April 5, 2022

Mark McNease And His Characters Age Together

Mark McNease And His Characters Age Together

Ep: 110 Brad talks with Mark McNease about what makes his Marshall James series thrillers compared to his Kyle Callahan series which are mysteries. They also discuss Mark's preference to write about older characters, plus the different points of view he uses with his different characters, and more.

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Disclosure: To cover the cost of producing Queer Writers of Crime, some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, Brad will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Marshall James Thrillers on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3LFHI2f

Mark's website for his books, LGBTSR, and all three podcasts:

Mark on Facebook:  MarkMcNeaseWriter

Mark on Twitter: @markmcnease

Mark has been writing since he was eight or nine, quite a long time in the brief span of any life. He's the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, three of which have been best sellers on Kindle. His Detective Linda mystery, 'Last Room at the Cliff's Edge', was released in September 2016, and called a winner by Publishers Weekly. He released 'Murder at the Paisley Parrot: A Marshall James Thriller' in 2017, with its follow-up, 'Beautiful Corpse' in March 2020. 'Black Cat White Paws: A Maggie Dahl Mystery' came out in 2018, followed by his supernatural chiller, 'A House in the Woods.'

He started the Mark McNease Mysteries podcastin 2020 to narrate his own mysteries and fiction, beginning with 'Reservation for Murder: A Kyle Callahan Mystery' (book #6 in the series, and a Kindle bestseller in LGBT mysteries).

His short story 'Stop the Car' was selected as a Kindle Single and is now an audiobook narrated by the amazing Braden Wright. It was selected twice to be included in the Amazon Prime reading library.

He also has an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program for 'Into the Outdoors', a television show he co-created and wrote for two years that is now in its 21st year.

He lives in the New Jersey woods with his husband, Frank, and his two cats, Wilma and Peanut.

Brad's Website: bradshreve.com

Support Requeered Tales  re-publishing award-winning, post-Stonewall gay and lesbian fiction — with a focus on mystery, literary and horror/sci-fi genres.


Announcer  00:00
Pardon the interruption. Queer Writers of Crime is right after this message. Do you think queer writers of crime is fantastic? It's good? Maybe it's just okay? Whatever your opinion is, Brad wants to chat with you...yes, you! Email brad at bradshreve.com and he'll schedule time for a brief call. You can also reach him by using the contact page at queerwritersofcrime.com. Don't dilly-dally. He wants to hear what you’ve got to say.

Brad Shreve  00:01
Can one person write novels run a website and Facebook group for LGBT seniors and manage three podcasts at once? Well, you know, the answer is yes, I wouldn't ask. Mark McNeese is coming right up. But first I'm going to take a few seconds to emphasize what Aisha said at the beginning. I've had a few people scheduled calls with me, but I want more. Help Queer Writers of Crime keep getting better and better and better. And shoot me an email and let's talk. It's time

Announcer  00:29
It's time to put  on your sleuthing cap seal nailbiting dread and face heart racing fear. This is Queer Writers of Crime, where you'll get book recommendations and hear interviews with LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense and thriller novels. Here's your host, Brad Shreve.

Brad Shreve  00:51
Hi, this is Brad Shreve, welcome. I've said this many times about my guest today. His book Death at Pride Lodge was the very first queer mystery novel that I'd ever read. Mark is most known for both its Kyle Callahan mysteries, and his Marshall James thrillers which we're going to talk about today. And Mark Hello, welcome.

Mark McNease  01:14
Welcome back to you out there in Riverside, California.

Brad Shreve  01:19
Well, I'm actually up high above Riverside. I'm okay. i You have to drive up through the past and I'm up in the desert.

Mark McNease  01:27
And I am in the woods in New Jersey. For anybody who knows me knows that. But yeah, I live in New York City, longtime LA for a while and now I live in the woods.

Brad Shreve  01:39
I think I'd rather be in the woods than the desert though. The desert is growing on me. It's a different desert that I'm used to love to scrub brush and is it a dry heat. It's not like Phoenix is what I'm used to which is a dry heat and is actually quite pretty. The red rocks and that sort of thing. This is a grayish scrub brush Tumbleweed. Roy Rogers Peck wrote this were Roy Rogers lived and died type of deserts. So I didn't like it at all first, but it's grown on me. I like it much better. And the mountains are pretty good to see the beautiful snowcapped mountains in the distance. The great distance. Yeah. But you can see him better than you could in LA, which I worked in an office for two years. And that's about 18 months, two years. And I don't smoke but I always went outside with people when they smoked. When they took their breaks. I could chitchat. And one day I turned around and I said, when did that mountain get there? And they're like, well, it's always been there you just couldn't see it to the smog. I said, I swear, I never knew that much. And it wasn't like a long distance mountain. It was clear as day that day because we had had a rain. So Los Angeles is a much better place than for smog than it was like back in the 50s and 60s, but it has a way to go. It has a way to go. 

Mark McNease  03:04
Well, I lived there. I lived in Hollywood for 12 years. I think you know,

Brad Shreve  03:07
yes, I do knew that. I do know that very well. Because when I read Murder at the Paisley Parrot, you had Hollywood down to a tee.

Mark McNease  03:17
Yeah, I was denizen of the Hollywood streets. And then I learned just today that I don't know if you ever went to a different light when it was in Silver Lake but the the guy who really was sent there to make it work was Richard Labonte and he passed away. Yeah. Michael Nava had Michael Nava had put that on his page. And I had known Richard and I was I was sad that he died. He was an early champion of mine when I was writing for short stories for a gay paper throw away. Richard always was just really encouraging. And I'm sorry that he's gone.

Brad Shreve  03:54
Yeah, I saw Michael Navas post about him. And I know A Different Light bookstore. I believe it was there when I was here in Los Angeles. Do you know what you're closed?

