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, Stephen del Mar – Stephen’s a great guy – I met him at Rainbow Con and got to spend a little time with him, and then was fortunate enough to interview him for the 3MMuskateers Podcast (now WROTE).
Thanks so much, Stephen, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Stephen Del Mar: I think fall into the southern literary tradition of having character based stories where setting becomes a character in the story as well. I like to have a strong sense of place and history in my stories. There is also usually some aspect of spirit, faith or religion about the story.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
SDM: My first published work is the short story “The Envelope.” I was in a short story group were we’d get little prompts each week and dash out a quick story. One of the prompts was simply “an envelope.” I envisioned an envelope sitting on a table in a hallway. A letter sent from a dead lover. A message that opens a wound not yet healed. It’s a pretty intense little story, but I’m proud of it.
It was my first unveiling of Bennett Bay. I was working on a larger work at the time, what would eventually become Return to Cooter Crossing. It was fun to float a little piece out to the public. Even though it’s a rather sad story, it received positive reviews. And I’ve had fun weaving Tony, the main character, into a few of my other stories. His arc is continuing.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
SDM: I check my email. I check Facebook. I read thepassivevoice.com for publishing news. I check Facebook again. I watch a video. I check Facebook. I do something else. I open Scrivener. I go to look something up. I fall into Wikipedia for a few hours. I check Facebook (damn the QSF group!). I go back to Scrivener and review the last scene I wrote. I check Facebook. I then write a few words.
I’m a pantser. If I had to add outlining and plotting to the mix I’d never get anything done!
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
SDM: I have dyslexia and can’t spell worth a damn. Well, this might not count because people that have read my books have probably discovered it. But that’s still a small subset of “anyone.” My editor weeps when I send her something and even with her skills things still slip through. Sigh.
JSC: What was the first speculative fiction book (sci fi, paranormal, fantasy, horror) that you ever read? How did it influence you?
SDM: I have no idea what the first one was. I grew up reading sci-fi. But I think the most influential book(s) was the Lord of the Rings. The last quarter of my junior year of high school we moved from a paradise place in Florida to a small little hell hole in southern Arizona. In Florida we lived on the water with our boat at the dock. A very handsome boy, that was rather friendly during camping trips, lived across the street and life was good. I had plans. I had friends. I went to this amazing huge high school.
Things in Arizona weren’t so good. It was a very small rural high school. The gay beach boy didn’t know what to do in the desert. Didn’t know what to do with cowboys and freaked out at wads of chewing tobacco in the drinking fountains. Then one day in English class one of the football players gave a report on The Fellowship of the Ring. He’d only gotten to the part where Frodo and the gang were leaving the Shire and they were hiding from the Black Riders, but he was enthused. He got me excited. I mean a book that kept a jock interested had to be cool. I got my mom to take me to the bookstore and I bought the trilogy. I credit escaping to Middle Earth with keeping me alive. As a gay boy, I was able to read a lot into Sam and Frodo’s relationship, and then there was Merry and Pippin and Legolas and Gimli. So many male couples living out their lives together in those books!
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
SDM: An icemaker, lots of lube, and a man.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
SDM: Well, if I wanted to kill them they are probably already dead. Not sure about the other two. I really don’t think about them that way. I really try to keep my reality separate from the story; otherwise it just turns into some kind of author fantasy and who wants to read that? (Also I know all their baggage, they all have more issues than I do!
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
SDM: Other than what appears to be a super power of avoidance and procrastination, not that I know of.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
SDM: So much a pantser, in fact I sometimes say I’m a commando writer because even the pants are too restrictive!
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
SDM: I’m working on Of Paradise and Purgatory, a story set in southern Arizona. I had the bright idea that I need to get out of Bennett Bay for a while. This one has been slow going for me. Too much of me and my history with Arizona was getting in the way. I’ve had to pull myself back and let the story unfold the way it wanted to. I’m not sure how it will be received because there isn’t much romance in it, just a middle aged gay guy dealing with life. I hope to have the first draft done in a month or two. My publishing timeline has been rather derailed this summer.
