History, as important for me as a dad as it is as an author #MondayBlogs #amwriting #asmsg

History, as important for me as a dad as it is as an author #MondayBlogs #amwriting #asmsg

History, so much to learn from. Why don’t we embrace it sooner, ever?

I just came back from spending the weekend with my mother in law. It’s been “Mother’s Day” here in Sweden yesterday (why the world can’t unite around a single date for these things is above me…) and for the first time (long story), we decided to surprise her with a visit. Apart from the usual health and age related discussions, we had a really good weekend and my son loved to spend time at his grandma’s. More so, it was really interesting to see my husband and my son interact in the house where he’d grown up. On Saturday, they went downstairs to the old boy’s room to hunt for Legos, the famous brick that brings together generation after generation.

This, to me, is priceless! And important, one day, when I tell Sascha about this crib and its significance for our family history. And I wonder who the next Hirschi will be to sleep in it?

This, to me, is priceless! And important, one day, when I tell Sascha about this crib and its significance for our family history. And I wonder who the next Hirschi will be to sleep in it?

I remember traveling back to Switzerland with Sascha a few months after he’d been born, in July of 2013, after he’d gotten his real passport and we’d gotten custody and we could finally travel (long story, see Dads for details) together. My dad (the “granddad”) had prepared our old crib, the one that he’d built himself for me and my brother, and Sascha spent his first two visits to Switzerland sleeping in my old crib before moving over to the baby bed. These days he sleeps in a regular bed, just like at home. I remember the pride I felt at laying down that little baby into a piece of furniture that had once been my and my brother’s bed, too, built by my own father. It felt important to pass that on. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that made it so important, but it was.

Watching my husband and Sascha bond over his old Lego bricks was much the same, and seeing the look on his face as his son was playing with the same toys that he’d once played with some thirty plus years ago? Priceless! I never understood the value of roots, of history when I was younger. When your focus is so much forward facing, looking back seems irrelevant. I understand, and I can’t say I blame my younger self, as little as I can blame today’s youth for doing the same.

Yet at the same time, I see the risks of a history lost. I see how we today have no clue anymore as to what war means, and I don’t talk about the sort of war the U.S. have been waging constantly since pretty much World War II, somewhere, against someone. Yes, there are thousands of victims to deplore, American lives and families devastated. I don’t with to diminish that. But the “real” experience of war is when it’s fought in your back yard, on your front porch! When the bombs fall on your roof, the sirens wake you from your sleep, when you have to leave your home head over heels to survive. That is the real experience of war. The west has not suffered that in a very, very long time. I’m getting old, I know, because I remember my grandparent’s stories from their active duty in World War II, I remember them telling me about their parent’s suffering during the first one. I remember my parents telling me about the hardships of growing up during and after the war, the famines, the hard labor. How many of today Gen XYZ can say the same?

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa's old bedroom

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his Pappa’s old bedroom

We see memories of the holocaust fading, we see those sites being desecrated, the facts questioned because there are not enough voices left to tell the stories. And the stories are being questioned, ridiculed, second-guessed: “was it really that bad?” “Six million people? Seems exaggerated.” “Gays slaughtered? Unimaginable, you have marriage equality…”

As a parent, I belong to the middle generation. I am the link between the history (my forbearers) and the future (my son). It is my duty to make sure that the history is passed on, and that my son learns, that he hears the stories I was told when I was little. We mustn’t forget, ever. And no, this isn’t about vendettas and revenge, about not forgiving or forgetting. Quite the contrary. History also teaches us that lesson. I’m proud to have my son being so close to both his surviving grandparents, and that both Alex and I believe in learning from the past and passing the torch forward.

In a way, as a writer I do much the same, albeit with the added perspective of fiction and entertainment. All the stories I tell grow on the fertile soil laid out by the generations before me, the people from whom I’ve learned everything I know, and everything I hold dear. That, too, deserves to be remembered on days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day…

Have a wonderful week.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: I’m beginning a new chapter in my life today, coming out of “corporate life retirement”, and starting to work from nine to five again, in an office. It’s a step I’ve been equally dreading and looking forward to, and now it’s finally here. It’s a smooth and casual start and I don’t know where it’ll take me, and I have no idea how long I’ll be able to keep up my “full time authoring” and the “full time job”, so I’m taking it one day at a time. Thank you for your understanding.

#Review: Five gay movies that left me all gooey inside #LGBT

#Review: Five gay movies that left me all gooey inside #LGBT

Five gay movies: The perfect wedding, Four Moons, The Falls, Eat with Me & Big Eden: different, yet so alike

What makes for a great story? Well, as an author I can tell you what I think makes a story interesting: it’s about life. Yes, for some it’s about these amazing adventures in galaxies far, far away, or in a time long gone with orcs and dragons, or maybe something with vampires and shapeshifters. But cut through the exterior of those shifters, those star ships or the scales of the dragon and you’ll see that they are all just place holders for very human aspects. We can’t really write about alien beings, as we have no clue what they really are like. No offense.

And there is nothing wrong with humanity, feelings, conflicts, inner or not. The difference between a movie and a book are immense, of course, and when you’re sitting in the couch, relaxing after a long day at work, sometimes it’s more fun, even for an avid reader, to turn to a movie rather than a book. I tend to get all absorbed in a book and I’m usually not very communicative. Movies are different. At least at home. We talk, we discuss what’s going on, how realistic something is, how it may, or may not, relate to us, etc. Here are my impressions on four gay movies we’ve recently watched on Netflix (U.S. version), which has a decent selection of great LGBT or gay movies.

