Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Dale Cameron Lowry – Dale Cameron Lowry had a jagged forehead scar before Harry Potter made it cool. When not busy fighting evil, Dale writes and edits queer romance and speculative fiction. Come to think of it, maybe those are ways of fighting evil too.
Thanks so much, Dale, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Dale Cameron Lowry: I’ve been writing for fun since I was seven or eight. My mom still has the first “picture book” I wrote and illustrated using one of those 32-page composition books you could pick up at the grocery store.
I was lucky to have teachers who encouraged me and parents who supported my writing habit. This led me to believe I was good before I could actually tell a satisfying story. I ran on hubris for a long time, and eventually found some amazing mentors who taught me how to spot weaknesses in my own work and improve them.
I became a journalist while continuing to write fiction and poetry on the side. Journalism taught me how to write clean prose, revise quickly, not take edits personally, and not worry about the armchair critics.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
DCL: This is a difficult question. I like to dabble and experiment in a lot of different things. Right now I’m writing lots of romance stories, but I also like writing science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, erotica, and even “literary” fiction (as well as stories that overlap categories). I enjoy writing to prompts, because they lead me to explore characters and scenarios I might not otherwise try. I wrote my first vampire story, my first human-animal shapeshifter story, and my first urban fantasy as a result of prompts—and I liked the way all of them turned out.
Regardless of genre, I’m particularly interested in writing about people who have identities that are in tension. For example, I have lots of gay characters who are attached to conservative religious traditions and work to integrate their sexuality and spirituality (“All Is Well” in Dreamspinner’s Simmer anthology) or end up choosing one aspect of their identity over the other (for example, Mi Alma and “Missionary Disposition” in Mad About the Boys). I have a couple of stories involving hearing children of Deaf parents, who grow up using sign language and being part of the Deaf community, but can never fully identify with it because they’re also hearing (for example, Pacific Rimming). In my story Rough Love (Torquere), I have a white college student who sees himself as racially colorblind, but struggles with a white savior complex.
On a completely fantastical note, my protagonist in Love Unmasked (Dreamspinner) coming to terms with the fact that he is both a human and a raccoon. And I have a story coming out this fall in Blood in the Rain II: Stories of Vampire Erotica (Cwtch Press) about a vegan who gets turned into a vampire and has to deal with the challenge his new survival requirements pose to his ethical system.
As someone who fits with various of bi- and multi- labels, I’m interested in the way that people make sense of themselves in societies that often tells us we have to be one thing or another. I like writing about all sorts of bi-/multi- identities: -sexual, -racial, -cultural, -lingual, –religious, -gender. My story “Home” in the anthology Mix ‘n’ Match (Wayward Ink) touches on several bi-/multi- identities.
Now I’m wondering if I have any works that don’t reflect these interests …
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
DCL: It was a letter to the editor of Vegetarian Times when I was a teenager. I also published a few things in literary magazines and anthologies that are now out of print. And then there was the journalism. But as for my first published work that your readers might actually be interested in, Loggerhead is a romantic short story about a gay, middle-aged workaholic couple who go on vacation in a remote part of Florida to rekindle their relationship. It was published by Torquere Press in November 2015. I’ve published more than a dozen short stories since then and have several others scheduled to come out. I’m also working on some novellas and novels.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
DCL: I make time to write on most days. I write whether I feel “inspired” or not. If I’m not feeling particularly creative on a given day, I can go to a story I’ve outlined on one of my better days and sketch out a scene from those notes.
However, I have a chronic health condition, and there are some days when I truly am not in any shape to write. I’ve learned to make room for that, too.
JSC: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
DCL: I keep a notebook in my bed (yes, in it, either under my pillow or next to it), so I can jot down lines and ideas that come to me when I’m falling asleep. That liminal period seems to be my most creative time.
JSC: What action would your name be if it were a verb?
DCL: I asked a friend and she said “Proliferate.” She seems to think I write a lot. J
JSC: What kind of character or topic have you been dying to try to write, but you’ve never worked up the courage?
DCL: I honestly can’t think of one. If I’m dying to write it, I generally do.
That said, horror and dark fantasy take longer for me to write because I need to be in a good mindset to work on them. They’re not the kind of thing I can focus on for hours on end. I tend to need breaks in order maintain my own emotional energy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between avoidance and respecting the muse’s boundaries.
JSC: If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
DCL: I do sometimes wonder if life might have been easier without the major head injury at the age of four, but I doubt I’d take the opportunity to relive that year to avoid it. There are definitely years that were better and years that were worse, but all of them together made me who I am today.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
DCL: I’ve read that telling people you’re writing a book gives a person the same sense of accomplishment as actually writing the book, which is why so many people who say they’re writing something never finish. I don’t know if that’s true, but it has a certain ring of truthiness to it, don’t you think? So, in order that I not jinx myself, I’ll just say that I have a few novellas and a couple novels I’m working on, both in contemporary and fantasy genres. And I’m in the middle of the Ray Bradbury 52 Week Short Story Challenge, which means writing 52 short stories in 52 weeks. I have six stories left to go.
As for things that already have publication dates lined up, there’s:
- Pacific Rimming (Torquere, release date August 24, 2016)—Turning forty makes Mike feel old, so his husband, Ken, helps him recapture his youth in a ménage a trois with Jason, a gorgeous younger man they encounter while hiking in Pacific Rim National Park. A night of no-holds-barred passion among the three men reveals a sizzling chemistry, and when Mike and Ken find themselves longing to reconnect with the young Jason. But language could be a barrier—Ken’s Deaf, and Jason can barely sign. Can what started as a one-night stand transform into a threesome that lasts?
- “Sweeter Than Blood” (Blood in the Rain anthology, Cwtch, October 2016)—Keith was a vegan before a hot encounter with a sexy stranger named John turned him into a vampire. In the year since, John has tried to make up for the mistake by teaching Keith everything he knows about being a non-murderous vampire, but Keith is still resentful. Fighting his new instincts is a full-time job. Keith desperately wants to sink his teeth into the neck of Andres, a regular customer at the barbershop where he works—or at least give him a nice juicy cut with the straight razor. When Andres finally asks Keith on a date, the real danger begins.
- “Escape Plan” (The Xcite Book of Gay Romance, Xcite, October 6, 2016)—Thayne is a Mormon missionary with a problem: he’s in lust with his mission companion, Caleb. When Caleb reveals the desire is felt both ways, the two young men embark on an erotic journey that teaches them to trust their own hearts for the first time.
- “What You’re Called to Do” (Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology, Cantina, October 1, 2016)—An iPhone leads unemployed journalist Justin to a stray cat in need of a home. Soon, rescuing cats becomes Justin’s a full-time vocation. It’s a little creepy that Siri seems to know where all the cats are, but Justin can’t complain. Each rescue gives him another excuse to visit with Mark, the dreamy guy who staffs the front desk at the local animal shelter.
And now for Dale’s new book: Love Unmasked:
Aaron Loreto can’t lay claim to being anything as sexy as a werewolf or bearman. Once in a blue moon, he turns into a raccoon. With the predatory members of the shifter community looking down at him like he does actually spend his days rummaging through the trash, he prefers to keep his condition private.
When he meets Philip MacRory, Aaron falls head over heels. Philip is hot, sweet, and open-minded about shifters. Given his past experiences, Aaron’s still terrified to come out… until a night of passion with Philip shows that Aaron’s not the only one keeping secrets.
Aaron’s only warnings of an impending change were the weird things his body did when one was about to happen. He’d be having a normal day when suddenly his vision would go blurry, with streaks of light and nonexistent black dots floating in front of his eyes like bits of dust. His hands or feet would go numb and tingly, and he’d smell things that weren’t there—usually overripe tomatoes, but sometimes roses.
According to his doctor, the symptoms were an effect of his neurons trying to reshape and reconnect, the first step in his transformation into raccoon form. “Though the cognitive functions of your brain remain essentially human throughout the transformation, the neurological connections between the body and the brain must reform to take into account the different shape, size, and abilities of your Procyon lotor state. Naturally, you get a few misfired signals during this process. It temporarily becomes a challenge to take in sensory information, and you might see or smell things that aren’t there,” she’d explained.
Maybe it’s because I have a biology background, but whenever I read stories about people who can turn into animals and then back again, I start thinking about how physically taxing that would be. It must be somewhere on the scale between having a migraine and giving birth.
But like giving birth, it has its rewards too. When Aaron Loreto shifts in “Love Unmasked,” he gets to express an integral part of who he is—a mischievous, cuddly raccoon.
Aaron has mixed feelings about being a raccoon shifter. Plusses include a great sense of smell and being able to keep an erection for hours without having to go to an emergency room. (It’s true! Male raccoons can keep it up for quite a while. Google it.) Minuses include the uncoolness factor and getting trapped by animal control.
Like all of us, Aaron’s looking for someone who loves the parts of him that even he sometimes finds unlovable. This story is about Aaron finding that special someone—and also about how loving another person helps him learn to love himself.
Dale Cameron Lowry had a jagged forehead scar before Harry Potter made it cool. When not busy fighting evil, Dale writes and edits queer romance and speculative fiction. Come to think of it, maybe those are ways of fighting evil too.
Dale now lives in the Upper Midwest with a partner and three cats, one of whom enjoys eating dish towels, quilts, and wool socks. It’s up to you to guess whether the fabric eater is one of the cats or the partner. When not busy mending items destroyed by the aforementioned fabric eater, Dale enjoys wasting time on Tumblr, listening to Mormon-related podcasts, studying biology, getting annoyed at Duolingo, and reading fairy tales. Previous careers include sign language linguist, grocery store clerk, journalist, gardener, and camp counselor—not necessarily in that order.
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/dalecameronlowry
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