A conversation between Adam Fitzroy, author of The Bridge on the River Wye – released by Manifold Press on 1 February 2014 – and Julie Bozza, author of Of Dreams and Ceremonies. We hope you enjoy listening in! And if you have any questions of your own, please feel free to ask via our blogs, Goodreads or Twitter.
Julie: Where did The Bridge on the River Wye come from? What was the inspiration or motivation?
Adam: It's entirely possible I watch too much 'reality TV'! I love shows where people make something out of nothing – homes and gardens in particular – and bits from them seem to fit together in my mind like jigsaw pieces. I had a plot involving the mysterious death of a brother which had been bubbling under for a while, and although I wasn't quite ready to write a fully-fledged 'whodunnit' I thought it would work within the framework of the organic/intensive farming dichotomy … and everything else just seemed to follow on naturally from there.
Julie: Excellent! I very much enjoyed reading the advance copy you kindly sent, and thought you really made the most of the urban and rural locations in London and the Wye Valley. I can see now where the reality TV comes in. I was left with a real sense of the passion, the creativity and (if all else fails) the sheer cussedness with which people can make things happen. Not to mention the necessary dirt under the fingernails! It was all very well done.
Julie: Do you find yourself addressing certain themes or tropes in your novels, or does that change from work to work?
Adam: I try not to repeat myself too much, but I've had a bit of a theme going lately concerning characters who are either desperately short of money themselves or having to use ingenuity to get by in a time of general shortage. I'm not sure I'd know how to write a really rich or privileged character – not unless he'd originally come from a humble background, anyway. It's a mindset which is very difficult to break, and people on opposite sides of the economic divide always have a lot of trouble figuring out 'how the other half lives'. But I promise faithfully not to do the same thing again next time!
Julie: I am, of course, intrigued to read whatever it is you do next!
It’s an interesting point, about the differing mindsets either side of the economic divide. One of the characters in my next novel, A Threefold Cord, has come from a very privileged position, and is very conscious of his luck, knowing that it has nothing to do with being deserved (or indeed undeserved). I was interested to consider the effects of that on who he is and how he chooses to live. I’m looking forward to discovering whether other people find him interesting as well!
Julie: How do you choose the names of your characters?
Adam: That's a lot like finding a title – either incredibly difficult or incredibly easy! For example, I recently came across the first lot of sketchy notes for my next project (of which more anon!) where I'd written 'POV character's name is Howard'. Well, no, it isn't, because at some point between then and now he's changed in my mind to 'Hugo', and 'Howard' just seems completely wrong! I do think names have personalities of their own, though, and a name will tell you something about the character before you start looking any deeper. I'd expect an 'Adrian' to be clever, for example, and a 'Rory' to be fun, and a 'Christopher' to be quiet – maybe that's just because I've met people with those names who match those descriptions!
If you're wondering about Hugo – he's clever, but muddled and socially awkward and there are lots of things about life in general that he really doesn't 'get'!
Julie: I’m the same with that first point you make – I either know a character’s name instinctively, or I agonise over the matter for ages. Sometimes what makes it hard is that the ‘official’ meaning of a name doesn’t fit with how I envisage the character … It shouldn’t really matter, but I couldn’t give one of my heroes a name that has a negative meaning, even if most readers wouldn’t know or care about those connotations. I agree with the notion that ‘Adrian’ is clever, for example, but there is also a meaning of ‘dark’ attached, so I have used that for a villain – and I named his sister ‘Elena’, which has a meaning of ‘light’, because she’s on the side of the angels … Whether readers mind about me being so pernickety is another matter.
Julie: How would you define your chosen genre, and what draws you to it?
Adam: Basically, I just write the stuff I really want to read. For a long time most of the available fiction about gay men was either so decorous you could have blinked and missed the relationship or it was steaming pornography which was just too exhausting to read. I always felt there had to be a middle ground – where the characters were gay but that wasn't the only interesting thing about them, and where they had something else to deal with as well as their love for each other. Take Doug in Dear Mister President for example; what's interesting about him is that he's President, not that he's gay (or, rather, bi). I don't want my characters to be defined exclusively by their sexuality, in other words, because there are as many ways to be gay as there are gay men - and it's all just part of a wider continuum of human sexuality, most of which I feel we should be accepting without comment as absolutely normal.
