Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guest Profile for February: Writer and Very Good Friend Warren Rochelle

Am tentatively considering a series of guest blogs from interesting writers that I (may) know personally. Warren and I have already done a trade with my interview answers on his blog, so here's the return visit:

Warren Rochelle is a novelist, essayist, teacher of creative writing, fantasy, science fiction and Utopian texts at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is the author of three novels, The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), a Spectrum Award nominee, and The Called (2010), nominated for the Spectrum Award and the Lambda Literary Award—all published by Golden Gryphon Press. He has also published several stories, including the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award Finalist, “The Golden Boy.” His short fiction has appeared in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Romance and Beyond, The Silver Gryphon, Collective Fallout, and Queer Fish 2. His short story, “Bath,” most recently was published in Jaelle Her Book: A Memorial.

For more information, please visit his website: http://warrenrochelle.com

And the questions:
1)     When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 
When I was very young, my mother, who was a secretary at Duke University, would bring home stacks of used typing paper and I would draw stories on the blank sides. But, it wasn’t until I was in the third grade and read The Chronicles of Narnia that I knew I wanted to be a writer.

2) What is your writing process? When do you write?
Good questions. I’ll start with the simpler one: when do I write. When I have the time. I used to think that I could figure out an ideal time—and on days when I didn’t have to be anywhere, getting started writing would often be 9 or 10 in the morning. I still try to write in the morning, but that doesn’t happen very often.  Rather my goal is to write every day and to make that a priority.  That doesn’t always happen, but I do make it a daily goal: writing is always on the list of things to do.

What is my writing process? I have to know the ending before I can start. This is not a specific ending, but rather more the lines of, for example, there has to be a beach. What beach and where, I don’t have to know (and usually don’t). I like outlines—but as long as they are flexible suggestions, as it were. The beginnings I find myself spending time on—trying to set the right tone, find the voice, the POV, and may start several times.  Once it feels right, I know it and the story begins. Then, those outlines—or as they have already revealed themselves to me—via the Black Gang, as Sylvia calls them. 

Once I get going, I find myself writing in the shape of expanding loops. Write, write, go back, reread, some revision, then out again, and go back, out again.  Sometimes this involves a restart, or a massive rearrangement.  Sometimes there is a shift from first to third or third to first. Then, after a few interruptions like this, things settle, and I am in the world of the story. I try to get out of the way of the dream telling itself to me.

I hope that made sense.

3) How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences?
In broad terms, I write speculative fiction—science fiction and fantasy, and more of the latter of late.  Given some of the events in my fiction, perhaps a dash of horror, too, but dark fantasy would work as a descriptive term.

Am I writing to or for a particular audience or audiences? I would like to think that a well-told story would be of interest to most readers of any particular genre, but things don’t seem to work out that way, do they? Readers are often drawn to stories in which they can find some part of themselves, or in which there is a character, often the protagonist, with whom they can identify in some way. Readers can find a home in stories in which they can say, Here is someone like me, or I’m not the only one, or, People like me are not invisible. Writers are drawn to such stories as well. As Lewis, I believe, said, he wrote the kind of stories he wanted to read.

All of this is sort of an around the barn way of getting to answering the question about audience.  For too long gay characters have been missing or in short supply in speculative fiction. Often, if present, they were Bad or Weak, and they came to Bad Ends. Or they were good and noble and Examples to us all. I want to write stories in which there are gay characters who are human beings. Like McKinley said about her heroines, she wanted them to be Girls Who Do Things, yes, I want my gay heroes and heroines to be Doing Things. But more than that, I want them to be present and active and engaged human beings, who sometimes happen to be werewolves or princes or beanstalk climbers.

So, yes, I think an audience, or audiences, for whom I am writing at the moment, are GLBT people and their friends and allies.  And yes, I believe that someday those people who identify as friends and allies will be quite a large audience indeed.

But, the story, not any social message, is what comes first. I want my readers to be lovers of stories and storytelling.

4) What writers have been major influences in your work and why?
Aiiiieee! I feel I have learned so much from so many different writers, but the first three that come to mind as major influences are:
C.S. Lewis, J.R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula K. Le Guin. And I would add Madeleine L’Engle.

C.S. Lewis, for showing an eight-going-on-nine-year-old boy the way into Faerie.
Tolkien, for showing that same boy, as a twelve-year-old, that Faerie is a place where the mythic is given its power, and that it is a place for adults as well.
Le Guin, for giving the language of story style and grace and intelligence and beauty, for populating her worlds, the fantastic and the science fictional, with human beings, and for making these worlds in which I could live, and for writing stories in which I found people like me.
L’Engle, for gawky Meg, gifted and brilliant Charles Wallace is who still a little boy, for Calvin and his red hair, who was able to see how beautiful and intelligent Meg truly was,  for love and declaring that love and to love and be loved is strength.

I could also add as influences …. But that would be a long list.

5) What is your most current project?
I have two most current projects, actually. I am completing a collection of gay-themed science fiction and fantasy short stories. I am working on the last two stories: a gay retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and a science fiction tale about a young man whose lover turns out to be an alien graduate student, here to study our culture. The tentative title of the collection is Happily Ever After and Other Stories.

I am also completing a novel about a gay werewolf and his godling boyfriend, The Werewolf and His Boy. 

I also just finished revising one other novel, The Golden Boy. This one is under review at the moment.

6) What was the inspiration for the project? 
The inspiration for The Werewolf and His Boy actually first came from a dream my partner had of a monster, a supernatural beast of some kind, haunting Lowe’s (a US chain of home improvement stores) at night, living in the rafters.  This became the short story, “Lowe’s Wolf,” published in Icarus about 2 years ago.  I kept wondering what had happened to my two heroes and that led to this novel.

The inspiration for the gay-themed story collection was the sense, after having read all the “color” fairy books of Andrew Lang and Grimm and Andersen and a few others, that GLBT people were missing.  They didn’t make it into Faerie, as it were. Now, I know they are there but for all  kinds of reasons have been rendered invisible behind some kind of glamour.  I wanted to remove that glamour. I also wanted to explore these old, old stories, these expressions of cultural metaphors and myth from a gay perspective, and to find out what happens when these stories are retold from this perspective, with a gay sensibility.

7) What one book would you save from a burning fire, and why? 
Wow. All of them, if I could. Something about burning a book seems so wrong at such a deep level. True, not all books are of equal worth or importance and there have been some that have caused really bad things to happen, like Mein Kampf  … but I digress.

What one book? Fahrenheit 451, because of what it represents.

8) If you could talk to any writer (living or dead) what one question would you ask, or what one thing would you say?
Actually this has already happened.  I met Ursula K. Le Guin at a SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) conference back in 2005.  I waited in line with my stack of Le Guin fav novels and collections (The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Birthday of the World, Language of the Night …) and when my turn came, I took her hand and I told her that she had changed my life.

9) Favorite planet or fantasy world you'd like to live in?
Favorite planet: Anarres.
Favorite fantasy world: Narnia.

10)  What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers?
A writer reads.  Read everything, not just things in your preferred genre. A writer writes.  Make it your goal to try and write every day. Don’t give up. Write. Find your story, your worlds, your place, and write. Write.

Many thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed and for sharing it on your blog. Great questions!

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