And now for Stephen’s new book: Return to Cooter Crossing:
Aidan Quinn is having a good day, possibly the best day of his life, at least since moving to Dublin. He just received word that his degree committee approved his PhD and he’s on his way home, with lamb chops, chard, and a bottle of wine. Time to celebrate in the little cottage he shares with his mentor and lover, Dr. David Stokes. But, something is wrong when he gets home. Dr. Stokes has found a new student to “mentor.”
Aidan swayed in the aisle of the plane. His life hung from his shoulders. A laptop case and a duffel bag full of clothes. Not much to show for twenty-eight years. The line of passengers moved. He looked at the row with his seat number. A plump, older woman in a dark blue and white nun’s habit smiled at him. He told his face to smile back. He wasn’t sure it worked. He was pissed. Pissed in the Irish way of being drunk off his ass and pissed in the American way, because he came home last night and found the man he loved shagging a pretty blond boy in their bed.
David calmly explained, as he pounded the boy’s butt, that now that Aidan had his doctorate, it was time for him to move on. He needed to find his own way. He said, “There’s a ticket back to Florida on the table with your bags. I’ll have Ian here pack up the rest of your belongings and have them shipped to your parents house.” Each word was punctuated by the slapping of flesh and the grunts of joy from the boy. The kid, Ian, looked over at him and smiled.
Aidan felt his face grow hot. He knew he was glowing red as he turned and walked back into the cottage’s little kitchen. He clenched his hands into fists to keep them from shaking. He wanted to vomit. He stood next to their kitchen table. He loved that table. They’d bought it one afternoon when they went for a drive.
They’d only been in Ireland a few weeks and wanted to explore the countryside beyond Dublin and they found it in a small village shop. The green stained wood caught his attention and then he saw the inlaid tiles glazed with Celtic patterns. He unclenched his right hand and traced a never ending knot with his finger. In his excitement to tell David the decision of his degree committee, he’d missed the ticket on the table, along with his passport, and his bags on the floor. He picked up his passport. A young man full of love and promise looked back at him. That kid was off to Ireland to work with his lover and earn his PhD.
Aidan clenched his jaw. He took a deep breath. The mad urge to rip that photo up coursed through him. He wanted to destroy something. He could still hear them fucking in the bedroom. He should have closed the door.
He took a deep breath, trying to clear the smells of man-sex from his nose. It didn’t work. He looked around the kitchen. Tomorrow he would not stand at that stove making David his favorite omelet. Would the kid cook him breakfast? He looked at the wooden block bristling with knives next to the stove. Then jerked his gaze back to the table. He didn’t like the thoughts whispering to him from some dark place. He took another deep breath and picked up the ticket, one-way, Dublin to Tampa for tomorrow night. He glanced back at the knives.
“Fuck me harder, Dr. Stokes,” drifted from the bedroom. His bedroom.
Ten years ago he’d been the freshman in David’s bed. Twenty-four hours. He had twenty-four hours. He looked at the knives longer this time. His hands were sweaty—itchy. They wanted to grab something— to crush something. Would anyone miss them for a day? He shook his head. Fuck them. He put the ticket and his passport in the outer flap of his computer bag, picked up his duffel bag, and left his home.
Aidan stuffed his bags into the overhead bin and forced a smile at the nun. “I think I have the window seat,” he said.
She smiled and got up to let him slide in. He settled into his seat and looked out the window. Nothing but a nondescript modern airport. Men in reflective vests drove little trucks pulling luggage wagons that snaked across the expanse of concrete. A cold winter rain moving in from the North Sea softened the orange glow of sodium-vapor lights.
“Don’t worry, dear, flying is very safe.” The woman reached across the empty seat between them and patted him on his arm.
“I’m sorry. What?”
She smiled again. That was becoming annoying. “You seem a little distraught. Fear of flying?”
He really didn’t want to be rude, especially to a nun, but he wanted to be left alone. “Not particularly.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Oh, I just wondered because you look and smell like you slept on a pub floor.”
Aha, the directness of nuns, no he’d slept on a couch in a flat above the pub.
Amazon: Click Here
Stephen del Mar is a fresh voice in Southern Gay Fiction. His Bennett Bay collection of books and stories explore life in that unique corner of the American South known as Florida. He also writes fantasy and science-fiction. Del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay region of Florida and enjoys Key Lime Pie and mango margaritas, but not at the same time.