An Interview with
Tyrel "Rock" Wolf
Author of Storm Front

    This interview was originally part of the Gay Authors April 2004 Newsletter of which I was the Editor. Please visit the Gay Authors Website. There's tons of things to get involved in and tons of stories to read. Plus a gazillion other things to tweak your interest! Check it out and join up today!

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So here I am on a long flight from New Zealand back to Charlotte, North Carolina. It had been a great trip. I got to see all the places where Lord of the Rings was filmed. But what really stuck out in my mind was meeting Tyrel. I remembered meeting him in the town that he said Merlow was patterned after. For those of you who don't know, Merlow is the setting for the story Ty has been telling for five years now ... Storm Front. Actually getting to sit down and chat with Ty about his story and about him was awesome. I found his story on the Internet some years ago and instantly fell in love with Storm, Lucas, Mike, Mercel and Sara. Wow! What a saga! As editor of the Gay Authors Newsletter, it is my job to go and interview all these wonderful authors that give us so much pleasure. Man ... I love my job. (Hehe ... hey, Myr. I flew first class. Hope that's in the budget.)

"Excuse me, ma'am. Could I have a Jack and coke please?" Now, where was I. Oh, I was sitting down on a park bench in Taupo, New Zealand with Tyrel.

Hi, Ty. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and for flying over from Australia to meet me here. I can't think of a better place to talk about you and Storm Front. Anyone who has ever spent anytime on the internet reading gay stories, has probably read your story or at the very least, heard about it. You've been on the internet for how long now?

About Six Years. I started in 1998.

I'm sure it's your writing that keeps people coming back to your site. Is there anything else you can attribute to your site's popularity and longivity on the internet?

Probably persistence. I’ve had breaks but I always come back and intend to at least until Storm Front ends it’s run at Season 5.

When Storm Front finally comes to an end, what comes next? Do you already have some story ideas?

I haven’t given too much thought to what comes after Storm Front. I haven’t made any plans for any major stories to follow after Storm Front. Obviously, I love writing a great deal and I’d be surprised if I stopped after Storm Front but right now I don’t have any plans to follow it up. Depends on how other aspects of my life are going. If I’m able, I’d like to keep StormNation running but we’ll see. Right now I’m focused on finishing Seasons 4 and 5.

How would you describe yourself? A lot of readers identify the main character of a story with the author. Are you anything like Storm?

I would say that I am similar to Storm in many respects but I tend to imbue many of my own characteristics into many of the other characters, mostly Dade, Josh and Marcel besides Storm. How would I describe myself? That’s a tough one. I think one trait I’d attach to myself is loyalty. I give it to the people I care about and try to find people who share that view and give it in return. I’m pretty stubborn, persistent and head strong at times. I’m always usually someone who is on the fringe and tends to buck the norm. I tend to follow my own path rather than what may often be expected of me or may be the norm.

And, I just have to ask, where you came up with the name "Storm?"

Well I really like the name but there were other reasons I chose the name. Obviously it describes Storm’s temperament and personality a lot. It also has a lot to do with the theme of the story, Storm Front. It’s often stormy, so the name serves a double purpose. Also the reason Daniel calls himself Storm has a deeper meaning for him personally and has a lot to do with the relationship he has with his father, Daniel Sr.

Is where the story takes place, Merlow, fictional? Is it patterned after a place you know?

It’s definitely fictional and the reason I set the story in a fictional setting is so I don’t have to follow any predetermined rules that might apply to an already existing location. It’s also the reason why I have never specifically said what country Merlow is in. I keep it generic so people from anywhere may find it easier to relate to. Most readers are American, but since I’m not American myself, I wouldn’t be able to accurately portray an American setting. So I just write what I do know personally and keep the location and settings fictional and generic. Physically, Merlow is based on a place in New Zealand called Taupo. It’s wickedly beautiful and if you ever see it, that’s what Merlow looks like in my head. So if LOTR’s didn’t do a good enough job of promoting my home country, I just added my own bit in.

You are so right. It's really beautiful here. Did you have any idea when you first started writing about two boys on a bus that it would end up being this long?

I always had a definite ending in my head and 5 seasons was always the plan but I didn’t expect it to take this long. I would have liked to have finished all five seasons by now but life has a funny way of throwing speed bumps in your path.

I'm sure you get tons of fan mail. How do you handle it all?

