Ten Things about... Daniel May - An Author Interview

I first started chatting with Daniel May when his book Princess was getting set to release and he messaged to ask if it was alright to share about books that had a darker, more erotic bent and I naturally said... of course!  Pretty was all that he promised, dark, a little taboo and delicious and now we get a chance to delve a little further into his mind...

Indie or Traditionally published? - Tell us how this works for you…
At the moment, indie all the way! I’ve had a handful of shorts and poems published in various magazines and anthologies, done the agent querying thing and even gotten some manuscript requests, but the whole thing moves like molasses, and I’m an instant gratification kind of guy. Currently I use a system where I run my chapters through Patreon as I write them, then compile and release those as e-books, and that’s been working well for me. I love the collaborative process of indie publishing. Networking with other authors and interacting directly with readers is super gratifying. Being able to quickly receive feedback and adapt content accordingly makes indie publishing feel like a game, so I’m never bored.

Plot or Pants? Do you pre-plot your books, use an outline, fly by the seat of your pants or some combination of things? How do you keep track of characters in a series? Do you keep a journal of your characters’ statistics, such as hair and eye color, relatives, hometown, etc.
I try to find a middle ground. I use a ‘trellis technique’, somewhere between the architect and the gardener approach, where I come up with some structure at the beginning but ultimately plant the seeds and follow what feels like a natural progression. Typically I know how the story opens, a few key points to hit on the way, and I know the ending. As long as I get from one key point to the next, it doesn’t matter if things go in a straight line or a zigzag.
What’s easiest for me is to focus less on plot and more on characters. If I know my characters backwards and forwards -- know who they love, know if they always choose violence, know if they can’t resist temptation, etc -- then the characters become natural limiting factors. They create plot structure by their interactions with each other and the environment. It’s easier to bounce characters off of other characters (and let them create momentum by being dicks to each other) than it is to rigorously plan out events.

Tell us about your first… published M/M fiction/romance
My first published MM romance was A Taste of Ink, the first in my ongoing creatively-named Taste of Ink series. I did absolutely no research and knew nothing about the genre, which is how I ended up writing a lengthy chain of cliffhanger-y books about cheating. There’s an explicit scene in the very first chapter -- and in pretty much every other chapter. It’s essentially smut, tied together by an excruciatingly tense story of one man’s attempt to ruin his own life by having his slut-cake and eating it too. It’s horny and absurd and I love writing it.
and then your most recent one..
I just dropped Blood Sports, the first in my Hanged Men series. This is the first book I’ve written somewhat to-market. I aimed to hit a few of the currently popular genres and tropes (mafia romance, age difference, billionaire nonsense) while maintaining the thread of psychological tension that runs through all my other books. I put my own spin on the genre by giving it an equestrian setting, inspired by my own time spent working with rich psychopaths and their five and six-figure horses.

No clue yet if it will land with readers. I wrote the whole thing (77k words) in 32 days so I could get back to my regular writing schedule quickly. That way, if it flops, I’m only out a month’s work.

I’m answering these interview questions on Dec 5th, and don’t know when they’ll be posted, so if you’re reading this in January and my book is a disappointing failure, just pretend you didn’t see this answer.
(Spoiler - if you didn't see Miki J's 5 Star review Sunday, please check it out!) 

Do you write full time or part-time?
I write full time but I don’t make full time money. I’ve been able to scrape by doing erotica commissions for other people for about the last year and a half, and finally started to see some pick up in royalties this fall. I’m hoping that soon my improved market knowledge (shoutout to the people who have given me advice) will boost those numbers into ‘can finally replace the tires on my death trap car’ territory.

Something people would be surprised to know about you
 I have my nipples pierced. But maybe that’s not surprising.

Which character still pops into your mind to visit from time to time?
None from the books I have out right there. Of the characters I think the most about, the majority are in books I either haven’t published or have pulled from publishing. Most of the stuff I’ve written is literary SFF with LGBT characters, which doesn’t fit in the MM romance sphere, at least not under the Daniel May name. Hopefully I’ll be able to share these characters in some form one day.

What are your writing goals for the next year? The future?
Next spring I want to finish my Taste of Ink series, bundle it, and put that money sink behind me. If my new mafia release is a success, I plan on putting out the second and third book next year. I have a collab planned with another author that I’m very excited for but won’t tease too much yet, since it’s in the very early stages. I’m mulling over a few more book ideas but ultimately, money talks and I will write what the readers want to read.

Longterm, I want to better balance out my love for SFF, literary horror, and psychological thrillers with my MM content. I’m hoping to access an audience that wants a good (and fucked up) story as much as they want the two main men to bump uglies.

What’s the hardest part about writing M/M romance or erotica?
Coming up with settings. I could write variations of different sex positions for days without needing to think about it, but planning where they’re going to bone drives me nuts. I always feel the need to describe the building, the room, the shape of the swimming pool, whether or not the steering wheel is poking them in the back. I don’t think readers actually care but I do. I spend way too much time googling what certain types of doors are called.

What else do you want us to know about you?
I’m friendly. I’m always open to talking about my books, characters, writing in general, etc. Insight on my work is always appreciated! My dms are open on any social media to readers and other authors. Just don’t be Weird about it.

Who’s your biggest supporter/cheerleader?
My father in law. I’ve been using his kitchen table as an office for about a year, and since covid had him working from home, we’ve been shooting the shit and splitting a coffee pot from day one. He finds the whole process super interesting and is crazy supportive. He got me a celebratory bottle of champagne after my first four figure month. If I succeed, it’ll be partially because of his encouragement.

What made you decide M/M romance was the genre you wanted to write? Do you write other genres?
I mostly write literary SFF, usually with a gay couple at the core because I’m a man attracted to men. I moved into romance (okay, erotica) territory to try and wring a day job out of writing. I like writing smutty stories but sometimes I find the usual romance formula limiting. Currently trying to find a middle ground and write things that will satisfy both reader and writer.

What do you do if you hit a wall while writing? How do you combat writer’s block?
My mantra is: The perfect is the enemy of the good, and the good is the enemy of the done. When I get hung up, it’s usually because I’m too focused on quality. Quality is important, but the problem with that mindset is that you only get better by doing, so trying to write something well is counterproductive if it keeps you from writing anything at all. Better to write something shitty.
For writer’s block I find a change of scenery helps a lot. Sometimes just going to a good movie is enough to reset my brain, but even better is going to a new physical location or trying a new activity. After working on the same story for long enough, it starts to feel like you’ve been watching the same movie on repeat for weeks, and that excessive familiarity is a recipe for absolutely hating something. Going somewhere else and looking at something different gives me a clean slate and fresh eyes. Also drugs.

What do your friends and family think of what you write; do they know?
It’s not a secret. Mostly people politely don’t talk about it.
How can we connect with you?
Easiest place is Facebook. You can find me under Daniel May and you can join my reader group there as well, ‘The Daniel May Maelstrom’. I have a Patreon, a newsletter (find it at danielmayauthor.com), and I’m on Twitter (@danielmaelstrom and Instagram (@danielmaywrites).