I had an opportunity to sit down for an interview with the prolific author M. Christian, whose work encompasses a wide range of genres. What follows is an abbreviated transcript of our conversation.
At what age did you first get an inkling that you wanted to become a writer, and why?
I’ve scratched my head about this quite a bit, and I think it boils down to two things. The first is escape: growing up, my family life wasn’t exactly pleasant so it’s kind of natural that I would have retreated into books, especially science fiction. Kind of makes sense then that one day I realized I actually might be able to write my own books and stories as well.
But the second reason is even more powerful: after hammering my head against blank pages for close to a decade I actually discovered I liked writing. Not for escape but because…well, I like to say it’s like playing an instrument must be like: the world just goes away and you find yourself transported into words, language, and story.
I still get headaches from smacking my brain against blank pages but after the swelling goes down I still get that transcendental thrill. It’s really what motivates me…that and the money that comes in every now and again, of course.
During your secondary school and college years did you take any writing courses out of the norm that furthered your interest in pursuing a writing career? If so, what courses and how did they influence you?
I took a lot of classes in high school and college but, to be brutally honest, they were a waste of time. None of them were really prepared to deal with someone who really, really, really wanted to write and not just score an easy grade. I think I must have been a bit insufferable towards the teachers―mostly out of frustration: I was hammering away night after night on story after story but all I ever seemed to get were shallow comments, no real meat-and-potatoes help.
That’s why I dearly love teaching my own writing classes: giving people the kind of writing info I wish I’d received back when. The first lesson I think I teach is that―and I know it might be the wrong thing to say in the middle of an interview about myself―is never compare yourself to anyone else. Writing can be extremely challenging, so it’s understandable that we want to learn anything that’ll make it easier.
But hearing that another writer sold their very first story, or their first novel earned half a million in royalties, doesn’t help anyone except the writer. Beginners will often read that and think that’s the way things should go, or should have gone, for them―which is absolute crud. A writer might say they write ten pages a day. Beginners will then think that if they don’t they won’t be successful…whatever that means.
It might sound overly simplistic, but writers write: and the only time they ever fail is when they stop writing. There’s no trick to number of pages, agents, editors, social media, etc.―you work and work and work and work. It gets easier, if you are lucky, but it never gets easy.
The second thing I teach is that if you write hoping to make it big (again: whatever the hell that means) then you won’t: the odds are completely against you. But if you write for the love of storytelling then you’ll be happier than getting any fat royalty check, movie deal, or publishing contract. Fame, money, all of that is nightmarishly fickle: here one day, gone the next. Truly enjoying the creation of books and stories, though, that’s the real reward.
What was the first story or book that you submitted to a publisher? Was it accepted?
Oh, my…I’ve written a lot of stuff and submitted tons more. I really tried to be a pro writer in high school and must have written a story a week for close to ten years (on and off, of course) and didn’t sell a single one (though I did come close now and again). Mostly science fiction but I also dabbled in other genres as well.
It wasn’t until I tried erotica that I sold my very first work, a story to the now-defunct Future Sex magazine. The story then got picked for Best American Erotica (in 1994) and it just sort of took off from there.
I never really wanted to be an erotica writer. I just wanted to write and sell what I wrote and erotica, back then, was new and hungry. I pitched my first anthology to (also defunct) Masquerade books, Eros Ex Machina: Eroticising The Mechanical and they took it. Six years later I sent my collection, Dirty Words, to the wonderful (and, yes, defunct) Alyson Books and they accepted that.
That may sound impressive but for each success I, like pretty much every writer, must have had ten times as many rejections.
Your writing background is fairly diverse. Did that happen by design, serendipity, or both?
While science fiction has always been a favorite I’ve enjoyed reading, and even writing, all kinds of different things. Erotica was just the door that first opened but I’d be very happy writing pretty much anything.
I’ve always felt that, again, writers write. If someone called me tomorrow and said “Hey, I want to you write a young adult werewolf romance” my first reaction isn’t ‘what the hell’ but sure, why not? Maybe I’d have a blast―and end up being the best damned young adult werewolf romance writer out there. You never know…
When I first started writing erotica, for instance, publishers were very eager for anything interesting and well thought-out, so I tried writing all kinds of stuff: fetish, romance, sexy noir and science fiction, and even gay and lesbian fiction (I’m straight).
I’m extremely touched that the LGBT community has been so accepting of my work. It always brings tears to my eyes to think of the kindness and welcoming I’ve received. I’ve recently begun to move beyond LGBT but only because I think it’s important not to stay too comfortable writing just one kind of thing…stretching your creative wings and all that … but queer fiction still holds a special place in my heart.
Looking back on your body of work, which books that you have written or edited are you the proudest? What about them stands out in your mind?
Not to be evasive but they’re all special―no matter the genre: blood, sweat, tears (other body fluids) and all that. Sure, I think some turned out better than others but I learned a long time ago that what you think is your best work others might read and go meh.
That being said, I really enjoyed the explorations I did with the novels Me2 and Finger’s Breadth―both surreal/dark/gay/thrillers. I still really enjoy writing erotic science fiction, like the recently released Skin Effect (a sequel to my previous collection, Bachelor Machine) and Bionic Lover.
It’s hard to be proud of anthologies. I mean I think many of them are excellent books but when you’re the editor it’s your job to basically pick stories you think would work best for the project―the writers that make the cut are really what makes the anthology special. I do get a thrill when writers say they enjoyed working with me or that they enjoyed writing their contribution. That does mean the world to me.
I’m also very much enjoying writing non-fiction. I’ve been penning pieces for the wonderful Future Of Sex site for many months now. I’ve also written non-fiction on all kinds of other things, and (plug) they are all in a book: Welcome to Weirdsville.
Would you mind telling us how you began gravitating to audiobooks and what your experience has been with them so far?
I’ve always incredibly enjoyed hearing a reading/performance of an author’s work. I’ve done a few myself but, to be honest, my speaking and talking voice is way different than this voice you’re hearing―my writing voice―so it’s not as fun as I’d like.
So when the fantastic folks at Wordwooze Publishing agreed to do some of my books as audiobooks I was ecstatic! So far they have done the already-mentioned Skin Effect, with the also already-mentioned Bionic Lover and Finger’s Breadth in the works.
Jazmin Kensington’s reading of Skin Effect is perfect. It’s odd, but in a lovely way, to hear your words read by someone else―and I can’t wait to hear how the other books turn out.
Thank you for taking the time to share some of the details of your writing career. I’m sure that many of our readers will find your experiences and observations to be of great interest.