Today, I’m starting something new, something different.

Rather than monologues about myself and the musings of my brain (don’t worry, you’ll still get those), I thought I’d provide you with a bit of variation on the menu. I’ve decided to ask a few of my fellow authors to appear on this blog, not just writing something, but rather to subject themselves to a discussion, some questions from me. I hope you find those interesting. The way this works in reality is that I send a few questions through e-mail and we then engage in an exchange over a few days, the result of which you can read below. Depending on the answers, I may ask a follow up question etc.

Sue me, but this hunk is delicious!

My first guest is author Andrew J. Peters from New York. Though we’ve never met in the physical world, IRL as it is, we’ve had numerous exchanges online, and he’s become a good pal online, and very helpful in many regards.

I don’t remember when or how we came across each other, maybe it was his Twitter profile pic that attracted me, that rugged beauty of a face, which I later learned belonged to one of his characters, Benoît, from his book “Werecats: Rearing”; not that Andy is any less attractive, but that’s kind of beside the point here…

Anyway, I asked Andy if he would answer a few of my questions, and here’s the result. I hope you enjoy it:

Hans: Why did you start writing?

That question takes me back a long time because I started writing in grade school. I made picture books, and when I started reading mysteries and fantasies, I used to come up with my own stories.

Writing was a way for me to express my imagination. Initially, I kept what I wrote very private. I think it was something for me to withdraw into. I was a pretty shy kid. Even as a child, and many years before I understood that I was gay, I felt different and alienated. Escaping into another world or an adventure allowed me to feel happy and that I fit in somewhere.

What is it you write about and why?

I tend to take inspiration from myth and legend and turn the story around from a different point-of-view. For me, that’s how those stories make sense. I think it’s the anti-authority skeptic in me. When I read a traditional legend, I’m always wondering: what was the author’s agenda here? What’s the real story he/she is hiding?

My Werecat series takes the werewolf/vampire trope from the premise that feline shifter magic was borne from native mysticism, and rooted out nearly to extinction by colonialism. I also wanted to put gay characters and their romances front-and-center, rather than as peripheral stories or dalliances as they often are in that genre.

I’m working on a series that re-imagines the story of Atlantis. The first book The Seventh Pleiade comes out this November. I love mythology, and I’m also very interested in the genesis of myth and religion. I had the idea of telling the “real” story of Atlantis, which was embellished and subverted over the years to suit the interests of the storyteller.

How did you go about getting published?

The hard way! I guess there really isn’t any other way, unless you’re a celebrity. I queried many agents and publishers for The Seventh Pleiade, and I was extremely delighted to get an offer from Bold Strokes Books.

With Werecat, it was a quicker, easier road. But I think that’s because I learned a lot from querying The Seventh Pleiade. I researched small presses and found one that looked like a perfect fit. Luckily, they made an offer right away.

Do you live off your writing, or, if not, how do you combine your day job with writing?

I have a day job at a university. I would love to write full-time, but for now I manage a balancing act. I do my author job on weekday evenings and early mornings and weekends, while also trying to be a good husband and not a total recluse.

What is your relationship to your characters?

I think that characters are an extension of the author, so I feel on one hand that they are parts of me, even though I’ve never written anything that is directly autobiographical. I’ve described the main character in Werecat Jacks as a jagged reflection of me as a college student. Jacks certainly lives a more dramatic life than I did, but I definitely channeled my own feelings about facing the future as a young gay man when I wrote him.

On the other hand, my characters feel to me at times like children I’m sending off into the world. I raise them but I let them go and make their own decisions and create their own paths. It’s emotional for me, especially when I finish writing a story. I imagine it’s like being a parent, having mixed feelings of pride and fear and urges to protect.

How would you describe the emotion when one of your titles is being published?

It’s interesting how you worded that question because it depends at what stage of publication you’re asking about.

