Today I’d like to welcome the extremely prolific writer of gay romance and erotica, Brad Vance. Welcome to my blog, Brad. Glad to have you here.
Thank you! Glad to be here!
First off, you just released a new book, Would I Lie to You? that is garnering high praise from reviewers. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I’d love to. I’m calling the series “The Game Players” because the characters are the kind of people who need a challenge, even in their romantic lives. Just dating and mating isn’t going to be enough for them. There has to be desire that’s suppressed, teased, extended and made more powerful by every move in their games. They’re both aware that what’s developing between them is a chess match, and that’s what makes it so interesting. Marc and Jesse are similar in a lot of ways – incredibly smart, driven, goal-oriented – and they’ve been betrayed by men who were their romantic and business partners. They’re also both honest people, in their own ways – even if that honesty means confessing that you’re not telling all of the truth. The title is “Would I Lie to You?” and that’s really the question at the heart of the story – if you can’t tell someone the truth, do you lie, or do you walk away, acknowledging that there are things you won’t share, that you can’t trust someone with the truth?
What drew you to writing romance and erotica?
I’d flailed around publishing novels under another name that never really went anywhere, and then Aubrey Watt did an AMA on Reddit about being a M/M smut writer, back in October 2012. I was fascinated by that, especially with the amount of money she was making! I wrote up “Good Cop Bad Boy,” my first M/M story, and mailed it off to her, asking her to take a look at it and tell me if I had a future in the biz. She said HELL YEAH you do! So that was my start…when Amazon started blocking/banning a lot of erotica, I moved into writing novels.
You recently decided to become a full-time writer. How’s that treating you? Have you found that your writing habits have changed a lot because of it?
Oh my God it’s the greatest. I’ve lost 18 pounds since I left my day job at the end of February! Just being able to be active all day, not chained to a desk, overeating as if trying to chew my way out of the cubicle…I love the freedom. I haven’t signed up for a class or anything yet, because I’m still savoring the “clock free” life – I’m just not ready to be on anyone else’s schedule again, not yet. I was running on stress for so long that I’m still trying to come down from that…
I was really working two jobs for the longest time, getting up at 3 am to write till 6:30, then getting ready for and going to the day job…it made for long days, with no life. My writing habits have changed in some ways but not in others. I still get up at 3 am! I guess I’m still conditioned to that sleep cycle, and in the back of my mind I’m afraid that it’ll all end in tears and I’ll have to get a job again, in which case I better stay used to getting up early… But, I no longer feel under the gun the way I used to, when I had to keep an eye on the clock with a hard stop at 6:30 every morning. If I sleep in till the unholy hour of 5:00, well, my day isn’t shot!
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
Well, when I started, I was just doing short erotica, so there wasn’t any other avenue for it. And, under another name, I’d been through the New York/tradpub mill, and I had no desire to go through that again, ever. To have no control over your title, cover art, blurb, I hated that. And the WAITING. The endless wait for someone to get around to reading it, the endless wait for them to buy it, the endless wait for publication, and OMG the endless wait for your money! Now I finish a novel one week, edit it the next, then publish it, and two months later, make it rain, baby.
You have to be strong in all areas – your grammar, spelling, your ability to edit/copyedit yourself (I’m still catching errors in books in print, that I’ve missed after reading them a thousand times), to write a blurb, to make a book cover, to market and promote yourself…but you get all the profit. And there’s nobody “doing it wrong” to mess it up for you, other than yourself.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Something you wish someone had told you at the beginning?
The hardest part of self pubbing, to me, was marketing. That was the one upside of tradpub, back in the day – you submitted your book, and they did all the hustling. Of course now they expect you to come ready-made with a fan base, Twitter followers, etc., so there’s no advantage there anymore. I was really loathe to do it at first – I grew up all “punk rock” and thought of advertising/marketing as, you know, infomercial shit, Billy Mayes shouting his way into your head, an inherently bad, bullshit thing.
