In spite of this - or perhaps because of it - he has been lately turning more and more to writing romance and illuminating the emotional lives of gay men. To date, Reed has more than sixteen books in print, and his short fiction has appeared in more than 20 anthologies. His novel, Orientation, won the EPPIE Award for best LGBT novel of 2008. He lives in Seattle, WA with his partner and a very spoiled Boston Terrier.
One of Rick's latest works is Tricks, his first full-length gay romance novel:
Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic. In Rick R. Reed searing love story, it means all three. Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago's Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent break-up. When the two spy each other, magic blooms. But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he's ever known? And will this question even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions?
I'll be giving Tricks a read over the coming weeks, with a review soon to come. In the meantime, let's learn a little bit about the man behind the page.
♥ Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Rick. You've been published for nearly 20 years now, so I'm sure you can attest to the fact that the journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?
I began writing, I think, when I was about six years old. It's something that is truly constitutional for me, like being right-handed or gay. My first novel to see print was Obsessed, back in 1991. I was thrilled that it was accepted by a big NY house (Dell) who was starting a new line of horror novels. I didn't quite know what to expect.
Only now, in retrospect, do I appreciate how much selling about 50,000 copies of that book meant. That book, still in print in paperback, will come out this year in a brand new e-book edition from Untreed Reads Publishing.
♥ Although your work deals very much with gay characters, you've worked in different genres. Do you find you deliberately choose a genre? Is there something specific that draws you to each, or were they just 'right' for each novel at the time?
I really am a writer who works by the seat of his pants. I start with characters and a vague idea of the story, but it's the characters who really move me through the plot and take me on the journey. In a way, I experience the story much like a reader and am often surprised myself at the words that come out of a character's mouth or the twists a plot will take. It truly is almost magical. So, I have never really thought in terms of genre. Once upon a time, I was fascinated by the dark side of things, crime, serial killers, warped obsessions and that preoccupied me and informed my fiction. Lately, although I still have an interest in the dark and suspenseful, I have been drawn to telling stories about love and exploring the connections people make and how those connections succeed or fail. The last thing I ever do is sit down and say: "Now, I will write a romance or a horror novel, or a mystery." It's more about the story and the people in it. I leave the labels to people like publishers and booksellers.
♥ How does your past influence your writing? Are you ever conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?
I think there's a bit of myself in all my characters and stories. I think one of the biggest and most oft-misunderstood lessons about writing is the old adage, "Write what you know" which fledgling authors take to mean everything they write should in some way be strictly autobiographical and they're not allowed to experience time travel, places they haven't been, other cultures, and the like. I think that adage is about being true to who you are as a person and what you know in your heart about the things that matter, which is why I can write about the longing of a vampire, the obsession of a self-loathing serial killer, the hopelessness of drug addiction, the pain of loss, the joy of new love and the comfort of old love - it's not so much about being true to your life experiences, but being true to their meaning. And that's how my past influences and informs my writing. The closest works to my own personal experience can be found in my collection, Tales from the Sexual Underground and the novellas, Out On The Net, VGL Male Seeks Same, and NEG UB2 (which are in paperback in M4M).
♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?
I am a die-hard morning person and this chronic condition has worsened with age. I am up at the crack of dawn and often before (4 a.m. is not unusual for me) and do my best creative work probably before 10 a.m. I could never be one of those writers who writes late into the night. I am pretty disciplined about my work and once invested and on the journey of a book or story, I write almost every day and set a minimum of 1,000 words for myself. That bar is not too high and it assures I can get a piece done in a reasonable amount of time.
♥ Thinking of those early mornings, do you have a soundtrack to your writing? Is there a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you focused and in the mood?
Oh God, no. I have to have absolute silence when I write. I don't know how people can listen to music and write; I find it much too distracting. I really feel like I go "under" when I write and I sort of disappear into my imaginary world (call out the men in the white coats!). If I had music going, I'm not sure that could happen.
♥ Let's talk about the act of writing for a moment. For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?
The first paragraph is easy, so is the first page. The ending is usually fun - and bittersweet. It's slogging through the middle and solving the problems unique to each piece that are often challenging for me.
♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired you? How so?
I adore two ladies, Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith. Both of them explore the dark side of the human psyche in their works and they enthrall me as a reader, but also they inspire me as a writer because I share in their passion for people being driven to an extreme that isn't rational.
♥ Do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react to a given work, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
I have to write the books and stories I want to read. I want very much to please the reader, but the only way I can do that is by being true to myself. I am my own worst critic and my favorite question to myself is, "Is this boring?" A work can be a lot of things, but NEVER boring.
♥ With that in mind, what is your favourite aspect of the author-reader relationship? Do you actively seek out any formal interaction with your readers?
I love to hear from readers - their comments mean more to me than any review. And I love the sort of intimacy that takes place between myself and a reader when they read my books. I can't quite enter into it, but it's thrilling to know that my words are firing their imaginations and that they may see and feel exactly what I intended, or something altogether different. Their experience and expectations color what they read and so, in a sense, the book becomes a collaborative process between writer and reader and one that's unique to each person.
♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?
Reviewers and readers taking the over-the-top characters and events of Dignity Takes a Holiday seriously, when I intended the book to be wholly farce. You just never know what people will do with your work once it's released on the unsuspecting public.
♥ You mentioned Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith as inspirations, but when you're looking to escape into a really good book (the kind that makes you miss appointments, forget about dinner, and stay up way too late), which authors do you generally reach for, and why?
A good thriller/mystery/suspense can really make me forget all about what's going on around me. For me, Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith (mentioned above) are great at this, but so are Harlan Coben, Brian Freeman, Laura Lippman, Lisa Gardner, Kevin O'Brien, and Denise Mina. Oh yeah, and an obscure fellow your readers may or may not have heard of, Stephen King - I have been a fan of his since I was a boy.
♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?
Probably cooking. I love feeding people; it's the nurturer in me. Cooking relaxes me - it's a way of being creative that gives immediate feedback. You put together a meal, sit down, and the reviews are in! I cook by the seat of my pants as well, and seldom use recipes (except for inspiration, then I usually go off and put my own spin on it), and don't really measure all that much. It's all about the taste - and any good cook will tell you that the palate is the most reliable tool.
♥ Are there any upcoming appearances or signings that you can share with us?
I am doing the Authors After Dark conference in Philadelphia next August and the GayRomLit retreat in the French Quarter of New Orleans in October. Both events are for readers and fans and I think they're both going to be a lot of fun.
♥ Finally, before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?
Homecoming (March 9, Dreamspinner Press ) and Echoes from Amber Allure, a Chicago-set ghost/love story that will be out next summer. I also have a paperback collection of gay romance coming out next summer/early fall from Amber Allure, which will be called Heartrace.
A huge "thank you" to Rick R. Reed for stopping by. You can check him out on the web at http://www.rickrreed.com/, or you can check out his blog at http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/. Please check back soon for my review of Tricks.