When did you become interested in writing?
- As a kid, I loved reading stories and being fascinated with them, not just the story but how they were told and put together. I never seriously pursued writing because I was always “bad” at English, and basically was told by teachers that I couldn’t write because I struggled with spelling and punctuation. It took me many years to shrug off those bad influences when I finally realized that spelling and punctuation are arbitrary, and not a measure of one’s intelligence and creativity, but rather a measure of one’s ability to reproduce conventions. That was a freeing revelation.
- When I finished my MA in Religious Studies, I realized that many of the things that I was doing with the Biblical text I could also do with Literary text, and I was not that bad at it. So when I had the opportunity to study English, I decided to go for it, and spent my time both in literature courses and creating writing workshops. I was pretty good at English and writing too.
- So now with internet, Amazon, and on-line publishing, I decided, what is stopping me now? Nothing. I have 30 years of backed up stories to tell. Time to tell them.
What is the first things you wrote?
- The first thing I remember trying to write was a story about aliens with antennas on their heads. This was in junior high school I think. I only managed about three pages, which I still have, written in a painfully juvenile script. At the end of the story, there was to be a huge flood that destroyed the alien colony. The conceit of the story was that the aliens were really termites, and the flood was a burst pipe. The termites are discovered at the end when the plumber arrives.
- You can also click on the menu and scroll down to Juvenilia and read some of my first attempts at writing from my early twenties.
Where do you get your ideas? What are some things you might write about in the future?
- I have heard writers say that for them their childhood memories are a source of many of their best ideas and that having a good memory is necessary to good writing. I have a terrible memory and don’t remember much from being a child, so I am going to call baloney on that pearl of wisdom.
- Ideas occur to me all the time, but most of them are terrible. The best ideas come when I notice something incongruent (often about religion) that could make for an interesting conflict.
- I also used to get interesting ideas from dreams. I kept a dream journal for several years when I was younger. But I started having too many “false awakenings” and had to stop keeping it. A false awakening is when you dream that you have awakened, but you are still asleep, and you write in your journal. But you just dreamed that you wrote, because you are still asleep! Then when you really do wake up you still haven’t written, you only dreamed that you did. It got so annoying, especially after having a good dream, when all I could remember when I was finally awake, was the dream writing! Ugh! Anymore, my dreams are not that interesting.
- I think it would be interesting to explore that old Dream Journal. There is probably much cringe-inducing material in there (and probably some good ideas to resurrect). Maybe I will create a web page in the future and share some of them. Then you can do a Freudian analysis of my dream and Psychoanalyze me.
- At the same time that I kept that Dream Journal, I also wrote what I refer to as the Red Journal. I called it the Red Journal because I wrote it in red ink. The Red Journal consists mostly of reflections on religion and sexuality from my twenty-something self. I imagine I would be very embarrassed by some of that commentary today. Who knows, selections from the Red Journal could become a recurring future online feature.
- When I was in Grad school working on my MA in Religious Studies, I came up with a set of “spiritual principles” that as continued to evolve since them. A friend said I should found a new religion based on the “The Principles of Clintism.” He was joking of course, and I’m not going to call it that. Maybe just “Principles.” I was thinking about writing a series of short essays explaining each one of them. It would be interesting content for this site. They include: “Finding Jesus’ Perception,” “Practice Being a Child,” “The Hitler Problem,” “The Unforgivable Sin,” and “We are all Peter.”
What do you like to write about?
- I have been struggling to come up with a label for what I tend to write about. My characters are usually gay men: so “Gay Fiction.” I like the genre of magic realism, which is set in the real world, but where supernatural things happen: so “Magical Realism.” Those supernatural elements are an expression of my interest in religion, but I can’t say “religious” because people will think “Inspirational” or “Spiritual.” The stories are often more sarcastic and satirical.
- Satirical Gay Magic Realism does not help with marketing at all!
- I have this habit of incorporating rituals into my stories. I sometimes structure stories around rituals. It’s religious elements that intrigue me the most. I don’t know why I do it, but they always seem to turn up.
- I get a bit fixated on “Jesus themes.” Inevitably, one of my characters becomes a Jesus/martyr figure. I have no idea why such a thing should possess me. It’s something that has fascinated me for years.
- I generally don’t like writing about sex, so I guess I won’t be writing any M/M Romances (and I generally don’t do happy endings). Sex does come up sometimes. Often in weird ways. I will say no more.
- I also have a silly streak in my writing. That is where a lot of the satire comes from. Mostly it’s lighthearted, but sometimes it can get a little dark and mean.
What do you like to read?
- I like to read modern free verse poetry often in translation. For some reason, I don’t like poetry that rhymes.
