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, Bryan T. Clark – Bryan T. Clark is a Lambda Literary finalist and Rainbow Award winning author of gay romance, and contemporary books.
GIVEAWAY: Bryan is giving away an eBook copy of “Diego’s Secret” with this post – comment below for a chance to win.
Thanks so much, Bryan, for joining me!
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
BC: In high school, my best friend and I wrote short stories together. I verbally created the story aloud and Angie penned them. For forty minutes each morning on the bus ride to school, we spent it producing stories. Over the years, I continued to write many shorts and dabbled in poetry, but I never gave any serious consideration to ever publishing. It was simply a creative outlet for me. It wasn’t until five years ago that I shared one of the stories that I had written with my husband. To my surprise, he said it was so good that he thought I should submit it for publication. That book was Come To The Oaks.
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
BC: My third book, Come To The Oaks took an extraordinary amount of research. I had never written a historical, a story about a slave and a plantation owner’s son in the South. I remember after the first draft thinking the story was missing something. There was something inside of me that said there was more to these characters’ story, but I didn’t know what that was. The actual story takes place in Kentucky, however there was a plantation in Louisiana that I knew about that allows you to stay overnight on the grounds. My husband and I made the trip and I spent many days wandering the grounds. In the evening, after all the visitors and employees had gone for the night, I sat on the porch of one of the old slave cabins and just listened and connected with the earth and space around me. I believe it was then and there, that I fully understood Tobias’ and Ben’s story and was able to accurately convey it to my readers.
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
BC: Definitely from an idea first. I start off as a plotter, but that only lasts until the characters take over. I start with an idea when it comes to me. I generally think this is the character trying to reach me in the beginning. Everything that is created is delivered by the characters themselves. Sometimes, that may even be in the middle of the night, as I’m trying to sleep. In my novel, Diego’s Secret, once I fully understood the characters, I was able to better express their cultural differences and their respective ideologies.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for your newest book, Escaping Camp Roosevelt?
BC: You would be hard pressed to find a book being released today with a story that hasn’t already been told a hundred different ways. The premise of Escaping Camp Roosevelt mirrors many aspects of my own life and the people in it. I wanted to bring a different lens in which you would see homelessness, sex work, addiction, and mental illness from another perspective. One of the beauties of reading is we get to experience other worlds besides our own. I simply wanted to share a part of mine with you.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
BC: My goal is always first to entertain you. And, I always hope to create something that causes you to pause for a moment and examine the world that I’ve taken you to, a world not too far off from reality. My intentions, well those were very different. For this book, I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life, not just the life of the reader, but of a young person who is experiencing homelessness and perhaps working on the streets. To achieve this, I’ve teamed up with Larkin Street Youth Services/Castro Youth Housing Initiative, a LGBTQ youth shelter in San Francisco, California. I have pledged to donate 100 % of the royalties from the first year’s sales of the book to benefit homeless LGBTQ youth. The money raised will go directly to their shelter, the Castro Youth Housing Initiative, a two-year housing program for young people between the ages of 18 and 24, who identify as LGBTQ.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
BC: In Escaping Camp Roosevelt, I touch on a number of serious issues in America, such as homelessness and sex work. How to combine those issues into a romance without sugar coating them, or driving away the Romance Reader was a challenge. Love is not only for the rich or the privileged, but for every one of us. Dancer and Tucker found each other in perhaps the lowest point in their lives. I like to think that their finding each other was the gift in this story. We all have issues and reasons that may cause us to believe we’re not loveable. Life is rough, but isn’t it grand when love prevails!
JSC: What character gave you fits and fought against you? Did that character cause trouble because you weren’t listening and missed something important about them?
BC: Hands down, it was Dancer from Escaping Camp Roosevelt. He is a deeply private, emotionally wounded soul. There was one week during the first draft of the book that he stopped talking to me. It was in a pivotable scene in the book, where he was to reveal a part of himself that no one knew. I am a writer who very much listens to my characters. I’ve often shared with people that I’m not making this stuff up. I am but the pen tells their stories. I see now, that Dancer wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable with me just yet. We worked around it, and during the third draft of the book, he finally shared with me the true reason why he ran away from home.
JSC: What was the first book that made you cry?