Well, it moved to West Hollywood. It was in Silver Lake when I was there in the 80s. And then I moved to New York in the early 90s. And it moved to West Hollywood. I think it's survived probably another 10 years or more. And then they had one in San Francisco. Of course, we're, I believe that was the original in San Francisco. And the one in New York closed it was. I remember that one too. And of course, now they're all gone. But it was still going when I left LA.

Brad Shreve  04:33
Okay, now I'm I was confused. Now. I totally get it. Because when I read Michaels Well, when I read the article that Michael posted, I saw and I thought I remember A Different Light in West Hollywood, he must have this wrong. Now it moved. I had been there many many times. Yeah. So yeah, that was a great store. That's a great store. It's done. that all three of them are gone. Yeah, I remember when la it closed and then I by remember when New York was actually in the national news when it closed because it was the last of the biggies. Mm hmm. Very sad to see those go

Mark McNease  05:14
along with a lot of other things that represent our, our historical experiences.

Brad Shreve  05:21
You know, that has been a big theme on this show lately.

Yeah, I listened to your interview with Marshall. And it was just really made me think about things because even here in New Hope I know this is tangential but New Hope. Pennsylvania is a really cool town. Emeryville is really cool. I set all my books here now, for the most part, but it was a thriving gay getaway for years for people from the from New York and Philadelphia. And they had three gay bars, and they're all gone now. It's like, everything is gone. And that's just life. You gotta you have to learn to roll with it. But there's a sadness to it.

Brad Shreve  06:00
We're really here to talk about you, Mark.

It offers a segue into the Marshall James thrillers, by the way, because those are those take place in the present in the past. Do you want me to? Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, Marshall, James. First of all, it's a take on my birth name. I'm adopted, Mark McNeese. My birth name was James Marshall, green. And I always wanted to use the name somehow without legally changing mine. And I decided not to use a pen name because I wanted, I work hard for what I do. And I always have been writing for for most of my life, and I'm 63 now. So I always wanted my name on what I wrote, it's just me, I had no reason to use a pen name. I wasn't writing porn. And if even if I did, I probably would still use my name. So I wanted to do something with my birth name, and ended up coming up with this series. And this character named Marshall, James. And in the books, he is my age, most of my characters are my age or certainly over, not too far behind me. And I can talk about that too. But he's lives in New York City, it's the present, he survived a cancer diagnosis and surgery. And he decides not knowing how long he's got, because it can always come back, that he wants to talk about these murders that he was part of, not that he committed, but that he was involved in, back in the 1980s. Hollywood. And so it starts out in the present in New York City. And then he goes back into the, the, the events in the mid 1980s. And interestingly, it allowed me to write because you had said when you wrote it, or when you read it that I was I had Hollywood down, and it allowed me to go back because I lived there then and I went to the Hollywood Spa, I went to the baths, I went to the bar called The Lemon Twist that I that I repurposed for as the Paisley Parrot. And there are you know, all these things are gone. Now. I mean, the twit the lemon twist is still there under a new name, I don't think I don't think it's a gay bar anymore has been for a long time. But so much of what I write about doesn't exist anymore, like a different light. Like the things we were talking about. But it's it's still I've enjoyed going back and, and researching and like, what are the top what were the number one songs on the radio in 1984. You know, and going back into that part of my life, and writing a story about it, but then also getting to come back into the moment that I'm in, in the age that I'm in. So I really liked writing them.

Brad Shreve  08:39
And you could tell that and the reason I said you you captured it really well is a lot of those things are gone. By the time I moved here. I got here right at the early 2000s Hollywood SPA was still there. There were a few more of the places there this bookstore, the Hollywood spa, but it's as I was living here that we saw more and more of those things going away. The other thing I really thought you captured well is the seediness of Hollywood, and it was much more seedy even when you were here. Where was the lemon twist?

Mark McNease  09:10
That lemon twist was boy if you know Hollywood Boulevard, I'm having to envision it Hollywood Boulevard up around where the Pacific Theater it's not there anymore. The Pacific Theater. Oh, it's not West Hollywood at all. It's the main dragon Hollywood,

Brad Shreve  09:26
Hollywood Boulevard.

Boy I'm trying to think of landmarks but it was back it was back behind those places. It was like on you know where the Hollywood SPA was. So if you went on to buy like Las Palmas back in that area. It was in there. It wasn't that noticeable. You had to kind of know where it was. And it was a drinkers bar which which I write about because that was me. I was even when I was young. If I wanted to hook up as they call it. I would go to the bass. I wouldn't go to the bars because I was a heavy drinker myself and the lemon twist was the kind had a place where you went to drink. And that's what I liked about it. That's what the character Marshall likes about it. I wasn't there to pick anybody up. I don't know how often I ever picked anybody up at a at a bar and you didn't need to back then, folks have Grindr Now I wouldn't even I've never had an app because I've been in a relationship for a long time. But he just went to the baths and and it was a social place. I write about that quite a bit in these stories, because it wasn't just there to get to have sex. It was also a social gathering spot for young gay men. And a lot of them were street people.

Brad Shreve  10:36
By the time I came out baths through strictly for sex, there was a little bit hanging out, but that not a whole lot. And it's funny to talk about Grindr and such. My first book, which is a body in a bath house, it talks about the bath house and the story is really struggling. And I looked up a lot of the history of bathhouse and their, their slow decline. I don't think they're ever gonna go away. I think that it's like glory holes. There's a certain thrill people have with those. So there will always be somebody that likes that atmosphere. I used to love the thrill of going to one and but I'm happily married and haven't been to one in ages. But I think that will always be there. But they're just this city used to be filled with them, and they're very few left. In fact, you know,

Mark McNease  11:23
there were quite a few back then.

Brad Shreve  11:24
The only one I can think of in the Hollywood area is not a bathhouse. It's called Slammers in success club that they don't even pretend to be anything else. I've never been there but from what I understand that there's no pretense of having a gym that nobody uses or a pool that nobody uses. It's it's just open and that's what you do.

