Hello everyone, please welcome H.B. Pattskyn to my blog today. She has kindly agreed to answer some interview questions and talk about her new book. Thanks for being here today, Helen.
First of all, please would you introduce yourself to anyone lurking here?
Thanks so much for having me here today! My name is Helen Pattskyn; I write under H.B. Pattskyn, mostly because for years, I wrote fanfiction under that name and I wanted my readers to be able to find me easily once I made the switch to published fiction. I had a couple of friends urge me to use a penname, but I chose not to, mostly because I’m lucky enough not to have to. (Although seriously, I’ve never been closeted about anything. I’m probably way too gutsy for my own good!)
I live in Metro-Detroit with my husband, teen aged daughter, a couple of cats, and a spoiled rotten xolo (that’s short for xoloitzcuintli and it’s a kind of dog).
What made you decide to start writing?
I wouldn’t know what else to do with all the characters and stories floating around in my head if I didn’t write them down! *g* Once I’ve written something, I feel compelled to do something (constructive) with it, and the most natural something I can think of is to submit it to my publisher and hope they like what I’ve come up with as much as I do.
What genre(s) do you write and how did you get into it/them?
The first book I wrote was paranormal/historical and I wrote it because I was inspired by a painting at a science fiction convention art show. I had a reader describe it as an urban fantasy that happened to be set in Victorian London, and I think that’s really true. I love urban fantasy, so it only made sense for me to write it.
My second novel was BDSM/kink. I was sitting in the dealer’s room at a local science fiction convention and there was this adorable “kid” (20 something) running around in a fishnet shirt. Kitty corner from my table was a guy selling leather goods. I put those two things together and Bound: Forget Me Knot was the result *g*.
My third book was my first contemporary romance; after writing a hard hitting (pun intended!) BDSM book, I wanted something light and easy. What came out was a heart breaking story about a guy who falls in love with a man who has HIV. (It does end in HEA—I don’t think I’ll ever write a bittersweet ending; there’s too much of that in real life. My characters might have to fight for the happy ending, but they’ll always get it).
What do you think makes for a good hero and/or heroine?
They have to be human. They have to have good points and bad points. No one is perfect and no one is wholly evil. (Well, okay, I think some people are pretty deranged, but usually that’s mental illness of some variety).
What do you think makes for a good villain?
The exact same things that make for a good hero. The only real difference is that while the hero has to actually be redeemed, the villain doesn’t. He or she can continue to be bad from beginning to end; the hero can start out in a bad place but has to grow and change to become a better person between the pages of a novel.
What are the best and worst things about being a published author?
The best thing is holding a finished book in my hands! The worst thing is that that’s only the beginning. After you write a book, you have to market the hell out of it (and yourself). The publishing industry is continuing to change and evolve and even the big publishers can’t afford to spend what they used to on marketing and promotion. That means it’s up to us to get out there and sell our books.
How did you get into male/male romances? What do you like about writing them?
I was writing Torchwood fanfiction. For those unfamiliar with the show, there’s a cannon m/m couple on Torchwood, so it was only natural to shift from those stories to original fiction. (I had a lot of support from my fanfic readers; I am so grateful for that and for them!)
LM sighing here. Never read the fanfiction but am very familiar with the show.
Despite the growing market for same sex romances, it is still a long way from being mainstream. Do you see a time when they make it to the bestseller lists?
Absolutely. The world is changing and even though some days it feels like we take two steps back for every one step forward (just look at Russia), the narrow minded people who are determined to live in bigoted fear and wilful ignorance can’t hold back progress forever. Can you tell I have some strong opinions on the subject? *smile* It has always boggled my mind how some people can live their lives in such fear, filled with such hatred and ignorance. I’ve known people like that, people absolutely obsessed with fear of homosexuality, transgenderism (is that a word? I’m really not sure what else to call it) or anything else they didn’t want to understand, things their religion or philosophy say are “wrong.” I can’t imagine how anyone could be happy living like that—and little by little people are evolving out of that kind of thinking. Love, acceptance, empathy, compassion—those are stronger, healthier emotions.
