Ep:049 By the age of 30, Christopher Rice had published four New York Times bestselling thrillers, received a Lambda Literary Award and been declared one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive. His two novels of dark supernatural suspense, THE HEAVENS RISE and THE VINES, were both finalists for the Bram Stoker Award. He recently entered the erotic romance genre with three works in all new series called The Desire Exchange. They include THE FLAME, THE SURRENDER GATE and KISS THE FLAME. His debut novel, A DENSITY OF SOULS, was published when the author was just 22 years old. A controversial and overnight bestseller, it was greeted with a landslide of media attention, much of it devoted to the fact that Christopher is the son of famed vampire chronicler, Anne Rice. Together with his best friend, New York Times bestselling novelist Eric Shaw Quinn, Christopher launched his own Internet radio show. THE DINNER PARTY SHOW WITH CHRISTOPHER RICE & ERIC SHAW QUINN.
Website for The Dinner Party Show
Christopher Rice’s Website
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Brad here, because of a special extended interview today, Justene has the week off. She will return next week with her usual weekly recommendation. So sit back, relax and enjoy my conversation with New York Times best selling author Christopher Rice. Welcome to Gay Mystery Podcast featuring interviews with renowned LGBTQ authors, and up and coming talent of mystery, suspense and thriller novels. I’m your host Brad Shreve, and Justene is here with her weekly recommendation. By the age of 30, Christopher Rice had published four New York Times bestselling thrillers, received the Lambda Literary Award and had been declared one of People magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive. His two novels the dark, supernatural suspense, The Heavens Rise and The Vines were both finalists for the Brom Stoker Award. Together with his best friend New York Times bestselling novelist Eric Shaw Qiunn. Christopher co hosts Christopher and Eric, a serious but mostly funny True Crime podcast based on episodes they’ve watched on various television shows. Welcome to the Gay Mystery Podcast, Christopher.
Thank you for having me, Brad. It’s great to be here.
Oh, it’s my pleasure. Indeed. I must say I’m halfway through your first Burning Girl novel. And I am ingrossed.
My husband misses me. I gotta admit, I am having a hard time reading these days, which is a terrible thing for a writer to admit. So it is on audiobook so it’s taken me a while but thank the gods for audiobooks.
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely thank the gods for audiobooks given those of us who are doing more housework than we used to and we need something to listen to while we’re running the vacuum cleaner, right? I think that’s gotten me more into audiobooks than I’ve ever been.
Yes. And I would listen to it on my morning walks, but I am so trying to catch up on your podcasts that I I’ve been listening to those instead. But we’ll get to the book.
Well, thank you.
But, we are not here to talk about the first Burning Girl book you just released released Blood Victory, which is the third book in the series and came out last month. Let’s start by you telling us who Charlotte Rowe, The Burning Girl is.
Charlotte Rowe came into the world, in my opinion, in an interesting way. Interesting for me at least, just because the process the creative process that gave life to her was so circuitous. I, many years ago, I was hanging out with a friend of mine, who began to describe for me an article that he had read about in a movie magazine about a horror film that was coming that sounded incredibly disturbing and incredibly gruesome. And I’m one of those people who if I get an image stuck in my head, I’m very obsessive, as most writers are. And I there’s not much that I can use to that’s healthy and non destructive to get it out of my head before it’s ready to leave. And I said don’t ask your friend to describe this disturbing scene. And then I went ahead and I asked my friend to describe the disturbing scene which he did and it was a scene about that involved a woman getting tortured and it so upset me that I began to fantasize about a scenario in which the woman escaped when she in which she turned the tables on her captor. And basically, we were given a nice juicy moment of revenge where it precisely the moment that we thought this woman was going to be horrifically tortured as she is in the movie. She was somehow miraculously able to break free of her restraints and in turn on her abductor. And I love this idea, but for years, the idea didn’t go anywhere. For me, really, it didn’t go anywhere that was truly productive. I couldn’t figure out where the woman’s powers had come from. I kept trying to put together an idea of what she an alien had come down to earth to hunt and stalk serial killers, all of which I think would have made an interesting story. But they, they didn’t quite illuminate who this young woman was for me. And then years later with this idea, having kicked around in my head for for that long, I sat down with an editor of mine at the time, and I said, you know, what do you want? What are you looking for? What kind of projects are you looking for? And she said, we’re looking for stuff that’s essentially a serial killer thriller, with a strong female heroine who wins. And I thought, well, you know, I think I might have this idea that works for that. But there are aliens in it. And she was in love
everything about this. But what are the aliens about like? Why are they here? And I said, I don’t know. I’m trying to think of what what would fuel our power and she said, What if it was a drug, and then it was like it was one of those simple ideas. Around which and entire idea came into me it was like, Oh, right, someone has given her a drug, which gives her this temporary burst of superpower. So I’m not writing about an alien. I’m not writing about a superhero who has to live completely apart from everyday reality like with the Avengers, or whatever, it’s suddenly it became, it’s like all the ingredients of it balanced out in a way that I was finally able to wrap my arms around it and do it. And that’s really how Burning Girl came into being. But I think from that, that moment, where I first got the idea and had the conversation with my friend, to that conversation with the editor in Seattle, it was it was several years I’m not sure exactly how many but it was a long, it was a long stretch of time. And I think the moral of the story for the writers listening is that the idea that may not seem right now might be right. short distance from now.
I gotta tell you one thing I love about the book. It drives me crazy to have a book that describes settings and people in minute detail because then I have to have my brain continued to work the picture that person, that thing. And you describe the town in Arizona in two or three sentences. And I was there and I can tell you exactly what it looks like in my head.
