Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Say Hello to Damon Suede!!

We have bestselling M/M author Damon Suede with us today to give us his take on all things M/M romance, Riptide publishing, and of course...what he has in store for his fans:) I won't talk too much, but remember to comment. I'm sure Damon will be stopping by to answer any questions you might have, and leave your email if you'd like to be entered in a drawing for one of Riptide's awesome prizes!

Without further ado...Damon Suede!!

Tell us a little bit about Grown Men. (I'm sure) there are a lot of sci-fi fans out there who'd love to hear a little bit about the world that you've created.

Grown Men is the first “transmission” from the HardCell Universe. The HardCell Company exists in a paranoid future in which massive corporations own and govern galaxies, advertising has replaced myth, art, or religion…and employees dread early “retirement” by commercial assassins.

In simplest terms Grown Men is about two offworld farmers trying to survive in a rugged tropical environment. And there’s a strong satirical element because it’s inspired by modern consumer culture and the things that keep us from connecting to each other. Rachel [Haimowitz, Riptide owner] kept send me these cackling tweets when she first read it because a lot of humor thrums between the two heroes.

I love angsty romance, and so I’m always looking for ways to give my heroes fascinating struggles that push their worst buttons. Happy Endings need to feel earned to feel satisfying. I inevitably want a story to take me somewhere I couldn’t go on my won, and so building a three-dimensional world is always the first step.

So science fiction buffs should expect a fully imagined universe with regard to technology, culture, and social structure…but it is NOT “hard” sci-fi. Grown Men is first and foremost a romance set in a primal environment. Readers who steer clear of sci-fi, can rest assured that there are no aliens, or robots, or spaceships. If you’re even slightly curious, check it out; you may be surprised at what it isn’t and what it is. Rugged men, rugged environment, and rugged loving! LOL

How did you get into writing M/M? What drew you to the genre?
I came to fiction by way of theatre and film, and I’ve written for as long as I have known what stories were. I love entertaining people and I grew up in showbusiness. I want to build worlds that people want to visit, and spend most of my life doing exactly that.

I came to M/M almost backwards. I’ve been reading gay lit and by extension gay romance since the early 1980s (cf my demented Gordon Merrick paean at my website), but even as M/M grew as a discreet entity, I enjoyed it as a fan. Then in Fall 2010 I was helping a friend break down the beats in an erotic romance she’d started and after about three days or conversations she pinned me with a glare and told me if I didn’t write a romance novel myself that I was (and I quote) “a lazy asshole.” At the time my boyfriend, who’s a forensic investigator, was out of town on a big case and I just plunked down and started writing what would become Hot Head. And that was that.

Writing romance fiction turned out to be enormously liberating. Once I’d had a chance to explore and play I literally built it into my other writing work. In theatre and film, the structures and oversight can get a little stifling, but M/M gave me a chance to take all these weird experimental risks. Even better, lessons I learned in the M/M writing leaked over into my “dayjob” scripts. Win-win!

Are there any sub-genres or story themes that you’re most interested in?

Worlds that are fresh, characters that are singular. Lateral recycling is one of the things that frustrates me most in genre fiction. I love almost every subgenre when they’re fresh and specific. My favorite books remain the ones that reinvent the rules and honor the form without resorting to formula.
As I get older, my pickiness deepens. If I can identify the DNA of your story, I’m going to spend half of my time comparing it to every other story in the breed, for good or ill. It stands to reason that in fictions that fall along a spectrum of tastes and tropes, certain things will rise to the surface: vampires will brood, shifters will mate, angsty cops will rush into certain danger to save what they love most. I get that! But that challenge makes for the best and worst of genre writing as readers and writers get stick in endless grooves that railroad narratives towards a destination with all the excitement of a golf cart marathon.

So as a reader and a writer, I’m endlessly searching-searching-searching for distinct voices and reinventions. Clichés are death, but reinvented clichés can push the world in startling directions. Whether you like them or loathe them, you can trace the chromosomal similarities that link Twilight to Underworld to Lestat to Dracula in all its reinventions. The strongest mutations are the ones that adapted to their environment, reflecting the space and the time of their creation. M/M has evolved drastically in the past 5 years, and (like any healthy species) will continue to do so to survive.

How did you first connect with Riptide? What does the name mean to you?