What is the best and/or worst reaction you have had after telling someone you write same sex romances?
The best reaction is honest curiosity. There are people who had no idea that the genre exists; of course it’s the most gratifying when it’s someone who wants to read one, especially the sweet gay guys who had no idea there were romance books out there with characters who are just like them—but even when it’s someone who will never read a gay romance, just having them know our books exist is a good thing.
The worst reaction is when people assume that I write porn. I don’t have anything against porn, it just isn’t what I do. But some people seem to think that if there are two guys on the cover, the book is nothing but one long sex scene, occasionally punctuated by dialogue. Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that Bound has a lot of steamy sex in it; I think it would be hard to write a BDSM novel without it. But there’s more to the story than two guys having kinky sex. Hanging by the Moment has hardly any sex in it at all.
I left my former critique group because one person kept calling my work porn (to the point that when my first novel placed in a writing contest, his comment was “I didn’t know they had a category for porn.” Really? Really. And just as point of note, I entered Heart’s Home in the paranormal romance category—because that’s what it is.) The last straw came after I submitted a snippet of a science fiction novel I’d started and that same person told me that— even though there was no sex in the couple of thousand words I’d submitted for critique—that my story read like “the set of the porn shoot when they run out of ideas and dig out the Star Trek uniforms.” Basically, I had no business writing science fiction because I was a porn writer. That was when I decided I’d taken enough verbal abuse and moved on. The same guy has driven out other writers—and the thing is that he’s not actually a bad person, he’s just opinionated in the extreme. But as an artist, I need to be around people who are supportive, not destructive. Constructive criticism is always welcome—caustic attitudes are not. (I hope other writers and artists will take that to heart; if someone is tearing you down, it’s time to walk away. There are people from that critique group that I miss; I talk to them on Facebook regularly.)
There seems to be some controversy about heterosexual women writing male/male romances, and whether they should or not. Have you encountered this and what is your opinion on the matter?
I haven’t, and I consider myself lucky. When I went to volunteer for AIDS Partnership Michigan, I was prepared to meet with criticism over what I write—but all the guys have been wonderful about it and totally supportive. I’ve gotten some honest questions about why a woman is interested in reading or writing gay romance, but they’ve been just that: honest questions. I don’t mind answering those.
I think it’s silly to assume that the only people who can write gay romances are gay men. That’s like saying the only people who can write lead female characters are women or the only people who can write leading male characters are men. Het romances are written by women (and men) who are expected to write both the hero and heroine convincingly, regardless of their own gender. The same is true in other genres as well. As writers, our job is to stretch our imagination and to create amazing stories. The parts that matter aren’t between our legs, they’re between our ears.
Who are your favourite authors when reading for inspiration?
If I’m reading for inspiration, mostly I’m looking to see how other authors have tackled something I’m thinking about tackling, but haven’t done before. I don’t usually go in looking for specific authors, but rather specific subject matter. I don’t want to copy anyone, I just want to get a sense of what other authors are doing and see how I respond to that as a reader.
What are your favourite books?
Of all time? The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop and the Vlad Taltos books by Steven Brust. (I also love Brust’s Agyar and To Reign in Hell, a pair of stand-alone novels.)
In my genre that’s a tougher call. I really loved Kim Dare’s Duck and Magpie, Heidi Cullinan did an awesome job with Special Delivery, I love, love, love J.P. Barnaby and her alter ego Jamie Mayfield. Right now, I’m reading (and loving every second of) Shira Anthony’s mermen book, Stealing the Wind.
LM, of course, has an ulterior motive for that last question as she is always adding to her reading pile. Of course, you have just named several of my favourites there, though I wasn’t aware of Kim Dare’s Magpie. Will have to check that out. Haven’t read Stealing the Wind yet, but it is high on my list of books to read. I had hoped to get to it but real life keeps interrupting my reading time.