Mark McNease  12:06
So with the with the thrillers, too, I had just done a short story based on them. And you and it was in an anthology that you also had a story in? Yeah, it was a Marshall James thriller short story. That was fun, because I had to kind of had to write on deadline. And I it's taking me a while it takes can take me a long time to write a book. And so I'm trying to write the third the Marshall James thrillers I intend there to be three, there have been two, murder at the Paisley parrot beautiful corpse. The third one is called final audition. And I'm working on that now. But it was it was nice to have to have to go off and write this 10 11,000 word short story based on that character. I really enjoyed doing that. And I was happy with what came out.

Brad Shreve  12:52
It was my very first short story that I published. And I was very nervous about that. And like you said, there was a deadline, which when you self publish, there's not much that much of a deadline, you can just write on forever and never actually finished one if you let yourself. Yeah. But you are bringing up both Marshall chin Marshall, James and CO Callahan. And you mentioned that Marshall James is a thriller. And Kyle Callahan is a mystery. What made you switch? Tell us what's the difference in in? Let's start there?

Mark McNease  13:26
Well, I mean, some of this is subjective, but mysteries and thrillers and suspense, they each have parameters, I don't know. I don't want to call them. It's not rigid, like like romance is it's really rigid. I've never written or read a romance and I'm not ever going to write one. But they're very rigid, they must have a happy ending they must have this semester of that mystery you have a lot of room to work with on a mystery, it can be told through omniscient point of view, which I have used. So that I can shift point of view from different characters, or, or it can be a single point of view, which I'm also using right now with another book I'm writing where the lead characters in every scene. But anyways, a mystery. The protagonist is generally not in danger in a mystery, you know, like, a wire or anybody, you know, usually is not in danger in a thriller. The dynamic is different because the protagonist, is put in peril early on and remains in peril. And that's what makes it a thriller. That's what makes it a suspense book. As opposed to a mystery where you could have a character who is solving a murder mystery and is never in any it under any threat at all. The mystery is, is the center of it. And with a thriller, like in the Marshall James books, he pursues a killer, and the killer pursues him. You have this friction going on all the time. And that's what in my mind makes it a thriller, as opposed to a mystery. And when I wrote the first Marshall James Book, I called it a novel because I couldn't decide. I didn't want to call it a mystery because it's really not about Mystery. And it's not strictly a thriller. It's kind of a hybrid. So I call it a novel. But then you have people who say like, they think the authors are being pretentious when they use the word novel, but I explained to a friend recently, that's because it differentiates it makes it a differential. It's not a it's not a mystery. It's not a thriller. A lot. A lot of times an author will put a novel The word novel on a book, they're not being pretentious. They're doing it because it is not a genre book. You know what I'm saying?

Brad Shreve  15:29
Yes, I do. And I think since most people tend to read genre fiction, and especially somebody like yourself, if you don't consider it a mystery, and you're known for writing mysteries, it would make perfect sense for you to write a novel on there. So people know that they're getting into something different. And I actually got into it thinking it was going to be a mystery. And it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. The whole the whole tension. Do you give us time to read for pleasure?

Mark McNease  15:57
Well, it's it has to do with my, the state of my life. When I lived alone, I always went to bed, I read when I went to bed, I had no television in the bedroom, I would watch the news or whatever and eat in the living room. And then I would go into my bedroom. And I would read before I went to bed every night. So I got through books, a fair number of books. Since I've been with Frank, I don't read at night, we watch TV in the bedroom. So I my reading pretty much nowadays is on my days off, I will read and take a nap. So it can take me of a really long time to finish a book. Because I'm only reading it maybe three or four days a week for about a half an hour at a time. It's very different from what it used to be. I still love to read. I buy books all the time. I just don't finish for a

Brad Shreve  16:45
while at that pace, it would take quite a while to finish one.

Mark McNease  16:49
Oh yeah, it can take me weeks. And I have friends who go like, like a friend of ours, turns me on to books and buy in, he'd buy but I met him because he emailed me and said I love your books. And I think you live near me. So it turned out that we did and we made friends with him and his husband. But he recommended a book to me and he's like, reads right through him and then wants to know what I thought and I'm like, you know, Ron, it's gonna take me about six weeks to read this. So be patient.

Brad Shreve  17:16
I'm surprised when averred mystery readers and especially avid romance readers read a book in one and a half days or even one day. And I'm always amazed about that. And then I think back to when I first moved out of my parents home. I I've always enjoyed reading. I've always been a big reader. But when I first moved out, I didn't have a TV. So I was voracious. I just read everything I get get my hands on. I read everything from Oh, those cheesy Star Trek stories, which some of them were pretty good to literary fiction, anything I could get my hands on. And I reached the point that I didn't even give it to him. They didn't have a television. I'm still quite happy that my husband and I, we both don't like having a TV in the bedroom. So we we both go to sleep reading our separate books.

Mark McNease  18:10
Yeah, by Well, yeah, my late partner and I used to do that we would read together in bed. Frank Frank, we're TV watchers, and it's okay. Life is life. Is a process

Brad Shreve  18:21
ever changing. You mentioned point of view earlier. And your earliest mysteries, the Marshall James mysteries, or no, I'm sorry, the cow Callahan mysteries. Those were all written in third person. Yeah. And the short story that we discussed earlier Cupid shot me that was the first time I ever wrote in third person. First Person is much easier for me. So the kind of Callaghan's here series was in third person, and you switch with Marshall James to first person. So first of all, just give folks an idea of what the difference is between the two. And then I'd like to hear your take on how it felt to switch from one to the other.