Well now… Rachel Haimowitz and I spent an awesome afternoon together shooting the shinola at Rainbow Book Fair in New York this past March. We met by chance at the All Male romance table along with Clare London. In about 15 seconds, we realized that we had very similar sense of humor and brashness and kicked off a conversation that hasn’t really ended yet.

Now it’s worth noting that, at the time, my first M/M novel hadn’t even come out yet; Hot Head was in the pipeline at Dreamspinner and I’d only swung by to say howdy to the other Dreamspinners at their booth, but I’d intended to hang for no more than an hour or so. As it happened there were about THIRTY Dreamspinner authors there that day, way too many to remain clustered around the DSP setup so I went exploring. Turns out I knew a bunch of people there from other partitions of my life, and as I made my way to the other end of the Fair, I happened upon AMR, and this loud, funny woman who wasted no time in grabbing my ass and talking smut. That was Rachel. LOL She, Clare London and I fell to chatting (as you do) about M/M and the business of writing. And I wound up spending most of the day at the Fair.

Fast forward a couple months, Hot Head released on June 15th and Rachel contacted me that day to say how much she loved the book and that she wanted to make me a proposal… She then explained what she, Chris and Aleks planned with Riptide and that they wanted me to join their “first wave” with whatever book I wanted: which (considering my extremely limited backlist) seemed a real vote of confidence. Besides, with Aleks and Rachel on board and their author lineup, I knew Riptide aimed to push several envelopes.

Then at the end of June Rachel and I had drinks in Manhattan with Kari Gregg and spent three hours chatting and mulling M/M and genre publishing in a way that totally invigorated me. As it happened, at that exact moment I was near the end of this crazy sci-fi novella called Grown Men, which didn’t “feel” like a Dreamspinner book for some reason, so it was a case of perfect timing: they wanted a book, I hadn’t submitted this one anywhere and knew Rachel and Aleks would groove on the tone and topic.

They jumped on Grown Men, pronto. In a way, I feel like THAT’s what Riptide means to me: directed, focused energy that stirs the ocean, sweeps shores clean, and drags you under. A “riptide” wraps you and pulls you with inexorable, liquid force. Perfect for romance, huh? Plus Aleks, Chris, and Rachel draw on tremendous experience in publishing and marketing, both in genre fiction and elsewhere. My sense is that they intend to make a splash and churn the deep waters. Count me in!

What types of characters interest you as both reader and writer?

Characters that go against the grain, people that defy expectations…

I always want to know what makes the big, butch Alpha whimper like a puppy and when the most fragile twink becomes an aggressive, sadistic top. I’m always looking for the friction between what we expect and what we find. That endless rub (for me) generates every degree of the heat we seek in stories. As a consequence, my characters (and their emotions) tend to be larger than life. I can’t abide mushy, beige folks in my day-to-dy life so I’m certainly not going to go out of my way to eulogize them in print! LOL

Now, that habit of mine can get me into trouble, because television has bred unbelievably boring, homogenous ideas about human capacity into us. I refuse to capitulate to the prejudices of a bunch of suits in Burbank, dammit! Human relationships fascinate us because they are subtle, complicated, and distinct. Romance fiction (thank all the gods) gives authors a chance to play out big emotions and big ideas in ways that buck the status quo. Like opera and poetry, and modern dance, romance pushes the limits of human expression; it doesn’t “give us unrealistic expectations,” but rather teaches its readers to ask for MORE from the world around them. So mote it be!

You answered what general direction you were planning to head, I think people will want to know what specific projects they can expect from you in the near future other than Grown Men so talk about one or two upcoming books that you're working on.

At present, I’m finishing work on Spring Eternal, which is a steampunk zipper-ripper set in 19th century Manhattan. The story is a big sweeping adventure fantasy about dark intentions and wild inventions and a dastardly abduction that brings down an entire city. I spent about 3 months doing the prep and research for it, building out the slang and the city’s alternate history. Now the story is flooding out of me…and it’s this big florid seductive puzzlebox. VERY different in tone than Hot Head, Grown Men, or Seedy Business. I’m taking some risks in it, but I have a feeling that folks will be pleased.

Then immediately following that,people have demanded more Head! And so I’m giving ‘em more Head. :P Fans of Hot Head have been clamoring for the sequel, Hard Head. Tommy has been increasingly aggressive and demonstrative. Even when I’m not supposed to be working on his story, he sometimes sneaks onto the page. He’s VERY different from Griff as a main character and damaged in ways that make him thrilling/tough to write. And of course, Griff and Dante will be back along with other folks from the first book; their relationship has shaken up the Red Hook community and may tear it apart. I can’t wait to visit the guys again and see where things have taken them.

