May 10, 2012

Passion in Prose by Cecilia Tan

Romance Lives Forever is in the hands of Cecilia Tan today, who will be talking about Passion in Prose and Daron's Guitar Chronicles, her labor of love...
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Would you think I was crazy if I told you I've been writing a book for thirty years? (THIRTY YEARS!) I suppose it might matter how long the book is, right? Because I've been writing Daron's Guitar Chronicles since I was a teenager. It's not exactly a "book," partly because of how long it is. It's not a novel, but it is a story. That means it's not a "romance," but it is a love story.

The main reason I can't call it a romance is because most people's idea of a romance is so strict. For one thing, people expect the love interest in a romance to be introduced in the first chapter. That doesn't happen in Daron's Guitar Chronicles. DGC is a story about a young guitar player trying to make it in the 1980s. He's got conflict with his father, an uphill battle to success, and on top of that, he's in the closet. Finding the love he needs to survive is an even steeper road than the road to fame.

Why don't we meet Daron's love interest in the beginning of the book? Because Daron isn't ready to meet him yet. Daron isn't just in the closet. He's deeply afraid of what might happen if people find out he's gay. He's been fed homophobic crap his entire life and even though if you called him on it he'd say he didn't believe it, deep down, somehow, he does. He doesn't believe himself deserving of love and thinks he's a pervert for the way his hormones take over sometimes and make him act on his lust and frustration.

Many romances are the story of one person learning to love another. But Daron is so weighed down by self-hate, by internalized homophobia, that before he can learn to love someone else, he needs to learn to love himself. Fortunately, he gathers people around him who love him without judging him, though it takes time.

And that's the real truth of the matter. It takes time to get over something as complicated and deep-rooted as internalized homophobia. Which is why this story couldn't be told in one, short novel. It needed to start early in Daron's life and move gradually through all the twists and turns of him coming of age and figuring stuff out. It's a love story and that means all kinds of love, family, friends, lust, and also romantic love.

The story's length and gradual development are what kept me from publishing it for so long. Gay publishers wanted me to cut it down and concentrate on the coming out. Romance publishers wanted me to cut it down and concentrate on one main relationship. Literary publishers wanted me to cut down the pop culture references.

I found I couldn't do any of those things without ruining everything that makes the story work, everything that made my friends who read the early drafts call it "addictive."

This is why I've been publishing Daron's Guitar Chronicles on the web as a serial. You can read it for free starting here: ( But there is one warning. It is addictive. Readers fall in love with Daron. But eventually they catch up to the most recent chapter, and then they have to wait for the next installment. Just like a TV show or a comic book, they have to wait for the next episode. The story will eventually be finished, but for now everyone is invited to fall in love with Daron the way I have and to come along for the ride, which is still going through the ups and downs of his life.

And then for those who enjoy reading on paper, I'm running a Kickstarter right now to raise the money to make an actual print version, and for those who read on Kindle or other e-reader, there are already three volumes of ebooks available. You can get them most places ebooks are sold and also by supporting the Kickstarter as a reward gift, and for a slightly higher contribution, get the printed book, too. For all the details about helping fund a printed version, visit the Kickstarter page here:

Love is ultimately the most rewarding thing I've found to write about. I write about sex, I write about passion, I write about trying to make the world a better place. I write IN ORDER to make the world a better place, whether that's through helping readers to understand how terrible homophobia can be, or through helping them to escape tough issues in their own lives by escaping into my character's world for a while. I do it because I love it, and I hope my readers love it right back.
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Daron's Guitar Chronicles interview

Cecilia, tell us about the main character in your current book. What is he like?
Daron is a headstrong young musician. He's very closeted because he was raised to think being gay is something bad, and yet he's very confident in his worth as a human being because of his musical talent. That makes for a somewhat neurotic package, but he tries not to take himself too seriously. He's funny in a deadpan sort of way, and he tries never to let his wounds show. In that way, he's the opposite of a drama queen.
If your main character was here today, what would he say is his strongest point?
His musical talent. Daron feels he's got a gift and he just doesn't question it, even when he is insecure about everything else in life.
Does he think he has a weakness?
His biggest weakness is definitely his hang-ups about sex and sexuality. It leaves him vulnerable.
What drives your hero to do the things he does? What makes him want to be the "good guy?"
Daron's got a lot of bad role models in his life. His father's a two-bit con man, he is taken advantage of sexually by a roommate, and in the music business it's very hard to know who to trust. But he tries to be better than all that. For a while he event thinks trying to be "good" includes denying his own sexuality.
What's your main character's favorite guilty pleasure?
Daron's secret pleasure is dancing in his living room to very loud funk and R&B.

