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.
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Today, JC Calciano – Over his 35-year career, JC has worked in nearly all areas of the entertainment business.
In 2010, JC founded Cinema175, an entertainment production company under which he produces, writes and directs projects that predominantly focus on comedy and romance genres.
His first feature film as writer/director was the groundbreaking gay romantic comedy Is It Just Me? An official selection of over 50 international film festivals, it won several awards and honors. This was followed by eCupid—an instant best seller in the LGBTQ genre, winning four best picture and audience choice awards.
JC’s third feature film, The 10 Year Plan, won 10 awards for writing and directing before being adapted into a male/male romance novel.
He is also the creator, director and producer of the world’s longest running YouTube LGBTQ web series, Steam Room Stories. The Steam Room Stories brand has inspired several spin-off projects, including a motion picture, blog, podcast and series of novels.
JC spends his personal time mentoring other filmmakers and serving as a film professor at UCLA’s film school.
Thanks so much, JC, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
JC Calciano: Probably my closest genres would be “camp”, “comedy”, “romance” – The biggest compliment for me is to hear that I made someone laugh. I try to insert a chuckle in with sincere, heartfelt moments. I enjoy writing happy endings as well as stories that teach people a bit about themselves. I’ve been told many times by people who have seen my films, “You made me cry -That character is so me!”
JSC: Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
JCC: All my characters are based on people I know. I try to keep as close to the truth of their character as possible. For example, when I write sci-fi, it’s real people, with real problems just set it in a fantastical world. Once the world is built, I let the rules of that world effect what happens to the characters. All my stories begin with authentic problems people need to overcome. The pitfalls of writing your friends and family is that they tease me and say, “this better not make it into one of your books or movies!”
JSC: How long do you write each day?
JCC: I write about four hours total a day. I do them in half-hour increments then take a short break.
I believe that the time you are not writing is just as important as the time you are writing. I believe our subconscious does most of the writing for us. Most of my plot problems are solved when I’m not writing. If I’m frustrated with something, I stop. I go for a walk or do something other than write. Almost most always the solution to the problem (or an idea) comes to me while I’m doing something else.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I try not to read reviews of my books or movies. My husband screens them for me and tells me if there are any constructive criticisms that would help me learn and/or improve my writing. I take reviews very personally since I put so much care into writing a book or writing a movie. I can’t help it – it upsets me to hear that someone doesn’t enjoy my work. That said, although I try not to read reviews, I do take sneak peeks. Shhh!
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
JCC: I have a lot of friends that identify as fluid. I’m constantly being told how under-represented fluid people are in books and movies. So, I try to address this group anytime and anywhere I can. I think being fluid is truer to who/what a person’s sexuality really is.
As far as underrepresented ideas; In most gay films the conflict comes from people suffering from family prejudices or external social pressures and bigotry. The worlds I build don’t have those problems. Conflict comes from the characters’ struggle within- “Who they are.” Their sexuality isn’t usually what they struggle with -it’s usually a universal issue like insecurity or overcoming rejection.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
JCC: It was during a film festival in Chicago. I had just shown my movie, “THE 10 YEAR PLAN” and I was cleaning up the theater. A boy and girl about 19-years-old re-entered the theater and stood awkwardly at the door. I could hear the girl whispering “Go, he’s right there!” Finally, the boy bashfully approached me and said, “My friend and I just drove two hours to see your newest movie. I heard you were here and I wanted to meet you. Actually, I came here to thank you.” “When I was thirteen, I was terrified I may be gay. I hated myself and what my life would be if I was gay, then I saw your movie “IS IT JUST ME.” In the movie, the boys were gay but it wasn’t a big deal at all. They found love and were happy together – it was amazing to me. It made me realize that I could have a life like that, that being gay wasn’t a bad thing, and one day I could be happy.” He went on to tell me, “I came here to tell you that you saved my life with that movie.” It was one of the most amazing things I ever heard said about my work. I was shocked – it had never occurred to me that my little movies could affect someone like that. I knew that the message of loving yourself and the promise of happiness were important but It never occurred to me that there were people out there that didn’t know it was possible for them. I can’t tell that story without getting choked up about that incident.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for this book?
