Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Guest Interview: Wayne Goodman for Better Angels #giveaway

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Welcome all!

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Wayne Goodman author of “Better Angels”

Hi Wayne, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

What were you like at school?

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.

Were you good at English?

I don’t know if I was always “good” at English, but I have enjoyed reading and learning the craft of creative writing. My vocabulary tends to be larger than most people, and I like being able to utilize it from time to time.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Aside from becoming a Best-Selling Author, recognition is my primary goal. I have no fantasy of living a life of luxury from book sales. So far, I have lost money in book sales. Respect and admiration is the most I could hope for.

Which writers inspire you?

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.

So, what have you written?

My latest work is “Better Angels: A Retelling of Bayard Taylor’s ‘Joseph and His Friend: A Pennsylvania Story.’” It is based on the first American Gay novel, written in 1869. As the time period did not allow for open descriptions of physical and emotional expression for same-sex characters at that time, I have added material that makes the relationships much more open and obvious. Also, I have changed the main character’s love interest to being African-American. This adds another wrinkle, as the story takes place soon after the U.S. Civil War.

Other books I have written are:

“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:

“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:

“Britain’s Glory” tells the tragic story of Princess Charlotte, granddaughter to King George III of England:

“The Last Great Hope” speculates about the existence of a third Kennedy child who was adopted out under a false name:

“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:

Some of my works are also available as Audio books through Audible and iTunes.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Joseph Asten, the main character in “Better Angels,” is a 23-year-old farmer living in the Allegheny River Valley of Pennsylvania shortly after the U.S. Civil War. He knows he has a preference for men, and he had had physical relationships, but he feel social pressures to marry. When a woman comes along who seems to understand his secret situation, he proposes.

What are you working on at the minute?

My current project is a retelling of the first English-language gay novel, “Live and Learn,” by Francis Lathom. First printed in 1823, it has been recognized as the earliest work in English to contain same-sex relationships.

What’s it about?

The original story (in 4 volumes) is a gothic tale of rags to riches and the various people who stand in the way of achieving wealth and happiness. John Brown, the main character, inherits a stranger’s estate and seeks to find love despite having lots of money.

What genre are your books?

I tend to write Historical Fiction. Discovering people or events lost to history and bringing them to new light fascinates me. Recently, I have begun retelling books that are historically-significant but have been forgotten or neglected.

What draws you to this genre?

After my previous book, “Vanya Says, ‘Go!’,” which was the retelling of the first Russian-language book with a positive take on same-sex relationships, another author suggested to me that I had started a new genre of taking historically-significant books and reviving them.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

As Joseph Brown, the main character in “Better Angels,” is supposed to be young and handsome, I could see Ryan Gosling, or someone of his style, play him.

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. Slang appropriate to the place and time really gives a sense of authenticity to the dialogue, and I attempt to pepper my writing with as many colloquialisms as possible.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

I generally write alone, but I would be open to collaboration. My partner also an author (but in a different genre). We have discussed working together, but that has not happened so far.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I had started creative writing in High School, took a few courses in college but never became serious about writing until 2001.

Why do you write?

Writing has been quite therapeutic for me. While recuperating from a life-threatening illness in 2001, it provided a sense of purpose and gave me a goal to complete.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

My very first full-length book I wrote while working as a word processor at a large law firm. There was a bit of down time, and I used it to write. That way, I always appeared busy.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

Because I do not have a job (I’ve been on disability since 2001) 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 the book when I get really inspired to write more.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

Because my writing is not very structured, I don’t set goals for myself. The goals I usually set are the number of words in a chapter (usually around 5,000).

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.

Where do your ideas come from?

As I read other things (books, news, Wikipedia), ideas come to me. One book about the history of maps, gave me at least two ideas for future books.

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.

With my latest project of retelling previously-written stories, the plot and characters are pretty much presented before I begin. My job, as I see it, is to re-interpret the original ideas, update the writing, and present the same story but aimed at 21st Century readers.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

They say the more you write, the better you get. I have now completed six published works with a total of over 400,000 words. Also, I have been part of a writers’ group, and receiving direct feedback also provides for growth. I would like think that my latest book will always be better than the one before it.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Seeing your work for what it is tends to be the most difficult thing. Until someone else reads or hears what you are doing and validates it, you have no idea if you are wasting your time or working on something significant.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

Because my latest book, “Better Angels,” is a retelling of a previously-published work, my goal was to present the same story and characters in an updated way. I wanted to be true to the original and yet have the new version be better and more accessible by 21st Century readers. In the sections I added (mostly emotional and physical interactions), I attempted to make the new material match the original as much as possible in a seamless fashion.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

Typing the words, “The End.”

