For Love of Books is a series where instead of interviewing the writers, I interview book reviewers, those people who give their opinions about different books and influence the buying patterns of thousands of readers. Most reviewers do this job because they really love books, which is why I like to talk to them.
Today I’m interviewing TJ, a guest reviewer on the site, about why he likes to read M/M romances. TJ is one of a growing breed of new M/M romance readers – men. According to a poll on the site he has joined the15% of men who now read M/M romances. Not only does he read this sub genre but he also reviews the books. TJ will probably tell you that he didn’t see this one coming when I asked him to lend his talents to reviewing after I saw some of his comments (OK he was mouthing off about a few books that he had read) 🙂 and I wondered how he would adapt to writing reviews, which is not as easy as many people think.
I think reviewing is one of the most important and difficult jobs in the industry apart from publishing (which includes editing and all the other associated functions,) writing the books, and selling them. The job of a book reviewer is dissimilar to that of a high end reseller – we don’t promote books that we think are lemons (I hope) and we’re truthful about how we really feel about the books we review. If we are not truthful the readers won’t take long to spot this and will never believe us again.
Reviews are always a matter of opinion whether it’s movies, restaurants, stage shows, books, etc., and these opinions can vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, which is why it’s always a good idea to check out several reviews if you have the time, before you buy a book. Most reviewers are motivated by their love of books, are impartial, and if they have any biases they state them upfront and they don’t expect anything other than “thank you” from the readers. Now on to talking to TJ and finding out what he’s made of. lol
I know that you don’t like to talk about yourself but can you at least give us the fifty cent tour of TJ? What you like, who you are (not the dull stuff), what’s hot for TJ, what’s absolutely the best dish for you (I mean food TJ, not that other thing) 🙂 and how in hell you got yourself in this situation?
I’m currently single, but I’m still a hopeless romantic who believes that my Mr. Darcy is out there somewhere. Hey a guy can dream! I live close to the Big Apple in NY and just love the combination of country mixed with the city’s energy. I can be found many a day strolling the streets people watching, or enjoying nature in the beautiful parks. But in my soul I’m an artist, who supports himself by crunching numbers all day – and let me tell you – they are not that tasty!
Speaking of tasty things, I do love food, and am a pretty decent chef. I tend to gravitate towards Italian food when given a choice – love my lasagna! I also love, love, love music. I go nowhere without my ipod, and have an incredibly eclectic collection of songs.
Now as to how in hell I got myself in this situation? For that I blame Josh Lanyon completely! He mentioned on his blog that he had done an interview over at Gay Book Reviews. Being curious, I went to check it out. Had I known where that would lead me…
What is it about books that turn you on?
Well aside from the hot sex in m/m, I love how when I’m reading a book, I get a full immersion in the experience of the characters. That is to say, I almost always lose track of both time and place. Now that’s amazing.
If you were asked – and I’m asking you – what are your top 3 books of all time – what would you say? What do you have on your bedside table right now? (Since it’s December 8th I guess it’s Fish & Chips which was just released by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban). Is there anything else that you’re reading right now?
I could try to impress you, and say Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or maybe my favorite Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or perhaps Allan Folsom’s Day of Confession, but honestly as good as they all were, I’ve not read them in years. So, if I’m truly honest and chose by how many times I’ve reread a book, the answer is much different.
My biggest repeat offender is Josh Lanyon. He’s the only author of a book that I’ve ever reread immediately after I’ve finished it. (That was A Vintage Affair – I loved that book, yes even that scene Wave). But most reread would go to… Death of a Pirate King. Can you keep a secret? Don’t tell Josh, but sometimes when I need a quick Adrien and Jake fix, I skim through DoPK for the parts where they’re in a scene together. Such wonderful dialog… sigh.
Moving on, (and it kills me to admit this) but that little sh… I mean talented author, Ethan Day has weaseled his way into my #2 spot with Sno Ho. I reread that book like a daily affirmation, and damn him – he makes me laugh every time! God, Ethan’s gonna be insufferable now and never let me live that down, will he?
Third place is a tough choice, and probably has ten books tied, but I would say Caught Running by Madeline Urban and Abigail Roux – a really great comfort read.
As far as what I’m reading now, of course Fish & Chips, but also Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall and then there’s my now OCD-ish rereading of Sno Ho. I am so sending Ethan my therapy bills!
I’m not sure which of your favourite authors is top of the heap other than the writing pair I just mentioned, but I think Ethan Day is pretty high up in the stratosphere for you in terms of writing ability. What is it about Ethan that turns you on and makes you love his books so much? Is it the hot men and even hotter sex he writes about? 🙂 I go for his humour.
