26 June 2012

Interview with Ally Blue

Please welcome Ally Blue, Rainbow Award nominated author of m/m romantic fiction. Thank you for agreeing to be grilled interviewed for the BtV blog's Loud and Proud: LGBT Characters theme month.

My pleasure! I love grilling. As long as someone else is doing it. Heh.

 What is it about m/m stories that drew you to writing m/m romance?

Like a lot of readers of gay romance, I cut my teeth on reading slash fanfic. I started reading that because it was different, it was intriguing, and it was hot. At least when it was well written, LOL.

However, the thing that kept me reading on into original character fiction – and what drew me to writing it as well – was more than that. I found myself fascinated with the dynamic between two men in a romantic relationship.

It’s so different from the dynamic between a man and a woman. I’m not talking about power or equality here, though there’s always an element of that in any male/female relationship in our society, even in fiction (and I’m not getting into that here because no one wants to hear me preach from my soapbox, ha). You can have plenty of inequalities for one reason or another between two men, and there will be power struggles more often than not, I guess.

The difference in dynamic is because men simply interact with one another in a different way from how they interact with women. That’s interesting to me, and I like to explore it. Plus there’s the factor of the unknown and unknowable. I’m biologically female and I identify female as my gender, therefore I can never be involved in a gay male relationship. This makes that relationship the most fascinating one in the world to me. It’s simple human nature.  

Other than the H&H both being male, would you consider your stories to be traditional romance? I guess what I'm getting at is, with the moving target called "erotic", would you consider your books erotic by today's yardstick?

Not really, no. Some of my older ones are erotic by anyone’s standards, since they have a lot of sex scenes, but they’re all pretty vanilla, I think. I don’t do BDSM or D/s or any of that stuff which is so popular now. A few of my guys have dabbled with some toys, but they’re really just playing, not invested in any hardcore lifestyle. There was one three-way in Love’s Evolution and a pretty intense episode with plants in Fireflies but mostly my boys just do it the old-fashioned way, even when they do it a lot. LOL.  

A common complaint I hear about m/m romance is that authors take a female character and simply change her feminine name to masculine, and call it m/m. How do you "keep it real", and do you think this is a core reason why readers love your work?

 I always start by considering my characters as people, not just gay men. They have backgrounds – parents, extended families, childhood and teen experiences that shaped them, etc. They have jobs, favorite colors, music they love, bad habits, particular ways they dress, pet peeves, personal values and morals, strong opinions. They’re talented at some things and terrible at others. They have personalities of their own that develop more and more as I outline the story, and even more as I write it.

 I think when a character doesn’t come alive, it’s because an author sees that character as a character, not a person. No one is going to care about your hero if he’s just a generic gay man you stuck in the lead role for the sole purpose of being a gay man in a book. He has to be real, which means being a gay man is only a small part of who he is. I like to think my guys are pretty real, and that’s why those who love my books love them. I have a lot of fans who are gay men, which makes me very happy.

As the mother of a newly minted RN, I know how much self-discipline it takes to get through nursing school. Does your nursing background carry over into your writing M.O.? What's a typical writing day like?

Man, I wish self-discipline spilled over into my writing life. Sadly, it doesn’t as much as it should. I graduated nursing school almost 25 years ago, which was B.C. for me (Before Children), when I was marginally more organized than I am now and had WAY more free time. LOL. These days, I have no “typical” writing day. It all depends on what else is going on. I work part-time, which is awesome because I have a lot more time to write than I did when I had to work full-time.

On work days, I write when I get home. Unless it’s one of those 10 or 11 hour days, in which case my brain is usually fried and I just fall on the couch and watch TV like a total slug. I never know what kind of day it’s going to be, which is fine because I get paid by the hour. :D On my off days, I check my email, Twitter, etc. then try to get some writing done while I’m having coffee and breakfast. After that I go for a run – I’m training for a half-marathon in September, yikes! Wish me luck! – then get back to writing unless I have other things that need doing.

My goal is always between 1K and 2K words per day, so that if I get more than that I’ll feel really good about myself, LOL. Sometimes I make the goal and sometimes I go over. If I have other obligations, I might not make the goal. Like the last month, when I had one kid graduate college and the other graduate high school. I’ve either been out of town or had family at my house almost constantly, which has put me WAY behind, but it was all for a good cause.

Congratulations to your new RN! That’s wonderful! We need more dedicated nurses.

