Welcome to the two hundred and forty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist Tristram La Roche. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. You can also read Tris’ author spotlight.
Morgen: Hello Tristram, welcome back. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Tristram: I’m British, but feel more European. I currently live between London and the north of England, but I get away whenever I can. I worked in mainland Europe for over twenty years, but when things began to change in late 2008 I decided to jump ship and do what I had long wanted to do – write. I say “but” too often. Oh, and I am male, really.
Morgen: with a lovely exotic surname What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Tristram: I write only gay fiction, or M/M as it is sometimes referred to, though there is a school of thought that M/M and gay fiction are actually quite different. M/M romance readers tend to expect something that follows a standard formula with nice people and a happy ever after. My romances don’t necessarily do that and the reason is, well, life isn’t actually like that, is it? The romances I have written so far do deliver a happy ever after or a happy for now, but the road there can be bumpy, dirty and gritty.
Morgen: That is definitely more realistic and good stories should have conflict. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Tristram: On My Knees was accepted by Etopia Press earlier this year. It was my first submission and they were my first choice publisher. Each time I submit a manuscript I live in a state of panic in case it gets rejected, so yes, it’s always a thrill to get accepted and an excuse to celebrate.
Morgen: I’ve had established (meaning a dozen novels published or more) interviewees say the same, so I’d think it’s pretty normal to be concerned. What have you had published to-date? Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
Tristram: I’ve written four novellas and all have been published: On My Knees, Lorenzo il Magnifico, Fixed, and The Hun and The General. I shouldn’t have a favourite, should I? I’m proud of them all for different reasons. But (there we go again) I have to say that The Hun and The General is special, maybe because it’s my first foray into historical fiction and I loved every minute of writing it. I can’t choose a favourite character, it would feel like betrayal.
Morgen: Because they’re real (or is that just my characters?). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Tristram: My problem, if it is indeed a problem, is that I fret over each word as I write. I am therefore slow, but the first draft generally doesn’t need a lot of editing. I simply can’t go to bed at night knowing I’ve left trashy writing on the page / screen. My first draft has to be more than a rough out. I will rework a sentence many times if necessary before moving on. I often think of that funny quote, I think it was Hemingway maybe. He complained to a friend that he had written only three words that day. “But that’s good for you,” said the friend. “Yes, but I don’t know which order to put them in,” said Hemingway. I’m not saying I’m a Hemingway, but I sympathise.
Morgen: Hemingway came out with some wonderful quotes… and some wonderful writing (you can’t help say “micro fiction” without thinking of ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. Do you have to do much research for your books?
Tristram: I always do some reading in relation to what I’m planning to write, be it for location or history or what weather to summon up. I can write about many places with just a quick refresh of the memory, and that’s fine for contemporary scenarios, but any story will benefit from some deeper input. Anyway, research is learning and I love learning.
Morgen: Me too but I don’t particularly enjoy research, funny (peculiar) that. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc., do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Tristram: Total silence. A coffee shop? Crikey, I can think of nowhere worse – except, perhaps, the ‘beyond sell by date’ aisle in Tesco on Friday evening. I love opera but I can’t have it on when writing; I might listen to it for inspiration but once my light is on, the radio is off.
Morgen: Ah, now you know where I spend my Friday evenings. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Tristram: Third. But I have written in first. With first person I have to keep telling myself it’s not really happening; if I had a depressed character I could easily end up on Prozac. I tend to reserve second person for cooking instructions which I leave behind for my partner if I have to go away, or for the notes I leave on the door for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Morgen: “Welcome to our house – we’d love you to stay as long as you like?” What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Tristram: Most favourite – that I can be all alone and don’t have to be bothered with wretched people.
Morgen: Unless they’re your characters. Has anything surprised you?
Tristram: Least favourite – being all alone and missing the company of other human beings. I’m surprised that I feel both at the same time.
Morgen: Presumably your partner counts. Can you remember where you first saw one of your books being read by a member of the public?
Tristram: It was a blustery summer day in Alnmouth, a village on the Northumberland coast with a rather famous resident author. Sitting on a bench by a war memorial was an enormously fat young man with a shaved head, tattooed neck and nose ring. I saw he was reading a Kindle and craned my neck as I walked behind him. He was just starting to read On My Knees. It made me smile. I wondered about offering to scratch my name on the back of his Kindle but thought the better of it.
Morgen: So you now know who your readers are. There is a gadget for signing eBooks; Margaret Atwood uses it remotely so no knives necessary. Are your books available as eBooks? And do you read eBooks?
Tristram: All my books are eBooks. In fact, at this point, they are only eBooks. Rumour has it that a print anthology may come out in 2012. Yes, I read eBooks. Not long ago I said I would never have an eReader, never, never. I now have a Kindle and am utterly distraught if I can’t get a book in eform. I’m a total convert and recommend eBooks to everyone.
Morgen: I have an eReader but my trouble is that I never go anywhere and have so many paperback (and hardback) books at home to read that it gathers dust (literally, it’s a 1930s house :)). How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Tristram: Oh, quite a bit. I like to be hands on and get a buzz from all the promo activity. It helps to keep me in circulation. I just wish I could get more prime time TV and radio interviews. I’m still waiting for the invitation to be on Shooting Stars.
Morgen: That does look like it would be fun. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Tristram: Actually, all the titles are as I presented them to the publishers. For me, the title is crucial since my story is always woven around it in some fashion. Book covers are extremely important, especially for eBooks where a small icon is all you get as your first throw. All my covers have been professionally produced for the publisher by top digital artists and, whilst I was consulted on them, I wouldn’t dream of trying to dictate the final version. I’m very happy with the covers, as it happens.
Morgen: They are great. Thank you, again, Tristram. You can find more about Tristram and his work via his website: http://tristramlaroche.com, Twitter, Facebook and his Amazon Author Page. He’s also mentioned this interview here.
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