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Milk Man 2
|We were very pleased here at "Gay-Erotica Literary Review" Magazine when author
Absman420 agreed to meet with us and talk about his recent twelve-chapter epic:
MILK MAN 2. Tall and muscular, Absman420 (a nickname given to him by an old
boyfriend, we found out later) doesn't strike one as the typical writer-type.
Frank and open, he laughed when we told him that, quipping "Who ever thinks
about what writers look like?" We found his energy upbeat and positive. After
ordering lattes, we started chatting officially.
G-ELR: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. We know how much you dislike publicity.
Absman: (Laughs.) If you're referring to me being a shameless self-promoter, you're right! This is the USA -- everybody wants to be a celebrity.
G-ELR: Clearly if you were looking for fame, you'd pick a more mainstream subject.
Absman: No kidding. I would love to publish my erotic short-stories as a book, but I have no idea how to go about it. Such a niche! Who publishes that stuff? So I largely satisfy myself posting on various web pages and e-groups. I have a small, devoted audience, but nothing would satisfy ME like having a real book, the weight and presence of the written word. I would LOVE to see my stuff available at bookstores.
G-ELR: You're not published?
Absman: Oh, I am! I have one book out now and one pending -- if the publisher and I can ever agree on ANYTHING -- but they're both humorous works -- one is a cartoon book. I also write a lot for the stage -- this year , I wrote a show that went on a national tour. That was very cool. I saw it a couple of times in different cities.
G-ELR: Do you think writing for the theatre has helped your short stories?
Absman: Well, I think my dialogue is very natural. And I think I have a good feel for pacing and plotting, but on the whole, I think I'm too wordy -- I feel that way about my stage stuff, too, by the way. Some of us authors just love to hear ourselves talk.
G-ELR: Isn't that what an editor is for?
Absman: Sure, if you can find a good one, someone who shares your vision. I can only imagine how someone would edit MILK MAN 2...
G-ELR: Well, how would you? Say you're an editor...
Absman: You're an editor.
G-ELR: (Laughing.) That's not what I meant. Say you had to edit your own work. What would you do with it?
Absman: Let me start to answer that by saying what I'd do with it as a WRITER. I posted MM2 chapter by chapter, having a rough idea in my head of where the overall plot was heading, but letting the story find its course. Now that the all the chapters are written, and I look at the piece as a whole, there are things in the earlier chapters that I'd like to fix -- do some more foreshadowing, that kind of thing.
Absman: Well... in part one, right when we meet Guernsey, I'd like to tighten that section where Guernsey vaguely refers to his motivation for "writing" the story, and make it more reflective of the serie's ultimate ending -- make it clear that he's not just writing this for himself, that he's also SEARCHING for someone. Same thing when he meets the BULL in the gym and the BULL stops to talk to that group of muscleheads before feeding him for the first time. That group could easily have been members of the Herd -- maybe Angus and Shorthorn, or Ayrshire -- definitely not Jersey or Holstein. Things like that. The manuscript as a whole is a first draft, and there are ALWAYS things to improve. Were this to get published, those are some fixes I'd make. Lots of stuff to tinker with.
G-ELR: Let's talk about the Herd for a minute. Where on Earth...?
Absman: I know, I know. The inevitable "where do you get your ideas" question. Well, where the Herd is concerned, there are traceable steps. There were certain logics involved. I knew I NEEDED a Herd, otherwise who's the BULL the bull of? But as far as how many there were, and who they were, that was where I was stuck. The answer came while I was doing a web search and came across this little site that listed the many different breeds of dairy cattle and what was unique about each.
G-ELR: How many breeds of cows are there?
Absman: More than I thought, actually. I was just hoping to find six. I knew of the Holstein, Guernsey, and Angus breeds before I started my Yahoo-based research, but I found out about the Ayrshire, Jersey, Milking Shorthorn, and Brown Swiss breeds.
[Absman shows a copy of his pencil-written notes, transcribed here:]
HOLSTEIN - large bodies, outstanding milk, distinctive b/w markings -- from the Netherlands
AYRSHIRE - medium-sized, efficient grazers/ rocky terrain, superior udder, red and white -- from Scotland. How do I pronounce this name?
JERSEY - purebred, more milk per pound of bodyweight, large breed, tolerant of heat
MILKING SHORTHORN - (Perhaps just "shorthorn,") oldest breed, southern, roan colored, extra meat (!)
Absman: From such humble beginnings, eh?
G-ELR: You forgot one. What about Brown Swiss?
