P.T. has a long established interest in speculative fiction, with a particular weakness for epic tales that wind several intricate plot lines together. Since coming out of the closet his stories have pulled on the paranoia and fear of his past, but also on the emotional richness of his own relationship. His romantic subplots also draw from his personal experience, and have covered a spectrum from overt heterosexuality with homoerotic overtones to explicit same-sex passion. His rule of thumb is that every character, no matter how minor, is the protagonist of some novel somewhere. A little piece of that novel should show through whenever that character makes an appearance. Even the villains are the hero from their own perspective - if you hadn't already fallen in love with the protagonist, you might want the villain to win instead.
I love that last bit about every character being the protagonist of some novel, somewhere! Before we get into the interview, let's take a quick look at Symbiota Sapiens:
This is the story of Jeremey, a young man who is chosen by an ancient society to join their ranks to guide humanity to its destiny. Ancient technology and enhancements in his body can make him powerful, and immortal...but his new duties will require him to leave his friend Julian to fend for himself.
What happens when Jeremey and Julian run away from the future that has been planned for them? And what happens when other, less idealistic immortals take notice of Jeremey and begin making plans of their own?
This fanciful tale explores the nature of love, loyalty, and human nature as the two are caught between two factions in a silent struggle for the future of humankind. As they run, each time they fight for each other's lives, they discover a deeper truth about their love for each other.
And now, without further ado, please welcome P.T. Dean!
♥ For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out Symbiota Sapiens, please tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I'm not sure this is going to be the most interesting part of your interview, but here goes. I'm 29, I guess I'm technically bisexual but I identify as gay because for relationships I've always only had eyes for men. I have a partner of a little more than three years who I'm head over heels for. We live together in Boston.
♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?
Well, haven't actually seen it in print yet, but seeing it in the Amazon store is definitely exciting.
♥ Digital or physical, it's on the shelves - that counts as 'in print' for me! Did you deliberately choose genre fiction because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other fiction doesn't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?
Absolutely. I'm a huge sci-fi nerd and have been since I was devouring those great "Golden Age" tomes when I was a little kid. You know - those ones by Asimov or Heinlein, the size of encyclopedias? A stack of those a week or I'd go into withdrawal.
On a more serious note, I've always felt sci-fi offers us the template to examine our own world and our own issues in new ways. You rename things, turn groups of people into aliens or whatever you have to do to strip out the biases we normally operate on and suddenly you're telling these stories that are really parables of real life - and suddenly things look very different!
On a more personal note, I think I can speak for all the closet cases out there on this one, science fiction and paranormal also really create a space for celebrating the abnormal. Because when you're in the closet there's this war going on - if only I could be "normal", you know? But you're not. And eventually you come to accept that and be happy with that - and be happy that you are different. I mean, there are advantages? Our romantic night together is probably going to involve putting the big-screen at the foot of the bed and blowing holes in people until our eyes bleed. My straight friends are so jealous, right?
So science fiction plays on the edges of that realization - it's like "ooh, poor Harry Potter is a freak" but calling him a freak sounds just completely stupid because we know he's a wizard, in his case being different is a good thing. Science fiction and paranormal create that feeling for us, and when you're the outcast, and you're living in the closet, that's wonderful to see that sort of flipping of perspective that makes you really question whether being "normal" is something you'd really want, or if "normal" is really just kind of stupid?
♥ Well said! Speculative fiction really does free us from all expectations, allowing us to either 'normalise' what others see as 'fringe' or even reverse the two, and force the mainstream to imagine itself on the fringe. I suspect we can already guess the answer, but how does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?
Oh definitely. But only after the fact. I started writing Symbiota Sapiens in the closet and in a funny way I guess Jeremey and I worked our way out of at least the mental part of it together. When I really think about it, I really think the attitudes about sex of everyone in this underworld that Jeremey meets, were me finding my way through the logic of why should I be ashamed of my own sexuality.
I was raised in an ultra-conservative Christian background, my dad was a Southern Baptist preacher after all. So when this little boy who is really ancient tells Jeremey he shouldn't be bothered by the weird ideas the people in this era have about sex, I think that was kind of a breakthrough in my own mind. And when a newborn artificial intelligence tells Jeremey the reason he never noticed his friend was obviously gay is because he filtered every clue through the assumption of heterosexuality - well that was a dawning realization for me too.
♥ 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 wish I could have a schedule. I've been stuck on Chapter 6 of the sequel for a couple years now. It has to flow naturally or the characters don't sound real to me. Sadly, the characters are pissed off at me right now.
♥ Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?
I can't listen to music while I work, it's too distracting. I'm a musician myself and end up dissecting how to play the song myself in my head. Sometimes a song will get me worked up or into just the right emotional mood to write a scene, though. But it has to get turned off before I start tapping away.
♥ 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?
Consistency. I really have a hard time keeping to it - I'll go for ages without writing and then I have to review everything again and get back into my characters heads to write any more.
♥ I get that - if I could finish just one of my half-completed manuscripts, I might just make a name for myself (lol). Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?