Oh, wonderful thing. That’s that’s high praise because I love setting so much and I love atmosphere. But I agree with you. I think it is better. You know who’s absolutely amazing. I think she’s doing this and she doesn’t get enough credit for it is Nora Roberts. Nora Roberts can put you in the atmosphere of a scene in about three sentences. And then there’s writers like Ross MacDonald, one of the great detective novelist, he can describe a character in three sentences. I love it. Thank you is what I’m saying, Brad, because that’s really that was the goal.
Well, and that tends to be the way I write. I tried to give minimal description because I want the readers to fill in the blank. And sometimes I get complaints like why don’t you tell us more about him. So I don’t, obviously I don’t have as skilled as you but I’m working on it. You do have a character that’s a woman that you describe. You give her the color of her hair and then you don’t tell us about her eyes or nose or lips, any of that. But again, you in one sentence, I can picture that character perfectly. So, great job on you. Can you tell us a bit about Blood Victory?
I can, you know, it’s it’s sometimes it’s difficult to discuss because it’s the third in the series and I always recommend that if people are interested in the series that they begin with the first one. But Charlotte hunts serial killers. That’s really what her mission is. And so every book introduces a new set of killers and a new and a new storyline around those killers the same way you would with a detective solving a new case. Charlotte doesn’t really solve Charlotte goes after. Once her target has been identified by the massive pharmaceutical company. They’re a pharmaceutical company. On the surface, but they’re also into a lot of other business which becomes clear. They basically fund and use Charlotte as a test subject for the drug. And in exchange, she is allowed to trigger the drug in her system by going after different serial killers and the drug triggers when she is terrified. And she is the only human being in which the drug successfully works without catastrophic consequences. So, this time she’s going after a serial killer who uses they don’t know exactly how his truck to abduct his victims and take them to a place from which they’re never recovered. And they’ve picked up on this guy through elaborate and illegal internet searching and hacks. They’re they’re definitely not law enforcement, and they’re not constrained by the things law enforcement is constrained by. So as with all of the Burning Girl books, Charlotte has to turn herself into a victim to get close enough to the killer to determine that they are a killer and to overpower them with her strength. and I think Ideally, and it doesn’t always work out this way, leave them in the presence of all the forensic evidence of their crimes so that they can be apprehended. So, gotta say these are not gritty, realistic spy novels. I love those. And I’ve written books that are closer to those. These are definitely I think what some people call sci fi crossover. Where we’ve got this extraordinary circumstance, sandwiched in the middle of all these ordinary things. I think a great example of the type of story that this is Stephen King’s The Outsider, which was recently made into an HBO series, which I was a big fan of. I haven’t read the book, but I understand it was pretty faithful. And in that we’re dealing with a single supernatural circumstance that is being pursued, and hopefully resolved by a group of very human detective. So there’s a similar blend in The Burning Girl series and a similar blend in Blood Victory.
When when you describe the story, in a lesser hands, it sounds like it would be pretty shitty.
Aha, well, you know, and that’s sometimes with a lot of stories, right? Like, I live in Hollywood, and I’ve done work in Hollywood, and they’re all about the pitch. And I’m always like, the pitch is sometimes the worst thing about the project. Like, you can hear an idea where you’re like, Oh my god, I know that’s, it sounds like a dog. But then you get into it, and you get into the execution. I think it all comes down to execution. But I also think so many things creatively come down to the characters and the individual audience members connection to those characters or lack thereof, I think we’re willing to forgive a lot of things we might not otherwise, when we’ve got, it doesn’t just need to be the hero or the heroine. But when we’ve got a connection or an affinity to the characters in their world,
Well said, I agree with you 100% that it’s always better to start at the beginning, but I don’t necessarily always do that. Can each of these books be read as a standalone
they’re definitely written with that intention. There. Definitely written, they’re written and they start off in a way that’s supposed to catch you up on where these people are without completely spoiling the previous adventure. And I think when a series becomes too heavily serialized, where you just have no idea what they’re talking about, unless you’ve read books one or two, I think that’s disappointing for a lot of reasons. I think it’s disappointing for the people who’ve actually read books one and two, because it assumes they’ve done nothing else, but think about your book every minute of the day since they read it. So you’ve got to find a way to get them back into the world and back into the story and you hope that that method works just as well. For people who aren’t familiar with the books I have. I’ve rarely started in the middle of a series. You know what I find? It’s more challenging for me when the world is paranormal. And I don’t read a ton of paranormal stuff. I read a fair amount of it, but I read much more sort of thrillers and romance and a lot of stuff on that end. But when there is a a world that you have To build with its own logic and its own rules, I find that sometimes it can be hard to jump in on the middle of that.
Can we expect more of her in the future?
Oh, absolutely. I’ll keep doing Charlotte Rowe as much as anybody wants to read her
Based on what I’ve read so far. I think I’m stuck.
Now, what is the LGBTQ element of the story?
