As a lover of short fiction I read a lot of anthologies. But, there is one anthology that stands out and has set the standard for me in terms of short story compilations – Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction by editors R.D. (Becky) Cochrane and Timothy J. Lambert, released by Cleis Press in 2009. Fool for Love is an outstanding collection of sixteen short stories that covers a spectrum of themes relating to gay romance, love and life. It is not only my favourite anthology, but also one of my favourite books and one that I continue to recommend far and wide some five years after its initial publication.
Most recently, I read and reviewed Lambert and Cochrane’s second anthology Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction, the follow-up to Fool for Love, and equally fell in love with the stories and writing. On Valentine’s Day of this year, Cleis Press released their third anthology – Best Gay Romance 2014.
In addition to co-editing, both are respected authors in their own right. Timothy Lambert’s stories have appeared in Best Gay Love Stories and The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica. Becky Cochrane has published short stories and two novels: A Coventry Wedding and A Coventry Christmas. Together they co-authored Three Fortunes in One Cookie and The Deal, and through their collaboration with authors Jim Carter and Timothy Forry, under the nom du plume Timothy James Beck, they have published five novels: It Had To Be You, He’s The One, I’m Your Man, Someone Like You and When You Don’t See Me.
On the occasion of the release of Foolish Hearts and Best Gay Romance 2014, Becky Cochrane and Timothy Lambert agreed to participate in a Q & A at Indie Reviews.
Indie Reviews: A big welcome to you both and congratulations on the recent release of both Foolish Hearts and Best Gay Romance 2014. You’ve been collaborating as co-authors and in quartet with Timothy Forrey and Jim Carter for over a decade, and since 2009 as co-editors. Can you tell us about how you met and how your creative partnership came to be?
Becky: We met in an AOL chat room in 1997 – all four of the TJB collaborators did. We began writing together a few months later mostly as something fun we could do as friends online, but also because all of us wanted to give ourselves motivation to write. I had some very long and very bad novels I’d written a few years before that the guys wanted to read. Being able to develop that level of trust – to let people read work that I knew wasn’t my best – was an important part of starting to write with them.
Timothy: I moved to Houston at the end of 2001, and after we wrote He’s the One, it was easier for Becky and I to write together. That’s when we started writing and editing as a duo.
Indie Reviews: Before we chat about your latest releases, I must say that Fool for Love is one of my favourite books of all time. Aside from the fact that each story in this compilation is extremely well written and stands on its own, the one word that always comes to mind when I think about the anthology is harmony. It is uncommon that such a diversity of stories and writing styles come together so well. Can you speak a little about how the anthology came to life and of your experiences in taking it from idea to a critically acclaimed published work?
Becky: Thank you! The original idea came from Greg Herren when he was an editor at Haworth. He pitched it to us. We thought there were a lot of erotica collections out there, and some romantic novella collections, so Greg, Timothy, and I believed we could fill in a gap with stories that might be romantic or not, might have some sexual elements, but mostly would be about whatever was engaging gay men’s hearts.
Timothy: After Haworth closed their fiction imprint Fool for Love was shelved. I’d worked with Richard Labonté before and asked him if he thought Cleis would be interested. He encouraged us to approach them, and they accepted it on the condition that we find a few more stories for it. In doing so, that made it an even better collection.
Indie Reviews: I eagerly awaited the release of Foolish Hearts and was definitely not disappointed. Thank you for deciding to do this again. Much has happened in the United States in respect of LGBTQ rights in the period between the publication of the two anthologies – the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the defeat of Proposition 8 and the ensuing state-by-state domino effect in the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. While Foolish Hearts contains an eclectic mix of stories with a diversity of themes, art often reflects life and it is not surprising that a dominant theme for several of the stories is same-sex marriage. What were your guidelines and expectations in accepting submissions for this anthology?
Becky: With the Foolish Hearts collection, we tried to be as vague as possible with our guidelines because we wanted the writers’ imaginations to be the only limit. We told them to consider the title – clearly, the heart is involved, but that doesn’t always mean the tales are romantic. Sometimes the heart is falling in or out of love, but sometimes it’s grieving or shut off. We also suggested that stories with sex are okay but it needs to be part of a bigger story. Once we began getting stories, we began to see themes emerge and based story acceptance and arrangement of stories on those. It’s an organic process.
Indie Reviews: One of the reasons I read anthologies is to discover new authors. Fool for Love introduced me to several authors that have become staples in my reading life and I expect the same with several of the new-to-me authors that contributed their stories in Foolish Hearts. Is the introduction of new authors something that factors into the selection of stories for your anthologies?
Becky: Absolutely. We like to have a mix of new and established voices. Maybe it’s my literary background, but I often step back and try to take in everything that’s being published about gay lives. It’s important to history and to literature in a larger sense that every decade is chronicled. Especially when I consider the centuries that marginalized voices were silent or deeply coded, I want these anthologies to be a place for authentic voices. It’s interesting that among the three collections, there are stories of adolescent boys with their first crushes who aren’t hiding, aren’t fearful. They’re like any kid with a first crush. That kind of story probably wouldn’t have been written or published until recently. And it’s gratifying to include writers of caliber taking on issues of aging and even the relevance of gay fiction itself.
Indie Reviews: Which authors inspire you? Who do you enjoy reading?
Becky: I’m always more intrigued by characters than plot. Mysteries are my escape, and I enjoy Louise Penny, Martin Walker, Donna Leon, and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. Among gay writers, I enjoy all the fiction written by our contributors, especially novels, as well as work by Michael Thomas Ford, Michael Cunningham, and Ethan Mordden. Among other contemporary writers, I read a balance of literary and popular fiction. Good writing inspires me, including the writing in poetry and songs.
Timothy: Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, Stephen McCauley, and Ethan Mordden are the authors I first read when I discovered gay fiction existed and remain my go-to authors. Lately, I find myself reading a lot of biographies to get inside the minds of different people, almost like research to see what drives and inspires them. I don’t have a lot of time these days to read, so I’ve been caught up in Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and the Little Golden Books.
Indie Reviews: Your third anthology, Best Gay Romance 2014 released on Valentine’s Day. Can you tell us a little about this compilation of short fiction?
Timothy: We were asked to edit Best Gay Romance 2014 by Cleis Press just after we began selecting stories for Foolish Hearts. This series is one that Richard Labonté edited in the past, so we tried to remain true to his original vision for the series. We did an open call, tried to find as many new writers as possible, and tried to appeal to a range of ages and reading interests. We selected the best of the submissions sent to us, appealed to a few friends for stories, and were lucky enough to meet a couple of writers at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival just before our deadline. We were left with a well-rounded collection of stories with romantic themes.
Indie Reviews: You’re both involved in animal rescue. Can you tell us about your organization the Rescued Pet Movement?
Timothy: Rescued Pets Movement is a non profit organization that rescues dogs and cats from Greater Houston shelters and transports them to rescue organizations in other areas of the country where pet overpopulation is not such a serious issue. Houston has 1.2 million homeless pets, so we feel transport is a viable solution to the problem. We’re in a partnership with BARC Houston (Houston’s city shelter) to move fifty pets a week who might otherwise have been euthanized. Please visit the website at http://www.rescuedpetsmovement.org for more information about how anyone can help.
Indie Reviews: What’s on the horizon for you? Are you planning more anthologies? Perhaps authoring some of your own works, either individually or in partnership?
Becky: I keep saying this, but I have four novels in my head that can’t seem to make it to paper. That’s been a challenge for a while. I recently had an idea for another anthology. That’s something Timothy and I need to talk over before we pitch it. I’d like to do another.
Timothy: I have a few short stories in my head that never seem to make it into a Word document. I’d like to do another anthology and would love to write a novel on my own. I need to make the time.
Indie Reviews: At the end of the day what do you hope readers take away from your anthologies?
Timothy: A receipt. Buy our books! These fantastic writers deserve to be appreciated and I hope they are.
Becky: That love is love. People are people. Our differences should be accepted and even celebrated, not divide us, because at heart, we’re driven by the same needs and desires.
Indie Reviews: Timothy and Becky, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this Q & A. I wish you all the best and much success with Foolish Hearts and Best Gay Romance 2014, and look forward to reading more of your works in the future.
Timothy: Thank you for your comments about the first two anthologies and for reviewing the books.
Becky: Thanks so much for your interest and support!