August 6, 2015

Interview with Rosana Briel offers the reader an interview with “Como un torrente” author Rosana Briel (Barcelona, 1966). Universal topics such as love, sex, masculinity, literary creation, the art of narration, or the role of the author are discussed in Briel’s amusing, enjoyable conversation. Sure the reader will think so.

SPANISH GAY FICTION: When did you write “Como un torrente”? Do you remember what led you to write a story of love and sex between two men?

ROSANA BRIEL: I remember this perfectly: a challenge. This must be 7 or 8 years ago, and I was discussing with a couple of friends whether a novel series author would make up her mind and tell the homosexual story that she was suggesting in every novel; then one of my friends (a very nice one indeed) defied me with the typical challenge: Would you dare?…The truth is that I just cannot be bothered with this kind of challenges, but this one attracted me right away, so I wrote the first line the very next day, and then, for whatever reason, all the rest sprang forth just the way you can read it. I think that this is the fastest piece I have ever produced; Seth and James were born just in two days.

SGF: Did you write the story with intent to post it on a literature forum or blog? The reaction of the readers in those media is immediate. What was the response?

RB: As I said before, I wrote it for my friends, just for fun; but one day the same friend who defied me—hi, sweetie! I love you lots!! [laughs]— encouraged me to post it on the romance fiction forum we belonged to, claiming that I was selfish if I did not share the babes—as she called them—, that I needed to show all the others my writing, and bla-bla-bla…In short, I followed her suggestion and posted it, and guess what…I was really shocked by their response: They loved it all!

SGF: Although nowhere specified throughout the story, the names of the characters (Seth, Aidan, James) suggest an English-speaking environment. Why did a Spanish writer want to impose that foreign touch to her story? May it be a nod to the American M/M erotic literature written by female heterosexual romantic authors, very popular in the USA, as a model for your story?

RB: What you say about American literature is true, but there is nothing about it in this case. I chose Seth because I like it, I love its taste; Aidan, just because I loved it alongside Seth, and my friend chose James. All of them were chosen with no specific location, origin or whatever else in mind—just the feeling that they were the proper names for them.

SGF: The feature which might make “Como un torrente” so unique is that the main character, Seth, is constantly attracting his muses' attention. Besides the fact that this is a direct, enjoyable technique to get the reader’s complicity, did you have in mind that women would be, mainly or solely, the target audience when you wrote it? To what extent can be said that “Como un torrente” is a story about gay men for a straight female audience?

RB: I guess Seth somehow wanted to involve my friends at first. Later, when the story was published, it turned out that the character’s calling attention spread out to each and every reader, making them Seth’s mates. And of course, this was aimed at a female audience; after all, women are the main audience in romance fiction.

SGF: The description of Seth as a lonely man, a kind of rough, with uncertain background and a long dark hair, reminds me of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. What was your source of inspiration for Seth? Would you say that he represents the physical description of your ideal man, tattoo and shaved skin included?

RB: To be honest, and at the expense of seeming a kind of nuts, sometimes I also wonder where some characters come from, since I am positive that I really do not know where Seth does come from. He just did it, period. And I love the way he is—By the way, I also love Heathcliff, he is an extraordinary character.

SGF: In the story there is a funny comment about the fake six-pack abs that the actors of a popular film about Spartans exhibit thanks to the magic of cinema.[1] Seth also describes himself as well-built with no need for gym workout. And, according to the description, it could be said that Seth’s and James’s clothes are very basic, simple and traditionally masculine. Can your story be understood as a defense of the natural, genuine man, far from false impressions, affectation or up-to-date fashion trends?

RB: They themselves decided the way they are; if they feel easy in jeans and T-shirts, I will not be the one who opposes.

SGF: There is a moment in the story in which Seth notes about James: “It is curious that there is so much tenderness concealed behind such a masculine man.” Is masculinity a synonym for tough self-sufficiency lacking of tenderness as for Rosana Briel too?

RB: Rosana Briel is pissed off at macho men acting thug, so she was pleased when she realized that Seth felt that about James as something positive. He shows that masculinity does not need to be at odds with tenderness.