The perfect wedding

This is a romantic comedy of a family where the daughter plans her wedding and asks her best friend (and her brother’s ex) to come back home over the Holidays to plan the wedding. Naturally, as in most romantic flicks, there are conflicts and misunderstandings, but this is a cute film to watch on a boring night. The actors are amazing and there are some aspects (no spoilers!) that add additional nerve to the movie. A happy ending is guaranteed. So much I’ll say. The late James Reborn is amazing in the role of the family father!

Four-moonsFour Moons (Quatro Lunas)

This one left me in tears a couple of times. A bit like Robert Altman’s Shortcuts, this film has four parallel storylines taking place. We meet a gay couple in their late thirties who’ve been together a decade and go through a crisis, we meet a young boy realizing he’s gay, the old poet who’s lived a closeted life all his life, and two young men in their early twenties who embark on a journey together, or are they?

Four Moons is powerful storytelling, and as a gay man, I see so many parallels to my own life, both in the way the boy lives his life, bullied, the interactions with his parents, but also first love. I recognize myself in the coming out dilemma of the young couple and – naturally – being in a relationship for fifteen years, I realize that it’s not always smooth sailing.

This is a quiet film, and the storytelling is very subtle. The acting is superb and this is one I’ll return to soon, if nothing else to be more attentive to the language. This film is in Spanish (playing out in Mexico City) and subtitled.

The Falls

Another gay mormon movie? I remember watching Latter Days years ago, and the effects it had on me. Having lived with Mormons for nine months, having been treated by them as miserably as I was (being gay), I know more about the innards of this church than most people. Latter Days killed me. The Falls is different, but not less powerful. It shows two missionaries in the U.S. and how they eventually fall for each other, and the effects this has, as they’re found out. And yes, it is very different from Latter Days, as it is told from within the church, not by the outsider. Definitely worth watching.

Watching films about Mormons always reminds me about my class mates and the jokes they’d make about the grueling interviews they’d endure before going on a mission: “Have you ever had sex with another man?” Laughingly, they’d say (knowing it wasn’t even close to being seen as badly): “No sir, we have not, but we’ve had your daughter and your dog on the porch…” Says a lot about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…

Eat with Meeat-with-me

A movie about being Asian and gay. Made me think of my fellow author friend Atom Yang, who first introduced himself to us with the question about books about Asian gay characters. Because of him, I included a Korean character in my coming novel Jonathan’s Legacy. Just saying… But while most of the cast of this story is Asian, including uncle George (Takei), the story is universal, about parental estrangement, and the film is more about the mother, and her relationship to her husband than her son, and his longing for a stable relationship (or not). Eat with me is great storytelling and I loved the scene between George and the mother in the playground. It was almost magical. Even more so in the light of the final scene…

Big Eden

Successful New York artist returns to his native Montana to care for his dying grandfather. That’s the arc of this story. It’s a sweet story, but of all the ones I’ve seen, my least favorite one. Why? I mean the cast is stellar! Louise Fletcher is one of my all time favorite actresses, and Tim DeKay was great in White Collar. The town folks are all so accepting of Henry, Pike and Dean. Even the church services seem bearable. And Montana seems to stunningly beautiful? (The latter I don’t question.)

There is astounding

There is a stunning selection of LGBT or gay movies available on Netflix. Too bad that their only available in the U.S. for the most part…

I think that’s probably it. It was a bit too much. The town was a bit too obsessed with hooking Pike and Henry up, and there was just something off with Dean, he was too easily consoled after not getting Henry, falling into the arms of a woman, a woman who’d  ogled him pretty much for the entire movie. This isn’t about his bisexuality, it’s more about him being so fickle. And Pike? Who’s this shy? We never really get the answer to that. And what’s with the cooking?

This is a very good movie to watch, and you’ll laugh and you might even shed a tear. But it’s just not ‘realistic’ enough. Yes, my husband said it was great to see a movie with NO homophobia for once, but yeah, Montana? No homophobia? What’s wrong with these people? Or am I such a cynic?

This weekend, we celebrate mother’s day here in Sweden, and next week, I embark on a new professional adventure. I can’t wait for that to start. I’ll see how I can keep the blogging up. Somehow I will. Until then, be good and have a great weekend.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

Ode to readers: honoring a different author-reader relationship #asmsg #amwriting

Ode to readers: honoring a different author-reader relationship #asmsg #amwriting

A thank you and tribute to readers, wherever and whoever they may be

As an author I appreciate the symbiotic relationship with my readers. I get it. Without readers we’d be publishing our books for no one, and into a total vacuum. I also think that most authors realize that fact, although we may not always share that sentiment. This post serves two purposes: a) see it as an ode to readers and their service to us authors and b) as an educational piece for those many aspiring authors out there, who have yet to begin interacting with readers.

The relationship between reader and author has changed a lot in the past decade, and it’s going to continue to change, although I’m no prophet as to where the road is leading. When I was young, and you wanted (against all odds) to get in touch with an author, your only recuse was to contact the publisher at author name, c/o publisher. Few people did, I certainly didn’t. Why? What would I ask of them? The book was much more of a consumer product, the stories told were stand alone, and the author anonymous (even the most famous ones).

As a group, authors have always been recluses, introverts, and I think Stephen King’s Misery is the perfect example of just what horrors awaited us when we’d leave our writing caves…

The horrors of Cathy Bates, what an amazing actress.

