Who is this author, Bryan T. Clark
I am often asked about my writing and what motivates me to write romance novels. I have had the opportunity to answer that question and many others in interviews, which I have posted here for your reading pleasure. You can also find interviews with some of the characters from my novels. Enjoy!
Today we are chatting with Bryan T. Clark, author of ‘Ancient House of Cards’, ‘Before Sunrise’, ‘Come to the Oaks’ and his latest release, Diego’s Secret. He is a 2017 Rainbow Award Winner for Best Gay Historical and was honored as a 2017 LAMBDA Finalist for Gay Fiction.Bryan writes engaging and captivating romance novels with an emphasis on moral dilemma. His multicultural characters and riveting plots embody real life, filled with challenges, personal growth, and, of course, what we all desire—love.
Are you married or single?
My college sweetheart and I have been together for over thirty years.
Wow! What’s the secret?
(Laughing…) There is no secret. He’s my best friend; he’s the person who I want to spend my free time with. We even share the same name.
How sweet. Do you hold hands in public?
I wish. No, my husband is that quiet guy over in the corner at any party. The last thing he wants is to garnish any attention.
Do you think of yourself as a romantic?
Not really, but I get a tremendous amount of pleasure in spoiling my husband. He has been there for me through some of the toughest times in my life. He knows me better than I know myself. How can you not love a person who knows your demons and still loves you back anyways?
So are you admitting you have demons? Any that you care to share?
Oh hell no! However, if you read my books, they’re in there, embedded into my characters.
Speaking of your books, what did you do before you became a romance writer?
I was in law enforcement. Specifically an Internal Affairs Investigator for the bulk of my career. The last couple of years before I retired I switched over and did Background Investigations on all new Officers coming into the department.
Dog or Cat?
OMG… I love kittens! However, I’m allergic to them. I found that out the hard way. I was once given a stray kitten that was nearly starved to death. I kept that cat for twenty-one years before her passing. Therefore, I guess out of default, I’m a dog person.
Do you believe in soulmates?
I believe there is someone for everyone. I have seen that over and over and said many times, “I can’t believe he or she found a boyfriend.” Soulmates to me sounds like you were always meant to be together, until death do you part. I’m not buying that. You have to work in a relationship, pay attention to the other person’s needs, and when those needs change for whatever reason, you have to be willing to adapt.
You’re kind of a deep person aren’t you?
I don’t think of myself as deep. But I do know that I have many complicated layers to me. Stuff I’m still learning.
Do you send Christmas cards or electronic cards?
I love sending real Christmas cards. I usually buy two or three boxes of different cards. I love beautiful cards, but I also love that card that is so nasty, you can’t hang it on the wall.
I heard you’re afraid of haunted houses and scary movies, confirm or deny?
Who told you that, my mother or my husband?
Never mind who told me, confirm or deny?
You don’t want to be in a haunted house with me. At 6’2” and two hundred pounds, I’m going over you to get out of there. In a theater, whatever you do, don’t have your drink between your legs because I’m coming over on your lap if something jumps out on the screen.
What’s the rudest word you know?
The ‘C’ word. I hate, hate, hate that word. Although I love to cuss, I never use that word.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever won?
True story. Years ago, I received a call that I won a prize in some Christmas raffle. You know those raffle tickets that your co-workers are always pushing on you for their kid’s soccer team or church. I drove forty-five minutes over to another city to pick it up. When I got there, they handed me a ceramic rabbit dressed like a Raggedy Ann doll.
What did you have for breakfast?
Same thing I always have, two cups of coffee, a protein bar and yogurt.
What’s the longest you have ever gone without showering?
I’m a clean freak; I have to shower every morning.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
What was that woman’s name on Three’s Company? Chrissy I think her name was. Okay I didn’t actually meet her, but I saw her on the beach walking and we passed each other on the boardwalk.
You mean Suzanne Somers?
Yeah, that’s her. I hope I age as nicely.
Speaking of Stars, the Voice or American Idol?
The Voice. One, I’m in love with Adam, and two, the judges seem more authentic, not so theatrical.
Okay, I saved the hardest question until last. What’s your definition of a friend?
Oh, why did you ask me that? As much as I am a people person, I don’t make friends easily. I think because of being in law enforcement for over twenty-seven years I tend to keep people who I don’t really know at bay. I don’t trust easily and you have to earn my trust, and that takes a long time. I value my close friendships. I know they have my back even when I’m not present. They’re the ones who tell me when I’m wrong with no hesitation. Because I trust them, I also trust their opinion. I hate liars and people who are fake. Be yourself, and if that causes you insecurities, then acknowledge that, and then work on them. I have many insecurities and I work on them every day. None of us are perfect, but we are special in our own way.