I try to respond to every email I get but invariably I’ve probably missed responding to a lot more than I have responded to. For that I apologize to everyone who has emailed me. But I try my best to and as any writer does, I appreciate fan mail immensely. It’s often times what sparks you to push along faster but I’ve already stated that I’ll finish no matter what. It’s sometimes a little daunting handling fan mail but it’s a privilege that should never, and I don’t think is by any of the net authors I know, be taken for granted.

Almost every internet author I've talked to has at one time or another received a disturbing email asking for advice. The fan is usually at their wits end. In fact, I know of one author who stopped writing and went off the internet completely because of emails like this. What's your advice to authors who find themselves in this situation?

Now that’s a great question and one that probably requires a fairly lengthy answer. I’ll try to make this as brief as possible but here’s my take on the situation. I’ve received many emails from teens in particular who are having problems with their own sexual identities. It’s an incredibly difficult situation to be in and something that should always be taken seriously. It’s part of the territory when you write stories in the GLBT genre. But I first started getting these when I still a teen myself and didn’t have any answers. I try to put a strong, positive stance on being gay, bi or just a strong individual in particular and hope that helps in some way if possible with people who are experiencing what I did as a teen. But when you get emails from people who are asking for help or having problems, my advice is to be incredibly responsible, receptive and don’t inflame the situation. Just do your best to give the person some perspective and decrease the anxiety or ‘drama level’. Calm, reason and sensitivity. Corny but effective.

How long have you been writing? Is Storm Front your first story?

Storm Front is my first story. I’d never done writing before it. When I first started writing the only GLBT fiction around on the net was porn. I thought to myself, there’s got to be more than this. So I just figured, well I may as well give it a go myself and try to show there’s more to being ‘us’ or ‘me’ than sex. That was six years ago. A long time ago! I was eighteen when I released SF. You do the math. The only other author at the time doing anything similar (that I knew of) was Comsie, or Comicality. We both started in the same year and I give him credit for being such a staple on the net.

I stumbled across your story a number of years ago and instantly became a fan. You were the first author to make me mad, happy, sad, lonely and filled with joy ... all in the same chapter. I got so pissed at Storm's stubborness. Actually, I feel like I know each one of your characters personally. You put a lot of drama into each character and into each chapter. Where do you get your inspiration? And, did any one thing inspire you to start writing?

Thanks! I get a lot of inspiration from my own life and from everything around me. I think I may have answered some of this in the last question. The only other thing I could add is that I had a lot of personal issues in regards to my own life that I needed to get out and writing was a medium for that.

Why do you do it, Ty? Why do you write? What do you get out of it?

Why do I write? The short answer is because I love it. I think that’s the biggest reason. I love writing. What I get out of it is satisfaction. I write different stories for different reasons. Storm Front has the biggest personal meaning to me. It’s my baby and anything I write outside of it will never mean as much as it does to me. But mostly what I get out of it is a lot of joy. I love it.

You've written a sci-fi spin off of Storm Front. So I take it you're a sci-fi fan as well?

Major Sci-fi fan. I tend to be an action and sci-fi fan in general. I’m big on Babylon 5 and the original Star Trek movies and some Next Gen, DS9. But I love sci-fi in general because I find it exciting.

What do you find most appealing about a story? What kind of story do you like to read most? High school? Sci-fi? FanFic? etc.

What I found most appealing is character development. And characters who have values that I can relate to on some level like loyalty, integrity or an innate sense of right and wrong. Also I love stories that have heart and feeling. I love drama, action and sci fi. I don’t like reading Sci-Fi but I love watching it. I do enjoy FanFic as well. I think I’ll give anything a go if the core and heart of it is good, no matter what genre it is.

So when and where do you feel you're at your creative best? What time of day? Do you listen to music? If so, what?

Generally at night, but you know when the inspiration gets you, it doesn’t matter what time it is. Night is often the best though since it’s often the only free time I have to just get into the moment. I listen to a hell of a lot of music and it helps me set and feel the theme/tone of scenes, chapters. When I write I really become absorbed in what I’m doing because I think if I can’t feel it, how do I expect anyone else to? Cranberries had the biggest influence I think on Storm Front. One song in particular called "Empty" is unofficially Storm Front’s theme and definitely Storm’s. Another is Dido’s ‘Resting Here with Me’. I listen to a lot of soundtrack instrumentals, upbeat music, melancholy music. All for different moods. Music helps incredibly.

If your high school English teacher could read what you've written, what would he/she say?

