Monday, June 7, 2010
Chatting with Radclyffe, (L.L. Raand) author of The Midnight Hunt
RJ: Hi Rad, I just posted my review of The Midnight Hunt (Bold Strokes Books, 2010), which, as you will see, I loved. Before I get into specific questions about it, I’d like to ask some other questions. My desire here is to introduce you to the readers of this blog, and perhaps give something new to those who have already read you-but would like to know more.
I lived in Albany, NY for 30 years, and it appears that you live in nearby Valley Falls, is that the area where you are from originally? You use the Albany setting in Midnight Hunt, and it was such a treat knowing just where your characters were.
Rad: I grew up about 40 miles north of here in Hudson Falls. One of my romances, When Dreams Tremble, is set in Lake George, New York and loosely based on some of my experiences when I was a teenager working up at the lake. My current work in progress—another romance (Desire by Starlight)—is set in Vermont, approximately 40 miles east of where I currently live. While I don’t always set my works in areas where I live or have lived, I do try to choose locales with which I’m familiar because it’s easier to infuse the story with the small details that make the setting come alive for the reader. In many of my works, the setting itself is an important part of the work.
RJ: You have your own publishing house, Bold Stroke Books ( http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/ ), would you share about it and its inception?
Rad: Bold Strokes Books grew out of my lifelong love of gay and lesbian literature and my desire to be part of the process that defines and supports so much of our lives.
RJ: I know from your bio that you are a retired surgeon, and I know you are not the only surgeon turned author, but what prompted you to make the shift? Was the writer in you active during your other career-or did the author in you take over the surgeon?
Rad: I wrote my first full-length work when I was still a surgery resident, and I have written actively for the last 30 years. Writing never interfered with my surgical career, or vice versa. However, I didn’t start my own publishing company until I was ready to retire from surgery. Three full-time careers is more than anyone can handle!
RJ: I love your personal “discovery moment” after reading Anne Bannon’s Beebo Brinker. I’ve so often heard that reading Well of Loneliness is the moment when many women find out the secret desire the harbor is not theirs alone-what was it about Beebo that spoke to you?
Rad: I was young—only about 12, and beginning to realize that I was different than other girls my age. I didn’t have a framework or point of reference for that difference until I read this book, and realized that although I didn’t know anyone else who felt the way I did, these characters were proof that I might one day meet someone else like me. Of course, I loved Beebo’s rebellious nature and her bravery in striking out on her own, and her refusal to give up on love even though the path had been a difficult one. She w:as a hero. Her creator, Ann Bannon, remains one of my heroes to this day.
RJ: I find it fascinating to “go back in time” and discover the literary treasures that influenced us. Do you think today’s readers should take the time to do this? I mean, I myself want to read Beebo Brinker?
Rad: I know quite a few readers who have “discovered” lesbian fiction in recent years and have read many of the earlier works and enjoyed them. It’s always important to place works in context, because as you know, gay and lesbian works did not get published in the 50s and 60s with the kind of “happy ending” that we see today, or even the frankly affirming characterizations that we’re used to. Nevertheless, these very talented authors manage to create positive images for their readers, and for that reason, I think these books are still quite enjoyable.
RJ: I hope this is not a duh question, but by taking on the name Radclyffe, is this your homage to her and this important work?
Rad: I chose my pseudonym over a decade ago when I was posting a fair amount of fiction online and wanted to have a recognizably “lesbian” identity. I think it’s a cool name and I relate to it very strongly—and of course, Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall Is one of my literary heroes.
RJ: My dear friend, who happens to be a straight woman, mentioned to me that her mother suggested she read Well of Loneliness, and she remembers it as one of her favorites? Does this surprise you? Do you find that you have a significant “straight” audience, or is that hard to tell?
Rad: I don’t really have any way of knowing the breakdown of my reader demographics, but I do know that I have received encouraging e-mails from self-described straight women as well as straight men.
RJ: I suppose it is somewhat difficult for young people today to understand the kind of “I am not alone” moment you describe after you read Beebo Brinker, do you think it is still a lonely road for many?