Bryan is currently on his book tour promoting Escaping Camp Roosevelt
Interview with Bryan T. Clark: Why I Wrote Escaping Camp Roosevelt
Escaping Camp Roosevelt deals with some pretty heavy issues that face more teens than ever before—escaping abuse and living on the streets. In a recent interview I was asked why I wanted to write this book, and how did I choose the topic of LGBTQ youth homelessness?
The truth is, I didn’t pick this topic, it picked me. I’ve often said in other interviews, “my characters speak to me”. I don’t go looking for them. When I found Dancer and Tucker they were perhaps at the lowest point in their lives. They each had completely different stories to tell; for one, it was homelessness and for the other, it was about sex work. The challenge was how to combine those stories into a romance without sugar coating them, or driving away the Romance Reader.
In telling their stories, I knew I wanted to bring a different lens in which the reader would see homelessness, sex work, addiction, and mental illness. In my writing, my goal is always first to entertain you. Also, I always hope to create something that causes you to pause for a moment and examine the world that I’ve taken you to, a world not too far off from reality. Their stories mirror many aspects of my own life and the people in it. It brought up many feelings of my brother, who was homeless as a young adult. I know what he had to do to survive.
In the book, Escaping Camp Roosevelt, it was Tucker who revealed himself to me first. This naïve young man, had the weight of the world on his shoulders. His story was about a young man taking care of his mother and sister, not ever knowing who his father was, and grieving the loss of his dream of playing professional baseball. He is a kid who has suffered disappointment after disappointment and been knocked down many times, yet kept getting back up and fighting harder.
Initially, Dancer, the other main character, revealed himself to me more slowly than Tucker. Often times, he remained in the shadows as Tucker’s story unfolded. I knew who Dancer was, but I didn’t know the why of his presence in the story. He is a deeply private, emotionally wounded soul. There was one week during the first draft of the book that he stopped talking to me all together. It was in a pivotal scene in the book, where he was to reveal a part of himself that no one knew. I felt he wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable with me just yet. We worked around his hesitancy and during the third draft of the book, he finally shared with me the true reason for the why of his story.
Ironically, it was Dancer that got the opening scene in the book. The opening scene with him and Mr. Gerhardt was a deeply emotional scene that really set the tone for this story. Although Dancer revealed his true self to me late in the book, this scene had to come first. It was that important and I really wanted you, as the reader, to understand who he was right from the beginning. Together, their story is of despair, strength, hope and survival.
My novel, Escaping Camp Roosevelt is one of my attempts to do just that, to do good, to be useful, and to contribute to someone’s happiness. To achieve this, I’ve teamed up with Larkin Street Youth Services/Castro Youth Housing Initiative, a LGBTQ youth shelter in San Francisco, California. I have pledged to donate 100 % of the royalties from the first year’s sales of the book to benefit homeless LGBTQ youth. The money raised will go directly to their shelter, the Castro Youth Housing Initiative, a two-year housing program for young people between the ages of 18 and 24, who identify as LGBTQ.
When you read the book, I hope to not only give you a pleasurable read, but leave you with the feeling of satisfaction that the dollars spent went to a good cause—our youth.
Interview with Bryan T. Clark: Why I Wrote Diego’s Secret
Today we are chatting with Bryan T. Clark author of Diego’s Secret. Bryan writes M/M Romance with an emphasis on moral dilemma. His multicultural characters and riveting plots embody real life, filled with challenges, personal growth, and, of course, what we all desire—love.
Tell us a little about Diego’s Secret, your recent release.
This is a book about two opposite personalities. Winston Makena, age 32, is rich and successful, but finds no joy in life after the death of his beloved husband Parker LeBlanc. Seeking solace in the gardens that Parker designed to surround their estate, he finds a new love interest in Diego Castillo, the 25-year-old gardener mentored by Parker to maintain the lavish property. However, Diego has a secret life; he is not just a closeted gay man, he is also an illegal Mexican immigrant. The two men meet by chance in Parker’s garden and share their memories of Parker. It is a story about falling in love when you least expect it.
How long did it take to write Diego’s Secret?
I wrote this book in about three months. It unfolded pretty fast, faster than normal for me. I consider myself a slow writer. I only write when the story is there for me. You will never find me attempting to push through what they call ‘Writer’s Block’. I just don’t write. I have so many stories in the fire that a character from another book is always trying to get my attention. Like monkeys in a circus, they are all over the place!
