A Conversation with Dale Chase by Gavin Atlas

Dale Chase has been
writing male erotica for 13 years and loves not only the subject matter but the
writing community it brought her into. Her short stories have most recently
appeared in
Tented: Gay Erotic Tales From Under The Big Top (Lethe Press) and I Like To Watch (Cleis Press). Stories will appear in
the upcoming
Wings: Subversive Gay Angel Erotica (Bold Strokes Books), Hot Daddies (Cleis) and Hot Jocks (Cleis.) Dale’s first story collection, If The Spirit Moves You: Ghostly Gay Erotica was published by Lethe Press in 2010. Her latest collection, The Company He Keeps: Victorian Gentlemen’s Erotica is a brand new release from Bold
Strokes Books. Chase lives near San Francisco and is at work on an erotic
western novel. Check her out at dalechasestrokes.com

Hi Dale!  Thanks so much
for agreeing to the interview.  Could you
tell us a bit about your background? 
Also, what experiences in childhood, or later, led you to want to be a
writer? 

I grew up in the Los
Angeles suburbs in a decidedly non-creative family so I’m not sure where I got
this inventive bent. At age four I discovered my imagination and have spent a
good deal of time there ever since. A love of words began guiding the
make-believe onto paper in my teens and my first short story was published in a
motorcycle magazine at age twenty-two. Eight years writing for those magazines
followed, along with attempts at straight novels, detours into a couple
marriages, and raising two children as a single parent. I’ve been writing all
the while, wandering into gay erotica thirteen years ago and finding a home. It
is not so much that I wanted to be a writer as that I evolved into one.

 

You identify as hetero, what do you find is the attraction of
gay erotica for you? 

Gay erotica allows me
expression of my strong male side. Always a tomboy, I have what I call a gender
blur which I very much enjoy, one foot in each world so to speak. When I found
gay erotica I fell in love with the genre as it turned loose the boy inside.
Writing my first gay erotic story was one of the most memorable and rewarding
experiences of my life. Since I’m a straight woman who adores men, I feel most
comfortable in the genre. In addition to the personal satisfaction is joy of
being successful with my efforts and also at being accepted as a member of the
gay writing community. I consider it an honor to be there.

 

Last year, you had a collection of ghost stories called If The Spirit Moves You, and I was impressed with the number of inventive angles you
found to explore your theme.  How much of
a challenge was it to make each story distinct? 

The ghost collection was
somewhat a surprise to me as I’m not the least attuned toward spiritual or
supernatural things. I collect titles and one, “Secondary Sprits,”
had been tucked away for some time. When a friend said something about all the
energy inside a library, it sparked an idea for a library ghost story which was
great fun to write. I then went back and made a story out of “Secondary
Spirits” after which I realized I could do a collection. Pondering the
subject, I focused on originality which is always my goal. It was amusing to explore
various angles so there was really no challenge, just surprise at the various
ways ghosts get up to things. A friend who is into the supernatural educated me
on different types such as the residual ghost and those residing in objects.
Who knew a ghost could inhabit a piece of furniture?

 

How did you get the idea to write a volume of Victorian male
erotica?  Also, I understand the
collection had an interesting journey toward publication.  What did you learn from that adventure?

Henry James is one of my
favorite authors so I’ve read a great deal of his fiction and from there I
moved to Trollope and Thackeray. For a time I devoured Victorian fiction,
totally enthralled with that world. It was a line in a Henry James novel that
sparked the first story and subsequent collection. In the James novel, “a
very good thing” was applied to a young hetero couple about to be married.
I thought, “what a great title” and then “what if it was two
men?” Writing that first story unleashed a flood of them. I still have
enough in the drawer for second book.

The stories were written
eight years ago and it took three publishers to get them into print. The first,
Starbooks Press, imploded for awhile and my book was a casualty. The second was
Haworth Press who were sold and fiction contracts cancelled. The third,
Bold
Strokes Books
, published the book, much to my delight. What I learned from
the experience was more a confirmation of something I’d long believed: never
give up. A writer must be prepared for adversity and overcome it by writing
still more.

 

What, if anything, do you find more erotic about the language of
the Victorian era than contemporary language? 
Or are there aspects of that era, such as the added danger, you find
more erotic in general?

I don’t think it’s so much
that Victorian era language is more erotic than contemporary, it just appeals
to me more. Language from another era is frozen in time but contemporary
language is always evolving, just as are social mores, settings, fashions,
music, etc. Victorian language is rich and elegant while contemporary language
feels smooth and efficient. I don’t really consider the repression of the era
in terms of danger. For me it is fuel. It may have been repressed but the
tradeoff is not having to deal with safe sex issues so it can be very hot. I am
currently writing an erotic western novel which is very enjoyable as I love
that period even more than Victorian. What is fascinating is that language in
the old west was surprisingly formal.

