A big welcome to Warren Rochelle as part of his tour with Other Worlds Ink for To Bring Him Home and Other Tales.
What was your first published work?
Not counting publications when I was in high school and college, “Her Hands Curved Around the Cup,” my first published story, was published in the Fall 1978 issue of Graffiti, published by what was then Lenoir Rhyne College, now University. Based on the contributors’ bios, this journal was not publishing Lenoir Rhyne students. I tried to find Graffiti again, and it seems to have gone the way of lots of little journals, Anyway, I digress. “Hands” wasn’t genre fiction. Rather it is the sad story of a widow, Maizie Buncombe, who is haunted by a tragic past accident and desperately lonely. A cheerful tale indeed, it was intense and poetic.
My first published genre work, for which I actually was paid, was “A Peaceful Heart,” in
Aboriginal Science Fiction, in the May/June 1989. Some familiar themes in my fiction appear in this science fiction tale set in an alternate history world in which the Confederacy wins the Civil War and then after its own civil war, collapses in the late 1960s. The resulting power vacuum precipitates World War III, one fought with biological weapons that bring on a global pandemic in the Northern Hemisphere. I love alternate history and I love examining how civilization does or does not survive from self-inflicted wounds. My hero is a lonely man on the NC Outer Banks island of Ocracoke, carrying for two orphaned brothers, refugees from the plagues, whom he comes to love as his own. Complications ensue.
What’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever done in the name of research?
Good question. The conventional things, of course: traveling to story locales, endless library and internet research, primary research involving experts in different fields, getting my husband to drive me on an imaginary bus route in Richmond, and so on. Two less conventional things come to mind, one connected to the title story in this collection, “To Bring Him Home.” Fletcher is a freshman or first-year student at UNC Greensboro and I needed to create a class schedule for him to follow and I wanted it to be like what a real UNCG first-year student would follow. So, I contacted the Admissions Office, explained what I wanted to find out, and they send me what they would an incoming first-year: catalog, acceptance letter, and various other materials. The other less conventional thing involved a phone call to Verizon. In a story published in The Silver Gryphon (Golden Gryphon Press, 2004), “The Golden Boy,” the protagonist calls his mother, not knowing she has disappeared and her house has burned down. He is calling a destroyed phone. Some years ago, I read about such calls being placed in London during the Blitz. The London caller would hear a strange screaming sort of noise. Wow, so cool, I thought. But better confirm that—so I called Verizon. Sigh. Nowadays, the destroyed line just rings and rings and rings. How prosaic! But, I have wondered if somewhere my name is on a list at Verizon …
Why did I choose to write in a particular genre?
If I write more than one, how do I you balance them? I wrote mostly fantasy these days, occasionally science fiction and science fantasy. So, why fantasy? Aside from being an English major and not knowing a lot of useful science, the best answer is that fantasy seems to have chosen me. The mythic truths, the truths of fairy tales, the dark places in our imagination, all these speak to my heart. The same can be said for science fiction and science fantasy. The latter speaks to my fascination with intersections of the magical and the mundane. I chose fantasy, and science fiction, out of love. I fell in love with both as a child and still am in love.
How do I balance fantasy and science fiction?
The two are connected. I would argue for example that a starship is comparable to seven-league boots, fairies, elves, orcs, to aliens, and on. But that doesn’t really answer the question of balance. The short answer is I don’t try to balance them. The story tells me what genre in which I am supposed to write.
What are my goals and intentions in writing this book? Two goals were to continue to explore gay retellings and to write more gay speculative fiction love stories. Another goal was to produce something beautiful, a goal I am always aspiring to achieve. I intended to continue working against such recurring themes or motifs as at least one of the gay lovers has to die, and thus no happy ever after. I also intended, as I do in just about everything I write, to continue focusing on the intersections of the magical and the mundane.
How well have I achieved them?
