We are here today talking with the Grand Poobah of gay infused mystery & mayhem, author extraordinaire…Josh Lanyon. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Somebody Killed His Editor, the first book in his Holmes and Moriarity mystery series. As one of those unfortunate souls still grieving over the loss of Adrien, I will now admit that this book made for a giant step in my wound-licking recovery. It has everything any smart-mouthed little homosexual, such as myself, could ever want – a murderously yummy and delicious libation that was equal parts The Thin Man & His Girl Friday mixed with a dash of the back stabbing bitchery of All About Eve. I started to go back and add the word, ‘gay’ to that last sentence before deciding that was pretty well implied. : )
Ethan: One of the most interesting aspects of the book was that you set it within the confines of a murder mystery lit retreat – for who else other than those who write about it day in and day out could be so blasé about the fact that someone was knocking off attendees. It allowed for an infusion of wickedly funny humor which as you may have guessed, is something I particularly enjoyed. While I initially suspected you were merely attempting to make me happy…I decided to go ahead and ask all the same. Did you set out wanting to mix murder with laughs or was that something that fell into place naturally after creating all the who’s that wound up populating your who-done-it?
Josh: Hey there, Ethan. Thanks very much for having me on the blog. This is such a treat. SKHE was my first deliberate attempt to write “funny.” Meaning that the situations and the characters’ responses were intended to be larger than life and hopefully amusing. You know, as opposed to the hard-hitting strict realism of my other crime fiction. 😀
Ethan: I must say how much I enjoyed Christopher. He’s a little bitter, stinging from the loss of a long-term relationship which sounded just awful whenever he described it. Yet he still longs for it in a strange way – I loved that juxtaposition – that something was better than nothing. He’s none too happy to be forty, as if all but ringing his own death knell…the end is nigh. His professional life is tumbling down around him thanks to the waning popularity of his long running Miss Butterwith series, about a little old lady who solves mysteries with her cat. That right there was enough to get me laughing as the Angela Lansbury wisecracks began lining up inside my head. If you could, talk to us a little bit about where he came from? Were there any particular inspirations for this guy? And what, if any, experiences did you pull from your own life that made it into this lovably sarcastic, mass of yummy goodness?
Josh: I’m glad that you found Christopher’s dilemma funny because it would be easy to veer into bleakness–I had to watch for that all the time. That, though Christopher’s pain was real, he stayed entertaining. I think his situation is all too common, though maybe not in m/m fiction. The hard thing about the odometer flipping over isn’t so much the wear and tear on the tires as the realization that you haven’t traveled nearly as far or as fast as you expected. The forties are often a huge time of change. I have so many friends dealing with health issues, changing jobs, changing partners — and facing the fact that they’re not going to be who they always wanted to be when they grew up.
Ethan: Another thing I truly enjoyed about Editor was the way you used the setting – tweaking the whole ‘locked room’ sub-genre in a way that opened up the story a bit by allowing for multiple changes in the scenery, while still leaving that sense of helplessness that accompanied being stranded in a remote location with a murderer. It gave the story a claustrophobic feel yet made more a much more cinematic back drop. I’m not a writer of mysteries, but I assume just like each of your characters, in the case of Editor, the setting became every bit as important. Talk to us a little about that decision, especially with regard to this being the first book in a series. Were you even planning this to be a series from the beginning, and if so do you plan on using this same formula for each book?
Josh: Yep, this was intended as a series from the first. I knew it would give me a venue to bitch about publishing and aging and the difficulty of building a life with someone when you’re no longer a kid and you’re sort of set in your ways. I hope most readers will find the mysteries competently executed, but each one is a play on beloved mystery trope. All She Wrote is a classic Manor House Mystery (except with Kit at the helm, it goes in screwy directions). The settings are crucial to the fun.
Ethan: You’ve also utilized one of my all time favorite themes with Editor, which is having Mr. Macho be the one clamoring for commitment while our lovably neurotic hero seems to be forever trying to wriggle out of it. At times, getting pinned down by the love of his life has Christopher more nervous than anything else. I love it when the guy who’d normally be the one everyone else was trying to land, becomes the one struggling to get what he wants the most. Was this type of role reversal an intentional choice or did it just come about naturally once you knew who your characters were?
Josh: I wanted to do something very different from the Adrien English series–something different from anything I’d done so far. I think making J.X. younger than Christopher was one of my better impulses because it gives him a vulnerability he might not otherwise have. Though he’s more practical and experienced in a lot of ways, when it comes to their relationship, J.X. is the idealistic and romantic one.
Ethan: I absolutely love J.X.! The bantering between he and Christopher is the kinda stuff I live for. I’ve always thought a good banter was the best kind of foreplay. And J.X.’s success and enlarged ego makes for a perfect foil to Christopher’s contrasting fear and bitterness over the way his life has turned out. J.X. is the all around good guy, the boy next door turned literary rock star. I love that the beyond the lust and sex there’s also jealousy over the fact his best selling, full-throttle crime novels are now more popular than poor Miss Butterwith. It’s nice when two men can still want each other while remaining competitive with regard to who’s got the biggest…career. It’s so much fun to watch that dynamic unfold. I’ve been in love with all my characters while writing their stories, but with some I’ve known from the beginning it was going to be a one picture deal. Others I could feel that a sequel had to be done. So I have to ask. Why these two guys for a new series? It’s a very real commitment of time as an author. What was about them that made you realize you’d want to spend so much time with them?
