Ep:101 There are two things that make this episode special. First, this is the second Interview After the Interview episode where Brad runs through a series of quick questions from eight previous guests.
In addition, Brad will inform you of Cupid Shot Me, an anthology of short stories by eleven authors who all have been guests on this show. Each spins a tale of murder, horror, and suspense all during a Valentine’s Day you won’t soon forget.
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[00:00:00] Brad Shreve: You're listening to Queer Writers of Crime. Where you'll hear interviews with renowned LGBTQ authors and up and coming talent, of mystery, suspense, and thriller novels.
Welcome, I'm Brad Shreve. For those of you who have never heard of this show, and for those of you that did, but forgot, Queer Writers of Crime went on hiatus after episode 100, four months ago. I'm back today with a special edition of Interviews After the Interviews. Whenever I record a guest on the show, I asked them to stay with me to record a few rapid questions so I can compile them to keep in my back pocket for a rainy day.
It's not raining here in Los Angeles, but I'm going to surprise you with one anyway. I have short clips of eight authors, who I had the pleasure to have on the show, but this is the first time these parts of our conversations have aired. Before I begin in the special episode, I have an announcement about an anthology you don't want to miss. The book is titled Cupid Shot Me and is filled with short stories by 11 award-winning, Queer authors who offer you tingling tales of murder, horror, and suspense all during a Valentine's day you won't soon forget. I must list all the authors that are in the book. And when I'm done, you'll know why to start the incredible Michael Nava wrote the books introduction. And the short stories are by these authors Gregory Ash. Neil Plakcy, Mark Zubro, Mark McNease, Rick R Reed, Marco Carocari, JB Sanders, Greg Herren, Meg Perry, Frank W. Butterfield, and yeah, little old me, Brad Shreve. The reason I had to name them is not only because each and every one of these authors is outstanding, but because I've had the luck to have every single one of them as a guest on this show, I read all the short stories in this anthology and was delighted to find each one outstanding and unique.
You can pre-order yours now. It's available. And trust me, you'll be glad you did. You'll find links in the show notes and you can also find them on Queer Writers of Crime dot com website. So while you're listening, go ahead and click that link in the show notes and order it. I'll still be here Now, go ahead and click that link now, ,
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[00:02:47] Brad Shreve: instead of jumping right into the interview. I have to take pause because my first guest is Lambda Literary award finalist. Steve Neil Johnson. Steve's full interview was in February, 2021 and his episode number 70. He was charming. And I enjoyed our conversation, at the time steve had written three novels for his LA After Midnight Quartet series, and I teased them because it had been five years since he wrote the third novel. And I said to him, it was my understanding that a quartet meant four. And, Steve was embarrassed, but I'm now happy to say he released The Red Raven in October, 2021. Thus, the complete series is available for your enjoyment to read.
Sadly, Steve left us on December 13th, 2021, one day, shy of his 65th birthday. I'm happy to have met him. Steve leaves us a legacy of nine books. It's sad we won't see more. My condolences to his husband, Lloyd Brown and to his other family members. So now here you have the interviews beginning with Steve,
Steve Neil Johnson.
What is the funniest thing you've heard from a reader?
Steve Neil Johnson
The funniest thing, actually, I never hear something funny. It's always a kind of, I get heartfelt letters from people who, who, uh, are moved by my characters.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
[00:04:28] Steve Neil Johnson: Well, it's okay to daydream, but you can't spend all your time daydreaming. You have to actually sit down and write the book.
[00:04:38] Brad Shreve: What is the hardest thing about writing?
[00:04:42] Steve Neil Johnson: The hardest thing about writing, I guess, is getting inspiration. You want your scenes to be great. You want them to pop. And so I think, uh, uh, finding inspiration for that scene and often finding the first sentence in the book or the first sentence in the scene, that's really gonna, um, make, make the scene, uh,
[00:05:06] Brad Shreve: What do your family and friends think of your writing?
[00:05:11] Steve Neil Johnson: Um, you know, one of my friends, some friends don't even bother to read the books. Some do. So I actually can't even answer that question,
[00:05:31] Brad Shreve: Kristen Lepionka
where do you get your ideas?
[00:05:35] Kristen Lepionka: Oh boy, I get my ideas from literally everywhere. Um, so that's something that's actually been tough in the pandemic. I'm not going as many places and having as many experiences, but, um, I think the best ideas really come from, you know, taking two distinct concepts and seeing where they intersect. And that's really where a good, a good story.
[00:06:00] Brad Shreve: And what, according to you is the hardest thing about writing?
[00:06:03] Kristen Lepionka: Uh, probably. Can I say all of it. I mean, it's, you know, it's like writing is wonderful and terrible at the same time, and there are so many ways even psych yourself out and convince yourself that you're no good at it.
