Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Join Discussion With Christopher Rice, New York Times Best Selling Novelist! A ReBlog

[New York Times Best Selling Novelist, Christopher Rice, graciously agreed to an interview here at Book Readers Heaven... I was thrilled! Excited! A little fearful to be asking a well-known author my type of questions... You all know I get a little personal on topics that interest me...LOL So here goes...]
Good Morning Chris! I'm so happy that you agreed to visit! I'm a new fan, so you'll find I ask some fairly in-depth or personal questions as I try to get to know a new author (for me). 

I picked the first picture of what you look like today as a self-assured successful writer, but at the time you wrote your first two books, this young man didn't appear quite so confident, or maybe it's just because you look like you were indeed very young then!

When did you first start writing?
 I started writing when I was in college. I went to college with dreams of becoming an actor, but when I arrived at Brown I soon learned no one there shared that dream. I didn’t get called back for a single audition my freshman year.  Before then, I’d been a voracious reader, and I’d always nursed some fantasies that I’d eventually write material to perform in. So when my primary outlet was taken from me, I defaulted to another. No one could stop me from writing. They didn’t have to publish it or do anything with it. But they couldn’t stop me from connecting with my imagination in that solitary and  fulfilling  way. 

As the son of a well-known author Anne Rice, did you gain your interest in writing from her... or from your own personal desire to write?
I think I avoided the idea for a long time because of her fame. And even when I finally started pursuing writing obsessively, which was in college, I was focused entirely on screenplays and stage plays. I transferred to NYU’s Dramatic Writing program, believing that I would never write a novel, that I didn’t even have the muscle for prose. And when I did finally write a novel, it felt like an accident. I took a short story I’d written and started tinkering with it and the tinkering didn’t stop until it was the length of a manuscript. 
Now I can see advantages of having Anne Rice as your mother, but, come on, really, do you enjoy working along with her, combining signings, for instance?
The joint signings are a trip. I love them. They’re laborious, for sure, but they’re also wonderful. When I fly solo, there aren’t anywhere near as many people. On my own I do mostly quiet readings with groups of twenty or thirty people. With her, it’s like a wonderful circus. And the babies. We both love all the babies people bring up in line. She insists on holding every one. 

LOL...Just like she once held you!

You mentioned that you knew that if you did start to write, you would want to write the books you'd personally want to read... May I assume that is because there are not many books with homosexual characters as lead participants in the novel? I can think of this as the only reason since surely you have some favorite authors from through the years? 

This is partly true. There are a lot of books with gay main characters, but there aren’t many books in which those characters are active heroes or heroines. The MM romance genre is mainly where this is happening, and many of its authors are women who enjoy writing about two men together. They’re producing some wonderful stuff too. But this trend is more recent, and when I first started writing there were very few gay detectives and no gay superheroes. The most popular novels with gay protagonists back then were social chronicles. They were works of activism, many of them were focused on the AIDS epidemic and its terrible cost. Those books were wonderful and necessary, but they weren’t what I wanted to write. From the start, I’ve been attached to genre labels. I’ve wanted to write the type of books I devoured as a young person but with full inclusion of gay people. 

Just so you know, yes, I am going...there...The two books that I've read are actually your first two books published...now recently republished with additional material. The Density of Souls and The Snow Garden have gay men, yes... But there were very few actual sex scenes in these books. Has your work changed since then? If so, how and why? 

Well, I’ve recently published several works of erotic romance, THE FLAME
and THE SURRENDER GATE, both of which are set in the same universe, The Desire Exchange. In both of these books, the stories themselves are focused on sex and sexuality; so yes, there are a lot more sex scenes in some of my books now. But just two books ago I started working in supernatural horror with THE HEAVENS RISE, and it was wonderfully liberating. I started publishing very young and so my work has evolved considerably, I feel, since my first novel. My God, I hope it has. It’s been almost fifteen years now. 

Well, I just downloaded The Flame so I'll let you know what I think later...

Back to the books I've read so far, The Snow Garden and Density of Souls [Please click over to read my reviews if you haven't already)] 

Frankly, I loved them as they were because you took the time to allow us to know the characters. And, before you mention it again, I would love to read the sequel of The Snow Garden if you do decide to write it! 

I was impressed 
and thoroughly enjoyed both books but found them totally different in style. Dare I say the first somewhat more personal perhaps--perhaps somewhat based upon your own life?--yet with chilling scenes, while the second was much more literary and suspenseful. Do you have a preferred genre and what have you been publishing since your first two novels? 

I like suspense. Even my erotic romances have suspense in them. I like the idea that the world of my characters is going to be seriously upended before the novel’s over, maybe even right as the novel begins, and that the resulting changes won’t all be negative. I think that’s the idea that ties all of my books together. Violent change is often the only solution to an interminable state of secrecy and deception, which is how many of my books begin.

