A warm welcome to today’s Spotlight Author, S.A. Collins
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a gay author living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I grew up in the heady (and sometimes scary) days of the rise of gay rights movement of the 70s and 80s. I write about queer people based loosely on the exploits of myself, my husband and our many queer friends that I’ve gathered over the decades. I am married to a wonderful man who I’ve shared a home with for over 23 years with kids and (now) grandkids in the mix. We basically live the Neo-Con Republican nightmare.
What would people be most surprised to know about you?
That I come from the world of professional Opera and have a connection with Cher (not blood related, but a connection nonetheless).
How do you relax?
Reading or surfing for excellent queer content across all mediums.
Do you have a favorite quote?
The one I use at the bottom of all my email correspondence. It is from Gracie Allen and goes: “When I was born I was so surprised I didn’t speak for a whole year.” Though I’ve been known to quote from movies religiously – Auntie Mame (with Rosaline Russell) being the most popular. It’s just filled with one liners that are absolutely biting.
How long have you been writing and what made you fall in love with writing?
I’ve been writing off and on for well over 20 years now. Maybe even before that; though not in any real meaningful way … more along the lines of just creating characters and worlds to explore in my own head.
What are your ambitions for your writing career and what’s your favorite part of writing?
While financial success would certainly be welcomed, it’s not the focus of why I write or what I hope to get out of it. Lately I’ve received several emails from readers from oppressed parts of the globe that have expressed to me what my writings have meant to them. I’ll take those moments and correspondence over any five star review rating or financial success I can gain from being a writer. In those moments you realize just how much your works have impacted someone who may just be holding on to life and need something to validate that their existence matters in this world. Those are the moments I have come to realize I am in it for. They mean the world to me. Those people in those situations I admire greatly for living as proudly as they can in a world that is often very unforgiving or accepting. After one of those encounters I am often gobsmacked for days pondering how that has affected me.
Why did you choose to write GLBTQ romance? Why not another genre?
I don’t write to genre romance tropes. I use romantic threads in my queer oriented stories. Don’t get me wrong, I think the relationships matter. But I like to explore the external forces that often push/pull those queer characters and see how they survive (or don’t) because of these often overwhelming forces. I suppose, because of my opera background, I tend to write ensemble pieces with focused relationship points – mundane people going through operatic like drama to see what they’re truly made of. I love to write about headspace. It’s an area we tend not to see too much. Queer people have to constantly poll our world – even in the best of circumstances. We are constantly checking for safety in our lives, whether we do it consciously or not. I am definitely of the Queer Lit type of writer in that I want to explore queerdom and our worlds from a very intimate (not necessarily sexual) place.
Do you write any other genre?
Yes. Currently I have a supernatural series I am working on that deals with all types of supernatural characters in a fictional town of Sparrow’s Hollow in 1956 West Virginia (where my husband hails from). I also have a contemporary series (Angels of Mercy) which examines the institutionalized homophobia in competitive sports (in this case, American high school football). I wanted to explore when an out, shy, artistic boy who hides from everyone, moving like a ghost amongst the other students, suddenly finds himself in the arms of the star quarterback of his high school. I wanted to explore this element of light and darkness. A boy who craves darkness because it guarantees his safety only to fall in love with a boy made of pure light who is noticed by everyone. It’s a sometimes harsh look at their world and the struggles they face. It is loosely based on some of my own and my husband’s (he played for Clemson U back in his day) experiences.
What scene in your writing has made you laugh the hardest or cry the most?
I have a character named Danny Jericho in the Angels of Mercy series who is a fire cracker of a guy. He’s Elliot’s and Marco’s GBF. I just don’t know what’s going to pop into his head or out of his mouth at any given time. He’s made me laugh and cry depending on the situation. A real surprise of a character from when I first created him.
Give the readers a brief summary of your latest book.
The latest release was a boxed set – I released two prequel books to my main Angels of Mercy series that told the star quarterback’s past leading up to his growing love for Elliot (the boy he’ll eventually come to love). Because Marco wants to play ball, he has to “play the game” that all athletes feel compelled to play: bag the girl, draw blood on the field, and score, score, score. But Marco is a burgeoning self-made man. As he comes to realize that the script every other guy follows without question, Marco is a man filled with nothing but questions. Only Elliot, that shy, quiet and artistic boy seems to hold all the answers for him. The road to Elliot isn’t an easy one. Despite all the wealth, fame and power Marco’s family wields in the world, none of it seems to help as he tries desperately to find a way into Elliot’s arms. Perceptions, intrigue, lies and issues of fidelity collide against the rather dramatic world of Mercy High and their football team: The Mercy High Avenging Angels.