What constitutes a “good” or even “great” novel for you. What are you looking for in a story?

Specificity. The single most important factor that elevates a novel from a B to an A+ is the attention and effort required to invest a world with believable detail.

When readers complain about “cookie-cutter” romances, when critics bitch about formula and familiarity, when editors gripe about sloppy, underimagined prose… what they’re all lamenting is a lack of specificity in a story. As a reader or a reviewer, I can usually tell within a page if the author paid attention… Frankly THEY know it just as well. No one accidentally forgets to do substantive research or to eliminate clichés from their dialogue. Sloppiness is as much a choice as anything else but people don’t bother because they figure it doesn’t matter. That makes me nuts: EVERYTHING MATTERS! As my agent always says, “Good enough isn’t.”

Gay romance continues to battle a tricky situation at present. Since it grew out of yaoi, and slash and other fanfictions, M/M has friendly populist roots which are more forgiving about things like editorial scrutiny and fact checking. At the same time, M/M has finally begun to inch towards the possibility of “mass-market” presence. I think that’s probably a couple decades out, but evolution doesn’t happen in an afternoon. In order to survive and thrive as a business rather than a hobby, gay romance has pulled on its big-boy pants and ACTED like a business. But in 2011, we exist in an odd Wild West mindset where fresh incursions from both sides of the conflict (passionate fandom vs. corporate competition) rock the boat often.

As far as heat levels what can the readers expect from your novels? Will there be less erotic/non erotic romances or should a certain level of explicitness be expected?

I pretty frank about things, sexuality especially. I like heat in my romance, but I also know the difference between erotic romance and flat-out erotica. Having said that, I also believe that some of the sexiest things you can write have nothing to do with tab-A, slot-B permutations. Sexiness and emotion can coexist and sometimes they even should. LOL In romance, the ways people connect, whether by genital or gentler intimacies present the greatest appeal of the genre. The old myth that men write sex and women write emotion is stereotyping hogwash.

Case in point: with Hot Head, I get almost as much turned-on fan-mail about the heroes’ first kiss as I do about the more overt boning, of which there is plenty though not how you might expect. Oddly enough, before the book even came out I got a couple very odd “pre-reviews” which described how prurient and detached the book was bound to be since I was *cue ominous chord* a MAN writing about PORN. (gasp! shock! horror!) And of course when the book released, it was none of those things… though almost every reader commented on the “maleness” of the writing. Then again, Hot Head inhabits a very macho, blue-collar world… Grown Men has a similar testosteronal quality, but its diction differs like you wouldn’t believe because the men demanded it. Spring Eternal, the book I’m finishing now is this arch steampunk zipper-ripper: wildly different tone and the sex likewise.

As in life, the world and the lovers dictate the shape of the lovemaking. What do they say about the way lions and rabbits mate? The predator pressure sets the pace. I’m sure my “maleness” factors in because that’s part of my voice, but in a different way than it did with Hot Head’s inarticulate firefighters or the brooding, paranoid terraformers in Grown Men. Sexiness will always inform any romance I’m writing, although the amount of literal sex will vary story to story, character to character.

You wrote that so far all of your characters have lived in very macho worlds. I've heard it said (but I'm not going to quote directly), that M/M readers prefer alpha type macho characters, men who can only be identified as gay by the fact that they have sex with men--also that twinks, queens, transsexuals, average guys and all those who fall anywhere else on the spectrum that is part of the gay experience (besides macho and hot) should be relegated to supporting cast because they don't fit into the romance fantasy. As a male author writing in the genre, what is your opinion on that (very popular) point of view? Can you see yourself ever bringing one of those "supporting cast" characters to the front and giving him main character status?

Funny thing: my first two books have featured very butch, alpha characters: men’s men in every sense of the word. I know why readers love those characters because as a reader I love them as well, but I also think there’s a trap to dwelling on a single archetype relentlessly: it erodes the power of the fantasy. The alpha additiciton of romance dates back to the days of bodice-ripping when most heroes were animals and many heroines wed their rapists. Gack. The world has cooled since then. Do alphas appeal? Yeah. Sure. Who doesn’t love a man who acts like a man? But being a dude is so much more than grunting and penetrating anything doesn’t penetrate you first.