 Personal Info: Daron

A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be in six words or less?
Oh jeez. I suppose "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is already taken, right? Just kidding. If it was written by someone who liked me they'd hopefully title it something more like "I Love Rock and Roll." If it was written by someone who didn't like me, they'd try to get cute, a tell-all book called "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or something insinuating like that.
If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
I've pretty much settled on staying in Boston. I know I don't want to live in Los Angeles. I'm from New Jersey originally and I always thought I'd move to New York City, but having lived in Boston for a while I've realized how nice it is. I'm on the road a lot, so I'm not home as much as I might like. But when I am, I really appreciate how laid back things are in Boston.
What song would best describe your life?
I've written a lot of songs about my life. It's too difficult to pick one. At any given time it's probably the song I wrote most recently. I just wrote one called "Infernal Medicine" which is about how relationships can be poisonous. You need that person to heal you, you know? But sometimes they're the wrong one. The title came from a trip to the doctor I took. The sign said "Internal Medicine" but I mis-read it. A whole song came out of that.
If you were a tool, what would people use you to do?
Ha. Tune guitars. No question.
As a child, what was your favorite thing about school?
I pretty much hated school. I was a loner. I got picked on. The only reason I didn't get bullied worse was because I faded into the woodwork so much. The only good thing was probably music class, but even that was a chore sometimes. When I got to junior high, though, and started playing the guitar at lunch on the warm days when we were allowed to eat outside, that was my favorite thing for sure. I wouldn't even bother to eat. I'd just sit on a picnic table and play and that was how I went from being a band nerd who got picked on to being "cool." As long as I had a guitar in my hands, I was cool. That's still true today,  I guess.
If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
Haha! "Do Not Eat." I think sometimes I'm as toxic to other people as they are to me. Or to one person in particular, anyway.

Please Fill in the Blanks (as Daron)

I love pizza with my bandmates at midnight after rehearsal.
I'm always ready for a gig.
When I'm alone, I write songs about being not alone.
You'd never be able to tell, but I really love bubblegum pop. I'm supposed to hate it, I'm supposed to be a snob about it, but people don't appreciate how great a good pop tune is.
If I had a halo it would be rusted.
If I could pick one person's brain I'd pick David Bowie's.
I can never be fully happy because I'm too f'd up.

About the Author

Cecilia Tan is "simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature," according to Susie Bright. In 1992 Tan founded Circlet Press, a category-busting independent press that mixes science fiction/fantasy with erotica, and which added an erotic romance line, Clasp Editions, in 2011. Tan is the author of many books, including the romances Mind Games, The Hot Streak, and the Magic University series. Her gay high fantasy erotic romance THE PRINCE'S BOY is a current nominee for the Pauline Reage Novel Award for BDSM-positive fiction.
Her short stories have appeared in Ms. Magazine, Nerve, Best American Erotica, Asimov's Science Fiction, and tons of other places. She was inducted into the Saints and Sinners Hall of Fame for LBT gwriters in 2010, was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association in 2001, and won the inaugural Rose & Bay Awards for crowdfunded fiction in 2010 for Daron's Guitar Chronicles. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.

Find Cecilia Here

Find Daron Here


  1. I really enjoy stories that incorporate, as you say, all kinds of love, not just the emotion between the main characters. Including the love of friends or family or self helps create a more well-rounded character.

  2. Allie, well said. So often I think writers try to have their characters in a vacuum.

  3. There is more to this story than a tale of one person surviving. I always enjoy "underdog" stories, but beyond that, Daron's story is yours too -- never quitting, no matter what. Congratulations on taking this to the next level, Cecilia.


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