What in particular draws you to westerns or historical fiction
in general?

What I like best about
historical fiction is the escape to another era. There’s a lot going on in the
present but to me the past is richer and more textured. The Victorian period
had elegance, dignity, and formality which is great contrast when writing sex.
The old west was intensely masculine and quite lawless at times, thus a perfect
setting for hot sex. I also have a lifelong love of cowboys and writing about
the old west feels like coming home. The little girl who loved watching
westerns on television is having a blast.

 

I seem to have several friends who must have majored in Pointing
Out Anachronisms in Historical Fiction, and I imagine if I attempted to write
historical, they would drive me bats.  
How important do you find authenticity to be?  What kind of research did you have to do and
is that kind of research enjoyable to you? 

I hate research and do as
little of it as possible. Reading so many Victorian novels gave me a good feel
for the period and language and when something required research, I either
looked it up or avoided it altogether. As for authenticity, it is fiction after
all so I can do what I want while making an effort to portray the period. I
tend not to be highly descriptive so it works. My writing is character driven
and I believe readers are more caught up in the people than how things look. If
someone objects to some detail, I respect that but I’d venture most readers
will not quibble. Working on my western novel is different as it portrays real
people, thus I’m following history but loosening the reins enough to allow
fictional sex scenes and whatever else is needed to move the story along. I’ve
done lots of reading about these characters but it is all biography which is
most entertaining and does not feel like research.

 

A lot of times, erotica authors are asked to write a story
around a specific theme such as construction workers or police officers, so it makes
sense that a story might form around a specific fantasy instead of first
focusing on character development.   How
easy or difficult do you find it to write unique characters, especially when
writing for a theme you didn’t choose? 
Are there characters you’ve created that you love most?

My work is character driven
and when I write for a specific theme that I didn’t choose, I begin by
inventing strong people to fuel the story. It is my favorite part of writing
and because I’ve done it for so long it is quite easy and most pleasurable.
Inhabiting the men I invent is very rewarding. I never impose any specific
fantasy in a story, preferring to go where the characters lead me. Staying
within a specific theme is no problem although sometimes when the theme is well
worn (daddies, jocks, hard hats) it becomes a challenge to write something
fresh. Other times when the theme is new and original (circus erotica, train
erotica) I’m totally jazzed and have a grand time. As for characters I love
most, there are lots. I fall in love with my characters quite often and when
that happens, the story is better for it.

I was actually a fan of yours before we met, so when we did
meet, my reaction was something like “Holy Cow! 
It’s Dale Chase!” and it seemed like you were thinking ‘Wow.  How neat that I rate a ‘Holy Cow.’” What have
been your favorite fan or reader reactions?  
Are there other memories or events that you consider the best moments of
your career so far? 

I’m always pleased when
someone tells me they like my work but I went a long time before I knew any
reader reaction. For the many years I wrote for magazines such as Men, Freshmen,
In Touch, and Indulge and while those were read worldwide, I had
no idea of people’s opinions of the stories. This was not a problem as I simply
don’t spend time dwelling on such things. I like that people read my work, but
my focus is on the writing which, to me, is like breathing—not optional. My
most memorable event was when I was writing for the magazines and an editor
told me another writer wanted to collaborate with me on a story and that the
editor had broken the news to him that I wasn’t a guy. When I emailed the
writer he was still in shock, his email to me shouting (the caps were his):
“YOU’RE A CHICK? YOU’RE A CHICK? I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE A CHICK!”
Apparently he’d had some fantasy about this guy Dale. He’ll never realize what
a great compliment he paid me. More substantial best moments of my career are
seeing my two books in print and meeting gay writers who have become very close
friends.

What do you think was the best advice you ever got from another
writer?

As a fiercely independent
person, I don’t seem to elicit advice from anyone, probably because people
realize I wouldn’t listen. I am self taught, the process entirely internal,
thus I have never looked for guidance from the outside. I wrote for many years
before getting into gay erotica without knowing another writer so I’m used to
being on my own and it seems to have worked out fine. Of course, I now enjoy
talking with fellow writers about every facet of our work but that’s more an
exchange of ideas than advice.

What are your hopes and plans for the next few years?    

My immediate goal is to
finish my erotic western novel and see it published. Next would be following
that with other novels while continuing to write for the anthologies. I’ll
never give up short fiction but I do like it that characters in a novel move in
with you while those in short stories are more weekend guests. Novel characters
sit across from you at the breakfast table, follow you to the post office, even
kick back at the hairdresser’s. I love that constant feeling. It is also fun to
look forward to the growth that every writer experiences with new work. The
thought that there are ides yet to hatch is very exciting and, as I was
fortunate enough to retire from the day job this year, I can now stay immersed
in novel writing. It is pure heaven—at long last.

Thanks so much, Dale! 

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