You know, I I decided that I wanted to make the gay character the one we never see as the gay character right you know, I mean, best friend. Lot of gay best friends if the if the heroine is a straight woman, relatives, all that sort of stuff. I thought I wanted the morally ambiguous. Corporate overlord minder, the guy who’s basically he doesn’t take Charlotte Rowe prisoner, but he is dispensing the drug to her on his terms. We know he’s killed people in his past to get what they want. Most of them deserved it. But I wanted him and his world of sort of shadowy wealth and he goes around everywhere in a helicopter. I wanted him to be a gay man. I wanted him to have a relationship with somebody else that was flawed and imperfect and tortured, but not characterized by a bunch of homophobic tropes. Like we might have seen if he were in a, let’s say, an action movie from the 80s or early 90s. Without I wanted him to be a complex character and and in Blood Echo, we really learn his backstory. That’s the second book in the series, we really learn what makes him tick in a way that was very exciting for me as a writer. And so I have had people say, when did you stop writing about gay people? I said, I never stopped. There’s really only one thing I’ve written that has not a single gay character in it. And that’s a little romance novella I published a few years ago that was part of a series that was a step outside the norm for me, I wrote sort of sweet, happy sexy romances that traveled the spectrum of sexuality. And there was only one novella I did I think everything else is still had a central gay character in it. And this series is no different and the character who the other gay character and it is the inventor of the drug that has given her the power. So the parental figures, if you will, of this story are gay and they get a lot of page time. They’re not just sort of walk in and walk out.
Well, you said you didn’t want to name names from the 80s and 90s, you would actually be talking for several hours if you tried to give us
that’s very true.
That’s very true. So thank you. I think that would get a little boring after a while. Now what I’m having a hard time is classifying this novel. I’m not sure if it’s a horror, thriller, suspense, sci fi mystery, where where do you classify it if you even you can
I feel this thriller label is is one of the more accommodating labels. I feel that when you say mystery that automatically rules out any supernatural or paranormal element. I feel that when you say urban fantasy, there’s actually a more rigid set of expectations with that usually a demon hunter in a city setting. Maybe some contact with mythology around fae and demons and vampires and werewolves, all that sort of stuff. None of that appears in The Burning Girl series. I think that thriller, you know, in my opinion, I, I feel like I’m sort of following in the footsteps of a brilliant writer named Blake Crouch, who is not only a friend, but is someone who was very influential on me creatively. He was someone who he wrote a series called The Wayward Pines Trilogy, which was made into a TV show on Fox. And, you know, as I described earlier, it was kind of this sci fi crowd Over thing where you had all these humans together in this strange circumstance, and then the explanation of it was out there in the best possible way. And I think that’s sort of the what the class or category that The Burning Girl series fits into. There’s this one extraordinary element that all of these normal human beings have to grapple with. But to answer your question more directly, Thriller for me, describes Blake Crouches work it describes my work it is a label that allows for things to go to the edge of reality without crossing over into straight up science fiction.
Yeah, that’s pretty much how I would feel it it you’ve described it really well. It is a thriller. I guess there’s a touch of sci fi but I would never call it a sci fi novel. Now I’ve heard you say before, you tried to dabble a bit in acting while in college, but it didn’t go well.
It didn’t, no. It didn’t. In high school. I was Mr. Theater Man, like I was the theater department. I did everything I directed, I made the programs. I was the star of the show senior year, I always sort of seven. So I really was ready to take college by storm. And I went to Brown University and I did not get even called back for a single audition in my first year that I was it was my only year there. I actually transferred to another school after that, but I was devastated. It was so humbling. And I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I just thought the world had been waiting for me. First and a loss. And so I started writing, you know, because my dream had always been well, I’ll be an actor. I was very inspired by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who just become household names at the time. They’ve done a movie called Good Will Hunting, which had been an actually won the Oscar for the screenplay, and they were actors who wrote their own material. And that was suddenly what, what everybody wanted to do. It was the age when peak TV hadn’t happened yet. And so it was the age of everyone wanting to write the great American story. screenplay, and I was going to be them and I just couldn’t seem to get anybody to be interested in the acting part in college anyway, so I went back to my dorm room and I started writing plays late at night after I’d done my schoolwork and eventually decided because of that, that I was going to transfer to a school that had a more practical film program and that was in my you were I only stayed for a semester before I chucked it all and eventually moved out to Hollywood to to pursue my dreams, and I’ve been here ever since.
Well, the acting not working out has been a benefit to the rest of us.
Oh, that’s a very nice, thank you. That is a very good thing to say. Thank you, Brad.
And well, truth. Now for listeners who don’t know Christopher is the son of mega selling author Anne Rice of the Vampire Chronicles fame among others. Given that, Christopher, would you say that you were doomed to be a writer, let’s say destined to be a writer.
Doomed or destined? I don’t know.
You know wha?t With the writer depends on the time of day
a does it’s a visit or the year or your last sales, you know, like it. Yeah, it’s really, I think, I think it was destiny in a sense I think it was bound to I was bound to try at it. And to be perfectly blunt, I was bound to have my first try at it go better than most people’s because of the last name. I think if I had tried to use a pseudonym, or keep all that secret, I would have had a more, let’s say windy path through publishing, but at the very beginning, being open and public about it opens a lot of doors. So I think definitely my love of reading was going to whether that was genetic, whether that was socialized into me. It was going to result in me trying to write a novel at some point, but honestly, I really had to sneak up on it. I didn’t think I would ever write a novel. I thought screenplays were my area. Everyone else had to do the really hard work. You just had to come up with the visions and the fun and put On paper, and I just didn’t think I had the strength or the endurance as a young man at least to go the distance with a novel. And I’d like to say I wrote a novel by accident. I was called home because my mother got very ill suddenly. She was diabetic and didn’t know it. And she went into a diabetic coma. And I was living out in LA at the time, kind of my first go out here and I dropped everything and flew home and Mardi Gras was coming up, and she was on the mend. And I didn’t feel like going back to LA. But this was before cloud computing. So I didn’t have my files. All I had on my computer was an old short story that I had read to reading series in Los Angeles and gotten a response to and I started fiddling with it and fiddling with it. And I just kept fiddling until I had something that was novel length. And that crossing I’m sure you’ve had that experience crossing that divide. It doesn’t matter if it’s ready to be published. It’s just a thing. That’s the length of the novel that’s completed. That’s really a huge stride for a writer to make and and that was what I made. And then it started after that I started seriously pursuing it.
