Today, I’ve got something diffrerent for you. Lou Sylvre, another author in the Dreamspinner Stable with me and a fellow member of the Coffee Unicorns is guesting in an interview on Rhys Ford. (Coffee Unicorns… a group of writers with WAY too much pixie sugar in our veins.) So, here are questions Lou tosses at her own interviewees and has to come up with her own answers. So, without further ado, here’s Lou Sylvre! And be sure to visit her at http://sylvre.com/.
I spend a great deal of time getting the name right for major characters. I want the name to express the character’s attributes and heritage. For instance, those who have read Loving Luki Vasquez already know that Luki is Basque (his paternal heritage), and it means something like ‘famous warrior.’ Then his middle name Mililani is Hawaiian (his maternal heritage), and at least one source interprets it ‘heavenly embrace.’ I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it suits Luki to a T! That illustrates my process. I’ll just add that I have changed names in one story, early in my writing career, but now I pretty much try to get them right at the outset. They reflect who I think the character is, but they also help the character grow, and show me who I’m really dealing with—which can be surprising!
In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
The most recent book I’ve finished writing, Finding Jackie, actually moves to several locations. It opens in Hawai‘i — I had no choice about this because in Delsyn’s Blues, when Luki accepted Sonny’s marriage proposal (while bleeding profusely), he asked Sonny if they could have the wedding in Hawai‘i. So they do, in Finding Jackie. When they come back to Washington State, they both have business in the city and the urban environment is a requirement for some developments, so they’re in Seattle. Then they’re on the road. (Come on, that can’t surprise anyone who knows Sonny Bly James!)
But Nebraska is where things get tough—and that was necessary too, since Luki’s history is wrapped up in the narrative. Finally though, they go back to Washington State to the arid (yes, it’s desert, doesn’t rain) southeastern corner, which happens to be very sparsely populated, and pretty close to Sonny’s tribal home base. So in this book, yes the locales were dictated by what would make sense. Same with Yes. It had to take place at their home, for the most part, because where else would Luki want to stay when sick?
How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
Those damn characters! They can never leave well enough alone. I start out with a nice plan. They thoroughly wreck it while I’m sleeping.
What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
That’s a good question. Wish I’d thought of it. First, I’ll repeat what I’ve said elsewhere: I didn’t start writing gay stories because I wanted to write gay stories. I started writing them because I had characters who needed to be written, characters I loved and still love. They happen to be male and gay. (I feel like adding ‘so what.’)
There’s more, though, now that I’m writing and my books have been published. Satisfying element for me personally—in terms of personal growth? I’ve learned to love and admire and enjoy and see good in men much more than ever before. Yes, you can explore truth by writing fiction, and yes you can teach yourself things you never saw before. Satisfying element for me on a social level? I like the idea of leveling the field for love of every color, real love, honest love, enduring love. If enough men love beautifully (however you define beauty) on the page, it helps the idea of men loving together (and by extension women with women) permeate the collective consciousness. Makes it ‘normal,’ right?
Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
Mostly accidentally, they have changed things. When I was writing Delsyn’s Blues I had a chat going on and the chat turned to dogs (I think cause I mentioned my cat). A few readers said they thought Luki and Sonny should have a dog—so I picked one and held a contest for the name. ‘Bear’ is now their companion, attached mostly to Luki. (And by the way he does something very important in Finding Jackie. One reader suggested that a minor character might have a bigger role, and (they don’t know it, I’m sure) I thought about it, and decided it was a good idea. Finally, a couple of times I’ve asked my readers to help me find questions to interview the characters. Their questions indirectly influenced things because of the answers the characters come up with.
Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
Who thought of this unanswerable question?! (Side note from Rhys… YOU DID!)
I don’t know. Respect, enjoyment, mutual interest, patience, honesty. I suppose I’d like to have readers follow my writing adventures, ask questions, and then I’d want to answer. A spirit of fun and mutual adventure is important, I think.
What do you find useful about reviews?
When the reviewer not only praises but says why they were so moved, it is very validating, as well as helping me identify what works. I think negative reviews could do the same, but it’s rare that these kinds of reviews contain clear and understandable information about what turned the reviewer off. However that said, some readers will simply like or not like some books. Okay. But a nice side effect of any review that is not strongly negative is that some readers see it and pick the book up. (I have actually read books that got nasty reviews just to see if they could really be that bad… they weren’t.)
I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
That’s pretty easy for me. It’s Luki Vasquez. The man is ultra badass, but ultra-sweet, super-hot, strong but not so muscle bound as to be unattractive, he’s really kind of cute personality wise but very seriously sexy when the time comes. And, hey, he’s got a thick, strong, sweetly curved erection, okay? No, I’m not afraid to go there. His penis rocks. I should know, I created it.
What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
[Luki] started to stroke a little faster. Inside, Sonny grew hotter, felt sparks, shocks of intense pleasure explode. Once again he started to moan low with the “out” slide of every stroke. Faster again, hotter, familiar fear creeping in as Sonny’s ultra climax neared—threatened.
“I’ve got you, Sonny. You can let it happen, baby. Let go.” Then the catch in Sonny’s breath stretched into a long, wavering “Oh.”