Mark McNease  19:05
I said earlier, I've been writing since I was a child, probably about 10 years old, I started writing those stories. And for the most part, I've always written in the third person. I was heavily influenced by Poe. And it turns out he wrote almost exclusively in the first person, but I wrote I've always written in the third person. And I just I like doing it there's there's a remove when you do that. There are different points of view that you can use, you can use omnisend point of view, or you can you can write as any character in the book, or you can do a single point of view. But it's it's just really different. It's I'm removed from it. I'm painting the scene as I see it, or hear it in my head. And I'm not the character. I become those characters. When I write the dialogue. I'm listening to them and like the Maggie doll book that I'm writing now, she talks and the other character talks with It takes us some sort of a different skill set to write in the third person. I've written in the first person, I had a short story that became a Kindle single. And I was really proud of that one. And that was the first person. And when I started the Marshall James books, I wanted to write in the first person. And most of I will say, most of the mystery writers I know, right in the first person, and I gave it a try, and I do like it, it's very different. It's very different for me, because I'm writing as like Marshall, J. Marshall. Thornton said in his interview, I'm writing as the character, you know, the character has a voice, and the characters telling the story, so not only are you talking like the character, but you're thinking like the character, and you're painting the scenes for the reader as the character. To me, they're very different. I do think it can be more challenging to write in the third person. And I don't want to I don't want to, you know, diminish first person writing at all, because, but I do think you have to be good at it. I mean, I remember reading a long, long time ago, as I was developing as a writer, that first person is that a lot of people write in the first person when they're beginning because it's easy. It's easy to start saying I did this, I did that. I opened the door and took out the knife and stab the person. But you do need to be good at it. There are a lot of people who are bad at first person writing. I mean, the world is full of bad writers who are writing in the first person. Yeah. When you're good at it, you're good at it. And that's to me is the only caveat because you could you could also write in the third person being horrible writer, lots of those two, like I said, I think they just take they take different skill sets. And aside from the Marshall James books, I don't know that I would, you know, I think my other books are all third person and I'll probably keep doing that.

Brad Shreve  21:47
Well, I was curious, you mentioned Maggie doll. And you wrote a nother female protagonist, Linda, is it Sikorsky,

Mark McNease  21:55
Linda Sikorsky lesbian?

Brad Shreve  21:57
Yeah, being that they're both females? Could you ever imagine writing those as first person? Would you ever feel comfortable doing that?

Mark McNease  22:08
I don't think so. Because I am binary. I will say that, and it doesn't bother me. I'm pretty binary guy. And so writing it writing in a woman's voice is not the same. I don't think even though you still have to take a different perspective writing in third person when you're writing with a female protagonist, because the world has seen it in a particular way, or in her case, her husband died. So I'm having it was really important to me to address her grieving process, which is still ongoing. But I don't think I would write in the first person as if, as a female.

Brad Shreve  22:43
I think the other thing with first person is, since that is the who you're hearing, listening to through the entire book. The key is to make sure they're somebody that the reader wants to listen to. And I think that when you have somebody that's new, that isn't necessarily very good at first person writing, I think that's probably their problem.

Mark McNease  23:05
Yeah. They don't they don't always not everybody, not every I had a little bit of more into this. I was also I wrote plays for 10 years, and had six of them produced. I've won two Emmys. I'm going to put that up there. Because I was writing children's television. And I and you should put that out there. Yeah, I got the two Emmys for that. But where was I going with this? Dialogue, I think believe was Tennessee Williams, it may have been turned to Tennessee Williams, I think who said that dialogue is the illusion of conversation. And I have never forgotten that. Because another thing that you can either be really good at or really bad at is writing dialogue. And understanding that it's not how people really talk. You know, if I wrote If we wrote the way people really talk, like nobody would get past the first page. Dialogue is an illusion. So you can you can work on that you can hone your skills. I have told people read poetry read a lot of poetry, if you want to develop an ear for dialogue and an ear for even even for prose, read poetry, you know? Because you learned to be succinct and you learn to paint pictures with words. The fewer the better, in my opinion. Dialogue is not how people really talk. No, well, actually

Brad Shreve  24:20
probably 50% of what we talk about. Nobody wants to read it's just chat. Yeah, nonsense. I'm not gonna say it's nonsensical, but I don't chat nothing. Where is it really focus on a narrator in the story, and I think it's probably easier in a movie because you can you're usually only hearing dialogue. If you just really listen, it's very clear that they aren't talking the way people talk because they are straight and to the point in everything they say, and it really comes across if it was if he spoke that way. The real world I'll say you just be blunt as hell. Yeah. Whether you're talking about things are positive or things that are negative, you're going to come across as rude. But that is important the way do you have to write in fiction? Yes. So you're 100%, right?

Mark McNease  25:10
So I want to just throw out there that writing is rewriting, that's yet another big thing that I learned a long time ago. I rewrite Can I write Polish constantly? Like, by the time I'm done with something, it's not that I've written it 10 times, it's that I have polished it 10 times like words, putting out word 10 habits. So writing is rewriting. And another mentor told me that and it's always served me well.

Brad Shreve  25:35
And, you know, I think that's where people get a bad reputation. Those of us that self publish on, on Amazon, or wherever we self published, there are so many so many bad novels. And it's usually because somebody that wasn't trained, and they don't polish their novel, they write it, maybe they edited it once if they're lucky. And then that's it, they put it on, you know, up for sale, and people read it. And they're like, these people that don't go through a publishing house, they don't even know what they're doing, because it's assumed that we don't go through that process. There are many of us a lot, and a lot of us that our craft is very important. And you know, some of the people that do publish on Amazon is probably very important to them as well, they just probably haven't had the right direction. Yeah, I think the reputation is going away, mostly. But even some of the Edgar awards that the Mystery Writers of America offers, some of them are not open to Self Publishers.

Mark McNease  26:33
Well, with this, since you brought it up with Mystery Writers of America, they have approved publishers, and if you're self published, you have to make at least $5,000 in royalties in a year. If you're not, if you're published through a quote, if you if a bolt stroke spokes is publishing you, you only have to make $200. So I thought that was kind of, you know, I don't real doesn't really matter what it says i i What I did get in, finally, but um, and I, I wanted that I wanted to be a member of that organization. But it's like, that's a really big difference between the fact that you know, a, quote, publishing house puts you out. And so you don't have to make almost nothing to be a member of this organization.

