Interviewed by Jeffrey Ricker
Rob Byrnes has been making me laugh since I met him in 2009 at a writing conference in New Orleans. He also deserves credit for prodding me to submit an essay to an anthology that became my first published piece of creative writing. The author of six novels, he won a Lambda Literary Award for When the Stars Come Out (2006) and was a Lambda finalist in 2009 for his novel Straight Lies. His most recent novel, Strange Bedfellows, was published in 2012 by Bold Strokes Books. Originally from Rochester, New York, Byrnes is a graduate of Union College and lives in New Jersey with his partner.
Your first novel, The Night We Met, came out in 2002. What inspired you to become a writer, and what was the process that led to the novel’s publication?
I was encouraged to read a lot as a child, which no doubt was an influence, but I think the desire to write is innate – like the desire to create music, or even become an accountant. That said, I was in my early thirties before I tried to tie the desire to actual work. I failed at first, of course, but I kept writing, and sought out peer support through the CompuServe writing forums. (Remember – this was the early ’90s!)
The men and women I met online became mentors and taskmasters, and the forum served as a workshop for the novel that eventually became The Night We Met. And let me add that when you’re getting personal feedback from people like the writers Diana Gabaldon and John L. Myers – not to mention the artist who eventually became the noted novelist Rabih Alameddine – you’d be a fool not to take their advice.
That’s not to say that publication of The Night We Met was a slam-dunk after that. It took a few more years, a lot of rejection, and perhaps a bit of luck before the book was published in 2002. Still, my willingness to put my words out there and listen to some (occasionally raw) feedback was the most significant step I took on the path to becoming “A Writer.” [Read more…]