BC: It would have to be The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. It was the story of an Olympic runner and his coach. They fell in love when the runner Billy Sive was in college and was first being trained by Harlan Brown. Spoiler Alert-Billy was shot and killed in the book. I first read this book when I was twelve. I have probably read it about ten times since. I had the biggest crush on Billy. True story, I met Patricia many years ago and we had this very conversation. I was saddened to hear the news earlier this year of Patricia’s passing. She was a wonderful woman.
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
BC: Let me think for a minute. Okay, A case of bug spray, I can’t handle bugs of any type, especially if they have wings; A Solar Powered iPod, I love my old school music, and…. a blow-up doll of Matt Bomer. I don’t think I need to elaborate any more on number three!
JSC: What are you working on now?
BC: For the last month I’ve been working on the first draft of my next novel. It’s the story of a man who has never been able to move past a teenage summer love he had with someone. It’s two stories, the story of his past and of his present. For MC1, it’s about living a life of ‘What-If’s’, what if things could have been different, and for MC2, a life not necessarily chosen by him, but lived out of obligation. The need to please is sometimes greater than our own needs. It’s a story that asks, if you got one ‘Do Over’ in life, what would it be?
And now for Bryan’s new book: Escaping Camp Roosevelt:
“He’s a bad boy—cocky and damaged. So, why can’t I stop thinking about him?”
Sociable and unselfish, eighteen-year-old Tucker Graves loves two things—his darling little sister and the thrill of playing baseball. He never dreamed that he’d be homeless, but after a series of misfortunes, his life is nothing like he could have possibly imagined. Shocked and shattered, Tucker, his mother, and his baby sister now must brave the dangers of a dilapidated homeless encampment called Camp Roosevelt.
A Wounded Heart
Homeless since the age of fourteen, Dancer has mastered the tricks of living on the streets as a sex worker. The quiet, reclusive, and calculating ways of this twenty-year-old, green-eyed Adonis help him to survive. He hides his emotional scars from the world by interacting only with his clients, whose occasional bizarre requests he reluctantly fulfills. Dancer’s past has taught him to trust no one.
A Second Chance
When Tucker and Dancer come face to face on a stormy night, having been thrown together under the same roof, Tucker brings out a feeling in Dancer that he didn’t know still existed in him—desire.
Neither man can deny the attraction he feels for the other. But some scars run deep, causing both Tucker and Dancer to question whether falling in love is even possible, especially when survival is on the line.
*** One hundred percent of the royalties from the first year of this novel’s publication is being donated to the Larkin Street Youth Services/Castro Youth Housing Initiative. The CYHI provides transitional housing in the city of San Francisco, California, for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. Fear of being raped, abused, or murdered should not be a part of anyone’s youth.
“So— are you gay?” The real question Tucker wanted to ask was whether Dancer really thought he was cute.
“No, I just let strangers fuck me in the ass for the money.” Tucker squirmed at Dancer’s crudeness. Was he serious? He didn’t know how to respond if that was the case. Everything about this guy unnerved him. He had never met anyone so in-your-face. Tucker sat up and leaned away from Dancer. “So, are you?”
“Yeah. And?” Dancer’s eyes locked onto him. “Don’t worry, I’m not into straight guys. You don’t have to worry about me checking you out when you’re not looking.”
A lump formed in Tucker’s throat. “I’m not straight.”
Dancer’s eyes widened as his elbow slipped off the metal frame of the chair. “Oh? I’d never have guessed.”
“Are you being serious or being mean? I can’t tell.” Dammit, why couldn’t he figure this guy out?
“No, I’m being serious. I’d wouldn’t have guessed. You’re like this big-ass cowboy.”
Bryan T. Clark is a Lambda Literary finalist and Rainbow Award winning author of gay romance, and contemporary books. He is also a funny, loving, family-oriented, and proud member of the LGBT community. Behind his computer, working on his next novel, Bryan writes romance with an emphasis on moral dilemma. His multicultural characters and riveting plots embody real life, filled with challenges, personal growth, and, of course, what we all desire—love.
In his work, he is known to push the boundaries with brilliantly crafted stories of friendship, love, complicated relationships, and challenges all woven into a hard-earned happily-ever-after.
When Bryan is not writing, he enjoys reading a great book, traveling, lying by a body of water soaking up the sun, and watching a good movie while snuggled up with his husband on the couch with their loyal companion Nettie, the Sheepadoodle.Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Bryan has made his home and life in the Central Valley of California.