Thank you! And good luck with the half marathon! Which comes first for you when it comes to inspiration for stories – does a character pop into your head? Or a place that compels you to set a story there? Or a situation you hear or read about that sets off the "what if" domino effect?

It’s happened to me in all of those ways, and others. Probably characters come to me first more often than anything else, but I’ve been inspired by places and situations lots of times. The Happy Onion was actually inspired by a cartoon on the back of a grocery store delivery truck. LOL.  

Though writing is essentially a solitary profession, we do seem to find our "herd". Where do m/m authors and readers congregate? Are there specific conferences that are good places to go to meet and connect?

Oh man. I don’t get to go to nearly the number of conferences I’d like, so I’m not positive about most of them. But GayRomLit is probably THE gay romance con to hit. In fact it might be the only one, I’m not sure. This year will only be its second year, but after the kickoff in New Orleans in 2011 it’s already gained a reputation as the best conference for gay romance authors and readers to gather to hang out, talk, play and generally raise hell. Heh.

This year’s con is in Albuquerque. I didn’t make it last year, but I’ll be there this year, yay! I think the m/m crowd manages to find each other at any conference, though, simply because we’re usually in the minority. We tend to make plans pre-con to get together for drinks or dinner or whatever. Usually drinks. :)  

How has writing m/m changed your own relationships with the men in your life?

I think that simply meeting and hanging out with so many more gay men than before gives me more patience with my men (husband, son, dad, friends, etc.) because I’ve gained more insight into some of the things they do and say. My gay friends tend to be more like me than any of the other men in my life – that is, they say what they think, they don’t hold back, they tell the whole truth. They talk to me, in other words, which is something it’s difficult to get some other men to do.

 Of course I can’t extrapolate that behavior onto all gay men, any more than I can say all straight men like comic books just because my husband does. But I like being able to talk openly with my friends, and I’ve been able to figure out a surprising amount about the other men I love from those conversations. Which is awesome.

 Has it affected your own sexuality?

Ha, interesting question! No, it hasn’t. Which is not to say I haven’t learned some fascinating things about the range and scope of human sexuality, because I have. I’ve met many people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, pansexual, and other “nontraditional” sexualities. I feel like my life is much richer for having met so many wonderful people who are so different from me in their sexuality, and realizing first hand that we’re all pretty much the same tough, tender, loving, vulnerable human beings inside.  

Would you consider writing a f/f romance?

I would if I thought I could write one that wasn’t crap, but I seriously doubt I could. I’ve tried writing female leads before and they come off sounding like men. Which is maybe a little weird, but there you go. LOL. That’s why I don’t write m/f romance also. I can’t write a realistic female romantic lead! That seriously annoys me about myself.  

I am a native Tarheel living in "exile" in Ohio, so I envy your location in the western NC mountains! Do you find that living in what many consider the "Bible Belt" makes it more difficult to be "loud and proud' about writing in the LGBT genre?

Oh, definitely, yes. Not so much because of the public in general. I live close to Asheville, which is pretty much a shining liberal jewel in a dark conservative sea, and Buncombe County is one of the ones where the populace voted against the notorious Amendment One. But I have to keep my writing under wraps because there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t get fired from my day job if they found out about it. They can fire an employee for any outside activity that, in their sole opinion, reflects poorly on the organization.

I don’t know for sure that I’d get fired for writing gay romance, but I’m not betting my income on it. I don’t make nearly enough from writing to support just myself, never mind my whole family. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t help thinking this wouldn’t be an issue in a more generally open-minded area.  

What's next in the publishing pipeline for you?

Graceland releases from Samhain on July 3rd, and Demon Dog, the first book in my brand-new Mojo Mysteries series, is scheduled for release from Samhain in December. Aside from that, I’m working on one – still untitled at this point – that should release from MLR Press in October if I can manage to finish it in time. We shall see. O_O

After that I promised my Samhain editor, the lovely and magnificent Sasha Knight, that I’d whip up a proposal for an urban fantasy. Well, my take on it anyway. I have an idea I really, really like and am anxious to start working on.  

Now for the important question. Eastern or Western NC barbecue?

LOL. I really prefer Western. Always have. So delightfully saucy and spicy!  

Thank you for joining us, Ally!

Thanks for having me, it’s been fun :)
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Visit Ally's web site at www.allyblue.com

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Carolan Ivey
www.carolanivey.com
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