Today I have with me the fabulous Josephine Myles, whose first novel, Barging In, just came out. It’s wonderful story full of local color, sexy men, romance, drama, and a lively bunch of supporting characters. Here is the blurb:
When the boat's a rockin’, don't come knockin’!
Out-and-proud travel writer Dan Taylor can’t steer a boat to save his life, but that doesn’t stop him from accepting an assignment to write up a narrowboat holiday. Instead of a change of pace from city life, though, the canal seems dull as ditchwater. Until he crashes into the boat of a half-naked, tattooed, pierced man whose rugged, penniless appearance is at odds with a posh accent.
Still smarting from past betrayal, Robin Hamilton’s “closet” is his narrowboat, his refuge from outrageous, provocative men like Dan. Yet he can’t seem to stop himself from rescuing the hopelessly out-of-place city boy from one scrape after another. Until he finds himself giving in to reluctant attraction, even considering a brief, harmless fling.
After all, in less than a week, Dan’s going back to his London diet of casual hook-ups and friends with benefits.
Determined not to fall in love, both men dive into one week of indulgence…only to find themselves drawn deep into an undertow of escalating intimacy and emotional intensity. Troubled waters neither of them expected…or wanted.
Contains one lovable tart, one posh boy gone feral, rough sex, alfresco sex, vile strawberry-flavoured condoms, intimate body piercings, red thermal long-johns, erotic woodchopping, an errant cat, a few colourful characters you wouldn't touch with a bargepole, and plenty of messing about on the river.
So Jo, what made you start writing gay romance stories?
I'm going to have to blame Russell T. Davis for killing off my favourite character in Torchwood. I was so incensed by Ianto's death I was desperate to resurrect him. I discovered the world of fanfiction and immediately began writing a "fix-it" fic with a Ianto from a parallel universe, who'd never been involved with Torchwood in Cardiff. It was very much a classic romance story as Jack had to woo Ianto all over again.
From there it wasn't a huge leap to writing original gay romance stories, especially as I'd found creating original characters the most interesting thing about writing fanfiction. Well, that and the smut…
Is there any author in or outside of the genre who strongly influenced you?
I suppose the biggest influence early on was E.M. Forster, as Maurice was the first story I ever read that I think you could classify as a gay romance (at a stretch). As far as authors who have had a big influence on me since discovering the genre, one stands out in particular: K.A. Mitchell. I adore her writing style and the way she manages to create such realistic, flawed and difficult characters, yet I fall in love with them anyway. She also writes the hottest sex scenes on the planet. I'm surprised my ereader hasn't burst into flames!
Outside the genre? I adore Anne Tyler and I aspire to invest the details of ordinary people's everyday lives with as much beauty as she does. I'm also a big fan of Joanne Harris and Susan Fletcher who both write wonderful, character-driven stories.
The canal and the boaters come alive vividly in Barging In; it's clear the river boating life style is close to your heart. Does it come from personal experiences?
As I lived on the canal for two and half years, I drew on many personal experiences while writing Barging In. It's one of those worlds you really have to experience to fully understand. It's not just the physical circumstances of living on a boat that matter, but the whole attitude of the boaters and the constantly shifting communities they form.
Did you base any of the boaters on real people? Which ones?
Mel is inspired by one of my first friends among the boaters, Smiler by my old landlord, and Aranya by a guy I used to work with. They bear close physical resemblance to their original models, and share certain ways of acting too, but I do make sure I change significant details about their circumstances and personal history. I mean, you really wouldn't believe Smiler if I wrote him exactly how he was. That man was an utter bastard. I've made him much nicer than the reality!
How much do you base your characters on people you know and how much do you just make them up?
My lead characters are always unique creations and while I might steal characteristics from people I know, they don't closely resemble anyone in real life. As for the secondary characters - I consider my vast store of characters I've met to be fair game as inspiration. I wouldn't base a character closely on someone I know now, but I might do on someone I remember.
What are your most and least favorite parts of the writing process?
My favourite part is getting hold of a shiny new idea and rushing into that first draft. Everything seems so perfect then. The hardest part is when getting towards the end of a longer project. This is usually the point where I suffer a crisis of faith in it and think I've written a load of drivel no one in their right minds would read. I've now learnt to power on through and avoid the temptation to start on a new project, but it's always a struggle.
