Friday, February 18, 2011
Interview With D. C. Juris
Today I have the pleasure of sitting down with D. C. Juris, author of Omarati. Let's get down to the good stuff:
Clara: You created a devastatingly rich world as a backdrop for Omarati. What about this world called to you most? Do you expect to set other (unrelated) novels in it?
D.C: I have to admit, the world was formed long before Calliph and Mateo even existed. It started years ago, when I was a teenager. I have no idea where the idea came from, but I could see it all quite clearly in my head. I did all this painstaking work on it -- I drew maps and calculated distances between cities, sketched in mountain ranges and lakes, all that jazz. There's a lot more to the world than just what we visit in "Omarati" - there's actually a whole other side - sort of like North America and Europe. It was intended to be the setting for my very first novel, however I ended up needing to go back to the drawing board for that story. Calliph and Mateo were minor characters that kind of took over. I'm still working on the "very first novel," so yes, there will be at least one story that I know of that will take place there, and it's completely unrelated to Calliph and Mateo.
Clara: How long did it take to do the research/world building for Omarati?
D.C: The original concept occurred in a flash, but it has honestly taken me about three years to get it "right". The world has changed several times to finally become what it is now. The only research involved, really, was just double checking to make sure my ideas weren't too close to already established ones. There's *so* many stories in the fantasy genre, it's hard to know if a concept you have is something you've come up with, or something you're vaguely recalling from a movie you saw once a million years ago.
Clara: You write primarily gay/lesbian romance. Tell us a little why you chose to write in this genre.
D.C: The quick answer is "because I'm queer". Growing up, I was surrounded by friends who read those old romance novels. You know the ones? With the bodice-ripper pictures on the front, some scantily woman lustily wrapped around some hunk of man's leg, staring up at him as if she can't bare to look away? Yeah. That didn't work for a gender-queer kid.
The long answer is, all I ever heard was "write what you know". So I did. I penned my first m/m romance (the aforementioned still-under-construction-novel) and proudly showed it off. Everyone kind of cringed and said things like "well...maybe not this, though." They all said I needed to "take out the gay bits" and insisted that "there's probably not a market for that." Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across "Discreet Young Gentleman" by M.J. Pearson. Turns out there was a market after all, and oh...my. The books I found!!
Clara: You have stories falling into many subgenres, among them paranormal. Which do you find most challenging to write? Do you have a favorite?
D.C: For me, none of them are harder or easier than another. I suppose the most challenging is anything that already has an established history - anything like vampires or werewolves. I feel very passionate about giving props to the lore we already know about. I don't try to change much about my vampires or werecreatures. I mean, if I read a book about a vampire, I don't expect him to ::ahem:: sparkle. I'm sorry...I just like my vamps with a little more Lestat in their veins, if you will. But that's a prime example - in "Interview with the Vampire" Anne Rice took vampires and put her own spin on them without going so far out into left field that it became almost farcical. Sure, she changed some things up, but the core beings are what you expect them to be. What you want and need them to be. That's what I try to do. Small changes here and there, while still giving you the things you love and expect about the kind of character.
As far as a favorite, I have to say its a tie between contemporary and fantasy. I like contemporary because of its ease. The elements of a good story are already all around you in everyday life. And of course with fantasy, the author is in complete control. Anything can exist in my worlds, as long as I can plausibly explain it.
Clara: Has anyone ever told you to "brand" yourself and stick with one subgenre? If so, how do you respond to that notion?
D.C: I've heard that advice quite a lot, actually, and I resist it every time. Here's the thing with me - I don't write for money, fame, or awards. I haven't spent one dime of my royalties, and I have no idea if I ever will. I have the luxury of an Evil Day Job that I enjoy, and that pays well enough that I really don't have to stress over aggressively going after sales for my books.
I suppose sticking with one subgenre might work for some authors, maybe even most, but I find the idea terribly boring.
Clara: You have many published stories. What did it feel like to get your first acceptance?
D.C: Orgasmic. Am I allowed to say orgasmic? LOL My first accepted story was "Even Guys Cry" which appeared in the "I Do, Two" anthology, which benefits charity. That's right - my very first contracted story didn't pay *anything*. Which just seemed so perfect. Writing was never something I was encouraged to do. Never something anyone took seriously. All my life I'd been told writing was nonsense, and I shouldn't waste my time with it, because I'd never make any money off it, and I always argued that I didn't *want* to make money off it. So, for the first story accepted to be for charity was so bizarrely gratifying. Even better, the anthology came out in print. I don't think it truly hit me until I received the book in the mail. I held it in my hands, and I literally wept. It was the culmination of so much work and sacrifice.
Clara: What is the best (and worst) part of the writing process?
D.C: I love everything about the writing process. I love the research, the constant editing, the process of submitting and waiting, biting my nails as I wonder if the publisher will like my newest baby. If I had to pick one thing that was the worst, I guess it would be the isolation. Over the years, I've missed out on a lot of things because I chose to stay home and write. But I wouldn't change anything.
Clara: How long does it typically take you to finish a story?