SGF: It was Aidan who instilled in Seth the notion of being strong and independent, as nobody would care about him; and it is James the man who eventually gives him affection, tenderness, and love. Could it be said that, as for Rosana Briel, Aidan added to James equals the formula of the perfect man, that “toughness + tenderness” pattern of the previous question?

RB: This worked with Seth and James, so it must be a good combination. [laughs]

SGF: Regarding Seth’s melodramatic past, did you need that his story with James were something more than a one-night stand, as a way to redeem him and mend his broken heart? Just as if something deep inside made you give your character a happy ending?

RB: Well, romance genre structure somehow comes into play here, which means: a happy ending, no matter what. However, they went their way. I just watched them and, though it might seem a bit weird that a feeling could just come out of nowhere, that is what really happened. As far as I know, they still do well together. [laughs]

SGF: The way these two strangers who have just met fall in love is while having sexual intercourse, what seems to be their starting point as a couple. I find this a very romantic idea but, do you think that such a thing can come true in fiction only, or in real life as well? Let me be a bit nosy: this situation, has Rosana Briel herself experienced it?

RB: No, Rosana herself has not experienced it, but I do think that this can actually happen in real life. Love just shows up without notice or permission, and in spite of your shortcomings many times.

SGF: Why did you remember Casablanca at the end of the story? Do you feel there is a gay subtext in the fact that Bogart lets Ingrid Bergman fly away and stays beside the gendarme with mustache instead?

RB: No, the final scene in Casablanca is perfect, nobody change it! I just tried to introduce a touch of fun at the end of the story and that sentence seems spectacular to me, so I allowed myself to use it regarding Seth’s love for movies by the way.

SGF: Now let me criticize the characters...I do not understand why Seth and James use a condom when playing anal...if they ejaculate in each other’s mouth when playing oral. In this age of prevention of sexually transmitted diseases campaigns, I invite you to use this opportunity to defend your artistic choice.

RB: Oral sex undoubtedly implies certain risks at different levels, and I believe fiction can also be another way of education and information but, as this is fiction and at the risk of being simplistic—Should I have denied such a very intimate moment to Seth and James?

SGF: In my review of “Como un torrente” I praised your narrative art, as you are constantly playing with the reader expectations. There are so many tone changes that seems to be several stories within the story, making it a rich, varied, and entertaining read. Is this a recurring feature in the rest of your work?

RB: Every time I face up to a new story it seems as if everything previous does not exist. I start over, and just the very story and its characters trace the path that I try to follow. This is like a very sane insanity.

SGF: Concerning your only novel so far, Sin remisión (“Hopeless”), this seems to be an erotic novel peppered with BDSM elements. It was published in 2010, just one year before Fifty Shades of Grey. Could it be said that you were on the cutting edge earlier than E.L. James? Or, including BDSM elements in romance books, was it usual before the Fifty Shades trilogy super-hit?

RB: When Sin remisión was born in my mind I had no idea about how this was going to flow out; I was just moved by the stimulus to tell the story of two people who find love in a BDSM background. The only thing that I know is that I needed to write it whatever happened, with all the flaws, achievements, uncertainty, inexperience, emotions—It was awesome to get in touch with people from that world and find out their trait, being well aware that it would be impossible to reflect just the slightest part of what this entails, and in the frame of romance fiction by a long shot.

SGF: What are you working on now? What are your most immediate projects?

RB: My head is plenty of people that I try to keep at bay in order that they grow up and think over along with me, though sometimes I have no idea where things spring from—That is nonsense, isn’t it? Every story is different. I need time and so do they—the last thing I have produced has took me two years of research as my knowledge on the topic was very superficial and I had to find out many things, from simple (people’s treatment) to complex (an eye drops recipe)—, so I go step by step. There will soon be news, but I still cannot speak about it.

[1] If you still have not guessed the name of the film, do not worry. In the meanwhile, you can keep yourself entertained by trying to solve the following arithmetic operation: [(7 + 8) / 5] x [(49 - 24) + (15 x 5)] = …

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