BOM: Do you write full time?
Frizzell: I’m so lucky to write full time, and I never thought I’d be able to say that. It is a dream come true for a writer. Health reasons led me to early retirement from the telecom industry in late 2014, and the amazing support of my wife, Kathy, has made all the difference in the world. I’ve written since childhood, and just as a hobby for years after, but it’s something I’ve always been driven to do. I began a twenty-two-year career in community journalism as a teenager, so from a young age, I learned respect for the power of the written word. My experience ranged from reporting news and sports to writing features and editorials and included positions as reporter, photographer, design/layout artist, advertising production, editor and, finally, publisher of my own weekly community newspaper. The career didn’t pay well but taught me to fine-tune my writing and emphasize details, invaluable skills for my writing today.
BOM: Can you describe what’s it like to partner with a publishing company?
Frizzell: Maybe because becoming a “published author” has always seemed like a fantasy, I’m still taken back whenever I refer to “my publisher” out loud. Bold Strokes Books Publishing is a boutique imprint, exclusively LGBTQ, and although it distributes across the US, Europe, and Australia, it’s still small enough to feel like family. I’ve proposed five novels to BSB thus far and been accepted each time. Thankfully, there is no pressure to crank out a novel just to meet a quota. (Remember the days when rock stars threw reject songs on albums just to satisfy contractual obligations?) BSB appreciates and fosters quality, and every author works with an editor to polish the piece to the “nth” degree. Of course, there are deadlines and everyone feels that pressure. (Fortunately, I “grew up” living with deadlines, and do my best work at crunch time.)
But, BSB editors are outstanding craftspeople, who teach as much as they direct, and strive to bring out the best in each author. As a newbie in 2013, I was surprised by how much I didn’t know, and, typically, freaked out when my first novel, Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years, came back from my editor covered in red ink (lovingly termed “bloody”). With six weeks to absorb the constructive criticism, I somehow managed to correct bad habits and generate what became an award-winning novel. Needless to say, my editor is my hero, and I’m thankful to work with her on every venture. For a beginner, it’s unnerving to receive a contract, pages of legal-eze about obligations, royalties, and rights, and when you sign your name to it, the reality of “becoming a published author” hits you hard. I signed that contract for Stick, and was stunned for days—then took time off from my day job to celebrate. As mind-blowing as that was, I’m still stunned each time BSB accepts one of my proposals. And nothing beats receiving that box of “author’s advance copies” in the mail. Hard to define the combination of delight, pride, accomplishment, and sheer awe (“I did this?”)
BOM: What inspires your writing and what’s your creative process?
Frizzell: I’d say daily life is inspirational to me, and maybe that’s my subconscious newspaper brain at work, formulating a story out of what’s right in front of you. Years ago, I used to advise my reporters that there’s a story in everything, just waiting to be captured, just waiting for someone to really see it. I probably owe whatever inventiveness and creativity I have to being an only child and days when Popsicle sticks became boats racing down the street in a rain-filled gutter; when my toy pots and pans became cookware “out on the Wild West trail;” when I staged puppet shows for a nickel, complete with scripts and staging. In decades that followed, life added thousands of interviews and formal fact-filled articles from all walks of life, always underscored with that deep inner urge to “create.” That “process” has always had a life of its own, something I have never been able to ignore. The statement, “I write because I have to,” is simple but true. I thrive on creating colorful characters with immediately identifiable voices and establishing settings that a reader can settle into like a comfy couch. I write in a quiet place, usually my little office at home, without music or other background distractions, because I’m too easily taken by a lyric or a melody or a conversation.
BOM: What’s the best aspect of being a published author?
