[Interview: Part 2 of 2] Jay Mandal

Gay romance author, Jay Mandal's work includes the novels, All About Sex (BeWrite Books, 2006) and Precipice (Bewrite Books, 2005) as well as the short story collections, The Loss of Innocence (BeWrite Books, 2003); A Different Kind of Love (BeWrite Books, 2002); and Slubberdegullion (BeWrite Books, 2001).

His work has also been featured in anthologies that include Best Gay Romance 2009 (Cleis Press, 2009)and Best Gay Romance 2010 (Cleis Press, 2010).

In this interview, Jay Mandal talks about how his poems, short stories and novels have been received:

We had our first interview about three years ago. Have the challenges you face as a writer stayed the same or have they changed?

On a personal level, my depression seems to have worsened, which means I can’t write as much as I’d like.

Oddly enough, as my depression gains more of a hold, my writing seems to be becoming lighter in tone. I’m not sure whether that’s some form of escapism, if it’s normal change, if I’ve temporarily exhausted my supply of more sombre pieces (or if gay life is generally more accepted/acceptable/less angst-ridden) or if I’ve found ‘my voice’. And there have been legal changes recently, one being that gay couples can legally register their partnership in the UK.

As far as publishing goes, there are fewer bookshops around, both individual, independent stores and chains. We authors must wait to see if Print on Demand and ebooks take up the slack.

You've written poems, short stories and novels. Of the three, which do you think is easier or more difficult to write? And, why do you think this is so?

A novel is certainly hard to write. It’s far longer and has many more opening and closing scenes to create. With All About Sex, I wrote numerous short scenes out of order and then had to rearrange them.

I don’t feel I know much about poetry, although I’m pleased with some of the poems I’ve written.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Sometimes I really don’t know. But books, magazines, television, conversations -- even misheard ones -- are all sources of inspiration. Then there are news items, problem pages, holidays I’ve taken, pictures and photos, songs, a word taken at random from a dictionary.

I may start writing without any clear idea as to where the story is heading, and just hope for the best.

My target is 100 words per day -- in a year, that adds up to nearly 40,000. But I suffer from depression, so often don’t manage to write anything at all.

How have your novels been received?

Generally well -- I’ve sold over 2,500 copies of them (excluding the anthologies); and they were borrowed from UK libraries nearly 1,500 times for the years ended June 2008 and 2009.

Readers encourage me to look again at Dandelion Clock as a screenplay. I think All About Sex would also be interesting as a film or television drama as it’s got plenty of dialogue and action.

Opinion on The Dandelion Clock, which has sold 1,500 copies, is polarised.

The Dandelion Clock is a gentle book more concerned with thoughts and feelings. It’s not an action book. A reader did comment on the amount of tea-drinking which went on, so, much of that has gone when it came to the second edition.

So far, you've written over 300 short stories. Generally, how long does it take you to craft a story from start to finish?

It’s difficult to say.

Some may take years, but I’ll have been working on them only intermittently. A story may not be quickly finished if I’m not well or if I can’t think what happens next.

Flash fiction -- perhaps 200 words -- may be written basically in a day or two, and then it might undergo editing.

Have all the stories you've written been published?

My stories have been published by BeWrite Books in three collections (A Different Kind of Love; The Loss of Innocence; and Slubberdegullion; and there are nine together with the novel, Precipice.

One appears in Best Gay Romance 2009, while another is appearing in Best Gay Romance 2010.

Some others are in process of being placed.

I occasionally toy with the idea of self-publishing, but am put off by the amount of time and effort I would have to expend on this route (which doesn’t guarantee much in the way of reward -- better to find a decent publisher who will do the donkey work for you, even if it’s a small publisher and much of the promotion side is down to you).

I’d obviously like all my finished stories to find a home. This may involve self-publishing occasionally, but BeWrite Books is very much on my side and will at least consider my work for full editorial treatment and ‘proper’ publication. You can’t hit the mark every time, though.

How have your short stories been received?

BeWrite Books and Cleis Press have published my stories in paperback form (e-books are available, too, from BeWrite Books and, shortly, Kindle versions through Smashwords).

Judging from reviews the stories have received, they are popular in the UK and US.

For example, one reader posted a review of BGR2009 on Amazon UK, and said my story was ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the anthology.

Which of the short stories would you say have been most successful?

It was the story, "Chiaroscuro", which received the ‘jewel in the crown’ mention.

I have also won a short story competition which had over 1,000 entries. And, oddly enough, that wasn’t a gay tale.

Some short stories I’ve sent to several famous people who’ve been kind enough to reply, so to some extent I can claim that these have been successful. Others have been mentioned specifically in reviews. Some stories are more humorous or poignant than others, and appeal more to readers.

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