I have written a lot of aggressively male characters up till now, but I didn’t plan that. Do I only want to write alphas? Not even slightly! My next novel, Spring Eternal, doesn’t feature “rugged” characters at all. LOL Both of my steampunk heroes have a fairytale politesse and a certain androgyny because of the period of the story and the kind of men they are. Not feminine per se, but definitely more restrained and refined. But they ARE men. In my eyes, the trick is to make sure that the inherent maleness of the character connects to the reader and drives the characters actions.

On that tip, I get very impatient with men not being written AS men (whether they’re written my men or women, btw). Even the most fragile, winsome cross-dressing male IS a man. And even the most gruff, barbaric meathead has tenderness and delicacy in him. That isn’t a function of what KIND of man, but a measure of the author’s skill, craft, and talent. The familiar made new again. I believe that the paradoxes and refreshing surprises draw us in as readers. I could never ONLY write alpha characters because for me character and plot are the same thing. A story like Hot Head demands a stoic, heroic character; a fragile boy-man couldn’t have existed as Griff, a passive androgyne would never have acted as Dante did. Griff and Dante were the plot and vice versa. The minute I have a plot/character that falls outside of alpha territory (like Spring Eternal) I trust my characters to lead me the right way.

The thing is, I don’t believe that readers NEED an alpha hero to connect. Any more than every meal needs to be your “favorite” food. Eating your favorite meal every day kills your taste buds and your appetite. That’s how children think of food: “Give me what I want in the ways with which I’m familiar.” I believe that what readers really want is a feeling of powerful authenticity. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice is arguably the greatest romantic hero of all time, and he isn’t “macho” in the least. However, he is supremely appealing, gifted, and potent in his own context. Context and specificity are the rubric.

So it’s not that all romance readers need grunting knuckle-draggers with cocks the size of waste-baskets. To my mind, what they truly want is any character that feels authentic. Authenticity and believability are thin on the ground these days, and triply so in romance fiction. In M/M especially we hear all the time about people who got tired of feeble, unbelievable female characters who drove them into the welcoming arms of homoerotic romance. It makes sense, what does gender matter if the character connects to us and we empathize in turn?

So for my part: I’ll write any story and the plot/character at the core of a story determines the course. Are alphas popular? Sure. But then so is Baywatch. LOL Every moment of entertainment doesn’t have to be Pamela Anderson running in slow motion. And every romantic hero doesn’t need to be a shaved ape.

For the future, will you be exclusively an M/M romance author, or are you planning on moving into either M/F, F/F, or even non-romance genres?
At the moment I’m all about the gay romance. The truth is, in the rest of my work life I write so much and at such lengths, that gay romance is a perfect creative escape. It stands to reason, I am a gay man! I love romances! The funny thing is that I read MF and FF for pleasure, but since I haven’t met any of my own characters that need to tell a story in those genre frameworks I’ll say No… for now, with the caveat that all it would take would be a story to which I couldn’t say no. I have had a couple publishers approach me about it and if the right story appeared I’d happily go there…

Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to M/M, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.


  1. For all that we've talked, you get more and more interesting to me with every interview you do :D We're so thrilled to have you on board, darlin!

  2. WOW, great interview. I like Damon he;s not afraid to speak his mind. Congrats on Riptide and wishing you continuous success.


  3. I really liked this interview, great answers :) I'm looking forward to finding out what type of characters you write, your answers made me curious about that!

    luciatea01 (at) hotmail.com

  4. I LOVED Hot Head & can't wait to read Tommy's story!!!!
    I was introduced to your work by reading Seedy Business. Oddly enough, it was your slang that grabbed my attention first (the term "sperm herder" made me snort-laugh) & then I was hooked.
    My favorite part of Hot Head was the story within the story. To me, the story was Griff & Dante as firefighters and best friends, but the story WITHIN the story was them discovering their love for each other. That was beautiful to read.


  5. *sigh*

    I had something I wanted to say, but between there and here it slipped away.

    This is why I shouldn't read stuff when I'm tired. Or stuffed up.


  6. Excellent interview; it was a great read.

    I'm really looking forward in reading Damon Suede's works.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  7. Damon, as usual, you have both educated and entertained us with this interview - love it! Every time I read an interview with you, I learn a little more about both the man and the writer. And the more I learn about both, the more I want read what you write... Darn it, Damon, I hope you're prepared to be writing for a very long time!

