Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Wayne Goodman, author of “Vanya Says, ‘Go!’”
Hi Wayne, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. As far as my education, I was always an avid learner. I enjoyed math, music, and English particularly. Being creative came naturally to me; ideas seemed to pop out of my head when I needed them.
I didn’t really start writing seriously until after university. I had taken a few courses in Creative Writing but did not begin until a few years later. Like all authors, I want to read my works and let me know that they enjoyed them. I will keep writing as long as I can still enjoy the process, even if my books aren’t selling.
My own reading has consisted mainly of SciFi/Fantasy, which is now referred to as Speculative Fiction. Early on I read H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Isaac Asimov. Later on I started on J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne MacCaffrey, Kage Baker, and Barry Hughart.
As far as my own books, here is my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/waynegoodmanbooks/
Here is a list of my books currently available on Kindle, although most are also available in paperback or as Audiobooks:
My latest work, “Vanya Says, ‘Go!’” is a retelling of Mikhail Kuzmin’s “Wings,” the first Russian-language book to discuss same-sex relationships in a positive way: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MG20SFF
I have two scheduled readings this month for this book: January 12 in SF (https://www.facebook.com/events/1263722450363913/) and January 14 at Laurel Books in Oakland (https://www.facebook.com/events/128351030989009/).
“Borimir: Serving the Tsars” is Part 1 of a (potential) trilogy that follows the lives of two men who meet at the Tsar’s Palace in 1880 until their death with the Royal Family in 1918: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FRMTOTI
“Britain’s Glory” tells the tragic story of Princess Charlotte, granddaughter to King George III of England: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BY7NQRC
“The Last Great Hope” speculates about the existence of a third Kennedy child who was adopted out under a false name: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QFSK0A6
“The Seed of Immortality” is a tale of Chinese myth, history, philosophy, and two immortal Mahjong sharps who travel around China at the time of the first emperor: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W0VM14K
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
“Vanya Says, ‘Go!’” is a retelling of Mikail Kuzmin’s “Wings.” First published in 1906, it was the first Russian-language book to deal with same-sex relationships in a positive way. In “Wings,” the protagonist, Vanya, is an orphan with yearnings for an older man. It is believed that much of the action in the book is based on Kuzmin’s own life. I consider “Wings” to be a window on a time and place that no longer exists. Vanya represents the hope for the next generation of LGBTQ youth at the turn of the 20th Century.
What are you working on at the minute?
The book I am currently working on has a lesbian as the central character. Following the death of her adopted grandparents, she starts having strange dreams and attempts to make sense of her family history, which has something to do with Easter Island. I expect to have it finished this Autumn.
What genre are your books? What draws you to this genre?
I tend to write Historical Fiction. Discovering people or events lost to history and bringing them to new light fascinates me.
How much research do you do?
I generally buy a few books on the subject I am writing about, as well as lots of research on the Internet.
Why do you write?
Writing has been quite therapeutic for me. While recuperating from a life-threatening illness, it provided a sense of purpose and gave me a goal to complete.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
Because I do not have a job (on disability for many years) I have more time than most to devote to writing. I tend not to stick to a schedule and write when ideas come tumbling out of the back of my brain. Most of the time I am doing research for the book when I get really inspired to write more.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
Writing on a computer provides the freedom to make changes as necessary. When I used a typewriter (or wrote by hand), making changes seemed daunting. With the ability to play with words, try different things, experiment, I have found my creativity unleashed.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Always a tough question. I tend to have some kind of vague outline in my mind before I set out, and an endpoint to aim toward. Along the way I enjoy discovering sidetracks that pop up and seeing where they lead. At some point I do sketch out the flow of the narrative, but I wouldn’t call myself a total plotter.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
They say the more you write, the better you get. I have now completed five published works with a total of over 320,000 words. Also, I am part of a writers’ group, and receiving direct feedback also provides for growth. I would like to think that my latest book will always be better than the one before it.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The shortest time I ever needed for a first draft was two months. I like to keep to a schedule of one new book each year.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
As I would say to anyone, if you feel stuck, put the manuscript aside for a while and come back with fresh eyes. During the intervening time, your brain should have worked things out for you.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I have self-published all of my books. Over my years of work I have acquired editing and typesetting skills. The covers are designed by me and I arrange for printing.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
With self-published books, the author has total control over the content and availability. With an established publisher, even if it is accepted you may not get your published and distributed when you want it. However, established publishers can also provide publicity or advances, both unavailable when you self-publish.