Of course it’s his sense of humor. It’s rare that a book makes me laugh out loud and snort like a little piggy, but that Ethan Day has made me snort in public! It’s damned embarrassing! As for the sex – eh, I could take it or leave it. Just make me laugh Ethan! Okay, okay – the sex is hot too! Who else but Ethan Day could write such a funny, very hot, “angry” sex scene like the one on the sofa in the beginning of Sno Ho? That. Was. Priceless. Oh crap – I can bet Ethan’s head is growing bigger as I write! Alert the media – crazy Missouri man’s head now bigger than the world’s largest ball of twine in Darwin Minnesota!
Ethan Day sent in a couple of questions because he had to get in on the action when he found out I was interviewing you. 🙂
Ethan: First of all TJ – and most importantly – who informed you it was rare for anyone to have Ethan Day more than once? I want names! I mean really…I make them all sign non-disclosure agreements, so this breach is like, way rude. 🙂
Oh sweet, naive Ethan. The writing was on the wall… literally – I read it on the men’s room wall! I thought it was an advertisement “Ethan Day will light up your life – for one night only!” But the second line read “And you’ll never hear from him again!” The rest was just plain mean, and I doubt that you’re bendy enough to do what they said you should do to yourself.
Ethan: Name something you’ve never read in gay romance but wish you had.
How about a story about a gay romance writer who falls for an online book reviewer, then proceeds to annoy the crap out of him? Seriously, I’d love to read about a gay m/m romance writer and his foibles in negotiating the real life dating pool. You have my permission to use that.
Ethan: If you were writing a gay romance what would you name your protagonist? Same question…but replace ‘gay romance’ and insert ‘gay porn’. : )
I would name him Ioan (pronounced yo-an). I like that it’s a bit unusual, and as an added bonus, it would drive the readers crazy trying to figure out how to pronounce it! As for gay porn (you perv) how about Harry Butt? No? Ethan Nytenday? I could do a lot with that one – sing along with me – Night and day, you are the one…
If you were ever to meet Ethan, what one question would you like to ask him …… about his books TJ, control yourself. lol
How about which character in your books is most like yourself in real life? I’m betting on Aden.
You love mysteries and Josh Lanyon is, I believe, your favourite murder/mystery writer. What is it about his mysteries that set them apart?
Oh Josh, yes he will always be my favorite – I won’t say just m/m author, but author. Period. His mysteries are always interesting, and I never guess the ending. (You never guess the ending?!!!!) But what really hooks me, is that his writing is so beautiful, his characters so very real and flawed like the rest of us. I may not always love his characters’ behavior, (we all know how Josh loves to torture his readers), but then I must be some kind of masochist because I always love his characters. Who knew I had that kink?
Is there one genre that he hasn’t explored yet that you would you like Josh to write a book? Why?
Josh is so very talented that I don’t think there’s a genre that he couldn’t conquer. I honestly believe that if Josh wrote mainstream fiction he would be quite successful. (Ow, my ears! What is that sound? The screaming Fanyons?) As far as something that he hasn’t done, I do like to read post apocalyptic stories and would be interested to see what Josh could cook up. As to why, well because he did such a wonderful job in world building for Strange Fortune, that I would love to see how he constructs his futuristic world.
Other than mysteries and M/M romances what other types of books do you like to read ? I hate to tell you but PWP is not really the answer I’m looking for and I’m not sure you could even call it a genre. 🙂
I love a good thriller, sometimes a Nicholas Sparks sappy romance, or maybe laugh along with David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs. But I guess it’s time that I admit my dirty little secret, I… oh God I can’t believe I’m going to say this, I read Karen Marie Moning’s Fae (fairy) books. Yes damn it! I love those stupid books. I started reading them long before I discovered M/M, and got hooked. God, another thing that I’ll never live down. This is turning into a very embarrassing interview.
Why do you think that M/M romances have taken hold of “romance” readers and made such an impact? How do you think the authors can screw up this sub genre?
I know that a large percentage of readers of M/M are women, so I can’t speak for them, but I can say that I like the dynamic of 2 men together, as they tend to be more equal in the relationship than in M/F. Too often the women in M/F are so weak and helpless that it’s laughable.
For me, I think the danger of screwing up the M/M genre is very real, since it is growing quickly and books are being churned out at an incredible pace. It’s inevitable that with such fast growth, keeping up the quality of the writing will be a challenge.
As a gay man, when you read M/M romances what frustrates you more than anything and makes you want to throw your ereader against the wall? On the flip side, what’s the best thing about these books
For me the most frustrating thing is quite simply bad writing, mainly hokey dialog, or excessive descriptions (telling not showing). Reading about a character’s every mundane action is not fun.
What I love, is that M/M romances are even being written, and some written very well. That is simply amazing to me.
What surprises you the most about this sub genre? Do you think the sky is the limit or we’re going to reach the glass ceiling pretty soon and never progress any further?
I am most surprised at the amazing variety of sub genres within M/M, from sweet romance to SciFi and paranormal. I do believe that in order to continue to grow, the authors and publishers will have to not only attract new readers, but maintain the interest of long-time readers, who will undoubtedly demand better quality stories.
What do you find most challenging about reviewing? What would make a book DNF for you? Is reviewing fun for you or are there days when you would like to tell me to take this job and shove it? lol (Don’t get any ideas – look at Christian, he can’t wriggle out of those coils I wrap around him) 🙂
The most challenging part of reviewing for me, is putting into words what worked and didn’t work when a book isn’t as good as it could have been – not wanting to be harsh in my assessment, but needing to be honest. I would say a DNF would have excessive descriptions, hokey dialog and unrealistic characters.
Most days I like reviewing, since I truly love books, but sometimes finding the time to read and write a review is challenging.
Do you have any pets TJ? Not that kind, and fish and gerbils don’t count. Lol
I have had some wonderful pets over the years, (dogs mostly) but have’t gotten another since my last one passed. I’m kind of enjoying the freedom of being pet free for a while.
You know the drill about this part of the interview TJ. The boyz in the hot tub get to throw a few questions at you while you relax and submit to a bit of pampering.
Do you ever sit in front of a fire in the winter on a bearskin rug with a glass of wine (preferably red, because that’s what I would drink :)) with a book? What types of books would you read given that scenario? Would you be wearing your silk dressing gown? I know what the boyz in the hot tub want you to wear, and a dressing gown is not even on their list.
I would definitely be reading a hot M/M romance! But I don’t own a silk dressing gown, so my wardrobe I’ll leave to your imagination. [This answer is so dull. I expected you to say you would be reading porn] 🙂
Billy, one of the guys in the hot tub who never seems to wear any clothes and tries to entice anyone I interview into the tub, has a question for you.
What do you do for fun when you’re not reading or picking up hot men? He has a few suggestions which I wouldn’t repeat. 🙂 [Before you answer, be careful TJ. This is not one of those sites you visit.]
Oh Billy, you look a little cold in your birthday suit. Are those goose bumps? Come, let’s slip into the hot tub. There now… isn’t that better? Hey, who splashed me, cut that out! LOL So, a real luxury for me is time to paint, or do anything creative. It’s such a great release as it uses the other side of my brain from the number crunching half that I use all day. Of course there’s always something going on in town – like a sidewalk fair, there’re lots of restaurants, a beautiful park and we even have our very own gay pride parade! So fun is not hard to find.
Billy also wants to know, what do you really think of Buda? He would like to invite both of you into the tub for a few beers but there’s no jello or mud wrestling allowed in the tub. (Don’t know what Buda is going to do). BTW I have no idea what’s in the beer but the guys giggle a lot after Billy’s version of a hot tub massage party. I should tell you that Aunt Lynn calls the hot tub “penis-land”, but I assume this is not a problem for you snicker
Penis-land? I want to go there for vacation! I think that Buda-boy is one very cool guy (and I hear a real hottie too!). If I were 10 years younger… Well at least I can still enjoy the view. So heck yeah, invite Buda in! He’d love the guys. Um, Wave… I don’t think this is beer. Back home, they call these Long Island Ice Teas. Whew! Is it hot in here?
Sorry, Billy has one more question. No it’s not the briefs or boxer question but you’re in the right vicinity. lol He wants to know – What do you like to have for breakfast? What? Billy – why do you care what TJ has for breakfast? Oh sorry, I guess I’m stupid. Back to the breakfast question. He wants to know if he could serve breakfast wearing just his frilly French maid’s outfit (can’t get that visual out of my head because Billy is kind of hairy) and could he bring along Ethan as a treat? I swear I didn’t know about Billy and Ethan. TJ you told me you weren’t into ménages. 🙂
There’s nothing like hot buns for breakfast and I love nuts (well nut butters like almond and peanut). But clothing is optional Billy. And Ethan is always welcome. But did you say – bring Ethan as a treat or a trick?
Thank you TJ. I think these are some of my better interview questions. 🙂
Those were some great questions Wave. I had a lot of fun. Thank you!
All pictures, except for the very cute one of a young man in uniform at the top of this interview, were taken by TJ who is an amateur photographer and artist.