I would have liked to ask Jay some questions and take part in the discussions. I mentioned this to Jay who said “Fire Away”, so I did in a typically long waffling email. The answers and comments on some of my statements were so thoughtful and articulate, I wanted to share it with other fans.
I got the green light to re-post it in my blog, including the answer to the gender question I posed in my original review. Enjoy.
AB: I have this inner urge to deal with “difficult” subjects. I’m at the stage in my life when I’m not in this for fame or fortune. I want to add something to the genre, not just dish up more of the same old same old. However, I’ve been advised by my publisher and beta readers to concentrate on the humor. That’s why I found your book so inspiring. To show it is possible to stick with difficult subjects as long as I inject enough humor.
Jay Lygon: I used to tell people that I aspired to be the Dominic Dunne of gay erotica, but people just looked at me as if I were speaking in tongues. I think there's room in this genre to tackle serious subjects. Many writers will produce the m/m equivalent of a Mills and Boon or Harlequin romance, and many readers will want that level of escapism, and that's perfect for them. But then there are those other readers who want a deeper experience. There are fewer of them, but they're under-served. If you can't write breezy stories (I try, but always end up complicating things) then write what you're good at.
Chaos Magic has been out for almost three years now, and it just now seems to be finding critical mass in readers. Thank goodness for the long tails of e-publishing, because a print publisher would never give it that much time to find its way into the hands of readers.
So first question: Do you find adding humor difficult?
I'm a natural smartass, so no.
AB: Is it something you set out to do from the start?
JL:In Thomas Hardy novels, the unrelenting march into the dreary abyss always had me ready to slit my wrists. That taught me that after an emotionally heavy scene, the reader needs a break. The writer needs a break too. That sounds as if I think a great deal about pacing from the beginning when I don't. I just write the first draft and then worry about such things in the revision, but I've found that rhythm naturally occurs before I focus on it.
AB: I’m a plotser by nature and knew where I wanted to go (with "Caught") but wasn’t sure how to get there.
JL: That sounds familiar. I know my starting point and end point, but between home and the store, so to speak, there are many streets to take.
AB: Are there any other authors out there you can recommend that you find inspiring because of their ability to get the humorous tone right? (serious subjects or not serious)
Christopher Moore and Janet Evonovich come to mind as writers with a deft hand at comedy, but their subjects aren't serious. If there are writers out there who mix humor with heavier material, I haven't seen their work. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
AB: I’m still a pretty newbie writer so I do study and analyse reviews. (Both of my own books and other authors's stories).
JL: Mike Kimera, who writes straight erotica, has a sig line that says: "What you read is not what I wrote." So every reader brings something to the story that the writer never envisioned. That's cool and a bit scary at the same time. Sometimes, it means reading a review and wondering if that person read the same book that you did.
AB: Is it that they don’t understand the Dom/sub dynamic?
JL: Not every book is for every reader. Many readers want a fantasy Dom figure. Hector is deeply flawed. I didn't deliver the reader's expectation. That doesn't mean that they're wrong. It just means that Chaos Magic isn't for them.
AB: Or is it that some readers take their character’s worth at the face value of how the POV character sees them?
JL: Or maybe they're completely overlooking Sam's idealized view of Hector and thinking that something doesn't seem right about him. And they'd be right. Hector should be sending up red warning flags from time to time. Sam has pretty much proven that he's the worst judge of people, ever. From Marcus to Brett, he makes a lot of excuses for inexcusable behavior.
(Part of the discussion on the Yahoo group had been about writing stories in limited third or first person POV compared to multi character POV. “Chaos Magic” is told only from one viewpoint, but some of Jay’s other books are multi-third. I related my experiences then posed this..)
AB: I’m finding all sorts of reasons why people don’t like first person. The latest one being that women (who make up the bulk of m/m romances) find it a bit squiky during the sex scenes, especially writing it)?
JL: To answer the question posed in your review, I'm female. I don't have any problem writing sex from a male POV. What other POV are you going to get in m/m?
AB: Are you going to deliberately go down one path or the other or will it depend on the story?
I come from an erotica background. Erotica tends to be written first person because it's part of the literary genre. Romance tends to be written in third person. If the audience I intend to write for are romance readers, I try to write in third because that's what they expect. That's what feels "right" to them. I can't think of any other genre where the readers dictate the content and style of books to the writers the way that they do in Romance. Science fiction writers would go into vaporlock if a reader said, "I started to read your book, but it was written in first person, so I chucked it across the room." Romance readers say stuff like that all the time. On the other hand, when you're 50% of the book market, I guess you can say things like that.
AB: Next question: (You’re being very patient with me if you’ve got this far! LOL.
I see you write either paranormal or scifi. Not that I define “Chaos Magic” as paranormal. When I read it, I saw the Gods as either persona Sam overlays on real neighbours or products of his imagination designed to give him an “out”. However, maybe I’ll go with the paranormal definition. Is there a reason you’ve done this?
JL: I call it magical realism, but it gets lumped in with paranormal because what that's the big marketing umbrella that fits over it.
How you feel about the reality of the Gods is up to your interpretation, although the phasing is hard to explain away as Sam's imagination, as is the ability to make things appear at hand. In my interpretation, they are real gods in the Hindu view where godhood is simply a state of being like being a hungry ghost or a human, or any of the other possible states of being. It's not eternal.
AB: I noted at one point in “Chaos Magic” that Brett says: “By the way, I sent in our registration for the spring rugby league.” In LA is that another way of saying rugby competition?
JL: Brett and Sam play basketball in what we'd call pick-up games - meaning that they show up at the courts and they just start playing a game with any other guys there. There's no schedule and no set teams. Leagues are defined teams with scheduled games. They can be very competitive with uniforms and semi-pro coaches. On the other end of the scale, my sister plays softball in a mixed-gender league, and they keep a cooler of beer out by second base so you can have a drink during an inning. So some leagues are more about the social aspect, and the game is the excuse to get out of the house.
Why did I include it? When I wanted to show the guys playing sports together without having to write a game scene, I picked rugby because I have friends in New York who play on a gay rugby team (Gotham Knights) and that fit what I envisioned.
AB: Lastly, but by no means least. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that you write under different names. Are any of these in the m/m field?
JL: I have several other pen names. The only one that will matter to you is Kathleen Bradean. Kathleen is my girl smut pen name. Jay is for boy smut. I don't write m/m under any other name.
AB: Thanks for your patience. So much for my couple of limited questions, huh? I do this sometimes with authors I like. But relax, they'll tell you that after a couple of emails where I picked their brain for info, I cease and desist. LOL.
A.B. - I'm flattered. I'm also glad to share any info I can, so don't be afraid to ask.