Lie To Me: An Interview With Mike Bode

IMG_1164

You all are in for a real treat. Mike Bode and I have been good friends going back well over a decade. Before either of us became published authors, we both had a loyal following on Livejournal. Bode was one of my favorite bloggers. My fellow ATL resident is armed with a rapier wit and a glass of the finest wine that would make one Olivia Pope proud. So when I learned that he stepped into the writing game with his debut novel, Queen of Lies, the first in the Architects of the Grand Design series, I was too excited to boost the signal.

Upkins: Michael, thank you so much for doing this interview. For the readers at home, tell us a bit about yourself.

Bode: I’m a single gay man living in Atlanta. I’ve always been an avid consumer of fantasy and science fiction from Dr. Who and Star Trek as a kid to shows like Continuum, Orphan Black and Game of Thrones. I threw off the shackles of corporate America to make my way in the wild, wild west of indie publishing.

Upkins:  You and I go back well over a decade when Livejournal was relevant. Even then, you were immensely prolific. Has writing always been embedded in your DNA?

Bode: I would say so. My first memory of writing is winning some sort of contest when I was in the second grade for a story called “Triscuit and Duke” about two dogs we owned. I don’t know what profound thing made it memorable to my teachers, but it probably showed a glimmer of promise.

In high school I wrote poetry, published zines (the prehistoric ancestor of the blog) and got some awards for short fiction—third place in state. That continued through college where I published short fiction in a variety of small literary journals (a fancier name for ‘zine).

I went into a period of remission where I wasn’t writing much fiction or even blogging but it came back to me with a vengeance.

qol2

Upkins:  Did you always know you were going to write a book at some point?

Bode: Writing and publishing are two different things. I’d already written two novellas in college. Two and a half. What I didn’t always know is that I would write and publish a fantasy novel. I had more or less given up on the dream after college. The prospect of traditional publishing seemed daunting and I didn’t really know what kind of book I would write.

I sort of kept the thought in my mind as a nice hobby when I’m retired or something.

Upkins: So what motivated you to finally write the proverbial “Great American Novel?”

Bode: Wine and corporate vacation policy. The way it worked is you got so many weeks of vacation per year (our company was generous) but if you didn’t use all of it you lost it. I don’t take much time off so the end of the year is usually a week between Christmas and New Years where I’m sitting at home with nothing to do. One year I spent it binge watching Kitchen Nightmares.

In 2013 I decided to start a book, because it was something I remembered enjoying. Many more bottles of wine later I had the beginnings of a first draft and my vacation was hurrying toward an end.

Upkins: Who would you consider your storytelling mentors? Influences?

Bode: There are a lot. Foremost would be Richard K. Morgan and his book The Steel Remains. It had gay and lesbian characters who  were treated as noble but flawed heroes. Seeing a five page graphic depiction of gay sex in a Big Five book opened my eyes to the fact that there might be readers who want more stories like this. (His is much more risqué than my couple paragraphs).

Game of Thrones is also a big influence—my book follows different character arcs. The Wire is another influence along those lines of telling a story. I know it sounds strange but I like the idea of the city being a character in the book and exploring what it’s really like to live in these fantasy universes.

Upkins: Was this your first attempt at writing a novel?

Bode: I consider it my first true novel.

It was my first fantasy novel and first one over 50k words. The novellas I wrote in college would probably be more experimental/postmodern paranormal. I was trying very hard to be something I wasn’t with my writing which was why it always seemed so difficult.

I would daydream about these fantasy characters then go back to the blank page to come up with something “literary.” It never occurred to me that my imagination could be a source for writing material… as bizarre as that sounds.

Upkins: Did you have a gameplan or course of action for completing Queen of Lies?

Bode: No. When I put word to page I gave myself permission for it to totally suck and go on any tangent, literary convention be damned. It was a practice draft that I spent eight months on before completely scrapping. I needed it to get back into the swing of writing and to find my voice.

I started over and what developed later became The Queen of Lies. I didn’t have a gameplan or outline for that either but I trusted my voice. The characters took over and it came together beautifully.

Upkins: Tell us more about Queen of Lies? The world, the players, the stakes?