Julie: Amen! Over the decades that I have been writing contemporary gay fiction or male–male romance, so much has changed. And I am still very much enjoying the heady feeling of our characters being a whole lot freer to simply be themselves at last. (There you go, I’m getting giddy just thinking about it.) On the other hand, I have to admit I do also enjoy a bit of ‘forbidden’ love in my fiction – so even though are certainly still pockets of that around these days, maybe I will end up returning to historical fiction when I want to explore that trope.
Julie: What do you enjoy most about writing? What do you enjoy least?
Adam: I love plotting. To quote Hannibal in The A Team, I love it when a plan comes together! I love that you can start out with a lot of disparate elements and suddenly realise that there's a pattern to them, and that a narrative thread which starts from Point A will inevitably lead you to Point B and beyond. I also – as I think most writers will probably say – love the days when the words flow like wine and you can be completely intoxicated by the experience. I have a nasty habit of talking out loud as I type when things are going well, and there are days when I just can't get the words onto the screen fast enough.
What I don't like much are deadlines, although I find them absolutely essential. The quickest way to get fed up with a book is to have to race against the clock to get it finished, although fortunately I do seem to be able to do that if I have to. I always feel the composition process is more likely to be successful if it's a little more relaxed, though!
Julie: I find this sort of thing very interesting to ponder, especially relating to the balance needed between instinct and intellect when writing. For example, perhaps it’s the instinct bringing those elements together, and the intellect at first thinking them disparate – and then the intellect finally understanding what the connections are, which the instinct knew or at least guessed all along. Similarly, perhaps the desire for a more reasonable deadline that allows for a relaxed writing process is about giving the instinct enough time and space in which to truly flourish. Would you agree … ?
Adam: Yes, and I like the way you put that! A lot of what I do is 'seat of the pants' (if you'll pardon the expression!) - I don't really understand how or why it works but I do like to have time, if possible, to reflect on things a bit and convince myself that they actually do make sense. To mangle the metaphor beyond redemption, I'm constantly afraid that one day I'll look down and discover that I've sawn right through the branch and there's nothing holding me up any more … instinct on its own is not nearly enough, in my opinion; it requires intellect for reassurance!
Julie: And finally, what’s your next writing project? What do we have to look forward to?
Adam: The next book is going to be Fandango, which is about a ghost writer (Hugo, who we talked about above) sent to interview Vince Bliss, a cultural icon who has only reluctantly agreed to produce an autobiography. (It's still at a very early stage so there are some details I haven't quite pinned down yet.) It's not exactly a match made in heaven but as they get used to one another – and as Vince's two awful adult children make their presence felt – they find themselves sharing experiences and growing closer together.
Boundaries, which I had to set aside last year, is about half-finished, and I'm hoping to return to that as well before the end of 2014; there's a whole subplot which has to be stripped out before I can go any further with it, but otherwise the book's in very good condition and could very well be publishable by this time next year – all things being equal!
Julie: Excellent news indeed. You know how keen I am to read Boundaries in particular, but both of those sound fascinating!
The next book I have coming out is A Threefold Cord, with a likely publication date of 1 May (thanks to Manifold Press). I have really enjoyed writing this one, as it’s a ‘traditional’ romance in most ways except that it involves three men instead of two. I like to set myself some kind of challenge with each book, and that one was fairly obvious.
Meanwhile, I’m just about to launch into Serious Plotting Mode for the third (and final) Butterfly Hunter novel. This will be set about seven years into Dave and Nicholas’s future together – which makes me a tad nervous, I have to admit, as it’s also our future, and who knows what will change between now and then! It will focus on their relationship, of course, but also on issues of ownership and custodianship around the waterhole Dave discovered. And we’ll be finding out more about Nicholas’s beloved nephew Robin, who’ll be in his late teens.
Thank you, Adam, for the awesome chat – and good luck with your new book!
If you’re reading this and would like to read Adam’s latest title, ask your own questions or browse for more info, you can find us here:
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