Brad Shreve  27:19
It's a very good point. And I wasn't trying to put them down at all, because they, they've done a lot of great things. In fact, some of their past presidents i are some of my idols. In fact, I will tell you, I'm not going to name the name, there is an author who I've adored for years and has been my inspiration for years. And if anybody listens to past episodes, know who I'm talking about, and I sent him an email, and I said, I have a show called Queer Writers of Crime. And I know you're married with children, though, that doesn't assume that you aren't queer. But based on interviews, and that sort of thing, I'm going to presume that you don't identify. However, it's my show, and I want you on there. So I'd be thrilled to have you on and I think you should be introduced to the role. And he was very kind. And he it was the first person ever turned me down. Actually, one person canceled the interview, and I changed the name from gay to queer of the podcast. Okay, because he said he was not going to be involved in anything that used the word queer. That was the first person that ever would not be on the show. This gentleman sent me an email back, he was very kind and said, I would have no qualms being on a show that is related to the LGBTQ community, that wouldn't bother me the least. However, over the years, I have found i absolute hate being interviewed for podcasts. That's fine. So and it broke my heart. He said, otherwise, I'd be glad to buy just hated I've done enough of my I swore I would never do them again. And I said, if you change your mind, I am screaming to get you on my show. So where was I going with that? Oh, anyway, this individual was one of the past presidents of Mystery Writers of America.

Mark McNease  28:57
I want to find out if they have things that I can get involved with in this area. I don't know yet.

Brad Shreve  29:04
You mentioned earlier about writing about older characters. And I want to bring that up. Because for those listeners that don't know, I now have every guest write a blog post. And there's a link in the show notes, guest blocks and you can go there. And Mark wrote a really interesting one called in praise of older characters. And Mark has a challenge with all are the vast majority of sleuths and protagonist been in the 3040 tops range. And I had Barbara Wilson on last month mark and writing older characters is a very big deal to her as well. You are absolutely passionate about it. You are so passionate about it. You have started a I don't know if I call it an organization but you used to have a newsletter blog and you still have the Facebook page LGBT lsr.com I want to talk about that

Mark McNease  30:01
I share Well, it's it's LGBT Sr. But I did the LGBT s are, you know, as a little play on that because the lob originally the art was lowercase. Anyways, I started it 10 years ago and I started it at the same time that I that I decided to write a mystery, a gay mystery. And it all goes back to a place called Rainbow Mountain. They're still there. They're in the Poconos. It's a LGBTQ resort that's been there for 30 years. And most of the customers look like they've been going there for pretty much all that time. It's an older clientele. And one time Frank and I were there 10 years ago, because we used to love to leave the city. It's only about an hour an hour or so from New York City. And we were there and they had a sweat. They have a swimming pool that that is mobbed during the summer still. And it had been drained for the winter. And it was just the blue pool with leaves in the bottom. And I looked down into it and I I had an image of of somebody being dead at the bottom of the pool. And I said to Frank, this would be a great place to set a murder mystery. And I did that's how I wrote my first murder mystery murder at Pride lunch with Kyle Callahan and his then partner Dan. Well, they they're still together because I just wrote a book. My last book was theirs. But they weren't they weren't married yet. And they were a Rainbow Mountain. And Kyle's friend was the like the groundskeeper there, and he's the one who was dead at the bottom of the pool. I wanted to write a book that had characters who were like me, and I've pretty much stuck to that I can, I can write younger characters. I have a supernatural chiller called house in the woods and the character lead characters are in their 30s. But they're also straight and and I don't know what that has to do with anything. But maybe it's easier for me to write young straight people. But anyways, the car Kalyan mysteries. They're the he's they're the same age as we are. And it's actually modeled on me and Frank, Danny, his husband, Danny is Frank, he does something different for a living. And Frank did but I it was important to me to see my own age group and in what I was reading in, especially writing, and it still is Maggie doll is in her 40s I don't really see me going. I don't want to write a 25 year old. I mean, unless there's an in, you know, an incidental character in something. And I have nothing against 25 year olds at all. But I want to write from my own experience. And I don't write romance. I don't write sex scenes. So there's really no reason why I have to have a 25 year old with a six pack, you know, abs in my books or on my covers, not to offend anybody there. But I'm just not I'm never going to put a torso on my cover. That's not what I write. But anyways, so my characters are older and I value the older characters I value their experience. I love writing. Even with Maggie, the the woman sleuth, she's hurt, she's grieving. And she's going through things that I'm very familiar with. And I don't think you know those things. When you're in your 20s. The only difference the exception, of course, is that we lived through the AIDS crisis. And I was I was losing friends in my in my late 20s. And my partner died when I was 33. But having said that, I just prefer writing older characters. And I also like reading them. I'm very comfortable with series that I have been reading for 20 years or more. And the characters aged as I did a really good example is Michael Connelly, very well known, the Harry Bosch books and the show on amazon prime with Titus Welliver. But Harry got old with me. You know, I was reading Harry 20 years ago, when he was in his 40s. Now he's in his 60s, and he's retired. And I just love that. I mean, I just love that. So that's why it matters to me. You know, and I think we do tend to disappear and you know, the State of the State of LGBT mystery, if that even is a thing anymore. I don't want to get into my opinions about all that, but I want to see me I want to read mysteries with people that I can identify with.

Brad Shreve  34:09
Well, I'm gonna get on my high horse about torsos on the cover. I love mysteries that have torsos on the cover the big bare chested men. Oh, because I know to skip them, because in my personal opinion, is very unlikely when I open that book, I'll be reading the mystery.

Mark McNease  34:26
Oh, that's true. You're going to be reading mmm, romance with a dead body in it.

