Author Interview with Max Pierce

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This time we are joined by Max Pierce, journalist and author of Gothic gay romance “Master of Seacliff ”

SiN: Welcome to Speak Its Name, Max, it’s good to have you here, can you tell the readers who might not have visited your website a little bit about you?

Max Pierce: Thank you, Erastes and a big Texas ‘hi y’all’ to the gang at Speak Its Name. Frankly, I lost my Texas accent years ago, but my soul remains there…much like Scarlett and her need to get back to Tara on occasion.

To set the scene, it’s a late Saturday evening here at the base of the Hollywood Hills, where I’ve lived for the past decade. The famous ‘Hollywood’ sign and the Griffith Park Observatory are visible from my balcony which runs the length of my apartment; about 55 feet. As for me, I’m seated at my writing desk, a 1950’s office acquisition about 6 feet long and crammed with paper, with candles burning and classical music on the radio. I’m enjoying a double Dewar’s and water. However, I am not chomping on one of my cigars…I reserve that for the balcony…and in California terms, it’s freezing; about 54 degrees so I’m nice and cozy inside. I’ve grown my beard for the winter, sorry no picture of that, but its as bushy as my moustache…alas much greyer.

SiN: You’ve obviously got writing in your soul, what with the journalism and everything – what made you make the jump to short stories and novels?

MP: I’ve always considered myself a writer….I come from a long line of storytellers. For me, short stories and novels were just a natural progression of development but journalism remains dear to me. I always felt a calling to give a voice to those who could not. More on that later. However, I still pick up a copy of SEACLIFF and wonder how in the hell I did it…and how am I going to do it again?

To start way back…I began reading at age 2, somewhat of a child prodigy my family maintains. Being a spoiled only child, for my 4th birthday I was given a color console television set…keep in mind only a few shows broadcast in color at the point, and there were only about 6 channels to watch, and it was an excellent babysitter for a lonely boy who knew he was different, and surrounded by adults.

Around age 7, I ‘began’ my first book, a shameless rip-off of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ series, updated to 1970 and relocated to California. The need for California has been in my blood from an early age. My mother was an avid movie buff and loved to tell me all the old legends of Hollywood. We both used it as an escape from our by turn dramatic or dreary lives in and around Dallas. Mama made Hollywood sound so magical I made up my mind that I’d live there. Of the many obstacles I’ve overcome, getting to Los Angeles remains one of my proudest achievements and I remind myself to say a prayer of thanks everyday for being here.

SiN: What’s your publishing story?

MP: After years of diaries, journaling, the usual stints on the junior high/high school/college/small town and work-related newspapers, I began in earnest around 1998 to seek out venues for publication. There’s a wonderful monthly called CLASSIC IMAGES and it’s quarterly ‘sister’ publication named ‘FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE’ that specialize in the obscure, off beat Hollywood items I enjoyed reading, so it was natural I’d pitch them some ideas, and I was amazed when they said ‘of course!’. My first piece was on Russ Columbo, a rival to Bing Crosby in the early 30’s who had a promising film career, but who died tragically and mysteriously, and was basically forgotten, which pushed all my buttons. I followed that with profile pieces on, among others, Una Merkel, Clifton Webb, Lizabeth Scott, a history of the movie musical and a trip to the Motion Picture Country House, which is a retirement home for those who’ve had the privilege to work the film industry, whether it’s stars like Norma Shearer, or grips who work behind the scenes.

As a journalist, I’m a stickler for facts, and I have the luxury of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library at my immediate disposal. That being said, not everything printed is always true, so it requires a bit of detective work, which appeals to my inner Nancy Drew…the first series I read as a child and still a source of comfort when I feel I’m out of synch with the world.

As for THE MASTER OF SEACLIFF, it began as a lark. I enrolled in a free writing workshop in the fall of 1998, about the time I decided to ‘get serious’ with a writing career. SEACLIFF began as a ‘test’ project, to actually see if I could sustain the attention span to complete a book. Bit by bit, it grew into a full novel.

