Dev is celebrating the re-release of "Sacred Hearts" during Hanukkah by offering it through Amazon and Barnes and Noble for just 99 cents.
Last blog, I reviewed the first book in the series, "Learning from Isaac" but I wanted to know more about the author whose books are great but seems to be slipping under the radar.
Hi Dev, thanks for joining me. Reading your books is like eating a box of chocolate. Once you reach the end, you check time and time again in case somehow you missed one because you don’t want the good times to be over. So please keep writing. To me your stories are much more than traditional mm romances. They’re journeys to love and often redemption.
The settings are often unique and the protagonists’ professions are not your traditional cowboy, policeman, firefighter. How much time do you spend researching your stories?
I have a long and checkered professional life and have lived in far too many places. While that hasn’t made for a very stable life, my diversity of experience turns out to be useful in writing fiction. So in that way, my whole life has been about research.
AB: August Ice was fascinating. It felt like you'd been there. Have you?
DB: I haven't been to Antarctica - but I saw lots of Youtube videos. Check it out - everyone who's ever been there seems to have posted a video of their experience.
DB: The Oregon Coast is amazing, isn’t it? A friend of mine once said being there was walking around inside a postcard. I lived in Newport, Oregon for a while and Seattle for much longer. I made that drive when I moved out here to Wisconsin. Fields of Gold is set in Madison, where I lived for a few years.
DB: In spring 2011, I got the chance to spend a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a gay friendly paradise on the central Pacific Coast. I’ve always wanted to write “on location”. I started the novel before we left and worked on it between visits to the beach, the market and great local restaurants. The story, which is the MOST romantic thing I’ve ever written, naturally grew out of that sensory feast.
AB: No wonder the setting feels so real. Were you thinking of somewhere like Yelapa when you described the resort where they end up?
DB: Shhhh. That’s a secret. Yelapa’s a great place to visit, have you been there?
DB: I’ve been lucky and have been abroad a few times. Not to any of the locations in Breathing Snow, though. I forgot about that – you can add that story to my short list of heavily researched settings. I watched tons of YouTube for that one, too. I cross-country ski but not at anywhere near the competitive speeds of those guys. The closest I’ve come to that was watching the local high school ski team race.
AB: Do you have a good memory for places? I love your descriptions of Mexico in Sacred Hearts. The chicken bus, the resort he ends up going to. How do you manage to get those details right?
DB: For Sacred Hearts, I took a lot of notes while I was down there. That helped. But I think I do have a good memory for location. I really love to travel, and I love learning new places—either as a tourist or a resident. I think place is one of my strengths as a writer because it’s something I truly love.
DB: This is the time of year when I wonder about that myself. It’s early November and there’s already snow on the ground. It’ll be here until late April. My only excuse is that moving here was one of the many foolish things I’ve done for love. It’s a good place to write, though. Not much else to do during the long winter months.
AB: Tucked away in your stories are ongoing themes that seem to resonate with you, care to share why?
DB. One of my strongest ongoing themes is the possibility of redemption. Forgiveness, of ourselves and others, seems to me to be one of the most important things we can accomplish in our lifetime. And sometimes it takes our whole life to get there.
AB: I love the cover of “Learning from Isaac” by the way. The guy looks so right for Nathan. But why a series in which at least one of the pairing is Jewish?
AB: Post graduate studies and the cost of education?
DB: I worked in academia and one of the hardest things to see was students graduating with a mountain of debt that they’d be struggling to repay for years. Guess it got to me, since you’re right, it shows up in more than one story.
AB: The cost of pharmaceuticals in the US?
DB: Appalling, right?
AB: Homeless people and the down and out feature in a couple of stories, particularly “Bread, Salt and Wine”?
DB: Homelessness and hunger shouldn’t be part of our modern world, much less common. I don’t understand why food and shelter aren’t seen as our unalienable right.
AB: I get the feeling at one time you may have been a hippie/free spirit?
DB: I’m not sure people who know me would use the past tense about that.
DB: Alcoholism and staying clear of it ---- yeah, that’s a thing. Alcoholism has certainly been a big part of my life, one way and another, so it shows up a lot.
AB: Sharing rides online?
DB: Never done it. Isn’t that funny since it shows up a few times in my work. I did hitchhike a lot as a teenager, which was crazy and dangerous, but cheap.
AB: Ah, another thing we have in common. I hitchhiked from the top to the bottom of Germany back in the seventies and even did some in Canada, plus picked up hitchhikers. I do not have one bad experience to relate. Maybe I was just lucky. You also have three books (so far) in which dogs feature heavily, but no cats. Nobody's Home was a great example. Did you have a dog in those days you were always travelling around?
AB: I love the variety of men in your stories. You’re not afraid to have shorter men. Some are even bald because their hair is thinning on top. You have older men. Non Caucasians. Please keep that up. Were you consciously trying to fill a gap?
DB: Thank you. I write men I find attractive and I’m much more drawn to interesting men than to pretty ones. I also don’t want to write the same characters over and over, so I need to mix it up some in terms of their backgrounds, ages and life experience. David in Sacred Hearts, short, bald and Jewish—he might be my most unusual romantic hero, but I think he’s hard not to love.
