…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
Katinka interviews freefic writer Domashita Romero (Whitney Reynolds), who became popular overnight on Goodreads, and talks about writing slash and the M/M closet, pansexuality, new projects, that El Presidio Rides North sequel we’re all hoping for and…why she wants YOU to hit her up!
Katinka: The Goodreads boomerang effect! How did THAT happen?
Domashita: Honestly, I have no idea! I just got a message on Tumblr one day saying that I’d developed a bit of a following over there. I’d been having a terrible week, too, so finding such an enthusiastic and supportive crowd was really wonderful. I think someone found El Presidio and things just happened.
Katinka: To help those who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet decide; what type of stories do you write and what are important ingredients to you?
Domashita: I’ve written things in a variety of genres, from sci-fi to fantasy to magical realism to slice of life, but one common element in all of my stories is a sense of humor. I’ve always been the kid who wants to get the laugh, so I have a hard time keeping that out of my writing. I mean, hey, my stories about a zombie apocalypse and the end of the world both had a lot of solid laugh lines, so that should tell you something.
The most important thing to me and the thing I strive for in my writing is to have characters feel genuine. I want them to feel like a person you might really meet or talk to, and I want the relationships that come between them to feel natural. The last thing I want to do is to write a romantic relationship where at the end you realize the only reason they were in love was because the story said they were. So I really strive in my stories to write people who seem real.
Also, pretty much all of my stories have people kissing in them.
Katinka: How many stories are we talking about here?
Domashita: I’ve written twenty-six or twenty-seven stories for Shousetsu Bang*Bang proper, with some collaborations and some little side stories here and there. I’ve been contributing there since 2005, but started writing for every issue consistently since I took over co-editorial duties in 2010. I gotta support my own smut rag!
I’ve also written about a billion words of fanfic in my day, but who hasn’t?
Katinka: Sounds like you and fanfic go way back! How did you get involved with writing slash, was there a trigger for you in particular?
Domashita: When I got a computer back in the mid-90s and discovered the internet (on AOL!), I eventually discovered fanfiction and it blew my tiny little mind. The way I found slash is great, though. I was really fond of reading Mulder/Scully fanfiction. I ate it all up. And people would abbreviate it to M/S. Of course, M/S can also stand for Mulder/Skinner. And one time I clicked on one of those stories and… did not hit the back button.
And lo, a life forever changed.
Katinka: Ha, talk about natural progression! Just curious though, did it never cross your mind to go into business with a publisher?
Domashita: Well, when I started writing original fiction, the market for ebook short stories and the like just didn’t exist. Honestly, until I found out about the community supporting me on Goodreads, I didn’t know there was a market! For ages it’s seemed like self-published fiction, especially ebooks, was really stigmatized, but I think that might be changing.
I’m still pondering what my future is going to be in that realm. I love writing and giving stuff away for free, but I’d also like to make money! I’ve got a goal to see if I can write something longer than novella length. A lot of things are possible.
Katinka: So to what extent is writing slash intertwined with your everyday life these days? Is it something you rather keep private or are open about?
Domashita: I used to be very, very private about it. But as time has gone on and I’ve gotten older (I’m 31 right now), I’ve just stopped caring as much. These days everyone knows the word ‘shipping,’ and fanfic is getting more and more normalized. People are making tons of money self-publishing smut! So while I totally respect anyone who decides to keep that side of their life private for whatever reason, I’ve generally stopped doing it. Know me, know my smut zine.
Katinka: Your smut zine, right! Shousetsu Bang*Bang is summed up neatly as a bi-monthly zine devoted to gay fiction, boys’ love one-shots, and occasional lesbian erotica. How does a typical story for the magazine come together?
Domashita: A lot of them can be traced to odd brainstorming sessions or just goofing around with my co-editor and general creative partner ladysisyphus. One of us says ‘hey, wouldn’t it be a good idea if…’ or ‘I want to read a story where…’ and then we’re off to the races bouncing ideas. Since many of my stories are pastiche, it’s obvious there I just want to read, say, an Indiana Jones story, but I want there to be guys kissing in it. And sometimes inspiration comes from the oddest places: my story ‘On Earth My Nina’ was inspired by the They Might Be Giants song ‘Thunderbird’ — which is why it’s titled what it is, because when you play ‘Thunderbird’ backwards it sounds like ‘on earth my Nina,’ and TMBG recorded a version of that reverse phonetics. Look it up on YouTube! It’s neat and weird!