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.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Many of us in the U.S. went through a period of shock after the presidential election of 2016. I had been working on a very promising book but stopped writing it shortly after the inauguration earlier this year. Working on “Better Angels” helped to get me through that period of grey days.

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.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

I don’t read as much as I used to. Because of the amount of research I do for each book, I have little interest in picking up other people’s books. If I do read, it is most likely from one of the circle of author friends I have made through hosting a local queer authors reading series with my partner.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I prefer reading from my iPad Mini. It’s just the right size to hold, you can read in the dark, and you can have a whole library at your fingertips.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

Fortunately for me, my partner is also an author, and we read our first drafts to each other to get initial feedback. As far as proofreading, I used to do that as a job, and I generally take care of it myself. However, before sending a manuscript for publication, I like to have a few close friends read it over for general readability, and if they find a few stray typos, so much the better.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

I know there are people who take years, sometimes up to 10 years, to produce a book. I am not one of those people. Now that I am 60 years old, I’m not sure how much writing time is left for me. My current pace is to publish one book per year. After the initial draft, I do put it aside for a while, read and edit a few more times, but I would never leave it go for very long.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

I design my own covers. While not formally trained in design, I have learned over the years what works and what I like.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

For a paperback book, the cover is probably the most important factor in sales. If your design does not call a potential buyer across the room to look at your book, you’ll not get sold. With eBooks, the cover is not as important.

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 work published and distributed when you want it. However, established publishers can also provide publicity or advances, both unavailable when you self-publish.

How do you market your books?

I place my eBooks on Amazon and through SmashWords (Nook, Kobo, iTunes, etc.). Audiobooks are available through Audible and iTunes. Paperbacks are generally at local independent booksellers.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Having a social-media presence is the most important thing for authors these days. Even though you might spend hours of writing time posting to Facebook, Tweeting, blogging, etc., it is the best way to keep your fans apprised of your works.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?

Just like most other authors, marketing is the most dreaded part of writing. If I could afford it, I would hire a professional marketer to take on these tasks. I try to spend a few minutes each day posting something somewhere for people to read about my books.

Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?

I just completed a Goodreads book giveaway for “Better Angels.” Over 300 people signed up, and I gave away 5 copies of the paperback version.

Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?

As my partner and I host a few local queer author reading series, we arranged for our own book launches. I did one interview on a local radio station.

Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?

There is such competition for books that many well-written books never see the light of day or end up in the hands of readers. It also seems that our society is moving away from traditional word-based fiction and toward a more graphic style. Movies and television also take away from traditional literature.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

My partner used to work in publishing, and he has frequently advises me never to give books away. I disagree. If giving a book to someone can help generate word-of-mouth book sales, I will gladly do that.

Did you format your own book?

Because of my work history with word processing, I format my own books.

In what formats is your book available?

Most of my works are available in paperback, as eBooks, and audiobooks.

How do you relax?

I’m not sure I ever learned that skill. My mind is constantly “on” and even if I appear to be sitting still, I’m thinking about something. If only I could find the “off” switch…

What is your favourite motivational phrase.

I don’t know if it is a phrase, but I do not believe in giving up until it is absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt, the end of the road for a project. I tend to be very persistent in most things. Sometimes, rescue comes at the very last minute, and you have to be ready.

What is your favourite positive saying?

I expected to have died years ago, and because of that, I like to say, “Every day is a gift; some days are giftier than others.”

What is your favourite book and why?

“Bridge of Birds” by Barry Hughart, has been one of the most amazing journeys I have taken. It is one book I can read again and still enjoy.

What is your favourite film and why?

Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” is my favourite mainstream film, and Peter Greenaway’s “The Pillow Book” is my favourite art film. “Moulin Rouge” is such eye-candy, and even though it gets silly at times, the story is compelling and the music enjoyable. “The Pillow Book” is a complicated, multi-layered film that I have had to watch a few times before I understood it. Also, it contains Ewan McGregor in full-frontal nudity.

Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?

I would say “Australia” is the first thing that popped into my mind. We took a holiday there last year, and I really enjoyed the country. Melbourne seems like a place I could live comfortably.

