Rafe Haze here, rapping on my debut novel, The Next, hitting the public April 23rd.
Those who’ve read The Next thus far have dubbed it “the gay Rear Window,” and they’re spot on. A man who is stuck in his Manhattan apartment gets to looking out his window and thinks he’s identified a gruesome crime across the courtyard. It’s less a whodunit and more of a suspenseful how’s-he-gonna-get-‘em plot, slathered with a large, creamy dollop of romance. The most dramatic difference is that the protagonist in The Next isn’t bound to his apartment by a broken leg in a cast, but rather by a self-induced, torturous psychological handcuffing, and the novel, of course, chronicles his journey to this freedom as much as the capturing of the bogey. The second biggest difference is that I don’t shy away from the eroticism. At all. Hawt hairy men abound. 😉
I’ve a confession: I didn’t start writing because I was enamored with M/M fiction. Truth is, I’d never even known that M slash M defined a genre of fiction at all. Aside from my general literary ignorance, I’d always been a slow reader let alone a slow writer. No, I was led by my lower anatomy toward writing The Next. I was rather hot and heavy with a man who is now a successful M/M romance writer, and this beautiful man filled my head with a glorious fantasy of ripping it up together at some annual event he called GRL. But first, he told me, I had to write a book. I got as far as the lower half of a skeleton of plot before the heat between us turned icy and rather poisonous. Yeah, I fell into a hell of a funk. Never been that low and dark before in my life. And that’s when I started constructing the rest of that skeleton, and then fleshing the body out, sentence by sentence. I was writing my self into a healthier state of mind, and loving it. The more I wrote, the less I ached. And the less I cared a fiddle about…who? Four and a half months later I nudged a complete stranger sitting next to me on a plane returning from Paris to New York, beaming from ear to ear. She witnessed me write “The End” to my first novel. And by the time we landed I felt like I was a whole person again. And I loved myself again, you know?
So why a suspenser for my first outing as a novelist? I was in such emotional turmoil when I began that I grasped at anything that comforted me as I made the leap. It was more an act of survival than a choice. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window had always been my “sick” movie – meaning it was the movie I always watch when I’ve got a cold. I find comfort in the warmth and wit of the dialogue and chemistry between Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter. The slow burn of the suspense as it creeps up to that explosive finale always keeps my brain from focusing on the peskiness of a snotty nose. Rear Window improves your immune system. Trust. Anyhow, the point is that modeling my book after something I loved and found comforting was necessary at the time, and I found an angle in the manner in which the protagonist is incapacitated to really tare into all the s#!t that was burying me. Now, I’m insanely excited in my follow-up book because I’m tackling something that makes me extremely uncomfortable – but I feel like I’m only able to because of the journey I went through in writing The Next.
I mentioned “slow burn” before, and that’s key to a lot in The Next. Both the romance and the suspense are like long, winding, lit fuses that slowly near the dynamite, and then all hell breaks loose. Romance doesn’t hit the narrator on the head like a cinder block from the sky. It creeps into his life. Neither the narrator nor Detective Marzoli are seeking let alone expecting love, and then, inch by inch, flirtation by flirtation, they get engulfed. That slow burn is the sizzle, and it’s damned erotic. That same slow infiltration of the murder into the narrator’s world intensifies the suspense, and is shamelessly fashioned after Hitchcock’s sensibility and formula of suspense – but I won’t give any more away about that. 😉
I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and live on the west side of New York City. Having worked for the legal compliance industry, fashion industry, music industry, art industry, and flesh industry (the most interesting people on earth have), the most life-changing employment was learning and teaching Meisner Technique of Acting. I suspect that’s because I hadn’t cash for proper therapy at the time.
In addition to prose I love writing classical music for orchestra and small ensemble, country music songs, musical theater, plays, and screenplays. I also crave, thirst, and NEED two-stepping, line dancing, and West Coast Swinging. The moment somebody tells me I should stick to one thing only is the moment I want to smack ’em. The creative process is exactly the same for me in each genre. I’ve got to diffuse an emotional time bomb via the structure of a plot or cadence or sequence. Be it words, notes, or movement, the origin, the schlep, and the endpoint are similar – equally compelling and equally mandatory. Also, for me there’s a direct link between the physicality of dancing and the energy of creating. The brain must be oxygenated!
I’m constantly grateful to my twin brother (the straight one). Even divided by the country (he’s in San Francisco with his family), he makes the slicing through this rambling, thorny life worthwhile.
Fun fact: all of the neighbors in The Next are based on folks I can see from my apartment window. Yes, even Schlongzilla.
BLURB: He never thought he’d become one of the agoraphobic sludges of New York City—trapped with one view of a courtyard and a head full of wrenching memories. Dumped, disconnected, and depressed, he surrenders to spying on the neighbors as his only entertainment.
Until one day, without warning, the lascivious and suspicious behavior of the closeted lawyer in the huge apartment across the courtyard leads him to a spine-tingling conclusion… his neighbor is a murderer.
Perhaps collaborating with the beautiful and fierce Detective Marzoli to catch the killer can finally breathe life back into a man suffocated by the stranglehold of a tragic past. Unless the killer across the way decides to make him… The Next.
THE GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED