Erik Swill on Characters, Personal Experience and his story ‘Too Many Temples (World of Love)’ (guest blog)

Standard

Too Many Temples (World of Love) by Erik Swill

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Maria Fanning

Available for Purchase at

Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Erik Swill here today on his Too Many Temples tour. Welcome, Erik, please tell us a little bit about yourself and your latest story.

✒︎

 

I am thrilled that my latest novella, Too Many Temples, is set to be published by Dreamspinner Press in June 2017. I’m also happy to have the opportunity to rant a little bit about myself here on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. And what better way to do so than to say just how dissimilar I am personally from the characters I write!

I have always found this curiosity on how much an author is like the characters they write to be odd. Usually characters are assumed to be manifestations of the author. Naturally, it is difficult for a writer to express him or herself without letting personal biases, prejudices and experiences flavoring the way we write. This applies even when creating a whole new world and a character that is supposed to be as far removed from ourselves as possible. After all, if the character is nothing like the author, then that means the act of penning this character used the author as the model in which to “other” it.

Many authors seem to be limited to creating characters that are based on themselves and follow a n event that happened in their life or someone close to them (or worse yet, something they saw on a Lifetime television movie and decided to give the story a queer twist to it). Some authors are good enough writers and have interesting enough lives that they can pull it off. Others less so.

I like to think that I have lived an interesting life as well! But I don’t like the idea of crafting a character based on something that happened in my life. I mean, I write fiction. Why shouldn’t I “make something up”??? I see that as a sort of standard for fiction writing anyhow. Write fiction, not your life story with different names for the characters.

Writing under other names, I have had readers (sometimes scarily so!) grill me to find out just how similar the protagonist and his actions are to my own life. I love it if readers enjoy the character I’ve written, but I never really understood the need to know how much it is based on my own life. In general, my stock reply is that the character is not based on me or anyone I know. I created them.

But … I also tend to write using settings and scenarios that I am familiar with. This is a blessing and a curse. Obviously, it reduces the amount of research I need to do if I already know the material and location(s) inside and out! But it also can be frustrating. If I do write a unique (read: crazy, off-the-wall, you’d-never-believe-it-if-you-didn’t-see-it) event into a story–something that I witnessed firsthand or something that happened to me–it runs the risk of being criticized for being unrealistic. A reviewer telling you that something that happened in your life that you inserted into your book isn’t realistic … when it DID actually happen like that in real life … well? [Throws slipper at laptop in outrage while cursing their ignorance] How else to respond?

But I digress. What I DO acknowledge is that my personal experiences very much so influence how I write my settings, scenarios and the characters’ reactions to the world around them. This is how I interpret the question “how much of you is written into your characters?”

I travel a lot. Sometimes because I have to but mostly because I can’t sit still for too long in one place. Call it a travel bug or some mental disorder–whatever it is, though, it works for me. Because when I travel, I am throwing myself into a set of scenarios that I would not otherwise come across. I’m pulled out of my comfort zone and need to consider how I would deal with the challenges that confront me. Later in retrospect, I can rethink my actions (or lack thereof) and reimagine how else I could have reacted in those situations if I were someone else … like one of my would-be characters. If one of those what-if scenarios sits well in my head, then a possible plot element is born or a potential character trait starts to develop.

Now I’m living in a country where I only speak a basic amount of the language. Ya, it’s still at a basic level from a complete lack of effort on my part. My bad. But while that limits me from some spheres, it also can lead to some pretty challenging situations. And that’s always good fodder for fiction. So while the specific turn of events or even content of the (failed) interaction are easily transferred to other cultural settings, the human element is very relevant. How did it make me feel when I really wanted low-fat vanilla almond milk in my coffee but the barista misunderstood what I had said and gave me low-fat regular milk instead? {Shock and horror] Still, that awkwardness in communicating across languages and/or cultures exists in so many different contexts. So I can, for example, apply my personal difficulty ordering food in one country and turn that into my protagonist’s frustration at trying to make a doctor’s appointment in another country where the protagonist and I have similar communication problems.

In my latest novella, Too Many Temples, the characters are from Australia and Bali (Indonesia), two countries that I do have a lot of experience in. They are also presented with the challenges of a potential long-distance relationship between two very different cultures–something else I have also had to deal with. Yet, the events in the novella are nothing at all like my experiences. Happily so at that!

All relationships have their problems. But when you add geographical, emotional, and cultural distance into the mix, it can get even more complicated. Especially when … oh, well maybe you will just have to read it to see how the characters handle this hook-up gone right, despite the mess it creates!

 Blurb

Looking to spice up his stagnant sex life in Brisbane, self-professed player Adrian takes a week-long vacation in Bali, anticipating sun, surf, and plenty of no-strings-attached hookups. He doesn’t expect his attraction to the tour guide, Ketut, to become an obsession. As he travels around the beautiful Island of the Gods, Adrian is startled that he might be falling in love after swearing off relationships for good.

When Ketut opens a window of opportunity for a real relationship in Queensland after the vacation ends, Adrian retreats into his life of commitment-free fun. Unable to forget about Ketut, though, Adrian strikes out to the rural Queensland town of Rockhampton to find the man of his desires—hoping he hasn’t lost the chance for true love.

 Excerpt

“The sea here is both beautiful and deadly. The color of the water and the temptation to walk out at low tide to the base of the temple… but when the tide comes in and you are left stranded out there, the currents are strong and poisonous sea snakes swim here in large numbers. It’s odd that something so beautiful can also be so deadly. Many people have died here.”

“So it is better to avoid it completely.”

Ketut thought for a moment before answering. “No, Adrian. That makes it all the more important to visit. That people have died to see something so beautiful, so holy, makes this even more special. Sometimes taking a risk can lead to a life-changing experience. Or at least one that you will never forget for the rest of your life. How long will you remember this moment, Adrian? Right here, right now?”

Adrian had been staring into Ketut’s striking eyes as he spoke. There was a depth to him that Adrian admired, something that he would never know based solely on their first encounter. For a moment, Adrian wondered how many of the guys who had served as one-off fucks for him over the years also had something more than a tight ass to offer him. But the thought was short-lived.

Ketut leaned in and pressed his lips lightly against Adrian’s, pulling back slightly after a brief kiss. Adrian refused to let go. He pushed his face forward to continue what Ketut had started. He wasn’t done. The moment was too immediate to settle for anything less.

About the Author

Erik Swill is a professional editor and a cheeky storyteller. He has spent half of his life living abroad and half of that time trying to convince friends that he is not an international fugitive or secret agent. He isn’t. Really. But it probably doesn’t help that he writes under several pseudonyms, moves house frequently, and rarely posts anything on his social media accounts. He has published short fiction in Gay Flash Fiction and erotica in the Nifty Archives. With his longtime partner, Swann O’Hara, he coauthored the novella Wild Goose. Erik likes to write contemporary fiction but will try any genre once. Because why not?

Twitter: @ErikSwill

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Erik-Swill/100010350225984

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s