We are very happy to welcome Josh Lanyon to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today to talk about the newly published novel Stranger on the Shore (Carina Press) and the self-published novella Everything I Know.
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author Josh Lanyon has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USA Book News awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.
Learn more about Josh at http://www.joshlanyon.com/.
Jodi: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Your books are the first I began reading in the m/m romance genre. For readers who have never read your stories, where would you recommend they begin?
Josh: Thank you very much for inviting me to the blog!
I think the standalones are a good place to start. I know fans usually rec the Adrien English books, but I think a series is a big investment for an unconvinced reader. So I always rec Fair Game to people who love mysteries or maybe one of the holiday stories like The Dickens With Love for readers who don’t care for mystery.
Jodi: For the record, I would recommend all of those books J. Many of your books are mysteries with a touch of romance thrown in. What inspires you to write in this genre?
Josh: Well, my first love remains mystery. That’s where I cut my writing teeth, so to speak. Romance generally doesn’t have enough plot for me, which is why my non-mystery work is usually short format -- stories or novellas. Without murder there just isn’t enough to hold my interest! As far as what I like about mystery… I like everything from the clean structure to the inevitable ethical and moral questions that will arise for the protagonists. I like the emotional high stakes. Plus action and danger scenes are always fun to write.
Jodi: Stranger on the Shore is wonderful story. What was the inspiration for this book? Is it based on an actual news event?
Josh: It’s not based on any one single news event, but it was heavily influenced by my researching a number of real life news stories. Everything from the tragic Lindbergh kidnapping to the actual story that the documentary Imposter is based on. The actual inspiration probably goes back to my love of classic mystery. There are some wonderful classic mystery stories revolving around the Missing Heir trope, and I sort of wanted to offer my own spin.
Jodi: Are these characters completely fictional or are they based on real people?
Josh: The characters are completely fictional. That said, I do borrow heavily from real life, including history. Everyone I’ve ever met, observed, or even read about, ultimately goes head first into that creative well to be drawn upon as required.
Jodi: Griffin Hadley and Pierce Mather butt heads from even before they meet. Despite being so different, they actually have a lot in common. Was that something you planned, or did the characters unfold for you as you began writing?
Josh: I usually know what the central conflict(s) will be for my main characters before I ever start writing. A lot of the conflict will be based on personality types. Not entirely, but a lot of why we clash with people simply has to do with who we are. And that’s also true of why we become friends -- or fall in love -- with the people we do.
I always make sure that my character pairings have both believable conflicts and common ground. That makes it easy for the reader to understand the emotional dynamics because it’s completely realistic. That IS how relationships work, both good and bad ones.
Jodi: Why did you choose The Great Gatsby as Griffin’s inspiration?
Josh: There’s always a certain amount of synchronicity in the creative process. Usually whatever I’m reading or thinking about at the time works its way into whatever the current story is. But then a lot of what I’m reading and thinking about at any given moment has to do with the research I’m undertaking for the current project. So in this case, I had set a story on Long Island because I find the history of the Gold Coast fascinating, and the film, The Great Gatsby had just come out, which seemed serendipitous. I started reading up again on Hemingway and the Lost Generation and Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s conflicted feelings about the rich seemed to mirror Griff’s mixed feelings, so it really just took off from there.
It’s actually difficult trying to track it step-by-step because it all just sort of falls into place while you’re writing.
Jodi: Like many of your characters, Con Myers and Wes Callahan bump heads in rather dramatic fashion at the beginning of Everything I Know. It seems that Callahan has no idea what he has actually said or done that causes the chaos that ensues in Con’s life. What is Callahan’s motivation for seeking out Myers after their initial run in at the store?
Josh: What I think is interesting about this story is that Wes does have certain biases. We see it from the start. He is emotionally off-balance, and he certainly doesn’t intend his words to be taken out of context, but there is a bias against male preschool and kindergarten teachers, and Wes’s unthinking words do reflect that cultural leaning. As do Bea and Andy’s interpretation of what he means.
And we continue to see Wes’s biases throughout the story. But in Wes’s favor, he recognizes his own mistakes and tries to fix them.
