So my guest for a coffee and good chat today is John Inman, not only one of my favorite MM authors, but one of my favorite authors as well. I finally got to meet him at GRL in San Diego, but it wasn’t until the 2016 Dreamspinner Press Author workshop that I got a little more time. He’s a very sweet man if a bit shy…. I don’t get that because he’s wonderful and intelligent and funny so I can’t imagine why. But I get to spend time with him! He should be here any moment and…there he is! John! It’s is so good to see you this morning. How are you?
BG: Sit down, take a load off. Can I get you a cup of coffee?
John: Hi. This is a great place. Do you have hot chocolate?
BG: I don’t think they do John… It’s all about the coffee here. In fact, Bean—the owner—falls under that coffee philosophy that coffee is “God in a Cup.” They do have a latte with real cream, grass fed cows and no antibiotics that is to die for!
John: Okay, I’ll take that. I’m not picky. And I know Bean. I spent some time with him a while back. I know his lover Hound Dog too. What a great couple. Somebody should write a book about them. Oh, wait a minute. I think somebody did.
Ben; *Laughs* And it was very nice of them to trust me with their story. And your husband, John—how’s he doing?
John: He’s great. He’s at home working out on the elliptical machine. If you stick your head out the door you can probably hear him grunting from here.
BG: What have been up to since I saw you last?
John: Writing. In fact I just finished my latest book yesterday. It went off to my beta readers this morning. It’s called Love Wanted. A contemporary romance with a smidgeon of paranormal thrown in to give it body.
BG: Oh! Groovy! *Laughs* And now the question you’ve been asked a billion times—does it get confusing when someone calls and asks for “John?”
John: Nah. We never answer the phone anyway. We have separate lines and when the phone rings we just sit there and stare at each other, waiting for the machine to pick up. As soon as we know who it’s for, one of us will usually say, “Fuck!” and go answer it like we’re headed off to the gallows. We’re not big on socializing. At least I’m not. The other John’s a little more normal than I am, but after spending time with me his tectonic plates seem to be shifting a little more my way lately.
BG: How long have you two been together?
John: Ten years together, three years married. And it’s truly the best decade of my life.
BG: Well he is a delightful, wonderful man, who is obviously very proud of you. Please tell him I said “Hi.”
John: Thank you. I will.
BG: I was just starting to tell our readers that I not only love your MM romance, but all your writing. I like the variety of your work. You’re not pigeon holed. You write delightful sweet stories, angst riddled stories and even quite scary ones. I mean… The Boys on the Mountain? Oh, my gosh! *shudder* Quite different from your Belladonna Arms series!
John: I try to change it up with every new book. I bounce around from comedy to romance to horror to thriller, then back to comedy or whatever grabs me at the moment.
BG: Now before we get our coffee and doughnuts—tell me quick—where did this book come from in your mind? What inspired it?
John: You mean The Boys on the Mountain?
John: Where did it come from? Geez, that’s a hard one to answer for any book.
BG: Ooops! Because I’ve got a bunch of those kind of questions!
John: Sometimes they just come out of nowhere. Boys was one of those. I hadn’t really written a ghost story before, since this was written before my other two ghost stories, Willow Man and Spirit. I wanted to try my hand at it. I also thought it would be fun to throw humor and terror together, and it was. At least from the writing end. I hope it’s fun from the reading end too. I guess it is, since it’s up for a Lambda award.
BG: That is incredible!
John: John and I have our reservations made for New York in the first week of June for the awards ceremony. Wish me luck.
BG: Hell, yes, good luck!
John: This is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. But whoever wins, I really am satisfied just being a finalist. I know people always say that, but in my case it’s true. It really means a lot.
BG: And it really is so much more than a “horror” novel. It’s much more.
John: Thank you. It’s funny, but sometimes I still think about some of those characters. I lived with them so long writing them (that’s my longest book ever at 150,000 words and it took almost a year to finish) and in my head I sort of think of them as real people and wonder how they’re doing. Maybe I really am nuts.
BG: Speaking as a writer, I totally understand. Hey, we’re both nuts. Look where we’re sitting today!
Now I’m curious, did your years of growing up in the country as a boy influence the book at all?