Today, we meet the likes of Cathy Bates online. LOL At a safe distance. Yes, I’ve had some really interesting exchanges with readers, and I know from other authors that some readers have no boundaries. Luckily, they’re aren’t that many of them, and hey, that’s why there is a mute, unfollow and block function on social media. And even though some people can scare the living daylights out of us, they are a minuscule minority. Most readers out there are amazing, helpful and supportive, and some go to great lengths to help us out.

Why? They read the stories we produce and they identify with our characters, they want to read more of the same, so they sacrifice their time and effort to write reviews, share our books and purchase links with their friends and in various groups, they talk about us to people etc. And they buy our books, which we shouldn’t forget.

Today, the relationship between author and reader is a very different one, and the product they purchase isn’t just the book, the story. They also purchase the experience of getting to know the author, which makes an introvert’s life a bit more “complicated”. For the James Caans out there, this is bad news, but then again, if you – for a moment – stop seeing readers as readers, and see them as friends, there really isn’t that big a change.

WYSIWYG, "what you see is what you get", there are few secrets I hold, and those I hold not as much for my benefit, but for those I wish to protect.

WYSIWYG, “what you see is what you get”, there are few secrets I hold, and those I hold not as much for my benefit, but for those I wish to protect.

Now, we can lament the fact that we have to be a bit more open about our lives, who we are, what we do in our spare time, our families even, and every author has to decide for themselves how much they are willing to share of themselves with their audience, their readers. But unless you cater to the mass market, and you have a publisher willing to invest tens of thousands of dollars to market your book, you will need to be out there. Heck, even the biggest household names in writing are, we just don’t see it the same way, but when Jackie Collins invited journalists into her mansion, lounging on her couch for nicely photoshopped images (here’s an article with several photos of her in her house), it’s no different than me uploading a photo of holding my son while reading to him. The difference is the medium, the fact that Jackie Collins was important (interesting) enough to warrant the attention of the gossip journals, she’d sell copies with her mere presence on a cover, whereas I? Not so much, I’m no celebrity. On the other hand, I don’t have to invite people to my house if I don’t want to. We have an infamous crime author here in Sweden who is very good at self-marketing, and there isn’t a week without an article in one of the gossip columns about her latest car, her cellulite, her views on parenting etc. The woman has no limits! And the papers love it.

Personally, I do have limits, albeit they’re few, and I share most stuff freely and publicly (a great test btw, if you can’t share something publicly then maybe you should consider sharing it at all…) But yeah, within rhyme and reason. As a relatively unknown author, I can still talk to my readers, I relish every e-mail I get, and I answer them all personally. Yes, I wouldn’t mind selling hundreds of thousands of copies, making millions, but I’d honestly miss the interaction with readers. One of the most gratifying moments I have as an author is hearing how my books have impacted on their lives. I’ve had people change jobs, finally getting the courage to quit a job, after reading one of my novels, I’ve had people identify with characters so intensively that they feel I’ve told ‘their’ story, and every time someone writes to me and says I’ve brought tears to their eyes, I smile. To be able to move someone emotionally? The greatest compliment they could give me!

So yes, the interactions with readers are more important than the royalty checks from my publisher, and mind you, those are pretty nice to receive. But I’m still in a place where I invest more money in my writing than I make from it, and I have a hunch this will always remain the case. I’ve never wanted to write for a mass market and my stories unfortunately don’t appeal to the masses (see quote in my post the other day). As long as I have my readers, and as long as they keep feeding my ego, I’m good. LOL

So thank you readers for keeping me on the straight and narrow path, for making me want to keep writing, for myself and for you!

Have a wonderful second half of the week.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Thanks,

Hans

Why I write LGBT fiction, reflections about an industry #MondayBlogs #asmsg #amwriting

Why I write LGBT fiction, reflections about an industry #MondayBlogs #asmsg #amwriting

Writing LGBT fiction is more than just making money, at least for me

I remember a discussion I once had with my dad. I had just published my first novels and he asked me what they were about (he doesn’t speak English well enough to read books). When I told him that I write LGBT fiction, he wrinkled his nose (the way you do if you’re appalled at something) and said: “why don’t you write a book people actually want to read, a bestseller?”

I often have conversations like this one...

I often have conversations like this one with my readers. And I enjoy them, I really do. At least I see how my writing affects people in their lives, that is a great gift. So keep it up. :)

That sentence, one I’ll never forget, was uttered back in July 2013, three years ago. Since then, I’ve written several more of those “gay books” and my dad is right. None of them are “bestsellers”. I’m no Jackie Collins, I’m no J.K. Rowling. No Hollywood produce ever called to sign me. Never saw my name on the NYT best-seller list. Never mind the dreams… Just saying. My pockets aren’t lined with gold, but there’s a silver lining: I still get to do buddy reads with my readers, they will keep me posted on their progress and their frustrations/emotions as they plow through my novels. I like that. I really do, and I’d miss that if I had assistants do that for me (if they’d bother at all).

Over the past few days there have been a couple of blog posts that have given me pause, because it seems that LGBT fiction has reached a zenith, or even passed it. In one post, fellow author and friend Brandon Witt is lamenting (or is he?) that fact (I think?) It’s never really said in so many words, but I can deduce that he’s unhappy with the sales of his books in a post to readers…, erm, fellow writers. As a consequence, my publisher and (also) friend Debbie McGowan published a post about why we’re writing in the first place (or not).

