Monday, October 24, 2011

Damon Suede on Why Riptide

Hi, I'm Damon Suede and I'm the author of Hot Head and Grown Men. I wound up at Riptide almost by accident which a medievalist would remind me is another word for Fate. LOL

I first met Rachel [Haimowitz] at Rainbow Book Fair in Manhattan and we grooved on each other instantly. J We share a similarly fast and snarky and twisted view of the world. I’d read and loved her book, Counterpoint. Learning she worked as an editor in her day-job came as no surprise, because the worldbuilding and deep POV work in that book showed such cleverness. When we left that day, I knew we’d be hanging out in the city when we could…

Fast forward a couple months.
Rachel and I communicated a couple times about work and craft and friendly gossip. She hinted a couple times that she had something brewing.

In June of 2011, my first M/M romance was published by Dreamspinner and surprised a lot of people (myself included) by barging to the tops of all its lists and parking its ass there. Almost the DAY that Hot Head released, a flurry of activity began because the book broke a bunch of rules and exhibited a kind of rawness that found favor with many genre readers. Now, my experience with Dreamspinner with the book was phenomenal and supportive. Elizabeth [North] consistently went out of her way to give me what I’d asked for, and things I hadn’t THOUGHT to ask for. I lucked out there. They’ve been and continue to be marvelous to work with.

Trouble was, in the leadup to June, I’d been writing a book called Grown Men which didn’t feel like a Dreamspinner book. I knew they could and would publish it, but I didn’t know if it played to their strengths as a “house” in the genre. Dreamspinner publishes sci-fi, wonderful sci-fi…but this Grown Men novella felt odd and kinky and internal in a way that made me want a strict editorial eye on it and an ongoing dialogue WITH my editor.

As a matter of policy, Dreamspinner edits in many passes, but a large part of that process occurs anonymously: authors receive edits from different people without knowing the source, and often without editorial contradictions reconciled clearly. With a third person contemporary like Hot Head, that setup presented minimal challenges. But Grown Men fell into strange terrain: not hard science fiction or cyberpunk or space opera, a cast of just two, and explosive angst that needed careful handling. Hell, it starred a mute giant with dubious intentions and a satirical sci-fi world that needed clarity and ruthless attention to detail.

I knew I’d need a lot of mindful back and forth to get it into the best shape possible. Anonymous editorial seemed likely to drive me batshit and make the process impossible.
Here’s where the Fate part happens…

Sometime in May, Rachel dropped me a line to check in to see what I had in the hopper that wasn’t contracted because she might know of an invite-only publisher “obsessed” with a sample they’d seen of my work. Then Hot Head came out and kind of went bonkers on the various lists and sites, a process for which I’m eternally grateful and a little mystified.

That first day, Rachel called me to say that she and Aleks [Voinov] had read and loved Hot Head. Then she got extremely candid and pitched Riptide: their business model, their rigorous personal editorial process, their marketing support... She basically CLAIMED Grown Men for Riptide’s vanguard with the force of her enthusiasm, praise, and acumen. LOL She bought the novella sight unseen and stressed that she wanted to “cultivate a career, not a book.” This is something I say all the time about writing and a resonant assertion for me on many levels.

Was I nervous that Riptide was a startup? I guess, except they were asking the right questions and focused on the right challenges. I dug their monoscopic focus on strong books and a short list of authors because it’s hard to get lost in an intimate circle. I loved their ideas for handling promotion and creative marketing. Chris Hawkins turned out to be a hands-down, flat-out, A-bomb GENIUS about the nutty business of horn-tooting. Rachel and Aleks both know this business and the art that makes it possible. Add in the fact that both of them have dayjobs as editors, and Riptide has set the bar high for product and process. If they stick to their guns, they will be making some crazy waves in M/M and LGBT fiction.

Did I have any concerns about Rachel and Aleks as captains of the Riptide ship? Well, no and yes and yes and no. I knew they were both smart and ambitious. Both seemed savvy and competent and experienced in the genre. So professionally, I knew they had the changes to run something cleanly. On the other hand, they both had a reputation for writing rougher, darker stories tending towards BDSM, so I was wary of being tugged into an imprint skewed towards the hardcore BDSM niche. I dig that subgenre, but it isn’t my main interest as a reader or writer so I had concerns. Likewise, as writers their aesthetics overlap deeply, but are SO different from my own; no way did I want to lock horns with two folks of shared tastes and tone who would try to wrestle my voice into submission. I didn’t think it likely, but I did worry for a moment. But it became an instant nonissue, the moment I saw the wide variety of their launch lineup.

