Blog Versary : Eric Gober Interview and Giveaway
Eric: Thank you for hosting me, Kazza, and congratulations! I’m thrilled to be included in On Top Down Under’s big third anniversary celebration.
Kazza: I’ve only had the pleasure of reading two of your novellas – Out of Order and Knowing How He Feels About You. Both of these are in Wayward Ink anthologies. For you as a writer, what’s the appeal of writing stories for anthologies?
Eric: I have to admit I’m a sucker for a well written short story. I admire great short story writers like Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Ray Bradbury, and David Leavitt, who carefully choose their words to create flawed, vivid characters that struggle in very tangible worlds.
One of my favorite anthologies in the “MM” romance genre is Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. The book is filled with touching short stories about real, everyday men, all of whom I related to. They sought what I seek: connection, passion, kindness, romance, forgiveness, understanding, trust, and love. I remember finishing the book and wishing I had written a story for it. So I got online and searched for calls for submissions in the “MM” romance genre, hoping I’d find an anthology similar to Fool for Love. I discovered the book’s editors, Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, were accepting submissions for Best Gay Romance 2014. Uh oh, I thought, careful what you wish for. I now had to come up with a very strong story to submit. California’s battle against Proposition 8 came to mind as a backdrop for a tale, and I ended up penning “Strange Propositions.” In the story, Kenny, a young market researcher, moves to L.A. from Wichita, Kansas, right before Prop 8 passes. Clinging to a long-distance relationship, he’s broadsided when his boyfriend calls on election night and dumps him. Refusing to wallow in sorrow, he seeks solace at a West Hollywood drag club, where he meets Nate, a charming but eccentric Hollywood prop master, who solicits him with a very strange proposition. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the story was accepted for publication.
On that success, I went searching for other opportunities. I found a call for submissions from Australia-based Wayward Ink Publishing for a themed anthology entitled Stranded in which a main character had to be left stranded in some way. I immediately thought of the terrifying Loma Prieta Earthquake that rocked the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989. I wrote “Out of Order” in which Trent flies to Northern California from Arizona for a job interview on that fateful day. Moments before the quake strikes, he runs into a Rob, an old crush who’d mysteriously vanished from his life. The shaking leaves them stranded in shattered, blacked-out San Francisco. Yet amid the terrible devastation comes an unexpected second chance at love. Lily Velden at Wayward Ink accepted the story immediately, and she quickly became one of my favorite people in the “MM” romance publishing biz. Lily publishes a themed anthology every quarter. Her calls for submissions are fun and whimsical and invite writers to be creative. They have become the force that drives my desire to write short fiction. Lily’s themes have prompted me to tell kinds of stories I never would have tackled otherwise. For Wayward Ink’s tall-tale-themed A Likely Story, I wrote “The Birthday Gift,” a yarn about a time traveling Las Vegas blackjack dealer who hops from decade to decade, trying to change his unlucky fate in love. For the Broadway-musical-themed Encore, I had a blast writing “Broadway Devils,” a spoof about a fraternity preparing a skit for an annual Greek Week fundraiser. The boys decide to perform numbers from Chicago in drag. Chaos ensues as notorious events from the musical begin to unfold in and around their fraternity house. For the angel-and-demon-themed Of Heaven and Hell, I wrote a comic fable entitled “Purgatory Pink” about sworn enemies who possess a common friend hell-bent on being their matchmaker. And in the threesome-themed Three is Not a Crowd, I wrote “Knowing How He Feels About You.” Set during the colorful eighties during a road trip to Arizona State University for a football game, the story explores the lopsided attractions three college cheerleaders have for one another.
I’m definitely looking forward to whenever Lily announces the theme of Wayward Ink’s next anthology. I know her call for submissions will inspire me to go in a whole new direction with my writing.
Kazza: I noticed a couple of things that appeal to me about your writing, 1) You write characters who are very easy to like and quite every day people. 2) You also tend to write more gentle, sometimes more camp guys, and drag queens get featured as well. They aren’t the dominant, hyper-masc characters who appear in quite a few “MM” romance books. I do like that diversity because it’s very real.. Where do your characters come from? Observation? Character-voices speaking to you wanting to bust on out? Combinations of things…
Eric: It’s very rewarding for me as a writer to hear how you feel about my characters. Oddly enough, my characters are almost always born from the settings that contain them. I may have some general ideas about characters in my head, but the first real question I ask myself when I sit down to write a new story is, “Where and when does the action take place?” I research details about the setting, culture, and time period of the story, and then I begin envisioning characters. Very quickly they lay claims on the story’s milieu and begin to establish themselves and their quests. I then ask lots of questions about them. How will they act, react, and interact, given the circumstances of their setting? Are they supported by those around them? Antagonized by culture at large? Is there a price to pay for being open with their affections? How does technology affect their lives and their cause? I pull in relevant cultural details and show readers their socioeconomic status, their fashion sense, their orientation toward pop culture, their emotional and sexual desires, their psychological fears, and the types of bonds they want to make with others.
