Posted on August 4, 2010. This is an interview conducted by author Sarah Black with Red Haircrow. Please visit Sarah’s terrific website at LiveJournal for this and other posts: “Romance on the Lunatic Fringe”.
One of my fellow authors at Dreamspinner, Red Haircrow, agreed to let me interview him about his first story, “A Lieutenant’s Love”.
I really enjoyed your first story for Dreamspinner Press, Lieutenant’s Love. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to write the story?
Almost ten years ago, I read Maria McCann’s debut novel, “As Meat Loves Salt”, for the first time. It was an outstanding work of historical fiction set during The War of the Roses in England, which combined flawless time period details and vivid images with a same-sex love story that transcended genre. It stayed in my mind: the meeting of the two men at the fireside, after a battle. I created “Lieutenant’s Love” based on my vision of such an occurrence and what might happen afterward.
To me, this author was very much proof positive that a female can write a love story, a gay story, involving two men in a relationship together, and do so in an extraordinary way in some ways equaling or surpassing anything a male writer has ever done.
Are the historical battles/army/war modeled after a specific time in history? Is this a time period you are interested in? Do you have any other historical stories in the pipeline?
I would say my vision of battles and war are somewhat based on the grit and blood of the early Middle Ages of Europe. It’s a period I’ve studied: castle building, siege engines, strategies of war, arms and armor, societal and cultural issues. I collect swords and enjoy archery, and can occasionally be seen at a renaissance festival. It’s all of a piece.
I have quite a few historical fantasies in the works, outlined or partially written, some are complete. It’s just a matter of following through, creating the time and mood to finish them. One in particular is of novel length, in an alternative medieval setting, part mystery, part love story and all drama. It’s complex but I am enthusiastic about it.
You mean alternative history/ alternate world? That seems very popular right now. What’s it called?
Alternative world, comparative early Middle Age European history. The tentative title so far, “The Fires of Saminthana”, but that likely will change because it relies too much on the reader already knowing something of the story. It is not a very intriguing title in general I feel, but that’s what I think of it in my head currently.
The setting seems to be Europe. Have you lived in Europe? Are you interested in European history?
I was born and lived my early years in Germany, before coming to the USA and spending young to mid-adult life. I returned to Germany around a decade ago, and very much consider it my home country. I’ve traveled throughout Europe generally, and always been interested in its history.
I noticed on your bio that you are learning to speak Finnish. What’s behind this choice? Do you speak any other languages?
I spent a few weeks vacation in Finland last summer and really loved it. Any place I travel I try to learn the language. The interest in this one stayed with me so I bought a number of courses to help me improve. Otherwise, I speak English, German, some Russian, Cherokee and Chiricahua, a few words of Japanese, French, Swedish and Italian. It might seem a lot, but living in Berlin, which is a hugely multi-cultural city, you pick up other languages by necessity…such as if you’re dating someone from another country.
Is your ethnic heritage Cherokee and Chiricahua? I am used to seeing Chiracahua as Chiracahua Apache. Is that the term you use? And how did you end up in Germany? Military?
Yes, Cherokee and Chiricahua Apache. Ironically enough the latter is in the family of languages shared with tribes in central Siberia and northwestern America, a variety of Athabaskan.
My father was in the military, the Army, but by the time I was born and a small child he had finished his commission. I never knew that life, so I don’t consider myself an “Army brat”. When we moved back to the USA I had difficulties adapting and soon returned to Germany and Europe, which I’ve always preferred. No one else from my family ever returned here except for an occasional visit.
I thought the emotions in your characters were particularly well written- very powerful and painful, and very masculine. Was it easy for you to write those emotional scenes, such as when the Lieutenant was remembering his first lover?
Remembering events in my past while working in law enforcement, having nearly lost my state trooper former lover in a deadly attack, listening to his distress and entreaties for back-up over the radio and I couldn’t get there in time…. I called upon my memories, let myself imagine how I’d have felt if I’d lost him that way.
I always have a hard time writing scenes where one of my characters get hurt. Was there any part of the story that was hard for you to write?
Actually, the ending was hard to write. How to end it cleanly, emphatically yet satisfyingly for the reader and still keep the bittersweet mood of the story.
The delicacy of that ending is one of the things I liked most about the story.
That was very surprising for me to know. This particular story, if anyone has read about in my blog, was one I allowed a quite popular writer of m/m fiction to read shortly after I completed it a decade ago, and I was mocked for the “sappiness” of it, because they wrote really hardcore, BSDM type short stories. I literally didn’t let anyone else read it for years. Although it reflected the emotions and feelings I’d experienced as gay in my life, which were quite different from their interpretation in fiction, I was influenced by their reaction.