JCC: My Steam Room Stories series is my favorite thing to write. From the series to the movies, I love these characters! They’re clueless, loveable lunkheads. My inspiration for these characters came from comedy pairings like THE KEYSTONE COPS, THE THREE STOOGES, and ABBOTT & COSTELLO. All the bros in the steam room are slightly goofy studs with hearts of gold.
When STEAM ROOM STORIES: THE MOVIE came out, the fans really enjoyed the combination of sexy and silly comedy, sci fi and an over-the-top romance.
With Covid locking everyone inside for 2020, I took that time to turn the idea for a sequel of the movie into a novel. I really went nuts with the idea. I imagined, what if sex-toys (dolls) became so technically advanced that they were indistinguishable from humans? What if one of my delightfully clueless steam room guys fell in love with a sexbot thinking it was just another bro? That idea tickled me so much that I knew I had to write the book.
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
JCC: Even though most of my characters are based on real people in my life, all of my lead characters start with a character flaw I have (or had). Write what you know, right? Before I write any story I look inward and think: What about me needs to be examined? What are other people going through in their lives that may be similar to my experiences? What did I learn / how can I write a character who learns a similar lesson?
For example, when I was writing the film eCUPID, I was questioning my long-term relationship. Therefore, I wrote a movie about clueless guy who was wondering if he was with the right guy. The hero of the story decided to deal with his problem by searching online for a solution. In the movie, the hero downloads an app that promises to help him find true love. The app ends-up teaching him a lesson.
JSC: What are you working on now?
JCC: Although I’ve got the story ideas for the third and fourth books in the series of the STEAM ROOM STORIES adventures. (REVENGE of the BROBOT is the second of the series) This year the plan is to turn my weekly STEAMY STORIES blog (on jccalciano.com) into a podcast also called STEAMY STORIES. This collection of short, sexy gay stories will eventually be a feature film like my other movies. I intend to interweave fan favorite steamy stories into a movie (similar to the film, LOVE ACTUALLY). If all goes well, the podcast will be ready this summer and the movie will start shooting next fall. Mid 2021 I will finish the third STEAM ROOM STORIES novel, “BARBARIANS FROM PLANET BROTRON.”
And now for JC’s latest book: Revenge of the Brobot:
A new adventure in the Steam Room Stories universe!
A softhearted stud and a rebel robot find themselves on the run from a merciless Marine.Cutting edge technology company Hot Bot-y Robotics has created the perfect A.I. sexbot named, ROB (Robot with Organic Body). But when its creator learns that the military wants to reprogram the robot into a state-of-the-art killing machine, he sends ROB out into the world to hide. As fortune would have it, ROB finds sanctuary in a steam room of an old gym where he catches the eye of a swoll stud named Chase.
Can Chase and his steam room bros save ROB’s titanium tush from a war-hungry General? Will the amorous android find love and friendship with a sexy stud and his new ro-bros?
Dr. Herbert—famed chief robotic scientist and programmer (“Herbie” as his colleagues called him at Hot Bot-y Robotics Corp)—looked through the one-way mirror at the pulsating pile of writhing bodies. From where he stood, it was hard to tell where one body ended and the others began. Like a human game of Twister, the mound of lust-engaged bodies licked, petted, and fornicated their way into a ferocious five-way.
Soaked and sweat-saturated, the bodies were moments away from their second and third orgasms. All but one—the hunk at the center delivering the physical pleasure to the promiscuous pile, ROB.
ROB (Robot with an Organic Body) was a masterpiece of manhood, a mountain of muscle with piercing crystal blue eyes and sun-kissed blond hair. He had smooth, squared pectorals and round, ripe buttocks. ROB was spectacular in every way—and eager to please as he jubilantly jack-hammered the last of his orgy partners into delighted delirium. Herbie couldn’t be prouder of Rob and loved him like the son he never had.