What is your favourite genre to read?
Anything that’s done well. I gravitate toward fantasy/urban fantasy, but I’m super picky. If an author’s vampires or werewolves don’t match up to what I want, I pass on it (unless the writing and storyline are amazing). My time is just too valuable to waste. I’m a little more forgiving when it comes to contemporary romance, which is probably why I read more of it. And of course I love BDSM *g*.
Do you enjoy films and/or TV shows? Which are your favourites?
My favourite movies (more or less in order, especially for the top few slots):
Plunkett and McCleane
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
The Quiet Man
Sense and Sensibility
–and I’ll watch anything with Johnny Depp or Vincent D’Onofrio in it.
I’m pickier when it comes to television and only actively make time for Major Crimes, Hannibal, Doctor Who, and my guilty pleasure: Project Runway. I’m currently re-watching Eureka, marathon style (a few episodes at a time). I did that with The West Wing earlier in the year and Babylon-5 the year before that (I try not to marathon more than one show at a time). Probably my favourite TV show of all time was Mulberry, a very short lived British sit-com. I own it on DVD and make a point to introduce all of my friends to it. I’m really bummed that they never got to do the third/final season.
Do you like to cook? What is your specialty dish?
I love cooking and often include recipes in my newsletter or on my website. I don’t really have a speciality, although my favourite ethnic cuisine is Italian. My second favourite is Mexican.
What are you working on at the moment, and what are we likely to see from you in the coming months?
I have two WIPs at the moment, the one I’m supposed to be working on and the shifter story that invaded my head and won’t go away! The one is a contemporary romance that was inspired (in very small part) by real life. When I was wrapping up my Library Tech degree at Oakland Community College, I was in a Children’s Lit class and one of my classmates was the former high school teacher of another one of my classmates. I highly doubt anything romantic happened there, but I couldn’t help thinking that was the perfect set up for a romance. Add in a little BDSM spice and “hot for teacher” takes on a whole new meaning! (Only it isn’t the student in the collar, it’s the former teacher, because there is nothing more fun than taking tropes and turning them on their ears).
The other one is about a white raven shifter and a black swan shifter. The first time I heard of spirit or white ravens, I got this image in my head of a black swan and white raven together and I finally figured out what I wanted to do with it. It’s set in northern Michigan. Did you know that there are reports of Sasquatches in northern Michigan? Doesn’t that just make for an interesting subplot…? *raised eyebrow and wicked grin*
Please tell us about your latest book.
When I started writing Hanging by the Moment, all I had was an idea and the plan to write something fairly light and easy. Bound, my second novel, took a lot out of me emotionally (I get very wrapped up in my character’s lives).
I was working in a restaurant in downtown Royal Oak and the place was a disaster. Worse, the owner’s kids had all but abandoned her, only coming in when they wanted free food. It seemed like a great place to set a novel (did I forget to mention that despite my best laid plans, I like stories with angst?), so I created my fictional family, the Batalovs. I decided to make them Russian because that’s my heritage and something I know a lot about. I created three children: one who had married and moved to the other side of the state, one who had married straight out of high school and spent the subsequent five years having babies, and one who stuck it out but got nothing but grief from his father. That would be Pasha, a closeted gay man trying to cope with…well, everything. Originally, I’d penned Pasha’s mother as deceased, but my second novel also featured an MC with a dead mother, so rather than repeat myself, I changed it so that Pasha’s mother was ill and not living in the house—my great Aunt Syl’s husband had Alzheimer’s, so unfortunately it’s a disease I have some familiarity with. It worked perfectly for the story—a story that was looking less and less light and fluffy by the moment.
Then, after I’d gotten a couple thousand words down on the virtual page, my other MC, Daniel, came to me and told me he had HIV. (Yes, characters often talk to us, no I don’t need to go on meds for that *g*). Daniel’s statement threw me for a loop. It wasn’t a subject I’d intended to write about, at least not right then. I mean, I knew the basics of HIV, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to go and do a bunch of research and I knew I would have to, in order to write the book correctly. But once the idea was in my head, there was no shaking it.