AB: Very true. I loved both of the men in that story. So glad they found a way to connect properly. Do you read much? What was the first MM book you read?
DB: The more I write, the less I read, which is unfortunate but it’s a matter of time. I wish I could somehow expand the hours so I could do both as much as I’d like. I’d read gay fiction before I encountered m/m. One of my favorites was The Mysteries of Pittsburg by Michael Chabon—the ending’s disappointing, but up until then it’s a great story. I also loved The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. It’s devastating but gorgeous. Perhaps the first actual m/m romance I read was Life after Joe by Harper Fox. It’s a lovely read.
AB: The Beauty of Men by Andrew Holleran was one of my first reads. Your bio says you have a background in writing. Poetry, short stories, what (or who) made you start writing mm?
DB: I tried my hand at a few straight romances and they felt flat to me. I stumbled on this genre and fell in love.
DB: Each book I write teaches me something new. The edits as I rerelease my early work are a reflection of that. My newer work reflects the ways I’ve grown as a romance writer and with the rereleases I’m trying to bring my more mature romance writer sensibility to the older work.
AB: Where do you get your inspiration from? For example, you mention a halfway house in Chicago. Did running across that play a part in the plot for Sacred Hearts?
DB: I don’t know where I get my inspiration from. Really. I think it’s magic.
AB: What would you change in Sacred Hearts? Hopefully not much as I think this is my favorite book of yours. A reformed alcoholic left penniless because he loved a gambling addict meets a defrocked priest! One thing that struck me while reading was this concept of David “coming down” because he would be earning a lot less. Isn’t it sad that people judge our worth/status in life by how much money we earn.
DB: I’m so glad to hear you say that. I love Sacred Hearts and I probably won’t change very much. I do plan to write a short from John’s point of view to go with the rerelease.
AB: Why do you think some readers can’t “feel” these guys? Is it because they don’t fit the classic MM mould? Are more cerebral? One reviewer even commented that they felt David was “too detached” whereas I found that detachment was to have been expected. Anyone who has gone through what he has would have built a wall around themselves. If anything it made him feel more real for me.
DB: Reading is a very individual activity and we bring to it our whole selves. It makes sense that readers connect better with some characters than with others.
DB: Over 50% of Jews in this country are in interfaith relationships. Clearly we need to figure out how to do that right. Most of my Tarnished Souls books also have mixed marriages. I did think about including some conflict between David and John about religion, but it didn’t fit with either of their characters. David is a pretty secular Jew and John feels strongly about respecting other people’s faith. I also really try not to make religion too big a part of the stories.
AB: I loved the way John rationalized his gayness in the end. And their hot sex while waiting for the ex to turn up.
Some of my favourite sentences:
- “But I’d like us to spend more time together without sex.”
- “I might scream it, but for John, falling asleep beside me was his own quiet declaration of love.
- “I passed my hands through the light, letting the colors drift across my skin and decorate me with our separate and shared beliefs, and feeling how we meshed, John in me and me in him.”
AB: Have you found writing easier or harder as you get more books under your belt?
DB: You’re asking this as I spend the morning answering your questions rather than write the first sentence of my next story, so clearly I haven’t gotten entirely past procrastination. However, I do think it’s getting easier, especially during the dreaded middle slump, since I now know for sure that there’s light on the other side.
AB: In your blog, you mention that you usually “binge write” for a few weeks then “fix it up”. Do you always write that way?
DB: August Ice. I had to look up the smallest things, like in Antarctica how do they get from their room to the dining room and what’s for breakfast? It was crazy how often I had to stop writing and look something up.
AB: Your author notes often thank Jordan Castillo Price. How did you meet up with her?
DB: I love her work. So when Moving in Rhythm came out, I sent her a copy as a thank you for all her great stories. She responded graciously and we’ve been talking ever since. I’m in awe of her many talents. She’s amazing.
AB: Your books rarely use dual POV. Any reason for this? Many are first person POV? Do you find writing one easier than the other?
DB: Nobody’s Home is in dual POV and the story I’m working on now is, too (I think, we’ll see how that works out). Outside of romance, dual POV is an unusual form and I think I’m simply not comfortable in it. I find it tricky to keep up the suspense when I’m inside both guys’ heads. The Tarnished Souls books were all written in first person but outside of those books, I mostly stick with close third. It all depends on the story, really.
AB: Is it a conscious effort or do you deliberately strive for difference between your characters. Different professions, places, different tastes in music. Even their attitudes to things like BDSM. Is this deliberate?
DB: I’m not sure how conscious it is, but I think differences are important. Each character’s individual strengths and weaknesses are more apparent in contrast with another character.
DB: I’m just starting that one again. I got sidetracked by Driving into the Sun.
AB: What else can we expect from you? Another series? More standalones?
DB: I’m working on standalones right now, but I wouldn’t rule out a series again in the future.
DB: My pleasure! And in the spirit of the season, one lucky person who leaves a comment before the end of the year will receive a book of their choice from my back list.