Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Interview (plus giveaway): J.M. Synder

Welcome to our latest Spring Celebration interview, this time with the ever-amazing J.M. Snyder. We first met over a year ago, when J.M. was managing the Rainbow Reviews site, to which I had the opporunity to contribute several reviews before she chose to discontinue the site and move on to bigger and better things.

Since then, J.M. has been focussing her efforts as both an author and as publisher of JMS Books, a small press specializing in queer titles. If that name seems familiar, it should - our giveaways this month were made possible, in part, by her generosity!

J.M. has graciously agreed to stop by and take part in a interview for us today. Before we get into the interview, however, I'd like to draw you attention to her latest work, Encore (a sequel to Beautiful Disaster):

EncoreIn "Beautiful Disaster," pop superstar Corey Evans realizes how hollow he feels until he discovers he's in love with his best friend and band mate, Ian Coltraine. Together they form the successful pop duo 2ICE, and this story picks up where the first left off. A couple not only onstage but in the bedroom now, Ian and Corey have managed to hide their newfound relationship from the fans, the press, and -- most importantly -- their management. But when manager Dean Summers stumbles upon the two of them together, he's determined to put an end to what he sees as a destructive course which can only end up tearing the band apart. Is the budding love Ian and Corey share strong enough to stand up to the pressures they face? If you haven't read "Beautiful Disaster," this story may not make much sense. So pick up the first story before diving into this short, satisfying sequel!

And now, without further ado, let's get into the interview . . .

♥ Before we start, I'd just like to say thanks, on behalf of all of our visitors, for helping to make this month a success. For those who may be new to you and the fact that you're an author (as well as a publisher), please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is J.M. Snyder, and I write gay erotic romance. I started out in boyband slash fan-fic, then moved into self-publishing original gay fiction in 2002. In 2006, I began exploring the world of e-publishing, and worked with quite a few different e-publishers, including Amber Allure Press, eXcessica, and Torquere Press. My short stories have been in anthologies published by Cleis Press and Alyson Books, among others.

In 2010, I decided to take the leap from author to publisher and started my own queer small press, JMS Books LLC. Since July of last year, we’ve published over 100 e-book titles and have almost 50 books in print.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one (and you clearly qualify as accomplished!). When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

To be honest, I started writing when I was about 8 years old. Of course, I didn’t write then what I write now! But I knew I had a love of words at that early age ~ I read voraciously, and wanted to write down the stories I saw in my head so others could enjoy them, as well.

Bones of the Sea and Other StoriesI didn’t start seeing my name in print until high school, but then it was limited to school publications (the yearbook and newspaper). In college, I worked as an editor for a speculative fiction journal we published called The Fractal. After graduation, I had a few poems and a short story published in ‘zines, but nothing major. Still, it was very nice to see my name in print. I can still remember just how excited I was to receive the acceptance notice from one of the ‘zines for my first published story, Bones of the Sea (currently available as an e-book under the pseudonym J.T. Marie).

My first book was self-published through iUniverse. Because they did the book layout and cover art, I was thrilled to finally hold a physical copy of something I wrote in my hands. Even now, each time I get a proof copy of my latest book in the mail, I’m breathless with anticipation and excitement. I don’t think you ever lose that sense of wonder that your story has finally come to life.

♥ I think it's wonderful that, even with all of your efforts as a publisher, you've never lost that feeling of anticipation. Did you deliberately choose the gay-romance genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

I sort of lucked into writing gay male erotic romance. I stumbled upon it accidentally, because I started my writing career, so to speak, in fantasy. Doesn’t everyone? It’s a very difficult genre to break into, though, and after one too many rejection letters, I complained on my then online journal that the average teenage girl writing ‘N Sync slash fan fiction wrote more than I did.

I knew what slash was, of course ~ I had stumbled upon it early on, first fem-slash with Xena and then the Master/Apprentice site with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. While it was something I enjoyed reading, a guilty pleasure almost, it wasn’t anything I ever thought I’d be able to write. Still, thinking about ‘N Sync slashers made me wonder if such a thing really existed. So I looked it up online and found the infamous Nifty Archive.