But, that was a tangent. The rollover time between getting an idea for something and putting it to paper can be anything from the week before to over a year. Sometimes I’ll have an idea that I know I want to do, but I save it for just the right Shousetsu Bang*Bang theme.
Katinka: Of all these stories that are up for grabs online, what are your three favorites?
Domashita: I think the story I am proudest of is Everything Living Tries to Get Back to the Soil. That one involved several months of putting my brain in a very strange place and ended up dealing with some serious and personal issues I hadn’t ever written about before. It’s not a romance, so much, so I know it hasn’t been as popular, but that’s the one I like most to point at and go, hey. Here, look what I can do.
My second favorite is El Presidio Rides North! I feel like it is — as I think people have identified — most representative of my general style. Fun but not afraid to get a little emotional at times, stuff that makes you laugh out loud, characters you really care about, and yeah, that’s the best sex I’ve ever written, I’m pretty sure.
My third…. hm, can I say like six things as a tie, here? No, I’ll go ahead and pick On Earth My Nina. That’s the one I often think of going back to and expanding into something much longer and more in depth. That was the first time I actively did a lot of research before writing a story, and had extratextual stuff for it. The Birds in my Beard is a real blog! Pen and Jonathan’s twitters are real! And I ran and updated both of them for the two months before the story. I come back to that one a lot because for one thing, the concept — dot-com millionaire has mid-life crisis/vision, calls up blogger ornithologist friend to road trip across America looking for Thunderbirds — is just what I need to remind myself of my creative potential when I’m starting to feel like a hack who can only write pastiche. And I just love Pen and Jonathan. I spent a long time with them, and they feel very real to me.
Katinka: I noticed you picked three M/M stories. And – with the risk of coming across as a Bailey rip-off (Big Name Fan) — what appeals to you about M/M?
Domashita: Ha, honestly I could pretty much quote Marcella’s response, there, and have it serve just fine! In short: A) I like it when dudes kiss, and b) writing about queer characters is important to me. Heterosexual romance is great! Yay, heterosexual romance! But I just don’t think I have anything I can add to that genre without queering it and still find it interesting. I end up writing men frequently because writing men fascinates me, since I am generally not one. And, god help me, it sure is a way of escaping what women have to put up with for a little while.
Katinka: BUT….contrary to many other authors, you don’t solely write M/M, but F/F and transgender stories as well. Why is that? And do you approach them differently?
Domashita: Well, I am pansexual and somewhere on the genderqueer spectrum myself (although generally I prefer to describe both my sexuality and gender identity as ‘CONFUSER’), so all of those sexy and romantic configurations appeal to me! Everyone is hot! I just like writing queer stuff!
For me in F/F — which I haven’t written nearly as much of, I will admit, and Marcella and I share some of the same answers there, too — I try to get away from the very flowery delicate tragic lesbian tropes. I want to write real women, and I want to write lesbian sex that is HOT. Not just vaguely described terms and metaphors. I think I’ve done okay. My plan for the next Shousetsu Bang*Bang F/F special involves a post-apocalyptic, Tank Girl sort of scenario, so be on the lookout!
As for the transgender stories, I’ve only written one so far, but I’d love to write more. In that story it was really important to me that I not write something that was about the torment and tragedy of being trans, but rather about people having adventures and falling in love, and yes, also they are trans. Also, man, that sex scene was fun to write!
Katinka: And equally fun to read apparently, because the reviews for your stories seem to have one thing in common: readers mention wanting to read MOAR! Have you ever considered publishing a novella or novel-length story?