Bode: It’s a fantasy universe where magic is more prevalent than technology. But the setting of the story has a dysfunctional democracy coexisting beside a legacy of nobility. There used to be a lot  more magic, then a disaster hit but the world has pretty much recovered.

The book focuses on four main characters. There’s Maddox, a gay wizard with a drinking problem. There’s Heath, a fallen priest turned assassin/mercenary. His partner is a sentient sword that possesses the bodies of those who wield it. Then there’s Jessa, the daughter of a deposed tyrant, Satryn—a woman who is by turns, manipulative and insane.

The stakes for all of these characters are personal. They struggle with addiction, loss of faith, morality, abortion and family. There’s a big epic fight at the end too—but I keep the focus on the characters throughout.

603862_10206747410951702_7692756076559854426_n

Upkins: What do you think readers will find most distinctive about your voice/work?

Bode: It has a lot more humor than one finds in fantasy works. I also like to ask philosophical questions. Free will is a recurring motif.

Upkins: Diversity in media, specifically publishing, is a very relevant topic. As a white gay author, what are your thoughts on this?

Bode: We need more visibility. Period. Writing gay is easy because that’s my experience—I didn’t want to just stop there.

That was part of my challenge to myself in creating this world. I wanted to have a main character in a fantasy novel who was black, for instance. This is a made up world so I don’t buy that argument that “based on medieval Europe” there aren’t any PoCs in a fantasy setting.

Heath is black, and gay (or possibly bi). He’s a bit of an asshole at times, but so is everyone else in the book. And his race is not that big of a deal. I think a big mistake writers make when trying to write “diverse” is they reduce the character to that one thing. The gay character is tragic and persecuted and cries at some point. The black character is some noble savage warrior of impressive skill. Etc.

I wanted to avoid tropes.

I wanted there to be a little bit of something for everyone. Sword is an artifact but it changes genders in the book. It’s not a trans character per se but it is a fun way to explore gender and some people have said they identify with it. Great! There’s also straight sex. Who knew I could write it?

Toni Morrison said it best “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Upkins: Having finished your first book, what have you learned from this experience? What’s been most surprising?

Bode: I had to write a bad book (80k words of it) to write a good one. My first draft had six main characters who all adventured together. It was a chore writing the dialogue and none of them really had room to develop. There were Mary Sues galore, dues ex machina… And I knew this stuff was bad. I still wrote it anyway because it’s easy to fall into that even if you do recognize those elements.

But I learned from my mistakes and when I started telling the story from scratch, I avoided making them again.

Another surprise is how few books it takes to make some of the top 10 lists in the Kindle store. I’ve had to get very good at decoding the numbers. I can look at a book’s sales rank and tell you how recently that book sold a copy.
13) Any tips or advice for aspiring writers?

Write.

There are a ton of tips and books to help you hone your craft out there. Read a few of them. Write some more. Then at some point stop reading writing tips. Definitely don’t read how to write DURING the process. Every tip is one author’s process and it’s no guarantee it will work for you. At best you might get an idea—at worst you’ll find yourself endlessly second guessing your choices.

There are some exceptions if you’re using reference books– there are books that talk about body language like the emotional thesaurus that I use.

Don’t write for publication if you’re still learning the basics. Practice and it will happen. You will start to trust your voice and stuff will come together organically. Don’t be afraid to start over.

For business advice I say Kboards Writers’ Café. There are professionals at all stages of their careers who are making a living who will answer questions and give free advice.
Upkins: Queen of Lies is the first in a series?

Bode: Yes. Volume 2, The Mirrored City, is due out in October.

qol1

Upkins: What else lies ahead for Mr. Bode?

Bode: Volume 3. I’m really looking forward to attending the Literature track at Dragon Con.

Upkins:  And where can we find you and your books?

Bode: The ebook is available on Amazon (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VSPDYBI

The paperback is available on B&N and Amazon Prime.

