Author Mike Warren wants to excite and educate his readers and hopes the down low (DL) phenomenon would be a thing of the past. Warren, the Baltimore native and Vietnam era veteran wrote, “A PRIVATE AFFAIR,” ”SWEET SWAGGER,”and “SIR, YES, SIR,” a trilogy of erotic tales that explores sexuality, family secrets and murder. He wrote his books for everyone including heterosexual women whom he wanted to give insight and understanding of how two men could get together, fall in love and have an emotional and sensitive relationship.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): What do you want your audience to take away from your books?
MIKE WARREN (MW): With “A PRIVATE AFFAIR,” I wanted to give readers a better understanding of my journey. ”SWEET SWAGGER,” I wanted to educate my readers about some of the resources and social clubs that were out there, such as Serving Boys Incorporated (SBI). And in my third book, “SIR, YES, SIR,” I wanted to show growth with Cameron Jenkins and Sean Matthews and come full circle and have Sean come to a point of self-understanding that although he’s gay he still should have a sense of self-worth. There are many young gay brothers who go through depression because they are talked about or ridiculed. We need to help these young gay brothers and let them know they are worthy and can hold their heads up high because being gay is nothing to be ashamed of.
PI: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing?
MW: I never thought about writing while growing up. It is something that I picked up while attending college. I used to write for the school newspaper and I thought that it was interesting to put my thoughts and opinions out there to have people read and come to enjoy. It was not until after I’d long since graduated from college and receiving my Masters in Communications, and began working, did I become interested in writing. I had been married a couple of times and divorced and being an African American gay man I used to tell stories to anyone who’d listen. Friends and co-workers used to tell me that I was such a great storyteller and should consider writing. My female friends thought my personal story of a heterosexual male growing up in the church then going into the military and then all of sudden coming out as a bisexual male was fascinating. One day about 7 or 8 years ago I sat down and started writing my first book, “A PRIVATE AFFAIR.” I had no idea what I’d do with it! I did not have any friends who were writers or publishers. After I’d finished writing it I thought that I would go online and look for some of the urban publisher to give my manuscript to and somehow they would love it, and suddenly I would become this world famous writer. I would live happily ever after. (LAUGHS)
PI: So it sounds like you’re self published? Could you tell us a little bit about the journey to self-publishing your three books and how have sales been going?
MW: No, I am not self-published at all. I did not know that authors could publish their own books. I really thought that all authors were published by some huge firm located in New York. Fortunately for me when I started searching for publishers I realized that I had one of two options. I could either get a publisher to become interested in me or I could self-publish my own work. The problem with self-publishing is that it could costs a lot of money to find companies to make and bind hundreds of copies of your book, and with self-publishing you’re handling all of those expenses. You may literary be selling each book out of the back seat of your car with the hope that Amazon will pick it up for others to order online. I chose to go to a publishing company because a publishing company and have them handle printing and distribution into the major bookstores nationwide or even overseas. After a year of looking for a publisher a company called Life Changing Books located out of Washington DC loved my work and gave me a contract and the rest is history.
PI: Were you a gay identified male while in the military?
MW: I did not go into the military as a gay man. It was far from my mind. I was about 20 years old and newly married. I enlisted as a way to take care of my family. While I was there I’d met several people and one such group was DL brothers. I’m talking about the middle to late 1970’s these brothers were not considered to be DL at that time. They were what you’d called “trade.” These men had wives or girlfriends. I was just married and I was having problems at home with my “Christian wife.” (LAUGHS) There were many things that as an “upstanding Christian woman” she would not do, such as oral. I had never experienced oral sex; it was something that I wanted so when it finally happened with another man I did not feel as though it was cheating. – It was just oral – like a little white lie.
In my first book “A PRIVATE AFFAIR,” I wanted to put it out there so that other people could understand exactly what I was going through. The books I’d read at that time were by James Earl Hardy and E. Lynn Harris, the godfathers of urban gay fiction. I enjoyed reading their books but I couldn’t identify with the characters they’d written about. Although I was neither overly masculine nor effeminate I still could not identify with them. Regarding my sexuality no one knew what I was talking about unless I told them. I wrote my own story for other brothers who were like me. Fortunately I have long since grown past all of the identity stuff.
PI: Just to make it clear, you’re “Sean Matthews” from “SIR, YES, SIR?”
MW: (LAUGHS) Pretty much! The name Sean Matthews rolls off the tongue better. I wanted the main character to have swaggered and be black like me. (LAUGHS)
PI: Do you identify as an openly black gay male today?
MW: Yes. And it took me a while to get here. I understand that everybody has a journey and not everybody’s journey is the same. Time is not the same so it could take someone 6 months and someone else 6 years or even longer to get there.
PI: You’re a family man with kids, are they aware of your books?
MW: Yes my children are very supportive. My youngest daughter is now 20 years old. She tried to read my first book unfortunately she could not get past the first chapter. And that’s okay with me because it is quite graphic and maybe she just could not read all that stuff about her fathers’ personal life.
I wrote my books for all including heterosexual women, I wanted them to be just like a fly on the wall and perhaps understand what happens with men, I don’t want them to keep having the wrong perception of man to man love. It’s not two black ashy, crusty ass men who get together and do wild and absurd things that go against nature. I want them to understand that my books are erotic, emotional and sensitive.
PI: What would you do if you ran into one of your old army buddies at a book signing?
MW: I would love it. Let’s just say there may be an individual or two from back during those days that love reading my books.
PI: Have you had any contact with gay veteran’s groups?
MW: Several. I receive many emails and messages from brothers that are in the service right now in places like Afghanistan or wherever. They say “Wow, I got a hold of your book and I am so grateful because it helped to take my mind off where I was. Thanks for telling my story.”
PI: Has all of the responses been favorable?
MW: I’ve heard from military wives who were not thrilled with the fact that there were so gay brothers or men who messed around in the service. One stated that I made it seem like everybody in the military was gay. Of course that was not my intention. During the time of my enlistment there were a lot of gay brothers in the military which was why I did not understand Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. When I was in the service there were a few guys whom everybody knew were gay and it was no big deal. I recall one brother who wore his military fatigues as tight as he could get them. He used to where bright pink, heart-shaped sunglasses. Everybody knew what he was about. They used to laugh at him but would not dare saying anything bad to his face because he’d probably had relations with half of them and he would read anyone who’d dared say something nasty.
PI: How would you respond to LGBT people who have been kicked out of the military for being gay? Is that something that you address is the book?
MW: Actually I address gay “investigations” in all three books.
PI: What are you working on now when will your next book come out?
MW: My next book will be entitled “JUST MAKE HIM BEAUTIFUL.” My first 3 books were about Sean Matthews but Cameron Jenkins will become the focus in my newest book. When I would do book signings or readings many heterosexual women would inquire about Cameron. He is their favorite character. Cameron is an effeminate guy, but women still just love him and wanted to know more about him. It will debut later this spring or summer.
PI: When and where do you plan on signing “JUST MAKE HIM BEAUTIFUL?”
MW: Yes will do a lot of signings with Urban Knowledge Bookstores located on the East Coast.
PI: DO you have plans to promote or sign your book at any upcoming Black Gay Pride events?
MW: Absolutely. Here in Baltimore we have our black gay pride celebration in October. I participate in prides in Philadelphia, Washington DC and Dallas. I also plan on going to the Harlem Book Festival. I am out and about quite often although not in every city. If there are any interested parties or book clubs that would like for me to make an appearance at their event should contact me at email@example.com.
To learn more about Life Changing Books visit www.lcbllc.net.