Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
I'm an artist before anything else. I'm self-taught and have been drawing all my life. I've never done much commercially with my art, because a lot of it is quite dark and has been known to offend some people. Even the less offensive stuff is not the kind of thing that one typically finds hanging in galleries, banks, or restaurants. I could maybe do illustrations for a living, but these days everyone wants you to use computers for art, and I refuse to do this on principle, because I think that talent is enough. I've had some art appear in a few obscure horror magazines, such as Cthulhu Sex and Theatre of Decay; I've also had it appear on the albums and T-shirts of some metal bands. My most conventional commercial venture with my art is a series of drawings I did of historic Nantucket sites; these are sold in the Museum Shop of the Nantucket Historical Association.
Aside from being an artist and a writer, I'm also a poet and a calligrapher. I have a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Goddard College, and after three years of graduate study I earned my M.A. in Philosophy and Religion. I'm always learning; most of what I read is non-fiction, especially history books.
Black is my favorite color; I've worn nothing but black since 1985. I've always been a fan of horror movies and horror literature; my favorite author is H.P. Lovecraft. Much of my art is full of darkness and horror. My musical tastes are very limited-I listen to metal and hardcore almost exclusively. For me, music is a tool for evoking atmospheres and emotional states. I use it for energy and power. Whether musicians have talent or can sing is beside the point. It's the same with any art form-I'm from the school of Romanticism, and feeling is more important than technique.
Another interesting bit of trivia is that I've memorized a lot of poetry and can recite stuff for hours. The longest one I know is Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which takes me about 45 minutes to recite.
I've taught myself practicable German, which has been decent enough to get me through some trips in Switzerland (my favorite place) with locals thinking that I was a German tourist and not an American. I've also taught myself how to play the guitar. Since turning 30 I've taken up fencing (the Olympic sport variety, not the kind that involves dressing in costume or anything), downhill skiing, and sailing.
I enjoy travel immensely. I've taken many road trips across the country and back, some in cars, some on Greyhound buses. I've also roamed around Switzerland by train, by car, and on foot. I took my wife to Paris for her 35th birthday, and loved that place, too. I'll add that I love winter. It's not because of winter sports, it's just that I prefer cold temperatures. I like it when it's 30 degrees or colder, and I love snow and ice. I would be happy if there was snow on the ground every day of the year. I never miss the sun. I like dark clouds, and I like it when it gets black outside at 4:00 in the afternoon. Night and cold are what I love. I've always been at my best late at night; these days I go to bed around 3:00 a.m. (I have to be up by 9:00 a.m. for my job, and that seems really early to me-on weekends I sleep until noon or later).
My day job is as an editor for some medical journals. I work in the printing end of things, so my editing is more about the language; I know nothing about medicine. I've been at this job for nine years; before this, I had a number of terrible blue-collar jobs for minimum wage, and it wasn't fun. There I was with a Master's degree, doing work that I could have done if I'd never made it through eighth grade. Among the more interesting jobs from my past are a haunted house at an amusement park, where I sat in the dark and screamed at people (which I did during every summer for 10 years), and a porn shop in the ghetto of San Francisco, where I worked on the third shift, hanging out with crack dealers and dodging bullets, during my first year of grad school.
I live in Montpelier, Vermont, with my lovely wife Christine, who's a singer, a dancer, a dance teacher, a flutist, and my sailing and traveling companion. She hates the winter and loves the summer, and we're opposite in many other ways too, but we're still very happy after almost seven years together. We bought a house last December and we're still loving that, too.
I'm 36 years old.
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
I think that I would be Beth in my story "The Truth About Beth" (a.k.a. "Getting To Know Valerie"). I've always thought that women have a sexual advantage over men in terms of the larger variety of ways in which they can be physically stimulated and in terms of how long this can go on and how soon it can be repeated. As I wrote this story, I found myself somewhat envious of this character. I guess I could say the same about many females in my stories, but this is the one that I've developed the most and put the most thought into.
What's your favorite genre to read?
Actually, I don't read much erotic fiction-most of what I read is history, philosophy, biography, non-fiction stuff. For fiction I like some of the darker literature-Kafka, Hemingway, Camus, the Russians. I love Shakespeare, too, and still think that Hamlet is the best thing ever committed to writing, even though it's for performance and isn't technically literature in the same way. For more modern authors, I really love William S. Burroughs, and have read Naked Lunch countless times. If we're talking erotica, though, my favorite genre is F/F. I like reading about (and viewing) sex between women, because I really like women, and I like to think about their enjoyment without having to think about a guy being present. Erotica, for me, isn't generally about me imagining myself to be in some situation-in fact, I usually keep myself out of it. It's about being exposed to the atmosphere and flavor of simulating and powerful energy; it's like a magical invocation, but it doesn't have to be specific. It's about getting in contact with the beautiful energy that underlies the whole world and powers all creative endeavor-for me, sex and art are often two ways of expressing the same thing.