Luki said, “Yes! God yes! Oh Christ, Sonny, so beautiful. So fucking sweet!”—From Yes
What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
Right now, I’m waiting to hear if Finding Jackie has found a home at Dreamspinner, and then I have three projects cooking. The one that’s pushing itself forward in my consciousness at the moment is Parting the Clouds, starring—you guessed it! Luki and Sonny. I’ve also started on a co-writing project that involves historical Scotland, working with Anne Barwell. (I’m very excited about that!) Finally I’ve started the first book in what I intend to be a different type of series, based around a theme rather than characters. This one involves a stonemason and a salvager. I think they’re going to be a fun couple!
Now An Excerpt from Yes (Setting the scene, this is Luki’s first time in the “chemo chair.”)
Sonny… read. Aloud. A sappy gay romance that he’d bought for the occasion. He kept his best smart-ass look on his face, and read a little louder when an older man with a red, swollen face, a catheter, and an oxygen tube, in the chair next to Luki, made noises expressing offense.
“Stop doing that, Sonny. The old guy’s got it tough enough.”
Sonny looked sheepish. “Do you want me to stop reading?”
“No, no. You’re just getting to the good part. But don’t be loud just to taunt the old coot.”
“I know, that was bad.”
It was clear to Luki that Sonny understood what he didn’t say—that might be me someday… someday not so long from now. Kindly, Sonny gave voice to no such thoughts. Instead, he scooted his chair (not one of the comfortable ones) closer to Luki, reached across him, and caught the St. Christopher medal, which had fallen, forgotten, from Luki’s grasp. He dropped it into Luki’s hand, the one not occupied with the IV line, and closed his fingers around it. To Luki, who had no doubt that his frontline saint would do what he could, Sonny’s act felt like rescue. Right, he thought, because if I were St. Christopher, I’d only help someone if they were actually holding on to a medal with my name on it.
He laughed at the thought, quietly, which made Sonny smile and tilt his head quizzically. Luki shook his head. “Nothing. Read? They were just getting to the bear rug in front of the hunting lodge fireplace. You can’t stop there.”
Sonny laughed, because the book had no bear rug, no hunting lodge—so far, not even a fireplace. But sympathetic characters Ron and Stevie were just getting to the good stuff. So good, in fact, that after the first sentences, Sonny blushed and scooted even closer. Somehow he managed to read and whisper into Luki’s ear at the same time.
“Now there’s an idea,” Luki whispered in return at the end of the passage, fighting to keep his own body from responding to the images of fingers and tongues and penises, coupled with the sweet tickle of Sonny’s breath. His reaction felt a little miraculous, since he’d experienced far too little bodily responding in recent weeks, but it would be too embarrassing to allow. “Maybe you’d better stop for a while. I saw a Reader’s Digest on the table as we came in. Maybe….” He was kidding, but Sonny got up—wearing an even more mischievous look—got the tacky journal, and started reading the jokes. Luki and Sonny laughed at them—some because they were actually funny, some because they were utterly stupid. Luki caught the old bigot next to him chuckling, too, and gestured to Sonny, who nodded and started to read a little louder. It wasn’t long before the younger woman to Luki’s right—and her visitor, who seemed to be her sister—joined in laughing, too, and even the nurse, working his way down the row of chairs.
Luki watched Sonny, stared at him so long and intently that he began to see light shining around him like a full-length halo. His long, dark hair—an indefinable color. His smooth skin, dark eyes sparkling… literally sparkling. His smile. His hands. His… oh my God his beautiful body. Watching Sonny, thinking those thoughts, feeling the wash of emotions that went with them, Luki fell asleep. He woke up an hour later and let Sonny steady him as he got to his feet.
“Thank you,” he said. “Sonny, thank you.”
Sonny smiled softly, shook his head, and dropped St. Christopher’s chain past Luki’s curls. The medallion fell to rest near his heart.
Yes: A Vasquez & James Novella
Professional badass Luki Vasquez and textile artist Sonny James have been married for five years, and despite the sometimes volatile mix, they’re happy. From their first days together, they stood united against deadly enemies and prevailed. But now the deadly enemy they face is the cancer thriving inside Luki, consuming his lungs.
As Luki’s treatment proceeds, Sonny hovers near, determined to provide every care, control every thread of possibility just as he does when he weaves. But he can’t control the progress of the cancer or how Luki’s body reacts to the treatment regime. Sonny tries, but Luki dances with cancer alone—until he gets a startling reminder of the miracle of life. With renewed determination and mutual love, the two men emerge from their coldest winter into a new spring day.
Yes, the latest novella in her Luki and Sonny series can be purchased here at Dreamspinner Press
Lou Sylvre hails from Southern California but now lives and writes on the rainy side of Washington State. When she’s not writing, she’s reading—fiction in nearly every genre, romance in all its tints and shades, and the occasional book about history, physics, or police procedure. Her personal assistant is Boudreau, a large cat who never outgrew his kitten meow. She loves her family, her friends, a Chihuahua named Joe, and (in random order) coffee, chocolate, sunshine, and wild roses.