What genre does it fall in?
Queer Lit, mostly. Each volume of the series changes perspectives and covers ground along the same timeline but from each boy’s perspective on the events that unfold in the town of Mercy, California located just outside of Big Sur. While it has strong romantic themes in the story, it hones closer to to life in that it’s messy, complicated and because there are teenagers involved, high drama reigns supreme because only teens can make things so much bigger than it is.
Share a few words about your latest book, other than the usual blurb.
It was inspired oddly enough by two things: 1) I wanted to take the tragic events of Matthew Shepard’s beating and turn it around. What would’ve happened if he survived such an event? SPOILER ALERT: Would Elliot crumble or find the courage to climb back out of the hole that Marco’s teammates would put him in? And 2) it was very heavily inspired by the musical works of Jay Brannan (who I dedicate the first book to and also make Elliot a fan of his in the series), particularly Jay’s album “Rob Me Blind” which could literally be the soundtrack to this series. If you don’t know of Jay Brannan’s work as an out queer artist, you should definitely take the time to get to know his music and his brilliant, brilliant words. He is a true modern bard of the queer experience. He was kind enough to let me quote one of his songs in the series when I saw him in concert and met him after. Something I am deeply grateful for – one queer artist supporting another. I champion him whenever I can. The two latest (boxed set) books actually carry sub-titles that are directly from Jay’s work: The King of Imperfections and The Prince of Mistakes.
Give us a little insight into your main characters. Who are they?
Each of the main characters (twin brothers – Pietro and Marco Sforza) and the boy in the center of their lives, Elliot, all have angelic names and those names embody who they are as characters. They are metaphorical as is the football team who are called the Avenging Angels (because the school used to be a Catholic school and the team name remained the same after the school became secular).
Cassiel (the angel of tears and regrets) Elliot Donahey is the out, shy, artistic boy who is the most vulnerable of the main characters. He is the boy that my readers tend to gravitate toward. While not morose or wallowing in a puddle of emotional goo, Elliot embodies the sadness that often surrounds queer youth as they struggle to find acceptance and value in the world. It isn’t an easy road to walk.
Marco Rafael Sforza is named for an arch angel – the story is really his to tell. He gets the bulk of the books in the series (three of the six in all). Of all the characters, you spend the most time in his head and discovering what’s in his heart along the way.
Pietro Azreal Sforza, Marco’s identical twin, is the personification of the angel who sits in judgment. He is judge, jury and executioner in these boys lives. Pietro is the dark horse in this race. He protects his brother and will do anything to preserve the family at all costs. These three “angels” have what I hope is a ripping read of a tale to be told that explores what being queer is all about.
Will we be seeing these characters again any time soon? Is this book part of a series?
It is part of a series. Six in all (with two prequels and a companion book to Volume 2 of the main series). Five are available now, the final book should be out by the end of this year or beginning of next. It’s proving to be a bit of a bear to write and get right because I have so many balls up in the air with the ensemble of characters involved.
Which actor would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I actually have three male models that I’ve always seen as the main characters of this series. So their looks are really solid in my mind. The Sforza twins are based off of Troy and Travis Cannata and Elliot is based off of Paul Becigneul, although I’ve always heard Elliot’s voice as Jay Brannan (who has a very active YouTube channel). The cadence and inflections Jay puts into his YouTube videos is solidly where Elliot’s snark, humor and thread of contemplative sadness comes from.
Tell us a little bit about your writing style. When and where is your favorite time/place to write?
I love to write first person. Mostly, because I love headspace of the character. This comes from years of being involved in professional theater (under a different name). We don’t often give weight to the perceptions of our world and how they truly govern what we do and why. As queer people, we have an often different take with perceptions because, for our safety, it’s a heightened awareness as we move through life. As a writer, I love exploring that – the arguments we have with ourselves as we try to find some sliver of happiness in our worlds. Sometimes, in my works, an HEA might not be two people riding off into the sunset. Sometimes that HEA is finding self-worth, validation and respect for ourselves that we are worthy of love and sometimes that has to start with ourselves.
What sort of book do you enjoy reading in your free time?
Mostly queer lit fic. I love to hear the voices of my queer brothers and sisters out there. To know what experiences they have worked through in their lives and how it may (or may not) mirror my own. Living in the bubble of San Francisco, I realize my experiences are not like those who may live in the mid-west or even in some Islamic country. I want to know what they’re up against, how they survive, how they find love and acceptance – both in fiction and non-fiction. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the odd MM Romance either. I am a big TJ Klune fan but come from a long line of other queer authors of the Violet Quill gang of the 70s, 80s and 90s (John Rechy, Felice Picano, Gordon Merrick, and Andrew Holleran to name a few).
