In the first decade of the 21st century, the erotic writings of Mike Hicks leapt from the pages of every major adult gay periodical on newsstands, magazines with names like Men, Freshmen, Honcho, Inches, Torso, and Mandate. In addition to being supremely sexy, his stories were smart, clever, and -- rather hilariously -- often featured protagonists named after himself. To many readers, "Mike" became a literary hero: the hot, super-hung dude we all wished we could be, the one who managed to hook up with the finest men no matter where he went. But then something in the prolific writer's life unexpectedly shifted, causing him to add yet another angle to his erotic pieces: romance.
While the magazines he contributed to began disappearing at the end of this century's first decade, the author's extraordinary oeuvre has been given new life in From Lust to Love: Gay Erotic Romance, a Mike Hicks anthology just released by Bruno Gmunder. Not all of the collection's stories are of random hookups -- some tell of long-term crushes or unrequited loves that finally get the chance to blossom into something heartwarming, while others depict committed couples whose passion only gets hotter over time. But all are about men who come together (in more ways than one) and end up together, both lustfully and emotionally.
The Advocate: What led to you writing erotic stories?
Mike Hicks: I never had much interest in erotic writing, to be honest. I love sex, but I wasn't really into reading about it. But then I happened to read a couple stories published in the gay skin magazines of the time and was astonished at how bad they were. I thought, hell, I could do better than that. So I gave it a try.
What was your first attempt?
The first one was a thing I called "Ode to a Grecian Urn" -- after Keats -- about a couple of guys who cruise each other in a museum while looking at a homoerotic piece of ancient pottery and end up getting it on in the back room. I sent it to one of the magazines [Freshmen], it promptly sold, and that was the beginning of my career as a pornographer, which lasted till around 2010, when the mags started to fold, one by one.
Were you sad about the demise of your porn-writing career?
Not that much. It was a great run and lots of fun, but I ended up spending too much time thinking of creative ways to describe sex, and I wanted to devote that energy to other kinds of writing. I was, frankly, surprised to see the stories live on in anthologies.
Why are so many of your stories geared toward romance?
Well, while this anthology focuses on romance, a lot of my stories aren't romantic at all -- though they all generally have some kind of "twist" at the end, almost like a punch line.
Yet in this book's introduction, you describe -- rather graphically, in fact -- a major turning point in your life that changed the focus of your stories.
Yes. As it happens, I unexpectedly fell in love, after an encounter that is probably not appropriate to discuss here. [Laughs] But after that it became completely natural to me to make the twist about something raunchy that turns unexpectedly romantic -- since I had a very real and profound experience of that.
What was your process for writing erotic stories?
I would try to think of a situation first, such as: How would it work if two guys met in a library ["My Librarian"]? Or how could a story be erotic if told entirely through letters ["You're Every Man"]? And then I'd see if a decent story idea arose from that. If it did, I'd start fleshing it out. So to speak.
How did you get yourself in the mood to sit down and write?
I'm pretty sexual to begin with. Getting in the mood has never been a problem.
Are any of your characters based on real people?
Some sexual details are certainly based on real guys I've been with, so in that sense they're based on real people. And some of the situations are at least inspired by real life. Like "Head of the Class," which was based to a degree on a real experience I had years ago of helping a somewhat inexperienced guy learn how to give head by letting him practice on me. But it didn't happen in a racquetball court, as it's depicted in the story. And in real life, there was no romantic ending.
Do you consider yourself a romantic at heart?
Not really. I mean, romance is a wonderful thing, but there has to be something left if and when it fades. In my case, there's something, for sure -- the magic of which I recognize and still appreciate. So I'm a romantic to that degree.
Why do you think some people prefer reading erotica to watching it?
It may be because it allows one's imagination to co-create the fantasy. Reading is ultimately less passive than watching. I think there's something to that.
What makes a good sex scene?
Good writing. The bad stories I referred to earlier left me limp because the writing was awful. And they were describing hot stuff. Skillful writing can make the description of a simple kiss the hottest thing you've ever read. Bad writing can make an orgy boring.
Has your husband read any of your stories?
He's read a few. He thought they were good, but he didn't jack off to them or anything. He had sex with the author instead.
Erotica has done particularly well in the digital book market. Why do you think that is?
Because you don't end up with the books lying around. You don't have to worry about Grandma seeing them when she comes over.
Do you have any thoughts on why female readers, both gay and straight, enjoy man-on-man erotica?
It's a mystery to me, though I'm aware of the phenomenon. I've even gotten a number of fan letters from women. I mean, I personally have no interest in reading female erotica, which demonstrates to me how different women's sexuality is from men's. Perhaps women are more evolved in that area.
What's the best writing tip you've ever been given?
That writing is about love. About conveying something mind-to-mind -- or, in this case, maybe crotch-to-crotch -- with your reader. Keeping that in mind makes your writing better. Whether you're describing philosophical concepts or a dick entering an ass doesn't matter.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to tackle this genre?
Know grammar and syntax. Use adjectives skillfully and less than you want to. Concentrate on a few carefully observed sexual details rather than overexplaining -- that engages the reader more. And keep the aforementioned love thing in mind.
What else have you written?
I write poetry, essays, and other, nonerotic, fiction. All of it's published under a different last name, so there's no use Googling me. I'm a book editor in real life, so I spend a lot of time cowriting and helping others say what they mean.
What writers do you admire?
In terms of gay erotic stuff, there are a few that I think are really, really good -- who stand out strikingly from the bad writing that got me started on this incredible journey: Rob Rosen is really terrific. I also like the work of the late Bob Vickery. And R.J. March. I recommend all those guys.
And lastly, why do so many of your protagonists share your first name?
[Laughs] I swear, I wasn't conscious of that till you mentioned it! My therapist might say that I'm trying to inject myself into the hot sex of the stories. And maybe he'd be right.