Granted, it’s complicated because Wes is also very attracted to Connor. Initially he doesn’t think of Connor as being his type. In fact, it is probably being to blame for Connor’s predicament that really drives Wes to pursue a relationship with him.
Jodi : What was your inspiration for this novella?
Josh: I taught for a number of years, so it was inevitable I would eventually begin to tap into some of those story possibilities.
Jodi: These books are written in third person point of view. Does writing in third person point of view provide more opportunities to explore each character’s personality than it would if the books were written in first person?
Josh: Probably not. I always write from a deep POV, whether it’s first or third person. And I usually don’t switch back and forth between the main characters. I’ll generally make the decision on first versus third POV based on how much info I want to share with the reader, how crucial the main character’s “voice” is, and whether narration duty will be shared by a second character.
I know a percentage of readers don’t enjoy first person, so I typically opt for first POV when I know it will make a better -- usually funnier -- story.
Jodi: Do you prefer writing short stories, novellas or novels? Which format allows you the most creativity with the characters?
Josh: They all have their pleasures and pains. It’s unlikely that I would ever write a novel-length contemporary romance because I find those boring to read. I need more plot. So when I’m in the mood to write romance, it’s always going to be a story about a few days or a few hours in someone’s life -- which requires short form.
Jodi: You have penned quite a few series: A Shot in the Dark, I Spy, Adrien English, Homes & Moriarity and, one of my favorites, Dangerous Ground. Do you prefer writing standalone books or series books?
Josh: More and more I prefer standalone. That said, I’m very fond of the existing series I have -- those books were created with series in mind, so the intention was to explore the characters and their lives a little at a time over a long period.
Jodi: Do you have more series stories planned?
Josh: No. I do intend to wind up the series story arcs I’ve started, but I don’t plan on beginning any new ones. At least not in the immediate future. There might be a few sequels though.
Jodi: When can we expect the next Homes & Moriarity and Dangerous Ground books?
Josh: The next H&M, The Boy With the Painful Tattoo will be out late summer/early fall. The next Dangerous Ground book, Blind Spot, isn’t planned until sometime in 2015. That one will probably be a full-length novel and more of a traditional mystery.
Jodi: Homophobia makes its presence known in many of the books. Why have you chosen to make this issue a constant in the series?
Josh: With the exception of the AE books, I don’t know that it’s really much of a focus in my work. My characters are gay, so it’s realistic that they are going to encounter some prejudice from other characters in certain situations. Just as writing about women would require female characters bumping into sexism and stereotypes. Or disabled characters confronting their share of fear and bias. Or older characters having to deal with ageism and disrespect in a world that doesn’t value getting older. Basically I try to write realistically about humans in a recognizable setting, and gay humans are going to face a certain amount of discrimination and even hatred.
Stranger on the Shore, published by Carina Press, is available at the following locations:
Twenty years ago, little Brian Arlington was kidnapped from his family's Long Island estate and was never seen again. The trail went cold, but investigative journalist Griff Hadley has always thought there was more to the story--much more. When the Arlingtons' patriarch invites him to stay at their estate to research his true crime book, Griff can't say no. It's the story of a lifetime.
But not everyone is happy about Griff's presence. Relatives and staff alike regard him coldly, including Pierce Mather, the Arlingtons' attractive lawyer, who is more than a little wary of Griff's motives.
When a stranger shows up claiming to be the long-lost Brian, Griff and Pierce are united in their suspicions. Startled to have found an ally in the buttoned-up lawyer, Griff soon realizes it's hard to keep a professional distance. Even in the midst of a groundbreaking investigation, even in the face of a shocking family secret.
Everything I Know, published by JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Connor loves teaching. He loves working with kids, he loves feeling like he ís making a difference. And the kids -- and parents -- seem to love him. Until the afternoon he makes a small error in judgment, and an angry father is thoughtless comments start the kind of rumor that destroys careers and lives.
Now everything Connor thought he knew about himself and his world is in doubt. But sometimes help comes from the most unexpected direction.