Jay Bell is the Amazon bestselling author of Something Like Summer, a novel that a lot of readers of mm romance are familiar with. I contacted Jay after reading that novel and asked if he would like to appear on my blog. He very graciously accepted my invitation and the following is the interview I had with him.
1. How did you get your start writing gay fiction and/or erotica? Please tell us a bit about your background and early beginnings.
Long, long ago, when the world was still flat and cavemen rode their dinosaurs to work, I wrote a fantasy novel. As first attempts go, it wasn’t bad, although it didn’t contain a drop of sexuality. Despite it never being published, I even started working on a sequel. At one point in the second book, I had one of the main characters wrap his arm around the other, both of them male. That’s when the world stopped spinning and the universe started talking to me and telling me to invest in pork. I ignored the voices in my head, but I knew that I wanted to write characters like myself. So I abandoned both books and started from scratch. The rest is history. Very recent history still in the making, but history nonetheless.
2. Tell us a bit about Something Like Summer, your bestselling novel to date.
Teen angst. That’s how Something Like Summer starts. People seem to be able to relate to the first half of the novel best, probably because it’s a very universal tale. Gay or straight, we’ve all had that guy (or girl) that we wanted terribly bad—those infatuations that make the other person appear divine at times. Many of us simply stared in wonder from afar, but some of us were lucky and got close to the object of our affection, even if just for a moment. That’s what the first half is about. Crushes, and those first relationships that are full of mistakes and hard lessons.
Once we break free from the gravitational pull of high school, the stories we live become much less universal. The second half of Something Like Summer deals with the path the main character takes and the adult life he makes for himself. And of course the past comes back to haunt him, as it so often does. Mostly the story is about love, and what an intoxicating and confusing blessing/burden it is.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
My first and foremost goal is to write the story I want to read. There’s a school of thought that says you should start a book by aiming toward a profitable market. That may be good for your bank account, but I think it reduces the chances of creating something really special. My first novel, The Cat in the Cradle, hasn’t sold particularly well. Despite that, I wrote a sequel and doing so was one of the best experiences of my life. Maybe no one outside a select few will read it, but I can still feel the excitement and passion I had while creating it. No sales figures in the world are worth giving that up. Likewise, my third novel Hell’s Pawn goes out of its way to defy genre. It’s too early to say if it will be successful or not, and to be honest, there were a lot of labor pains with that one, but I don’t regret writing it.
Past satisfying my own needs and standards, I hope that my books will resonate with the readers. If I tell the truth as I see it, then there will be others that enjoy that vision, whether they agree with it or not. Mostly I just hope to entertain people, while writing gay fiction that is classy enough to mingle at a cocktail party without any eyebrows raising in distaste.
4. Something Like Summer is selling very well. Would you mind telling us a bit about how you promoted it? I mean, we all know how difficult it is to sell well.
The readers have the power. I’ve done everything I can to promote all three books, short of spam mail. I don’t think I have any great secrets to impart, or my other two novels would be equally successful. It’s the readers that decide what they like and use their voices to spread the word. All an author can do is get his book out there and in the best presentation as possible. Aside from the author politely drawing attention to it, a book is going to rise and sink solely on its own merits.
5. If you had a message for your readers and fans, what would it be?
Get over here and kiss me! Go on, I won’t tell Andreas! Seriously though (or more seriously), thank you for being so wonderful and supportive. Especially all of you that have given my other work a chance based on how much you enjoyed Something Like Summer. Thanks too for all those wonderful reviews and letters. I’m feeling the love and sending it right back atcha!
Jay's latest is Hell's Pawn.