Who or what influences you when you write?
When I started writing erotica, I was doing it as an exercise, trying to see if I could do it, working with my mind to craft something that matched other things I'd read. After the first couple of pieces, which convinced me that I could do this, I let go of the intellect and preconceived ideas, and just started writing from erotic energy. I think of the energy itself as a kind of raw material, and I sculpt it and weave it into scenarios that suggest themselves. Sometimes I put it into a background that's made up of some daydreams, like traveling to certain places. As for the writing itself, I just try to depict as clearly as possible what I see in my head, to let other people see a picture that's as close as I can get to the one I'm seeing. Sometimes it would be better conveyed by visual art, but my drawings are fixed in time (being by definition still images), so I can't as easily capture the succession of moments that's very important to erotic feelings.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
I normally have some ideas ahead of time. I think of things as I'm driving around, or shopping, or at the gym, or at work, and I play with them in my mind before writing any of it down. Sometimes I'll jot something down on a post-it note if I get a lot of details in my mind at once, but usually I get a good semblance of a story line in my head and then get to a keyboard at some later time to try to present the ideas. The stories are far from complete in my head, but once I start writing, things sort of suggest themselves and work themselves out. I usually keep at it until I'm really achy from sitting at the computer (my neck will get sore first), or until my schedule demands that I do something else (I'm pretty busy in general). I don't yet have a habit of steady and regular writing, and the times of day and durations of writing can vary a lot. About the only consistent feature is that I drink lots of coffee and water while I'm sitting and writing.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
Erotica has an advantage over some other genres in this respect, because there are always ideas out there, as long as you can picture a human body or two or three. I may not always have full plots and settings in mind, but I can almost always picture something sexually stimulating, and at the very least I can elaborate on that one detail while I'm waiting for a bigger, real story.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
One book that I'm working on now is from the point of view of a woman who's just starting college. She's shy and hasn't been thrilled with the small number of men she's been with, and is almost asexual in how she thinks of herself; but she soon discovers that she can be enormously stimulated by women. Here's the character after she happens to peer through a slightly open door while looking for her own room in a large dorm:
"Through the open inches of doorway I saw a woman who had obviously just stepped out of the shower. She faced me in a three-quarter view, turned a bit to the right. She was absolutely naked, and at that instant had her head tilted down as she vigorously toweled her long wet hair. Her torso was bent over only slightly, and I saw her fairly large breasts bounce as she moved her arms to dry off. I did not move, but just stood there staring. I can remember thinking to myself that it was strange for me to be doing that. Presently the woman raised her head with a sharp motion to toss her hair back, and as she patted the sides of her head with the towel she suddenly saw me and met my eyes. I was frozen, and my heart was racing. Would she yell at me, slam the door? Would she be frightened or annoyed? She paused in her drying only for the briefest moment, and then I was undone: she smiled at me. My throat was very dry, and I noticed that I was holding my breath. She went on patting herself dry, continuing to look at me and making no effort to cover herself or duck out of view. I felt a number of conflicting emotions, but finally my shyness and anxiety won out and I broke free of the spell, turning my head away and hurrying down the hall to my room. I fumbled a bit with the key when I got to the door, but I finally got myself inside. Luckily, my roommate was not there at the moment, so I was able to sit down on one of the beds, take some breaths, and recover my wits. What the hell was that all about? I wondered. It was really no more than a second or two, but it felt to me like a whole episode of something had taken place, a prolonged scene that seemed to have had a dialogue, even though nothing had been said. Why was I so agitated? Because I was shy, because I worried that I would give a horrible first impression by staring into someone's room like that? No, that was not it. I knew that no part of me really feared that the woman in the room would be upset with me or would talk about me to anyone. What had my heart going so fast was precisely that the woman had not been upset, but had smiled at me. What had me in a daze was that I had wanted to keep staring-and to smile back."
Please tell us what you have planned next?
Aside from the above work, tentatively entitled "School Memories," I've another one in the works about a woman in her early 40s who's just ended an unhappy marriage and has decided to restart her life by spending her savings on a long vacation on the Mediterranean coast of France. She's an artist and plans to throw herself into her painting of the landscapes there. She's also going through a small midlife crisis and is worried that after years of unfulfilled desires, she may not have many more years to really let go and have a great sex life. Hence, she does not hesitate to dally with a variety of people she encounters, and she ends up being thoroughly intrigued by a very open-minded couple that she meets...
