Good afternoon Ms. Haimowitz. My name is Lori (Lototy at CTR), and I welcome you into our crazy little corner of the world. Our interview today will focus on your first novel “Counterpoint, Song of the Fallen”, and I must say I was completely enthralled with this story. Thank you!
Thank you! Those are words every author hopes to hear :D
First off, however, we would like to get to know a little about you beyond your written word. Where do call home, and where in your world do you find the most inspiration for your imagination?
Home right now is a townhouse in central Jersey, though I've recently purchased 30 acres of wilderness in the northwest corner of North Carolina and am planning to move down there sometime in the next year or so. I actually do take most of my energy--if not my inspiration, per se--from being out of doors, surrounded by trees and fresh air and quiet and solitude, so I'm really looking forward to making the move.
Writing seems to be an all around occupation for you whether it is fiction, non-fiction, or editing. Did you know at a young age that this would be your life’s work, and who or what propelled you to take up this profession?
In a way, I think I did. I mean, I went through phases growing up like most kids, where I wanted to be a marine biologist (okay, my phases were a little weird) and a doctor and a lawyer (I started schooling for both), but the one consistent thread throughout my life always was writing and reading. I pretty much always have a book in my hands (and one in the bathroom, and one on the kitchen table, and two or three on the nightstand), and just as frequently have my fingers to a keyboard. I can't really imagine doing anything else at this point, so I really need this gig to work out for me ;-p
Given the depth of feeling in your characters and the struggles they face makes me wonder if you have studied psychology or if you are an avid people watcher. What is it that gives you such a knack for displaying and describing the human psyche?
Both, actually. People-watching has long been one of my favorite hobbies, and I minored in psychology with the intent of becoming a lawyer my first time through college. I think a big part of forming believable characters, situations, and reactions is just being a good listener, but part of it is also a love of puzzles--which human beings can very much be. That said, even the toughest puzzles start to gain familiarity when you take them apart and put them together enough times, and I think that's a key exercise for writers.
I, personally, am a huge fan of M/M romance. To me, it just feels like there is more honesty, passion, and raw emotion between the characters without all of the cat and mouse games you often get in “mainstream” romance. What drew you into writing within this genre, and what are your feelings about alternative vs. mainstream romance?
I got into M/M the way I suspect a lot of people did: through fanfiction. There are a great many reasons for enjoying M/M over M/F (and I prefer it so much now that I don't even read M/F romance anymore), but for me personally, it boils down to a few. For one, I love exploring a different psychology than the one typically at play in my own romantic relationships. Certain tropes and cultural norms are rehashed again and again in much of traditional romance, and to me, it just gets boring; I like moving outside that, and also outside the formulas that drive series romance. I especially love the conflicts and compromises that arise when two alpha males--with all the typical societal gender expectations--come together and try to find a way to fit. You can, of course, have an alpha male and an alpha female in traditional romance, but the gender expectations are different, and that makes it less exciting to me. On a bit more of a shallow level, if one sexy guy in bed is hot then two sexy guys in bed are at least twice as hot, no? :-)
Also, it's my hope that in the not-too-distant future, we won't be using words like "alternative" and "traditional" to set M/M and M/F apart. M/M is a rapidly growing market, and I'd love to see it in the mainstream some day soon.
Where do you want your writing to go from here? Is there an ultimate goal, award, or accolade that you hope to accomplish in your career?
My only real goal is to make a livable income off stories I'm proud to put my name on. That's harder than it sounds--even most mid-list authors with NY publishers need day jobs to support their craft. I have no hope or expectation of country manors or yachts or butlers; I just want to be able to do what I love for a living. I seem to have gotten off on the right foot, but I've only been in the game since August of 2010, so time will tell, I suppose.
In Counterpoint the main characters are basically two different breeds, human and elf, whose people are, if not bitter enemies, distinctly unfriendly. Where did your idea come from to create such diversity in two human type men?
The initial idea for the setup actually came from my editor, Tal Valante. From there on out, how their personalities and cultures developed was in part in service to the plot and in part a desire to craft something different. I was adamantly against the idea of rehashing Tolkeinesque elven lore, and fascinated by the idea of what were essentially three societies--elves, humans, and the dark beasts--living in uneasy imbalance side by side.
Freyrík and Ayden are both very powerful men, and have strong ideas and feelings on what is right and wrong. Was it important to you that neither man ever appears un-masculine, and why do you feel this way?
Not really, no. I mean, I think it was important for Freyrik, because the concept of masculinity amongst the humans' misogynistic society is hugely dominating. A man who doesn't act "like a man" in that culture would be pilloried--both from the community and from within his own sense of self-worth. For Ayden it wasn't that way, because the elves value female power; they're actually a matriarchal society, in a sense, with children carrying the mother's name, not the father's. Even if, for the sake of discussion, we conflate "masculinity" with "strength and power," I think it's fair to say that both characters had moments where they were decidedly unmasculine. When they were enemies, they couldn't afford to appear weak in front of each other. But when they were lovers, well, that's one of the greatest things about love: you can be weak in front of your lover, and feel safe doing it, and know you'll be protected rather than judged.
I really like the fact that you kept Ayden and Freyrík on a very tight leash romantically. You forced them to build trust before taking anything to the next level. Was this as important to you while building their character as well as their relationship, and in what way?
Oh, definitely. For one, I didn't want to cheapen their eventual love by giving the reader reasons to think Ayden was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Also, I think it's very hard to like a hero who rapes his captive, and I find it completely unbelievable and occasionally downright insulting when a writer asks you to believe that said raped captive has fallen in love with his or her rapist. I did want the reader to like Freyrik, which I don't think would have been possible if he'd forced himself on Ayden in any real way. And Ayden, stubborn elf that he is, needed a lot of time and space before he could begin to view Freyrik as an individual with potential for worth, rather than as a blanket "evil human."
Ayden and Freyrík’s situation goes from desperate to dire and back again. There seems to be no end to the obstacles they must face, and their future looks terribly grim. Honestly the cliffhanger just about killed me, and I am on pins and needles waiting for book 2 to come out. Can you give us a sneak peak to what is in store for these two amazing men? And what other works can we look forward to soon?
Well, I can say things might well get worse for them before they get better. They each have to endure the gauntlet that is High Court, but at least this time they get to endure their trials as a team. I've posted some sneak previews of the manuscript-in-process on my blog, and will continue to do so throughout the spring and summer. Nothing terribly spoilery, just little glimpses into their new world. Crescendo (the sequel) will come out in the fall, either September or October, so hopefully the wait for Book II won't feel too long.
As for other projects, I co-wrote an M/M cyberpunk novella with Aleksandr Voinov called Break and Enter that we just sold to Samhain Publishing, and the anticipated release date for that is sometime in December. I don't have release dates for anything else right now, but on the roster are a few pieces in the Belonging world (the universe in which Anchored is set), a BDSM novelette called Master Class about how Devon ("Sir") and Nicky met, and a second (and possibly third) story in the Break and Enter world. Most of that will probably be for next year, but I'm hoping to get a collection of short stories in the Belonging world out sometime this summer with Noble Romance.
I am astounded that this is your first novel. It really is a fantastic read, full of action, tragedy, heartache, and of course passion. Your characters make you want to fight for them, as well as cry for them, and many times within the same scene. Thank you so much for such a great read, and for taking the time to spend with us today!
Thank you so much for the kind words, and for the interview--I had much fun :-)