Absman: Ah, the "Cow I Didn't Include." (Rolls his eyes.) At the time that I was creating the characters for the Herd -- late summer, 2002 -- there was this huge debate raging on the MGS web-site over this unapologetically racist story that was being posted. I don't want to re-open that can of worms -- actually, I didn't include a black character in MM2 for precisely that reason -- I didn't want to re-open that can of worms. Understand, in essence, the members of the Herd are slaves, so I thought it would be wiser to make everybody of caucasian decent so as not to unitentionally layer the text. So, Brown Swiss never made it in. (Laughs.) Neither did that lame chocolate milk joke I had to go with him.
G-ELR: (Laughing) You joke a lot. Your work has quite a bit of humor in it, too.
Absman: Well, there's lots of banter between the guys and that sort of thing, which I like, but I think my KING REX series [ed: available on the MGS archive] has a lot more out-and-out laughs. If you know anything about superheroes, that's the series to read -- there's lots of comic book references and inside jokes. MILK MAN is a little more subtle. Jersey's kind of a cut-up when we meet him, and Shorthorn seems to have a good sense of humor, but Guernsey seems fairly humorless to me. And a narrator without a great sense of humor doesn't lead to a lot of jokes.
G-ELR: You hit on an interesting point right there. Your characters are very individual and very sharply defined. How do you go about developing characters?
Absman: That's a good question. Let's take Shorthorn as an example. You saw my notes, where I started. In that description, I was intrigued with the words "older," "southern," and of course, "extra meat." (Laughs.) For a while, I tried to imagine him as a southern gentlemen -- old money, soft accent, mint julip. But I didn't want the character to be laid back, or drawlsey. I wanted a real vitality, a love for his new life with the BULL -- he's so proud of it, he uses his Herd "nickname" in his real life. I kept coming back to this cowboy image -- real muscular Marlboro Man as it were -- and it felt really natural, really "right." So, he moved to Texas -- which is still technically "southern," just a different accent -- and he became an oil-man. He kept the mustache, too.
G-ELR: And got plenty of extra meat.
Absman: (Laughs again.) Okay, so I get the hots for an older man with big muscles... and plenty of extra meat. Sue me. It's my fantasy.
G-ELR: So these ARE your fantasies?
Absman: Absolutely, make no mistake about it. I totally get-off writing these stories, and I'm always thrilled when they have that effect on others. The great erotica artist Tom of Finland once said, "...if my cock did not stand up while I was working on a drawing, I could not make the drawing work... I have to start changing it until my cock stands up again." The same is true for me -- and that's a hell of an image, isn't it?
G-ELR: How do you keep from beating off while you're writing?
Absman: Are you kidding? The denial makes the story better! There have been times when I've eked through chapters with only a paragraph a day to show because I can't keep from beating off while I'm writing. Chapter twelve of MM2 was like that for me. Oh, so was that one where Guernsey fed from the Herd at the field! That wasn't intended to be such a long segment -- I initially plotted the whole of the Big Ride as one single chapter, it ended up being FOUR -- Chapters five through eight! That should tell you how much I was getting off while writing it.
G-ELR: So these are your fantasies... Does criticism bother you, then? Do you take it personally, like someone's dissing your fantasy?
Absman: No, not necessarily. I mean, if someone doesn't like the subject matter, they can read something else. That's fine. Take the MILK MAN series -- lactating men doesn't appeal to everybody. I know that. I got a letter one time from another writer of the Muscle-Growth genre -- whom I greatly respect -- who said he didn't much like the subject matter, but read the story because it was well-written. That meant a lot to me.
G-ELR: But people aren't always that nice.
Absman: Hell, no. Although, I try to believe that ANY response is a good response, because it affected the reader enough to react. Whether that reaction is positive or negative is something else, but at least it got something. THAT'S good. And believe me, I have no problem with constructive criticism. I love to talk shop. I talk online with a bunch of guys all the time about stories and how to make them better. I've met -- "met" as in online -- and befriended many of the other writers who post their work. It's a really nice and stimulating way of improving oneself as a writer.
G-ELR: But people aren't always that nice.
Absman: You want me dish the dirt, don't you? Share some of the hateful emails and scorching critiques of my stories, the nasty snipes and deadly barbs? Well, I hate to disappoint, but unfortunately, my mail is almost completely positive. I've written a couple klunkers, like everybody, and I get reminded of that occasionally, but on the whole, it's positive.
G-ELR: That said, what do you think is your best story? Your worst?
