways, I totally ‘clicked’ with the Nick Hoffman character and what was going through his mind in that scene – that could have been me – I’ve been there; done that; made those silly and jealous comments, etc.! Here is an author whose writes about an individual who is so different from me in so many ways, yet manages to imbue him with enough reality that I could see myself in that character.
I've read and enjoyed Raphael's Nick Hoffman series -- the first two books in particular. I agree that he taps into something universal and engaging in those books, and this is the challenge for all of us, regardless of the characters or the genre. We want to tap into that recognizable humanity, the universality (is that a word!?) of our characters (both main and supporting) -- because in the ways that really matter -- all humans are very much alike. And the books we enjoy the most are the ones that have some kind of recognizable reality to the characters. We needn't always like them, but we must believe those characters are real (at least for the span of the story).

As a follow-up to my earlier comments above – I never know nowadays how comments may be interpreted, and I don’t want to step on any toes – SO, may I clarify that I am curious about how an author defines themselves in a very general sense. For example, many years ago I had the opportunity to attend a reading & questions/answer session with Terry McMillan right after the release of her novel ‘Stella Gets Her Groove Back.’ I was too shy to ask at the time, but again, was very interested in knowing how she felt defined as an author – did she feel that her success was defined by her African-American female protagonist; did she believe her success as an author is in being known as a writer of African-American female themes; OR, would she want to be recognized as an author who wrote great literary fiction about culturally diverse women in today’s society? How much of who you are defines the characters that you write about; and is it even possible to separate those core traits that make each one of us an individual? I hope I’m making some kind of sense here – sorry for running on so long!
Oh but I think these are wonderful questions. I don't think there's a definitive answer, however. I think, in fact, all of us writing any kind of niche fiction struggle with this. I think we all want to be more than the niche our work is relegated to. But at the same time, how can we not be grateful for a niche which by defnition has its own built in core readership?
In gay fiction, in particular, there is an ongoing question as to what gay fiction even IS. Is it fiction written strictly by gay and lesbian women? Even if they are not writing fiction that is concerned with gay characters or gay themes? Or is it fiction that deals realistically with gay characters and gay concerns even if it is not written by authors who identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered?
There is no simple answer -- not as far as I can see -- but I think the real value lies in the discussion itself.
Other questions? Thoughts? Opinions?






A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist


OUR POSTS have covered:

Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
And there's more to come in 2013!

We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

1 comment:

Marcelle Dubé said...

This has been an excellent series, Josh. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise.

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