Brad Shreve  34:30
Exactly. And I've said this so many times, I have no issue with romance, but don't write a romance and stick it into the mystery category. So you can sell more books. And that's my opinion what they're doing now. So anyway, if somebody wants to argue with that with me, give me a call actually bring you on the show and talk to you about it. But that's my opinion. And of course my opinion is the one that

Mark McNease  34:50
counts. I agree with you and I know a lot of a lot of male gay mystery writers, you know have used I don't even sit seductive the right word for the However, I understand that I'm not going to knock that. But when I think of the the writers that I that like really blow me away as writers, they don't, they don't need to do that. Their, their, their, their writing is what sells. It's not the what's on the cover that sells the book. So that matters to me too. I like I want to be a mysterious writer. And it doesn't make you unserious to have a hot 25 year old white, they're always white, by the way, on, you know, on the cover of your book, but you know, you're gonna have to prove to me that you're that you're a serious writer.

Brad Shreve  35:35
I was at the Los Angeles Times festival books, and I met somebody that should know better. I don't want to give a hint. Because it would be very easy for people to know who they were. And this was a private conversation. But they said to me, Oh, I've just started getting into mysteries. And I really enjoyed them. And I said, Oh, who do you read? And they said that I have to die. And my, my mouth dropped open. Because this is an individual that? Well, if you read the reviews, he gets huge, wonderful reviews. But they're all about the the relationship. And when you read the negative reviews, they say, I bought this book expecting a mystery in all I got was a lot of sex. Yeah. And some romance. And that is why I have I think it has blurred the lines for many people that, as I've said here many times, if we don't have that in our book, they're angry, because that has now been their expectation that's been created. Yeah, sure. So that's my, because I have no interest in writing a romance novel. But anyway, I've gotten this route many times. Again, okay. So you did something a little different with Marshall, James. During his the time period when the action is going on. He's younger, right? He's, but he's telling the story. He's telling the story from the future from Yes, as an older man, is a reason why he went that route with him.

Mark McNease  37:06
Like I said, he, he had cancer, he's in remission. It's been five years, he figures I could die and he's got a husband, he's got a boyfriend, they get married in the second book, or while the second book, they're definitely married now and living together. And he wanted to it's like, he wanted to get his get it off his conscience, you wanted to tell these stories. And it was a really good way for me to, to do that myself to go back into the past. And because it's the first person, he is telling it from the present, but you don't, it isn't very often. It's not a fourth wall. I don't know what you would call it. But I don't very often break that. I mean, he could be he could be, you know, 20 years younger and telling the same story. It's only very rarely does he reference, for instance, something that doesn't exist anymore, he would just say, you know, he used a payphone. You know, he's, I don't really, it's very rare that I would mention the fact that there are no papers anymore. Um, so he's pretty much in the 1980s when he's telling the story.

Brad Shreve  38:08
And I'm sure there are many, many books that could come to my head, but the one and only one that is coming to me now is that's the way fried green tomatoes was written. Oh, okay. I don't know if you've ever read the book or seen the movie, I highly recommend. It's not really mystery. But it's an old woman in a nursing home telling a story from a small town that she grew up in it was written by Fannie Flagg, who I think, was an outstanding writer. Well,

Mark McNease  38:32
and I liked doing it too, because it gives the it gives Marshall a future. Because now in the third book, it is all wrapped up. But then the third book that I'm writing, and he's able to, well, you, if you read the short story, you you're gonna get sort of where it's going. he reconnects with the love of his life, who he left in LA all those years ago. And it's really, that's all just stuff that I really love to work with. You know,

Brad Shreve  39:02
it leaves you a lot of interesting things that you can do because the person's already gotten to know the character, and you've created this. You've got bookends and there's so many interesting things you can do in the middle and I

Mark McNease  39:14
like the emotions of it even like with with Maggie, I have dealt with intense grief myself. And those are things that I like to work with. You know, I like to examine what what is grief? Is it linear? Is it not linear? All those things the same thing with Marshall Marshall. He's got us but he doesn't want to leave his husband. But he wants so much to say goodbye to somebody he never was able to say goodbye to. If that person is even still alive. You got to read it to find

Brad Shreve  39:42
out. Very good. One thing Barbara Wilson brought up last month is one of the challenges she has she she writes older character. But one of the challenges she finds is you reach a certain age and your your sleuth cannot climb over fences or go through windows. anymore? Yeah. Do you see that as a challenge at all?

Mark McNease  40:03
I do, because with the with the Kyle Callahan series, it's, it's gonna be it's been over a year and a half since I put out a book. And that's a really long time for me. But it has to do with the pandemic and everything else that's been going on in our lives. But with Kyle and Danny, he's in his 60s Now, as I am, and I have already thought, I don't really want to write one of these books when he's in his 70s. So I don't know how much further I will go with it. I'm not ageist, I just, I'm not sure that that Kyle is going to be solving murders when he's in his 70s? Probably not, he's probably going to be tending the garden and loving his cats. You know what I mean? If that makes any sense. I mean, there's kind of an age limit to me with it.

Brad Shreve  40:48
My character in my first two novels, and someday I'll get the third one out. He's in his 30s. And there's a reason why I did that. I like it when characters age just like you do. And you know, I think of Donald Strachey, some others that didn't age over the years. And I don't want that. But also thought Strachey has been around for 40 years. And even though I it's very unlikely I will be around in 40 years, I hope to be around for a good long time. So if I started a character at my age now, he would be a very old sleuth in a couple of decades and very unlikely that he would be continued with that job, which is my reason why I put him earlier so I can have him grow and age. Yeah. Do you want to talk about your podcasts.

Mark McNease  41:35
I've got an interview podcast that is very sporadic. I've got an interview coming up next week with a guy who wrote a book about women and children in the civil war fighting in the Civil War. And especially a woman a man named Albert, Camus cashier, who was actually a woman. And then but that the one that I do every week is called the twist podcast. That's with Rick. And I've been working with Rick for over 30 years. And one thing or another, we're very good friends. And we've collaborated on all kinds of stuff, including the two at the show that got the two Emmys. He i He and I co created that show. So I really have a lot of fun doing that show. We do get a lot of listeners with that one, which makes me happy. Because it's just fun. We have a lot of fun. And I think we're funny together and we're extremely relaxed with each other. And that's what makes it work.

