Monday, April 16, 2012

As HAL BODNER explains it...

When Tristan told me he was going to put me in the Author Spotlight this week, it was very hard not to be infected by his enthusiasm. However I had no idea what being in the Spotlight entailed so I asked him.   “You could do a blog post,” he told me.

Now, THAT brought me up short.  As some of my fans know, I am a virtual computer illiterate when it comes to things like blogs and posts and tweets and texts and twoots and such.  Oh, I can “surf the web” as we used to call it back before the Millennium, but I’m rather baffled by this modern ability to stay in constant cyber-contact with everyone from your first grade teacher to your current co-workers to that hot guy you met in Grand Central Station back in 1986.  Frankly, I don’t understand how people have the time to do all that texting and twooting.  I tried to text once on my boyfriend’s cell phone and it took me forever to type even a short message.    

So when Tristan brought up the Dreaded Blog, I panicked a little.  Fortunately, I have some author friends who are far more cyber savvy that I am and, with the help of their advice and a couple of calming Vallium, I decided to give it a whirl. 

Apparently an author’s blog is supposed to give you, the reader, some useful insight into one of several things: the author’s creative process, the author’s life, the author’s choice of wall paper pattern for the guest bedroom – you know, the important stuff.  Given that this is All Male Romance, I thought it might be interesting to let y’all in on how I became what we call in the trade a “guy-on-guy” romance writer. 

The guy-on-guy part is easy.  I’m gay in case ya’ll hadn’t already guessed that.  What you may not have realized is how gay I am.  In fact, I suspect it is impossible to be more gay than I am!   If there was a contest, maybe Liberace could have beaten me but he had access to all those fabulous outfits—a distinctly unfair advantage. Or perhaps Paul Lynde, or Harvey Fierstein, or Bette Davis.

Let me be clear. I am in no way effeminate.  I’ll have y’all know that I was a major jock in my twenties and thirties, spending hours at the gym (and NOT just in the sauna, thank you!) and pretty good at competitive fencing -- foil only, none of that brutish hacking with a saber or flinging am epee around like a whip. I had a twenty-eight inch waist and six-pack abs back before they were fashionable and people who saw me without my shirt just assumed I was malnourished.  So, I’m not at all girly.

But I am…dramatic. 

I am dramatic as only a consummately gay man can be.  Someone once told me that, if I’d have been born straight, I would have been Tony Randall. Moreover, I have a wickedly quick wit and a tongue sharp enough to slash tires at fifty paces.  And I can quote extensively from Sondheim and Cole Porter lyrics while flinging lines from old movies around the room with reckless abandon. 

Finally, do you remember the aforementioned washboard abs?  On a twenty-something guy living in West Hollywood?  On a SINGLE twenty-something yadda, yadda, yadda?  Let’s just say that, in the guy-on-guy venue, I was very popular at parties.

Which brings me to the second part of the original query—how did I become a romance writer.  To this, I must honestly answer thus:  I have no freaking idea!!!

I started my literary career as a horror writer. BITE CLUB, my first novel, was a huge success.  But, insofar as the horror writers community is concerned, it had three things working against it. It’s funny; it’s gay; and it’s a vampire novel.  I don’t even want to begin to try and tell you how difficult it was to get my peers to read it! 

The situation with paranormal romance authors (and readers) is completely different.  They adore “gay”.  They salivate over “vampires”. And they lap up “funny” like fresh cream. So a funny, gay paranormal vampire romance would be a sure fire winner, right?

Sadly, I never managed to write one of those! 

In truth, I wrote only two paranormal romances before becoming known as a romance writer.  I constantly marvel at how quickly that happened.  I certainly never intended it. 

IN FLESH AND STONE was the first thing I wrote after my husband died.  Jimmy passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly of complications from food poisoning of all things.  Suddenly, I found “funny” was beyond me, at least temporarily.  Someone I’d met in the horror community had recently become involved in establishing a romance publisher. She’d read BITE CLUB and loved it and urged me to tack a whack at writing something for her.

My first attempt was a disaster.  I foolishly thought I needed to write a traditional “bodice ripper” with a frail young female protagonist.  I very rapidly discovered that I had NO IDEA how women felt about sex.  Even my descriptions of the male body, as told through the eyes of the heroine, practically SCREAMED, “A gay man wrote this!”  Consequently, I threw the thing out and thought that would be the end of it.  A few months later, my friend called wanting a manuscript. I explained the problem and she verbally beat me about the ears and shoulders.  To make a long telephone call short, she told me I should just forget about what I THOUGHT a romance should be and just write about what I knew—guys having relationships with guys.

I’d been toying with a couple of ideas for a gargoyle book in the BITE CLUB universe but I’d never taken it past the pondering stage.  I was also still devastated from losing Jimmy. And, one day, I was farting around on the computer, trying to write something--anything!—when an opening sentence sprang into my head:

”The only time Alex could remember being surrounded by so many naked dicks was many years ago in the steam room at the gym.”

That’s all it took.  The result-- only five days later—was IN FLESH AND STONE.  The book just poured out of me in what ended up being very close to its final form.  I think, in many ways, it was cathartic.  It was something I needed very badly to write as a way of helping myself move on after Jimmy’s death.  To this day when I re-read it, I’m shocked to think that those are my words on the page. It’s intensely poetic, incredibly passionate and deeply moving – not to mention hot and steamy where it needs to be.  And, I STILL get teary-eyed when I read that last scene!

So, FLESH was followed by FOR LOVE OF THE DEAD which I didn’t like nearly as much.  Eventually, I returned to my comic horror roots with the BITE CLUB sequel, THE TROUBLE WITH HAIRY which came out in February.   I’m fairly certain there will be a few more installments in the “Chris and Troy” universe.  I am very much hoping there will be more than a few additional paranormal romances within the next couple of years.  I’ve found the genre to be incredibly rich and I’ve a great number of ideas I’d like to take a whack at.

And who knows… perhaps I’ve a funny gay vampire paranormal romance novel in me yet!

~Hal Bodner

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