Chatting with Charlotte about Royal Quarry

Royal Quarry is ready for release! Cover art by Anne Cain.

So, tomorrow is the release day for Charlotte Rahn-Lee’s novella, Royal Quarry, and to get you ready for the release, Charlotte and I managed to collaborate on an exclusive interview.  You may be wondering how this worked– we were wondering how it was going to work too!  Basically, I pretended I didn’t know anything about the book, and wrote down my questions in a notebook.  Then, Charlotte wrote down her answers.  Now, I am going to type them up here and ask her follow-up questions when they occur to me!  It’s a little silly, perhaps,  as a procedure, but I think you will find the content interesting.

RLF (that’s me!): Give a little intro about yourself and your background as a writer.

CRL (that’s Charlotte!): I am an inveterate creator of stories– my sister Lilah and I invented all sorts of characters, plots, and happenings for as long as I can remember.  I think I began thinking of myself as a writer in 6th grade. My writing training is all in playwriting– I have an MFA from the New School for Drama.

RLF: What happened in 6th grade?

CRL: I was in a different school district in 6th grade, in Cambridge, MA, and there was more emphasis on writing in this new school.

RLF: Is there anything in particular you want to convey to potential readers of Royal Quarry that isn’t mentioned in the blurb?

CRL: Royal Quarry was a lot of fun to write, and I hope it will be a lot of fun to read, too.  I did my best to impart this sense of fun while I was condensing the plot into blurb-form.

RLF: What prompted you to write this story?  Tell us something about how it took shape in your head.

CRL: This story had an unusual beginning.  Albert and Manning existed as characters in an epistolary game that you and I were playing.  Because of this, their relationship really had a chance to develop and grow in a satisfying way.  This story is a retelling–a reboot, I guess you might call it– of how they met.  I wrote it because you were planning on submitting to the “men in uniform” call for Dreamspinner, and I kept urging you, “Manning wears a uniform!  Write about Albert and Manning!”  You had other ideas, however, which eventually became The Clown and the Magician, so you convinced me to write it instead.  It was fun to write something for which I knew the characters so well but could dream up a new plot, choosing elements of the original version and inventing my own as it suited the story.  That’s the joy of a reboot, I suppose.

RLF: As I remember it, you had a whole bunch of ideas for the men in uniform thing, including a story about Manning and Albert, and kept pitching them until I was finally like, well, you should write one yourself!  I’m glad you did. 🙂  Since you most frequently write plays, I’m wondering how this experience related to your other writing.  Were there any interesting differences in the writing process for this prose piece?

CRL: Yes!  Prose is very different from drama, a medium I’m more comfortable in.  You have a lot more control over how your audience experiences your story in prose than you do in drama.  [In prose], you can draw the reader’s figurative eye to specific details in a way that reminds me of screenwriting.  You can describe your characters’ thought processes, even!  I was conscious with writing this story of not wanting to go crazy with my new-found powers of prose and explain or describe too much of what people were thinking.  You still do want your characters to show you what’s happening with them after all.  But it was a lot of fun to work in prose for a change.

RLF: What was your favorite part about writing these characters and their relationship?

CRL: I love how Albert’s (over)reactions always surprise, and I am very fond of Manning’s continuous struggle to maintain his professional composure.

RLF: Did you encounter any surprises while writing?

CRL: Of course!

RLF: How did you like writing a story that is centered around a romance?  Was it similar to or different from other kinds of relationship-based writing you’ve done?

CRL: The most unexpectedly tricky thing was the pronouns.  When two men relate to each other–sexually, romantically, or otherwise–in prose, your sentences become tangled knots of “him”s, “he”s, and “his”es.  It took some clever editing to make clear who was doing what to whom.

RLF: Did you learn anything new (in research or otherwise) while writing Royal Quarry?

CRL: I learned more than I will ever need to know about deer hunting.

RLF: Do you want to write more stories about these characters or this world?

CRL: I sure do!  Albert and Manning go on to have many exciting adventures together.  It would be a lot of fun to write down some more of them.  It would be really great to see them in a graphic novel– I’ve always wanted to try writing one of those.  Anybody know any sequential artists?

So there you have the interview!  Do you know any sequential artists?  Do you have more questions for Charlotte?  Let us know in the comments!  Are you ready to buy this fantastic book?  Here’s where you can find it, starting in about ten minutes:



The Clown and the Magician- Another Great Review!

Well, today is my first day of orientation for the PhD program in English that I am about to start.  So, naturally, I was relieving my nerves by seeing if anyone else had reviewed The Clown and the Magician.

And someone had!  Here, and glowingly:  Thanks, Portia!  I am delighted to learn that there are gems falling from my literary tree.  I’ll try to keep ’em coming.