I can totally relate to both points of view. I’ve been living the “dream”, as Brandon says, for almost three years, and no, it’s not sustaining me. Far from it. Am I complaining? Lamenting it? No, to what end? I think that’s why I find Brandon’s post a bit confusing. You can’t live the dream and still lament it (or bitch about it as he calls it), or can you? I certainly share his frustration of not making a fortune, of spending so much time marketing myself and my work, of spending thousands of dollars to support conventions, to travel to places and to market my work, only to make a fraction of that (in my case) in royalties. What Debbie is saying (much more eloquently than I ever could) is that “hey, if you do it for the money, change the genre, move on, write something else!”

They say your next book is your best marketing for your new book. It's true!

They say your next book is your best marketing for your new book. It’s true!

And I know of several authors who are doing just that, and almost daily I spot a blog post somewhere where authors are considering to write something else to stay ahead of the curve. In Sweden, one of our most successful authors once ghost wrote a biography for our only decent soccer player, only to later go on and ghost write a crime novel to follow up on the Millennium trilogy. Made him millions, for sure. And I’m not envious, but I honestly wouldn’t, couldn’t (which is more important) do it. It also leaves me wondering what the man actually cares about, where his passion lies (beside his bank account?)

And I think that makes me different from other authors (not better, and certainly not worse): I have no choice. Sure, I could stop writing altogether, but the stories I have in me, they are LGBT fiction. Sure, I could make them about het people, but I’d feel as if I was cheating somehow, letting my own people down. And I have very good reasons to do what I do: my experiences growing up, my love for the generations of LGBT to come.

I get messages like this one quite often from my readers. But not often enough to make a living.

I get messages like this one quite often from my readers. But not often enough to make a living.

When I was a child, there were no LGBT books, heck we barely had a library in the town I grew up in, I certainly never saw the inside of it. And even today, books like the one about the gay penguins in Tango are still disputed and banned from libraries all over the world. Gay literature is burned in public and gay authors and activists are killed. I guess you can see where I am going with this. I am lucky. I am extremely fortunate. I live in a country where not only I could get married, but where we are also lucky to have a beautiful son to call our own, our government and our country supports LGBT rights. I’m with Kennedy here: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!” Hence, I feel obligated to give back, not to Sweden for doing what is legally, morally and ethically right, but to the world, to help those who cannot help themselves, to bring hope to those who have so little.

I have not forgotten how difficult it was to grow up without literature, without books for “me”, and not just the books that merely doomed me (in the eyes of society) to a death alone, in misery, but books that provided hope, books that would fuel my imagination and dreams for a better future. I totally get it if you do not understand this, if you cannot even fathom what it is like to grow up and not being able to fully identify with the characters in the books you read, if you can’t grasp the concept of watching TV, movies, read books or see people on the streets behave in a way so utterly different from how you feel, from never, ever, seeing anything that remotely “feels” like you feel, “looks” like anything you feel inside.

No, not as a little boy reading Enid Blyton‘s stories, but later, as a teen, as the realization of just how different I was, grew inside me. Being LGBT is different from being a red head, different from being disabled. Being LGBT is on top of the above, and it’s – for the vast majority of us – not visible from the outside, and so people expect us to be like them (heteronormativity). I recently had a conversation with a very straight male friend about his daughter. She was asking to have her gay bestie do a sleep over, and her dad was losing his mind, afraid the boy might suddenly discover a late night craving for pussy (only a straight man thinks like this, trust me). In the end, they didn’t allow her to have the sleep over (homophobia, in this case more like “heterophobia” – afraid he might be straight – is still a thing), something that had never entered their mind before, when their daughter had countless girls sleeping over (Lesbians, anyone? They do exist, not to mention kids experimenting… But alas, why worry the poor schmucks even more, eh?)

At one point during our conversation he said to me, and I quote: “I don’t read gay books, they’re not for me”, which makes me wonder, would that excuse gay kids from reading “Romeo & Juliet“, “The Divine Comedy” or say the “Iliad” or “Harry Potter” in school? Because clearly, all those books are very het? Are they not for us then? Oh, please don’t tell me that Dumbledore is “gay”; where exactly in the books is that made clear? There are more straight characters in my books, yet that apparently doesn’t count, does it? Yet we’re expected to be thrilled by a gay secondary or tertiary character. Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, he dies, in the ancient tradition of “only a dead gay is a good gay”. I appreciate Ms Rowling’s support for the LGBT community, but I am convinced that her publisher and editors wouldn’t have allowed for Dumbledore to be openly gay in the series, not to mention the movies.

Handing over copies of "The Fallen Angels of Karnataka" to the head librarian of the Road Town Public Library on Tortola, BVI. Since parts of the story play out on the islands, I wanted to contribute a few copies to local readers. As and author, libraries are important to me. Photo: private

Handing over copies of “The Fallen Angels of Karnataka” to the head librarian of the Road Town Public Library on Tortola, BVI. Since parts of the story play out on the islands, I wanted to contribute a few copies to local readers. As an author, libraries are important to me. However, I don’t know if the books were ever made available. Photo: private

Back to my topic: luckily, we live in a day and age where computers allow kids and people in vulnerable societies access to a variety of online resources (could be better, but it’s a start), from reading books on their phones, tablets, buying them online rather than having to blush in a book store, researching information etc. I also understand that many (although never enough) librarians around the world are working hard to make LGBT fiction available (despite the protests of parents and others).