Domashita: I would like to try to! But I’ve just been writing things where I hit a point where I’ve said all I want to say, and usually that takes about 15000 words. I do have a couple of ideas bouncing around for longer things that I’m working up the druthers to tackle. How does a queer-themed YA trilogy sound? Everyone loves those, right? Right, Whit, maybe write one thing longer that 25k words, and then start thinking about trilogies.
Katinka: Not everyone agrees that 15000 words are enough though! I have a question from one of your readers here. She wonders if there’ll be a sequel to Five Times Roland Mars Didn’t Hook Up With His Partner (and One Time He Did). According to her, “you only gave us foreplay damnit!! And they need to have sex! (bad)” I say that’s an excellent argument to demand a sequel, but what do you say?
Domashita: Honestly, I actually JUST started thinking about writing some more with them for funsies. I mean, the whole gag there was that I was hitting all the classic fanfic slash tropes and cliches. And we all know there are so many wonderful slash cliches. Like, say, bodyswap… I will definitely keep the brave soldiers at Goodreads posted. Goodness, is that something people would buy? I clearly have no idea how to sell myself. (And I’d like to add that that they totally did have sex in that story, since penetration is not the be-all and end-all!)
Katinka: *is tempted to talk penetration some more*..but no, I’ll get lynched if I don’t ask you about El Presidio Rides North! Did this particular story’s popularity take you by surprise, and why do you think it’s so well-loved?
Domashita: I don’t know if I can say if it took me by surprise, but I’m also really gratified and thrilled that it’s loved so much. I LOVE zombie stuff… but I think what I like about zombie stuff is not the same thing other people like about zombie stuff. My favorite zombie movies are Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, unsurprisingly, and I’ve read or listened to the audiobook of World War Z about four times. I’m not so much interested in the killing of zombies or fighting a war. I’m interested in what goes on with those who survive. What breaks down, what stays together, how people find a way to stay human in a situation like that. I’ve written three zombie-themed things now (my first story for Shousetsu Bang*Bang, Smeared Ink, which is not that great, and a series of illustrated short fiction snippets called Catastrophe Theory, and for me I always know they have a happy ending in the end. People survive. Things end up okay. Humanity makes it after all.
That got away from me a bit. El Presidio represented a “level up” in my writing, I felt. I hadn’t written anything in first person in literally years, and it showed me I could still do that and have a strong narrative voice. And it remains the longest thing I’ve ever written. Writing it made me a better writer, and I’m still happy with it today. I think people like it because it’s fun! It’s zombies without the grim sense of doom, and it’s just two characters who you’d probably have a good time with and are really rooting for. Also: the sex.
Katinka: I’m going to take a deep breath here and ask you the question of questions….how about a sequel to El Presidio Rides North?
Domashita: Okay, here’s where I have to break people’s hearts: I am not actively working on a sequel. Right now my attention is focused on new stories and new projects (and also that stupid thing called my real life.) While I do have thoughts in my head about where Mercury and Gaga go next, I don’t know if there’s enough there to make much of a substantive story. However, if I get my act together and put out an ebook compilation of my best stories, I absolutely promise there will be more from them in there.
But here’s a tidbit so everyone’s not entirely sad: sometime in their drive Mercury and Gaga will find a place in the mountains where a guy was living completely off the grid. He’s got solar power, his own water supply, the whole business. So they get to spend a little while with hot showers, a big bed with clean sheets to roll around in, and electricity to run the dude’s DVD player and crack jokes at some movies. It’s a nice vacation before they have to get back in El Presidio for one reason or another.
Also: Mercury’s real name starts with F, and Gaga’s real name starts with A.
Katinka: My heart is broken alright, but at least you’re writing! What can we expect from you in the near future in terms of exciting projects?
Domashita: By the time this goes up, a new issue of Shousetsu Bang*Bang will have published! I also just put out a story in the Puzzle Box anthology. I’m going to keep delivering free fiction for every Shousetsu Bang*Bang issue as long as we can keep it going. Also I have a project code named “DILF Wolf.” We’ll see where that goes.
Oh, and Shousetsu Bang*Bang is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS looking for contributors! It’s a fun way to experiment with writing in a low-pressure and easy environment. Hit us up! We love you! We want you!