In life, I tend to gravitate toward people who are quirky, funny, kind, thoughtful, and balanced, but I have an appreciation for things that are colorful, theatrical, and over-the-top. That experience colors my characters. The men and women in my stories are neither hyper masculine nor ultra feminine. They end up with quirks and foibles and unique voices. They break cultural conventions and expectations. Sometimes more subtly, like the cheerleaders in “Knowing How He Feels About You.” And sometimes blatantly, like Denny in “Out of Order.” Denny and other drag queens who appear in my stories say and do things most people only think about. Yet I also strive to be very honest in depicting characters. I question their every thought and move as I write their stories. Would they really do this? Say that? If something I’ve written feels inauthentic upon rereading, it gets axed immediately. The result, I hope, is characters that feel very real to readers.
Kazza: You also like the 80s, it seems – both of the novellas I’ve read are set in that period. The book that readers have a chance of winning –Secrets of the Other Side – is also set in that timeframe. The 80s into the 90s were a tumultuous and pivotal time for the LGBT community. I’m interested in your take – Why this period? What appeals so much about then for you as a writer?
Eric: Having lived through the eighties and early nineties as a young adult, I’m drawn back to the period as a writer because of the experiences it gave me. For me, it was an exciting and terrifying time of discovery. Communication technology was limited then, and social media was non-existent. Growing up, I never knew anyone who was gay. I remember the excitement of meeting for the first time in college others who were like me. I formed strong bonds with my new friends. But very soon, I felt terror seize the community I’d discovered, and I suffered the heartbreak of losing special people to AIDS. When I moved from Arizona to the San Francisco Bay Area, I saw an LGBT community mobilizing in the face of utter hopelessness. Members fought prejudices and bigotry, made political allies, demanded visibility, and set in motion a long-term movement to rectify legal injustices that LGBT people suffered.
When I set out to write the novel Secrets of the Other Side, I wanted to capture the spirit of the era in the struggles of one gay youth as he comes of age. As Neil grows up in a Las Vegas trailer park, bullies and bigots test his wits. He can’t understand why his mom, Ellen, shackles him with one bad stepfather after another. She marries and divorces a mooch, a two-timer, and a pyromaniac. But when Neil hits puberty, he learns you can’t always keep your heart from going wild. Or stop your heart from breaking. Neil’s first relationships are traumatic, but when he meets Clark at a Halloween party, he grabs hold tight. Finally, he’s convinced love is here to stay. But he soon discovers AIDS may steal Clark away. With help from unexpected allies and his spirited Aunt Louise, Neil fights bitter battles on Clark’s behalf. Best friend Jacaranda Stump, a king-sized drag queen with dreams of being a Hollywood wardrobe artist, helps him cope with his losses and heal. But when Zach, a geeky computer science student, enters his life and sets sight on Neil’s heart, does Neil dare risk taking another chance on love?
Secrets of the Other Side won three Reader Views literary awards last year, including Best Fiction Book of the Year. I hope the winner of the giveaway enjoys the tale.
Kazza: Are there any books that you are currently writing or have coming out in the not too distant future that readers should be aware of? Maybe contemporary or even back to the 80s?
Eric: Presently, I’m focused on writing contemporary stories. My newest romantic tale, “Issue No. 1,” will be published in Wayward Ink’s forthcoming anthology Men in Uniform. The release date is December 17. “Issue No. 1” takes a satiric look at the colorful characters and comic-book-like milieu of Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. Stef Rogers, a struggling actor, makes ends meet by hitting the boulevard as Captain America. Whenever he dons the superhero’s red, white, and blue uniform, vacationers flock to take pictures with him, and he’s sure to make enough in tips to cover his rent. That is, until he runs afoul of a notorious turf gang of overgrown Muppets. When tourists record Cookie Monster humiliating our superhero with a K.O. punch and the video goes viral, he’s forced to go underground. But with help from his shrewd roommate, Tara, and a sexy but elusive beat cop named Officer Buck, Stef just might rise from the ashes of his defeat and become a true Avenger. Can he reclaim the dignity he lost when that snickerdoodle-chomper’s furry blue paw went Ka-Pow! against his skull? And more importantly, will he find real friendship and love along the way?
I’m also penning two short stories I hope to place in anthologies next year. The first is a drama about a guy thrust into turmoil when a fortune teller at a party sees dark happenings around his new boyfriend. The other is a love-at-first-sight teen romance set during ABBA night at the Hollywood Bowl. Once I finish these tales, I’m sure I’ll be looking for a way to return to the decade of E.T. and Wham!, and write a new story set in the eighties.
Thank you to Eric Gober for popping by during our blog anniversary and answering a few questions. And also for the terrific giveaway.
**THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. CONGRATULATIONS TO SULA**
Eric Gober is giving away a treed copy of his book Secrets of the Other Side. which won three Reader Views literary awards last year, including Best Fiction Book of the Year. Simply leave a comment below before midnight October 31st US EST for your chance to win this fantastic book.
ERIC GOBER can be found at: