Sunday, April 3, 2011

Welcome Christopher Koehler

MM: Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Kohler whose book, Rocking the Boat is recently released from Dreamspinner. Thank you for joining us today.

Christopher: Thanks for having me here today, Michael.

MM: So tell me, how long have you been writing?

Christopher: It depends on how you define ‘writing.’ My parents tell me that I’ve been writing since before I was literate, filling spiral notebooks with scribbles that were meant to be cursive.

I wrote some fanfic in high school, and started carrying a dedicated writing notebook as an undergraduate in college when I figured out that all those daydreams and scribbled ideas on the margins of lecture notes to be assembled into a (hopefully) coherent whole.

But my writing really took off at the end of grad school when I realized that academic history for me sucked the joy out of writing, really the most damning thing I could say about it. That’s when I dusted off all those writing notebooks and got to work.

There’s a vein of wit that runs through my writing. It took my history professors a while to beat it out of me, and it’s taken a decade or so post grad school to get it back, as well.

MM: What is your favorite subgenre to write?

Christopher: Right now, it’s m/m contemporary.

MM: Is there one that you haven’t tried that you see yourself doing in the future?

Christopher: Probably not, no. I also write some steampunk and some manners comedies, and those pretty much cover everything I’m interested in.

MM: I’m of the opinion that erotica doesn’t have to be real all the time to make a good story, what are your thoughts?

Christopher: No, certainly not. All one has to do is look at some of the fine paranormal or sci-fi/fantasy stories to realize that. For me, it’s about the relationships between the characters. If the chemistry is “real,” the rest is just details.

MM: Who are the authors that you look up to?

Christopher: In terms of m/m fiction, I love Z.A. Maxfield’s and D.W. Marchwell’s work because it has plot, as well romance and sex. As a reader, I look for more than just sex scenes strung together with minimal exposition. As a writer, I aspire to it.

In terms of general literature, I love A.S. Byatt’s work, and the magical realism of Louis de Bernieris is hilarious and touching and tragic.

MM: What inspired you to write your book, Rocking the Boat?

Christopher: I’ve rowed competitively myself for over a decade on the masters level (ignoring a short, inglorious collegiate rowing career) and even coached, and my club’s boathouse is next that of a collegiate crew.

Several years ago, one of the college men contacted me as he was coming to terms with his own orientation. I’ll state right here that while I’m a happily married and very much monogamous gay man, this strapping fellow gave me all kinds of ideas about what I’d like to do to him had I been single, emphasis very much on the subjuctive. That said, this fellow was struggling, and even if I’d been single, it would’ve been immoral to take advantage of that.

So that’s the source of the relationship between coach and athlete. But that’s where the similarity ends, and from there, I let the characters tell me their stories and let the implications of the scenario I set up unfold.

MM: What are you working on now?

Christopher: I’m working on Tipping the Balance, the follow-up to Rocking the Boat. I’d say I’m about 90% done with the first draft, and given the way I write, there won’t be too terribly much in the way of editing to be done. It tells the story of Drew and Brad from RTB.

MM: When creating your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?

Christopher: For some reason, I just don’t seem to be able to distill real people into characters. I wish I could. It’d make revenge so much easier. No, I have to reach within for all my characters. They all in some way reflect an aspect of my own personality.

MM: As an M/M writer, do you feel that the trend is changing where it is becoming more mainstream?

Christopher: I don’t know if it’s becoming more mainstream or if we’re all (ahem) just coming out of the closet about reading it. That said, it does seem like the genre is also growing, at least in terms of the number of new authors, myself included.

MM: As a male in the gay fiction/MM Genre, do you feel that having so many females write and or read it, is an issue? If so, explain.

Christopher: You know, while I know some people (men?) have issues with the number of women involved in m/m fiction, the reality is the genre wouldn’t exist without its women readers and writers. As a gay man, all I care about is a well-told story, not the gender of the body and mind that produced it. That said, some of the things depicted aren’t always medically accurate (psst—it’s called the refractory period).

I actually blogged about this over at Queer Magazine Online: http://www.queermagazineonline.com/blog/strange-bedfellows-the-media-women-and-m-m-romantic-fiction

MM: I read a blog about M/M writer’s losing their imagination because they are writing the same subjects repeatedly, what are your thoughts? http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/?p=42883

Christopher: Can open, worms everywhere! Yes, I read that review. While I see where they’re coming from, so much of literature in general boils down to a handful of plots, anyway. M/M romance as a genre tends to be fairly formulaic in my opinion, but within those formulae is room for incredible imagination and variation.

To me, a bigger problem is authors churning out books that aren’t all that different from their previous stories. I’ll sometimes read one and think, “There was no literary justification for that book from the internal logic of the series. None.” As a writer, I hope that doesn’t happen to me. At this point, while I worry about the sex scenes turning out the same, I just have to trust that as my characters are different people, they ways they interact—including sexually—will be different enough to keep things interesting.


MM: What is it about M/M that pleasures you to write it?


Christopher: I’ve learned a lot from reading M/M fiction about how to handle emotion as a writer, so for me, it’s the emotional component. In real life, I’m a fairly repressed and repressive person, so in some ways, writing M/M romances allows me a safe space to experience and expression emotions.


MM: Where can we find you on the web?


Christopher: I can be found at christopherkoehler.net/blog and @christopherink on Twitter.


MM: Thank you for taking the time to spend with us today Christopher and continued success on your work.


Christopher: Thanks for inviting me to stop by.

5 comments:

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Very intriguing interview, Christopher. I've always wondered how well received female M/M authors were by their male counterparts.
I saw that you keep a writer's journal. One of the first things I learned in college in creative writing class was to keep such a journal. I have done it ever since and found that many of those entries have gotten me out of a dead muse episode.
I wish you every success, Christopher.
Sarah

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this Chris! Nice interview. Lisa M.

Leelee68 said...

Great interview! As a reader I can say that if I enjoy a book I don't care what gender has written it. I have male and female writers that I love, I just love a great book.

Christopher said...

Hi everyone. I'm traveling today, so my internet access is spotty.

@Sarah: Oddly enough, now that I've started writing, most of my ideas are jotted down in the computer or, if I'm away from the house, my iPhone.

In terms of who writes m/m romances, I think most of the readers are still women, so I don't imagine they'd care much if another woman wrote the story, although I could be wrong. As for any men who objected, I can only say, "Really? Can't you find something better to be upset over?"

@Lisa: Thanks! And thanks for stopping by.

@Lee: Exactly. It's the story that matters. Or it should be.

She said...

Nice interview. As a reader I want a good story. I don't care what the sexual orientation of the characters is nor do I care if there is a lot of sex. Just make sure the whole story is good and everything works together.