Settling into Submission with ...
The majority of your stories are male/male erotica with a
D/s focus. How
did you get started in this genre?
Right from the start (1978) I wrote D/s m/m—although I
didn’t know that’s what it was.
pre-Internet and in small town rural England,
and I’d never heard of fanfic.
It was just my beloved and I, writing smut to
entertain ourselves about who we thought was hot on TV.
Post-beloved, I started inventing my own characters
to keep myself company, but it was still all m/m and D/s.
I moved to
and started writing for other people. I still had no idea about
fanfic or that there was a D/s m/m audience.
My published work then was straight and aimed at print
literary magazines. It
was quite good (Syd is modest as well as talented), and I was
published a fair bit under my day job name.
To be honest, it was all a bit of a grind. Real “get your ass
in the chair and write damn it” stuff.
I didn’t like the process of writing even if the end results
were pleasing. And, at
a practical level, very few literary magazines pay you!
By then I’d encountered gay erotica and devoured it, and I
eventually came across m/m, and, finally, fanfic.
(Bass ackwards as usual!)
All the while, a D/s novel kept banging at my brain, and I
finally gave in and started drafting with no real thought for it
going anywhere other than for my own pleasure.
And I loved the process.
There was nothing I’d rather do than be writing it.
I’d get up in the night to write.
It’s a huge, sprawling, unfinished story, but it serves as a
well I go back to for ideas.
It’s too dark and nasty to let loose, but I cherish it
because it got me back to what I love.
When I started seeing calls for gay erotica and m/m, I was
Dr. Fell is a popular Dom character beloved by many.
How did he come about?
For once, I had a title and no story or character.
(Usually, titles are my
special hell.) “Adventures
in Pet Sitting” as a title for a D/s story had been rattling around
for a while. I made myself
sit down and answer a call for submissions to get myself through a
block. John Fell showed up
as a cold, lonely man mourning his boy and his mom.
He took over my story.
He demanded first person, and, instead of a stroke story for
a smut anthology, I got a plot and characters.
Not surprisingly the anthology bounced it!
When Torquere asked for Sips, I said, well hell, it’s the
right length and sent it in.
I was surprised it was accepted as it’s not really a happy
story although it is hopeful!
As far I was concerned, Pet Sitting was it for John Fell.
Then I got an e-mail from
Michelle at Torquere asking me to submit a story to an anthology she
was editing. She
suggested that since Dr. Fell seemed popular with readers perhaps it
could be about him.
That was a WTF moment for me honestly.
Of course, I said yes, but the idea of more Fell had not
crossed my mind until then.
I tend to respond well to deadlines and prompts—a lot of my work is
written in response to calls for submissions —so it wasn’t unusual
for me to say yes and then think of a story.
If I remember rightly, the story was “A Short Leash” in the
Rings Toy Box.
As part of this interview preparation, I opened up the original
rough draft of “Adventures in Pet Sitting” and it ends with Dr. Fell
deciding to carry on and saying, “One thing you need to know about
me: I’m a man of my
word.” I should have
listened to him then.
Many readers are anxiously awaiting Attitude Adjustments in November
and Deeper Submission in December.
Can you tell us a bit about what is in store for Dr. Fell and
If you like the Dr. Fell series you should thank Michelle—most of it
is due to her prodding.
(If you don’t like the series, you can write to John at
tell him why.) Michelle
pointed out that my Chaser trilogy needed a part four.
(I do have a bad habit of leaving Dr. Fell hanging.) So,
despite Dr. Fell’s annoyance at the illogic of a four-part trilogy,
I signed up to do Deeper Submission.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but long time readers know
that HEA and Dr. Fell have not exactly been friends, and that he
tends to resist happiness.
So, despite having found his boy, there are still plenty of
ups and downs for Dr. Fell to figure out.
There are also a few shake ups from his past.
In Attitude Adjustments, we start to meet more of the group of doms
and their boys who have been a background to Dr. Fell’s story.
Dr. Fell has been appointed director of their non-profit
group. They intended it
as a tax shelter; however, with Dr. Fell as director, their mission
statement about ethical ownership is going to be taken very
seriously! Dr. Fell is
also going to have to adjust some of his own attitudes too as he
gets used to having his own boy and a step-mom—neither of whom are
going to fit neatly into the spaces left by his beloved Rob and his
Who is your favorite character in the Dr. Fell series?
Oh, no! Not fair.
Since Rob is dead, I’ll pick him.
Few would begrudge him the favorite spot, and it’ll please Dr
I recently had the pleasure of reading your story What
Can I Beg In Your Love? and loved it.
Can you tell us a bit more about this story and its origins?
Thank you. This is a story close to my heart, and I’m always so
happy to hear people liked it.
It originated—once again—in a call for subs.
I think I must be conditioned like a Pavlov dog!
Show me the right call and I’ll sit down and write.
This was for a sci-fi anthology about human-alien m/m
encounters. I wanted to
see what would happen if some D/s conventions were followed to some
conclusions without ethical boundaries being trampled on.