Frizzell: Conveying your message to others in a way that delivers enlightenment, entertainment, a relaxing escape, is immensely satisfying, no matter the medium. But, to me, there’s something about the published book that brings a validity to the jumble of creativity that’s never ending in one’s head. And in terms of literary fiction, whether historical, as in Stick McLaughlin, or romance, as in my later novels, that creative jumble can be overwhelming because you know it simply has to come out! Plus, you’re very aware that your imagination will not only impact others; it will outlive you. You’re not recounting an event, not just telling a tale; you’re leaving your mark—on a bookshelf, in the Library of Congress, and in a reader’s memory. I’m often told that my novels “read like movies,” and it’s gratifying to know readers can be so “into” my stories, humbling to share the reality I’ve created.
BOM: What’s the hardest aspect of being a published author?
Frizzell: Marketing. At least that’s the toughest part for me. I’m not particularly outgoing, never been one to toot my own horn, and, unfortunately, both are required if you expect people to buy your books. I’m also far from independently wealthy—and retired, so spending money on an agent or marketing firm to do the deed is out of the question. Which brings me here, always willing to talk about writing, and forcing myself to promote and read for audiences whenever possible. Social media has become invaluable as a means of promotion, but I find it hard to keep up. I’d rather be writing.
BOM: How did you find a publisher?
Frizzell: I found a book I loved, became a “groupie” of sorts, and got lucky. I think everyone in the LGBTQ community can recall the first book she/he discovered, the one that reached something deep inside. For me, it was Lee Lynch’s Swashbuckler, some thirty years ago. And when, sometime around 2009, I discovered Radclyffe’s Safe Harbor, The Provincetown Tales, I felt pushed to seriously pursue my own writing. I made a point to attend Women’s Week in Provincetown every October thereafter, meeting authors – and Radclyffe, whose fledgling Bold Strokes Books had only a couple dozen authors at the time – and I became a welcomed fan in the crowd. I met BSB’s Lee during one of those Women’s Weeks, had her sign Swashbuckler for me (so excited, my hands shook), and our shared background of having lived in Boston grew into a friendship. She encouraged me to write, took an interest in Stick McLaughlin, and, to my eternal gratitude, offered to “pitch” it to Radclyffe.
BOM: What advice would you give your younger self?
Frizzell: Read and write more. I confess to not being a reader for most of my life, never one to delve into Nancy Drew or romantic paperbacks, adventure, sci-fi or crime stories, or even non-fiction. Never took the time, always into sports in my youth, and into music as an adult (that’s still true). Thankfully, I began creative writing in high school, conjuring fun fantasy tales for friends, but I became a newspaper reporter at the age of seventeen—and writing became a truly serious endeavor. I wish I had done more recreational reading and writing in those years, however, and been exposed to various voices, styles, techniques, vocabulary. The skill I do have in the craft must have come from some mysterious source, because I have no patience for the intricacies of language, learning tenses, diagramming sentences, etc. Apparently, my compositions always spewed forth flawlessly all by themselves (teachers and editors were as dumbfounded as I) and I’ve long since given up trying to explain it. But I do wish I had started working at my craft at a much younger age.
BOM: You mentioned you won the Debut Author Award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2014. What was your reaction to hearing the good news?
Frizzell: Shock. I knew I had been shortlisted and I was unbelievably proud, but didn’t seriously think my Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years stood a chance of winning. It’s meaty, told in three parts of Stick’s life, AND it’s a historical romance, so not likely to overtake the other smaller, contemporary romances on the list. I recovered enough to hurriedly dry the happy tears, hug my wife, and walk to the podium. Being recognized for something you’ve been driven to do for so long is incredibly humbling and quite an honor. I’ll always remember the heartfelt joy.
BOM: Where can people find you online?
BOM: Anything you’d want to add?
Frizzell: All my books are available in both print and ebook format from BSB, Amazon, and other quality booksellers. My latest novel, Night Voice, released in January 2017, is a contemporary romance built around late-night talk radio in Provincetown. My fourth novel, due in November, is Nantucket Rose, a romance involving a new B&B on an island steeped in New England tradition. You can pre-order it now at Bold Strokes Books. And Crossing the Line, the highly-anticipated follow-up to Stick McLaughlin: The Prohibition Years, is in progress!