John: I think that influences everything I write. It certainly influences my weird sense of humor. My book that was most influenced by my farm background was Sunset Lake. Some of the characters in that book I really knew. Of course I waited for them to die before I tossed them headfirst into a book. I have a few principles. Actually Shy was influenced by it too. The farm in that book was the actual farm I grew up on.
BG: Okay, now on to how I originally found you and that was your delightful novel Serenading Stanley. Gosh, I loved that book!
John: Ooh, that was a fun one. I really loved those characters. And you know what, that building really exists. I see it on a hill when I walk downtown. A rundown seedy apartment building on a dead end street. For some reason I love seeing it. And I loved seeing it so much I made it the backdrop for the Arms series.
BG: You know what it reminded me of? Even though it’s quite different…. Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. In that family that forms with the residents of the Belladonna Arms apartment building.
John: Yeah, I hear that a lot. You can’t accuse me of plagiarism though. I never read Tales of the City until I heard so much about it because of the Arms books. I loved Tales of the City. I think everyone who reads it does.
BG: Nope. Never thought of it as plagiarism. I only thought maybe an influence. That is cool about the building near where you live. Can you tell then how you named it?
John: Nope. It just popped into my head one day. I know that’s a terrible interview answer but it’s true.
BG: Sometimes there is a story about a particular part of our stories and sometimes it is as simple as something “popping” in our heads! I have an apartment building in a lot of my stories called the Oscar Wilde—not only for the fun “gay” reason, but because of a historical one. In the 1920’s in Kansas City there was an architect named Nelle E. Peters and she was one of the few women architects to have an independent practice. Her specialty was apartment buildings and hotels and in her sixty plus years as an architect, she designed almost a thousand buildings, mostly in the Kansas City area. And many of them were named after authors like Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Washington Irving and Robert Browning. I read all about that and I was like—whoa!—I have to do something with that and when I saw Oscar Wilde was a contemporary of those authors, couldn’t resist.
John: See? It’s strange how writers sometimes get their ideas. I honestly get a lot of mine in my sleep. I just wake up and they are right there, the first thing in my head when I open my eyes. I happen to have a few snapshots of the real building that inspired the Belladonna Arms.
BG: Really? How cool!
John: Here, I’ll show you.
BG: Thank you, John! That was wonderful! I love these! I love knowing what the Belladonna Arms really looks like! John, are there any more books in the Belladonna Arms series in the pipeline? I just love visiting the characters.
John: Yeah, we are just starting the editing process on the fourth Belladonna Arms book titled Ben and Shiloh. And you know what? It’s my favorite of them all. I can’t wait for people to read it. I hope they like it. It’ll probably be out in late summer or so.
BG: So, John, getting away from writing for a moment; I’ve read—and you mentioned—that you are a pet person. Me too. I can hardly name a type of pet I haven’t had. But…. When push comes to shove, is it cats or dogs?
John: At the moment it’s two adopted cats. Brothers. Leo and Max, named for the main characters in Mel Brooks’ The Producers. I adopted them when my Chihuahua, Sophie, died at the ripe old age of nineteen. My husband, believe it or not, never had animals in his life. Not even as a kid. It took some getting used to for him to adjust to having animals in the house when we got together, but I have to say he’s coming along nicely as a pet person. Hardly freaks out at all any more. Unless one of the cats sits his ass down on his dinner plate. John really hates that.
BG: *Laughs* Yeah…I’ve had everything from turtles to gold fish to hamsters to salamanders. Love them. But I don’t want one sitting it’s ass down on my dinner plate. Any particular favorite kinds of pets beside the two obvious?
John: I’ve had everything. Snakes, a baby bat, possums, rabbits, pigs, a tortoise. Most of those were when I was a kid on the farm, of course. If I brought a snake or a bat home now I’m pretty sure John would be filing for divorce before I got it out of the box.
BG: Now another book of yours that is favorite of mine is A Hard Winter’s Rain. I just look at the cover and my heart gets going. This is an angsty story for you! Tell us about it.
John: That story came about because of a desire to write a real gory thriller. I think I managed it too. Hell, almost everybody dies in that book. There were so many murders I had trouble squeezing in the obligatory sex scene now and then. It was fun to write though, and people still talk to me about it. It was my first Dreamspinner Press release and it still sells pretty well actually. I enjoyed the plotting of that one. Kind of tricky getting in the heads of two police detectives too. You need to know a little about police procedure. Happily one of my favorite writers is Ed McBain. I think I’ve read all the 87th Precinct novels. You learn a few things about police procedure reading those.