Um, and I think that that that's really kind of the hardest thing. That's something that never goes away even after you have several books published, it's just kind of always there in the background.
[00:06:32] Brad Shreve: And what do you love about being.
[00:06:35] Kristen Lepionka: Well, I love telling stories and I love using, uh, the mystery genre to sort of reveal a little nuggets of, of human truth and finding ways to, um, explore the darkest parts of human nature.
[00:06:50] Brad Shreve: And what is your writing kryptonie?
[00:06:54] Kristen Lepionka: My writing kryptonite. Oh my goodness. Um, my writing kryptonite is probably I could write backstory for days and it doesn't always, it doesn't always fit. I could write an entire novel backstory with absolutely no plot. I would love to do that writing in the mystery genre. Uh, that's not going to work. So, um, that's definitely a weakness of mine, but. That's why we have editors,
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[00:07:27] Brad Shreve: Garrick Jones.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
[00:07:35] Garrick Jones: That people wanted to buy them and read them. I had no idea when I first published with a, there would be popular or not because there were very different to most of the stuff I've read. Um, and the other most surprising thing is the number of personal emails. I get through my website from readers who tell me that they're too shy to post a review, which I would love them to, but tell me how much that they've read them and how much they identified with it, the characters and the stories. That's the most surprising.
[00:08:04] Brad Shreve: What writer or writers have inspired you most and how?
[00:08:10] Garrick Jones: Oh, where does one start? Um, I wrote about this this morning on Twitter, the first adult book I read when I was. Nine I think was Mary Renault, and I don't know if you know her, she's a writer, British writer who wrote about ancient Greece in about, oh, well, I suppose we call them gay relationships these days. And I read The Last of the Wine, and that just impressed me. I thought this men having relationships together, I'm like, oh man. And then later on in life, I thought, oh, well maybe that was a signal unconscious signal in my mind. Then after that, um, Mostly science fiction at the beginning until I got to high school and discovered a classic writer, something I read Dickens and stuff like that stuff about. And then the stories that actually were about people. I don't know if there's any particular. Writer it in the formation, but later on, you know, great, uh, novelists, Ellen Hollingsworth, uh, Christos Tsiolkas, um, contemporary writers have inspired me like Christos Tsiolkas, especially cause he's another Australian gay writer, but he writes very dark, pithy, um, rather violent books, but there's a voice in there that I love. I love that it, that it is so raw and so honest, great, um, reader of his.
[00:09:33] Brad Shreve: What, according to you is the hardest thing about writing?
[00:09:37] Garrick Jones: Hardest thing about writing is saying goodbye to your baby, knowing when to stop. Because as I said earlier, I have suffered from most CD sort of learning when you've re rewritten it enough when it's time to send it to the editor. That's the hardest writing. I don't find how hard at all, because I do so much research before I start. And that it's yeah, it's learning.
[00:10:02] Brad Shreve: What do you love about being a writer?
[00:10:05] Garrick Jones: What I love about being a writer, uh, is that when I retired somebody, everybody said, you'll get bored. I haven't been bored for one second. I love the English language. I love every voice, whether it's UK, voice, American voice, south African voice, or Australian voice. I love hearing those sorts of things. And then trying to assimilate those different cultures into what I'm putting on the page. It's the challenge. Making it interesting yet real. I think that's what I love about writing.
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[00:10:38] Brad Shreve: Edwin Hill,.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
[00:10:48] Edwin Hill: Oh gosh. Well, they always tell me that they love. Which, uh, I very much appreciate, um, I do have a real, I have a group of, um, very close friends who are very good, critical readers, who I'd like to share, uh, early drafts of novels with. And I always really encourage them to tell me, uh, to, to lay it bare for me. And I really appreciate it when they do.
[00:11:10] Brad Shreve: What was the most rewarding thing you've heard from a reader?
[00:11:16] Edwin Hill: The most rewarding thing that I've heard from a reader is. That they liked the way my main character. I wrote a series a and the main character is named Hester Thursby. They liked the way that she has evolved through the series because I've worked really hard to, uh, keep her interesting and keep her growing as each of the books that have been published.
[00:11:40] Brad Shreve: What is your writing kryptonite?
[00:11:44] Edwin Hill: My writing kryptonite is complete and utter self doubt, and I'm usually able to work through it. But, um, I think especially early in the drafting process, when you're working on a, um, on a first draft of a novel, when you're still trying to figure out what the pieces are, it can be really easy to talk yourself into, uh, into believing that you don't know what you're doing and that everyone's going to figure it out this time.
[00:12:09] Brad Shreve: And what is the funniest thing you've heard from a reader?