The goal of writing more speculative gay love stories, achieved, done. Every story in this collection is a love story, a gay love story. There are variations, such as a married couple having trouble, an orphan boy falling for a warrior who has been born and bred, and raised by a homophobic empire, a man falling for his kidnapper, and two best friends realizing they have been in love with each for years. As for gay retellings, not so much, but the title story, “To Bring Him Home,” does retell Sleeping Beauty, and re-examines the nature of the quest. “Horns, Long and Low and Dark, Far and Away” is perhaps the closest of the other stories to a retelling. The original idea was to be an answer to what would have happened if Galadriel had kept the One Ring. In the end, it’s not just Galadriel, but Elrond and Gandalf who keep their rings of power as well. The result is not pretty. Yes, I know this would be out of character for Galadriel, Elrond, and Gandalf. It’s more that this idea was inspirational for The Magus, a dark trio indeed.
“Horns,” as well as “The Day After the Change,” and “Linden Grove,” all examine the intersections of the magical and mundane. Something beautiful achieved? That is a question for the reader. So, overall, yes, I did achieve my goals and I did what I intended to do, more or less. I think of achieving goals and intentions in writing are usually, for me, always in progress.
Have I ever taken a trip to research a story?
Yes, more than once. One trip was to Roanoke Island, the site of the Lost Colony. I needed to see the island and get a feel for it, so I could place a scene there in my third novel, The Called. I placed a gate to Faerie there, and that’s how the colony got lost. The museum there had more convincing reasons.
What fantasy realm would I choose to live in and why?
Narnia is always my first answer. Why? I fell in love with fantasy when I read The Chronicles as an eight-year-old. I so wanted to be able to talk to animals. I wanted to do as Eustace and Jill do in The Silver Chair and ride on the back of a centaur, and on the backs of Owls. That green and fair land has always felt like home.
What am I working on now and when can we expect it?
I am working on two projects at the moment. First, revising a novel I wrote some years ago, The Golden Boy, which grew out of a short story of the same name, published in The Silver Gryphon (Golden Gryphon Press, 2003). I hope to send the manuscript to JMS Books sometime this fall. The other project is a sequel to The Werewolf and His Boy (re-released by JMS Books in 2020). This one will take longer. I hope next summer.
Warren Rochelle has a new queer SFF anthology out: To Bring Him Home and Other Tales. And there’s a giveaway!
We all need a place to call home, a place where we belong, and are safe, and loved. For the lovers in these stories, finding home is easier said than done. Quests must be taken; dragons must be slain. Rocket launchers need to be dodged. Sometimes one might have to outrun the Wild Hunt, and sometimes they have to reimagine and recreate home. But these lovers do find homes, homes in each other’s hearts.
Warren is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour:
He found his mother in her bathroom, lying on the bathmat by the tub, like a discarded hotel towel, white and crumpled. Fletcher knelt down and touched her bruised face, tenderly traced the hand prints on her skin. Cold. He then pressed his fingers against the veins in her neck. No pulse. Wishing he could cry for her, he put the same fingers under her nose. No breath, Dead. Emptied. He picked up her arm and it flopped as if boneless, She was wearing her bathrobe. He pulled it close, to hide her body.
Fletcher knew where to look, upstairs, behind the locked attic door. Through the door he could hear what he had come to call Paul’s favorite music, soft, far away, with harps and wind chimes, and what sounded like the wind, and the rain, storms. and voices singing in a strange language he had never been able to identify. The music sort of reminded him of the wind chimes on Sam’s porch. Of course.
He tried the knob. This time the door was unlocked.
“Fletcher. You’re awake. I knew you’d come up here,” his stepfather said in his cold and dark voice. He sat at a desk facing a door frame standing in the middle of the attic. Inside the door frame: darkness. Around it, Fletcher could see the rest of the attic: the shelves, the file cabinets, the odd boxes. The skylight was open, mid-day sun streamed in. Even so, the room was cold, a cold that was coming through the door, as if blown by some faraway wind. Paul’s black staff leaned against the door frame. He closed a little carved box on his desk and the music stopped.
“What did you do with Sam? Where is he? Where are his parents?” Fletcher asked, shivering and hugging himself against the cold.