In 5 years, where do you see yourself? -In general and in you're writing career
I hope that the worst case is that I'm still doing what I'm doing now-having a day job and doing art and writing on the side. If my art or my writing start doing more for me, in combination with freelance editing and proofreading, I might be able to leave the day job and have more freedom with my time. I also hope to spend a longer duration abroad, in Switzerland or France; I'd be happy if my art, writing, and freelancing could just pay for the cost of living in some small place over there for six months or so.
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
Prometheus has always been a hero of mine, bringing free thought and free will to the human race, in defiance of the orders of Zeus, who wanted to keep humanity imprisoned in bestial ignorance. I also admire Faust, who reached the limits of what mortals can see and do, and then reached beyond, to grasp at even more. My heroes are those who fight against overwhelming odds, individuals taking on the gods and the cosmos itself, and going for it with full zeal even though they know that they must lose in the end. We can't control everything about our circumstances, but we can certainly determine for ourselves how to respond.
What do you do for inspiration?
I create atmospheres for myself to suit my mood-playing certain music, reading bits of certain books, watching certain movies, visiting certain places.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
For being such a fan of horror, I've never written a horror novel and would love to.
What type of book have you always wanted to write?
I've always wanted to write books about the subjects I've studied a lot-philosophy, religion, history (especially the First World War), passing on the knowledge that I've gathered. I get overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks, though; frankly, it's much easier to write erotica.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I've written a lot of research papers on serious subjects, though nothing in book form; most of my research has taken the form of reading. As for my erotica books, it's really more about imagination than research (though it's helpful to draw on personal experience).
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
I've had both reactions, so it's hard to say.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
After my first year of grad school, I decided that I should try to publish some of the writings I'd been doing for years and years. I had memoirs and journals, which I didn't think I could publish, but I also had short stories, poems, and a lot of experimental fiction, as well as some decent research papers on a variety of subjects. I bought a Writer's Market and wrote down dozens of addresses, sending my serious writings to a multitude of places. I wasn't writing to fit a market; rather, I had a pile of stuff and was trying to find a market that would take them.
This was when I also set myself a new task: to try and write a short piece of erotica that would appear like something one would read in one of the lower-budget men's magazines that are kept on the top rack of magazine shelves in urban corner stores. I wanted to see if I could duplicate that style convincingly, and after crafting such a story I sent it off to Swank for consideration (the idea mostly arose when I was looking through the "sex" section of the Writer's Market).
After many months, all of what I considered to be my serious writings continued to be ignored-no one even used the self-addressed stamped envelopes to tell me No. The publishers of Swank, however, wrote me back, sending me a letter and telling me that they wanted to buy and publish my story. And so I was ignored by the world of "literature" and "poetry," but treated courteously by the sex industry. I therefore thought that I should try to work within the erotica genre a bit more seriously; so far, it's been my biggest success
What would you like to tell your readers?
What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
The best advice is from something that Stephen King wrote, telling writers to assume from the start that you'll get rejected a large number of times, and that one should not take the first 50 rejection slips as some kind of bad sign or stop sending things out. Being rejected by publishers is just a normal part of the business for most writers (and artists, too, as I can attest). The worst advice was someone declaring, in a column meant to be informative to writers, that you can never get anywhere or have any hope if you don't have an agent-in effect, that only those who are already known and represented can ever be known and represented. Hogwash.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I outline some of my writing, but for the erotica I usually just work things out in my head, having about 70% known by the time I start, with the rest sort of filling itself in as I write.
What would you like to tell your readers?
I really hope that you enjoy what I write, and find the erotica erotic. Sexual energy is a wonderful and healthy thing, and I hope I have the honor of having invoked it for you, to help add to the positive energy in the world. I'm completely in favor of erotica and am not in the least ashamed about any of it; I don't believe in using a pen name, because I want people who know me in other ways to realize that human life can encompass a wide range of experiences and that we don't have to keep things separate.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
No, I don't. My publishers have offered critiques, though, and many of these have been quite helpful.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
My first published piece was a short work of erotic fiction, entitled "Model Behavior," published in the August 1999 issue of Swank.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
My e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a small "gallery" of my art at www.723.com/DoktorFaustus
I have more artwork up on myspace, which is another way of contacting me:
I should note here that these sites are primarily for my art, and don't really mention my writing. I'll also say that some of my art is dark, some it even horrific, so it might not all match what you think about me from my erotica writings (thought I do have some erotic images). It's mostly broken up into categories, though, so don't worry that your initial visit will make a bunch of objectionable things pop up. How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Checking out the websites above is a good way of finding out about me. I usually have a "real" website, but it's been down for about a year and I'm trying to get a new one in place. As for my books, my main publisher at the moment is Cacoethes, so they'll be the ones to talk to about current and future erotica releases (www.cacoethespublishing.com).
Thank you for this opportunity!
Interviewed by Tammie King