Last week I finished reading Listening To Dust by Brandon Shire. I contacted Brandon and asked to interviewer him. What follows is that interview.
Q: What one thing happened in your life that has made the biggest impact on who you are today?
B: Meeting my Zen teacher. She taught me about the value of life and how to find beauty even within its ugliest moments.
Q: When did you start writing and how many books have you published?
B: I began writing about 15 years ago, but only recently started publishing. I currently have four books available and have more coming.
Q: Who are the authors who most influence you today?
B: This is a hard question for me because I read so many different genres that it’s difficult to pick just one author who really influences me. Above all that have touched me, I would have to say Toni Morrison and William Gay. One of my current favs is Haruki Murakami. But Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo is the only book to sit by my bedside.
Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or atmosphere before the words flow?
B: (Laughs) No, I wish that were the case. My muse spits out thoughts when we’re driving down the highway, doing the dishes, or in the shower – all the places where I don’t have a pen and piece of paper handy. Since I still write with pen and paper, I learned long ago to have a small notebook with me at all times.
Q: Is Afflicted your latest novel? What was the inspiration behind that story?
B: Afflicted is a two-book gay romance series. I was inspired to try my hand at the genre when I saw a blog post which stated that men couldn’t write romance. I found the idea ridiculous. My first two books were quite heavy in subject matter and something lighter was definitely necessary. My fans were also asking for ‘something with a happy ending,’ so the project kind of came together on its own.
I also wanted to write the book from a uniquely gay male perspective. I found a quick note in my papers about a blind man and a hustler from some years back and thought they would be perfect together. After doing some research I noted that most depictions of the blind were showing them as weak, dependent, secondary characters. I wanted to change that and contacted the Blind LGBT Pride International and asked if they were interested in being consultants to ensure the book was factually accurate and stayed away from the stereotypes that sighted authors often inflict upon the blind. Of course the readily agreed and were extremely helpful.
It was difficult to write because I had to remove any inclinations toward visual descriptions. Every interaction between the characters had to be based on sound, touch, taste, and smell; and when you’re dealing with sex and love, those senses are often over-looked in writing.
Q: Your book, Listening To Dust, has garnered several excellent reviews and a Rainbow Award. Can you tell us about it?
B: Dust is a hard look at love and loss. It is meant to be a book that doesn’t give an inch because sometimes life is like that. Despite how much we want everything to turn out okay, sometimes it just doesn’t, especially in matters of the heart. I wrote the manuscript over a decade ago and then lost it. But the story would never leave me alone and every time I sat down my muse would plague me with Dustin and the people around him. Finally, I let the muse go and wrote the current version in a frantic 22 days. When I was finished I sat down and cried my eyes out. The dedication in the book will likely tell most readers what and how much the means to me.
Q: So, if you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your work in progress?
B: The next book is Cold, which I expect to be out in May. It’s a gay romance series about two completely different men who find a little piece of what is missing inside of them in the other person. I had thought the book would just be a single novel, but apparently the muse has other ideas. It begins in a prison environment and will continue on outside of prison.
I am also in the process of bringing some of my unpublished work to print, some in sci-fi and some in horror. My fans have asked that the characters be LGBT inclusive and I am working on that as I write the Cold series.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
B: Writing is still a hobby for me; it’s my break away from the chaos of the real world. If I’m not writing, I’m working.
Q: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
B: Readers can find out more about me, my books, and the charities I aid on my website. For more personal interaction I can often be found on the fan-generated Goodreads group, Twitter, and Google Plus. I’m just about everywhere online, except Facebook.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
B: I am a staunch advocate for LGBT youth, particularly in regards to homelessness. 10% of the proceeds from the purchase of any of my books are donated to two charities working to get LGBT kids off the street. Readers can learn more, or donate to the charities on my website.