Thursday, August 29, 2013

With Love, From Oregon...and An Interview with Call Me But Love author Tracy Rowan!

Ladies & gentlemen & all the rest, I am in the very green and gray city of Portland. Or, more accurately, I am in Hillsboro, just outside of Portland. I'm having a great time with my brother and sister-in-law -- today we went to the ocean first and then, to a dairy factory. Many trees and mountains dotted and enveloped the landscape, and I had delicious, super-garlicky pizza for lunch. Now we're back home and I am sitting on a workout ball to type my Thursday night blog, but I'm tired and soon hope to have a whiskey-ginger ale and chill for awhile. Preferably, on a soft, cushiony bed with a lot of A/C, which is good, because the guest room here is fabulous! My family is very hospitable and wonderful and I am SO grateful for this respite. More about my trip to come. But with all that out of the way, I wanted to turn your attention to the new release from author, Tracy Rowan. It came out this past Wednesday and Tracy agreed to answer a few of my questions about her book and writing in general. You can find more about Rowan at her blog here, along with excerpts from her new novel.

1) You just had a book published by Dreamspinner Press, a publisher of M/M romance. Can you tell me a little about the book (Call Me But Love) and what draws you to writing about gay romance?

Call Me But Love is a series of four short stories which are based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but which deal with the relationship between Romeo and Mercutio, who is arguably the most interesting character in the play. I saw the Zefferelli version of R&J when I was 16 and even then I was aware that there was something more about Mercutio's feelings for Romeo than simple friendship.

The gay stuff? That's something I've never been able to answer beyond saying that "I like it." Yes, it turns me on a bit, but I think there's more to it than that. I think it may have something to do with gender role identification. I grew up in the 50s when gender roles were solid. Women acted this way, men acted this other way, and that's all there was to it. You didn't buck the roles. When I was young I found that I identified with the male roles, not because I had any desire to be male, but because of the freedom. These days I'm much more likely to identify somewhere in between male and female, and my fiction has started to reflect that. I'm working on a number of stories with the pairings all over the spectrum. M/M, M/F, F/F, and characters who will happily bed anything that can give informed consent.

That wasn't a real answer was it? Um... okay I like M/M stuff. *g*

2) And you've worked as an editor, too, correct? How do you think this has improved your writing?

I've edited in a very limited way in terms of fiction, mostly just for friends who need a beta reader. I have edited technical stuff in the past, and I currently edit transcriptions of conference calls. This all makes me aware of what a minefield English can be. Interestingly the transcription work has given me a feel for how people talk under pressure or when they're trying to be convincing. It's given me a wonderful collection of verbal tics to draw from!

3) ...Do you think it has helped you to evolve creatively?

I believe anything you do with words helps you evolve as a writer. Words are a writer's only real stock, and we have to understand how to string them together in thousands of different ways to keep people from thinking "Oh my god, if she says something is "preternatural" again I will hunt her down and smack her silly."

4) Because you've chosen to write a very different sort of retelling of the Romeo & Juliet story, I wondered if you are a big fan of the Bard; if so, what's your favorite of his plays and would you ever consider doing another spin on a Shakespeare plot?

I came to Shakespeare late. I was a college senior when I finally had an instructor who taught me the beauty and joy of Shakespeare's words. She helped me hear the music in them. I think A Midsummer Night's Dream is my favorite. I was fortunate enough to see Ken Branagh and Emma Thompson perform it here in Chicago, and it was hilarious. They conveyed the humor in the play in a way I'd never seen anyone do before.

I will sometimes recite hunks of plays while I do housework. The hollow crown speech from Richard II is great for dusting. Yes, I'd consider doing another riff on Shakespeare if I could find the right angle.

5) Probably a common question for an author, but: How do you get inspired?

