Thursday, October 1, 2009

Guest Blogger - Neil Plakcy

I am so pleased to have as my guest today, author, Neil Plakcy
Neil is the author of Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire and Mahu Vice, mystery novels set in Hawaii, as well as the romance novels Three Wrong Turns in the Desert and He edited Paws & Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog and the gay erotic anthologies Hard Hats and Surfer Boys.

Plakcy is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College’s south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is vice president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a frequent contributor to gay anthologies.

My Places in the Sun

“There’s a place in the sun, and before my life is done
Gonna find me a place in the sun.”

When I tell people that my newest romance novel from Loose Id, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, is set in Tunisia, the first response is usually, “Have you been there?” And I have to admit that sadly, though it’s on my life list of places to go, I have yet to set foot there—or even on the African continent.
So how can I write about it? Simple. I live in a hot place—south Florida—and find myself drawn in fiction to similar locations. With a little research and a little imagination, I use my knowledge of what it’s like to live where I do to create believable places with similar climates.
I have been drawn to places in the sun since I was fourteen, and stepped, bleary-eyed, off an Air France flight at the airport in Nice, France. My high school ran a summer study program in France, and our trip included a few days at the start on the Riviera. I remember being awed by the over-sized tropical plants lining the streets, by the towering palms and the ever-present sun.
Something in me responded viscerally to that place, and I fell in love. I went back again and again as I got older, spending two summers there. During my college and graduate school years I tried, without success, to figure out how I could move there and make a living.
Then I was lucky enough to be offered a job transfer to Miami, and I had that same sense of love at first sight when my airport cab pulled up in front of my new office, and there were palm trees by the sidewalk, and a view of the sparkling water of Biscayne Bay from the office conference room.
That’s when I knew I no longer had to think about moving to Nice; I had found my place in the sun on American soil.
I started writing about Miami almost immediately. There was so much I wanted to learn about my new home, and one of the ways I learn best is to write and research. It took years, though, before I sat down to write, my first M/M romance novel. I had to read a lot in the genre, and spend a few years in the web development business myself, before I was ready.
My inspiration came from a British romance, called an “Aga sagas,” named for a kind of stove, the Aga, that’s common in UK kitchens. A young woman fell in love with her boss, and didn’t realize he had fallen for her, too, until the end of the book. I wondered if I could take that basic plot and give it a gay spin. So I created a young guy, Brian, hired to be the office manager for a start up gay website in Miami Beach. He falls in love with his boss—and the book takes off from there.
Once I sent that book off to MLR Press, I started thinking about writing another romance. One day, as I was driving home from the college where I teach, I was feeling frustrated, by work and my own romance, and thought—what if I just ran away? What would I do? Where would I go? And what kind of hunky guy could I meet there?
That’s how Three Wrong Turns in the Desert began. I teach in an English department that includes a number of ESL instructors (English as a Second Language.) I thought that was a great job to give my new hero, Aidan, because when his boyfriend dumps him, he can go on line and search for a new job several times zones away.
That’s how he ends up in Tunisia, another place in the sun. I was also inspired by a photo I saw years ago, of a naked man showering outdoors. That image jump-started the book. It was lots of fun to research Tunisia, and to apply what I already knew about living in a land of relentless sunshine.
People who read my books often compliment me on the sense of place I’m able to achieve, and assume that I’ve lived in those places for a long time. With the exception of Miami, I have to say no, that I’m writing from my imagination. I think I can do that because I have taken so deeply to my own place in the sun.
* * * * *
I'd like to thank Neil for sharing the inspiration for his latest novel. I completely agree with him: I can't get that vision of that naked man showering outdoors out of my head now! But I think I've got some inspiration of my own with the handsome dude below! ;~D


P.A.Brown said...

Neil not only does a wonderful job of evoking place, his characters are always multi-dimensional and need I say, hot. I need to get both of his new ones when finances allow. He's always a good read.

Paris said...

I loved the interview and your book sounds very intriguing. It's definitely on my TBR list.

Jeanne said...

Not only are his characters hot, I think he's a stud, too! ;~D

Bryl R. Tyne said...

Interesting how you came up with your ideas for this book. I often visit the great What If, myself. Sounds interesting, Neil.


ryan field said...

I've written about places I know and don't know. I used to travel a great deal. But now I don't have much time to travel, and writing about places I don't know is like taking a vacation.

Great Post.

Neil Plakcy said...

Thanks for all your comments. I'm blushing. :">

K. Z. Snow said...

This is a really off-the-wall question, but does that phrase a place in the sun come from Frank Fenton's work of the same name? Its origin has always nettled me.

All I know is that Hollywood managed to dig it up as the title for its 1951 version of Dreiser's An American Tragedy, and Hollywood isn't generally known for its embracing of anything literary.

More on-topic, Neil's work has been on my MBR (must be read) list since he appeared on my reader's radar. Now it's even closer to the top.