I noticed that, in both books, there are major female friend characters with whom the main character becomes involved. Given some of the other things covered, would you say that these individuals represent an emotional support important to gay men that they don't necessarily receive from their partner? I say that because both of the female friends seemed to be more emotionally connected to the main character than are the other male characters…

I’m not sure. In my earlier life, most of my most important and lasting friendships were with females. It wasn't until adulthood that I really developed close friendships with other men. Part of that had to do with coming out. First I had to come out of the closet, then there was a period where most of my friendships with gay guys were highly sexualized and it often wasn't clear whether something was going to be friendship or something more. Then, later, things sort of stabilized and I was finally in a place where I could have important chaste friendships with other men. Today my best friend is a man, another novelist, Eric Shaw Quinn. We do The Dinner Party Show together. (www.TheDinnerPartyShow.com) 

Let's start with A Density of Souls... How did you arrive at the title and could you share what it means to you? As your Debut novel, why did you choose the story as written?

The title was with me long before that novel was. Construction wise, the book was several different storylines I’d been experimenting with as screenplays. They were all tied together by a tremendous amount of anger I was holding onto about being a closeted gay kid in high school. 

There is certainly a plethora of dysfunctional issues, including alcoholism and my understanding that was not unusual in Louisiana. Did I understand that right? 

Louisiana has a different relationship to alcohol than most of the country, that’s for sure. 

I enjoyed the scene where Stephen steals a picture at School.  The interesting characteristic that body beauty is an important attraction for most gay men... I'm not so sure that is only something important to gay men, however, LOL... 

On the other hand,   Jeff was more supportive to Stephen so is there some point where personality and other issues becomes the dominant factor in looking for a long-time partner? And just to add a questions for your fans--would you consider marriage at some time in the future? Wondering minds surely want to know…

I’ll consider marriage if I ever fall in love. How’s that for an answer? 

Great Answer!

But yes, physical attraction is important when you’re younger, but I think it changes over time. Stephen’s character is defined by a deep sense of self loathing and a deep sense that he isn't masculine enough to be socially acceptable. So he lionizes any man that represents what he considers to be a masculine ideal. That’s not how my own sexuality operates today. Those aren't really the terms anymore by which I choose to view potential mates and partners.  So I’ll say this much - I’m not still single because I've been holding out for a supermodel. 

Although I have read other books with homosexual characters, I enjoyed your books much more. Basically, the books were wonderfully written with two story lines that were amazing and brilliant in many ways... The one thing I realized was that the books were sharing the lives of your characters--good, bad, or otherwise--not based upon their sexuality, but rather on those routine events, places and actions that make us all unique. By doing so, I became intimately involved with your characters just as I would with others... Is this what you meant by wanting to write the books that you would want to read yourself? 

Very much so and thank you for your kind words. 

Taking that a step further, are your stories based, at all, on your own life or the lives of people you've known in your life? And would you be willing to share how? 

I blend things, and I blend characters. I take certain events and make them turn out differently than they did in real life. And to create characters, I often take several different people and mold them into one. I’m not very good at non-fiction. It usually turns into comedy or satire when I try to write it on my blog. So for dark suspense, there needs to be a sense that I’m working in an altered landscape, and then I feel more free to take chances. But that goes with the territory when you’re writing a genre novel. There are certain set expectations you have to fulfill. Some writers use tropes, some writers use cliches, and often the difference between the two is a matter of personal opinion and a function of the person’s opinion of the entire genre in which you’re writing. 

Knowing the difference between time periods when these novels were originally published, I found myself thinking about your characters as if they were living their stories in the present time. I'm not talking about details, but rather the decisions made then and now. For instance, it seemed clear to me that boys, say, athletes, may have participated in sexual interactions with other boys in early life... but did not consider those gay activities. Girls on the other hand, at that time, probably continued to keep their sexuality a part of their secret life as opposed to sharing among friends. Do you agree? And do you think the openness that now exists would change those parameters. In fact, although I think your books are timeless--at the same time, I would hope that Stephen's experiences as a youth would not occur today??? 

I agree with you here. The atmosphere inside of American high schools has advanced by leaps and bounds since these books were published. Bullying and teen suicide are still big problems, but one of the reasons they’re problems is that gay kids are coming out in numbers they never did before, certainly not when I was in high school. My first boyfriend came out in high school and it was practically a local legend in New Orleans when he did so. Because it was just unheard of then. Around that same time, my friend Corey Johnson, who is now on the Manhattan City Council, made headlines when he came out to the fellow members of his high school football team. It was a very different time, and a book about a gay kid struggling through high school today would have to reflect that new reality. 

Allow me, please, a more updated question related to that...  Given that it seems to be "big news" when a professional athlete comes out, what are your thoughts about what environment really exists in the U.S. now or where you would prefer to see it? 

We’re not there yet. We’re close. But we’re not where we need to be. It may seem like we are, but the fact is, until a public statement of homophobia can end a politician’s career as effectively as a public statement of racism does today, then we’re not there yet. There are still large quarters of the country, very powerful quarters, which abuse religion to justify their personal prejudices and sexual confusion. Until these quarters lose their political power, their ability to control congressional elections, and their ability to bully the leadership of the Republican Party into accepting anti-gay positions they don’t personally believe, then the battle is far from over.

Well said... 

In A Density of Souls, it seemed that there were more strong feelings within families than I expected. In my own life, although there was always secrecy, I have known homosexuals in all part of my early school and on into my professional life, that never seemed to affect interpersonal relationships. Was that because I was blind to what was happening? That I was accepting of the individuals matter of factly...or just was never in a situation where bias and prejudice existed? By the way, I thought your book ended in the best possible manner, given all that had happened. Why was keeping the ending so important to you, if you can share without giving the story away? 

It isn’t sexuality that damages people. It’s sexual secrets that damage people. I think the strain on the familial relationships you see throughout the novel comes from the secrecy, not sexuality. So, if in your own experience, the homosexuals you knew were open with everyone about their identity, you probably weren’t witnessing the same kind of strife that’s depicted in the novel. I’m glad you liked the ending. I wanted the ending, however dark, to also be ambiguous in a certain way. My mother, interestingly enough, had a very different read on it than most readers. She actually thought it was fairly upbeat. As for spoilers, I hate spoilers in general, especially with my own books, but with other people’s books and movies as well. 

On the college campus, .I saw a professor who ignored his personal desires and chose to marry, only to have a bad marriage... If you were in a professional position where your sexuality would become an issue professionally, what would you do...in today's world? 

There’s no going back for me now, so it would be hard to consider the question. I’ve also had a very supportive family, which I think helps.

The Snow Garden became a personal favorite for me, so the only real burning question for me is, why choose Hieronymus Bosch's (1450-1516), The Garden of Earthly Delights, as such a central part in the book? Also, who created the central panel in the original home of Eric Eberman? And why did he turn the house over to his grad student--for his research proposal??? And, would you be willing to share your own personal opinion of this work, either supporting or speaking against known criticism…

If there’s a hell, Bosch painted it. We had a print of his hanging on the wall of our house when I was a little boy, and ever since then I’ve been obsessed. Eric Eberman was a character profoundly tortured by his sexuality. Bosch’s nightmarish landscapes reflected his inner life entirely. So it made sense to me that this respected professor would find himself in thrall to these academics who truly believed they could conquer sexuality with intellect alone. Personally, I do believe in a higher power and I do believe there’s much to the experience of life beyond what we can perceive from moment to moment, but I’m not a Christian and so I don’t believe hell or the concept of hell. It’s far more likely to me that this plain is closer to what we would describe as hell and what comes next is a more peaceful stage, a place where we can actually put to use what our souls have learned on this plane through repeated trial and error and loss. 

I've noted some comments from individuals on your various pages noting "thank yous" for your books. Have you purposely set about providing books for the homosexual community? If yes, why? Do you think there will come a time (when?) there will be no need for gays to look only to those authors willing to write from their own experiences? 

This is very moving. Thank you for saying this. I wrote the book I wanted to read. I’m still doing that, in a sense. I might make a decision to shift to a certain genre, but in that case, I write the book that I would like to read in that genre. Writing is such a lonely business, and it’s so fraught with failure, that you really have to be in love with your own work to stick with it as a profession. When I wrote my first two books, there was no GLEE. Ellen hadn’t come out yet. There just weren't the diversity of representations of LGBT people on the small and big screen that there are now, so you *had* to go to books to get them. That’s no the case anymore. Or it’s the case in different instances. You’re not going to find any really great ongoing gay romance series on T.V. right now. For that, you have to go to books still. 

The reason I ask this may have already answered by your response to your desire to write what you want to read... My question relates to where you see your future, genre-wise. I believe most of what you write now is suspense/thriller, correct? Ever considered a romantic suspense for instance? Fantasy or SciFi? Have you considered co-authoring with your mother? And could you also share what you have coming up in the future?

 I’ve just published two  works of erotic romance, both of which involve suspense, THE SURRENDER GATE and THE FLAME. I have considered co-authoring with my mother and we might have an announcement about a project along those lines very soon! I’m publishing another erotic romance called KISS THE FLAME later this year, in November 2015. This will be the third book published in The Desire Exchange series and I’m very excited about it
My very best wishes for your continued success! It's been great sharing with you and I do hope you consider a sequel to The Snow Garden. In the meantime, I'll be seeing what it means to exchange desire...And I just had to add one more pic... Very Cool Dude! I think he should be your main character in a period book about the age of that camera...Suspense, of course! Thanks again for visiting!

Note: This discussion was previously published (with an updated video) on a blog that I no longer use since it didn't get as much coverage...I am in the midst of moving most articles to my main blog...so this is actually a new post here! Enjoy!

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