In Diego’s Secret, you touch on a number of serious issues in America: cultural differences, the stigma of discrimination, the struggle of illegal immigration, those seeking a more sustainable life, social views on homosexuality, and blended families. With all of these controversial issues, how is Diego’s Secret a romance novel?
I think a great romance is one that allows you to see the dance that two people do when getting to know one another; from the butterflies in their bellies with just the thought of the other person, to the fear of rejection and distorted thinking. In real life, you don’t get to read the other person’s mind, but in a novel, you do. As the reader, you are let in on the secrets that only you and that character know. We all have baggage. Life is rough, but isn’t it grand when love prevails!
Where did the idea or concept come from for these two very diverse characters?
It is real life. We are living and seeing it every day whenever you turn on the news. But, the news is often one sided. In Diego’s Secret, you get to see cultural differences and ideology from both sides. Nobody ever thinks they are wrong, but love has a way of opening your eyes and allowing you to see things from an empathetic point of view. The power of love is amazing!
In a couple of scenes early in the book, Diego reacts strongly to some of the things Winston says to him that puts Diego on the defensive. For Diego, those statements were drawing a line between him and Winston and threatening the possibility of any kind of relationship between them. How central were these scenes to the development of their story?
They were essential. We all have things that we don’t necessarily like about someone else. Depending on who that someone else is, we grade how much importance we’ll give it. When it is something that strikes at the core of who you are, and feelings and love are involved, it becomes much more difficult to navigate through. This is what happened to both Winston and Diego. They thought they had life all figured out but they didn’t know, what they didn’t know.
Let’s talk for a minute about the dialect in the book. Diego is primarily Spanish speaking with a primitive grasp of English. Winston is a natural and sophisticated English speaker. And yet, these two were able to communicate with one another and fall in love. How were you able to make this language difference work for the reader?
Come on now, it wasn’t that primitive. You make him sound like Mr. Ed, the talking horse! English is overrated anyways. Love is the real language. We are equipped with many senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. You know when a person is looking at you with affection, you know a gentle touch; the mind is sensitive and powerful and words become less important.
The major characters in each of your novels are always faced with a moral dilemma surrounding their relationship with one another. Why is the concept of moral dilemma so central to all of your novels?
It’s my brand; it is the one consistent thing in all of my books. It is that delicate mixture of romance and suspense. You can’t help but root for my characters when they struggle with the dilemma that they each face in order to overcome the major obstacles and hurdles in finding true love. And, when the last page is turned, and the book is closed, you feel as if you were a part of something special, the birth of a beautiful love story.
Speaking of Characters, Ann and Mayra are kind of like sounding boards for Winston and Diego, respectively, as each man deals with the major events in his life. Why are they so important to their story?
Really, you have to ask? I think woman are the backbone to everything. They are amazingly strong in the eye of any storm. Ann and Mayra are completely different individuals, and yet they both operate from the heart. Despite religion or economic status, it always boils down to the heart. They are able to see the faults and cracks in Winston and Diego and guide them without the need to be in control or to fix anything.
Thank you for sharing a little about your latest book, Diego’s Secret. Where can we buy it?
You can find all my books, as well as lots of extra offerings, on my website, www.btclark.com. Or, you can just go straight (no pun intended) to the Amazon or B&N websites and order it in paperback, or for your E-reader.
An Interview with Diego Castillo
Today we are so fortunate to spend some time with Mr. Diego Castillo, the main character from Bryan T. Clark’slatest novel, Diego’s Secret. We know from your story that you are very guarded about your life and really value your privacy, so we are honored to talk with you.
Hoy somos muy afortunados de pasar un tiempo con el Sr. Diego Castillo, el personaje principal de la última novela de Bryan T. Clark, Diego’s Secret. Sabemos por su historia que usted es muy cauteloso con respecto a su vida y realmente valora su privacidad, por lo que nos sentimos honrados de poder hablar con usted.
Gracias. I am happy to be here. I like very much to talk with you about my life with Winston, but you must forgive my English. It is not so good.
Since you mentioned Winston Makena, the second main character, let’s start with how you two met.
I met Mr. Makena….I mean, Winston, at his home. His husband, Mr. LeBlanc hired me and teach me about landscape. Mr. LeBlanc was killed in a car accident. When I met Winston, he is very sad, sitting in his yard. He is a handsome man even when he is sad.
Handsome, you say? Was it love at first sight?.