Unfortunately, the only boy band slash I found on the site seemed to be Mary Sue fic ~ you know, “My Night with Justin” and stuff like that. I thought those authors were all wrong. If the guys were going to mess around with anyone, it’d be someone else in their inner circle, another member of the band. I sat down to set the record straight (he he) and wrote my first gay male/slash story in one night. Heart in throat, I sent it into the Nifty Archive, sure no one would want to read it but myself.

I was wrong. Not only did the site publish the story, but the next morning I had an inbox full of fan mail praising it! Suddenly I realized I’d found the genre I was meant to write. After two years and a highly successful fan-fic website, I decided to return to original fiction, this time the gay male erotic romance I loved so much, and the rest, as they say, is history.

♥ The Nifty Archive is such a great resource (I have a few stories of my own there, buried under different psuedonyms), and it's amazing how many published authors have emerged from there. Tell me, though, how does your life influence your writing? Even though you're writing about gay men, are you conscious of relating the stories to your own experiences?

Many of the scenes in my stories are drawn from personal experiences. I have a writer’s mind, so I’m always watching, always cataloging, and at some point I know I’ll draw on the everyday minutia of my own existence to tell a story. I think this is how writers make their stories realistic, no matter what genre they use or world they create. Writing scenes that come from their own lives helps ground the story, making it more accessible and more realistic for readers to relate to.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

I used to have a very dedicated writing schedule, but over the past several months, I’ve basically had to squeeze in my own writing around the publishing aspect of maintaining JMS Books LLC and the nefarious day job (which I’m quitting in June to be able to focus more on my own writing schedule). Ideally I prefer to write either first thing in the morning (which, for me, is 6 AM), in the late afternoon (3-4 PM), or in the evening (9-10 PM). That seems to be when the muse wants to talk to me. I have taken to writing on my netbook, which allows me to write on the couch or in bed ~ it’s nice not to be confined to my desk, where I do the majority of my OTHER writing duties (cover art, book layout, website updates, and promotions).

♥ Ah, quitting your day job to write - talk about living the dream! Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, or do you prefer absolute silence?

I can’t write with music on because it distracts me. I find myself drawn out of the story and into the lyrics, and I can’t tune them out. When I write, I turn off the stereo, the iPod, the television, and close all my browser windows, even my e-mail program. I concentrate on just the page in front of me for the hour or so I have to write. I don’t even bother answering the phone until I’m done!

♥ For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?

I am horrible with titles. Many of my stories get sent to my beta readers without even a working title in place! While staring at a blank page can be daunting as well, the only thing harder than coming up with a suitable title for a story is writing the promotional blurb!

♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your own work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?

I love quotes. One I think of constantly in regards to writing in general and my own feelings about it comes from Isaac Asimov ~ “I write for the same reason I breathe … because if I didn’t, I would die.

♥ Definitely an author worth quoting. When you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?

I like to watch older TV shows ~ I have the entire collection of The A-Team, Quantum Leap, 21 Jump Street, and The X-Files on DVD. Futurama, too, though that’s back in production (yay!). I also like going to the movies ~ I go at least once a week, sometimes more. I love video games, especially The Legend of Zelda and Tomb Raider. And I’m constantly online, promoting, updating my website, checking out The Daily What and the LOL Cats site. I’m a big nerd at heart, what can I say?

♥ Okay, Isaac Asimov, Quantum Leap, X-Files, Zelda, and LOL Cats? You'll have to give me a moment to shake off this serious girl-crush I feel developing! Okay . . . we're good now - to get back on track, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries?

Quantum Leap 00: ForeknowledgeMy favorite author is Stephen King. Reading his stories always inspires me to create my own worlds, in the hopes that I can capture readers’ interest the way he’s captured mine. Other authors I love to read are Tom Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, Jude Watson, Jon Krakauer, Mary Roach, and Charles Pelligrino. I love a variety of genres, from nonfiction to YA to horror, and I also love serial novels based on my favorite TV shows (I almost have every Quantum Leap novel released).

