Drew Hunt is anything but the typical romance writer. He takes readers on journeys through the eyes of the main character of his gay romances. Drew is best known for his novels Calvin’s Cowboy and Something About Trevor.
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
I’m a gay man…a hopelessly romantic gay man. So basically I write the types of stories I want to read, featuring the types of men I’d like to fall in love with.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
Humongous? Not sure about that. It all began in 2003 when I submitted a story to the Nifty archives. So unsure was I that I’d be able to finish it, I wrote the whole story before beginning to post it. And the minute I sent out the first chapter I ran to the bathroom and…
I was surprised and delighted by the reaction my posts received. I shudder now at how amateurish my early efforts were. But as time went on I think/hope I got better.
When my friend JM Snyder decided to set up her publishing company she needed ten authors in order to be recognised by Fictionwise. Her publishing company never did get on Fictionwise which has since been taken over by Barnes and Noble and closed.
In the beginning I re-edited (often extensively) some of my old Nifty stories and submitted them to JMS Books. Nowadays my manuscripts go directly to my publisher.
To be honest, I don’t do a lot of promotion of my work. I know I should. As to why people buy my books, I guess they like the sort of stories I write. A lot of romance, some sex, and quite a bit of humour.
What is it like to be determined to keep your characters real and believable?
Both easy and difficult. As I said above, I write about the kinds of guys I would like to fall in love with. They are kind, gentle, strong. Is that a fair representation of reality? Don’t know, but it’s the type of reality I hope exists. My characters aren’t super-wealthy. No billionaires have ever appeared in a Drew Hunt romance. Extreme wealth is something I have no concept of. I grew up watching TV shows like Dallas and Dynasty and the characters were a world away from my life. Okay, it was fun to escape into a different world, but it was never a world I wished to occupy. So I’ve tried to make my characters be the kind who you could meet in the street or live next door to.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
I have a friend who is quite elderly. He grew up as part of a generation which looked down upon homosexuality. I think he’d be shocked and somewhat disdainful if he knew I was gay and wrote gay romance/erotica.
Was writing the gaudy-clothed Trevor and his reasons for keeping people at a distance a fun experience? Was there any difficulties in writing his character?
Trevor is/was quite different from me. He could say, do, and wear things I never could. But he was fun to write because I could have him do and say things I wouldn’t/couldn’t. But if you looked under the surface, Trevor was a kind, gentle, and loving man, which I would like to think I am.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
I was pretty shocked when I began to get emails from women who read my stories. I asked one why they liked the genre. She put it really well. Many straight men have fantasies of sleeping with two women at the same time, or watching lesbian porn. My correspondent said it was just the same but in reverse for some straight women. They like men, so what could be better than reading about two men falling in love?
What was it like to create the dynamic between Calvin and Brock in Calvin’s Cowboy? Did their relationship flow from the beginning while writing?
Brock was this big sexy guy but was having problems dealing with his sexuality and his finances. Calvin was out and proud, financially secure, and resentful of Brock’s earlier jock popularity when the two were in high school. No, Calvin didn’t secretly lust after Brock during those years. So the story is untypical in that respect.
If you examine Calvin and Brock separately there is something missing. But together they make a whole. I don’t think I set out to explore that when I started, but it naturally grew within the story. And it seemed natural and right, I didn’t feel as though I was forcing them into any pre-imagined moulds. I often find my stories change as I write them.
What are you currently working?
A sequel to Cowboy Sandwich. Not sure of the title yet. It won’t be a full-length novel, more a novella. Part of Cowboy Sandwich explored the differences between English and American culture. I continue this in the sequel because I send Jimmy, Jake, and Barry to England to attend an awards ceremony for the ranching game Barry developed. So there’s lots of humorous misunderstandings about driving on the wrong side of the road etc. As with the first book, there’s quite a number of references to food. Jimmy and Jake will be bemused and at times horrified by some of the English menu items set in front of them. Steak and kidney pie for example.
After that I plan to write a full-length story set on the Double J ranch focussing on Zane and Rory.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
I get ideas in the strangest places, shopping in the supermarket, lying in bed, while listening to music. Sometimes I’m reading a story and think “But what if he does this instead.” I push the idea away and get on with whatever it is I’m doing. But sometimes the idea will come back with improvements. I push it away again, telling it I’m not interested or it won’t work. If it keeps coming back more insistently with yet more reasons why it should be created then I’ll give in and start writing
Alas I’m a tinkerer. I go back in several times and add little touches which I hope enrich the story. The basic idea will remain the same however
I don’t create a plot outline ahead of time. I have certain scenes in my head that I would like to use, although I don’t necessarily use all of them. I imagine these scenes as islands of light that are set in a sea of darkness. Ahead of time I don’t know how they will all link up. But as I write, the darkness clears and I begin to see the linking paths.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
Difficult to say as some take me longer than others. I have periods of inactivity which usually occur between stories. This frustrates me. But when I get going it might take about three months from beginning to end. I have a number of beta readers who aren’t afraid to tell me I’m doing something wrong. Usually it doesn’t take too long to make those changes and get back on track.
What was writing the journey that Graham Knight takes to find Will Thompson like? How much research was needed to accurately portray the situation?
The Way to Will is actually the final chapter of a longer story “Key Lime Pie and Custard” I co-wrote with Tim Mead, a Nifty author friend. We would take it in turns to write a chapter and send it to the other for comment/correction. I thought the final chapter would (after a bit of modification) work as a stand alone. So Graham and Will were established characters by the time of Grahams bus journey to Ohio.
Tim knows the areas Graham passed through, and the Greyhound bus schedules are online, so it wasn’t too difficult to set the scene. But for the most part this story (like the majority of my stories) has a good deal of the action centred internally. So the passing scenery is of secondary importance.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance and what advice do you have for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
Find beta readers who aren’t afraid to tell you that what you’re writing is rubbish. It’s very tough to receive such criticism, but it’ll make you a better writer. Find a niche within the gay genre, be it werewolves, the supernatural or cowboys westerns and write a few stories set in such universes. No reason why you can’t write in various genres of course, but you may find you are most comfortable in a particular sub-genre, and that comfort should, hopefully, be shared and noticed by your readers
The blurb is often the most difficult part of writing a story, but it’s probably the most important. Nine times out of ten I decide whether I want to read a story purely from its blurb. If it hooks me then I’m likely to buy. Think Village People. If there’s a cop, construction worker, cowboy, soldier/sailor, or a biker, then my interest is piqued. I also like reading about native Americans, but found inter-racial stories don’t sell that well. Not sure why. These types of characters work for me because they interest me and they happen to sell for me. I’ve tried writing stories for the market and they’ve usually failed to sell. Write what you’re passionate about. And if they don’t happen to sell, then hey, you still had a fun time living with your characters.
My last bit of advice is not to give up or to rest on your laurels. Don’t write a story, release it then watch how it sells before writing another. If there’s too big a gap between your releases then readers will have forgotten about you and you’ll have to build up their interest once again.