Did I feel strange being used as part of their “First Wave” authors? At first, yes. LOL Rachel and Aleks admitted right up front that I represented something of a wild card: brand new author, zero backlist, strong opinions, bold choices as a writer and a business person. My experience falls in other media and genres. Turns out those anomalies were the very things that drew them and that my name had been among the first mentioned as the “kind” of author Riptide needed. They trusted my craft and talent, and gambled that we’d play well together. So hell, if they were willing, so was I! J

Was I put off by Rachel’s “brutal” reputation as an editor? Not especially; I knew Rachel liked to joke about the implicit sadism of editorial but I’ve worked in entertainment in New York, London, and Hollywood for 20 years. Those people will kill you, grill you and feed you to weasels. To extend the syllogism, if the editorial process resembles BDSM, it is similarly complex and subtle; if anything the BOOK is the Top/Dom for which we all sub and serve. A gifted editor submits to the text and supports the voice. A professional author pushes past discomfort to synthesize the input creatively and productively. Besides, Rachel and I had so much of the same humor and weirdness, I suspected we’d develop a work grammar quickly, and we did!

Am I still working with Dreamspinner? Sure am! Dreamspinner believes in me just as much as Riptide and they bust hump to make the most of everything we do together. Three months later, Hot Head is still ranked at #1 in Gay Romance at Amazon, which seems unbelievable to me. I’m chiseling away at the sequel (Hard Head) even now, and I’ll be writing it in earnest shortly. Under Elizabeth’s capable hands, Dreamspinner has been just as revolutionary within the genre as Riptide aims to be now.

Did I feel like I was jumping ship or betraying my Dreamspinner crew by joining Riptide? Not for a moment. Elizabeth, Anne, Ariel, and Lynn are all amazing. That doesn’t diminish my excitement for the way Riptide has positioned itself for our evolving genre and my hopes for the work we’ll do together. Rachel, Aleks and Chris enshrine quality over quantity, and craft over quickness. What working writer wouldn’t get behind a company that wants to help us kick our own asses productively? Everyone brings something different to the table.

I keep saying it, but it bears repeating: gay romance has grown up. Professionalism and craft matter more than ever before. Fans are fickle and inundated with shoddy product. Standards and demands will only escalate as the readership grows. New York has its eye on us. Epublishers represent tremendous threat and opportunity for ancien régime. Bottom line: we all need to pull on our big boy pants because the market and the challenges will not be SHRINKING anytime soon. The companies and writers that evolve will flourish, the rest will go a la Dodo.

Being part of the little Riptide family allows me to strike out into a different terrain and I plan to do exactly that, yo! Part of the genre’s evolution is that the various imprints are developing a “feel” in the kinds of books at which they excel. As I write more fiction and develop my craft, I like the idea of cultivating relationships across those boundaries in the fictional landscape. J

Rachel, Aleks and Chris have been receptive and enthusiastic about my suggestions for the company, which also makes me feel a part of the companies evolution. Before they’ve officially launched they’re already striving to improve. And THAT’S a reason to join anybody. LOL

Here's a blurb from Damon's book, Grown Men:
Every future has dirty roots.
Marooned in the galactic backwaters of the HardCell company, colonist Runt struggles to eke out an existence on a newly-terraformed tropical planetoid. Since his clone-wife died on entry, he’s been doing the work of two on his failing protein farm. Overworked and undersized, Runt’s dwindling hope of earning corporate citizenship has turned to fear of violent “retirement.”
When an overdue crate of provisions crashes on his beach, Runt searches frantically for a replacement wife among the tools and food. Instead he gets Ox, a mute hulk who seems more like a corporate assassin than a simple offworld farmer.
Shackwacky and near-starving, Runt has no choice but to work with his silent partner despite his mounting paranoia and the unsettling appeal of Ox’s genetically altered pheromones. Ox plays the part of the gentle giant well, but Runt’s still not convinced he hasn’t arrived with murder in mind.
Between brutal desire and the seeds of a relationship, Runt’s fears and Ox’s inhuman past collide on a fertile world where hope and love just might have room to grow.


This title is #1 of the HardCell series.

Grown Men, which will be released on October 30, is available for pre-sale at Riptide Publishing.

Visit Damon and see what all the accolades are all about:
Email address: Damon@DamonSuede.com

8 comments:

booklover0226 said...

THis was a really great and interesting post. I enjoyed reading it.

Thanks,
Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

-Maria- said...

Great post. It's very interesting know more about the editorial world.

joder said...

I'm excited by Riptide coming on the scene and look forward to what they will be offering. I enjoyed Hot Head and love the sound of your new release and am adding it to my wishlist.

Thanks too for the Riptide giveaway extravaganza.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

elaing8 said...

Great post.
I enjoyed reading it.Looking forward to Riptides books.
elaing8(at)netscape(dot)net

Jackie said...

Hi Damon,

I haven't read a post quite like yours. It's interesting and kept me intrigued until the last line. I like that you shared your experiences of how you came on board Riptide, and that you were candid about your fears and hopes as you write for them. Thanks for sharing and wishing you the best in your career! Will also be interesting to see how Riptide will turn out.

Jackie

Bookwyrm369 said...

Very interesting post! Thanks for sharing :-)

smaccall AT comcast.net

Adara said...

This was a fabulous post. Thanks for sharing, Damon. =)

Sarah said...

Great post thank you for sharing

Sarahs7836(at)gmail(dot)com

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