Starting from Scratch …… by Damon Suede

Scratch, painted by Rey Arzeno for HORN GATE by Damon Suede

Scratch, painted by Rey Arzeno for HORN GATE by Damon Suede

Our lovely Wave has asked me to talk about the way Horn Gate happened and why I’ve taken a little authorial detour to write about enslaved sex demons instead of closeted first responders. The truth is, this paranormal story took hold of me and wouldn’t let go… and my new year’s resolution for 2013 was that rather than dictating what the Muse does I’m trying to meet her with wide ears and open heart.

2012 was a wacky year for me on every level. Serving on the board of the Rainbow Romance Writers and an organizer of GayRomLit ate up most of my spare time…while my anxiety about getting Hard Head as perfect as possible completely kicked my ass. :sceptic: I didn’t want to let anyone down and the pressure became excruciating. I stopped sleeping and eating for a long stretch there, and though I wrote every day, I became increasingly mistrustful of everything I wrote. The whole reason I started writing romance was because it was so liberating and somehow I’d managed to cripple myself with anxiety over disappointing my fans and colleagues.

Note to self: don’t postpone joy.

Right before GRL2012 in Albuquerque, I had worked myself into a full lather about a reading I’d scheduled back when I thought Hard Head would manifest as swiftly and easily as Hot Head. The truth is, I’ve written 258k words of Hard Head, but it’s nowhere near ready because Tommy is a slippery critter and the book’s themes are intense and tricky to navigate. It’s been…well… hard. I want that book to honor the world established in Hot Head, and was trying to retain what shreds of sanity remain to me. :nuts:

Anyways, one week before GRL kicked off, Heidi Cullinan and I had a long talk about what I would read aloud in Albuquerque and she forbade me to read any of Hard Head because of the hideous knots into which I’d tied myself. Cullinan threw down a gauntlet: write something completely new for GRL… except because of my travel schedule I only had 12 hours to do it. Luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to write.

HG Bookmark BACK smallSee… back in September a couple of passionate fans had traveled into the city to have dinner with me and inadvertently planted a seed that had started to sprout. The more I thought about reading at GRL, the more something fresh felt like the right thing to tackle. I plunked down and wrote the first half of an opening chapter for Bad Idea, a new contemporary romance about a reclusive comic book artist and a reckless FX makeup designer.

I had a blast. :hurrah:

Like Hot Head, this story just poured onto the page, clocking in at 18 pages by the time I was done. Raw as it was, I read a fat slice of that critter in Albuquerque where the audience seemed to dig it as much as I did. I felt like I could breathe freely. I came back from GRL2012 (where I finally got to meet Wave for the first time!) all pumped and ready to write this novel. After twelve months of struggling in quicksand, I set Hard Head aside and dove into Bad Idea‘s world of comic books and creature design.

Now, I’ve written for DC and Marvel and I’ve worked in film for 20 years so the goofy landscape built itself quickly. As these two fellas fell for each other on the page, my main character decided for the hell of it that he was writing a racy homoerotic comic about a sex demon called Scratch that would jeopardize his entire career. As I dug further into the story, that “very graphic novel” ended up being the way the hero worked through a lot of painful issues about his identity and sexuality. Then, one of my betas who’s an obsessive comic fan asked if I’d consider writing Scratch’s saga for real and I realized I had a cool opportunity to do exactly that: write my hero’s comic book as a separate novella.

Scratch_ComingSoon_FBThumbSo Horn Gate is actually a story within a story. Creating Scratch’s escapades let me experience his story the way his fictitious author might… and also do some groovy things with emotional projection and transference. As I wrote Horn Gate, the introverted hero of Bad Idea gained texture and pathos because I was essentially writing the story in character. As Scratch took shape, I realized that he had a story to tell as well, more than enough for a series of paranormal novels. The Muses spoke; I listened hard.

What started as a fun contemporary single title had spawned two interconnected storylines that seemed to be writing themselves.  Out of crippling anxiety and one fabulous dinner with beloved fans, a virtual litter of romances was born!

The “Itch” series will be about a series of ambitious artists wrestling with prejudices and sexuality, both their own and the public’s, as they bring this NC-17 incubus to life in mass-market media: comics, videogames, movies, and beyond. And as the embedded story, the “Scratch” series relates the ongoing adventures of my demon and his mortal lover as they use magic and seduction to investigate occult crimes and explore a relationship that bridges morality and mortality. 👿 My boyfriend calls it “Scooby Doo with boners.”

HornGateAs it happens, a lot of paranormal readers don’t read contemporary romance and vice versa. I thought it would be cool if I wrote both narrative tracks so they could be read separately or in tandem. I get to have a lot of fun with thematic overlap without forcing either group of reader to follow a plotline that doesn’t interest them. Folks who love the Itch books can find out what their characters are working on. And folks who dig Scratch can find out the inner workings of the characters who are shaping the character’s storyline and the way it reflects their journeys. Rey Arzeno, the insanely talented artist who painted Scratch for me has already asked if I’d be willing to write Scratch as a literal comic alongside the fiction series….so who knows what’s gonna be unleashed? 😉

I have lots of other books to write; Hard Head awaits, as does Spring Eternal and more besides, but my big beautiful sex demon has helped the joy in my writing to possess me again. I didn’t even have to sell my soul, because he gave it back to me.



  • Dude, man…I hear ya about writer’s block!! After churning out like 11 titles last year, I completely crashed and burned the first 2-3 months of this year. Total mental block. Everything I wrote seemed like garbage.