Well, your first novel, are you talking about the first novel that you published when you were 22?
Yes, that would be A Density of Souls. Yes.
Okay. And you had every writer’s dream. It was an overnight bestseller.
It was Yes. Thank you. It was it did very well. And I was very blessed.
Well, have you been intimidated by your mom success starting out as a writer.
I think I had ironically, I think because I started out so young, I had some useful delusions that helped me in that regard helped me keep going, as opposed to being swamped or overwhelmed by them. I really felt at the very beginning that our work was so different, that it wouldn’t be a problem. And I don’t know how you define a problem in this instance, but it wouldn’t ever feel like I was trying to compete with her because I was writing very different types of books from her And, you know, that sounds strange to say, given that we’ve actually collaborated so much sense and we’ve, we’ve done a novel together and are doing another one. I think that, that that’s an odd thing to say. But I think being off on my own creatively and kind of figuring out what I was about, gave me the independence and the power to eventually sit with her and say, Okay, let’s do something together. So, I have to say it probably only becomes intimidating. Because somebody asked me once in a reading, this is how I put this. What does it feel like to follow in your mother’s footsteps? And my response was, there is no following in my mother’s footsteps. My mother is one of those writers, as my friend Eric says, she’s a black swan event, which means when a writer is is that successful, when their work gets that much of a following and that much love. It’s really impossible for somebody else to replicate that process. They’re on their own path. My mother has always been on Her own path. So the idea of hopping on the back of my mother’s path is not gonna work. Because you have to be on that path, you have to have created a character like Lestat that’s become so iconic. And that happens for a very, very rare and select group of writers . So I need to be on my own path and just hope that I someday create my own version of Lestat, even if it’s nothing like Lestat, you know, I think that’s every writer’s dream, are we going to create a character that people really love, and want to come back for? At any rate, and so I think that it’s about avoiding my own comparisons to her late at night. That’s really the key. And I think that’s true. You should do that. If you’re a writer with any writer who’s successful that you love. I think there’s such a tendency there to say, Well, I’m trying to get so and so’s career and it’s like, no, try for your career and hope that it works out in a way that you can continue to do what you love doing.
Well, damn, and I wanted your career.
Well, you can bend in that direction, you know, but ultimately you’re going to end up with Brad’s career and Brad’s career may end up being better than my career. It’s like, before she became a presidential candidate, let me just I don’t want to get political here. Marianne Williamson actually said a lot of things that I really, I really got down with and dug in one of them and she’s giving this talk that I listened to it. It’s from the 80s. And she’s so she’s, she’s the reference is a little dated, but she’s saying if you’re an actor, and you’re praying and praying and praying for that part on St. Elsewhere, there’s the reference. You might miss the part on Hill Street Blues that’s coming along the side of you, you know, that’s like come over here and audition for me like if we’re too focused on exactly what we think we want, we might miss out on the opportunities that show up so that’s me being my woo hoo West Hollywood, spiritual self quoting Marianne. But, you know, go for Brad’s career. That’s my recommendation.
Christopher and I will be right back after this brief message. Hi, this is Brad. Not only do I interview authors, I write novels too. Check out my Mitch O’Riley mystery series on my website, bradshreve.com.
May we talk about Light Before Day?
I gotta tell you about it one or two years ago, you must have had a sale because if that book was written in 2014, or published then, but about a year or two ago, it was floating around the top of the LGBT Mystery charts on Amazon. And I kept thinking, who is this Christopher Rice guy? His book is really selling well. Tell us about that story.
Well, you know, I think what you saw was, the book was actually published much, much further in the past and then it I sold the rights to for a new addition to Thomas and Mercer who are currently my publishers and so they brought out a new edition. And they’re an imprint of Amazon’s publishing division. So the book got a fresh burst of attention around the time I signed my deal with them. It originally came out in hardcover from a publisher that’s not really around anymore called talk Miramax Books, which was an old publishing division of Miramax Films in partnership with Disney. They don’t exist. They were absorbed by corporate whatever. Long before the Great downfall of Harvey Weinstein. The company was sort of absorbed into another. So I got the rights back, you know, to be really blunt, Light Before Day was a heartbreaking book for me when it first came out. It did it performed under expectations. I was told by a publicist that major publications had assigned reviewers to. And the reviewers had handed it back and said they didn’t want to review it. I’m not entirely sure why that is sometimes a reviewer can decline to review something, because they don’t want to be negative about it. A lot of my fans have the first two books I had written a Density of Souls and The Snow Garden. Light before Day was too dark for them. They felt it was too bleak. Other reviewers said it was the best thing I’d ever written that it was a step up that it was more sophisticated than the previous two books. What I can tell you is that it was my attempt to really write my version of a hard boiled detective novel set in the West Hollywood that I was living in. With some fairly I’ve been not supernatural or paranormal, but a storyline that was intricate. That was thrillery, that stretched the bounds of plausibility that took you outside of your your sort of zone of normal Whatever you want to call it, but it had a lot of my convictions in it, it was written when I was grief stricken over the death of my father from brain cancer. It was not actually the book I had been contracted to write. I had been contracted to write a sequel to The Snow Garden, which was my previous novel. And so there was a lot of emotion and feeling around it. And I think it did, it did. Okay. And when I say something didn’t perform up to expectations, that’s largely in terms of you know, what I was paid for it in terms of an advance and the the publishers expectations of it at the time. That’s always a that’s a long way of saying whenever someone says anything positive to me about it, whenever they say it means something that it’s very special to me because I felt like there was maybe more of me in this book, even though it is a detective novel in a crime story, than there was an either of the previous two books and I actually personally reason I was leafing through it the other night, I think I was looking up a reference for something or I wanted to see if I had covered a town in California, in that book as much as I thought I had, because I was thinking about writing about it again, and I maybe didn’t want to repeat myself. And I really, I wrote four drafts of it. One draft was 900 pages, which it didn’t know because of how I was formatting the document on my computer. I mean, it was really, it was it was a transformational experience for me. And, you know, I could go on and on and on. I could just do a one man show about Light Before Day, but it was very much a learning experience for me. And it was a book I don’t know. It’s almost like the first book I wrote as a grown up. That’s kind of how it feels.
I think part of is what you put into the readers mind as the expectation. That’s the word I was looking for. You know, your first two novels. You write across the board. You write thrillers, you’ve written romance, you’ve written erotica. That’s hard for a lot of people to deal with, I think, because they haven’t expectation of what you’re going to put out?
They do. They do. And I have to say the thing that I think set people back a little bit, although I think you can see a progression from A Density of Souls to The Snow Garden. And a density of souls, the gay character, the central gay character is a victim. I thought it was pretty sympathetic. Other people thought he cried a little bit too much. He gets what he wants. In the end, he gets the football player. There’s a lot of wish fulfillment. In The Snow Garden, the gay character has duplicitous past. He’s at the college he’s at because he’s got an agenda, and he’s targeting someone who maybe deserves it or maybe doesn’t. And then by the time we get to Light Before Day, we’ve got a gay detective investigating gay criminals. And I think for some readers who were used to the feeling that my books were going to try to sort of heal the trauma from their past, having that dynamic wasn’t necessarily what they wanted. But I was very attracted to the idea of depicting the gay community as a self policing community as a community that was dealing with its internal problems, I liked the idea of a gay character going after gay bad guys, and not necessarily needing a straight rescuer, or needing to just be the companion or accomplice to a straight detective who was coming into our community to root out the rock and like any of that. So that was kind of my thinking around it.
Well, given your thinking on that, can we expect a gay protagonist coming out in another mystery thriller suspense or something in the future?
Well, that’s a good answer. That’s what I wanted to hear. And you mentioned the podcast again and before the interview Have you segment each show we have a book recommendation and Justene does those, and she and I are both podcast buffs. And one day she told me, I have to listen to the show called Christopher and Eric. And I am generally not a fan of true crime shows they’re, they’re normally pretty bad in my opinion. The one I listened to most has a drink in the name and that’s as far as they’ll say. So for our listeners, give a rundown of the show you kind of give a little bit. Give a little bit more.
Well, you know, I thank you to Justene, you said it was who gave you the recommendatoon? Thank you to Justene we’ll pay her her commission and she’s entitled, I get Eric Shaw Quinn and I He’s my best friend. He’s a brilliant writer. He’s hilarious. We have had this company TDPS the dinner party show for a while now. And for years, we did a live streaming, celebrity interview and sketch comedy show called The Dinner Party Show and all of those episodes are still up. And available for download. And when we both began to do some more work in television, we had to kind of put a little pause on it. And then finally I said to him, some friends of mine enlisted me to go attend a live recording of a very popular podcast called My Favorite Murder, which I didn’t know much about. And I was so for one, I thought they were incredibly funny. And they had also pioneered something that I thought was really new, which was using a kind of form of gallows humor, to contend with the darkness that those of us who are obsessed with crime kind of deal with. And I thought that the line they walked between talking about the case, making light of and making fun of their own reactions to it and their own reactions to the inherent darkness in life, and never making fun of the victims, you know, never saying anything. I thought it was crass or inappropriate. I was very impressed by that, and I went back to Eric and I said, You know, I just saw this thing. That’s a success. And it’s just two people being who they are, and talking about what they’re obsessed with. And I feel like we could do a version of that. Now, ironically, when we first sat down, we were not planning a true crime focus. We were We were just going to have a conversational podcast, you know, what we had done previously had been so production heavy, 45 minutes of pre recorded professionally mixed materials. Sketch comedy was almost like Saturday Night Live in a radio show, and bringing the guests and we were like, We can’t do that again at this moment in our lives, given all our other commitments. But we can’t just turn the microphones off and start a conversation that people might want to listen to. And we did a few episodes and we really enjoyed it. But we were starting to get the sense of maybe we need something that’s a little bit more of a focus than just Christopher and Eric being Christopher and Eric. And it was actually Eric’s idea. He said, True Crime TV Club. He called me so that’s what it’s going to be called. And I said, Okay, what are we going to do? He says, we need to figure out again, because of our other work obligations, something that we already enjoy doing that we can bring into the recording of this podcast. And that is we are obsessed with these True Crime documentaries. So we will watch one, and then we will break it down for the people listening to them, not in a way that did make them feel as if they’ve watched it, even when they have it. So the idea was, if you want to enjoy it the way you would a book club where you watch ahead, and then you know what we’re talking about, that’s fine. But our job, if we’re going to pull this off correctly, is to not make it a requirement for you to do that. It’s to make you feel like you’ve seen the episode we got a comment recently on Facebook, at the dinner party shows Facebook page, which I really loved were caught. It was from one of our listeners, Cindy Conforti. And she said, You know, I tried for the first time to actually watch the show that you guys were talking about. And I found it so slow and repetitive. I’m never going to do that again. I’m just going to listen to To your version of it. So we’re now calling that the Cindy Conforti rule. Thank you to Cindy. But you know, that’s really that’s kind of the long and short of it and I think we will we we do True Crime TV Club one week and then in the other week we do an episode that’s focused on something different will either respond to comments that we’ve gotten through the Facebook page, we’ll tackle a larger topic. We did a bunch of Pride Month episodes where we, we talked about the meaning of pride and we love talking to people through The Dinner Party Shows Facebook page, that’s really how we communicate with our listeners. And it’s, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun. And I think as you as you can tell, it seems like the key to a podcast is to do something consistently that people enjoy that you enjoy. You know, like it would be very hard for me to do a weekly podcast about barbecues or the best way to barbecue because I don’t really care about barbecuing. But when you’re talking about Something you love every week. It’s very stimulating.
