Friday, November 4, 2011

INTERVIEW: Brandon Shire (author of The Value of Rain)

Good morning, all! Please join me in extending a very warm welcome to the wonderful Brandon Shire, who has stopped by to talk a bit about his latest, The Value of Rain.

Brandon is a staunch LGBT Youth advocate, which is a large part of what brings him by during National Runaway Prevention Month. This month (and every month, in fact) Brandon is donating an incredible 50% of his proceeds from proceeds from The Value of Rain to GLBT Youth charities! So, not only do you get a great read, but you get to support a great cause!

Before we get into the inteview, let's take a quick look at The Value of Rain:

The Value of Rain is an emotionally rich, but corrosive tale of hate and revenge told by a most extraordinary narrator.

Charles is 14 when he is dumped into a mental hospital to cure his gayness, after being found with his first love. For the next ten years he endures mental and physical torture as part of that cure. When he is finally free, he begins a relentless quest for revenge against the woman who abetted his commitment into that hospital, his mother Charlotte. Charlotte, an extraordinary woman in her own right, cruelly uses her family in her quest to maintain her secrets and exact her own revenge. The Value of Rain chronicles this profane and profound journey through hate to the unexpected beginning of redemption.

And now, without further ado, I am both proud and pleased to introduce Brandon Shire!


♥ Thanks so much for stopping by, Brandon. For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

My least favorite subject: me. I write fiction, I’m an lgbt youth advocate and a gay dad. But my kids are grown. I’m also a bit of a recluse, so all this is a little uncomfortable for me. Next question.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I don’t think I’ve accomplished anything; my personal thought is that the reading public is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to who is accomplished and who is not. The fact that a book is in print doesn’t make it a worthwhile or a quality read; so I think, on my part, for authors to assume accomplishment is a bit premature just because their work is available. Those are two different things.

I’ve been writing for about 15 years, The Value Of Rain is the first manuscript I’ve allowed to be published, and only because my close friends have been yammering at me for some years to publish. Honestly, I’m still not all that comfortable with it.

♥ Very well said. Did you deliberately choose a genre because there's something specific that draws you to it, something you feel it offers that other genres don't, or was it just 'right' for the story you wanted to tell?

No, I’ve written in multiple genres, but Rain is the only work that I’ve published and the book is obviously in the gay fiction genre.

♥ If I might ask, without getting too personal, how does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

Several of the characters in Rain were based on very real people and very real tragedies. I won’t go into it any further than that. But Rain was also a way for me to release some of the intense emotion I felt when these people spoke with me about their experiences. I’ve tried to relay some of what they felt within the prose.

♥ With The Value of Rain, you're donating 50% of the proceeds to GLBT Youth charities - a truly amazing commitment. What motivated you to make such a gesture, and what would you most like to see those funds help accomplish?

Rain is about the tragedy of a gay youth and all you need to do is pick up the newspaper or see this video to realize how very real some of the atrocities within it still are. Honestly, I would rather see people get involved in local LGBT Youth Organizations than buy the book. Money has a finite ability to make changes, whereas a person who cares can make infinite changes that they may never see or know about.

If sales of Rain help to take one lgbt kid off the street and show them how much our community really cares about them, then I’ll be happy. There are far too many lgbt children out there who think no one cares, and I’d like that to be different.

♥ I think that is definitely a worthy goal. 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?

Well, I write by hand with a pen and notebook. I’ve tried but simply cannot write on a pc, or any other of today’s gadgets. As I explained to one of my fans, I need to feel the spaces between the words; which are just as important to me as the words themselves. In writing; in reaching for that emotional impact, I write with a cadence pertinent to the scene which I can’t capture when I’m tapping away at a keyboard.

As for a time, or a schedule... I’d have to say no. I’m a nocturnal writer mostly; when the world quiets my muse comes. So it’s definitely as the words demand rather than me demanding the words.

♥ I like that . . . the space between the words . . . pen and paper is definitely a more personal, more intimate means of communicating. Do you have a soundtrack to your writing, a particular style of music or other background noise that keeps you in the mood, or do you require quiet solitude?

I listen to as many genres of music as I read different genres of books. I must have music when I’m writing and it will usually fit the mood I’m trying to explore.

♥ Now, 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’ll spend weeks looking for a single word, and there have been times when I’ve gone through multiple languages to find one that matches the flavor of what I want on the page, and then it has to match the rhythm, the subtext and the context of what is around it, what the situation is and what I’m trying to convey. Sometimes I’ll do this when editing, sometimes right in the middle of a writing spurt. It can get... complicated.

♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?

There are a few characters in Rain, particularly Manuel from the New Orleans, where I really held myself back because I realized it could roll out into an entirely different story. Some of my fans have demanded more, specifically of Manuel and NOLA, so I’m considering a book just about him and his family some time in the future.

♥ When a character reveals that much depth, you know you've got something special on your hands. 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?

Poets refresh my batteries and I can’t possibly pick one out in particular, but the next book, Listening To Dust, is highly influenced by Elizabeth Rosner’s poem “In The Margins.”

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

Honestly, I write for myself, but I also go for the gut. I don’t specifically focus on it, but I want readers to feel something. I want them to walk away pissed off, absolutely elated or bawling their eyes out. I write to make an emotional connection, not describe scenery.

♥ I can definitely see the poetic influence there. What first compelled you to begin writing, and What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?

Rain is very emotional, so the responses I’m getting via email have been very emotional. One 18 year old lgbt youth wrote me a letter asking me not to stop writing because I, and another author, had made her rethink her decision to commit suicide. That was probably the most profound email I have ever received and the most intense reason for me to consider publishing other works.

I’ve also had older gay men who have opened up after reading Rain and have decided to become mentors and models for lgbt youth, which is outstanding. Even if another copy of Rain is never sold, this alone would be enough.

♥ Wow, that is powerful stuff. Let's say a lot of copies of Rain continue to be sold, and it gets made into a movie - who would you cast for the leading roles?

Ha, not going to happen; the US public isn’t ready for that, but I think I would leave that to the pros. There’s so much talent out there these days. I would like to see the actors be out and comfortable with that, but again talent would dictate.

♥ I know you've already touched upon this, but is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

There is a tremendous amount of unwritten and unverbalized subtext within Rain and I have received quite a few personal emails from people who have taken different things from different scenarios within it. My personal thought is that readers should take what they need from it, and not have me, or anyone else, dictate what they should take.

One of the overall themes within the book is that every situation and event of your life is brought into every new event and situation in your life; ultimately, it is up to you to decide how you meet that and/or let it control you. If I would suggest anything, I would say read Rain again and see what else you find. It’s a personal journey, which is why I think it speaks to people. The spaces between the words are where readers intertwine their own story, and this is why they’re so important.

♥ So true - half of what we get out of a read is what we bring into it. What can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

(Laughs) This one’s interesting. We had a house fire some years back and lost everything, including the manuscript I was just finishing, which was the only thing I had written that I actually thought worth publishing. Rain was in a storage unit with nine other manuscripts of varying genres. One of my private readers, and the friend that pushed me to publish, had the first 30 pages of Listening To Dust in an email I had sent him. So I am starting from there, with the full knowledge that I will never be able to recreate what I had originally written over a six year period. So now, the new novel, Listening To Dust is taking on a new life and a new aspect with a substantial shift from the original manuscript. In a nutshell, Dust is about that one true love you find once in your lifetime, who then asks you to please let him go. And it’s also in the gay fiction genre.

♥ I can sympathise - I lost an unfinished novel of my own recently to a disk crash, so I know how daunting it is to begin anew. Before we let you go, can you tell us a bit about the GLBT Youth charities you're supporting with The Value of Rain, should our readers like to check them out and offer their own support?

There are two charities both based in the South. One in rural Alabama and one in Atlanta and both help young lgbt people get off the street, offer support and help them start moving forward. It has to be understood that most of the homeless lgbt youth in Atlanta come from surrounding bible belt states and have been tossed out by their parents for being gay. There is a massive need for lgbt youth programs and not nearly the resources they have in other metro areas.

Chris Kids - Atlanta

And just to let people know, November is National Runaway Prevention Month and runaways are disproportionately lgbt youth who are either driven from their homes or who leave because they can't tolerate the environment any longer. With kids coming out younger, they are also running at younger ages. Readers can help by getting involved with local shelters and lgbt youth groups.


Thanks so much to Brandon for stopping by. I'll be reviewing The Value of Rain in the coming weeks, but don't wait for me - check out to see how the book has impacted both readers and lgbt youth, and take the opportunity to purchase a copy for yourself and support a great cause.


  1. Sally, Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to speak about Rain.

  2. Great interview and great cause! Thank you!