I find it hard to talk about myself, so I decided it would be easier to have my partner Scott White (who is also a writer) interview me. What is printed below is the result of that interview.
SW: So The Woodcarver’s Model is your first novel, but prior to that, you had written mostly on plays. So why the switch from plays to novels?
PF: Well, the pandemic certainly had a lot to do with that at first. People weren’t going out to plays, and writing something that people could access from the safety of their own homes seemed like a natural pivot. But after I started working on the novel, I discovered that I really like the way I can stretch out the writing. Plays are more compact because the visual elements of a play give the audience a lot of information. In a book the audience has only the words on the page. It means I get to write more descriptive prose and write in a longer format.
SW: Are there things that have transferred from the way you write plays to the writing of the novel?
PF: Definitely the rhythm of words. After I have written a draft, one of the things I like to do is read through the book out loud (or at least imagine myself doing so) to see if the passages flow. There is an audio-book version of the novel coming out later this year, so hopefully some of that work may pay off.
SW: Writing a novel seems like a big commitment. What would you say is the key to getting a novel finished?
PF: First of all, I write on a schedule. I write every day, although not always on weekends. This ensures that I keep flowing. One of the things that has made that possible is my retirement. Knowing that my pension will cover basic expenses has given me the freedom to write without worrying about the financial return. I acknowledge that this is an enviable position. Artists in all art forms often have greater success when financial burden is removed and they have the time to just practise their art. I feel lucky to be able to do that.
SW: And your writing process…where do you get your ideas?
PF: I overheard someone say that writing is equal parts observation, imagination and perspiration. I think that’s true. Even when writing plays, I’ve always been aware of things going on around me and written down ideas or phrases I hear. I also write down certain experiences I’ve had, or details about places I’ve been that have impacted me. For instance in The Woodcarver’s Model, the fictional island that the central character visits is very loosely based on a trip I took to Salt Spring Island. People who have been there, may recognize certain characteristics of the island. But after that base is established, that’s where the imagination comes in…and the perspiration is simply the act of writing every day.
SW: So you’re writing in the world of gay romance. What is that like?
PF: In some ways it isn’t much different from other things I’ve written. My stories have always been relationship-based. What is surprising is how wide-ranging the world of gay romance is. There are a number of niche markets that connect to varying types of relationships, and not just the idea that the relationship is between members of the same sex, but there are all of these sub genres. I am fascinated by the amount of vampire gay romance, werewolf gay romance, alien gay romance. The list goes on and on.
SW: Does your book have any vampires in it?
PF: Definitely not. Mine follows a more conventional arc with a man out of love, who falls in love, and when that relationship is jeopardized he has to decide if he can find a way to reveal the truth about his life in order to save the relationship (and save the life of his love interest).
SW: That sounds a lot like the movies on the Hallmark Channel or the W Network.
PF: Well not exactly. For starters, my romance does NOT have a Christmas tree lot in it, BUT, there are certain story arcs that readers expect from a romance novel. It seems to me that people read romance because they want to escape to a place where characters are looking for love and can overcome obstacles to find their perfect match. In fact, my publisher Pride Publishing insists that the ending either be ‘Happily Ever After’, or ‘Happy For Now’. But that doesn’t mean the journey along the way can’t be filled with twists and turns and sometimes ‘Happily Ever After’ can mean something different at the end of the book, than it seems at the beginning of the book.
SW: What are some of the big challenges gay romance writers face?
PF: There are certainly some stigmas. For some people the idea of gay romance is still taboo. When I write, I keep in mind that there are a huge number of gay men out there who are really just looking to see their own lives reflected in romance novels in a way that didn’t used to be so available in the mainstream. And that audience is quite large. To my surprise there is also a wide market among heterosexual women who simply enjoy romance. And many of the writers of male/male romance novels…are women. I also think that people assume that romance books will be filled with sex. Some people want more sex, some people want less. Pride Publishing ranks their books on a scale to ensure that readers know what they are in for in terms of sexual content before they buy the book.
SW: And where does your book rank on the scale they use?
PF: It is at a ‘simmer’ level, which means there are a few explicit scenes, and a lot of innuendo and romance. The central character is tough on the outside, but he’s also quite sensitive. Sex isn’t his driving ambition…finding someone to love is what motivates his actions in the book.
SW: So how do you get a book like this out to the target audience?
PF: Well, the publisher does a lot of that work. It is a brave new world now with various social media platforms and much of the marketing is done through the internet. A romance novel falls more in the category of popular literature, so it isn’t likely to be reviewed in a big newspaper. The engine that drives sales through the book platforms and stores is blog writers who read the book and give honest reviews. And since the readers of blogs are online, those readers often purchase their books online. The world of publishing is constantly evolving. E-reader publications are taking up a bigger share of the market. For me personally, I still prefer to read a book that I can hold in my hand, but some people like the ease of having the book land in their e-reader, and I suppose then it doesn’t take up as much space in the house.
SW: So when I think of The Woodcarver’s Model, one of the things that stands out is the cover. Did you create the design?
PF: That was all done by Pride Publishing. They work with each author individually. The artists asked me to describe what element of the book I’d like to see on the cover and what elements I didn’t want to see (so as not to give away something important in the plot). In my case, I knew I wanted the image of one of the characters modelling. Then I gave a detailed description of what the character looked like and let the artist team at Pride Publishing use their imagination. They came back with a few options, and then I got to select the image. It was a pretty exciting day when I first got to see the cover. It’s not every day when someone takes your words and creates a piece of art out of it. And I think the cover achieves the three key things that make up a good cover for a romance novel.
SW: What three things?
PF: For a romance, I think it’s essential that the cover image be sexy. The title is also important. And then the catch-phrase needs to make readers curious about the story.
The title The Woodcarver’s Model combined with the image of a man stripped naked to the waist posing in a provocative position indicates a certain level of vulnerability. Baring oneself to anyone is a very private act.
When you combine that with the catch phrase, “Sometimes the hardest thing to reveal is the truth.”…it hints that while being physically intimate may be easy for some, the hardest part of many relationships can often be about being truthful in a partnership. And the central characters in this book have a lot of secrets to deal with.
SW: What sorts of secrets?
PF: People will have to read the book to find out.
SW: So what comes next?
PF: Oh yes. I’m working on a gay detective novel with a romance element. The Woodcarver’s Model will be a stand-alone book, but the next book will be part of a series. Plotting a series is a much more complicated process, but I am writing away every day, using my various computer script programs and when I get stuck…a packet of sticky notes and a note pad to play with plot, structure and character. I have to say…I am having the time of my life.
SW: I should let you get back to writing.
PF: Thanks for doing the interview. I love to write about almost anything but myself, so this has been a treat.
The Woodcarver’s Model is published by Pride Publishing.
Choose Your Store https://books2read.com/u/3n2LDK
First For Romance https://www.firstforromance.com/book/the-woodcarvers-model