Absman: Best...? (He's quiet for a moment.) It'd be easy to say MM2, you know, because I just finished it, and it's certainly the BIGGEST story I've ever attempted, in terms of complexity and scope. Even length -- it's longer than KING REX by about twenty pages. But best story...? I think CYCLE ONE is quite good, so is FIVE YEARS LATER. I wrote CYCLE ONE completely during New Year's Eve, 2001 -- I won't tell you what I was on, but I finished the twenty-page first draft at 7am January 1st, 2002. It was sort-of a game -- I was trying to mirror the time-frame of my character -- 7am was the time of day when he was compelled to go back to a gym where he and the other members were victims of mind control. He knew deep down that when that compulsion kicked in, he'd have to stop writing and go, never to return home. I'd hoped that sharing his deadline would inspire me to pace myself a little more hurriedly and maybe capture the character's sense frantic worry and paranoid concern. I think it was very effective. I guess I like that story the best.
G-ELR: The worst?
Absman: (Another pause.) That's such a tough question. One of my least favorite stories gets AMAZING numbers over on the MGS archive site -- THE LAST METAMORPHOSIS -- boy, did I blow the ending on that! I mean, it's a clever and kind of tricky narrative, but I copped-out on the ending. I was in love at the time and stupid, so I took the Romantic's way out rather than follow through on the rage that was building in the narrator. It SHOULD have ended with a complete role-reversal in the Master/ slave relationship. Oh, well... (He shrugs.) I'm also not terribly fond of GH: A TRUE STORY. Maybe because I have limited experience with steroids -- none with growth hormone -- or maybe because I wasn't trying to write a story, per se. It was more of an exercise in narrative voice for me. My buddy "Roidbull" was intrigued with this concept and asked permission to explore it in further chapters. Later, after writing two more, he confessed to me the same thing that I felt about the character: a difficult narrator with limited intelligence. Not a lot can be done there, though I think Roidbull handled this character better than I did.
G-ELR: Let's apply some of this self-analysis to your MILK MAN series. Where did all that come from?
Absman: Let's see, I wrote the original story in '97 -- and at the time, I wasn't conceptualizing a series. As a matter of fact, MILK MAN - Part One [first series] was one of the very first erotic short stories I'd ever written. And I only did it in an effort to impress a very dominant top whom I'd met -- still one of the hottest men I've ever known, incredible body and genius intellect. I still say "Woof!" to this day! He's the guy I wrote the story YOUR FANTASY MAN about. I worshipped that man. He got off on pec-suckling -- so I wrote MILK MAN as a gift.
G-ELR: And you continued the series...?
Absman: Because he liked it, right. Greater things have been created for less. He and I still keep in touch, and he's enjoyed the current MILK MAN 2 jaunt.
G-ELR: But the idea...? Lactating men that create muscle growth?
Absman: Hot, isn't it? I guess I used the vampire-concept as a model. I mean, the idea that one can become a Milk Man somehow, that this power can be passed on from one to another, that's very vampire-like. I just made the effect good instead of evil. (Laughs.) But erotic in either case.
G-ELR: So you came back to the series five years later... why?
Absman: I had some areas I wanted to explore, to play with. I liked the idea of a bull controlling and exploiting a herd of Milk Men. I thought it would be fun to follow the journey of a guy as he was inducted into this unusual group.
G-ELR: And that's where Guernsey came from?
Absman: Yeah. And Guernsey has been a surprisingly good narrator for me. He and I come from opposite worlds in a lot of ways. I was skinny as a youth and got into working out and subsequently into bodybuilding to GAIN weight and size. But since a lot of my narrators mirror that part of my history, I wanted to try something different this time. I made Guernsey overweight to explore a different angle.
G-ELR: Did you know how you were going to connect the first series and the second? Did you INTEND to?
Absman: Oh, yeah -- I had intentions. I knew that the BULL was really Eric -- the un-named narrator's dominant workout partner from the first series -- the guy who becomes a Milk Man accidently -- but how to tie in the rest? Honestly, when I started writing MM2, I didn't know. I hoped I'd figure that out as I went along. I only decided that the first series' narrator -- again, note that he had no name -- was going to be Holstein when I was creating the characters for the Herd -- during the time that I was writing chapter four -- and I kept coming to the unavoidable conclusion that the original series' narrator had to be SOMEBODY. I couldn't use one of the first series' characters -- Eric -- without addressing the whereabouts of the rest of that cast. Holstein was the only logical choice. It turned out to be a good one -- I was lucky.
G-ELR: When did you figure out how to tie it all together?
Absman: Well, I'd only solidified it in my mind a couple of chapters before I put it in the story.
G-ELR: You didn't share it until chapter eleven. That's almost the end.