Incidentally, this brings me back to the beginning, and my dad’s question. Yes, most characters in my books are LGBT, because there are very few LGBT characters in literature still. Only a minuscule fraction of all books on Amazon are gay or bi or trans or lesbian, and even fewer deal with questions like asexuality or intersexuality. Yet, ALL books, on some level, deal with aspects of humanity, even the ones about aliens, zombies and shifters. Therefore, even het people can (and should?) read my books and identify with those characters, as the few excerpts from my recent conversation with a reader show. I have read het books all my life. Incidentally, I still do. I’m still sane (well…) and alive. It’s not made me het, and reading LGBT fiction will not “turn” anyone (I wish…), but it will help those who are LGBT accept themselves more easily, they will realize they’re not alone, and they will see that we are all just the same. Some really good people, and some not so good. And that we have the same aspirations, hopes and dreams as everyone else.

I couldn’t write other stories, at least not genuinely, passionately, honestly. For me, writing LGBT fiction is a calling, it’s painful at times, it’s difficult, it’s easy, all at the same time, but I have no real choice. I wouldn’t write het, even if I wanted to. Besides, why? There are plenty of people out there who already do. So yes, it may be true, M/M romance books are declining in sales, publishers are going out of business. So what? The “money crowd” will be moving on to writing something else, follow their readers on to greener pastures. Who knows, maybe the publishers of F/M fiction (and romance) have finally realized that alpha males “saving” demure little house wives isn’t for the twenty-first century. I’m just grateful that M/M even exists (decline or no decline), even though I’m not a big reader of it myself, not anymore, for a great many reasons, some of which may also have led to the current decline we see. Maybe people are still curious about LGBT fiction, but maybe just not the romance kind? Who knows? Only time will tell. I can only hope that the authors who write LGBT fiction, those who truly care about us, will continue to write such stories, even if it is in their spare time, after having paid their bills with their day jobs. They are the true heroes and I bow to them.

Hans M Hirschi

The author of this post, Hans M Hirschi, has published LGBT fiction since 2013 when his first three novels appeared. This year, he’ll be publishing four works of LGBT fiction, three novels and a collection of short stories. Hirschi lives with his husband and son in Gothenburg, Sweden.

I’m grateful that the interest in M/M books has allowed me to be published (who knows, otherwise there wouldn’t even be the categories for it on Amazon), I’m grateful that my books found a readership, as limited as it may be, and I’m eternally grateful to have forged so many valuable connections and friendships with wonderful people out there, and to have been given the opportunity to give back a little. Who knows what the future holds. In the end, when I expire my last breath, those relationships, the love, the things I’ve learned on my journey, they will all will weigh more heavily than any royalty checks, and I will smile for sure. No tears!

I’m grateful for my publisher, Beaten Track Publishing, for the work they do, I’m grateful for the people I cooperate with around my books (editors, proof readers, cover art designers, PR experts, bloggers etc.), I am grateful for the conventions I can go to, and to the organizers thereof, investing time and energy to allow us to meet and share the love for our books.

And I’m grateful for the interactions, the discussions and debates I have with my readers. Because you see, writing LGBT fiction is never (just) about making money, certainly not for those of us who are LGBT, it’s about who we are, about our lives, our culture, it’s about who we are as human beings. And it is, sadly enough, more often than we’d ever could’ve imagined, still about life or death. Let’s never forget that.

Have a great week.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

 

Author interview: Finding myself in my own hot seat

Author interview: Finding myself in my own hot seat

When characters ask you questions you hadn’t bargained for…

An author interview is never easy, particularly not the ones with yourself (who does that, anyway?) To say that my post, two weeks ago, where characters were asking me questions, was a hit is an understatement, at least based on the reactions from readers online. And here’s the thing: most journalists who talk to me, who ask me questions, have barely read the latest book, they don’t really understand the characters, the story, nor do they really “get” they symbiotic relationship between author and character, unless they write, too. Not to mention the long-term effects our stories have on us, how they linger, year after year, only to creep up, all of a sudden, out of the blue, surprising us with new insights.

After I thought I was done, several more character voices began to make themselves heard in my mind, and in the course of the past week or so, some really difficult questions have been raised. I hope my answers do them justice. Enjoy!


Is this the cabin from Jonathan's Hope? I don't know, but it could be, who knows... Remember Dan? This is how it all began...

Is this the cabin from Jonathan’s Hope? I don’t know, but it could be, who knows… Remember Dan? This is how it all began…

Dan, from the Jonathan Trilogy: I should be angry with you, for my demise in the epilogue of Jonathan’s Hope. Instead, I’m curious about your thoughts with regards to my afterlife. Sean, me, Jon? Can you elaborate?

It’s one of the questions I’ve been dreading for years, and with the publication of Jonathan’s Promise, it’s only been a matter of time before someone asked it. I’m glad it’s you… You know that I don’t believe in an afterlife. In fact, I had a funny discussion with my husband last night. He was telling me about a dream he had, where my mother, and my best friend, a cat named Haakon, had come back from the dead. I never have such dreams. i think the fact that my brain doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of an afterlife kind of mutes the possibility for such dreams. My husband is a bit more agnostic and doesn’t rule out “things we don’t know”. So to me, when someone passes away, it’s over. Finito. Period. Exclamation mark. That is not what you believe though, is it. And the books are your story, not mine. Therefore, when Jon thinks of you, he sees you reunited with Sean. Now I know this isn’t uncomplicated, given the fact that one day, all three of you will be together. What then? Well, you’ll see at the end of Jonathan’s Legacy. I hope I’ll do you boys justice.