Well, you and Eric have, I know you’ve known each other for a long time. You have such a great rapport. And this is gonna sound so cliche. But when you first called him before we started the interview, I felt like an old friend of mine was calling.
Oh, thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. And I think that’s kind of what it’s it’s something that you’re able to develop when you’re engaged and having conversations about the stuff you like, with people who have similar interests. I think it’s the bright side of the interconnectedness now and of social media. Like we can all go dark with it. We can all argue as much as we want with people who are diametrically opposed to us, or our existence. Or we can make these connections that are about shared enthusiasm, and I think it can it can produce these these types of these types of friendly exchanges, if you will.
You mentioned My Favorite Murder and despite it being one of the most known podcasts out there I’ve never listened to it. But what I’ve noticed about other crime podcasts is there is a lot of witty banter like you and Eric have. But a lot of it’s to me disrespectful. And you and Eric do a great job of making fun of the show making fun of the production. It’s hysterical. But then when you actually talk about the murder victim and the grisly murder itself, that changes your your tone doesn’t change, but you’re not laughing anymore. And you treat it with respect.
Oh, well, thank you, because that’s absolutely our intention. And I think you’ve sort of seized on what our focus typically is in those episodes, which is, we believe that all the victims of violent crime deserve justice, no matter their background, no matter what decisions they might have made, nobody deserves to be murdered. So we often ask the question, do we feel this hour of television did justice to that question? Do we feel and and because we are writers who have a tendency to speculate and to fill in the gaps sometimes maybe to creatively in our own lives. We look at do we feel we were told that we needed to be told about this case to be as informed about it? Do we feel that shortcuts were taken in a certain area? Do we feel that there was some really bad police work that maybe wasn’t highlighted as such? You know, those are the questions that we sort of tried to tackle. But you’re right. I mean, it is. A we also did an episode recently about why True Crime Why are so many of us obsessed with true crime? Why is it such a phenomenon and I have my own opinions about it. And Eric has his. I typically come down on the side of, I think for those of us who are secular people, we’re not members of an organized church. True Crime stories for us are often our, where we explore morality there where we look at concepts of justice and karma retribution and vengeance, we also look at without victim blaming, we do look at what choices are dangerous and carry some measure of risk. And very often, in the stories that we look at there, there’s a lot of violence that happens towards women. And I think a big part of the my favorite murder phenomenon is about women claiming a conversation around an epidemic which target targets and damages them primarily other people that in greater share women than anybody else. And I think that’s a positive development. But as as if you’ll forgive my language for a minute, maybe you’ll bleep this out. Eric says we cover a lot of stories about men who will follow their dick off a cliff, you know, and we did one recently, men who have made a series of decisions around just pure lust, which have gotten them into a dangerous place. And so having those conversations in a respectful way where it doesn’t sound like you’re dismissing the victim, but you’re exploring these aspects of humanity and the human experience I think that’s what the crime story at large, is designed to do. And now because of I think the way media has shifted and changed, a lot of us can bring those tools to bear on the True Crime Story and approach it in the same way.
Well, you didn’t fuck up by saying, dick.
I have no problem putting an explicit label on the show. So So you did fine.
Getting back to writing for aspiring authors out there. One piece of great advice I heard. I heard it from Eric, and it may have been from you as well, is that when you sit down to write you can’t look at the whole novel. You need to break it down in into pieces. And, and one thing that you said that really grabbed me, in addition to setting aside a certain amount of time before taking a break, was You said you have a reasonable word goal. Mm And I’m dying to know what Christopher Rice considers a reasonable daily word goal.