For me, no. But I think for him, yes. He came outside every day to talk to me. He was very nice. He is what you American’s say…tall, dark and handsome!
You two had your struggles in the book. Why was that?
I am…. private? Winston, asked many questions. He is smart. He’s quick to make decisions about things and not always correct. He not understand a lot about me. We fight. You not think that the two of us, so different, would be together and in love, but it happened!
What did your brothers have to say about your relationship with another man?
My brothers, they not know! They only know he is a customer. I tried to keep it a secret. My oldest brother Francisco, is quick to make a judgement.
Well, I am very touched by your emotions. I guess we will have to read your story to learn how two such different people found their way to a loving and rewarding relationship! Thank you for spending time with us.
Interview-Why I wrote Come to the Oaks
Today we are chatting with Bryan T. Clark author of ‘Ancient House of Cards’, ‘Before Sunrise’ and his latest release, ‘Come to the Oaks’. Bryan writes romance novels with an emphasis on moral dilemma. His multicultural characters and riveting plots embody real life, filled with challenges, personal growth, and, of course, what we all desire—love.
Since the book’s release, the world has fallen in love with Ben and Tobias. Can you share with us where this amazing tale came from and what inspired you?
One day I was having lunch with a long-time colleague of mine when that very question came up. My colleague had just finished reading it, and was full of questions about the book. It was funny, because in that moment, I didn’t have a clue where the idea of the story came from.
I thought about it for several days. It kind of rattled me that I couldn’t recall where the idea came from. I think, in some way, I buried it. I had actually written the initial story in 2012, and it took all of about thirty days to write. At that time, it was just over one hundred pages. I shelved it after that because I wasn’t sure what people would think of it. I should also say that at the time that I wrote it, I had no dreams of ever publishing it as a book for the entire world to see. It was just a story.
When I wrote the initial story, I was in a dark place in my own life. I was questioning humanity’s ability to be compassionate to others. I use to think that, as humans we were inherently bad, able to screw someone over for our own self-gratification.
I think I had lost my way, the person who I was, the person who I wanted to be. I was in panic mode, in my head I was crazy. Come to the Oaks is a story about just that, a lost soul. It takes place in 1845 in Antebellum America. The main character, Benjamin Nathaniel Lee, heir to Oak Grove Plantation, has just purchased his first slave. He bids on Mamadou Masamba not because he wishes to perpetuate his father’s plantation legacy, but because the African, soon to be known as the slave “Tobias,” is the most beautiful man he has ever seen. It is a time of racial conflict, and a time where forbidden love has to remain a secret, but Ben is determined to win Tobias’s heart and in turn liberate himself from the moral bondage imposed upon him by plantation life.
I spent countless hours researching slavery and American culture in the late 1800’s. As a country, we were in bad shape, a nation deeply divided and on the brink of a civil war. In 2015, for the development of the book, my family and I took a trip to Louisiana. As part of the trip we made arrangements to stay on a plantation. One night, my husband and I left our room with a bottle of wine and walked down to the slave quarters. We sat on the stoop of one of the cabins and in silence, and we just listened and felt the spirits come alive. It was surreal for me, a moment I will never forget. It’s sad if you look at the current affairs today, and how divisive we are as a nation. One can see how history repeats itself when you’re foolish about the very history of this country.
In the book, Ben is a quiet soul, a person on the right side of humanity, but weak in his conviction. It took something as extraordinary as love to push him to do the right thing. I think there is a little bit of Ben in all of us. I believe both Ben and Tobias are pieces of me, who I am, and who I’ve been in the past as a person. Even though the book is fiction, there is a tiny bit of truth in it.
I remember clearly, when I was writing the initial story how fast and natural the characters were developed. I couldn’t write the story as fast as Ben and Tobias were revealing who they were. It was illusory. I remember once thinking that they were real, two souls that were communicating to me so their story could be told. I don’t know if this is my best work out of the three novels that I’ve published, but I can say that it changed me. As Ben developed a sense of who he was, and what he was capable of, I did as well.
Today, I believe our life is a journey; a story that is unfolding right before our own eyes. I now know that things in life don’t always have to make sense, because that part of our story has not come to pass. Patience, and one day it will all make sense.
When you read Come to the Oaks, remember it’s a story about love, not just of finding love, but understanding to accept and love who you are, and the value of who you are as a person. Only through a book, can someone be carried to another place and time, and experience something as illustrious as the imagination.