BG: And then you turn around and write books like Shy, or Loving Hector or—oh John!—The Poodle Apocalypse! Two gay men face the possible end of the world with their faithful zombie poodle at their side? I hurt myself laughing. I thought I would have an apoplexy! How did that book come about?
John: Zombies were the in thing. Still are, I guess. In fact John and I just watched all five seasons of The Walking Dead, back to back episodes. It was great.
BG: I’ve watched from the first episode. Can’t miss it. Non-fans don’t get that it’s not about zombies anymore than Buffy the Vampire Slayer was about demons and vampires. It is about the characters and the allegories to life.
John: I watched on Netflix so I can’t get the last season yet. Have to wait for it to be released.
BG: Oh my God, John! Best season yet!
John: But that’s not what you asked. I was going to make Poodle a full length novel, but I got word that too many zombie stories were being submitted so I worked the end around a little early to make it a novella instead of a novel. I’m still kind of sorry I did that. But most people like the story, so I guess I can’t complain. I enjoyed writing the main characters. They were a hoot. And Mimi, the zombie poodle. What a sweetheart she was, snarling and snapping and slobbering all over the place.
BG: I love that you have such range and we never ever know what’s coming next. Do you think most of your readers feel that way or do they seem to only read certain niches of your work?
John: I do think a lot of readers have their favorite genres. Some of the romance readers aren’t too crazy about horror. Some of the horror readers aren’t too crazy about comedy. I have to say, though, I do most of my writing for myself. It makes me happy to write, so when I’m writing I want to work on something that I’m in the mood for. WWYL. My motto right down to my socks. WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE. And I’m very lucky to have several readers who tell me they’ll read anything I write. That’s a humbling thing, you know. I love my readers. I really do. Jeez, give me a napkin. I have to blow my nose.
BG: And that brings us to your brand new novel, The Second Son. The cover is gorgeous, the title intriguing, and the blurb eye-brow raising. Tell us all about it John. A little of what it’s about, and how such an interesting story came about.
John: Thanks for liking the cover. It’s great, isn’t it? Paul Richmond did it, and man that guy is so talented. He’s done a lot of my covers, especially the comedies. As for The Second Son, this one is really something new for me. I’m not a religious person, but I was raised with religion, and whether you still believe certain beliefs or not, that background still stays with you, I think. I don’t want to talk much about the plot because of spoilers, although people have probably figured out what it’s about already. The Second Son really is unlike anything I’ve written before. One of the main things that appealed to me about writing this novel was I wanted to do something that felt global. I mean most novels have small backdrops. An apartment building. A tiny town. Even a big city, maybe. But with this book I wanted the story to reach all around the world, I mean physically. That was tricky for me to do. It’s easier to keep your borders limited when telling a story. Going world-wide offers up a whole new set of challenges, but ultimately, I think this book had to have those dimensions or the story wouldn’t have worked.
BG: John, I can’t wait to read it. I’ve got deadlines galore, but I am going to find a way.
Now before you get away from me, there is something I’ve been wanting to ask you for awhile now. You were in the Navy from a very early age—like eighteen. And you saw a lot of the world. Was the Navy a scary place for a gay man? I am dying to know what it was like.
John: I came out when I was in the Navy. So yeah, it was a strange place to be when you’re coming to grips with a sexuality that maybe wasn’t exactly accepted back then. But I was able to get through my enlistment without any problems. I enjoyed the Navy. I loved seeing the world. Ha ha, I also really enjoyed coming out on a global scale. Sorry, I had to throw that in there.
BG: I am sure these experiences have helped make you not only the man you are today, but the writer as well.
John: I think all of us can say that our experiences make us who we are. I know they certainly influence our writing. How could they not? If you think about it, it’s really all we know. It gives us our own individual take on the world, which we then, being writers, turn around and share with others. I love having my one little voice in the world. Being gay, I won’t leave any kids behind. Hell, even my cats are neutered. But I’ll leave books with my name on them. And that’s almost as good. Maybe even better.