Though I didn’t change anything in “Lieutenant’s Love”, only corrected a few grammatical errors before I submitted it to Dreamspinner Press on a spur of the moment decision last year, I was shocked when they accepted it, and even more so when it was positively reviewed.
What are you working on now? What are your plans for your writing? Are you branching out, to other genres of fiction, or to litfic, or poetry or flash? Do you have links to any of your other writing?
Right now I am actively toggling in between a few short stories. I am working on the sequel to my novella “Night Shift”, a new project called “Bus Stop” and continuing a series, “In the Beginning: Day and Night”, which begins with two high school lovers and continues later after life has separated them. All of these are contemporary dramas. Also I have an anthology in the works which deals with a very personal subject for me, a completely intersexed people, again with an alternative history setting from an ancient time period up to a comparative urban society. Three novels, the first, as I mentioned above there is the alternative history mystery novel, then there’s a Regency novel I have nearly complete, and another modern tale about an aging actor dealing with resurfacing repressed memories of childhood abuse while trying to find love and long overdue acceptance from his family.
Has Night Shift been accepted anywhere? I remember a novel by Isaac Asimov, I think, about an intersexed people—I’ll have to think of the name of that book.
I’ve received positive comment for “Night Shift”, and it’s being considered at the moment by a well-known publisher. If it’s accepted at this time, that would be nice, but if not, I’ll move on.
There are quite a few fantasy or science fiction books about intersexed, third-sexed aliens or humanoids. I can’t say all I’ve enjoyed, but a couple of good ones were “Halfway Human” by Carolyn Ives Gilman, as well as “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula le Guin. M.A. Foster also did a trilogy about a “morphrodite” who changed gender periodically. Storm Constantine has also explored the theme periodically. The book you’re referring to by Asimov is “The Gods Themselves”.
I’ve written stories, poems and non-fiction since I was eleven, so it’s something which has always been a part of me. There’s not a day that passes when I don’t write, update an outline with ideas, or envision another story, but my characters and their lives are very special to me. Sometimes they include private emotions or situations I’ve encountered, so I have to decide whether I wish them to be “seen” by the public because they are a direct reflection of myself.
They range between speculative, historical, horror, contemporary romance, epic fantasy and science fiction but there are no genres I haven’t really considered. I even have a vampire novella complete which was written about fifteen years ago before it became so widely popular. I have a collection of poetry too, but I’ve never submitted it anywhere as a whole.
Besides “Lieutenant’s Love”, right now on the market is a short story I wrote “Convenience Store Romance”. It’s in the gay erotic anthology “Boys Getting Ahead” from STARbooks Press.
The main link I have which in turn gives all my links, is my blog http://redhaircrow.com/. I also have a fanpage on Facebook (The Redhaired Crow) where I post updates, my Twitter account/Redhaircrow, a Goodreads author account, and a webpage at GLBT Bookshelf. For free reads, visit Gay Authors-Quality Gay Fiction website in the e-fiction section.
What do you like to read? Books that were important to you?
I read fantasy and science fiction almost exclusively along with history, science and human directed studies like sociology, psychology and anthropology. Occasionally I will read a thriller, but not that often. Oddly enough, I rarely read gay fiction which is specifically defined as such, though I have a few favorites in “general” fiction which include gay or bisexual characters.
Books which were important to me? First I would say “The People that Time Forgot” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which was the first sci-fi/fantasy book I ever read, which was at age eight. Then the Lord of the Rings trilogy I started at around nine. Michael Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion series, specifically Elric of Melniboné, really started my development of dark, brooding heroes which are both sympathetic and deadly. As you might guess, and I realize now, those greatly influenced my most comfortable genres to work with.
I’m a big Sci-Fi fan as well- not so much fantasy- all the classics, like Asimov and Heinlein and Stanislaw Lem, and I fell hard for William Gibson’s Neuromancer and China Mieville’s King Rat- those last two are, I think, worth reading for the joy of the writing, even if one doesn’t normally read cyber-punk or alternate world sort of stories. What are you reading now?
When I am actively writing I seldom read. I find it distracts me too much. I prefer to focus on either writing or reading at any given time, but recently I took a short break to complete “Stones in the River” by Ursula Hegi, which I reviewed at my blog. It’s a fictional account of a dwarf who survived in Nazi Germany. Also I completed “Fever Dream” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Like many I have an impossible crush on Special Agent Pendergast.
I began “The Cole Protocol” a continuation in the HALO series by Tobias Buckell, a few days ago, but a strong, new story leapt in my head, so it will go on the back burner for a few weeks at least. I buy books constantly however, and I’ve a long list to work through whenever I again have the time. Most are science fiction, classic and hard to find gems.