Absman: True, but I think I made enough cryptic references in earlier chapters for a deductive reader to put it together himself. In the series, the Herdsmen all bust on Angus because he never told Guernsey the Origin Story -- but while Guernsey was training with Angus, I didn't know the Origin Story MYSELF. Neither then, could poor Angus. He caught a lot of grief because I hadn't finished my work.
G-ELR: You speak of him like he's real.
Absman: (Shrugs.) In a way, he is -- they all are. I have to believe in them to make them real in the story. I listen to them, keep them in character. They "tell" me a lot about themselves as I work with them. Sometimes, the characters take over completely and proceed in a very different direction than I intend. It's really amazing.
G-ELR: Did that happen anywhere in MM2?
Absman: The Big Ride was only supposed to be one chapter, and it ended up being four. That says something.
G-ELR: Let's talk about the Big Ride for a second. Are you a cyclist?
Absman: Yes. I got interested in cycling a couple of years ago. I used to be a runner -- I did several marathons when I was younger -- but my lower back stopped being friendly with me -- probably from running so many marathons -- and I was trying to find a cardio-activity that had a lower impact level. I tried biking, and I've really come to like it. It gets me out in the air, I can log good miles, and it's a hell of a leg workout. Along with lifting, it's how I stay in shape. Besides, the outfits are really sexy!
G-ELR: So again, you connected something from your real world into your fantasy world.
Absman: "Write what you know." Isn't that what our writing teachers drilled into us over and over again? (Laughs.) And what I know is working out, cycling, and circle jerks. The Big Ride wasn't far behind.
G-ELR: We're not sure your writing teachers meant exactly that.
Absman: Probably not. But the philosophy is still true.
G-ELR: What's your advice to new writers out there? Any words of wisdom?
Absman: Well, we've already covered "write what you know." Maybe the other axiom of writing, then -- "Show, don't tell." Don't tell the reader about the event, SHOW the reader the event. So many beginning writers fail at this. I wrote MM2 in the present tense -- which I happen to like -- but it puts a burden on the writer to show every event. If a character is going to the gym, the writer has to show the trip. The character is in the present, not the future. Does that make sense?
G-ELR: You put a lot of effort into writing a simple erotic short story. Is it worth it?
Absman: Absolutely! Writing is a craft, regardless of the subject matter. I think my effort shows in my stories, and I think discerning readers appreciate it. It doesn't have to be "just" a jerk-off story -- it can be more than that -- look what Anne Rice did under her psuedonym. It also doesn't have to be something as sprawling and complex as MM2. I've written a lot of shorter "one-shots" -- pardon the pun -- but put just as much effort into them. It's my hobby, yes, but I still want to do the best work I can.
G-ELR: We're always learning and growing.
Absman: For sure! Compare the first Milk Man series -- that I wrote five years ago -- to the second. I've clearly learned a lot. Mostly, I've learned that there's a lot more to learn. I hope I compare stories I write five years from now with MM2 and say, "God, I've gotten so much better."
G-ELR: So then, what's next? Let's end this interview talking about the future.
Absman: I've been writing MM2 for the last six months [ed: July02 --Dec02] -- funny because I intended it to be a light and breezy, summer beach-type novel -- short chapters, easy cliff-hangers, no-brainer plot, with a new chapter coming out every week, like Dickens. Oh well, "the greatest plans of mice and men..." So now I'm resting a little. I have a couple of ideas brewing -- one that hit me so hard that I almost put MM2 aside to write it -- but I knew that if I did, I'd NEVER get back to MM2. I HATE leaving things unfinished, but I can lose my drive if I let myself get distracted. I'll probably pull that idea up next. I also have a new CYCLE ONE sequel idea in my head. And there's always that unfinished Firefighter story that I keep coming back to.
G-ELR: Plenty of choices is what you're saying. Excellent, but what about MILK MAN? You've left some unanswered questions. Will Jersey come back to the Herd? Where's Holstein disappeared to? Are they together? Based on your previous statement about how you dislike leaving things unfinished, does that mean there's a MILK MAN 3 in our future?
Absman: No doubt I'll get back to the MILK MAN universe sometime -- not just to answer those questions, but to pose some new ones, too -- but for a while I'm going to try and write some shorter stories. On the other hand, I never anticipated MM2 becoming the size that it did, so I might just be blowing air. We'll see together, and hopefully all enjoy the ride.
G-ELR: Terrific. Thank you so much for your time. Your readers will really appreciate it.
Absman: I hope so. Thanks to you and yours at the magazine. I think "The Gay Erotica Literary Review" should be on every gay man's coffee table! It's got a spot on mine.
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