Having felt I’d outgrown the free course, I took classes at UCLA, then joined a private writing group headed by Terry Wolverton, one of Los Angeles’s literary lights, in 2000. I found myself among a group of about 8-10 writers, mixed experience, but all committed to helping me make the book the best that I could. I finished what I felt was an acceptable draft in about a year, then plunged into a second book; a comic tale about a young man in Dallas in the early 80’s(not the least bit autobiographical…no, not me). I envisioned this as the vehicle that would take me to fame and fortune and a series ala Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’.

In May 2004 I attended the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, an annual gathering of predominantly GLBT writers and industry professionals in New Orleans. On the third night, I stood on the balcony of the Bourbon Street Pub enjoying my third Cosmopolitan, pitching my ‘Texas’ story to an editor from the Haworth Press, one of the ‘big three’ of gay publishing (the other two being Alyson and Kensington). He kind of yawned (boyfriend fiction, even fantastic ones set in Texas, are pretty much common as sunshine, I learned), and he said:

‘Sounds Great… What else do you have?”

‘Well….I have this gothic mystery…sort of JANE EYRE MEETS REBECCA via DARK SHADOWS…I don’t know if it’s…”

‘Send it to me. We’re looking for something different.”

A year later, I had a contract, an advance and things moved incredibly s-l-o-w-l-y from there. I’d been warned the ‘process’ would take about 18-24 months, and indeed it did.

SiN: What hoops did you jump through to get THE MASTER OF SEACLIFF published?

MP: Suprisingly, I had very few hoops to jump through. The publishing ‘committee’ loved the book from the onset, for which I feel blessed. I was warned beforehand, that they only took work that was ‘ publishing ready’ meaning there was no time or interest in re-editing or distilling the book to make it better. What you read in SEACLIFF is essentially my final draft. As a businessman, I’d loved a little more direction to polish the story to its best, but my ego, which is pretty well-fueled by excess testosterone, only nodded.

SiN: Any setbacks? Disappointments?

MP: As for disappointments; it seems there are a few typos or ‘poor word choices’ as my high school English teachers would say, that have been ‘pointed out’ by well-meaning (I assume) readers. While I accept that, despite that the book did go through a copy editing process by someone well paid to do their job—mistakes get missed. Here’s the ‘back story’ on the process. Haworth delighted in telling me that they’d acquired an expensive and new state of the art software program to make copyediting ‘easier’…and I knew I was in for trouble.

The result was on the first copy they sent me to proof a ‘glitch’ (that I found!) caused all the end quote marks on dialog to be eliminated, thus causing the next words to fold into the existing dialog as a run-on sentence. It was a nightmare to correct…and it kept happening. We went through about 6 revisions. Something would get fixed and something else would go bad. I rode the young copywriter assigned to me so hard that the project was turned over to her boss. The problems still continued, and it got to the point where I frirmly stated that I would NOT allow a book with MY NAME on it to go into production with such shoddy and lackadaisical work and if need be I’d go direct to the publisher, since I knew he was jazzed up about the book and would support me.

That worked; the glitches were fixed. Now, I’m not a total ass: I sent the first copywriter a handwritten thank you note…which she acknowledged and appreciated. A friend of mine also published through Haworth and low and behold Mrs. Clinton lost an ‘l’ in her first name. I don’t know how these things happen, but clearly the romantic notion of someone with The Chicago Manual of Style physically typesetting the pages with gnarled and inkstained hands is a vision gone with the wind.

So, to get an email that starts out ‘I loved it, but on page—‘ is akin to a swift kick in my ample cojones, and I have filed those missives away until I can muster the courage to read them: which may be never. It stinks being a perfectionist.

I’d be deceitful to deny that a little more publicity on Haworth’s part (it’s been one of their best sellers) might have boosted sales more, and that the independent GLBT bookstore community tends to have a laissez-faire attitude towards business, which is perpetually ‘horrible’ and to authors—many stores have been soured by obnoxious behavior, but we shouldn’t all be penalized by declining book events in an unprofessional manner, or not stocking the book because the manager ‘hated’ the sales rep.

