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    michelleMichele Karlsberg: When did you decide to become a writer? 

    Melissa Brayden: The dictionary defines storytelling as the conveying of events in words and images, often by improvisation or embellishment. The one thing it left out is how addictive it can be. I was thirty-one when I wrote my first book, Waiting in the Wings. But by that point I’d been a storyteller for as long as I could remember in a variety of capacities: TV news reporter, actress, director for the stage, and a producer of film and video. And however much I enjoyed telling those stories, I’d never once tried my hand at generating a narrative myself. I didn’t have a writing background. I wasn’t one of those kids who wrote short stories throughout their youth. One thing I was, however, was an avid reader of romance novels, as in any I could get my hands on.

    When inspiration struck, I was working in educational theatre and had an entire summer off stretched out in front of mmicehllee. One afternoon I was feeling especially creative and gave romance writing a shot, finding the construction of an imaginary world completely enthralling. I wrote everyday and the pages started piling up. Never in a million years did I think anything would come of it, but when all was said and done, I submitted the manuscript to a publisher and was shocked when it was accepted on my first submission. Since that time, I haven’t looked back. I can’t imagine a world without writing. I wouldn’t want to.

    Melissa Brayden is the three time Goldie Award winning author of four published romance novels with Bold Strokes Books. Her fifth book is due out this April. She is happily at work on her sixth. 

    michelle2Charles Rice-González: There wasn’t a specific moment when I decided to become a writer, but I’ve always loved reading. I read every Beverly Cleary novel with Jean and Johnny, about teen-aged love, being my favorite. But if I had to select a moment to mark my writing it would be at 14. I’d had my heart broken by “the boy next door” or from across the hall in the Soundview projects. He was curly haired and had a peach fuzz of a mustache and pubic hair. Our romance consisted of handwritten notes and secret kisses in the hallway. But when his father died suddenly, he ended it saying, “I have to get serious.”

    I recalled Jean and Johnny, and started to write my own retelling of our love from the first time we dared to kiss to the heart-shattering moment of his goodbye. It was written on loose-leaf paper and I only used red ink, for passion, I thought. It was part of healing my heart and of documenting our young, Bronx gay love story. But I masked the characters to be a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy. Fear had recast my queer love story into a heterosexual one. I didn’t know I was following what many gay writers had done before me. I’m proud that I found the courage and support to write my openly gay love stories, and it’s no wonder that I wrote Chulito, and often find myself writing about gay love.

    Charles Rice-González is a writer, Executive Director of BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, and a Distinguished Lecturer at Hostos Community College-CUNY. He wrote the novel “Chulito” and co-edited “From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction.”

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBT community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates twenty-five years of successful book campaigns.