  8. What an excellent interview. I loved the points you made, Damon. Thanks so much!

    adara adaraohare com

  9. I agree with SueM, I learn a little more and more about you with each interview and I like the fact you give very detailed answers because some authors just don't get into it as much as you do. I really enjoyed this one. Can't wait to meet you!!!!!

  10. Hi Damon and M.J.,

    I am such a fan, so I'm a bit like a giddy girl. Great interview, Damon. Can't wait to meet you in New Orleans next week and hopefully have a drink with you. Us Riptiders are getting together, no?

    I loved Hot Heads and I know I'll love Grown Men! Much continued, well deserved success.


  11. Great interview Damon! Can't wait to meet you in person next week!

    paranormalpoppy AT gmail DOT com

  12. Hi Damon,
    Hot Heads was amazingly fresh and new for me.. It is EVERYTHING you said YOU look for in a great read, and everything you strive to accomplish in your writing. I was blown away.. Then along came Seedy Buisness and I found myself thinking.. "What Planet does he come from? and how the hell can I get a ticket to visit.. Well, duh! I just had.. twice.. LOL
    Awesome interview, VERY interesting and most informative.. as always. In my book, Damon Suede= Auto Buy.. Auto Buy

  13. Great interview! A good butt grab and smut talk...sounds like a great friendship to me! Congrats and many blessings for continue success.

  14. Great interview.
    World building in m/m fantasy and science fiction is often sadly lacking. It needs to be more than just the backdrop that lets the author put the men together in an unusual setting. I'm glad to see that you feel passionately about that.
    Will I find any CJ Cherryh DNA in Grown Men?


  15. Hey guys:) I'm going to reply for Damon. He emailed me and said blogger kept eating his reply. Believe me I understand. Blogger and I have had some arguments lately. Haha.


    @Pants. I'm definitely not shy about opinions LOL

    @Rachel Thank YOU m'dear. LOL I'm looking forward to sitting down in NOLA with a whiskey and an hour or two to talk shop.

    @Courtney SO glad you dug Seedy Business and the slang besides. One of my favorite things about writing characters is discoveries the idiosyncracies of how they speak. I love language, the way words gather meanings and get bent into new shapes by people. Slang is such a huge part of that. The language of the HardCell Universe needed to reflect their values and their histories AND make readers curious about the world. Seedy Business was SO compressed; with Grown Men, I had some more breathing room in which the words could flesh out the world. :)

    @Sue as long as I don't keep saying the same things over and over, I'm glad! And I promise, I'll stop writing when they chisel the pen from my cold, dead hand.

    @MJ & Piper Thank y'all for pushing the questions in so many funky directions. I'll be checking in throughout the day to answer questions and chat.

    This is MJ again--Thanks for taking so much time on the questions, Damon! It's always fun to hear what you have to say and I'm excited to meet you next week in New Orleans :)

  16. I*m excited to see that you have plans for future novels. I loved Hot Head and look forward to your others. Grown Men has already been preordered. Lol. Thanks for sharing.

    sabrinayala at gmail dot com

  17. Great interview. I loved Hot Head and can't wait to read more "Heads".

    cayce006 at yahoo.com

    p.s. I love the blog's new Halloweeny look :)

  18. Thanks for the great interview, Damon. You gave me a lot to think about. I especially enjoyed your thoughts on non alpha male characters. I'm really intrigued to read what you come up with next.

  19. Thanks M.J. for setting this up. Fascinating answers as usual, Damon. Love how knowledgeable you are about genre, language, style, etc. :-)

  20. Loved your answers, Damon, especially for the non-alpha characters question. MJ and I were both curious about that one.

    Looking forward to seeing you in NOLA next week! :D

    BTW - I'm getting more and more hyped for "Spring Eternal" everyday. Sounds amazing!

  21. Great post! There aren't enough SF romances so I'm super-excited about Grown Men :-) And I love this cover!!

    smaccall AT comcast.net

  22. Hi Damon! It's a great pleasure to meet you!

    I absolutely loved this interview! lol... So looking forward to getting to read Grown Men! Eek! and yes... I'm one of those eagerly anticipating Hard Head!! lol...


  23. Great interview, I'm really looking forward Grow Men.


  24. Hi Damon

    Loved hot head looking forward to grown men


  25. I LOVED Hot Head and would love to get my hands on your next release. The next book sounds super intriguing with an eye-catching cover.

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

  26. Thank you for a great interview, I loved it! I'm very much looking forward to future books, I already ordered Grown men :)