Finally I had a moment of enlightenment – I realized I hated marketing because I hated sounding like a brochure. “I’m so excited to tell you about my new release!” Blah blah blah. I decided I’d just BE ME on Facebook, etc. Put my real personality out there instead of trying to sound the way I though I was supposed to sound.
So, that would be my advice, I guess – people are gonna connect with you because of your work, but also because they like you. So be you, don’t be a brochure, when it’s time to do your marketing.
I know you’ve had problems with Amazon before and their ridiculous censorship policies, but do you think that Amazon is doing all right for self-publishers? What would you like to see changed?
Well, NUMBER ONE would be, clear guidelines for what’s allowed. They say what they’ll ban is “pretty much what you’d expect.” What who would expect? Me, a libertarian sex-positive homo, or some bluenose in Arkansas who has a heart attack at an exposed tittie on TV? But keeping it vague is deliberate, of course, because it gives them leeway to change the rules any time without changing them on paper.
Number Two, which is more realistic, would be a set rate every month for the Kindle Select/Unlimited “borrow rate,” the amount writers get per borrow each month. It fluctuates all the time, $1.33, $1.39, etc. You don’t know what you earned last month until the middle of the next month. They should just part it at a certain amount and leave it there, I’d say $1.40, instead of leaving us all on pins and needles every month, as they arbitrarily decide how much more money to put into the fund and screw up people’s income forecasts. It’s like getting a pay raise/pay cut every month – very exhausting.
Do you ever get told by friends or family that you don’t write “real books”? I know I do. How do you respond if it happens?
No I don’t, actually. In my circle of friends, writing “gay erotica” is very cool! My mom’s response when I told her about my erotica career was, “Sure are a lot of weirdos out there.” The only book of mine she’s read is “Apollo’s Curse,” because there’s no sex in it. She loved it, but has no desire to read any of my other books!
I wrote a “real” book, a few years ago. I worked on it on and off for five years. It sold twelve copies. That’s the fate I gave Dane Gale in “Apollo’s Curse,” before he turned to writing romance novels. I gave him this exchange on the Greek island that pretty much says how I feel about writing romances now:
“But what I need, isn’t just…success, money, fame. I…what I’ve been writing, what the others before me wrote, it’s just…commercial fiction, airport fiction. Popular romances. I don’t want that to be my legacy, I don’t want that to be the last thing I ever write.”
“What’s wrong with romance? Don’t you bring pleasure into people’s lives? Don’t strange and wonderful stories heal their aches, take them from their sorrows?”
“Maybe you’re being a bit selfish, yes?” He put on a dark, mocking scowl. “ ‘I am writing a Great Novel nobody will read, which is so much more important than making people happy.’”
I had to laugh. “Yes, I guess that is selfish. But…I have it in me, I know I do. To do something…wonderful. Something that’s so much more powerful, so much more…well, healing, if you will, than any little entertainment I concoct could ever do.” I looked at his shelves, saw the surprising variety of books – lots and lots of novels, Umberto Eco, Gunter Grass, Doris Lessing, George Eliot. “You know. You’ve read these books. You know how much more they do in the world than some…fluff could ever do.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of fluff. The power to make someone smile, to get them through to another day, take them away from their cares for a moment. Maybe later, you’ll have helped them feel stronger, maybe later they will read ‘Ulysses,’ yes?”
And finally, having nothing to do with writing at all, tell me about your dream vacation.
Oh boy. A whole summer in Europe. Nick in the “Kyle’s New Stepbrother” series gets to live out my fantasy, just moving from one place to another on a Eurail pass as the whim takes him. I’d have to have the money to do it right; Nick’s young and can crash in hostels and stretch a dollar! But I’d need my comforts. I’d love to see so much of France, Italy, Germany, Amsterdam, Barcelona…yeah, I’d need a whole summer!
Brad, I want to thank you again for stopping by and wish you good luck with your writing.
Thank you so much, Bey! I really appreciate your having me here!
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