2000 words. 2000 words and I arrived at that not from any great insight. Well, I tested it. It’s Stephen King’s word count. Lisa Scottolini, who’s a mystery writer, I interviewed her recently. And she, that’s her daily word count. A lot of people have that as their word count. And I thought, well, this is worth trying. And I found that around 2000 words is when things start to peter out. And that, for the most part can average out to me depending on what else is going on around me and I’m not somebody who’s able to ever achieve an entire day of monastic silence. I live in an apartment building, so that’s not going to ever happen. But that averages out to about three hours of focused work, cumulatively a day. Now there’s there’s other stuff that may go on researching things that I actually need to research. Reading over polishing brushing up what was written before that may add to the hours. But 2000 words a day is a really good day. And I don’t always get there. Sometimes it’s 1500. Sometimes it’s whatever. And I think I’m also in favor of, if you’re having a moment where the word count doesn’t feel, right. I think less in terms of chapters and more in terms of sequences in the book, like the characters are traveling from point A to point D. And that’s the sequence and, and when I reached D, I’m ready to quit for the day, or I’m ready to have a lighter day because whatever and I it gets back to that idea, which I think you mentioned, of bite sized pieces that you do not, you do not run the entire marathon in three steps. And you have to be able to go the distance and if you set daily goals for yourself, and when I say daily, I mean when you are writing, I don’t write every day of the week. I usually take a weekend off unless I’m really under the gun on a deadline. I’m just sick of a book and I want to wrap up this draft of it so I can move on to the revision. And will I will I go solidly day to day to day, I think I think your brain needs a break. And I think that you sometimes resolve complicated problems when you’re at rest, even if it’s just for 24 hours, or 48. So all that said, I don’t always make 2000 words when I write, but that’s what I’m shooting for. And I find that that the true north, if you will, of a creative process is one of the most important parts of it. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You don’t have to write perfect first drafts. But you need to have a sense of what you’re shooting for. You need to have a sense of what kind of book you’re trying to write, you need to have a sense of why you care about this story. You don’t need to have a sense of whether or not every other reader in America is going to care about the story or the world is going to care about the story. You just kind of need to be clear on those things for yourself because for me writing is an act of obsession. But if I become obsessed with the wrong parts of the process, I burn out. I give up. I pretend that the problem is with the idea rather than worth my work process or my approach to my work process, and that, to me is the most dangerous thing. If I’m willing, if I’m getting ready to throw out an idea, because I’ve been attacking it with with too much, let’s say unregulated obsessive focus and not enough kind of methodical, step by step process.
Well, the 2000 words jumped out at me because, well, I know you’re a fan of Stephen King. And that is exactly what he said. 2000 words. So when you said that, I’m like, well, it must be the numbers. So I’m going to start working towards that I actually kind of always have but some days all I can get out of the sentence.
Right. And and some days you that’s all you can get out. And some days, you come up with a lot of ideas in the shower that are going to guide you through. You know, I think there is something to be said for writing really shitty 2000 words. Like because for me, I like I triangulate between Nora Roberts and Stephen King because they’re both such successful high volume writers who are clearly writing what they love, regardless of what you may think of the individual books, I happen to be a fan of both of them, but they both there’s a similarity between the things they say about their process, you know, and I think that that in listening to little scraps of interviews and whatever you can pick up things that that work for you. But the thing that Nora says that that is so key, and that other people have said as well is you can’t edit a blank page. And I almost never those first 2000 words are never pristine. They really aren’t. And what I’m what I’m essentially doing is giving myself something to edit at the beginning of the next session or whatever, because I like to say I don’t really like writing but I love revising.
I’m very similar. Now I don’t get ideas in the shower, I think because I sing, but when I’m brushing my teeth, they’re flooding.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
And I also take the weekends off Sundays I work on the podcast, but I need that break Monday through Fridays is my workweek. In fact, today, based on advice I heard from you, I showered I got dressed I even shaved before this interview, so I’m trying to get into a real working habit. And it’s easy not to.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I just, you know, I sometimes I’ll get into it before I’ve showered before I’ve even made the bed. I’ll go right from the first cup of tea to the computer, and I’ll start writing and I’ll get an hour maybe two written in. But then there’s always that sense of, Oh, God, I got to make the bed and get out of these clothes. And so it, it can fracture your attention if you haven’t reached organic stopping point at the part where you feel like your own smell isn’t working for you anymore.
Yep, absolutely. Now Justene, who I mentioned earlier, she’s one of the partners with ReQueered Tales, and you’re familiar with them? I think.
I am. Yes.
You are writing the foreword, or have written the foreword to the re release of john Morgan Wilson. Simple Justice.
Mm hmm. Absolutely.
What compelled you to write the foreword?
I do. In short order, John Morgan Wilson made me a loser. I met john at the Lambda Literary Awards in, I think, the year 2000, where we were both up for the gay mystery award. And I was pretty clear, given my arrogant self and my new leather suit and the fact that my book had gotten a lot of media attention that I had it in the bag, and I did not. John Morgan Wilson won the award that year. And we became friends as a result of it. And he was really a major part of my introduction to detective fiction because he was the first gay writer I encountered and read, who was really writing detective novels with a gay hero that were in the vein of the classics like Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler. I mean, they were even set in Los Angeles. They were set in West Hollywood, which is a neighbor that neighborhood excuse me, the Chandler’s characters would pass through on their way to interview people in the Hollywood Hills. It was called Sherman back in those days and it was unincorporated, but You know, I really and John and i did a lot to support each other in those days and, and I enjoyed the Benjamin Justice novels a lot. And so I was very happy to do it when he when he called and asked me to do it and I was happy the books were coming back out. I had had a moment. And I can’t remember if I was talking to John about this or not, I’m discovering by going online, that a lot of what I consider to be my gay classics books that I had read as a young man that were very formative had yet to make the transition into digital. And that was distressing to me because it said that publishers were either not resigning the rights and then bringing out an ebook edition or the authors were holding on to the rights and didn’t feel comfortable navigating the sometimes serpentine labyrinth of self publishing, and indie publishin,g and all that’s asked of individual authors who who enter into it. which, can be a lot it can it can be very profitable, but what’s asked of you is that you basically become an entrepreneur. And then lo and behold, John reached out to me and said, ReQueerd had his rights, but they also have the rights and were bringing out a lot of those other books that I have been worried about. So so I was happy to see them getting on the train. Because I don’t, I don’t want to, there’s no need for a book to fade away. In this current digital age, there’s no reason that somebody can’t bring out a digital edition of it so that it can live forever. It’s not always easy to promote them to the top of the stack of all of the things that are available online. But the idea of a book going out of print forever, that idea is dead. It’s gone because the digital edition will live forever.