The Jonathan Trilogy, is the tale of MY generation, a tale where even the worst background and the most hateful parents won't keep you from finding love, success, start a dynasty!

The Jonathan Trilogy, is the tale of MY generation, a tale where even the worst background and the most hateful parents won’t keep you from finding love, success, start a dynasty!

From a theological point of view, I think there is good cause to say “until death do you part” in most of the Abrahamic religions, because it sort of allows for new relationships. Now that must suck for the party who ends up on whatever afterlife they imagine, alone. But that really is someone else’s problem. It also explains why some faiths, e.g. the LDS church, allow(ed) for multiple marriages, also known as polygamy, and marry you for eternity. For them, it is the only way to reach heaven, as a married couple/group. Sadly it’s also a very misogynist pact. Then again, so are all major faiths. I’ve always wondered, how e.g. a muslim man who dies heroically and ends up with the promised virgins in heaven must feel when his wife/wives appear at the pearly gates. But I presume nobody cares. To me, the question was interesting. We all have baggage, past relationships. Now, when those relationships are over, fine, you go on to live your separate lives, even in a proposed afterlife, but how would that work if your partner passes away in an active, loving relationship? That was one of the things that I was curious about, and I really (I really do) like the way things work out for the three of you. Mind you, Marc and (SPOILER ALERT) Hwan, will most likely complicate things eventually, a lot. Needless to say, getting to know you and your plight reaffirmed my conviction that death is the terminus.

The Opera House, a book about the loss of a child, and a father's long and difficult journey back to a happy, prosperous life...

The Opera House, a book about the loss of a child, and a father’s long and difficult journey back to a happy, prosperous life…

Raphael, from The Opera House: You really put me through the ringer Hans. I hear people have told you never to read that first chapter in public. Is that true? Are you tempted to do so anyway?

Hey! 🙂 How’s my favorite architect? How are Micky? And Brian and Christopher? I haven’t heard from you in ages…

To answer your question: yes, I did put you through hell. You were my proxy, and I’m sorry for that. You got to experience what I was afraid of the most when Sascha was just a baby: to lose him to SIDS. But I couldn’t push myself to write about SIDS itself, it hit too close to home, so I opted for the next best thing: leukemia.

Yes, you’re right. I have been told on many occasions that the first chapter isn’t suitable for public readings. Thing is, that at most occasions where I read, the audience consists of mothers, and while most of their children are far beyond the stage of being at risk of SIDS or any other children’s disease, as a parent (I can attest to that), the fear of losing your child is omnipresent. It’s not something you ever really get over. Now I’ll also say this: I don’t have an issue to read about a parent losing a child.  Yes, I will grant you that it hits home and is painful, but it’s also not something that “destroys” me. I think with public readings it’s more about the surprise, to walk into a room full of people, listen to someone joke about a cooking scene on a TV show, have someone read about sex (always popular) to have me follow up with a death scene of a child. Talk about a show stopper. So no, I doubt I’ll ever read that scene, at least not in that kind of setting. I would, however, love to read the scene one day, and I often think about it.

I have read Michel’s death scene twice already, and I cry every time, as it affects me as much as Jason’s passing. But Michel is an adult, his death of AIDS affects people differently than a child dying of leukemia. One is “self-inflicted”, and to a degree people still think the “gays have themselves to blame”, whereas with a child, there’s the assumption of innocence. Always. We can lament that injustice, but it is a fact, nonetheless, and we won’t be able to change people’s perceptions short term, which is maybe why I’ll continue reading that scene. Because, and maybe this is important, reading Jason’s death, while maybe of some theological interest, given your final discussion with your son, it doesn’t change people’s views on parenting or fatherhood. But Michel’s passing is different, to understand his plight, to hear of Haakon’s suffering, his pain, and the beauty and innocence of their relationship might just nudge more people to think about people with HIV, as well as gay men’s capacity for real, true love (which is so often denied by religious zealots in an ongoing mantra, as if repeating it were turning it into a truth of sorts. Idiots!) as something as pure and valuable as their own feelings toward their families. From that point of view, Michel’s death is a better public read than Jason. But I still think about reading that scene, every time (!) I’m asked to do a reading, and it is always on my short list. This may not be a consolation to you, but it is, nonetheless, the truth.

Published with an indie publisher

A great example of “male Erotica”.

Ross, from Ross Deere – Handy Man: I understand that my sexual identity has been questioned by several readers, including your publisher. How would you define my sexuality?

Hey dude! Good to hear from you. How’s John? What an odd question to ask. It certainly is one you should be able to answer yourself. But I understand why you’re asking. There is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the difference between being gay and being bisexual. Now personally, I’ve arrived at a point where I don’t believe that those labels are of any use. They restrict us more than they help. The issue isn’t that you or I know who we are. We’ve always had to define ourselves, and we’ve done so in “opposition” to heteronormativity. Had it not been for the big round eyes looking at us asking “what are you?” we’d be as blissfully ignorant as they are, as to what we are. We’d be Hans, or Ross, human beings. But alas, when you, like you did, date girls in high school, and have sexual relations with girls, you’re one of them, and nobody wonders about you. No label necessary. You’re John, high school quarterback, a jock, successful, good looking. One of us.

