Laura Baumbach, who started MLR Press, let me borrow her lovely words when I was working on my Mikemen interview the other week. I was really interested to see she that she liked Mike’s work and wondered what other works she liked and starting the press…
What was it like to start MLR Press?
The decision to starting MLR Press was brought about by dissatisfaction. I started my writing career in print and moved to ebooks to have a wider source of publishers. I was unhappy with not being paid by my print publisher and thought I’d find a wider audience in e-publishing. And I did. But the more I e-published in the genre of gay erotic romance, the more I realized there was still an audience that wanted print and no one was making an effort to devote themselves to that format. Print is expensive and risky, but it is possible to be successful at it.
When I finally made the decision to start the company it was supposed to be very small. Just a few authors and myself and one artist to get our books out to our established and loyal readership. But the author list grew and the fascinating and wonderful stories kept coming to us, amazing experience editing staff came out way, readers found us, and distributors approached us and suddenly we were on our way to being a very active small press. Everyday is a learning experience, even two years later. The business is complex, full of time-consuming hard work and sometimes tedious detail, but very exciting. I have to admit, we’ve enjoyed a marvelous start up. I’ve found I’m probably better suited for management/promoting that writing but I’m not going to stop creating my stories.
What sort have growth have you seen in the m/m ebook industry over the last few years and GLBT fiction?
I’m told that two years ago one out of every eight releases was M/M. Now that same company releases four out of very eight as M/M stories. The growth in the genre is huge and very stable. M/M erotic romance has been around on the Net for forty years with amateur slash fiction and it’s not going anywhere.
You’ve just presented the first RWA panel on The Romance in Alternative Lifestyles in San Francisco. How was it and what sort of response did you get from people?
We had a terrific response! The room was full–over 40 attendees. Considering we were scheduled at the end of the day and during one of the awards events, that was most unexpected. I thought there would be a good chance we would be talking to an empty room. There were lots of questions that continued long after the panel was over. The panel went well as panels go and I was pleased with it. Our moderator was awesome, too.
I know the following might sound like an odd question but when I am reading I don’t really have a definite image of a character. I usually have a composite image, if that makes any sense. When I read your book Out There In The Night I imagined Adam as a little bit of Eric Schweig, Kevin Smith and Oded Fehr. When you’re writing do you have a picture in your head of how your characters look or do you have photos or images you use for inspiration?
I do. I always cast an actor in the roles. I cut out pictures of them and hang by my computer to look at while I write. Johnny Depp and Antonio Banderas are there right now. I cast them in the lead roles of Gabriel and Antonio in my latest manuscript Mexican Heat. I’m co-authoring it with Josh Lanyon and it’s the first in a new series called the Crimes& Cocktails. It’s a Romantic Crime Series. The first one is a crime story and the next two have a bit of a mystery in them. I’m really excited about the series. It’s a first time collaboration for both of us.
For Details of the Hunt I cast The Rock as Talos, my 26th century time-traveling alien bounty hunter and, you guessed it, Johnny Depp as his 18th century kidnapped pirate bounty. I thought it would be nice for a change if the pirate was the treasure in a story. I’m writing the sequel to this book now, Genetic Snare.
I was interested to hear you had enjoyed Mike’s work. What other artists work you enjoy?
Michael Breyette, Deana Jamroz, and Lorraine Brevig are three of my favorites. I’m a watercolor fan myself, but I love the work each of these artists do. Michael does marvelous pastels, Deana, head of the art department at MLR press, is a witch with professional photo manipulations and cover and ad design, and Lorraine does amazing oils. All of them have works that have become cover art for books at MLR Press.
Do you have some favorite pieces in particular and what draws you to them?
That’s hard. I have a number of original pieces of art. I love each of them for different reasons. Some for the colors, some for the composition or subject, and some for the power of the image. If I had to pick one, it would be the painting that was done for my book Details of the Hunt. Deana come up with the orginal look and Lorraine translated it onto canvas. Then Deana made it into a cover. Best of both worlds! The book is a sci-fi so it was very important to me that readers grasped what I imagined the main characters to be like and these two artists captured them completely.
Do you have a particular favorite style of art work? Painted, digital, comic...
Outside of watercolors, no. I enjoy all the mediums and styles. Sometimes I’m not crazy about the subject matter but the artist skill and vision is always appreciated. Every from has its strengths.
What do you and MLR Press look for in material for your novel covers?
The back blurb may get a reader to buy a book but the cover art has to entice them to pick it up in the first place. Cover art is very important. In the genre of gay erotic romance we look for a seductive, sexy but classy quality to the artwork. Provocative without being trashy. But the artwork can’t be so overwhelming that the text is lost. Our mysteries usually get a more subtle look. You can never go wrong with a n attractive nude male torso and a phallic symbol of some kind.
What are you looking for in particular right now?
There are never enough romantic male couples pieces out there. I don’t mean sexual poses, I mean romantic poses. They can be nude but the look should be holding, cuddling, laying together, spooning back to front, chest to chest, or any other romantic pose that comes to mind. I’ll also admit, I’m a whore for Big guy/Smaller guy dynamics. You can tell that by my writing. <g>
You have a photography competition at Man Love Romance Press running at the moment. What does this involve and how do you enter?
We wanted to give readers a chance to see their own creativity featured in MLR titles. MLR’s artists need photographs from which they can develop cover or promotional art for our books, or institutional ads. Et voilà, we have a recipe for interactivity. All the details are here! We’ve gotten some nice responses. Photo or original artwork is always good.
What things should we keep our eye out for in the 2nd half of the year at MLR Press?
More mystery. Some dark fantasy. More anthologies. A couple of special projects –one on gay literature from WWII to 1979 and one beautiful original artwork collection. Our goal is to release a mystery a month every month eventually. We love series, too. I get hooked on a character and want more than one book.
What are you reading at the moment?
Reading? The rewrites on my current manuscript. I rarely get to read for sheer pleasure. It’s always a submission or my own rewrites. If I did grab something for fun, it would be a mystery.
Is there anything else you’d like to share Laura?
It would be wonderful to get feedback on the artwork we use. Come check us out at MLR Press.
Tell us what you like, what you’d like to see on covers. What ones work for you, what ones don’t. We love to hear from readers about every aspect of our work.
And thank you, Sarah, for chatting with me. I really enjoyed the interview. I rarely get the chance to discuss artwork in interviews and it’s a very important element in our books. You’ve been wonderful.
Thanks Laura! I cannot wait to read the new book Mexican Heat it sounds like it is going to be a fab read. I think what you’re doing is wonderful and you have some amazing talent at MLR Press. Many of my favorite authors and there looks like there is lots more to save my pennies for. Thanks for taking the time to talk. 😀
You can check out the following links for Laura and MLR Press.
Link to excerpt for Mexican Heat.
Laura and a certain Lisabea at the Eagle in San Francisco. An adventure at RWA!