At the end of the day, I’m just humbled that the book was published, with my vision, with my words, and with a cover that I submitted. I don’t know how many authors can claim that. I can, and it’s still amazing. Everything since that night in New Orleans when the editor said ‘send it to me’ has been gravy and I thank God I’ve seen my dream become real.

Pardon me while I refresh my Scotch.

SiN: Master of Seacliff was one of the first m/m books I read and I really enjoyed it. Tell me the story about that very unusual cover. For my money it’s one of the best m/m covers I’ve seen, just for the inventiveness. (for the readers who haven’t seen the book in the flesh – the cover is a double one with a candle showing through a hole in the centre) You can see a larger version of the cover HERE.

MP: I’m so happy you liked the cover, and the story of its creation is quite interesting I think, as most authors have zero control over artwork (and sometimes the title). To back up, I’d read about a hundred articles and books on ‘the business of writing’ so I was well prepared to negotiate a contract. And yes, for those who want to be published, negotiating is acceptable. If the publisher has expressed interest in buying your book, they won’t ‘back out’ if you ask for certain concessions. They may say ‘no’ and it’s your choice to agree or not.

So, I’d negotiated something on the effect of ‘author may suggest cover art.’ Haworth had a nasty habit of using the same concept for every book published: perennially shirtless, clean cut men pasted on the front with no relation to the plot. I knew I’d have to concede somwhat, but I wanted to convey the message this book had a combination of old-fashioned mystery and some sex.

My Tuesday watering hole showed classic movies and the monthly schedule that was created had some great artwork. I solicited the designer of the bar flyer, a talented man named Tony Kluck, to come up with some concept art for SEACLIFF. In a week, he had some thoughts that completely captured the essence of the book. I paid him a small stipend, with the deal being if his work was selected, I’d pay him on the backend.

We ran an internet ad on Craigslist, a great resource for inexpensive anything, looking for models: ideally slim, slight, young blondish men (to keep some tie in to the main character, Andrew). I received replies from Amazon-sized African-American transsexuals, but luckily there was one white boy who fit the bill.

We went over to UCLA one night (Tony and my old haunt) and photographed the model, Steven Mason, who was wrapped in a sheet and holding the candle, in a variety of poses on some gothic-y steps. I sent in the artwork to Haworth, and the cover art committee loved it.

HOWEVER, the owner/publisher got involved and wanted the Haworth ‘de rigeur’ clone. He even suggested we chop off my model’s head, and put a frat boy head on with chiseled features and Biff flat top. We ALL banded together and told him he was wrong, and I wrote an impassioned plea as to how this was set in 1899, longer hair was in then, as now, and reminded him that he bought the book because it was ‘different’, so why not have a ‘different’ cover.

He gave in, and insisted the ‘double trouble’ cover (as he called it) be used. At that time, Haworth was planning a whole line of gothics, and wanted to use SEACLIFF’s double cover as a test for future books. So, writers who want to be published, never be afraid to speak up. You never know what battles you might win, but always know when to fold.

SiN: What kind of research did you do for the book, did you already know something of the era you chose?

I knew nothing of 1899 New York, although I’ve traveled there enough to call it a second home, and in my research, amassed a giant stack of photo books of the era, books on etiquette, books written at that time etc. etc. I figured it was remote enough to have a unique ‘air’ but not so remote that I’d have to do exhaustive research: I admire Diana Gabaldon and those 16th century time traveling Scots-but I’d go nuts working on authenticating that world.