I’m a slow reader and every time we put a new book out, I’m like, that’s gotta go on my list. Gotta go on my list. And you know, I don’t get to it yet. My Kindle is about to explode.
Oh, yeah, mine too. And I think that’s that’s a you know, that can be a problem too. We’ve all got a lot of books that we I’m about to price discounts right I get my Bookbub newsletter every morning and it’s the ebooks that are being sold for $1.99 or 99 cents. And I’ll load up on those because like, what’s what am I out? Right? They’re so cheap. And I’ve really got to go through I’ve got to make a rule where it’s like I can’t buy any new ones until I’ve made some kind of progress through all the ones I’ve bought already.
Are you familiar with Kristine, Kathryn Rusch?
I am not No.
She’s written a huge number of books based on TV shows that sort of thing. Her marketing idea is that those 99 cent books or those free books are just gonna end up stuck in your Kindle anyway. Because when you actually pay the price for a new novel, that’s what you’re going to read.
Yeah, I know that’s true with me and I can’t say for everybody,
I’ll tell you where it’s not where I’ve seen it. The opposite is the case is in the romance world. You know, romance fans are such voracious readers and gay romance has become far more of a going concern in the past few years than it was previously. And that appetite is is almost boundless. And so they they are really you can convert them with free first copies of a series title or cheap copies. And that is how they scan and discover for new authors because there are so many authors in that genre. I don’t know if it works just as well and mysteries and thrillers and other genres, but I think that I will often put it in a Kindle collection, and I won’t honestly remember where it came from. I’ll just remember that I bought it and I won’t remember what the price is. And I will find some gems like that. So, you know, it depends.
But again, I and I agree with you romance writers, Mystery readers read a lot, but the romance readers are voracious, they can’t get enough of it. You know, they’ll read a book a day.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. It’s a It’s unbelievable. I mean, if you look at the output that is then expected of romance writers as a result That, putting out four books a year and a novella. You know, not everybody does that. But but there are many who are and they’re putting out some quality work. So it’s not like they’re just, you know, typing with their elbows, and then hitting upload. So it’s, it is fascinating, but it can be its own world. And it doesn’t necessarily always crossover, the tools and the tricks of it don’t cross over in a marketing sense, at least to every other genre. But I think that people, what’s exciting to me about the digital age is that people are encountering types of books they may not have seen before, they’re able to read them on devices that don’t necessarily give away with the cover is, I think that was a big thing behind 50 Shades of Grey that you didn’t, people could read it in public without dealing with the stigma that the cover might apply to them. You know, there’s a there’s a lot of exciting things that are happening. And I think the classification of books in a digital sales place doesn’t necessarily have to be as rigid as the physical shelf used to be. You can be tagged as being a mystery, but also a romance, but also a thriller and whatever. And people can find you from different directions and maybe relate to you from their own tastes.
Unlike the days when Barnes and Noble had the little section in the corner that was called gay and lesbian.
Yeah, and I know, you know, those sections are very controversial. And I was on a panel years back with somebody who used to work pretty high up at Borders, and she was a lesbian author, and she said, Look, I worked at the chain and when we have that section, it was good for the sales of those books, whether or not it felt right whether or not it felt like segregation. Those books were easier to find and they were more frequently purchased and then when we filtered them all back into the general fiction section, they were largely invisible. It’s it’s a tough one, but But the thing that Amazon offers you is that it can be categorized in gay and it can be categorized in so many different other things is there are some factors And downsides to what digital has brought to this industry and to this craft, but there are also some upsides, and I like anything that kind of brings the boundaries down.
I brought it up with a manager of one of the stores. And their response to me was, well, you should be happy that the gay novels have become so mainstream that they’re mixed i, no and I was like, No, there’s sometimes I know I want to read a gay novel, and I can’t find them. You know, I can’t browse through them like I could before.
Well, yeah. And I think another frustrating thing is that the I talked to I don’t think it’s open anymore. But before we had that rash of closings of gay bookstores several years ago, I talked to a guy who managed one in in the northeast and he said, Look, I get the catalogs from the publishers. And if they’re going to be coded and vague about the gay content in a book, which they very often still are, I don’t know to order it for my gay bookstore. Like if you if you say it’s an impossible love, because you don’t want to say it’s two guys getting it on in the woods, I’m not gonna I the consumer for your book I’m not going to buy the book and I still see that happening I know how to go to the bookstore so go to book super lot in my neighborhood. And I can read the jacket copy and I can recognize the code a love the test the the boundaries or, you know, a searing exploration of erotic sensuality. It’s like all this coded stuff that not always but more often than not, it means this is a gay love story. And we were afraid to use the word gay in the jacket copy, because we thought we would quote unquote, alienate people, whatever that means. And but now we’ve hidden it. So it’s it’s a tough one. I don’t have any easy solutions.
Christopher I got to say we’ve actually gotten double our normal time. And I’m glad you’ve been so engaged and so fun to talk to
Oh, thank you. So much It was lovely. I really enjoyed it. I’m glad we were able to make it work.
Me too. Thank you for being on.
Absolutely. Thanks Brad.
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