D.C: It really depends on a lot of factors. If I know a publisher needs something quickly (i.e. they need one more story for an anthology, or something like that) I will literally drop everything and bang something out as quickly as I possibly can. I've got two stories coming out soon, and one that just came out, all of which were written in about two days each. For longer stories, it depends on how excited I am about the characters and the subject, and how vocal the characters are. Some of my characters are just *so* very shy, getting details is like pulling teeth. Typically, though, I prefer to have a story completely done and submitted within a month. But I usually have several WIPs going at once. Right now I have ten. :-)
Clara: Do you have any favorites out of the characters you've written?
D.C: I'd love to be that good parent who says he adores all his children equally, but that's just not the case. Calliph and Mateo put me through the ringer every time I start to write about them. They've been the only characters of mine to actually make me cry while writing about them. So for that, they hold a special place in my heart.
For sheer fun to write about though, that would have to be Dean and Rick from one of my older stories, "Sundae Surprise." They're just these two clueless, lovelorn dudes who, when they get together, are no-holds-barred sexy. I've only got the one story with them published, but there are others and let me just say...yowza!
Clara: Which writers inspired/influenced your work?
D.C: MJ Pearson, obviously. In my younger years, I read a lot of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I loved the Drizzt books by RA Salvatore. That's probably where my love of different worlds came from. The underworld he shows us is just amazingly alive and complex. I also loved Peter David. He did a lot of Star Trek books, and I really liked how he seemed to have a grasp of the characters and what they would or would not do. There's nothing I hate more than an author monkeying with a character who already has a soul. I liked darker writing, like Poe. I'm the guy who wants to see the bad guy triumph. I want to see the good guy get stomped on a little. I think it keeps them humble.
Clara: Was there ever a point in your career where you said, "Yeah, I can do this!"?
D.C: I'll let you know if I reach that point. :-) Seriously, I still don't think I'm all that good. But I write because I have to, and people seem to like reading my stories, so that's good enough for me.
Clara: Was there ever a point in your career where you almost gave up writing?
D.C: Never. Writing is a thing I do and don't even realize I'm doing. I'll say things out loud to people, and follow them in my head with "he said, raising an eyebrow to indicate just what he thought of the question". Seriously.
Clara: How do you come up with your stories?
D.C: I don't get inspired by things or places. I just listen to the voices in my head, and write down their stories. One day, I'm listening to a gay werewolf rattling on about his werecat lover, but the next, I'm taking notes from a lesbian writer who met her dream girl at the Department of Health. Whoever shows up in my head is who I write about.
Clara: What do you do to overcome writer's block?
D.C: I've only ever had anything like that once in my life. In 2009, I lost someone very dear to me, under very bad circumstances (not that there are any good circumstances, mind you), and it sent me into a complete tailspin. Everything in my life came crashing to a halt, including the voices in my head, and that sunk me into a terrible depression. I'd never been without mental chatter, ever. I had a very painful, turbulent childhood, and all along I'd had my characters to keep me company, but I didn't anymore, and I had utterly no idea what to do with myself. I reached a point where I literally believed that if I didn't write again, I had no reason to live. I woke up one morning and decided that was it - write or die. I don't know what happened - if something in me woke up, or if my characters got together with each other and decided to take action - I have no idea. But at exactly 7 pm that night I grabbed my netbook and I wrote until 7 am the next morning. Twelve straight hours and about ten stories. Some stories I finished, some I sketched, some I got half-way done, but most of them were published in 2010.
It's a situation I never, ever want to find myself in again.
Clara: I agree, it sounds like a terrible experience. Do you have any advice for aspiring gay/lesbian romance writers?
D.C: Don't be afraid of the genre. Yes, there are a lot of glbt writers, especially m/m, right now. But there are also lots of glbt-friendly publishers out there right now - if you write quality work, it won't be as hard to place as many people fear. The other thing I suggest is targeted advertising. You'd be amazed at the number of glbt publications, like magazines and whatnot, that really have no glbt writers advertising in them. And there amount of people who I meet who ask "there's male/male romance???" is staggering.
Clara: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers in general?
D.C: The best thing I can say is listen to critiques and advice, especially from other authors, and especially if they're published, and especially if *your* work has been "rejected". If they're published, that means they know something more than you - they know how to polish to the point of publication.
I met Aleksandr Voinov at the tail end of 2009, and he was the first real author (and what I considered real meant published) to take notice of me and offer his help. He's been an amazing source of guidance and input along the way. Shortly after that I met Raev Gray, and she's also provided priceless advice and opinion on many of my pieces, one of which was "Omarati". I've even been fortunate enough to have Jaye Valentine's input on one of my stories.
That isn't to say that everyone's advice is gospel, but in the beginning, when you're just trying to figure out why the publishers keep turning you down...it's probably mostly gospel. At least, it was in my case! :-)
On a larger scale, decide why you're in writing. Are you here to make money, or for the sheer experience of seeing your books published? Both are valid, but both require a different approach. Most small presses don't have the resources to run a media blitz advertising campaign for you, so you're going to have to do some of that work yourself.
Beyond that - keep writing.
Clara: Thank you for joining me today!
You can find D. C. Juris online at www.dcjuris.com.
Next week I'm featuring erotic romance author Gina Gordon!