Well let's see, I'm in love with "The Guardian's Song" - a creepy ancient poem the Guardians read to Jeremey after they induct him. And I also love Julian in badass mode when he takes out a huge crowd of hijacked people or zombies who are after him. But I guess my real favorite is when Jeremey gets into the argument with the AI about its manipulative tendencies.
♥ You've already alluded to this a bit, but sometimes characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?
Absolutely. I didn't expect the AI to latch on to Julian the way it did. And I didn't expect Damion, our antagonist, to go a little bit nuts the way he did - he was supposed to be cold and smooth the whole way through. And I certainly never expected to make Rom fall in in love, but when the opportunity presented - some little voice told me "hang on a minute, this is an opportunity Rom would have jumped at."
♥ When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?
Well lately I sing in a choir which is really a mind blowing experience anyone who can carry a note really needs to sample. There is something supernatural about sitting cradled in and creating a chord - the pleasure of listening to music is just child's play compared to that. I also play the piano and really enjoy that. My more "cool" activities include playing xbox360 with my buddies or with my boyfriend, working out, swimming and soccer.
♥ Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?
Okay this is going to sound silly but for the last several years I have actually really been influenced by Harry Potter fanfic. I know, I know, how gay can I get especially since I prefer stuff that plays on a Harry/Draco relationship. But there's actually some stunningly good stuff, a few much better than what J.K. Rowling originally wrote. Like the Sacrifices Arc by Lightning on the Wave - the complex politics of the Guardians and Fallen were really inspired by her much more in-depth exploration of the traditions and culture of the wizarding world.
More conventionally, I am in love with the Enders Game series - pure genius, the lot of them. Also, for this particular book, I was heavily influenced by the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. The Digital Prophecies in my book were partly based on the concept he introduced there.
♥ Interesting - I don't think fan fiction gets nearly the respect it deserves, but there is some really good writing out there . . . plus some that's just guilty fun! When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?
Absolutely I consider it, though I don't think it really guides me. I LOVE to get into a deep discussion with readers about my book - and tend to have long replies to insightful reviews. But for me, the world I am writing about already exists in my head, and I am "discovering" it and relating events and details to my readers. Sometimes reviews make me sit and think about some detail I hadn't really thought about - but there is always some logical way that things in that universe must be.
As for action - well, I put my characters through hell. But I also make sure there is some sweetness running throughout to keep them going. I guess my style or philosophy is that as long as I can keep my characters interested, the readers will be too.
♥ What first compelled you to begin writing, and what is it that keeps you motivated?
I guess I needed a way to express myself: my emotions and my logical exploration of the moral implications of my own sexuality. And my own sexuality itself, of course. This novel was originally pretty smutty - you have no idea how much editing has gone into bringing a couple scenes from pornographic to a reasonably tolerable "bodice-ripper hot" level of detail. Originally, these boys were brothers, and it gets dirtier from there! Writing about the details and actions in that way goes a long way towards figuring out what, exactly, you find a turn on and what you find romantic and what you find so beautiful you aren't sure whether to jerk off or cry.
♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?
Um, not really sure. I've had a lot of reactions from disdain at the sexual content to people wanting to tell me in detail how hot it got them to really really long and detailed discussions about the philosophy, the science, the culture, the history of the Guardians and the Citadel and so on.
♥ If your book were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?
Nobody in particular. Jeremey and Julian have to be hot, especially Jeremey since he's supposed to be perfected after Chapter 1. And Julian needs to have a sort of open earnest sort of sweetness to his face. Damien is a black man - the sequel establishes a lot of his history as an escaped slave, and also extremely attractive in a very polished way. Rom is boyish and cute but very "solemn-eyed" as the poem goes.
♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?
I guess the theme of this novel is to really take a long look at things. And again I can't help but direct this at all the closeted gay kids out there who are probably not supposed to read a book that's rated R but I know they do anyways. Your life in whatever situation you are in is so short and so temporary, and the opinions and casual cruelties and traditions of those around you are coming from people who are such a temporary part of your life if you so choose.
Remember - life is a game played in decades. You have so much time - don't worry about what you cannot change now, build yourself the tools you will need to change your situation, your location, your surroundings in the future. Keep your mind on what the future holds for you, and work now on what will take you there. It's going to be an adventure full of everything you could want in life, happiness you haven't even dreamed of. And there will be wounds and set-backs along the way, maybe your closeted childhood in a close-minded small town is one of those. So get over it, set yourself up for the future, and remember it gets better if you make it.
♥ Finally, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?
Well as I said I'm stuck on chapter six of Dark Legacy, the much darker and sophisticated sequel. If you think Symbiota Sapiens is complex wait until you see the future. Dark Legacy is going to focus a bit on Damien and his amazing backstory, and we're also going to see a darker side to Jeremey as he starts falling into a lot of traps he laid for himself by trying to gloss over some issues in Symbiota Sapiens.
In the nearer future, I'm currently working on a promo video for Symbiota Sapiens that I'm pretty excited about. It's going to be a parody music video with the scene set as an author interview that goes, shall we say, not quite as the very prim and proper show host had planned. I'll definitely keep you posted on that video, it's going to be a riot.
Thanks so much to P.T. for stopping by!