Brad Shreve  42:22
And that's why I enjoy it. It's so obvious that you have been friends for a very long time. And well I guess some people could fake it. But it's just like listening in on to pals, talking about what's going on in the world. Yes. And we can

Mark McNease  42:35
get very opinionated. It's very gay. I've said, Hey, Rick, this is where I'm, I'm totally mark on this podcast. Facebook, I censored myself a lot. I stopped being very political on Facebook. Mostly it's just pictures of me and Franco and after dinner, but on the podcast. That's and that's it's pure, unfiltered Mark McNeese. So if you want to know what my opinions are, what makes me laugh and what really pisses me off? That's the place to find it.

Brad Shreve  43:02
And Bina, listen to the twist, I can assure you, he is 100% Correct. You know, the reason I stopped doing politics on Facebook is it's people I know, either from friends and family, and most of them think just like I do, yeah, so I'm preaching the choir. And it's, I just kind of got tired of it. I didn't see the need for it. On the other hand, I used to do politics on Twitter, and I stopped doing that because people can't have what's the word discourse? What's the word that Oh, usually come civil discourse. civil discourse. Thank you. It's impossible to have on on Twitter. I started discussions with people that didn't agree with me on Twitter. And eventually, it gets down to them calling me names and that sort of thing. I blocked them. Yeah, but what's funny on Twitter is, Bernie followers have called me a fascist and corporate tool. And on the other hand, conservatives, mostly Trump folk have called me a lib tard and a communist. Yeah. Now how I can be both at the same time. I can't figure it out. But in the Twitter world, I I actually used to have that on my, my little byline on there. So I pulled myself away from Twitter completely. I'm now on there. I stay away from politics. There's a lot of stuff that's really fun and interesting on Twitter, just unless you really want to get into a bitchfest just out of the politics. And I didn't think that was possible for a while. I did kind of get tired of not being able to speak my mind occasionally. So I'm not gonna say the name I did create a fake account. So fine. So if I do want to take a jab, like one of my proudest moments is when Eric Trump blocked me. Oh, nice, because I made a comment on one of his posts, and he blocked me. And I was so excited. Just so excited. It's the way before Trump was called told him that he couldn't block people anymore. People that get blocked by a more like a badge of honor. That's what I felt about Eric. The the interview show? What is that called? It's, it's so called dumb.

Mark McNease  45:14
Oh, yeah, it's

Brad Shreve  45:15
called one thing or another? And is there is there other picture type of people that you interview? They look like it's a variety. I used to

Mark McNease  45:24
interview a lot of authors because I know them, it was easy to find. It was easy to get guests. And actually, the title comes from I started writing a column like an editor's column called one thing or another. Look at life in the absurdities, aging and the absurdities of it all a long time ago for the website, LGBT senior. And that was sort of a monthly column short, maybe four or 500 words, take on on whatever was whatever I observed about life. That's where the name for the podcast came from. And originally, it was a lot of authors. But I wanted to interview different kinds of people who different different things I didn't want to, I didn't want it to be about one thing. And so for instance, the last interview I did, which I was really liked, was a man named Professor David Yamani, who is a professor in North Carolina, and he's a he's a liberal gun owner. There's a thing called the liberal Gun Club. I joined it even though I don't have a gun. Because everybody thinks, Second Amendment NRA nutjobs. And there are actually a lot of people in this country who own firearms who are not crazy white right wing nut jobs. And Professor Yamani studies, gun culture, and he is a gun gun owner. So I interviewed him and it was I really liked that. And then next week, like I said, I'm interviewing and he's an author, but he's also a historian about the Civil War. So it's really a matter of like, what interests me what do I want to learn about there's a cat behaviorist, I'm going to be interviewing her. I've done that before, because she helped us with our cats. So it's very eclectic. You know, it's, it's easy for me to fall back on authors because they can always find an author who wants to be on or who is willing to be on a podcast, but it all it all depends. That's part of the reason it's sporadic. Because I keep waiting for like, Who do I really want to talk to living in the woods, it's, you know, I don't have that many interactions with people who are doing fascinating things. But they're out there theater, it might be an actor could be Jenny, who runs the music, mountain theater, so that it all just depends. The tagline was interesting people doing interesting things. But I think it's a really lame tagline. So I don't use it

Brad Shreve  47:40
look kind of implies that they've done something extremely noteworthy that has made the headlines or something of that nature and

Mark McNease  47:47
gorgeous that it's fascinating. Like it could be a cheese shop. How do you make? How do you make cheese? I want to know,

Brad Shreve  47:55
your show proves the adage that every person has a story. Yes, they do. You've proved it. You've proved that.

Mark McNease  48:03
Not every story is captivating. But everybody's got a story.

Brad Shreve  48:07
That is true. I find most stories or at least interesting. I'm curious when I did not hear you and Rick, and I'm sure you did. Talk about the don't say gay in Florida. And I'm only bringing up because I know your show. well enough to know, you guys probably had a

Mark McNease  48:26
heyday with that. Yes, I was. I gone off on it a couple of times. Because it's a trend. I just Frank's late father lived in Florida. I've been to Florida plenty of times. I love Keywest. But I just can't go there right now under this with this regime in power. Because I believe DeSantis and his first of all, he wants to out Trump Trump, he wants to be the nominee. And so I guess when you're like that the only way you think you can do it is to appeal to the basis of the base. And in my opinion, he's turning Florida into a maga shithole. You know, I just have what they're doing to the status is just tragic. And the don't say gay bill. I see. I've seen the pushback where Oh, it's really about a K through third grade. Well not if you read the language if you read the language of the bill, which has been pointed out in detail by people who pay attention. It chose speech all the way through 12th grade and it doesn't define what is appropriate age appropriate so if you're married if you're a gay married teacher now are you not allowed to have a picture of your spouse on your desk? Can you not do rainbow flags? It's terrible and it's not the worst of the worst. I mean, to me the worst stuff going on right now is like in Texas when in Alabama with the anti with with redefining gender affirming care for minors as child abuse and going after the parents and in I believe it's I want to say Tennessee oh my god, maybe it's Idaho, where now the If the bill passes the parents To provide gender affirming care for their child can be put in prison for life. And so I have really strong opinions about it. And we talked about it yesterday, the 240 bills. And this year, January, February, March, three months if 2020 to 240 bills have been put forward in Republican red states that criminalize us that diminishes that try to erase us, that silence us. In 2018. It was 41 bills. So the onslaught is continuing, and it's escalating. And so yeah, I have a lot of opinions about it.