Rad: While I think we’ve made great strides in the last 40 years since Stonewall, we still have a long way to go. I get e-mails every single day from readers who tell me that my books and those of the authors I publish are a lifeline for them. Many of them are just coming out and don’t have access to a support system to help them. Our literature provides validation, comfort, and hope to many.
RJ: Here's a question from a former librarian: Do you think a special section or some identification should be created for GLBT books? Or, should they be integrated into the collection so as not to create a
Rad: This question comes up often in regards to bookstores—what matters most to me is that readers who need and want our literature can find it. If that means shelving them separately in a LGBTQ section, then I have no problem with that. What I’d really like to see is a double shelving process—a lesbian romance in the romance section as well as the LGBTQ section, for example. However, understanding that bookstores and libraries may only purchase one copy, I’d vote for easy identification so readers can find us.
RJ: You clearly have a devoted readership. I imagine that you hear from them, and they relate their stories to you. Do you also get inspiration from these revelations, or are most of your ideas from your own experience and, of course, your imagination?
Rad: My stories pretty much come from my own imagination, dreams, and fantasies.
RJ: There is also a listserv, ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Radclyffe-writings/ ), devoted to your works, and although I just joined, it seems as though this forum really opens you up to a whole other dimension of reader involvement. Is this where you test-drive some of your writing-or just a way to stay in touch with your readers?
Rad: I’m always interested in reader feedback as a litmus of what the reading public is interested in— literature is a dynamic form of communication, changing as our culture and society changes. A lesbian romance from 50 years ago looks quite different from a lesbian romance today. I do not, however, write “for the audience.” I write the stories that interest and excite me, and am grateful when readers enjoy them. My Yahoo list is a way for me to communicate with those readers who have supported me, many of them for years, but I don’t alter what I’ve written as a result of feedback. I certainly think about comments that have been made, but in the end, an author must write what moves them.
RJ: Ok, now I am going to shift to The Midnight Hunt. In your Hunt You Tube Video ( http://www.llraand.com/L.L_Raand/Videos.html ) you talk about asking your readers to take an adventure with you, to go on a journey-and discover that they are on the same path together. As I said, you have a strong following, were you concerned that this new outing would possibly alienate them?
Rad: No, not at all. I felt that some readers might have the preconception that they would not “like” this kind of story because traditional romances are the most popular form of the genre and this is a paranormal romance. My hope was that the readers who weren’t sure that this was something they would like (or who were pretty sure they wouldn’t like it) might give it a try if they understood that at the core, these are still the same kind of characters that I always write, dealing with the same kind of issues, and falling in love.
RJ: You chose to write under yet another pseudonym for this series, and although I know the reason why, could you tell the readers of this blog why you did this?
Rad: Paranormal romances are pretty big departure from traditional romances—I felt this change was large enough to signal to my audience to expect something different, and I did this by using a new pseudonym. There is also a large contingent of readers who really like paranormals but who would not read traditional romances. Again, by changing my pseudonym, I avoid the confusion that might be associated with my other pseudonym.
RJ: I know after the review was published, I heard from a couple of people who siad that they didn’t usually go to books with werewolves and vampires in them., but said that they thought they would give it a try after reading the review? Are you finding this true as well?
Rad: Yes, fortunately, I’m hearing this lot, which makes me very happy. All you can really ask is that readers give your work to try. Some will discover that they like it and others will find that they prefer different authors. We’re fortunate in today’s world to have many fine authors writing for the gay and lesbian community, as well as the reading world at large.
RJ: In choosing this particular genre you choose to focus on the wolf-were. I took a mild swipe at the Vampire “phenomenon” in my review, and happen to love the wolf theme. What made you chose the wolf-were for your main character?
Rad: My goal in this series is to write about a variety of preternatural species, including Vampires (I like dark heroes and Vampires are nothing if not dark). However, I think any series needs a strong core, and for me it’s Were society. It makes sense to me that the Weres would spearhead the movement toward social equality and civil rights because they live in community. They have children, they have a strong affiliation to their pack, and in my world – they are psychically and physically connected. And I know from my readership that many of the emotional and psychological attributes of Weres as I write them are very popular—the heightened sense of responsibility, loyalty, protectiveness, and devotion to the mate.