But after that first encounter with the professor, things change, and people feel a need to understand. Why? What? And the labels emerge. You must be bi, there’s no other explanation, you chase anything with a pulse. No, you must be gay, you just didn’t know what you were until you met the right guy… And I’ll say this. There are many young people who use the bi label for a while, during their own self-recognition process, their painful path to a full coming out. Which is fine, although it is painful for those among us who truly DO define as bisexual. Over the years, bisexuality has been seen more as a process, a path to something, than an actually state of mind. And the gay community has as much blame to bear as the het community, because bisexuals are as alien to us as they are to hets. We just see it from opposite ends of the spectrum. My personal conviction, which has altered quite something as I’ve seen recent generations grow up is that humans are all bisexuals, to varying degrees. I think, at the core, we are all capable of loving relationships with other human beings, no matter their sex or gender. However, due to primarily social factors, we are pushed to one or the other end of the spectrum. That doesn’t preclude biological/genetic influences, quite the contrary. I think that in a hopefully not too distant future, we’ll be able to stop using those labels altogether. As for you, and your question, I’d say you’re most definitely bisexual. I know that because of all the stories you’ve told me, most of which did not end up in the book. Writing bi-fiction isn’t easy, and the market for bi erotica is very small, and you know as well as I do how the project around you once began. Hopefully, one day soon, I’ll be able to explore bisexuality a bit more in detail.

Jonathan's Legacy Cover

The final book in the trilogy, Jonathan’s Legacy will bring readers closure, answer questions, and restore hope. It worked for the author. I hope it will work for readers, too.

Rick, Dan & Jonathan’s firstborn: Is there a reason why you focus so much on Jeanette’s side of the family, rather than mine?

I think you should be able to answer that question. You never told me much about your life with Rachel, and your kids. Besides, you do play a role. You are the family patriarch in the final panel of the triptych, Jonathan’s Legacy, and I think the scenes around your Christmas celebration in Orlando speak to that fact. Had Parker been your son, instead of Jeanette’s, you would’ve played a larger role, but given that Parker is the “only gay” in the family, it was his story that Dan and Jonathan chose to tell me. But I’ll have you know that the story of how they met you, the orphanage scene, is one of my favorite ones, and that I really can’t wait for people’s reaction to your Florida vacation… I’m sure you’ll be a star in many homes!

Hery, former Chief of Madagascar, from Willem of the Tafel: Why did you put Willem and me through that separation? Clearly you must’ve known how miserable we would be?

Oh Hery! Known? Of course I did, and I felt that pain as much as you did. I will never forget that first moment when Willem stumbles upon you in the ruins of Cape Town, and you take possession of him. I never will. It was so obvious that you were destined for each other, from that very moment. I see how you looked at him, from the corner of your eyes, when you were camping out outside the gates to Tafel, how you sought out his proximity on the journey to Madagascar.

In this book, I not only tell the story from Willem's point of view, but also from Hery's and others. Even the Willem gets to tell the story from his point of view. I find that important for our understanding of his reasoning, his emotional state of mind.

In this book, I not only tell the story from Willem’s point of view, but also from Hery’s and others.

But you know as well as I do that sometimes things happen in a story, things you have no control over. And when Tafel falls, when Mavuto dies, and Nosizwe plots for Willem to lead the people of the Tafel, I was merely an observer, jogging down what was going on. I had no influence over the events. Such are the rules of revolution. The events unfold, emotions run high and you don’t really have a chance to steer things. And you know as well as I do that Willem is a good man, that he wouldn’t be able to not help his people, and so we had no choice but to observe as he is carried by a wave of need, love and obligation to be the new council leader of the Tafel. You yourself, better than anyone else, understand what it means to have that calling, being of royal blood, having been born into a family whose role is to serve the people of Madagascar. Surely you understand that Willem had no choice. I’m just glad that things worked out for you, in the end.

Thanks for the post card from Belem by the way. I’m happy to see that you two are having such a great time and that the Amazon is so much better off than we had feared. I wish you safe journeys, and give my love to Willem, will you?

Charles, from The Fallen Angels of Karnataka: What am I? A monster? A villain? Why do you hate me so much?

I do not hate you Charles. I never have, and I never will. Maybe I have felt pity for you at some point, but you’re a human being, flawed, like most of us, and you had a fire raging inside you, a fire you were unable to control, and it took possession of you, and led you down a disastrous path.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I’ve recently had some very long and interesting discussions with pedophiles online, both on Twitter and in the comment section to a blog post I once wrote. I’ve learned a lot about the sexual identity called “pedophilia” since, and the distinction to being a sexual predator. I still don’t know enough about sex offenders to know whether or not they can all be called pedophiles (as they often are in our daily language).

Inspired yes, by life, books and events around me. It is the combination of it all that makes this a unique story, untold before.

Inspired yes, by life, books and events around me. It is the combination of it all that makes this a unique story, untold before.

All I do understand that it must be hell on earth to realize that you are attracted to someone who will never be able to return that love. So I cannot say with certainty that you are a pedophile. You might be. You are gay, your relationships have always been gravitating toward men, albeit with the aforementioned caveat in my response to Ross. You must understand that you were born from an image of a very particular human being, someone I thought I knew, someone I once found very attractive, a bright intellect, and a very positive and glad personality. But underneath it all lay the ugly face of a child molester, a predator, much like you, although he was stopped before any real physical damage was done. He is lucky in that he is getting help. You did not, and I know how much it pains Haakon that he didn’t force you to seek counseling, that he didn’t insist on you getting help.