You can find me at my website www.mikebode.com

Facebook Fan page: https://www.facebook.com/architectsgranddesign

@mikebode on Twitter

And you can sign up for my mailing list to get updates about new releases, signings and promotions.http://www.mikebode.com/mailing-list/

By Dennis R. Upkins

After #Charleston: 10 Things Every American Can Do To Create Change Now

Steven Barnes

Since the horrific events in Charleston, countless millions of words have been written and spoken, and a river of tears shed as we fear that, once again, an historic evil has reared its head, a dragon that apparently cannot be slain.

But that is an illusion.  We have made staggering progress, just in the course of my lifetime. But there is also much left to be done, and this is one of those moments in history when action can have real and lasting effect.

It is our 9/11 moment.  And we must not squander the goodwill now pouring from every loving heart by attacking the wrong targets.  Or using the wrong weapons.  Or, heaven forbid, by doing nothing.  But what can we do…?

#1 – The first step is to be safe.  You cannot come from love when you feel unsafe, and that is precisely what is called for.   So…

View original post 1,241 more words

By Dennis R. Upkins

Review: Grifter & Midnighter

Previously published on GeeksOut.org

(In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month)

The following a reminder why this isn’t the first time DC Comics promised a brand new day with diversity only to pull some of the most bigoted stunts in comics history.

Can you separate the art from the artist?

This is a question that’s often asked when it comes to enjoying the art separately from an artist’s personal (and often bigoted) views.

Continue reading

By Dennis R. Upkins

Torchwood: Children of Earth

torchwoodchildrenofearth_featured_photo_gallery

So in honor of Pride and celebrating exceptional LGBTQ characters in speculative fiction, this weekend I did a rewatch of Torchwood: Children of Earth. There’s so much I want to convey and in the hopes of doing this review justice I’m going to break down my review into points and expound upon them in that manner.

Someone else said it best, Children of Earth was the series that should’ve gotten 10 episodes and the subsequent Miracle Day is the series that should’ve been limited to five episodes. Nevertheless, I must say that the Doctor Who spinoff brought its A-game. Not surprising considering that creator Russell T. Davies was at the writing helm.

Continue reading

By Dennis R. Upkins

Putting Faith To Purpose: An Origin Story

Originally published on The Nerds of Color

100_8843

A great visionary by the name of Cindi Mayweather once said, “Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I didn’t have to become perfect because I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness.”

My name is Dennis R. Upkins. I’m a speculative fiction author who writes urban fantasy, YA, and superhero fantasy. Storytelling has always been my calling, but sometimes fate has to put you on the path. The key is to be astute when the signs present themselves.

It was two years ago and I had a homecoming of sorts as I was back in Atlanta for Gaylaxicon/Outlantacon. The con was a smashing success but that was to be expected. What wasn’t expected however was the revelation I would receive repeatedly throughout the weekend.

Continue reading

The Literary Underworld

IMG_0426_2

Back in March I had the distinct honor and privilege of being invited to join a prestigious cabal of talented writers known as the Literary Underworld. In a recent interview, I discussed the inspiration behind my latest novel, West of Sunset, my favorite authors and music, and of course balancing a social life (in those rare instances when I have one).

Click here to continue reading……..

By Dennis R. Upkins

West of Sunset: My Love Letter To Black Women and Other Women of Color

West of Sunset Profile Pic

Recently I had the honor of penning a guest post for the exquisite ladies at Black Girl Nerds.

_________________________________

When my debut novel, Hollowstone, was released a few years back, I had no idea how far the rabbit hole would go. What began as me publishing a YA novel that I completed during my inaugural NaNoWriMo challenge has resulted in endless opportunities (such as writing for Black Girl Nerds). It’s also sparked some most excellent discussions on diversity: race, LGBTQ, and gender.

I couldn’t be more humbled and honored.

Looking back, there was one thing I found to be a bit unsettling. Whenever white feminists commented on the female players of Hollowstone, they discussed (and praised) Neely at length. Understandable, given that she was a universal fan-favorite. While Abigail, and Brianna were examined, I noticed Cassidy and Ruby were ignored. This bothered me. Brianna was only in the first half of the novel as opposed to Cass and Ruby who were main players that appear throughout the entire novel.

The difference is that both Cassidy and Ruby are Black women.

Click here to continue reading………