Taking the story out of human civilization let me play with
that more. If this
story were between two humans, I’d have real issues with it, but as
it is I think it’s a story about love.
It was accepted—the publisher noted I was the only author to have
the human be the sub!—in summer 2005.
The publisher was based in
New Orleans, and, well, I think you see where
this is going. Once the
rights were back to me, I shopped it around some and it had a brief
happy home at Dark Eden
until the publisher’s illness closed them down.
It’s now at Lyrical Press—and many thanks to them for taking
on a dark, sci-fi, d/s, alien-human, m-m, human pet story with some
borderline consent issues!
I think it’s a romance with a HEA, but others beg to differ.
Sirens for Laney is a short story with lesbian characters.
Do you have a different process when writing female
characters and do you have any plans for more f/f fiction?
I do have a different process, and I do have plans.
My writing process starts the same as with m/m, but then I second
guess myself a lot when I write women.
It’s far harder for me than writing men.
I want my female characters to be well-rounded and to be able
to be flawed people just as my men often are.
I get hamstrung by worrying about them being criticized.
I’m protective of all my characters, and very aware of the
double standards that can be applied to the genders.
For example, I adore Frances, the
lead character of Sirens for Laney, and I was really up in arms when
a critique group hated her because many of their dislikes were based
on her gender. She does
do some terrible things, but she’s my girl, and she had her reasons!
I’m drafting a regency novel that is going to be damn hard to market
because it’s m/m and f/f, and ménage only in the most technical of
senses. I’m having fun
playing with the conventions of regency romance including the
marriage of convenience idea, and having my couples use their
marriages to hide in plain sight.
There will be much smutty fun and angst as well as at least
one duel. Plus tight
breeches and heaving bosoms.
Probably on different characters, but I can’t guarantee it.
What is your favorite published story outside of the Dr. Fell
It depends when you ask me, but I most often settle on “O Night More
Lovely than the Dawn” which is in Put Some English on It.
Not a traditional HEA, and not much smex, but for me it’s the
most romantic story I’ve written. It
was also one of the first m/m stories I wrote after switching back
from straight literary works.
If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would it be
Well, not twink! I have
a very low ditz patience threshold.
Dr. Fell’s trials with twink represent my attempts to be
patient with fluff—even, or perhaps especially when, there’s smarts
underneath. If Dr. Fell
could get past my exceptionally messy study, we’d probably get on
quite well, but, I think I’d most like to spend time with Jos from A
Private Contract, a work in progress.
He’s a sweet, nerdy sub learning to be loved. We’d have a
happy time getting our academic-geek on and shopping for books!
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or
do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I’ll usually have one or two larger plot points that need to happen,
but I’ll let the characters get there in their own ways.
Sometimes they’ll disagree about where they’re going, but
usually the destinations have developed from their needs so it
doesn’t happen often.
They’re more likely to rebel if I start micro-managing the details
in advance. In Exotic
Pets, Dr. Fell simply would not cooperate with a casual sex scene in
a parking lot. I wrote
it, but it continued to sit wrong with the story’s path, and Dr.
Fell was angry about it too.
It’s not in the story as a result.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life?
Oh sure! Not whole
cloth, but bits and pieces here and there.
Someone’s endearing habit here, or an annoying trait there.
But, there are no parallels between people I know and
characters in the books.
No one should worry about showing up in my work.
Not even if you really annoy me.
(I lie! Charis
in Sirens for Laney is an unfair caricature of someone who drove me
batshit!) Dr. Fell is partly based on me in that he shares my pet
peeves and bad temper, but his many good qualities, as well as his
excessive tidiness, cigar smoking, and self-discipline are all his
I’ll sometimes see hot guys and use them as physical models for
characters, but I usually try to let readers imagine how my
characters look for themselves.
I did base my men in Back and Forward on my two favorite
wrestlers (not that WWE is real life…), but I still kept details
What is your favorite British crime movie?
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about
That, according to my students, I’m a total sweetheart.
And real life angst
irritates the hell out of me.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
All pleasure is guilty for it to be truly pleasure!
Reading Georgette Heyer in the bath.
Eating bacon sandwiches.
Wearing leather. (I’m
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on several things:
the regency (Criminal Conversations) and contemporary D/s
novel (A Private Contract) that I mentioned before, and a yaoi novel
(Tommy’s Pizza Garden)
about a naďve bishie boy caught between his seme, a stern dentist,
and his old lover who works for the mob!
I’m also considering a third Ryan and Sir Hugh story (their
rugby and D/s adventures are in “Not Sir” from Put Some English on
It and “A Jolly Good Idea” in Another Fine Mess), and perhaps a
follow up to my historical, Bys Vyken.
Where can readers find Syd McGinley?
Dr Fell’s site:
Any other tidbits you would like to share?
Big, big love to my betas, all who read my work, and all who work
for and support the GLBTQ cause!