    BUT, I just subbed my second story for the year (book 3 in a four book series, so I HAD to write it) and I want to run around the house with my arms over my head like Rocky Balboa.

    In a fit of despair yesterday, I wrote this on a piece of paper: “No guilt. No should. No comparison. Just value.” I try, try, try to remember that basic mantra all the time. What can I give people of value? What do I have in me that people will enjoy and that will make them smile? (Usually the answer is buttsecks, but your mileage may vary. :))

    I guess what I’m saying is “I feel ya, babe.”

    Keep on keepin’ on. And congrats on your new book!


  • I loved listening to your reading at GRL last year and swore that I would be buying that book as soon as it was released, and now reading about Horn Gate – yeah, I totally bought it this morning

    • Yay, Dee! That’s awesome. I love that you were there for the first zombie run piece. :yes: It’s grown so much since then. I’m literally in the home stretch and polishign it for final submisison in the next couple weeks.

      Thank you, thank you for being willing to take the ride with me!

  • Damon, you never disappoint as an author, a speaker or as a person. Just let your genius go free and we’ll bask in it. ((Hugs))

    • 😀 You’re too sweet, Mary. but I thank you for hanging tough no matter how wacky I get. All kinds of discoveries acame out of the process of writing these books. And even more lessons that y’all have taught me. :flirt: XXX

  • Damon
    I can’t wait to read Horn Gate. I’m disappointed that I can’t review it. Someone else beat me to the book but I know she’ll do a great job.

    I don’t have to tell you how much I absolutely LOVE Hot Head which I have read countless times so I’m looking forward to being engrossed in this new world and the characters that you created. I also love the fact that this will be a series within a series, so the stories and the characters will grow together. Fabulous idea Damon. “Scooby Doo with boners!” I think your BF should be a writer. 😆

    258 K words is A LOT for one novel – I can’t imagine the editing to bring it down to manageable proportions. While I wait I’ll just re-read Hot Head one more time. 😀

    • I’ll crack it once my head is back in the right space. 😉 And in the meantime, maybe a few folks will come on my little detour into other climes and times. LOL

      Thank you, sweetheart!

  • It’s fascinating to read about your process…if taking a breather from HARD HEAD was what you had to do, so be it! Sure, I’m looking forward to it, but you could never let us down by making us wait. (Sure, sometimes I imagine a lost scene where Griff plays hockey to cheer myself up while I wait, because I’m freaky that way, but that’s not your fault.) I’m eager to read this one in the meantime!

    • Cheers, Trix. My biggest anxiety has been letting folks down. Truly. So I appreciate the vote of confidence.

      And as for Griff playing sports I have one thing to say to whet your appetite: RUGBY. :blove2:

      • Fair enough. In the fire department rec league hockey games, is Griff a defenseman? He struck me as the quintessential shutdown defenseman type: big guy, always thinking, protective, sometimes goes unsung compared to goal scorers but is absolutely necessary to the success of the team. I realize I sound nuts now, so I will go…

  • Damon, Horn Gate sounds awesome! There is more freedom in writing paranormal because the characters can do anything they want in the world you built for them, while in contemporary settings the characters are constrained by our everyday reality. Also, most m/m fans like me, come from Yaoi, so this series is a must read.

    I love the cover Rey Arzeno created for Horn Gate. BTW The first thing that came to my mind when I saw that cover is that Scratch looks like a Mexican actor named Gonzalo García Vivanco. It might be my imagination and the fact that Gonzalo plays mostly scoundrels, but the resemblance is eerie. This is a link to a clip of him so you can compare or maybe get more inspired

    Anyway, I’m going to get Horn Gate for sure (to put it on the top of my reward reading list). Thanks for sharing your experiences, it’s great to know that I’m not the only one doubting and struggling with my own mind.
    Hugs, and best of luck.

    • I know Vivanco! I love him! LOL That’s awesome.

      Actually, we didn’t use him specifically as a model. Scratch’s face and body were assembled out of about 200 references because I’m a nutter. Rey was so gracious and amazing. He came to my loft and painted while I wrote. Every once in a while he’d stop and show me somehting or ask a question… and little by little Scratch emerged. I’m gonna do a post in the next month or so describing the process,but it was insanely inspiring. We loved working together and will definitely be doing more stuff as a team

      Thank you so much, Naaju! Burn bright!

  • It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for you to write another book like Hot Head and wondered why, all of a sudden, all I could find was fantasy when Hot Head was such a success. This helps me to understand and I appreciate you sharing the information. I hope you’ll be able to finish Hard Head but this makes it easier to wait.

    • Hard Head is DEFINITELY coming. I’ve got it all there on the page but I just needed a breather. It got SO dark… and Tommy is dark, but I needed to let the oxygen in a bit. I just didn’t want to mess it up. I love those Red Hook boys, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let them down! LOL

      In a strange way, Horn Gate was me listening to a Muse for a character in Bad Idea, and Bad Idea was me finding a way to get back to Hard Head. They’re all part of the same process… and though I know not every book or every genre is for every reader, I needed to write these to get myself back in the flow. y’know?

  • Wow, I can hear the change. Fantastic! I’m so glad you used writing as your reparative therapy. We all benefit, and it looks like you have too. You should listen to Heidi from now on 🙂

    • LOL Indeed. Thanks Lisa… I hadn’t realized just how immobilized I’d become… I kept writing and I was putting words n the page, but it felt like standing in a barrel of quick-dry cement. MUCH better to have the juices flowing. :DX:


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Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal into a career as a crazy word-wrangler and opinion-factory. He reads too much, sleeps too little, and loves his husband a lot.
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