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Interview with a Vampire….fiction writer: Todd Gregory

So maybe Xtra West asked me to review a certain vampire erotica fiction collection in these weeks preceding full-blown Halloween fever.

Midnight Hunger was an interesting read. Click on the link to find out what I thought.

Part of the perks of being a D-lister, is that I get to interview people who have actually made something of themselves. Todd Gregory (real name Gregory Todd Herren) was kind enough to humour some sucking (in the form of invasive questions) from yours truly a couple weeks back. Here's what he has to say about being a gay writer, gay vampires and his general gaity:

1) How long have you been writing? 

I have been writing since I was a very
small child. I think I wrote my first story when I was maybe eight years
old.  That was the first one I wrote down. I’d been creating
stories for as long as I can remember.
 

2) How
long have you been writing vampire erotica?
 

Frankly, I haven’t done a lot. I
co-edited a vampire erotica anthology called Blood Lust
with M. Christian that was released in 2005. Under my own name, I published
an erotic vampire novella in 2004, I think. This is the first I’ve
done since then.
 

3) What appeals to you about this
genre?
 

What doesn’t? I’ve always enjoyed
vampire stories—Dracula, ‘salem’s Lot,
the old Dark Shadows TV show—where the vampires were truly
evil creatures. I also enjoy the ‘vampire as romantic hero’ novels.
There are a lot of themes that can be explored through the vampire—the
outsider, the supernatural, religion, faith, sex, love, damnation and
redemption. It’s also very cool that everyone who writes about vampires
can create their own mythos, their own history of vampires, and aren’t
bound to convention and tradition. And who doesn’t want to create
their own universe?
 

4) What is the sexiest thing about
vampires and why?
 

Their power. Power is incredibly seductive. 

5) Let's face it…most gays have
an insatiable oral fixation. Vampire erotica must be an easy sell. What
are your thoughts on this?
 

I haven’t really thought much about
it, actually. I know that vampire fiction has a huge following. Blood
Lust
wasn’t my idea; it was my co-editor’s and he asked me to
do the book with him. Likewise, with the novella I wrote under my own
name, I was asked to do it, as I was asked to write Blood on the
Moon.
When I worked as an editor, there was a ‘truism’ that
‘you can’t go wrong with vampires—they always sell.’
 

I work with several different publishers,
and each has always wanted me to write a vampire novel. The only reason
I haven’t done one myself is because I simply haven’t had time.
I’ve always wanted to write one, and hopefully I will be able to in
the next year or so.
 

6) Are you turned on by your own
writing?
 

When I first get the idea and think
it through, sure. But writing isn’t very erotic. You don’t get hard
correcting grammar and typos—well, I certainly don’t, at any rate.
 

7) Your protagonist in "Blood
on the Moon" is versitile – he fucks and likes getting fucked.
This gives him an openess of character, openess to new experiences,
which thematically helps his transition into accepting himself as gay
and as a vampire. How common is this in gay vampire fiction?
 

To be honest, I don’t know how common
it is. From what I can recall of the gay vampire fiction I’ve read
(it’s been a while), I always came away with the impression that the
vampire was always a top—the power and domination aspects, I suppose.
I don’t know how correct that is, that’s simply the impression I
came away with.
 

8) Coming to terms with your sexuality
is one of the most universal themes in contemporary and historical gay
fiction. You and the other two authors explore this quite thoroughly
in
Midnight Hunger. Coming to terms with transforming
into a vampire seems to echo this theme. Is this part of the appeal
of gay vampire erotica? Outcasts finding accepting communities, etc…
 

A friend of mine who was writing a
y/a vampire novel was told once by an editor at a major publisher that
‘vampire novels are all about yearning,’ and I do think that is
true to some extent. Vampires, like gay men, exist outside the mainstream
and are outsiders looking in. The great irony, to me, is that in our
entertainment—fiction, television shows, movies, et al—we are all
drawn to the outsider, the outcast, the underdog you root for and identify
with—because everyone has felt that way at some point in their life. 
I’ve always thought it ironic that this doesn’t really translate
to everyday life, where all too frequently the outsider/outcast/underdog
is actually viewed with contempt and loathing.
 

A good example of this, I think, is
the stereotypic high school novel. The hero is always a boy or a girl
that’s an outsider—and the villains are always the jocks and the
cheerleaders. When I was in high school, the jocks and the cheerleaders
were actually all nice kids. But because they automatically form a clique
and seem to be ‘the beautiful people,’ all the other kids in school
want to be a part of that and gain their acceptance—and from there
it’s easy to turn them into ‘villains.’ Someone can read the book,
remember not being a part of that clique, and thus identify with the
main character.
 

9) Your piece in
Midnight Hunger feels like the first part of a serial novel, like it's
part of a much longer narrative. Is it? And if yes, where can your readers
look for the next installment?
 

Well, as I said my editor has wanted
me to write a vampire novel now for a very long time.  When I wrote
the first novella all those years ago, I saw it as basically the prologue
to a novel, or possibly a series. When I was writing Blood on the
Moon,
I also saw it the same way. And while I abandoned the first
idea (again, not to a lack of interest but rather a lack of time), I
really like my characters from this one and I do want to explore them
further. I am editing an anthology of gay vampire erotica for Bold Strokes
Books called Blood Sacraments,
which will be released in October 2010, and I have written another Cord
Logan story for it, called “Bloodletting,” that I also see as the
first chapter of a book. The story is complete in and of itself, but
it leads to the rest of a story I want to tell, and I am definitely
going to write it. I am very excited about it, actually.
 

10) Your first novel
Every Frat Boy Wants It reads like a gay love story
with romance/erotica genre stylings. Do you prefer writing this type
of fiction or do you prefer your vampire work more?
 

Well, thank you, because that was my
intent with that book! I really don’t prefer writing one style over
another. What excites me in the characters and the story. I have been
very pleased with the response to Frat Boy.
 

11) "The Fratboy" fetish
is a pretty big one for North American homosexuals. Why does it appeal
to you? (ie is it a personal fetish that you're sharing through your
fiction) 
 

It’s not a fetish for me; I actually
was
a fratboy. I also had no idea that there was such interest in
the subject. The last erotica anthology I edited under my own name was
FRATSEX,
and that book came about because of a casual conversation
on the phone with my editor at Alyson. I was a fratboy, my partner had
been one, and as it turned out, so had my editor. I was simply amazed
that so many gay men had belonged to fraternities, and to the best of
my knowledge, it really hadn’t been explored much in gay fiction much.
My editor then asked me if I’d been interested in editing an anthology
of erotic fraternity stories, and I said, sure. That book turned out
to be one of the biggest selling gay erotica anthologies of all time.
Four years after publication, it still sells at a much higher volume
than one would think. It’s the all time bestseller at Insightoutbooks.
Who knew? I had always wanted to write a novel set in a fraternity,
and when the opportunity to do Frat Boy
came along, I jumped on it. I am currently working on another fraternity
novel, a little darker than Frat Boy,
whose working title is Beautiful.
I think it’s due for a 2011 release. Whether I will keep writing fraternity
books, I don’t know—there’s obviously a market, and there’s
also a lot of story there.
 

12) Online written erotica was my
first exposure to gay pornography and this was back in the early early
1990s before there was a world wide web, back when you had to use a
dial up modem to access online databases, before computers could display
pictures online. Do you think that written erotica is still a "first
point of access" for teenagers and young men who may questioning
their sexuality and if so, why?
 

I don’t think so, but I am not an
authority on the subject. Given the preponderance of visual porn on
line, as well as the ‘hook-up’ sites, I would tend to think not.
 

13) What are your thoughts on the
resurgence of interest in vampire culture? I remember Anne Rice's Interview
with Vampire series mania in the 1990s, which also had homoerotic overtones
and appealed to teenagers and young adults at the time. Now it's all
Twighlight, True Blood, the Vampire Diaries etc…Why vampires (again)?
Why now?
 

Vampires never really go away. The
fiction is always there—it’s just that every once in a while a particular
writer creates a series that explodes into the culture. As you said,
it was Anne Rice in the late 80’s and 90’s; now it’s Charlaine
Harris and Stephanie Meyer. There’s also Laurell Hamilton.
 

I haven’t read the Harris and Meyer
novels, have read a few of Hamilton’s, but I read all of Anne Rice’s
vampire and witch novels. Again, I think it goes back to the notion
of the outsider, and how the reader can identify with those feelings.
This is particularly true of teens and young adults, especially those
that read.
 

14) How have you tried to subvert
the genre and make it your own?
 

That will become evident in the novel,
and I’m not going to give anything away this far in advance. 😉
 

15) Why have you chosen to write
with a pen name? Is that a standard for erotica writers?
 

Yes, most erotica writers do seem to
use pen names. For me, it has nothing to do with the subject matter.
Early in my career, I published erotica under my own name.
 

In my case, I use different names to
write different styles. Under my own name, I’ve published to date
eight gay mystery novels. I also used to write gay erotica centered
around wrestling. I started using the name ‘Todd Gregory” to write
something besides wrestling erotica, and for the most part the Todd
Gregory stories always seemed to have a kind of supernatural theme to
it—not vampires, but mermen, angels, telepaths, etc. Not all of them
do, of course, but the majority of them.
 

16) As an Canadian author, I've
noticed at readings of my own work that the gender split of attendees
in this country is usually 5 women to 1 man. Of that 5:1 split, I'd
also venture that most of those men are hetero (this is poetry mind
you, which attracts a lot of lesbians). What are your thoughts on gay
male literacy? Are gay men still reading books? How hard is it to get
them to buy them?
 

Gay men still buy books and read them—and
I am eternally grateful that they buy mine and seem to like them. 
The trick is letting them know your books are out there, and that’s
always been the problem. I know I’ve been very very lucky.
 

17) Any advice for aspiring writers
hoping to break into the vampire scene?
 

Create fully realized three dimensional
characters. The story will come from that, and never forget it’s the
characters the reader connects with.


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