Title: The Second Son
Author: John Inman
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print
It’s an old, old story: a tale of the consequences of good and evil. Plus the limitless power of faith and love, and how they can forever change an empty life.
When Charlie Strickland, a reclusive artist living in the backwoods of Indiana, opens his door to find a handsome young stranger standing naked on his front porch, an astounding odyssey begins.
It doesn’t take Charlie long to fall head over heels in love with his oddly innocent visitor. The young man calls himself Joe. Just Joe. But when amazing things begin to happen, Charlie soon comes to realize who Joe really is.
What follows will turn Charlie’s world, and everyone else’s, upside down.
Charlie’s dog, Mac, short for Machismo, had been acting rabbitass weird ever since the earthquake rattled the cabin along about eight o’clock that evening, scaring the holy bejeezus out of both him and the dog and jarring two of Charlie’s paintings off the wall before the shaking stopped.
Being a California native transplanted to the Midwest, Charlie was no stranger to earthquakes, but this one had been different. For one thing, what the hell was that eerie glowing light that preceded the tremor by about fifteen seconds, suffusing the cabin in a yellow phosphorescence that looked like something from a fifties horror movie? And for another thing, why had the power gone out, and why was it still out, and why, pray tell, was Charlie feeling like maybe he should get around to organizing his life—or at least his candles—so he could find one when he needed it?
It had been cloudy before the earthquake, so with the power off, visibility was zip. Charlie couldn’t see his hand before his face, and as he stumbled around in the dark fifteen minutes later, still looking for the goddamn candles, he skinned his shin on the coffee table, then stubbed a toe on the magazine rack before walking smack into the living room wall like some sort of moronic mime. As he stepped backward to get his bearings, he managed to go ass over teakettle after tripping on Mac, who let out a yelp like a piano had fallen on him. The poor dog scuttled off to the other side of the room to get out of harm’s way. Charlie picked himself up with a nervous giggle and headed for the bar in the dining room, where even in the dark he knew where the Scotch was, by God, and poured a
generous portion of it down his throat straight from the bottle.
As he blinked back 80-proof tears, not for the first time in his life, the power came back on.
Charlie and Mac looked at each other for about three ticks, and Charlie was about to apologize for scaring the dog to death, when the shaking started again. Deciding to ride this one out as best he could, Charlie grabbed for the banister that followed the stairs up to the bedroom loft and braced himself while Mac let out a long, eerie yowl from the living room floor, where he had tucked himself under the coffee table, sending shivers up Charlie’s arms and making his scalp crawl like maybe he had lice or something.
“Jesus, Mac, don’t do that!” he yelled. But by the time he yelled it, the shaking had stopped again. The lights stayed on, thank God, and the night was suddenly silent. Dead silent. No howling insane dog. No crickets. No rattling windows. Nothing.
Charlie let out a sigh of relief, returned the Scotch bottle to the bar (after prying it from his own rigid fingers), and stood there for a moment, waiting for whatever came next. But nothing came. The excitement seemed to be over.
Two minutes later, as Charlie was about to set off in search of a broom (like the candles, he wasn’t exactly sure where that was either) to sweep up the broken glass from where the two paintings had crashed to the floor, the phone rang.
He figured it was either his ex-wife, Judith, asking for more money, or his ex-lover, Jason, asking for a second chance (which would be a fat one), or a telemarketer asking him to invest his hard-earned money in something he was already pretty sure he could live without. He was wrong on all three counts. It was his agent.
“Hey, Picasso! I sold the—”
“Good,” Charlie blithely interrupted. “You know where to send the check.” And with that, he hung up.
He suffered guilt pangs for all of five seconds for being so rude to the man, then completely forgot about it. He dug through the broom closet, which seemed the surest place to find a broom, but of course it wasn’t there, had probably never been there since the day it was knotted together by some underpaid Taiwanese peasant back in the eighties. Then he remembered the broom was in his studio, where he had plucked most of the straws from its head to use in applying tiny specks of color to one of his canvases since none of his brushes seemed to fit the bill quite so nicely for such delicate work. And because he was in no mood to traipse across the backyard to reach his studio and the stupid broom, which was pretty much bald now anyway, Charlie scraped up the broken glass in a dishtowel and shook it into the trash can on the back porch.
