‘To Bring Him Home and Other Tales’ Tour – An Insight Into Warren Rochelle’s Writing
Title: To Bring Him Home and Other Tales
A plotter or a pantser? Oh, definitely a plotter. Before I can start, I have to know where the story is going to end. This doesn’t have to be very specific at all. For example: at the beach, what beach, and how they got there, to be determined. Or, in the White City. Where the White City is and how they got there and why they went, something I will learn as the story progresses. I also have to be a beginning in which I can feel the flag drop, so to speak. Here, at this place, this point in time, the story moves forward, it begins. I also find myself dropping up time lines of significant events to be sure the continuity works and as a part of world-building. Most of the time I prepare an outline, knowing it will change, but the outline gives me a shape and a structure within which to tell my story.
How do I deal with rejection letters? Aside from the form rejection letters, I find the rejection letters which take the time to comment on the story, and tell me why they didn’t accept it, be very useful. They liked the story, please try us again, but this story … here are some things to think about, where they had some problems, sometimes even suggestions for improvement. Such thoughtful comments are very helpful for revisions. This doesn’t mean rejections aren’t depressing to get.
Do my books spring to life from a character first or an idea? Depends on the story. With the retellings in Wicked, my first story collection, the idea, the plot, was already there. For “Blue Ghosts,” I had both character and idea, John-Caleb, the gay great-grandson of the title character in The Wild Boy, and a way to fix the world, a universal energy source. That idea stayed in the story, but the plot wound up focusing on John-Caleb and his husband, Quentin. “The Day After the Change,” the idea: what happens when magic returns. More idea than character, I guess, but the idea does provide an inspiration for the character.
How do I approach covers for my indie stories? Well, they are all indie stories—JMS Books is a queer indie press. Writers are asked to find an image or images on two royalty-free images websites that in some way matches up with what the write has envisioned for the cover. Finding an image that is an absolute match for the character descriptions, uses an emblematic image from the story, such as a castle or a porch swing, and so on, is hard. But after choosing various images that somehow speak to the characters or a significant place or symbol, the list is sent to the editor, who does a good job in creating a cover that gets close, at the very least. I do get proofs for my input and this time, we went through three cover proofs.
What was one of the most surprising things I learned in writing my books—about me, or something found in research? Interesting question. The first thing that comes to mind is what I learned about myself in revising The Wild Boy, my first novel, which was originally my MFA thesis. I did send it out at few times and was rejected. After I finished my MFA degree at UNC Greensboro, I started my PhD. For the six years it took to complete the coursework and my dissertation, while working part-time, my fiction was on the backburner. When I started my post-doc teaching fellowship at UNCG, I took out the novel and decided the best way to revise it was to revisit the novel’s world, to revisit imagining this world. So, I printed it out, and re-entered the entire novel. In doing so, I was surprised to read what I had been telling myself in that story of Earth ruled by aliens who were breeding humans for a grand Project, to create emotional symbionts. The aliens, the ursinoid Lindauzi, had lost their original symbionts due to plague. Every Lindauzi was to be paired with a human, as their true partner, with separate, same-species marriage pairings. These were same-sex partners.
I got it. I was telling myself who I was, a gay man. I did and did not know this when I started graduate school at UNCG, and I was determined to be straight. By the time, I came to this revelation, I was already questioning my sexual identity. But what I learned was that part of me already knew, had always known. I think one’s fiction is always in conversation with one’s self, one’s different selves, the adult and the child, or the adolescent. Sometimes we are talking with our unconscious, where often secrets are kept. These conversations can be hard, and sometimes painful, to hear. Or, as in this example. I needed to be older, and more self-aware, to hear my own story that I was telling myself.
How do I combine all the different worlds of my life in my works? The simplest answer is as I need to. I was a school librarian for eleven years, two in an overseas school in Cartagena, Colombia. Then, after going back to graduate school for an MFA and a PhD, I became a college professor. So, when I needed careers for some of my heroes: yes, you guessed it, librarians and professors. Stories in places I have lived, places I know. The different worlds of my life come into my works as the characters need such knowledge, of work, of career, of being in therapy, and so on.
Where do I like to write? Usually at my desk, in the study part of my bedroom. But often, at the kitchen table, everything spread out, and my husband on the couch, engaged in his projects, and our dog sleeping beside him.
What am I working on now and when can we expect it? I am working on two projects at the moment. First, revising a novel I wrote some years ago, The Golden Boy, which grew out of a short story of the same name, published in The Silver Gryphon (Golden Gryphon Press, 2003). I hope to send the manuscript to JMS Books sometime this fall. The other project is a sequel to The Werewolf and His Boy (re-released by JMS Books in 2020). This one will take longer. I hope next summer.
Warren Rochelle has a new queer SFF anthology out: To Bring Him Home and Other Tales. And there’s a giveaway!
We all need a place to call home, a place where we belong, and are safe, and loved. For the lovers in these stories, finding home is easier said than done. Quests must be taken; dragons must be slain. Rocket launchers need to be dodged. Sometimes one might have to outrun the Wild Hunt, and sometimes they have to reimagine and recreate home. But these lovers do find homes, homes in each other’s hearts.
Warren is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour:
He found his mother in her bathroom, lying on the bathmat by the tub, like a discarded hotel towel, white and crumpled. Fletcher knelt down and touched her bruised face, tenderly traced the hand prints on her skin. Cold. He then pressed his fingers against the veins in her neck. No pulse. Wishing he could cry for her, he put the same fingers under her nose. No breath, Dead. Emptied. He picked up her arm and it flopped as if boneless, She was wearing her bathrobe. He pulled it close, to hide her body.
Fletcher knew where to look, upstairs, behind the locked attic door. Through the door he could hear what he had come to call Paul’s favorite music, soft, far away, with harps and wind chimes, and what sounded like the wind, and the rain, storms. and voices singing in a strange language he had never been able to identify. The music sort of reminded him of the wind chimes on Sam’s porch. Of course.
He tried the knob. This time the door was unlocked.
“Fletcher. You’re awake. I knew you’d come up here,” his stepfather said in his cold and dark voice. He sat at a desk facing a door frame standing in the middle of the attic. Inside the door frame: darkness. Around it, Fletcher could see the rest of the attic: the shelves, the file cabinets, the odd boxes. The skylight was open, mid-day sun streamed in. Even so, the room was cold, a cold that was coming through the door, as if blown by some faraway wind. Paul’s black staff leaned against the door frame. He closed a little carved box on his desk and the music stopped.
“What did you do with Sam? Where is he? Where are his parents?” Fletcher asked, shivering and hugging himself against the cold.
“Where they belong,” Paul said, leaning back in his chair. “The dreams have escaped for millennia—even before Her Majesty came to power—into human minds. Fairy tales, myths, story upon story. A few times, the different peoples and creatures slipped through—what was it your hero said?—‘there were many chinks or chasms between worlds in old times’?—yes, I’ve read all those stories, too; they were useful to me. That was before Her Majesty. So, there are people like you and your mother, fey-touched, gifted with Sight that lets you see through glamour. Very useful to people like me.”
Fletcher swallowed the scream in his throat, knowing he had to listen, to understand, not to let this man get to him, break him into tears. “Where is Sam? What kind of a person are you?”
“I told you: There. You can call it Narnia if you like, or what did Tolkien call it? Never mind. The Celts came up with many other names, such as Tir n’Og, the Blessed Isles. Words and sounds can be dreamt, too; echoes can linger. She can’t stop the dreams of what once was, of once upon a time—slow them down, but not stop them. But Her Majesty can and must stop those who escape her winter,” Paul said, as he sorted what looked like rolls of parchment, stuffing some back into tubes, into different parts of his desk. “I am a bounty hunter, a tracker, and you, my dear Fletcher, and your mother, are my canaries.”
My dreams. I dreamed of the neighbor, I dreamed of Sam. Now I know where his music comes from.
“They hadn’t planned on Sam falling in love and having sex quite just yet, which shattered the weak child’s glamour—and I smelled him on you, his magic,” Paul said, his words dripping disdain and scorn.
Paul shrugged and Fletcher hated him for it. “I needed her energy to open the gate—I was running a little low. A few days from now, no problem. You want him back?”
Fletcher slowly and carefully nodded his head.
“You think you’re in love. Fletcher! What do you know about love—who have you ever loved or who’s loved you? And when he asked for you, at the moment of peril, you pulled back. Don’t be a fool: you’re not in love.”
“My father loved me; I loved him. My mother—before you used her for food. Sam loves me.”
“Then go get him. Into Faerie. No happy elves, no dancing fauns, no chatty mice, no heroes with magic swords. No performing Lion, just Her Majesty’s winter. No English
children. Your boyfriend’s there, Fletcher. Or you could stay here and help me—starting with finding that sanctuary. Do you know how old I am? Her Majesty rewards her faithful: I am two hundred and thirteen of your years old. I have anything I want.”
I want Sam. “Live that long, be like you? No. I love Sam.”
“You’ve known him a week and you’re in love. That really is a fairy tale. You just think you do,” Paul said, dismissing Fletcher’s feelings with a flip of his hand. “You can have any boy you want, any way you want—like I said, Her Majesty rewards her faithful. Besides, you’re a coward,” Paul added, laughing.
Fletcher knew that Paul would never understand, could never understand, that even the uncertainty was enough, that the brightness in his heart, the geodes in his pocket, were enough, even if the week had been just the promise of what would come. Could have come. Might come. Maybe he was a coward. He certainly was afraid, and very good at being afraid. But life had found him, and being afraid didn’t mean he couldn’t go through that dark gate.
“Find yourself another canary,” Fletcher said and before Paul could stop him, ran across the room, through the door frame, into the dark, into the fairy tale.
Warren Rochelle lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has just retired from teaching English at the University of Mary Washington. His short fiction and poetry have been published in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, North Carolina Literary Review, Forbidden Lines, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Collective Fallout, Queer Fish 2, Empty Oaks, Quantum Fairy Tales, Migration, The Silver Gryphon, Jaelle Her Book, Colonnades, and Graffiti, as well as the Asheville Poetry Review, GW Magazine, Crucible, The Charlotte Poetry Review, Romance and Beyond, Migration, and Innovation.
Rochelle is the author of four novels: The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press, and The Werewolf and His Boy, published by Samhain Publishing in September 2016. The Werewolf and His Boy was re-released from JMS Books in August 2020. His first short story collection, The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories, was published by JMS Books in September 2020.
Both The Werewolf and His Boy and The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories, received strong reviews from blog tours in November 2020.
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