RJ: I found the idea of having another self just below the surface, and having it aching to emerge quite exciting. Is this a way for you to speak to those of us who have that other self inside us, begging to come out, along with all the conflicts, if we chose to do so?
Rad: The parallel is obvious between the preternatural species (the “others” who are different, and thus persecuted for their difference) with being gay. I felt this was important and something readers would be able to resonate to. But I also wanted to explore the fundamental dichotomy between our animal natures and the effects of socialization and civilization on how we express ourselves physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically. This was my way of exploring our more primitive natures.
RJ: Sylvan is such a marvelous character,and her inner struggle keeps the tension at a peak. She also is clearly responsible to her duties as the Alpha. You say that she is a typical Radclyffe character.What does that mean?
Rad: Sylvan is a hero in the archetypal sense—highly responsible, self-sacrificing, brave, valorous, as well as stubborn, unyielding, at times inflexible. She’s both easy and hard to love. Anyone familiar with my work will “recognize” her, and quite a few readers have drawn parallels between Sylvan and two of my most popular characters—Cameron Roberts, the Secret Service Agent in the Honor Series, and Reese Conlon, the sheriff in the Provincetown series.
RJ: Hunt's other main character, Drake McKennan, and she is a medic. Any chance there’s a bit of you in her?
Rad: I don’t think so—Drake is far more patient and calm than me. I think there’s a little bit of the author in every character, if we write characters who ring true. How else can we instill them with genuine emotion if we don’t draw from our own? While none of my characters are ever autobiographical, but some are a little bit more of me than others.
RJ: You actually have at least two pairs of women moving towards a possible relationship, as well as a good amount of frustrated desire leaking out from your characters, and you add the extremely pressing issue of having Sylvan mate-less. Interestingly, Sylvan is less concerned about this “need” than those around her. Do you feel it is in our nature to seek a mate, regardless of the trials and tribulations we may face,or should some of us be free to move with the Pack?
Rad: On the whole, I believe that humans are social animals and we are driven to connect to individuals and greater society. Of course there are variations within that spectrum, and some individuals may do very well without “a mate.” However, if the drive for “union” weren’t a strong force for the majority of the population, I don’t think romances would be as popular.
RJ: Your books have a strong sexual content, and it appears that one comes (no pun here) to your works expecting this. I know the authors who blazed the trail for you could not get away with being this explicit-why did you choose to do so?
Rad: I by no means intend any criticism of the pioneering authors who came before me, and there are many reasons why their works were written the way they were. When I began writing, I wanted to show that the love between women was sexual and physical as well as emotional—that our love is every bit as passionate and consuming and rewarding as that which exists between a man and a woman. As a lesbian, I desire women physically just as I admire and respect them, and I believe those feelings should be reflected in our love stories.
RJ: You have several series, and now are starting a new one. Does the idea to create a series happen as you write, or do you plan this out in advance?
Rad: Some of my series are planned, and others evolved after the first book was written. Even with the planned series such as The Midnight Hunt, I really concentrate only on one book at a time with just a general idea of where the other books will take us. One of the most exciting things about writing is the unexpected direction that our stories take as they emerge.
RJ: Clearly, among your readership, there are those who are fond of a particular work. Is there one that stands out among the rest? Is it fair to ask if you have a favorite?
Rad: I do not have a favorite. There are things I like about every book, and there are definitely some that I like more than others, but I couldn’t pick out one and say this is it. Among reader favorites are the Honor and Provincetown series, Fated Love, Passion’s Bright Fury, and Turn Back Time.
RJ: You are such a prolific writer, and I'm sure there is someting new on the horizon. Would you share with us what that might be?
Rad: My next book--Trauma Alert--is due for release July 15, 2010. I'll be launching it in Provincetown, MA with a reading and signing at Now Voyager Bookstore, July 3rd. This is the first in a new series of stand-alone romances featuring first responders. This one features a trauma surgeon anda firefighter.
RJ: Thanks Rad for sharing your time with me. I look forward to Trauma Alert, and am also eager to read Blood Hunt, which is next in your Midnight Hunter series.
Rad: Thank you Robert.
Read more about Radclyffe and L.L. Raand at http://www.radfic.com/ and http://www.llraand.com/ .
Until next time, Happy Reading.