The initial offer is exhilarating and hugely gratifying. Then there’s the production stage, which has been a lot of fun as a new author, though there were deadlines to meet with editing and proofreading that felt a little frightening at first. There’s a ton of pride for me seeing my work in print. But there’s still lots of work to be done in terms of marketing. You really have to spread the word about your books, even when you have great publishers. I worry about sales, reviews, what I’m going to do for my next project, and how I’m going to get that done. So my emotions have really run the gamut.

Do you know the demography of your audience enough to describe it a bit?

Most of the readers I’ve heard from are gay men or non-gay women who like gay fiction. A cool thing about our global culture is that occasionally I get e-mails and comments on my blog from readers from all over the world – Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and the Philippines, to name a few places.

Have you intimate knowledge of the places you write about? e.g. Montréal or the Caribbean?

I visited Montréal with my family as a teenager, and now my husband and I go there almost every year. I thought Montréal was the perfect setting for a shifter story because of the combination of sensibilities. Its culture and history is proudly French – Old World and romantic. There’s also the influence of Inuit culture, which you find in animal monoliths and winter traditions at Mont Royal Park. Then there’s a vibrant gay community. It really is a party destination for gay men in the U.S., and it can be raunchy and gritty.

How do you feel about the creative process when working with an external publisher. Did you / do you have to compromise a lot? I hear stories from others about having to add more sex to appeal to a certain clientéle etc. Your text is relatively subdued in that regard…

I was really happy with the final copy of Werecat, and I have to thank my fantastic editor N. Apythia Morges. The editing focused on making the writing sharp and polished. There weren’t any major changes to plot or characters.

I can see how you might have that perception regarding sex scenes since Werecat fits into the popular genre of “m/m romance.” I call it gay romance, but I don’t have any qualms about the “m/m” label. If someone likes the story, they can label it however they like!

Vagabondage Press publishes a broad range of books from rock-and-roll fiction to literary to sci-fi/fantasy. They didn’t shy away from my explicit scenes, but they didn’t ask to beef those up for a particular readership. That fit really well with my own vision for the series.

Is there going to be a future for the Werecat series? Maybe a novel?

Book 2 is being edited right now with a release date of February 2014. It’s another e-novelette installment. Book 3 will be longer at about 120 pages or 36,000 words. I’m giving that story a final read-through, and we expect that it will be ready for release in Fall 2014.

I haven’t figured out if there are four installments in the series or five. Each episode pulls the main character Jacks deeper into the world of werecats, and the stakes get higher for him. I know there’s a penultimate battle for Jacks, but I haven’t worked out all the details.

I would love for the stories to be bundled, perhaps next year, so readers can follow a longer adventure and eventually the whole saga. It’s not all written, but I expect the entire series will be about the length of two standard novels.

Having read the first book the other day, I personally can’t wait to read more about Jacks and whether his relationship to Farzan ever takes off or what else you have in stake for him. I personally think that the relationship aspect of any book is what’s most interesting to me. Thanks Andy for taking the time to answer some questions, and good luck with your work!

If you are interested in Andrew’s work and want to get to know Jacks, Benoît and their feline alter egos, you can find those here:

Andrew J. Peters (photo by Larry Black)

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Werecat-The-Rearing-ebook/dp/B00D1YPCIC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369762561&sr=1-1&keywords=andrew+j.+peters+werecat

Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/werecat-andrew-j-peters/1115438823?ean=2940016618708

Vagabondage Press – http://www.vagabondpressbooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=11&products_id=75

Andrew’s biography (and link to his website):

Andrew J. Peters likes retold stories with a subversive twist. He is the author of the e-novelette Werecat series, which follows the adventures of feline shifter Jackson Dowd.

His début novel The Seventh Pleiade is the story of a young gay prince who becomes a hero during the last days of Atlantis, and upcoming in November 2013. A former Lambda Literary Foundation fellow, Andrew has written short fiction for many publications. He lives in New York City with his husband Genaro and their cat Chloë.

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