Character Interview with Tobias Lee from Come to the Oaks
Today, we’re getting a rare opportunity to chat with one of the main characters from Bryan T. Clark latest novel, Come to the Oaks… A true fighter, sometimes a little cocky, we have Tobias Lee here with us. Before we start, how should I refer to you as, Tobias, or do you prefer your birth name, Mamadou?
- Tobias, please call me Tobias. The name has kind of grown on me, especially when Ben says it, even when he’s mad at me.
In the book, you were captured and taken from your family in West Africa. Without giving too much away, you have gone through a lot. Are you happy these days?
- Happy? Happy is a moment in time, I have many days when I think of my family, my life prior to all of this. This brings me much sadness. I don’t believe there will ever be a day that goes by that I don’t think of them at least once. I love Ben with all my heart; I can’t imagine living without him. The way he looks at me from across the room, I see the sweetness and the love in his eyes. He is a constant reminder that I am loved and not alone in the world. I think instead of happy, I would say I am lucky to have found love, and grateful to be alive. I think from day to day, I live somewhere between lucky and grateful.
Let’s talk about love since you brought it up. You and Ben have a love that most of us only dream about. Do you remember when you and Ben first met? In the book, it was clear he was smitten with you. What did you think of him?
- Actually no, I don’t remember that moment we met, I was sick, so sick and ready to die when he found me in the auction house. Ben has told me many times about that moment and how it was for him, a significant moment when the world changed for him. For me, it wasn’t until that evening when I arrived on the plantation. I caught Ben staring at me, there was a look in his eyes that told me that he saw me, me for who I was, and not a slave that he had just purchased. The way he raised that left eyebrow of his, his eyes lingered, I could feel his stare.
Okay, but what did you think of him? How did the romance progress?
- At first, I didn’t know what to think of him. He was the enemy, the reason I was captured and separated from my family. Of course I was wrong. It took me several weeks to see this, but you know Ben, he wears his emotions on his sleeve. I saw right through him, not the person he tried to portray to his family or even to me. There was a moment when we were working in the Summer Kitchen one day, I heard the pain in his voice, and I saw him in his rawest form. I fell in love with him long before I ever knew it. Spend a minute with him, and he’ll steal your heart.
What happened then?
- Oh you want the details. Okay let’s just say, that day when he first kissed me, I wasn’t expecting it; I never saw it coming, but everything about it felt right. He hung the moon that day.
You’re going to make me cry so let me switch to something else. Tell us something we may not know about you?
- Hmm, let me think… I can’t swim.
No, that was pretty clear, the world knows you can’t swim. Come on, something that we don’t know.
- Okay… Me and my little sister Chima were close. She was five years younger than me. She followed me everywhere, and I would pretend I hated it. I had eyes in the back of my head and I watched over her closely. What I never told anyone, was that she wanted to go with father and I into the woods that day, but father commanded she stay behind. With her little eyes, she looked at me for permission to come with us, but father had spoken. Had I said something, she would have been with us; I might have been able to save her. I think of her every day.
So I’m crying now, are you satisfied? You talk about your sister, and we know that you come from a prominent family, yet stripped from it all when you were enslaved here. How do you deal with that now?
- I think I know what you speak of, but another person cannot strip my self-worth from me in less I give them the power to do so. My worthiness is who I am, it is my birth name, Mamadou Masamba, you remember means Praiseworthy. Although you call me Tobias now, I am Mamadou Masamba forever.
I love your birth name by the way.
- Thank you.
Can I ask about Penny, a house slave that cooked for the Lee family in the Big House. In the book, we often read about the great meals she brought to the table. Did you ever get to experience any of her cooking?
- Funny you should ask about Penny, she could cook a pot of bushes and it would be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Ben often swiped food from the house and brought it out to where ever we were. The sweet potato pie she made had to have been my favorite. Gosh, I wish I knew how she made it… Why are you smiling?
Because I brought a recipe with me for sweet potato pie. I’ll give it to you after the interview.
If you could say one thing to someone who is thinking about reading yours and Ben’s story, what would that be?
- If you believe that all humans should be treated equal, kind, and fair, that love is love, and we all deserve to be loved, then our truths are the same, and I think you’ll enjoy my story.
Okay, I suppose if readers want to know anything further about you, they should read the book, Come to the Oaks? Thank you so much for stopping by today. What’s next for you?
- Thank you. I’m heading back in time, where I belong, your world scares me.
End of Interview
Good Ole Fashion Sweet Potato Pie
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
- 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Add milk, sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mix well. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; bake 35-40 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool. Store in refrigerator. Yield: 6-8 servings.