I’d read GAYWYCK, which is credited as being the first ‘gay gothic’ and is set at the same time. In fact, I remember when GAYWYCK was published in 1980, it made quite the mainstream headlines. I found a used copy around 1990 and as a reader, loved it. As a writer/story analyst coming back to it later, I thought it a bit differently, particularly for my generation of gay men who’d grown up post-Stonewall. I also had a horrible fear of somehow inadvertently plagiarizing GAYWYCK and went to great pains to make sure I didn’t but of course with both being gothics, there’s been some comparison. I can say I’m flattered that readers prefer SEACLIFF, but I didn’t set out to compete with Vincent Virga’s style and attention to detail. I’m more of the writer you’ll find next to you on a barstool eating peanuts and having a beer.

Going back to research: with my journalist ethic, I did not relish writing SEACLIFF only to have some well intended queen find some time-line flaw (and no doubt I missed something and I don’t want to know) and ‘tell the world’ about it.

When I’d completed the last pass on the book and was in New York. I went down to 10th Street to map out ‘where’ Andrew was living. Imagine my surprise to find a small church just around the corner…EXACTLY as I’d described it, but having no prior knowledge of it existing in 1899 (which it did), much less 2004. Divine intervention? Life imitating art? The universe conspiring? Beats me, but I left the church and headed to the nearest bar. I knew everything would be all right; that the book was meant to be.

SiN: Your protagonist Andrew is a sensitive soul – is he anything like you? Or do you empathise with Duncan or Leo more?

I suppose any ego-centric author like myself would say  ‘Oh, they are all aspects of my personality,’ which reads as nauseating. I suppose I passed my desire for truth and justice into Andrew, my hard headedness and hidden wounds into Duncan, and my sense of fashion and bitchiness into Leo. To be frank, the characters wrote the story, I was merely the instrument who took their dictation. At times they ‘acted’ differently then I wanted, but the story was told (eventually) as it should. My Texas novel is a little easier delineated: I’m both the father character and the son; now being the ‘parent’ at my current age to the ‘child’ I was then. Ugh.

SiN: “The Master of Seacliff” is generally described as a gay Gothic mystery. Setting and atmosphere are traditionally very important in Gothics. How important do you feel the setting and atmosphere are in Seacliff?

I feel they are essential to the story. I was pleased to get feedback as to how ‘Seacliff’ is as much a character as any of the human ones. That comes from my love of historic buildings, and my belief that they retain energy from all the people and events that have occured there….in Seacliff’s case it was a lot of bad energy, but that made for a more interesting story.

SiN: You’ve said that you based Seacliff’s floor plan on that of Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills. Was there a reason that you chose this particular locale as the model for Seacliff?

I am quite fortunate to have a ghostly gothic mansion just 7 miles away in Beverly Hills. I actually went up there religiously (it’s a public park, the house is only open occassionally) and plotted out scenes much like a play (finally putting my years as a college theater major to use)

Greystone was built in 1928 and has been used in a variety of films, look it up in IMDB. Recall my earlier comment about ‘giving a voice to those who don’t have one’. You see, Greystone was build by Edward Doheny: big oil money, as a gift to his only son, Ned.

Ned, his wife and 5 kids moved into Greystone but about 18 months later, Ned and his male secretary, Hugh Plunkett, were found dead in the downstairs bedroom. At lot of subsequent confusion happened with the lag time between when the police were called, Ned and Hugh had been called to testify in the Teapot Dome scandal which Daddy Doheny was involved in, etc. and this led to gossip that continues almost 80 years later.

For years the official story was this: the secretary was insane, stressed over the Teapot Dome scandal (in which Papa Doheny was involved) shot Ned and then killed himself. However, the evidence at the time that remained pointed to Ned killing the secretary then himself.

The Doheny’s were big Catholics (as am I) and suicides can’t be buried in consecrated ground. Ned is in an unmarked grave at the non-denonimational Forest Lawn Cemetary, and Hugh is buried a mere 50 feet away, in a space paid for by Mrs. Doheny (with time having passed, is generally implicated as the murderess of her husband and his lover(?)).

Oh yes, Ned’s ghost haunts Greystone looking for vindication. There have been numerous documentations of unexplained noises and the like, which I devour although I personally haven’t experienced anything. But the house definitely retains an unhappy mood. Talk about bad energy.