With respect to writing, I don’t see much of a change, even if I won the lottery or became a best-seller.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Everything happens for a reason. It might not be apparent at the time, but in a while, all will become clear.

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

I have learned it can be dangerous meeting your idols. They are real people just like us, and sometimes it can be disappointing finding out that your favourite writer was not a very nice person.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read all you can, write all you can, and learn how to accept criticism with grace.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Every time we hear the death knell for paper-based books, they seem to make a comeback. While I personally look forward to a paperless future, many people still enjoy the sensation of holding a book in their hands.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

My Twitter: @WGoodmanBooks

Title: Better Angels
Author: Wayne Goodman
Release Date: June 4th 2017
Genre: Gay Fiction, Retelling, Historical

Better Angels-Cover


Joseph Asten, a handsome, 23-year-old farmer living in the Allegheny River Valley shortly after the Civil War, secretly longed for intimacy and love with other men. He devised a misguided plan to marry a woman who knew of his “dual nature” then his life took some unexpected, fateful turns.

Bayard Taylor’s Joseph and His Friend: A Pennsylvania Story is considered the first American Gay novel. Originally published in 1869 as a serial in The Atlantic, the author could not relate the story openly and had to use suggestive ways to describe his characters’ activities and motivations. In Better Angels, Goodman retells the tale frankly and candidly, free from antiquated 19th Century cultural restraints. This is the author’s second book revivifying forgotten, historically-significant Queer stories. Previously, in Vanya Says, “Go!,” Goodman updated the first Russian-language Gay novel Wings, by Silver-Age poet Mikhail Kuzmin.

Find Better Angels on Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Praise for Better Angels:

“A lovely story, sumptuous in language and ideas with a rich ambience. For people who love a love story, it is thoroughly rewarding.” Vincent Meis, author of Deluge

“Goodman has turned the pallid prose of travel writer Bayard Taylor into a scintillating trip through 19th Century America. Those who loved James Baldwin’s Another Country and Giovanni’s Room will find something of value in Goodman’s latest triumph.” Kevin Killian, author of Tony Greene Era

Better Angels is a great read and a wonderful glimpse into a story of the 19th Century that has rarely been told. It writes queerness back into liter­ary history, with an anti-racist spin.” Dr. Ajuan Mance, author of Before Harlem

“A remarkable literary feat of resurrecting the first American gay novel. With meticulous prose and clever dialogue, Goodman offers a fascinating glimpse into love between American men in the 19th Century.” Elizeya Quate, author of Face of Our Town

Better Angels takes another obscure, early Gay novel and brings it back to life, updating language, amplifying the story, and presenting love between men and men, and women and women more di­rectly than it could have been presented when the book was first published. Goodman performs a his­torical service, giving readers a glimpse of Gay life lived 150 years ago.” Richard May, author of Inhuman Beings


Joseph felt the hum from the multitudinous spirits of life in every nerve and vein, marching triumphantly in a procession through secret passages and summoning the phantoms of sense to their completed chambers. He imagined his mind and soul balanced above a strong pinion as he rode farther and farther from his home.

At once, the great joy of human life filled and thrilled him. All possibilities of action and pleasure and emotion swam before his eyes. He envisioned many of the individual careers he had ever read about in all ages, climates, and conditions of humanity–dazzling pictures of the myriad-sided Earth. All this could be his if he but dared to seize the freedom waiting for his grasp.

He finally accepted that he did feel love for his longtime friend, Elwood Withers, as he himself had described it on their ride to the first gathering at the Warriners. Joseph would rather touch Elwood’s hand, or shirt, more than kissing anyone else. Miss Blessing and Lucy Henderson may have stirred a mild passion in him, but nothing like his constant craving for male companionship. Even with all the buffoonery and loud talk, Elwood had captured Joseph’s heart. Elwood embodied all the things Joseph aspired to be–outgoing, confident, worldly–and it made his brain run to his heels whenever Elwood came into view. However, Elwood professed to be interested in the young women, particularly Miss Elizabeth Henderson. Joseph understood his feelings could not be reciprocated, and he had to accept that his feelings differed from the others. His love for another man made him feel like a lone stalk of corn in a field of waving wheat.

GIVEAWAY: Win a SIGNED copy of Better Angels and 2x ebook copies

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About the Author

Wayne Goodamn profile pic

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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