Also, I know everyone is eagerly awaiting the exclusive interview with Charlotte Rahn-Lee about her upcoming release (upcoming as in tomorrow!), Royal Quarry.  Fear not!  The interview is progressing apace, and shall be posted here just as soon as we both have a minute to breathe.

Actually, taking a minute to breathe sounds like a good idea.  Want to join me?   I’m gonna close my eyes… breathe in deeply… and let it out.

There.  We’re conspiring.

(I got to explain conspiracy to my Upper Elementary school students on our last class day.  I talked about how if you’re working on a secret plot you have to lean in so closely that you’re breathing the same air.)

The Clown and the Magician- News and Reviews!

Just in case you forgot what the cover art looks like!

Well, as with the similarly named post about “The Hanukkah Surprise,” I don’t know if there’s really news about The Clown and the Magician, but there are reviews!  Two from Amazon reader reviewers, one of whom is a friend and fellow writer, Jeffrey McGraw (, and one from the M/M romance review site, Reviews by Jessawave.  All three reviews were kind and insightful, and my thanks to all the reviewers!  I’m especially grateful to Jessawave’s site for featuring my book in this review, and also for having a giveaway of it earlier.  I was particularly pleased by all the details LadyM picked up on in her review, since the questions she was asking about Jake and various other aspects of the story are questions I’ve been kicking around in my own head as well.  I certainly haven’t committed to a sequel, but when I play with the concept, those are definitely the directions I see myself going in.

So, without further ado, here are the reviews!

The Amazon reviews:

The Jessawave Review:

Oh, and in case all that’s convinced you to buy the book, here’s that link as well:

Charlotte’s Novella, Royal Quarry, is Coming!

Charlotte just got word that her Dreamspinner novella, Royal Quarry, will be released on August 17th!  Check out the cover art and blurb and buy link:

Royal Quarry cover art, again by Anne Cain

Hopeless at hunting, Prince Albert has been sent into the woods by his impulsively cruel father, required to kill a stag before he can return. Luckily he has Manning, a quiet and overly competent bodyguard, to rely on.  But the familiarity and evident desire growing between prince and bodyguard shame Manning into revealing a secret: the king is using Albert as bait in a political game with a neighboring power, and it’s Manning’s job to lead him into danger.

Angry and betrayed, but unwilling to endanger Manning, Albert insists that his bodyguard go through with the plan. To save Albert and win back his trust, Manning will have to disobey two sets of orders and prove he has the canniness to survive in the royal court.

I’m super-excited about this novella, and I think the cover art is amazing!  I like mine for The Clown and the Magician a lot, too, but I like this art even more.  There are lots of other reasons I’m excited about this story, and I’ll tell you about them as we get closer to release.  I have also been lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with Charlotte!  So you can hear it all from the horse’s mouth pretty soon.


Projects, in Flight and in the Wings

I don’t want to go on and on about submissions, necessarily, since they may never see the light of day, but hey, a writing project is a writing project, and I’ll take all the behind the scenes cheering on I can get!

Recently, I submitted a story here:, so if anyone was hoping I’d give women a turn in my romantically-inclined writing, that person is in luck!  I won’t find out til October on that one, so cross your fingers. 🙂

Also, everyone should be proud that I finished a story in under 4,500 words.  This one did not grow wildly out of control, hurrah!

I’m hoping to make an announcement about a different upcoming publication pretty soon, so stay tuned… I’ve had the acceptance, just waiting for the details to firm up.

And right now I am trying to decide what to spend my August writing time on.  What I need to spend at least a hefty chunk of it on, quite soon, is working up my syllabus for the composition course I’ll be teaching in the fall.  Other options include this:, which I realize is cutting it a bit close… I’ve been kicking around another David and Andrew story, but haven’t quite gotten it off the ground.. and this:  I started a story before I found that second call for submissions that I think would work for it, but lost steam and haven’t looked at it in a bit… so maybe I should dust that off.

I also really want to nail down a time to work on another story to submit to Cicada Magazine, since I got an extremely encouraging and personal rejection from them for the last story I sent there.  And there are some longer-term projects I’m working on, but I don’t want to say too much about them just yet…

Anybody have any suggestions of what I should pick?  Of course, it’s very possible I will end up going in other directions entirely, but these are the projects on my mind at the moment.  In addition to keeping this blog regularly fed, watered, and written in.

Sound like enough, with work and preparing for school and summer fun and volunteering?  Probably definitely enough.  Stay tuned for the actual results!

Restless Spirits Looking for A Home

I don’t live alone.

I mean, I live with my girlfriend, you know that already.  But my not-aloneness is another kind of thing, and it’s something that occurred to me to talk about a little when I started talking about “The Hanukkah Surprise” in my last post.  It was interesting, thinking about that story again.  It made me think about the ways in which “The Hanukkah Surprise” is different from some of my other stories, and one way is in the characters.