I haven’t done enough research on the case to tell you what I think is true, and regardless, it’s an interesting story on its own. But, I’d like to think that Ned and Hugh were backed into a corner of some sort, and chose a way out. I’ve used them as a highly romanticized backstory in SEACLIFF, as a way to somehow right the potential wrong that history has done them, for that’s what writers can do. I only hope that whereever they are, I’ve given them some peace, and maybe made them smile.

SiN: Some reviewers have referred to SEACLIFF as a pastiche or a satire. How do you feel about this? Do you feel that there are any satirical elements in the story, or just a new spin on a familiar genre?

I did not set out to reinvent the wheel with SEACLIFF: Vincent Virga did that with GAYWYCK, but I’m all for ‘re-claiming’ genres for GLBT readers.

I wanted to tell a story that was entertaining, first and foremost, with great descriptions so the reader could transport themselves to the house and escape from reality for a bit. I wrote it as I saw it in the movie theater of my mind’s eye: the style of classic M-G-M with luscious Cedric Gibbons sets and a wardrobe by Dolly Tree (I’m not a big Adrian fan). Or for contemporary film fans, think Merchant-Ivory in the early 1990’s .

I also wanted to toss in various homages to films, books and television shows I loved. Fans of ‘Dark Shadows’ will note the housekeeper is named “Mrs. Johnson” but she bears no resemblence to the DS character or Clarice Blackburn, who played her. I have all sorts of other things squirreled away, but I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions. Pastiche? probably, but not with satirical intent. Love.

SiN: I know that authors are often plagued with requests for a sequel. Would you revisit these characters? Or do you prefer to do something different each time?

Armistead Maupin spoke at UCLA years ago and stated unequivocably that we would know he needed money when he wrote ‘Christmas at Barbary Lane’ as he had no intention ever, ever of revisiting those characters. And now we have ‘Michael Tolliver Lives’ which Armistead insists is not a sequel. Hmm.

I feel the story of SEACLIFF ended on page 199. But, the book was hardly off press when Haworth was asking if I’d do a sequel, a prequel, something, anything. I responded rather tartly with ‘did you read the book? because it wraps up all the loose ends nicely, with no room for a sequel, resolves the past mysteries also so a prequel would be dull, and I don’t think either would command any interest.” Then the plea became, ‘Just use the house, with different characters!”

I had a better idea, I told them, I’d just begin a new story, spooky and sexy, with new characters and a new house. That’s what I’m working on now. I think I may have a calling as a novelist specializing in ‘mansion mysteries’. I’m all about big budgets.

SiN: Do you think that as a gay man writing gay fiction you are taken more seriously by the publishers? It’s probably a difficult question to answer…

Gosh, I haven’t a clue how to respond. I think its difficult to get published whether you’re gay, straight, female, 21, 65, or Martian and I dislike fellow authors as well as agents and publishers, who buy into the myth that gay fiction is somehow a harder sell. I think its all a hard sell. I’d say that I think my editors and publishers do take me seriously because first and foremost, I’m a businessman with a focus on the bottom line and although one might not believe it from reading my thoughts here, I do manage to keep me ego in check when dealing in business. My second novel received 30 rejections from agents…but every agent I queried replied. That’s outstanding. Why? Because I did my homework and targeted those who dealt (albeit remotely in some cases) with my product.

I’ve heard horror stories about new writers who become divas and demand demand demand. When Haworth announced their divestiture of the fiction division, their writers were posting with ‘I’ll never write again!” not from a fear of not finding a publisher again, but that the loss of Haworth was too much to bear and that somehow this event was a sign from the cosmos that they shouldn’t write at all. Come on! You need a tough skin to wade through this business. If that’s your attitude, then please don’t write and give we other fish in the pond some more room-and less competition.

My suggestion on all things writing is ‘ask politely’; expect nothing and say ‘thank you’ often. You catch more flies with honey. And think about the big picture: $$$. If you can make money for your publisher or your agent you can probably get re-hired again and again.

