We are so happy to have Ralph Josiah Bardsley as our guest today! One of our favorite M/M Romance authors, Bardsley’s so good at capturing emotion it’s hard to bring one of his books with you on the subway. There’s just too much to wistfully sigh at—which is great at home, less so on public transportation. But it’s also exactly why we just had to know more about him and The Process! Check out our QA below and don’t miss The Photographer’s Truth, out now!
What would you say is the easiest part of writing?
For me, the easiest part is the first draft. I give myself a lot of leeway during this part of the process – I let my imagination go wherever it wants to. That’s also where I have the most fun.
What’s the most difficult part?
The editing process is definitely the most difficult process for me. Some writers love that phase – honing the language, cleaning up grammar and plot. While I respect the focus and the effort it takes, it doesn’t come naturally to me. Thankfully, I’ve got an amazing editor at Bold Strokes Books by the name of Jerry Wheeler who makes that process much smoother.
What love story stands out in your mind as the most compelling?
In general, I like a love story that requires the characters to struggle with their own demons as part of the process of falling in love. Specifically, Mary Renault’s The Charioteer is my favorite love story. It is set in WWII and the characters are at war – both in the literal sense and within themselves. Another more recent love story that I found absolutely compelling was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. But have a box of tissue and a glass of wine handy if you read that one – you’ll need it.
Are there certain moods or scenes that are easier to write for you?
I’ve been told that I write descriptive scenes well – that I can make someone feel as if they’re walking down a street in Paris or Boston. I’ll be honest; I think my best scenes tend to be the ones that take place in Boston. Though I haven’t lived there for years, I spent most of my twenties in the city and everything about it is still absolutely visceral in my memory.
Do your stories have a tendency to reflect real life, or are they totally out there for you?
I definitely try to reflect real life in my writing. I love to read science fiction and fantasy but my own work is rooted in real life with characters that I think you would meet sitting at a bar or walking down the street.
Is there a specific book that made you want to write yourself?
There were a lot of books that made me want to write. I remember reading books like The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal and The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham and thinking what an amazing thing it must be to bring characters to life on the page. It took a lot of discipline for me personally to commit to writing.
What’s the oddest thing to ever inspire you?
I guess the inspiration for this new book, The Photographer’s Truth, is pretty odd. I was in Paris for work, and a guy sitting at the table next to me leaned over and just started talking to me. Paris isn’t the friendliest city in the world, so the fact that he was chatty at all was a little weird to start with. But the guy’s story got increasingly interesting – he had been a relatively successful photographer who had just completely lost interest in his art form. He put away his camera one day and started waiting tables. He just didn’t want any part of it anymore. I thought that was pretty amazing – that you could spend your entire life honing your skills at an art form and then one day, just give it all up and walk away.
What are your five favorite movies with romance or romantic elements?
Wow – favorite romantic movies. This is hard because there are so many. Here goes
- Big Eden
- Hope Floats
- Tales of the City (It was a mini-series – does that count?)
- Beautiful Thing
Describe your favorite scene from each one (you can include a YouTube clip if you want as well).
- Big Eden – The last scene in the movie is my favorite. I don’t want to give away any spoilers though…
- Hope Floats – I don’t know if it’s my favorite scene, but the most romantic has to be the scene where Harry Connick Jr. picks up Sandra Bullock, sweeping her off of her feet and putting her into his truck. Youtube:
- Tales of the City (It was a mini-series – does that count?) The scene where Michael Toliver sneaks out of bed in the morning to brush his teeth before his partner. YouTube: Go to 4:09 in this clip –
- Beautiful Thing – I don’t have a favorite scene in this movie – the whole thing is gripping but a little intense. The full movie is on YouTube here:
- Moonstruck – This is just a classic love story. My favorite part is the last scene that takes place in the large family kitchen. It’s just a beautiful expression of love and the human experience. YouTube:
Did you have any of these scenes in mind when writing scenes from your latest release?
Honestly, no. I probably should have though!
If you could only read five books for the rest of your life, what five books would they be and why?
- The Charioteer, Mary Renault – The romantic plot set against WWII Britain – just an overall great read.
- Tales of the City, Armistad Maupin – This book made me fall in love with San Francisco. It has been called a love letter to the city and I couldn’t agree more. Maupin’s characters are lovable and quirky, and just so fun to watch as they fall in and out of love.