I think she would be proud. Particularly since I failed English in high school! She was always very supportive of my creative side. But I was a little more interested in the social aspects of English than the actual class. Not very good! But I think she’d be proud of me for getting so into writing and also for writing about something that’s so personal to me.

Do you know how Storm Front will end? In other words, is it written as an outline first, or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?

The final scene of Storm Front is already written and has been pretty much set for a long time now. So yes, I know how it will end and working towards that end.

Do you use an editor? And, if so, to what extent does your editor have influence over plot, characters, etc.?

As far as Storm Front on the net goes, I have what I call ‘Alphas’. They’re the poor people who get all the drafts of Storm Front. I’m not very consistent though because I’ll often send them a chapter and right after it, decide to post the chapter before I hear back from them. Other times I’ll send them several drafts before I end up with one I’m happy with. And before the alpha’s get anything I can easily go through ten drafts myself. Alpha’s will pick up mistakes that I’ve missed, comment on certain scenes and send me their feedback. Primarily, I use alphas as a guide to see how effective I’ve been with scenes, chapters, character developments/motivations etc. They rock!

How do you handle writer's block?

The worst thing you can do when you have writer’s block is try to write more of the story you‘re working on. What you can try to do is perhaps write a completely different story. Or a different scene, episode, whatever. And you’ll be surprised that when you’ve distracted yourself enough how freely the inspiration comes back for the previous story you were working on. Besides that, get out of the house. Go play some footy, go for a swim, see a movie, spend some time with people. Anything to relax, distract and inspire. I personally have a very short attention span and tend to get bored easily which is another reason I write different genre stories so if I get stuck on one, I can work on another and vice versa when I get a block.

Boxers or briefs? Sorry, I had to ask.

Boxers all the way, Baby!

I understand you're quite a sports fan.

Big time. I’m an addict. My home teams are the All Blacks, who are the New Zealand Rugby Union Team. And the NZ Warriors, who play in the NRL, and that‘s Rugby League. Two different sports. I watch the games every weekend. NRL, Super 12. I played a lot growing up and am still a hardcore fan. I was a bit of a jock growing up and came from a sports heavy family. I played in the First XV in high school, Basketball Regionals, among others. Rugby Union and Rugby League are two different codes of Rugby. Just to give you an idea of how much I loved playing, I’ll give you a run down of my week, sports wise growing up. Tuesday and Thursday after school, Union training. Monday and Wednesday morning, Basketball training. Wednesday night was our weekly basketball game. Thursday night was our Touch Footy tournament. Saturday morning I’d play on our First XV team for my high school and straight after that I’d race off to play for our local League club. I played Lock in Union and Center in league and captained, VC‘d at various stages. Saturday night was always party night, especially if either of my teams won. Other sports I play or have played a lot are golf, martial arts (judo and seido/shotokan). I also love the water. I only just stopped playing Rugby a couple years ago. But yeah, I’m a big time sports fan.

I make the assumption that you're gay, but that's not always true. If you are, how out of the closet are you? Is it gay tolerant here?

Most people assume that I am gay and generally I don’t like to answer this question. I’m happy to let people think what they like of me. I don’t think it should matter what I am and I also tend to hate labels, as evident in SF. But also, I don’t want to say I’m not gay because it may have a negative connotation like being gay isn’t something you should be proud of or accepting of, which is wrong. It’s definitely something you should never be ashamed of, that’s for damn sure. I’m pretty openly bi with a lot of my friends, and all my immediate family. I don’t think it’s as big of an issue here in Australia and New Zealand than it is in America. I’ve had issues but everyone does.

Are you in a relationship?

I was so itching to say something smartass like here because I‘m a smartass in real life. But I won’t. Because I have to behave, right? No, I‘m not.

How old are you ... not physically, but mentally? Everybody thinks of themselves as a particular age. What's yours?

Tough one. I’m young at heart but sometimes feel older than I should. Sometimes I’m 16, sometimes I’m 32. But in reality, I just turned 24.

Ty, thanks so much for spending some time with me. Good luck with your writings and perhaps we can sit down again sometime in the future.

You’re more than welcome. Thanks for inviting me.

This is one long flight and I look forward to getting back home. Ty was great and I won't hold it against him that he made me sit and watch sports on tv all afternoon. LOL! Ah, the things I do for the Gay Authors Newsletter. "Excuse me, ma'am. Could I have another Jack and coke please?"

"That would be your fourth, sir!"

"Oh, in that case, make it a double." LOL!

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