What was the last book you read? What did you enjoy about it?
I am currently reading TJ Klune’s “The Long and Winding Road” – the last of the Bear, Otter and the Kid series. While I am loving it immensely, it’s also bittersweet because I know the series is coming to an end. I love Klune’s approach to character. His “Into This River I Drown” had a profound effect on me as a writer. That book is what made me take the plunge to publishing my own works.
Did you always want to be a writer? I think on some level, yes. Though it took me a long while to sort out that I could do it. Silly, really, because I have worked in printed media for so long in the professional theater community. I just never saw it for myself. That’s changed now.
Have you held any interesting jobs while you worked on your books?
Other than being an opera singer? That’s fairly unusual for a writer to put down on a bio. But my theater work has helped me because I have a long history of creating characters based on the writings of others. It’s not enough to follow a director’s stage direction to pick up the tea cup on a given line. As an actor, I need to know WHY I do it at that juncture. The motivation of character is everything.
What does your writing process look like? I run a weekly podcast (the Wrote Podcast – http://wrotepodcast.com) – that explores this topic with every author or artist we have on our show. After over a hundred episodes to our credit, we’ve discovered that, for many authors, the number of words on a page seems to be the goal of writing. How many did I get down on the digital page? Yet, I think writing goes far beyond that. Sometimes it’s the working out of plot, re-examining the dialog between two characters, looking at the world from a larger perspective to see if it all works. Those are elements of writing that won’t have a direct word count associated with them but are completely necessary to have it all work so the reader comes away with what you hoped to convey as a storyteller. So I think we need to allow ourselves, as writers, to embrace all of that. It’s what I love most about being an author. I love the creative process. Hitchcock, one of my heroes when it comes to storytelling, said that for him, creation was everything. The filming and editing and promotion was boring to him. I sort of get that. The creation is the most exciting part for me, too.
The publishing and promotion is icing on the literary cake, but it’s the world building, the character creations, the emotional relationships that are explored that is the real cake you’re cooking up for the reader. And like baking, there is a real sort of science behind it all. Sure, you may tell your story a certain way, give it your own spin, but ultimately we are in the business of communication – and to do that you really need to have the courage to deeply examine what you’re doing and the why of it to get it right. I think that’s something that can’t be faked for a reader … they’ll spot that a mile coming.
Thank you for sharing more about yourself.
A promotional five-book set available only at S.A. Collins’ own webstore.
He can personally autograph the ebooks found on his webstore.
All the books are available from his author page at Amazon.
Angels of Mercy – Diary of a Quarterback I: The King of Imperfections
Angels of Mercy – Diary of a Quarterback II: The Prince of Mistakes
Diary Set Synopsis:
Born in America but reared in their father’s home of Torino, Italy, Marco Sforza has led a fairly idyllic life. The Sforzas are an ancient and powerful family with a strong ducal past. They run a vast global empire that allows Marco to enter halls of power that most men only dream of. Yet, Marco is a boy who lives in a bubble of his family’s making.
When Marco returns to America to attend high school he grooms himself to become a rising star quarterback of the Mercy High Avenging Angels. He thinks his focus is his burgeoning football career. He is all too aware he is a boy made of pure light that is meant to be seen and noticed. He is comfortable there. Until he meets a boy who shines brighter than him. Elliot Donahey is that boy. But Elliot is a boy who craves shadow and darkness to keep himself safe through another hellish day of high school.
Before he realizes it, Marco’s world becomes undone by this boy. Trapped in a script all jocks are meant to follow, Marco does his best to fit in and play along so he can play the game he loves. But this boy who hides in the shadows begins to consume his every thought and emotion.
Despite the script he’s been given to date girls, have sex, and hang with his teammates and follow along, Marco finds himself on an emotional pendulum where following that jock script only brings him further away from that world to circle the boy hiding in the shadows. Can Marco find it within himself to push against what others expect of him to find his way into Elliot’s arms? Even with all the fame, money and prestige his family brings to the table, will it be enough to gain the interest of a boy who only wants to hide from everyone?
SA “Baz” Collins hails from the San Francisco Bay Area where he lives with his husband, their daughter and wonder of all wonders, a whirlwind of a granddaughter and two exotic cats. A classically trained singer/actor (under a different name), Baz knows a good yarn when he sees it.
Based on years of his work as an actor, Baz specializes in character study pieces. It is more important for him as an author that the reader comes away with a greater understanding of the characters, and the reasons they make the decisions they do, rather than the situations they are in. It is this deep dive into their manners, their experiences and how they process the world around them that make up the body of Mr. Collins’ work.
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