As he stood there, breathing in the night air and waiting for Mac to water the dead grass (the dog had to pee after all the excitement, and who could blame him?), Charlie watched the moon peek out from behind the clouds and illuminate the lake that bordered the back of the property.
The shimmering water seemed a little choppier than usual, probably from the earthquake, but Charlie’s small motorboat was still securely tethered to the dock where he had left it, and everything else seemed to be in order. His studio, once a two-car garage before having a thirty-thousand-dollar overhaul, still appeared to be standing. He knew he should be out there right now finishing the paintings he had been commissioned to paint to decorate the outer office of that law firm in the city he could never remember the name of—Swizzle, Pecker, and Jovanovich, or something like that—but he wasn’t in the mood. He hated commissions anyway. He only truly enjoyed painting what he wanted to paint. Having a pack of overpaid and overpompous lawyer types and their equally pompous wives telling him how his canvas needed to match the blue in the carpeting of their six-million-dollar penthouse suite of law offices made his ass pucker every time he thought about it. As he pondered that, he pulled out Charlie Junior and took a whiz off the back stoop while Mac peed on the flower bed, which Jason had planted before their relationship disintegrated into oblivion and which Charlie had subsequently let wither away with neglect. He didn’t own a garden hose, he never knew exactly where Jason had stashed the watering can, and he didn’t much care for flowers anyway unless they were rendered in tempera.
He really did need to get his life in order, but Charlie didn’t figure it would happen tonight, so he whistled for Mac to follow, and the two of them strode back into the cabin, one zipping his fly and the other wagging his tail. Both were as happy as clams to be in each other’s company without the annoying presence of ex-wives or ex-lovers or anybody else to mar the lonely perfection of the evening.
He was settling in before a fire newly lit in the fireplace with the latest Harry Potter book in one hand and a generous dollop of Scotch in the other, in a proper glass this time, when someone knocked at the front door.
Charlie ignored it. So did Mac.
The knock came again, and again Charlie ignored it, but this time Mac set up a wailing yowl that made Charlie’s ass pucker once more, and when whoever it was got tired of knocking and decided to jiggle the doorknob instead, Charlie figured he had better answer it before Mac had a stroke and before the person, obviously determined to gain access, opted to jimmy a window and climb on in. Charlie admired persistence, but not when it was directed at him.
With a groan of annoyance, he set the book and the Scotch on the coffee table, told Mac to please shut the hell up before he rang up a taxidermist and had him stuffed and mounted like Trigger, then headed for the door.
Upon opening it, with Mac excitedly hopping around at his feet as eager to see who was out there as Charlie wasn’t, Charlie’s eyes, previously slit in anger and no small amount of dread, opened considerably wider, and a smile of surprise lit his face.
God knows what he had expected, but it wasn’t this.
The young man, who Charlie had never seen before in his life, beamed a smile back at him, apparently unconcerned that he now stood on Charlie’s doorstep as naked as the day he was born.
John Inman’s Bio:
John Inman grew up on a tiny 60-acre farm in Indiana. His childhood was a happy one. He spent most of it barefoot with a cane pole over his shoulder, fishing and roaming the countryside and dragging home every wild creature he could get his hands on hoping to make it a pet, much to his mother’s horror.
Longing to see the world (what kid doesn’t?), he joined the Navy two minutes after graduating from high school. The Navy carried him all across the Orient before finally landing him in San Diego, California, a city he fell in love with at first sight. He lives there to this day with his husband John (yep, John and John), and an assortment of pets they’ve happened to adopt along the way, (Yep, he’s still doing that too.)
The one great longing that has stayed with John his entire life, from his childhood on the farm, to his years in the Navy, and all the way up to retirement from the working world, was the need he felt to write fiction. And he did. He wrote every chance he got, from elementary school all the way through to Social Security.
John calls this passion of his a wonderful addiction, and he thanks God every day that he suffers from it. Since he can’t think of a happier way to spend his remaining years on this marvelous planet, you can now find John seven days a week, merrily slogging along on his computer, doing what he most dearly loves to do.
Writing. (And there’s usually a pet on his lap while he’s doing it.)
Want to keep up with John as well as his latest releases? Then just click on any of the links below!
And to check out the other books mentioned today….