- Mostly I read Literary fiction, often from international authors.
- I don’t read much genre fiction. I used to really like sci-fi and horror when I was younger. Occasionally I will read an anthology of classic horror short stories or award-winning short sci-fi.
Who are some of your favorite writers? Which writers have most influenced you?
- Some of my favorite writers are Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Andre Gide, Herman Hesse, Isaac Bashives Singer, Willa Cather, and Toni Morrison. My favorite poets include Constantine Cavafy, Czeslaw Milosz, Yeuda Amichai, Rainer Maria Rilke, Fernando Pessoa and Pablo Neruda.
- I feel like I am impervious to influence. No matter who I am reading, I still seem to write the same way. If I was so susceptible to influence, I would be reading Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Nabokov right before I started to write so I could be a prose master (not that I really like those authors that much). If I had to pick some writers that I think have actually influenced me the most, then I would choose Garcia Marquez, Singer, Kafka and E. M. Forster.
What are some topics you are currently researching for future projects?
- I have been doing research on monks for a story set in a monastery. I have also been reading the lives of St. Francis and St. Benedict and trying to learn more about monastic prayers, rituals, and daily routines.
- I want to know more about the tropes of gay romance and yaoi, which I suspect have a different audience than more traditional gay fiction. I am wondering it might be worth incorporating more of those tropes into my fiction, while at the same time trying to transcend them for a wider audience.
Did you consider other professions?
- Yes. When I went to college as an undergraduate I studied Psychology and Sociology and considered become a counselor or social worker. Eventually, I realized I was not all that interested in dealing with other people’s problem. That would be too depressing and soul crushing. I learned a lot about myself but decided my future was not in those professions. If I could do it over, I would choose a different major, and do Religious studies and English from the beginning.
- Before I went to college, I considered seminary. But then I found out that those schools that were available to me did not like people like me. This actually surprised me. It never occurred to me that churches could be so prejudiced. This was during the mid-1980s when the AIDS scare was at its height, and a certain group of people was not welcome in Church at the time. So that put an end to seminary.
- Would you believe I considered becoming a monk? Before I started working on my MA in Religious Studies, I seriously considered this. This was in the early 1990s and things were a little more relaxed (until the priest child sex abuse scandal hit the Catholic Church). One morning, I walked all the way over to the bishop’s office and sat outside. I thought, if God wants me to, then someone will come outside and talk to me. No one ever came out. Maybe it was too early in the morning for God. It was pretty early in the morning. Or the priests were not awake yet. Besides, I didn’t really want to become Catholic, although, I was rather fascinated with Thomas Merton. I went on to study religion at the university instead. I did learn a lot, but it was also not my future.
What college degrees do you have? Were they worth it?
- Bachelors of Science in Psychology/Sociology (Drury College, 1991).
- Master of Arts in Religious Studies (Missouri State University, 2001).
- Master of Arts in English Literature (University of Missouri: Kansas City, 2008).
- The BA was paid for mostly through government Pell Grants. But were the MA degrees really worth it? As far as the money goes, absolutely not! I always made clear that I wasn’t doing it for career advancement, but for my own personal development (because I just wanted to). So I’m not disappointed that they didn’t really lead anywhere. I never intended them too.
What are some random facts about you?
- Cats or dogs: Cats. Right now we have cats back in the house. But I really want some Bunny-Rabbits.
- Favorite holiday: Memorial Day. All of the so-called “Family Holidays” end up being such a hassle and never live up to expectations (at least not in my family). Maybe someday if I had someone special to celebrate them with, I might change my mind. For the time being, I prefer a nice quiet solemn day.
- Favorite color: Green, but also Purple.
- What’s your Sign: Pisces in Western astrology. Sheep in Chinese astrology.
- I can be extremely silly when chatting online.
- Youtube keeps me entertained for hours on end (when I should be spending time doing something more productive).
- I probably hold weird views on religion.
- I am Liberal and vote Democratic.
- I am a sucker for sentimental Boys Love (Yaoi) movies.
- I miss smoking. I had to quit; it was killing me. The smell of smoke is disgusting to me now, but I still miss it.
My life has been a lot of misdirection and backslides and surrenders. Some times you need to rest after each defeat or failure, but remember to get back up and try again. I know that is trite advice. Also be sure to look after your mental and spiritual well-being, because other people won’t. I still don’t know where I am going. Your life doesn’t have to amount to a lot in other peoples’ eyes, as long as you can rest and feel small joys and contentment, you can still be happy. Keep yourself busy with things that are important to you, and try to have some special friends. Once you give up, then everything is over.