Brad Shreve  50:36
Well, unfortunately, the pendulum swings both ways. But eventually, let's hope it it stops swinging in the wrong direction. What?

Mark McNease  50:45
Well, if it ever stops paying political dividends, they won't be so quite severe that

Brad Shreve  50:49
that is true. And here's what really I mean, there's so many things wrong with with the bill in Florida. But what upsets me the most is it always comes down to sex, they can't get sex, other heads. So they're saying that we shouldn't be talking about sex to 123 year olds? Well, no, of course, you don't talk to sex. You know, you do it a certain level, but only you know, how you talk about sex is age appropriate. And so it doesn't matter whether it's sex between queer people or sex between straight people, you can only talk about so much. So to say that I have two dads or I'm married to my husband and I do not even be allowed to say that is because their heads go to the sex thing.

Mark McNease  51:46
Right, and it shouldn't be. It should, if they're going to do that it has to apply. It can't be just same sex. It can't just be homosexuality, it has to be heterosexuality. So are they are straight teachers going to still be allowed to talk about the weekend with their with their wives and husbands? Or is that out of bounds? We know who they're after with this shit?

Brad Shreve  52:10
Yeah. Well, remember, this is the state of Anita Bryant. Things haven't changed as much as I thought they had over the years.

Mark McNease  52:19
Now, and they're actually I think there could they could be much worse. I mean, why they why they hate transgender people so much. I just can't understand. I don't think like that. So it is hard for me to under

Brad Shreve  52:32
I think it's because well, there's, there could be a million reasons why transgender bothers them so much. Being gay has become much more mainstream. We're not there yet. Yeah. So they have to have something new to go after they have somebody. And the fact that Trump was able to ban trans people from the military showed right away that they don't have as strong rights as others in the LGBT community and she cute community. And so they're easy to attack. And,

Mark McNease  53:14
yeah, they're very, they're very wrong. And I,

Brad Shreve  53:17
I'll say the one thing is, it's, it's really hard for some people to understand, and it's easy to attack what we don't understand. And, you know, right. This whole thing of, we're gonna boycott target, because they have gender neutral bathrooms now, and that means rapists are gonna be hanging out in the bathroom. And that's, that's so ludicrous. If they grasp that anything to get their masters well done, it's

Mark McNease  53:52
always it is always about trans girls and trans women. You never hear them railing about trans men. Like they don't seem to understand that trans men exist, and that a trans man is going to go into the men's room. It's never about the men's room. You know? But they don't they don't you couldn't even begin to have a conversation with with most of these people, because they can't even grasp that. You know,

Brad Shreve  54:22
and you're right about the trans men. You never hear them mentioned that all

Mark McNease  54:28
now it's always about protecting women and girls in the girlie bathrooms and all this other shit. Yeah, it's part of my

Brad Shreve  54:35
No, that's okay. You didn't fuck up by saying shit. Don't worry about that. Well, Mark is always a pleasure to have you on. Oh, you know, but I almost forgot. So we forgot awkward questions authors get. So as you know, I'm going to spin the wheel and you're going to get a question that people sometimes ask us that we don't like, for whatever reason. Okay, so hang on, and I'm going to spit We'll all right. Okay, Mark, I've got your question. Are you ready?

Mark McNease  55:10
Yes, I'm ready. I am prepared and I'm buckled in.

Brad Shreve  55:13
This is not one of those that's rude. It's one that you understand the reader's curiosity, but is so damn hard for a writer to answer. And that is, where do you get your ideas

Mark McNease  55:28
from the world around me, and my internal filtering of it. I love murder. I love thrillers and murder mysteries, I've always loved them. And so I'll get an idea from maybe something I read. I remember, one of the cow Callahan books is called Kill Switch. And it's because I was reading about phones, having a kill switch on them where you could, boy, I can't even remember the definition of it. But I thought, Wow, that's fascinating, basically, so you can kill the phone and nobody can use it. And I'm dog get that idea from there, or a bed and breakfast, I get my ideas from the world around me and what I'm observing, and then I will filter it through my evil mind. And see what I can come up with. I love writing villains, I love writing villains, then the mean, or the cruel or the more perverted.

Brad Shreve  56:23
agree with you? I love a character I can hate and just love

Mark McNease  56:28
day. And can be so mean, because I'm not mean. You know, I'm not going to cut anybody up and put them in a box. But my my character can do that.

Brad Shreve  56:38
Yes, they can. They can air those frustrations out for you. ideas can come from so many places. I was on the bus one day and the bus driver, this is no lie. She stopped at every single bus stop every single one. She would open the door, look around because there was nobody there, close the door and drive to the next one and do the same. And this went on for a while and I didn't know what was going on. She said she finally she stopped. She opened the door and Sheila crunch who is where all the people. Needless to say, If I ever have her pull up, I will not get on her bus. But I don't live in Los Angeles anymore. So that won't be an issue. And the reason I bring that up is somehow I don't know how it is going to get in, in one of my stories one day because it was such a bizarre event. But that's where we get our ideas from anywhere. You never know where they're going to come from. Well, it's been a pleasure having you on again. I always enjoyed my conversations with you both online through chat in here through the magic of video calls.

Mark McNease  57:51
I liked I had a great time. Thank you. Well, thank you Mark. It was it was invigorating. And again, like got me all worked up about

Brad Shreve  57:59
I'll remember that for the next time you're on. I'll make a list of things to really get you round Up