“Where they belong,” Paul said, leaning back in his chair. “The dreams have escaped for millennia—even before Her Majesty came to power—into human minds. Fairy tales, myths, story upon story. A few times, the different peoples and creatures slipped through—what was it your hero said?—‘there were many chinks or chasms between worlds in old times’?—yes, I’ve read all those stories, too; they were useful to me. That was before Her Majesty. So, there are people like you and your mother, fey-touched, gifted with Sight that lets you see through glamour. Very useful to people like me.”
Fletcher swallowed the scream in his throat, knowing he had to listen, to understand, not to let this man get to him, break him into tears. “Where is Sam? What kind of a person are you?”
“I told you: There. You can call it Narnia if you like, or what did Tolkien call it? Never mind. The Celts came up with many other names, such as Tir n’Og, the Blessed Isles. Words and sounds can be dreamt, too; echoes can linger. She can’t stop the dreams of what once was, of once upon a time—slow them down, but not stop them. But Her Majesty can and must stop those who escape her winter,” Paul said, as he sorted what looked like rolls of parchment, stuffing some back into tubes, into different parts of his desk. “I am a bounty hunter, a tracker, and you, my dear Fletcher, and your mother, are my canaries.”
My dreams. I dreamed of the neighbor, I dreamed of Sam. Now I know where his music comes from.
“They hadn’t planned on Sam falling in love and having sex quite just yet, which shattered the weak child’s glamour—and I smelled him on you, his magic,” Paul said, his words dripping disdain and scorn.
Paul shrugged and Fletcher hated him for it. “I needed her energy to open the gate—I was running a little low. A few days from now, no problem. You want him back?”
Fletcher slowly and carefully nodded his head.
“You think you’re in love. Fletcher! What do you know about love—who have you ever loved or who’s loved you? And when he asked for you, at the moment of peril, you pulled back. Don’t be a fool: you’re not in love.”
“My father loved me; I loved him. My mother—before you used her for food. Sam loves me.”
“Then go get him. Into Faerie. No happy elves, no dancing fauns, no chatty mice, no heroes with magic swords. No performing Lion, just Her Majesty’s winter. No English
children. Your boyfriend’s there, Fletcher. Or you could stay here and help me—starting with finding that sanctuary. Do you know how old I am? Her Majesty rewards her faithful: I am two hundred and thirteen of your years old. I have anything I want.”
I want Sam. “Live that long, be like you? No. I love Sam.”
“You’ve known him a week and you’re in love. That really is a fairy tale. You just think you do,” Paul said, dismissing Fletcher’s feelings with a flip of his hand. “You can have any boy you want, any way you want—like I said, Her Majesty rewards her faithful. Besides, you’re a coward,” Paul added, laughing.
Fletcher knew that Paul would never understand, could never understand, that even the uncertainty was enough, that the brightness in his heart, the geodes in his pocket, were enough, even if the week had been just the promise of what would come. Could have come. Might come. Maybe he was a coward. He certainly was afraid, and very good at being afraid. But life had found him, and being afraid didn’t mean he couldn’t go through that dark gate.
“Find yourself another canary,” Fletcher said and before Paul could stop him, ran across the room, through the door frame, into the dark, into the fairy tale.
Warren Rochelle lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has just retired from teaching English at the University of Mary Washington. His short fiction and poetry have been published in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, North Carolina Literary Review, Forbidden Lines, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Collective Fallout, Queer Fish 2, Empty Oaks, Quantum Fairy Tales, Migration, The Silver Gryphon, Jaelle Her Book, Colonnades, and Graffiti, as well as the Asheville Poetry Review, GW Magazine, Crucible, The Charlotte Poetry Review, Romance and Beyond, Migration, and Innovation.
Rochelle is the author of four novels: The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press, and The Werewolf and His Boy, published by Samhain Publishing in September 2016. The Werewolf and His Boy was re-released from JMS Books in August 2020. His first short story collection, The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories, was published by JMS Books in September 2020.
Both The Werewolf and His Boy and The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories, received strong reviews from blog tours in November 2020.
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/warren.rochelle
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/warrenwriter
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/WarrenRochelle
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/38355.Warren_Rochelle