Watership Down: A NovelMy favorite book of all time is Watership Down by Richard Adams. It takes my breath away, the characterization and action crafted so deftly that I can only yearn to write with such passion myself. I reread the book often, mainly to remind myself how effortless good storytelling should seem and how amazing writing can be.

♥ Okay, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and the Quantum Leap novels - really not helping to put the brakes on this girl-crush! When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I write for the characters, first and foremost. Once they’ve taken on a life of their own, writing for myself or for the reader and ignoring what the story wants to become is a disservice to the world I’ve created. After I’m done with a particular story or book, I may wonder how readers will react if it’s a bit different from my other writing, but as long as I’m satisfied that I’ve been true to the story I needed to tell, I know that readers will respond to it. I don’t necessarily mean in a good way, either. Sometimes a strong negative reaction can be just as telling as an effusive, positive review.

♥ Just for fun, who would you single out as your number one celebrity crush, and what would you like most to do with/to them?

At this point in time, no lie ~ my number one celeb crush is Britney Spears. I still think she’s too damn cute for words. I also love Apolo Ohno. I’m going to miss him terribly when the next Winter Olympics is on, as he’s said to have retired from speedskating.

♥ If one of your books were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?
Henry and Jim
The only story of mine I’ve ever written with conscious thought about who would portray the characters was a short story called Henry and Jim. While writing it, I could see Michael Caine as Henry and Ian McKellan as Jim. If I had unlimited resources, I think that would be one short film I’d love to produce!

♥ Great choices! Looking back on all of your work, is there a particular character who you feel best reflects yourself, or do you consciously avoid putting too much of yourself into your stories?

To be honest, there’s a little part of me in all my characters, every one. That’s what makes their reactions and emotions ring true, because they’re drawn from my own life. If I can’t understand why a character behaves in a particular way, then I can’t write his or her life story accurately.

That said, I try to avoid “Mary Sue” characters in my stories. The few that have snuck in there tend to be very bossy, very bitchy women. I wonder what that has to say about me?

♥ Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

If anything, I hope my writing shows readers that love knows no gender. The stereotypical ideas society imposes on us in regard to sexuality and gender aren’t set in stone—they’re as fluid and as mysterious as the heart itself. No matter gay or lesbian, straight, bisexual, or transgender, you’re beautiful the way you are. Embrace yourself, own your sexuality, and love wherever you find it.

♥ I love the sentiment, and I think we can all appreciate it. What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

I have two novels that are about halfway completed which I hope to finish up this year. They’re a little different from my usual gay erotic romance in that both contain transgender characters at the heart of the stories. I think it’s a fascinating exploration to undertake, and I hope my readers are ready to go on that journey with me.


A huge "thank you" to J.M. Snyder for stopping by, and for generously offering to be part of our giveaways all month long. You can check her out on the web at and I'll be reviewing her Bonds of Love next month, and you can guarantee I'll be waiting anxiously for her new transgender works!

With J.M. Snyder here to help keep the last week of our Spring Celebration going strong, it's also time for you - the readers - to do your part by stopping by, saying hello, and hopefully even sharing a few thoughts on either her book or her interview.

Don't forget, this is also your chance to become eligible for this week's giveaway (including your book of choice from JMS Books), so be sure to include your email address in your comment. Of course, you don't have to be a follower to win, but being a follower will earn you a bonus entry for the week (just let me know in your comment if you're a new follower or an old favourite).


  1. Two of my books, "Times Queer" and "Vienna Dolorosa" received good notice from Rainbow Reviews. I recall when you had to shut down that cast an emptiness that still is felt throughout. But life goes on... Sure am glad you're doing very well.

  2. Thanks, Mykola. I enjoyed Rainbow Reviews a lot (Sally was one of our reviewers!) but unfortunately I had too many irons in the fire, so to speak. Something had to give, and the review site was it.

  3. I love how you write characters with flaws and put them in situations where they have to face themselves at some point in the story. Such care is taken with the storyline and the wide range of characters make for a great blend.
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