I think I just hate writing the crisis point. It's depressing, making everything go wrong for your characters. I don't like treating them in that way, but it's necessary sometimes to craft a gripping story.
What are your favorite literary genres aside from m/m?
I think I've had a love affair with just about every genre I can think of over the years, but the two I was most into before discovering m/m were contemporary women's fiction and literary fiction. Science-fiction will always have a special place in my heart, though.
What are your most and least favorite m/m tropes?
I'm a real sucker for anything involving threesomes and former rent boys, for some reason, but I think pretty much any trope can be done well by a talented author. My least favourite feature of much m/m writing would have to be when the characters are in mortal peril yet keep stopping to have gratuitous sex. It just doesn’t seem very likely. Then again, if you wrote it as a screwball comedy I suppose even that could work *ponders comic adventure story featuring shagging on the back of a horse while fleeing the enemy*
You’re British, and most of the publishers are in the US, and frankly we just outnumber you. Has living on the other side of the pond caused any issues getting published, and how have you dealt with them?
When I was starting out I thought I had to Americanise my writing for publishers to take it on, and I used a few Americanisms in my first few published stories that I would change now if I had the choice. There are a few publishers who insist on keeping US spelling and grammar, but I've only once had all my uses of "arse" changed to "ass" - seeing as how it was a short sci-fi story and I hadn't made it clearly a British setting, I thought it would be easier not to argue.
Some British m/m author set their stories in the US, perhaps to appeal to the more numerous US readership. Have you considered doing the same? Do you think it really makes a difference?
I couldn't do it. For a start, I've never been to the States so I'd be basing it entirely on the representations I've seen in other books, films or tv shows. That seems like a recipe for cliché, to my mind. Also, there are plenty of m/m romances set in the States already, so why not create something a bit different? I see my Britishness as a selling point. Either that, or I'm just too stubborn to say "ass" for "arse", and "pants" for "trousers"!
Would you put any of your stories on foreign soil just for kicks? (Alien planets don’t count!)
Only if it was somewhere I'd visited and knew someone from there who could critique the manuscript for me. The Netherlands springs to mind, as do Sweden and Malta. I could probably do a reasonable job of setting something in France too. It would be a great excuse for a holiday there, anyway!
You mostly write contemporary romance, but have dipped your toes into paranormal and scifi too. Is there a subgenre you haven’t tried yet, but would like to?
I'm really taken with the steampunk aesthetic, but I think I'd probably only be using it as an excuse to get my male characters in brown leather sock suspenders and braces (that's sock garters and suspenders to you!). I'm not sure my clothing kinks should be encouraged! I seem to do a good enough job of indulging them as it is. You know what I'm talking about, Lou, having read my manuscript for Tailor Made…
Some readers love it, others hate it – do you ever see yourself writing ménage?
Seeing as how I'm one of the readers that loves it, I'd have to say YES! However, I don't have any concrete ideas for one just yet and I think they're exceedingly tricky to do successfully. We shall see what the future holds. I have written some short m/m/m and m/m/f erotic stories and I'm sure I'll write more m/m/m erotica in the future, but creating three characters who you genuinely believe could make a longer term ménage work is a real challenge.
What is the most romantic movie moment you can think of?
I'm not a big one for romantic movies, but I'd have to go for a scene from my all time favourite films, The Princess Bride, when they're fighting their way through the fire swamp. I just love Westley's casual confidence in the face of danger, and the look on Buttercup's face when he suggests they could live there.
I know you’re a fellow nerd, so let me ask you this: if the Doctor offered you one (round) trip in the TARDIS, where and when would you want to go?
This will probably sound really lame, but I'd love to go and see Tom Waits record Nighthawks at the Diner in 1975. It's my all time favourite Tom Waits album and he recorded it in front of a live audience, who sound like they had a fabulous time. The mix of smutty humour, poetic lyrics and laid back jazz is a real winner. Plus, I really fancy the young Tom Waits!
Where would you end up instead?
If the TARDIS was up to her usual tricks, I'd probably end up at a Take That or Westlife concert. Still, at least if they were enslaved by the Cybermen I wouldn't be too upset.
And on that bombshell: thanks Jo for the interview!
Barging In is available at: