We really loved Palace of Varieties. (See our chat/review/lovefest about it in the post from yesterday.) So without further ado:
Q: Ok, so first off, were did the idea for PALACE OF VARIETIES come from?
James Lear: It’s a combination of TRILBY by Gerard du Maurier, LE PERE GORIOT and ILLUSIONS PERDUES by Balzac, and a general interest in backstage novels like JB Priestley’s LOST EMPIRES etc. The action is mostly set just across the road from where I live in South London – there really was a South London Palace of Varieties, a very busy popular music hall that closed down around WW2.
Q: Although there is much dirty sex in PALACE OF VARIETIES (which we love) is there a moral center of the book for you? Is it Keiran? Albert? Paul even?
James Lear: Of course – it’s Paul. His moral journey is what the book is all about. I don’t really believe in moral absolutes, at least not in real life, and so Paul’s journey from innocence to experience is the main thing.
Q: Did you have a specific artist in mind when you created the character of Boleslavsky?
James Lear: Not particularly, but there were a lot of artists around at that time who kind of fit the bill. Physically he’s based on an ex lover of mine. Nearly all the characters are based on men that I’ve known, or seen, in real life.
Q: The ending of PALACE was quite ambiguous. Will we ever get a sequel?
James Lear: There may be a sequel one day, if there’s enough demand to make my publisher think it’s worth while. But no, I would never, ever write about the trenches. I have far too much respect for the men who went through that to touch on it in this context.
Q: You seem to write all your novels in the first person and they are all historical, do you have any plans to write outside this genre? (I'd LOVE to see some gay vampires ...gothic horror porn. Winner.)
James Lear: My erotic stuff is all first person period. It’s what I like doing, and it’s what I do well. I may one day do a contemporary one but I kind of doubt it. And there are masses of other writers working in the gay horror porn genre – it’s just not my thing. For me, sex has to be totally rooted in reality or it just isn’t sexy. I love vampire movies and vampire fiction, and other horror stuff (I worship Stephen King), and while I recognise that there’s a strong erotic element to it, it’s not something I’m interested in writing myself.
Q: Do you have set rules within your 'universe' that you stick to when writing?
James Lear: Yes but they’re more technical things than otherwise, and I’m not going to give away the tricks of my trade. I would just say that I won’t eroticise violence, and I won’t do anything that degrades homosexuality. I try always to show sex as something positive and joyful even when it gets quite filthy and dirty. Also I try to give the reader a good deal of build-up and context to every encounter, because that’s what makes it sexy. And strong narrative, character development and LOTS OF HUMOUR.
Q: Do you have a favourite character that you have written? Are any of them based on people you know? (We won't tell, honest.)
James Lear: They’re all based on people I know, every single one of them. My favourite character is probably Mitch Mitchell in THE BACK PASSAGE and THE SECRET TUNNEL because he’s such fun, but in terms of characterisation it would be Paul in PALACE OF VARIETIES.
Q: What's your favourite thing about writing erotic fiction?
James Lear: It’s good fun – I wouldn’t do it otherwise. It’s good to work in a field that’s kind of marginalised – it means you are really reaching out to new audiences. I like giving strong literary qualities to a genre that is often lacking in those qualities. I enjoy playing with the characters, and taking established literary models and infesting them with such. But above all I love the interaction with readers and fans who are so enthusiastic and appreciative. I never expected it, and it blows my mind.
Q: I know THE SECRET TUNNEL came out just last November but are you working on anything else just now? Can you give us a little sneak peek?
James Lear: Yeah – you’re getting a reprint of THE LOW ROAD which was my first ever novel, at the end of this year – it’s set in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion, it’s basically a filthy reworking of RL Stevenson’s KIDNAPPED and it’s great, I really love that book. Then I’m about to start working on the new Mitch Mitchell mystery. I can’t say much about it at this point but it’s my attempt at a classic “closed room murder” in the manner of Christie and Ngaio Marsh. It reunites Mitch with Morgan and some other characters we’ve met before and it will be filthy and funny and, I hope, a proper whodunnit.
Q: You say you love the interaction with your fans, are you surprised you have so many straight female readers, and has it changed your approach at all?
James Lear: No it hasn't changed my approach. I stick to what I know. This is genre fiction, and so there are certain rules and formulae that make it work – and which obviously appeal to women as much as men! But I wouldn't start tinkering with it – if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Q: Although your books are erotica, they have a strong romantic element too. Have you ever read any romance novels?
James Lear: Not Romance with a capital R, as in the genre. But my new Rupert Smith has a very strong love story in it.
Q: Aside from the whole two-orgasms-a chapter thing, do James Lear and Rupert Smith otherwise share the same sorts of literary goals? Do they have the same writer- heroes?
James Lear: No, totally different. I actually have three literary personae now. James Lear does the erotica, Rupert Smith does what I would describe as comic literary fiction, and the third one who makes his debut in summer does big commercial blockbusters. The next Rupert Smith novel MAN'S WORLD comes out in November of this year and it's a story of the gay world now and the gay world 50 years ago, it has a very strong love story and is very sexy and funny but it's not ABOUT the sex in the way the Lear stuff is.
Q: I love the covers of your books, I think they are beautiful, masculine and fun. I know you wrote a biography of John S. Barrington, was it your idea to use those poses etc or was it just serendipity on the publisher's part?
James Lear: It was totally from the publisher who found the fantastic photographer. All those models are now living with me, by the way, as personal love slaves. But yes I'm very interested in the photographic representation of the male nude having done a lot of research into it. A lot of that material surfaces in MAN'S WORLD – half of it's set in the 50s/60s when male physique photography was very popular and very dangerous. A lot's based on true stories.
Thank you so much to James Lear, who very graciously "answered all of our rubbish questions" as Sayuri so aptly put it.
The author’s latest, THE SECRET TUNNEL, as well as THE BACK PASSAGE, PALACE OF VARIETIES, HOT VALLEY and more are available at most major booksellers, including Amazon UK or direct from Cleis Press with free shipping if you're in the U.S.
- First chance to win: Comment here to be entered to win a brand new copy of Palace of Varieties for yourself. No geographical restrictions. Closes at 11:59 PM on January 24th, CDT.
- Second chance to win: Go over to Sayuri's Book Pron and leave a comment there...one lucky winner will win Hot Valley!