SiN: You do work full-time, I understand, as do a lot of us – how do you find time to write? What’s your working/writing routine?

I work more than full time in the ever changing world of retail: something I’ve done since college, first in the grand old department store era, then seguing into wholesale and now back into specialty store, all of which I love. I could never write ‘for’ a company, I hate being ‘assigned’ things.

I prefer to create something based on my muse and then go into the ‘marketplace’ and sell it. If not today, then later. A short story I did 2 years ago and that was rejected for a project was recently picked up by another editor, so it pays to have a folder in the drawer of ‘unrealized projects’, because you just never know what a call for submissions might be and you don’t want to have to rush to fashion something.

I have an erratic writing ‘schedule’ but what I do best I learned from Julia Cameron of ‘The Artist’s Way’ etc. I ‘steal time’. At lunch, I typically have a note pad on which to jot down scenes, bits of dialog, questions, etc. I have pocket sized notebooks everywhere-in the car, by the bed, at the desk, at work, ideally always at my fingertips because out of the blue a scene or an idea will come to me and I must jot it down.

I’m big on handwriting: then when I’ve got a block of time, head to a coffee shop and ‘enter the data’ from all the raw notes and jots into the laptop, then going back to polish later. I’ve gotten a lot of work done that way: two books to be exact. I’ve been fortunate to have jobs in the past where I could disappear for an hour…or a day or two and write, but that’s currently not the case. I admit I’m envious of those who crank out books like donuts, but I’ve reconciled that’s just not me. I’m too much a perfectionist.

SiN: Which authors do you admire? (any genre)

MP: Going back to GAYWYCK, I thought it was fabulous, but as a writer it’s a work I could never attempt to duplicate; for me it was overly detailed at the expense of pace and I didn’t care that the main character Robert was a bit of a—how can I say it…a nelly wuss. I’d hope that while my character Andrew is a tad ‘sensitive’, he’s not a sissy.

SiN: (laughing) Yes. He’s nowhere near as girlie as Robert in Gaywyck, thank the Lord!

MP: After I’d finished the initial draft of SEACLIFF, I tracked down Vincent Virga and told him of my project..sort of a combo fan letter and request for advice. He wrote me back and attempted to completely discourage me from pursuing a writing career. Being of French/Irish heritage and a bit hypermasculine, I put my back up, dismissed his advice and sallied forth. I still have his letter hanging on my bulletin board, as a reminder to follow your heart and instincts.

I can’t say I have a favorite author; but I admire those who deliver consistent work and who are in person, approachable, friendly and comfortable with their gifts. Around 2002 , I was at an afternoon event where Felice Picano was speaking. Completely overwhelmed by nerves, and with no alcohol available, I squared my shoulders and went up to this icon, saying “Mr. Picano, my name is Max Pierce and my goal is to someday sit on a shelf next to you (Pic…Pie…get it?)

Felice assesed me, nodded and said, ‘Ok, what’s your plan for getting published?” He’s been a great mentor ever since, taught a class when I headed a writing group at West Hollywood’s A Different Light Bookstore, and actually referred me as a contributor to someone who was working on an anthology. How the wheel turns. I hope I can benefit a writer in that same way someday.

SiN: Your book was published by Haworth, and their fiction line’s future is undecided at the time of writing these questions. Have you any idea what you plan to do? It would be a real shame if MoS goes out of print.

MP: Haworth and I had a ‘one book’ deal; I suppose if they’d continued I’d been offered me another contract, they certainly wanted to see something in a gothic from me, but I wasn’t tethered to them. Indeed it’s a shame they’ve chosen to merge and sell off the fiction arm, because my experience with them was one of professionalism and total business, although there are an equal amount of terror tales on them as with all publishers. That’s just life.

At the moment, I’ve no clue what will become of the fiction division and SEACLIFF. I don’t worry about it though. Life has a way of working stuff out. I’m more worried about how the heck I’m going to finish my next project and sell it.