In what formats is your book available?
My books are generally available in paperback, as eBooks and Audiobooks.
Title: Vanya Says, “Go!” - A Retelling of Mikhail Kuzmin’s ‘Wings’
Author: Wayne Goodman
Release Date: October 20th 2016
Genre: Retelling, Gay Fiction
In 1906, Mikhail Kuzmin published "Wings," the first book in Russian to discuss same-sex relationships in a positive light. With "Vanya Says, ‘Go!,’" Wayne Goodman retells the story from the perspective of the young man at the heart of the tale. The original work contained only three sections, but a fourth has been added to round out the story and provide some closure.
Kuzmin was one of the most celebrated poets of his time, the Silver Age of Russian Poetry. While his poems were quite successful, his somewhat-autobiographical novel "Wings" met with skepticism and criticism. Kuzmin used many constructs from poetry (characters who appear all too briefly with no second mention, plot jumps with little connecting material, long-winded orations); however, his descriptions of scenery are exquisite, and the dialogue is quirky and colorful. "Vanya Says, 'Go!'" is crafted for the modern reader while keeping much of the original Russian style. It is a window into a time and places long gone. The story is narrated by the main character, who at 16 years of age is dealing with being an orphan foisted off on friends of distant relatives and attempting to acquaint himself with his sexual orientation while also discovering various religious and philosophical frameworks.
"An exemplary study in classic Russian literary charm... with a choice cast of picaresque characters. Goodman draws the reader into the desperate historical moment of pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg, and artfully stages Vanya's gay yearnings against its fast-moving currents." -- Edmund Zagorin
"The author accurately evokes a long-lost Russia through his marvelous characters and descriptions... the underlying commentary on the decaying social order, and the romance of that forgotten time period." -- Andrew Demcak
"Set in Old Russia... this is an interesting, fact-based story of an orphaned gay youth and his attempt to find himself, his own opinions, and love." -- Daniel Curzon
Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords
Watch Wayne Goodman read from Vanya Says “Go!” on Facebook
Stroop glanced down at my lap, “What’s that? Homer?”
“Yes. The Greek class is especially awful.”
“You mean you don’t like Greek?” His sparkling eyes returned to mine, and an invisible shiver pulsed through me.
“Who really likes Greek?” I said, feeling a bit foolish about that sarcastic remark. It made me sound pretentious, but, then again, I probably was for only 16 years of age.
The corner of Stroop’s mouth flinched, “That’s a pity.”
“That you don’t like languages,” he responded coolly, lips pouting slightly, his goatee jutting forward. “I have nothing against modern languages–you can read just about anything–but who would want to struggle with such antediluvian nonsense in Greek?”
I could feel Stroop’s eyes examining me. “What a boy you are, Vanya. The whole world–worlds are closed to you.” He looked away and then back at me, “Though a world of beauty–not just to know, but to love. It is the basis of all education.”
“But if I wanted to learn about that, I could read translated works. Why must we spend so much time learning their obsolete grammar?”
His head dropped and shook gently from side to side. I felt like I had just impaled him with a rusty pin.
“Instead of a person of flesh and blood, laughing or frowning, who can love, kiss, or hate–which one can detect in the blood surging through their veins, and the natural grace of a naked body–we are like soulless dolls, often made by artisan hands. That… that is translated. You don’t need to spend a great deal of time with a preparatory lesson on grammar.” He turned to face me. “The only requirement? Read, read, and read. Read–looking up every word in the dictionary–like you’re wading through a thicket in the forest, and you would find untried delights. And it seems to me, Vanya, that you have the makings to become such a new, authentic person.”
I just stared at this very attractive man with my jaw hanging, probably looking like an open samovar. I believed he was trying to tell me I shouldn’t shirk my language studies and that if I read enough books, I could become a better person. No one had ever given me such encouragement before. If it hadn’t been improper to do so, I would have leaned over and kissed him on his palpable lips.
Giveaway: Win a SIGNED paperback of Vanya Says, “Go!”
Wayne Goodman has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of his life (with too many cats). When not writing, he enjoys playing Gilded Age parlor music on the piano, with an emphasis on women, gay, and Black composers.
Links: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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