As a result of the research—a lot of which really startled me, I thought we as a society knew better—I decided to not only donate a percentage of my royalties from Hanging by the Moment toward HIV awareness but also to volunteer my time with AIDS Partnership Michigan. Some of the attitudes I encountered online about HIV and the people who have it (fear, prejudice, and in some cases flat out ignorance) absolutely broke my heart.
Here’s a short excerpt from Hanging by the Moment where Pasha goes online and finds the exact same sorts of things I did…
Pasha returned his attention to his phone and the Internet. He wasn’t interested in what Wikipedia had to say about HIV. He wasn’t interested in WebMD or the CDC’s websites, either. He knew the basics, just like everybody else. What he wanted to know more about was dating and HIV, but what he found wasn’t encouraging. Safer sex meant that there would always be a latex barrier between them, maybe even for oral sex. Studies seemed divided on the issue, but if Daniel’s viral load ever spiked, it would be safest to use a rubber for everything. And even though Daniel would in all likelihood live a long and healthy life, Pasha was right: someday he would get sick and it wouldn’t be pretty. The best Pasha could hope for was that they’d keep improving HIV drugs or find a cure.
But the worst thing Pasha found online was what other people had to say about dating and HIV. It wasn’t just the religious right, either. On a lark, he Googled the question “would you go out with a guy who had HIV?” It turned out that a lot of people on sites like Yahoo! Answers and LiveJournal had already asked the same question—and some of the answers made him heartsick. They ran the gamut from “Sure, why not?” to “Maybe, but I’d never have sex with him, I don’t want to die,” to “No, but I wouldn’t play naked in traffic either. I’m not suicidal.”
Then he read a post on some girl’s blog. On it, she said she’d just met a guy who was everything she’d ever wanted in a partner: kind, funny, sexy, sweet, handsome. But most importantly, he was great with her six-year-old daughter, and the little girl really loved him. The only hitch: on their third date, her new boyfriend disclosed that he was HIV positive. Now she had to decide if she should keep seeing him or move on. She liked him, but she was afraid of pretty much all the same things Pasha was afraid of.
Like other questions, her query was met with answers ranging from “If you love him, stick it out and see what happens” to “Why would anyone put their child’s life at risk?! Dump him and find someone healthy.” One ass hat went so far as to call the woman an unfit mother for not having already dumped her HIV-positive boyfriend. The whole thing made Pasha’s stomach turn sour.
But the next response he read stopped him cold. The respondent suggested that the only reason the boyfriend was so “perfect” was because he had HIV. If he were negative, he wouldn’t have to be so great, he could—and very probably would—be an asshole.
And that made Pasha wonder.
If Daniel wasn’t HIV positive, would he have come back to see me, or would he have just gotten directions to where he needed to go, said thank you, and driven off without a second thought? Daniel was gorgeous. Gorgeous men didn’t have to settle for ordinary. But maybe HIV-positive guys do.
You can read more about Hanging by the Moment on my website (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/p/hanging-by-moment.html) or at the Dreamspinner Press site (http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4161)
And of course since this is a part of a virtual book launch party, there are party favours! Or at least a prize at the end of the blog tour. If you leave a comment here (and include your contact info) you’ll be entered to win a pretty cool prize: a signed paperback copy of Hanging by the Moment as well as a goody bag of awesome swag.(Retail value $17.99)
And anyone who signs up for my newsletter (http://helenpattskyn.us7.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=0bd1c530d47486fe22f3cce92&id=dc70f94d36) will also be entered to win a signed paperback copy of the book in October.
LM puts here the obligatory link to the Terms and Conditions of giveaways held here on this blog. This giveaway will, as stated above, be run by H.B. Pattskyn whose terms are above.