[00:12:12] Edwin Hill: The funniest thing that I've heard from a reader are my one star reviews. I love to read one star reviews and I love the meanest ones. I love the ones that just like, kind of, it kind of, uh, tell you that you you're the worst writer that they've ever ever read in their entire lives. My, my favorite, a one star. It's from a woman named Sharon and she does send this book is a mess.
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[00:12:41] Brad Shreve: Tammy Bird,
what does literary success look like to you?
[00:12:47] Tammy Bird: I think that literary success is different for every person. For me, I felt as if I was a literary success already as an educator, but I, I feel a different kind of burning and a different kind of literary success. Uh, my fiction writing, I have had a lot of success with my short stories. And I feel like even if you never publish a novel, even if you never become a published author, if you're writing these stories and, and you're, you're, there's someone out there that need your words. So no matter how you put it out there or who gets. Uh, if you're, if you're writing, if you're writing those words every day and getting them down, then I think that's success.
[00:13:35] Brad Shreve: When you were younger, who were your influences?
[00:13:39] Tammy Bird: My biggest influence when I was younger was my father. Uh, as I said, my father, uh, Raised me. And he was just this beautiful soul and he taught me a lot about life. But as I, as I grew a little bit older, I would say also, um, one of my biggest influences was my best friend who, uh, I met when I was just a kid and she had a lot of struggles in life and she never ever let it get her down.
She would always say it doesn't matter what happened yesterday. What matters is you get up today and you do it again. And that's just always stuck with me. And so I would say that, that she, that her, my dad probably
[00:14:28] Brad Shreve: Speaking specifically of authors, what authors today influence you?
[00:14:36] Tammy Bird: Um, this one's tough because it depends for me on what I'm writing, because I want to, I want to be influenced by someone I'm a firm believer in reading what I'm writing to get I T to be influenced. And so I have a very dear friend in the writing business. Um, Finnian Burnett and they influenced me every day with that, just the grit and tenacity and the words, their words are phenomenal. I cannot figure out how they put their words together to create what they create. And I just read, uh, kind of beta read a story that they wrote and the characters are, um, the, the protagonist is. Uh, man, who is cis, but he pretends to be gay to get a roll. And actually isn't really pretending, and it is hilarious and she didn't write comedy before that.
And I'm like, how, or how do you do that? How do you, how do you even do that? And then. Right now they're taking college classes, teaching classes, writing books. I don't know. It's just, uh, as an inspiration. Um, I look to them every day for inspiration. Absolutely.
[00:16:06] Brad Shreve: If you could tell your younger writer, self anything, what would it be?
[00:16:11] Tammy Bird: Start writing today.
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[00:16:20] Brad Shreve: Michael Carocari,
what was the hardest scene for you to write?
[00:16:30] Marco Carocari: The hardest scene to write for me was probably the climax of the book. Um, I didn't want it to be that endless explanation of why, what happened when it happened. So it had to be. I wanted it to be as realistic as possible, how people would talk, where certain questions will remain on answered, and maybe even ask a question in themselves, uh, that, that, that doesn't really get answered.
So that was difficult to do. And I took several steps at it. I hope I got it right. It feels good to me at the moment. I hope readers get enough out of it.
[00:17:14] Brad Shreve: What is your writing krypronite?
[00:17:17] Marco Carocari: Man, you're really not making this easy, uh, I would say I am my kryptonite. I frequently struggle with self-doubt and can I do this? Is this the right approach? I am definitely my own worst critic and my biggest problem, I can. Throw a real wrench in, in, in, in the proceedings myself by just saying, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This doesn't work for X amount of reasons. Um, and I'm trying to very much to overcome that
[00:17:52] Brad Shreve: On a scale of one to 10 how weird are you and why?
[00:17:58] Marco Carocari: Uh, mm. Seven, if seven is toward where it's six or seven, I'm not super weird. I'm actually pretty much. You know, middle of the road, uh, for a lot of stuff. But I, over the years learned to find humor in a lot of places and a lot of things, not everybody else will. So I might chuckle or giggle about something for completely different reasons than anybody might think.
Uh, and so that has definitely gotten to be the odd look here and there, but I'd say, yeah, well six, maybe more of a six.
[00:18:33] Brad Shreve: What does literary success mean to you?
[00:18:40] Marco Carocari: Oh, well, getting published, I guess at this point, uh, getting published is one thing, but perhaps recognition by other writers. Is that means a lot to me, writers with so much more experience, so many more books under their belt, uh, who really know what they're doing in my opinion. Uh, saying you got this rights, you are on a good track.
That means a lot to me, certainly a lot more than, uh, money or how well a book sells. That's always nice. And then right behind, that would be, of course I'm happy readers, readers who agree with you who say that you were successful? I think to me, that's how I would define.
[00:19:22] Brad Shreve: What authors have inspired you?
[00:19:25] Marco Carocari: Boy, that's a very long list. Uh, well, uh, there was definitely, uh, Michael Nava absolutely was one of very big influences I would say. And certainly one of my go-to writers, Armistead Maupin, um, Joseph Hansen, uh, when we talk, you know, gay crime fiction or just gay fiction, I am a huge fan of. John canola cheese. I always trip of John Connally, Michael Connolly, Dennis Lehane. Those are sort of my go-to writers. I love Rachel Housel hall, uh, who I had a chance of meeting and sort of discovered her writing a few years ago. Those people inspire me by doing what they're doing. And I don't know. They influence me. Cause I always feel like who am I to say that, you know, I took this from that person or, and then someone reads my stuff and says, this reads nothing like that person, but I, I absolutely strive to be a better writer.
And these writers are giving me the hope and inspiration to be a better person, a better writer, I should say. Uh, and, and see how they do it, how they told a story and. Uh, they sit their phrases and then not copy that, but get inspired and hopefully come up with my own.
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[00:20:50] Brad Shreve: Michael Nava,
a common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept. How true is that?
[00:20:59] Michael Nava: Uh, well I call myself a high functioning introvert because I basically want to be left alone. But I've learned over the years, how to interact with other people in an almost human, like way.
[00:21:13] Brad Shreve: Have you ever been faced with the choice of whether to write what you want or make it marketable?
[00:21:19] Michael Nava: No, because I didn't, I've never had to make my living as a writer. So I write what I want.
[00:21:26] Brad Shreve: What's your favorite under appreciated novel?
[00:21:30] Michael Nava: It is a novel called, uh, The God in Flight. I forget the author's last name. Her first name is Laura and she's a Facebook friend. Uh, it is a gay romance before gay romance is worth thing and it's beautifully written The God in Flight.
[00:21:51] Brad Shreve: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
[00:21:56] Michael Nava: Um, being overwhelmed by the thought that you have to write a novel. And when. Aspiring writers asked me, how did you write a 300 page book? I see, I wrote it one sentence at a time and that's how you have to think about it.
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[00:22:18] Brad Shreve: Wendy Heard,
how do you feel about the future of Queer crime genre?
[00:22:23] Wendy Heard: I am excited about it because. I feel that it is opening up to all different types of stories. I would love to see increasing amounts of diversity, um, age diversity, race diversity. I'm just looking forward to, um, all kinds of new stories coming, coming this way.
[00:22:45] Brad Shreve: Have you ever learned anything from negative review and incorporated it into your writing?
[00:22:50] Wendy Heard: Actually? Yes. Um, I learned. I had, um, a villain unmask herself and at one point, but an earlier in the book, in another way, she had told her reasons for doing what she's doing. But by the time she unmasked herself, it was like easy to forget why she was doing what she was doing, because it had been so long.
And I realized that people really want that moment when a villain is unmatched. They want that. Here's why I did it moment. You know what I mean? Like they don't want it to be implied. They don't want it to be done through character development. They really want an explicit moment where the villain sort of tells you what she did and why she did it.
Um, and so I learned through that, that like, and it's really, you're reading really fast. You're not picking up on every little thing that was dropped in. Sometimes you really just need a moment where it's like, here's what happened. Um, and that Agatha Christie moment, I realized people really like, so I learned that from.
[00:23:48] Brad Shreve: Most writers have something other than writing that they're passionate about. What's yours?
[00:23:55] Wendy Heard: Uh, sleep? No, uh, I have a degree in painting and I really miss painting. I also played the guitar for my whole life. I started playing classical guitar when I was seven and I played it all the way up through until I started writing really seriously.
Um, and so those two things are things that don't have a bunch of time for anymore, but I really miss them and I do love them.
[00:24:19] Brad Shreve: If you go to the library or a bookstore, what type of book are you most likely to pick up?
[00:24:27] Wendy Heard: I'm always going to go straight for the crime fiction section, just because I'm a junkie and I can't get enough, but sometimes I will go for, um, Like, I like myself, a good SciFi thriller or something like that.
Like a Blake Crouch or one of those guys. I like a speculative book, like a ghost story, a vampire story. I, anything kind of goth and horrorey, uh, speculative. I'm I am all about it. So I will usually go for that before I'll go toward others genres.
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[00:25:07] Brad Shreve: Before you go, I've got two things. First. I want to remind you about Cupid Shot Me the Valentine's days. Short story anthology from the links in the show notes. And finally, to wrap up this episode, I am regularly asked of Queer Writers of Crime is coming back permanent. Hmmm. Well, I suggest you sign up for the newsletter and maybe just, maybe you'll hear a big announcement soon.
To sign up for the newsletter. Just go to the website. Or as I always say, there's a link right there in the show notes. Thank you so much for join