Yeah it is, and my standard reply to the "Where do you get your ideas?" question is "You have to have ideas before you can have ideas." By that I mean that you need to develop a habit of having ideas. Pay attention to everything and think about what it means. If you read a news article about a car being stolen, ask yourself who the thief was and why did s/he need to steal the car. About 90% of your ideas will be crap at first, but eventually you'll be having so many it won't matter how many you will end up tossing. Having ideas makes you ripe for having good ideas.

I read a lot. Fiction, non-fiction, they're both fertile ground for inspiration. Or I'll hear people talking when I'm at a restaurant (I'm a horrible eavesdropper) and something they say might inspire me to write a story. People also tell me their life stories. Total strangers come up to me and start talking; I must have one of those faces that says: "You can tell me anything." One woman told me about her rotten marriage that began in a promising way, I thought, with a ride on a hook-and-ladder in her wedding gown. Another woman told me about how she'd invented something that would revolutionize ER procedure and ended by telling me that she thought the Gulf war was a punishment for having an affair with a married man who had been shipped over there. I would go home and make notes. I have notebooks filled with stories like that.

6) And, in the tradition of common writer questions, I have to ask: what is your writing process like?

It's horrible, I'm lazy and scattered and it's a wonder that I get anything done at all! I'm getting better, more disciplined. NaNoWriMo has helped me create a mental space where I feel the need to write every day.

I also used to be a pantser which, for those who don't understand writer speak, is someone who has a snippet of an idea and then sits down and starts writing without any idea of what the story is really about or where it's going to go. That might work if you have an already constructed world as in fandom, but when it's all your own work, then that's a bad way to write. It is for me anyway. I've learned how to plot, how to make outlines and now I'm about 60% plotter to 40% pantser, a ratio I can live (and work) with.

7) You've also written a lot of paranormal fiction. Do you tend to read a lot of paranormal fiction as well? Who are some authors who you feel influence your own work?

Yes, I love fantasy, paranormal, weird stuff. Also historicals, and historical fantasy with a m/m pairing is my candy.

My influences are all over the place and are more about modes of thought than actual influences on style or subject matter. In fiction, Neil Gaiman, of course, Kathe Koja, Guy Davenport, Dorothy Dunnett, Lewis Carroll, Richard Kadrey. Shakespeare. *g* In non-fiction, Barbara Tuchman, Joseph Campbell, Margaret Murray.

8) Since I am a library-lovin' geek, I have to ask: what role has your local library played in your role as a writer?

In grammar school and high school I practically lived in the library. As a child I used to spend my summers at the library trying to convince the librarians that yes, I was fine reading things that weren't in the kids' section. I'd take home stacks of books every week. I got into buying books after that and it's only recently that I've started using the library again, but I've always loved and supported it because I think it's one of the best things ever invented. I have huge love and respect for libraries and the people who make them what they are. And now that I can borrow ebooks from the library, I'm even happier. I just borrowed The Book Thief and I'm loving it.

9) Can you name one thing that you think readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I'm not sure there's anything surprising about me, however there is one thing I do that might interest readers. For every novel-length project I start, I look for a talisman. For example, when I wrote White Rabbit (a fannish novel) one of my characters was Charles II of England (On whom I have a mad crush). My talisman for that was a coin minted in about 1660 with his image on it. My talisman for the sequel to Suffer the Little Children (Which I am still dithering over.) is a Fitzroy storm glass because it plays a small part in the mystery. My talisman for Nine Lives is a Willendorf goddess pendant because the story has strong pagan themes.

10) And final question: can you tell us anything about your next project?

Which one? Seriously I have so many in the works that any one of them could be next to be finished. But right now I think it will be The Dust Behind the Door, a YA novel about a girl who just wants a normal life with the boy she loves, and instead ends up a fugitive in another universe. Her name is Hermia because "though she be but little, she is fierce." Shakespeare again!


Next up: The third installment of Turn To You!! Yay, aren't you excited? I am!


  1. A great post! I especially like the idea of getting into the habit of having ideas. :)

    1. Thank you, Mandy! Tracy gave a great interview! :)