Josh: Well, I knew it was time to bring the Adrien English series to a close. Er, a hiatus. So I knew I’d have room in my schedule for another series, and one thing I kept hearing from readers was that they wanted to see Adrien and Jake continue on solving crimes together. The AE series wasn’t really that kind of thing, but I knew I could do that with a story where the romantic subplot revolved around two guys trying to build a life together, but there needed to be enough genuine differences and conflicts and complications to make that story interesting.
As you say, with the majority of stories we write, even if we don’t wrap up the ending with ribbons and bows, the story is basically resolved. With J.X. and Kit I knew they might have a believably bumpy road, but not so bumpy that the story couldn’t be a lot of fun and very romantic.
The road back to bestsellerdom can be deadly.
Thanks to an elderly spinster sleuth and her ingenious cat, Christopher Holmes
has enjoyed a celebrated career as a bestselling mystery writer. Until now.
Sales are down and his new editor is allergic to geriatric gumshoes.
On the advice of his agent, he reinvents his fortyish, frumpy, recently dumped
self into the sleek, sexy image of a literary lion, and heads for a Northern
California writers conference to try and resurrect his career. A career nearly
as dead as the body he stumbles over in the woods.
In a weirdly déjà vu replay of one of his own novels, he finds himself stranded
in an isolated lodge full of frightened women—and not a lawman in sight. Except
for J.X. Moriarity, former cop and bestselling novelist. The man with whom he
shared a one-night stand—okay, maybe three—long ago. The man who wants to arrest him for murder.
Far from splitting the night, my bleat barely carried three feet, so I had no trouble hearing my attacker’s exasperated, “What. The. Fuck?”
I knew that voice.
I bit off the rest of my screech and sat up, wincing as pain shot up my spine. I was sitting in a puddle, ice-cold water soaking through my trousers. The last time I remembered being decked had been a playground rumble at Our Holy Mother. I’d been thirteen. My bounce had been better back then. Now I felt like I’d wrenched every muscle in my already worn-out body. And my back…I’d be lucky if I wasn’t crippled for a month. I wiped the mud off my face.
“I am so going to sue your ass,” I spluttered.
“Well, what the hell are you doing out here?” J.X. demanded.
No apology seemed forthcoming. Also, I couldn’t help noticing, neither was help from the lodge. Were we too far away to be heard? Not a happy thought.
“What do you think I’m doing? I’m going to my cabin.”
“Crawling on your hands and knees?”
“I wasn’t on my hands and knees till you knocked me down.”
“You sure as hell were skulking in the bushes.”
“I heard something—you—and I was making sure it was safe.”
He continued to stare down at me. I wished I could see his face. His motionless outline caused my scalp to prickle. Then he reached down a hand.
His hand was warm on my chilled one. Again I was aware of his wiry strength. He wasn’t much taller than me, but he was in a hell of a lot better shape. He pulled me to my feet and dropped my hand.
“What are you doing out here?” I asked, uneasily rubbing the twinging small of my back.
“Grabbing a log for my fireplace.” He reached past me and picked up a nice stout sawed-off limb. “It’s going to be a cold night.” He picked up another log. “Here’s one for you.”
“Thanks.” I stepped out of range, trying not to be too obvious about it. Not that I didn’t appreciate the gesture, but there was something unconvincing in his manner. What had he been looking for out here?
J.X. still held out the log. I took it gingerly.
“I’ll see you to your cabin.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks.” I remembered my minibar set up. “Hang on.”
I limped back to where I’d set down the tray. Everything was as I’d left it. I lifted the tray and nearly dropped it. J.X. stood right behind me, log in hand.
I managed to save the gin. The tonic water, ice bucket and glass slid off the tray and landed in the mud.
“What is it with you?” I demanded and thrust the log and the tray at him. I knelt, gathering up the fizzing bottle and glass. The scattered ice cubes winked dully in the pallid moonlight.
“What the hell is this about?” J.X. indicated the tray.
“What the hell does it look like? I’m planning to drown my sorrows.”
“That’s not going to solve anything.”
“I’m not trying to solve anything.” I added pointedly, “I’ll leave that to the experts.”
“It’s your head,” he said. “Come on.” He put his hand under my arm as I started to rise, and I nearly lost the entire load again.
“Do you mind?”
“Sorry. Jesus, you’re jumpy.”
“I can’t imagine why.” I rebalanced and set off—limping—down the path.
“Do you really have a bad back?” he asked, behind me.
“No, it’s just something I say to get chicks.”
He didn’t respond, but as we reached the edge of the meadow, he caught me up so that we were walking side by side. “This way.”
I followed him down the dirt path that cut across the open field toward the cabins. The sodden clouds had parted and a lackluster moon gilded everything in unnatural light. In the absence of the rain and wind, the stillness seemed uncanny.
© Copyright 2009 Josh Lanyon