SiN: Is there any particular type of fiction you prefer?

MP: I like fiction that’s well crafted, intelligently executed and fun. By no means am I highbrow: in fact ‘literary’ types bore the pants off me. I’m happiest reading history and biographies.

SiN: What are you working on right now?

MP: The infamous ‘Texas’ novel, a smart comedy entitled “At The Crossroads” languishes in my closet demanding a re-write. I’ve learned that the problem with semi-autobiographical works is this: what is important to you in your life experience, may not play well in Peoria and you need to creatively jazz it up to make it flow and ultimately sell: and I have no problem with that.

I’ve reconciled that ‘Crossroads’ is not yet fermented into Dom Perignon, but a rather flat Moet. Being the wack-job that I am, I can’t let it go into the world as is, so I need to sacrifice some ‘but this is how it happened!’ for more froth.

The response from SEACLIFF was such that I feel like I have a ‘thing’ for gothic/supernatural/suspense so I’ve begun a contemporary novel that’s a cross between the classic films “The Uninvited” and “Hush. Hush Sweet Charlotte”. It’s set outside of New Orleans, has dabblings with witchcraft, unhappy spirits and naturally unsolved murders in the past, and I hope has some steamy romance to keep things up. I don’t know if I’d head back down the historical road soon as the research (and my obsession with it) is very taxing, but, never say never.

SiN: What do you do to relax?

MP: I don’t relax well, being rather wound up most of the time, but I’m working on it. This may come as a surprise or a turn off, but I’m striving for a stronger spiritual grounding. After years of detours, I was confirmed in the Catholic church this past Easter. Say what you will–I’ve already heard it and lost a couple of friends in the process.

Spirituality is a personal quest and when quizzed as to why I ‘chose’ Catholicism, I reply that it chose me. There are many doctrine and dogma things I disagree with, but sitting in my church in the AM when the sunlight is streaming through the stained glass, I get a sense of relaxation I can’t find elsewhere. I attend and occassionally read (being the ham I am) at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood. But lest you think I’m following in the steps of Mother Teresa, I also enjoy escaping to Palm Springs, which is about 2 hours away by car from Hollywood, to indulge in all sorts of decadent behaviors expected of a writer who’s also a healthy American gay man. When there, I totally take on the Hemingway stereotype and no doubt am very obnoxious and intolerable to everyone, but clueless to myself.

SiN: And finally, what’s in the future for you, writing wise?

MP: It’s my hope to finish my Louisiana ghost story next Spring: by then the fate of Haworth fiction should be resolved and I’ll need to get out and find a buyer. The future of publishing, particularly GLBT works are almost always up in the air: a rather tired storyline. I don’t let that bother me. I write because I am compelled to, publishing is a reward, not an mandate.

Oddly enough, after enjoying the glamour of an advance and residual checks, I’m not opposed to self-publishing, depending on the subject. I’ve a lot of obscure Hollywood history based ideas that most likely would be best realized if I produced them on my own. The fact is there are so many avenues to getting your work out there…nothing should be ignored.

In the meantime, I continue to complete short works…they give me a sense of satisfaction (in that they are easier to finish, being short) and I’m finding them easier to place than a novel.

SiN: Do you have any advice for those who are struggling to get a book deal?

MP: My advice to writers is this: Don’t give up, never surrender.

My life has been one of mastering perseverance. For everyone that says ‘no’, eventually someone will say yes. The key is to be ready and accepting when that time comes but don’t expect the universe to be linear with your wishes. Do your homework: be prepared. Writing for publication is a business and must be treated as such. And when you reach your goal, whatever that may be, be sure to give thanks to God (or whatever higher power you follow) but be sure to pat yourself on the back.

Thank you for inviting me to ramble on about writing. Readers are always free to email me through my website, MaxPierce.com

SiN: Thanks Max, you’ve been a great guest and we look forward to whatever you do next.

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