But the realization of what you were, after the events in Australia, Haakon panicked. And he fled, ran away, tried to forget, block those memories from his consciousness, very much like many of us victims do. I think we was so ashamed that he hadn’t seen, hadn’t realized, hadn’t been there to stop you. And after Bangalore, Haakon has devoted his life to help victims, he’s pretty much living for your victims, a steep price to pay, and I doubt it was something he envisioned when he first left his home town of Røros to travel to Oslo all those decades ago. But I can assure you that he doesn’t hate you either. He has a purpose in life, and he and Mahender are very happy together. So all is well. As for you, I hope that your example, your story, as dark as it is, may help others to contemplate, reflect and maybe seek out help, whether they are victims of sexual predators or feeling that rage burning inside them. Rest in peace Charles.


I’ll stop here. The final question was a bit of a curve ball, but I guess, given Monday’s blog post, I’m not surprised this came up. Not an easy question, and I’d be grateful if you all went back and also clicked the link to some of the other posts I’ve written on this subject:

Thank you. Have a wonderful weekend.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#Review: Season 2 of Grace and Frankie by #Netflix. #LGBT

#Review: Season 2 of Grace and Frankie by #Netflix. #LGBT

Season 2 of Grace and Frankie is still entertaining, but…

I had been looking forward to season 2 of Grace and Frankie, but we were in the middle of watching Queer as Folk so we didn’t get to it until this week. And since the episodes are so short, it only took us three evenings to get through them all. It was a nice reunion, but, and this is important, I feel the show has lost some of its first season edge. Allow me to explain.

o-GRACE-AND-FRANKIE-facebookIn the first season, the topic of an elderly couple coming out with all that entails in terms of divorce etc. was brilliant. And to tell the story not primarily from the perspective of the two gay men, but their estranged wives was ingenious. And I was inclined to disregard some of the things that “bug” me a little bit about the show: Jane Fonda’s always perfect hair, or Lily Tomlin’s over the top hippie, or Sam Waterston’s whiny Saul (I’d like to punch him in the face sometimes…)

In season two, the topic isn’t as edgy, it’s aging, which, by all means, if you’re in your seventies, but it’s been done before. Sure, not in this comedic style, not with these actors, but still. I think Grace grew on me as a character, still lost in life after ending her corporate  career, she struggles to find her role, and the episode where she sits next to the Alzheimer-ridden rival is probably the best of them all. Her subsequent breakdown is epic, over the top at times, but yeah, after that lucid moment, where her rival recognizes her? I’d gone off the deep end, too.

The kids play fill-up and don’t add much to the plot, and even though they all have an “episode”, a birthday, a birth mother, the lube thing, and the “is my husband cheating on me?”, they don’t really add much to the overall story arc. Leaves the two men, and Frankie. And I’m troubled with Frankie. She’s just Lily Tomlin on steroids, and that is getting to be too much after a while. The chanting, the cursing (mind you, I curse, too, but she seems to be doing it for the heck of it), and who do you think you provoke with vaginas and lube? Honestly? I thought it was funny in the first season, but to having to follow this for an entire season?

I really think Netflix does a great job with their own shows, and I love that they try to push the envelope.

I really think Netflix does a great job with their own shows, and I love that they try to push the envelope.

As for the two men. Apart from the aging (a heart-attack), they play house, and American monogamy, which incidentally is funny: how can you be upset about someone having sex with his ex-wife, after having done the same thing for twenty plus years? Honestly? I don’t think you have the right to, but that’s just me. It made no sense, and their reaction was just not “realistic”? Clearly, if you find a way to condone that you are “unfaithful” for two decades, you must have a different set of values, and they don’t just suddenly snap back into place. Odd. And Sam Waterston’s Saul? I don’t even know where to begin. He was my least favorite character in the first season. Now I just loathe him. What a prick. What a spineless idiot. I mean, honestly? Grow a couple already.

The highlight of this season was definitely the episode with Babe, excellently portrayed by Estelle Parsons. Finally, they were going to talk about something edgy, something forbidden, a taboo. Don’t worry, no spoilers, and the scene where Grace is sitting on the bench, tears rolling down her cheeks when Frankie walks into Babe’s bedroom? The best of the entire season, imho.

So, should you watch season 2 of Grace and Frankie? Sure, it’s entertaining, and it has some great comic highlights, the acting is solid and some of the one-liners will become classics. It’s probably better than most of what you see on TV (which doesn’t say a whole lot), but it’s not as important as season one. I hear season three is in the making, and I hope they’ll find something edgy and worth-while to discuss and that maybe they tone down some of the “over-acting” of some of their stars.

The fact that Netflix produces more and more shows of their own, allows them to push the envelope a bit more (since in U.S. terms it’s “cable” and thus no silly nipple and cursing restrictions), but as that may be, just cursing and nudity won’t keep things edgy forever, and relying on great stars isn’t a recipe for long-term success either, particularly not with people as established as the ones in Grace and Frankie. They’ll need even more direction and really great manuscripts (with important themes) to give it their best. It seems they’re on the slippery slope right now…

Have a wonderful hump-day (incidentally not hemp)

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: Is Peter O’Toole Jane Fonda’s real father? Have a look at her jaw,her eyes and profile during season two. The similarities are uncanny, despite her perfectly coiffed hair.

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