PW: Your first novel, Tricks of the Trade, was a top seller. Now, you've written Hunk House. Are you concerned with being pigeonholed as a writer of gay fiction?
BT: Well, I knew going in that I'd attract a following who would come to expect more of the provocative material that I'm writing. But trust me, I'm delighted with the way the books have been received. I'm not concerned about being typecast.
PW: Then why use a pseudonym?
BT: Okay. Yes, Ben Tyler is a nom de plume. [Tyler's real name is Richard Tyler Jordan.] I started using a pen name as a gesture of good faith toward the Walt Disney Studios in California, where, as a senior publicist, I have spent more than a decade writing feature film marketing materials. I thought I was being generous by separating my identity from them, since the subjects of my books are somewhat salacious. I shouldn't have bothered. Some people at the studio told me they enjoyed the book, while others, pointedly, haven't said a word.
PW: Has working in the film business proved useful to writing your novels?
BT: Absolutely! Hollywood is filled with every type of character that a writer could ever wish to observe and fold into his work. Hunk House is set in the world of reality television, which is still a huge segment of TV programming. And Tricks of the Trade was set in a fictional movie studio. Funny, half the town thought I was writing about them specifically. I don't think Disney will be as overly sensitive to Hunk as they were to Tricks. But then, Tricks of the Trade did take place in a family-oriented studio with a cryogenically frozen founder.
PW: Why did you choose to write gay fiction in the first place?
BT: I had a generous offer from [editor] John Scognamiglio at Kensington. He read an unpublished manuscript of mine—a mainstream novel that had a couple of gay characters peppered into the mix. He asked if I'd be interested in doing niche books. It's worked out splendidly for both of us.
PW: Is there a downside to writing gay fiction?
BT: I don't see a downside. Gay fiction is a good slice of the publishing market. Most importantly, I'm having a blast writing these books. My family isn't too happy. In fact, they won't read my work—it's too racy. But I'm obviously not writing for them.
PW: Do you ever feel conflicted between entertaining your gay readers, but perhaps scaring away straight crossover readers?
BT: Perhaps, a bit. But just because this work is peppered with blatantly prurient behavior among the characters shouldn't diminish its value. I definitely feel that it's erroneous to think of my books as pure fluff or simply for gay readers or somehow of a lower caste of novel. It's very demanding to write material that flows smoothly and reads quickly. I work just as hard and am equally serious as any of my so-called "literary" novelist friends. But I know that for the moment my job is to write "summer beach books." When my editor or another publisher wants mainstream novels, I'll deliver those as well.
PW: Any movie offers in connection with your books?
BT: Actually, Publishers Weekly said Tricks of the Trade read like an "NC-17 cable miniseries." There's talk of turning it into an independent feature.
PW: You mentioned working in Hollywood. How do you juggle two careers?
BT: Starbucks! I'm only half kidding. I couldn't do this if I wasn't incredibly disciplined, especially since employers never want to think you have a life outside the office. We all have 24-hour days. I carve out the time to do the things that are most important to me.
PW: What's next?
BT: I've just completed what I think is a really fun novel titled Gay Blades. It'll be out next summer. It takes place in the world of figure skating. Also, I'm completing another novella for Kensington. All this while slaving for the Mouse. And I'm having the time of my life!