- An Arrow’s Flight, Mark Merlis – This is an unconventional recasting of ancient Greek characters in the modern world. I love the use of language in the book and how Merlis explores themes of love and late 20th century politics in the book.
- The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham – A compelling and complex story that contrasts personal growth with the search for love. Probably one of the best books I’ve ever read.
- The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald – All of the glamor, romance and seduction of the early 20th Century. Definitely one of my favorite Fitzgerald novels.
What was the first romance novel you read?
I haven’t read a lot of traditional romance novels – I much more interested in the non-traditional love stories. I guess the first love story I read was probably The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
What do you remember about it?
I remember the energy – the unspoken friction between the characters. It was an electric read and I remember not being able to put it down.
What did you like most about it?
I loved the excitement of watching the characters in love – how they struggled against their world to be together. I also loved the scene setting – nobody creates a scene like Fitzgerald. The setting was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read in a book.
What did you like least about it?
I honestly loved everything about that book.
Have you ever reread it? If you did, how do you feel about it now?
Yes – I go back to that book for inspiration every so often. I think that that it definitely holds up over time. When I read it now, the only thing that has changed is that I tend to approach it a little bit more clinically – I’m looking at the specific turns of phrase or plot devices that Fitzgerald uses and trying to learn from them.
Spock or Kirk?
Sunrise or sunset?
Angst or humor?
Tea or coffee?
Wine or beer?
Cake or pie?
Scruff, beard or clean-shaven?
Blue-collar or white collar?
Jeans or suit?
Car or motorcycle?
About The Photographer’s Truth
Ian seems to have it all – a career as a hotshot software programmer in Silicon Valley; a beautiful wife and family; a nice house in an upscale San Francisco neighborhood; and a past that he’s mostly managed to forget. But life takes an unexpected turn for Ian when he finds himself in Paris for a three-month work project where meets the former fashion photographer Luca Sparks. The unlikely friendship grows and Ian sees a new side to life as Luca takes him on a journey through the glamorous and lustrous Paris nightlife. But something strange starts to happen during their adventures in Paris; the two discover an attraction that threatens to destroy their lives. Both men battle their own demons on the road to self-discovery, ultimately learning how to come to peace with their feelings and their pasts.
About Ralph Josiah Bardsley
A little bit more about me – I was born in a small town outside of Boston. My dad was in the Coast Guard and so I grew up in a lot of different places – New Orleans, Cape Cod, North Carolina and Sitka, Alaska. When I wasn’t in school, I spent most of my time in Coast Guard hangers or reading. Today I live in San Francisco where my hobbies include writing, running and wine tasting! Like everyone else I wear a few hats. I work in the high tech industry in marketing. I hold a bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College and a master’s in communication from Emerson College.
When I read a writer’s bio, I usually want to know why they write – what makes them sit down at a keyboard and what do they hope to accomplish. When I ask myself those same questions, it’s more difficult to answer. I’ve always loved writing – in any capacity. For a long time, I got enough fulfillment out of the writing assignments I did for work. I’ve written white papers on software, airlines, mobile technology and advertising practices. These were (and continue to be) great assignments and I absolutely love them – I get to learn about all sorts of cool new things all the time. But eventually I wanted to do something more personal. So I started a blog called BrandFiller. I recruited several contributors and we had a lot of fun for a year or so writing short form articles and posts about everything from hockey to fashion. Let me say – for me blogging was A LOT of work. It was rewarding, but I wanted to do something bigger – something that expressed bits and pieces of my own life and feelings in a work of fiction. So that’s when I decided to retire the blog and try a novel. I never expected anyone would publish it. But the team over at Bold Strokes Books saw my manuscript for Brothers and decided to take a chance on me. You can be the judge of if they were right, when the book comes out on December 1, 2015. So what makes me sit down and write now? I guess just the opportunity to express myself and share that expression.
My writing comes from a combination of experience and imagination. My family – especially my husband Dana – is a big part of my inspiration. They’re always pushing me to do more and I love them for it. I also love to travel, and I manage to work the details from the places I visit into the stories and the books I write. Someone once told me that the only true value you ever get for your money is travel – and I couldn’t agree more.