David and Andrew, the protagonists of “The Hanukkah Surprise,” are characters I’ve been living with since college.  I haven’t been writing stories about them that whole time, though when I have to explain I generally say it that way.  “They’re characters my friends and I make up stories about.”  And that’s true enough.

But it’s not the only thing that’s true.  Another thing that’s true is that I have characters that serve as companions, living as part of me in a way that feels like some particular muscle is part of me: it does what it needs to do, and occasionally a feel a twinge or a pain or a tug, asking to be stretched or rubbed or moved a different way.  Its life is not a separate thing, but it can surprise me.

That’s how these characters feel to me.  To a large extent, that’s how all characters feel to me, but these and some others I have had with me for longer, and I didn’t invent them to be part of one particular story at one particular time.  Instead, I was telling my own story and found them there, part of it.  Companions.  Friends.  Other-selves refracted in fun house mirrors.

Sometimes, when I’m in trouble or when I’m lonely or I don’t know what to do, I gather them together on paper, in a circle, and we talk.  They tell me the truth about myself and about each other.  We speak in shorthand, in code, quick and silvery, the way you can’t quite do with other people in the world.

I think it has to do with identity, with the squeezing and the sacrifice and the rounding up and down that goes into making any legible self.  I can’t be a hundred things at once and still be a sane and legible person, not really.  But I can’t be just one thing and be fully myself, not really.  So I end up haunted, in the best of ways.  I don’t know if other writers and actors and character-makers of various kinds would describe their experience in these ways, but I think it is not an uncommon experience.

It’s the closest I’ve come to magic.  Real magic, transformation-style.  And I find that exploring these other kinds of identity, it is possible to connect to other people in magical ways, to connect to parts of them that otherwise might remain hidden.  Maybe that’s what all writing and acting and character-making is about, too.  Some people can recognize these others in my face, or when I speak, or laugh, or point out a particular piece of beauty in the world.  Some people can see this in me even if they don’t know these companionate characters exist.

I wrote about these concepts in my play The More-Than One, which was in the 2010 Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival.  I think in some ways these concepts are leading me to questions of identities that are not singular or pure in my academic research.  They weave around my life, and for lack of a better phrase, I’ve called them restless spirits looking for a home– though I might be simply talking about myself.

I don’t know if I’ve made sense here.  But I think some people will recognize what’s behind what I’m saying, even if the words are slippery.  I think what I’m trying to express is how much space there is between truth and fiction, and how amazingly fertile that space is when you slip between.

I don’t live alone in my heart or my skin.  I think, on many levels, most of us don’t.  Writing and theater are just two of the more formal ways I try to express that.

I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours…

The Hanukkah Surprise- News and Reviews

Ok, so there isn’t really any news about “The Hanukkah Surprise,” as it’s been out since last December and nobody’s bought it in ages.  (Turns out Hanukkah stories aren’t tremendously popular at other times of the year, believe it or not.)  But I figured while I was sending people over to Dreamspinner Press, and, hopefully, attracting some readers from there, I might as well put in a good word for my other story there, neglected though it may be due to seasonal disjunction.

Also, I didn’t have anywhere to post reviews or talk about it in my meandering way when it came out, so I will attend to the former in the this post, and to the latter in another, more conceptual post shortly.

“The Hanukkah Surprise” started my formal relationship with male/male romance.  (Which I think is a little silly as a genre name, but it does get the point across clearly).  My informal relationship is about a billion times more interesting, sexier, longer, stranger… but I’m not gonna talk about that right now.  Formally, I heard about the genre because Rachel heard about this call for submissions Dreamspinner Press had for holiday stories, and I thought, sure, I could do one of those.

It worked out, and my little gay Hanukkah story got to be part of the 2010 Advent Calendar at Dreamspinner Press.  The Advent Calendar is this annual thing they do where you can buy a big gigantic package of stories and then receive one per day for the entire month of December.  (This is a superb idea, but not for the faint of heart.  For example, if you and your girlfriend decide to read each of these stories aloud to each other while relaxing or doing household chores, you may not actually be finished by, say, July.  Just sayin’.)

But don’t worry!  You can also buy “The Hanukkah Surprise” separately.  And in case you’re wondering what it’s about, other than Hanukkah and a surprise, here’s the official blurb and buy link:

Also, some readers wrote reviews, which were mostly quite lovely and kind:

And this one is my favorite:

So there’s a small bunch of links to keep you entertained for a bit, if what you were looking for in entertainment was a small bunch of links.  I have more to say about this story, but I’ll do that in another post.  For now, I’ll just say that it would be quite a pleasure to actually sell a copy of this story in the summertime, if anyone who hasn’t read it feels so inclined.  And if you want to wait til Hanukkah, don’t worry.  I’m sure I’ll talk about it then, too. 😉

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