Welcome to a unique writer, Sessha Bassho. Even after knowing her more than a year, I can think of no easy way to describe the person or the writing. Both seem to be the voice of haunting bamboo wind chimes in a hidden garden.
Even in her avatar, Sessha seems to be meditating, apart from the hubbub of crowds and the intrusion of blog questions.
The best way to draw you in today might be through her own words.
Welcome, Sessha. It’s an honor to host you.
…What ten words do you think best describe you personally?
Damn, you had to start with a super hard question first 😉 Let’s see . . . stubborn (of course), disciplined, passionate, articulate, focused (or obsessive – I swing both ways), introverted, curious, sarcastic, strong, accepting.
…Using those few words as a theme or intro, give us a thumbnail of your life.
I spent my first six years in an orphanage in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Since coming to the states I’ve lived in Detroit, New York City and now Baltimore (I’m touring the most dangerous places to live, apparently). I’ll admit it, I loved school – I have a bachelor’s in philosophy and psychology with minors in music and art. I even have my law degree. I worked for twenty-five years as a video editor and motion graphics artist. I’ve studied martial arts for many years, beginning with battojutso and tai chi when I was only eighteen. Really, I’m fairly boring – I read, I write, I collect swords.
…Sessha, you are known as a writer of transgressive fiction. Could you explain that term to readers who may not have read the “Transgressive Lit for Dummies” manual? How does it shape and define your writing?
Transgressive fiction explores the darker side of human nature. Themes like abuse, rape, violence and dysfunctional relationships dominate. The premise of transgressive fiction is that knowledge is found on the edges of experience and our bodies are the prime way of gaining such knowledge. As for my writing, I like to call it my “sex ray specs.” I use sex as a vehicle to see my characters in their most open moments. The path my characters take as they deal with their history and whatever life throws at them is the real story. The moments of illumination where we can clearly see ourselves in their broken lives.
…Give us a quick look at your homoerotica novels. How about presenting them in chronological order with a sentence or two that best describes them?
My first novel was Strength of Will. An enslaved scribe whose worst nightmare is becoming a pleasure slave, a warlord who can command men, but not his own desires. When they come together both of their expectations are overturned.
Next came the Shinobi saga (Shadow Wolf, Geisha and the forthcoming Ripples) which tells the story of an exotically beautiful ninja named Yoshi who was forced into service as a sex toy when he was just a teenager. He spends his years torn between duty and disgust, at himself and at those who use him. His recovery and the ability to accept and give love after his abusive past are the core of the story.
I had several shorter pieces available, but have pulled them in preparation for releasing an anthology of short fiction, Sex Ray Specs, which will be coming out later this year.
…I know that you are an artist as well as author. Tell us more about your current artistic work. Feel free to show us a few images and to give us a link to your gallery.
Lately most of my art has been cover designs. I know many wonderful authors, and I love the challenge of conveying a story and genre through one static image. A gallery of some of my work can be found on my website.
…What insights about human nature—sexual and otherwise— have you learned that you want to tell your readers? And how successful do you think you’ve been in that attempt?
There is no happily ever after, there is only happy at this moment. I’d love to see people let go of the desire to find “the one” and enjoy what they do have for what it is worth. I guess it’s the Buddhist in me – there is no past, there is no future, there is only now.
…What excites you most as a writer?
A new idea that jumps into my head and starts demanding I spill it out on the page. There is nothing as exhilarating as beginning a new project.
…By the same token, what turns you off? What are the nuts-and-bolts part of writing that you’d rather skip, but that have to be confronted and conquered?
The endless rewrites. My wonky punctuation is an anchor on my soul some days.
…Tell us why you write works of homoerotica. Just to tell a story, where the characters just happen to be gay? Or do you have an overarching purpose, perhaps a social or moral sensitivity to the subject of gay men together?
I write homoerotic fiction because it gives me a freedom I could never get writing heterosexual pairings. I love the fact that roles and power can shift freely back and forth between two men in ways it can’t between a man and a woman. It also lets me explore topics that would be considered exploitive or misogynistic if one of the pair was female. Finally, I love men (no offense, ladies). I’ve always related to them more easily than to women.
…Flesh out your ideal readers. Who do you wish you could reach out and speak to, call your fans, help you spread the word about your books? And how have you tried to do that (if at all)?
My ideal reader is someone who loves the interior journey of a character. If you’re looking for flashy battle scenes or rich scenic descriptions you are in the wrong place. Someone who isn’t put off by the good and bad sides of sex. As for how I find them – I am slowly converting the world one mind at a time.
…Describe your proudest moment or crowning achievement.
… Please ask a question you’ve always wanted someone to ask you. And then answer it.
To be totally honest, I’m happiest when no one is asking me questions, I don’t like being in the spotlight very much (yes, I know, it comes with the territory).
Let’s see . . . I’ve always wanted someone to ask me why I play with swords. I guess the answer would be because I love the feeling of being totally in and out of control at the same time. I love the frisson of fear that sweeps up my spine as I barely miss cutting off something I’d miss. I love their deadly beauty.
…Present around 200 words from any one of your works, an excerpt that you think shows some of your best writing. Feel free to add a short intro, up to 50 words.
I’m partial to one of my current WIPs, In the Desert of the Porcupines, about a man with OCD and eidetic memory who uses pain as a method of gaining control over his often stubborn mind.
He dreamt of the desert, endless expanses of emptiness, the hiss of the wind on the dunes like the insomniac porcupines in his attic, quills shshshing on the floorboards as they listlessly paced away the hours of the night. Thoughts spun in the glittering pinprick the world had closed down to. When the silken choke hold loosened, the sound of waves lapping on the desert shore deepened, thickened, into his lazy heartbeat, and the shshshing of grains of sand dancing in the taunting wind, and the quills of the porcupines skritching their way into his consciousness.
“That was very nice.” Master’s praise was important and he nuzzled into the warm flesh as his body began its usual litany of complaints. But master was happy, so they were pushed to the back of his mind. An embarrassing near purr escaped his lips when that rich baritone once again addressed him. “Are you ready for more, pet?”
Truth be told, he was always ready for more. It was something master knew all too well, and the reason he found himself here. Before this, before Master and his carefully balanced games, he had almost died. No was a concept that eluded him, and the consequences had been horrific. Where everyone else saw a flaw to be exploited, master had seen the seeds of greatness.
* * *
…My own favorite word, beyond a doubt, is an f-word. First, what is your favorite f-word?
My favorite f-word would have to be fearless – it’s what I’m always striving for.
…And what is your quick, gut reaction to these f-words?
Forbidden – (laughter) No such thing.
Frustration – My old friend, must you follow me everywhere?
Fornicate – So cold, so callous.
Fake – Isn’t everyone? We all wear masks.
Freak – My favorite people.
…Now sell a book. Give us a reason to buy it. Present an excerpt (hot or not, your choice.)
Okay – A short excerpt from Shadow Wolf. Yoshi’s worst fear has been realized, his secret is out. This scene is after his rescue while he is still uncertain of his reception back home. Shadow Wolf Amazon Smashwords
* * *
He shivered harder as flashes of that initiation came back to haunt him, wondering, as always, what it was about him that caused such a reaction. When Kobayashi-sama had finally finished with him the Shuhan brusquely ordered him to dress and sent him on his first assignation, two weeks as a ‘special diplomatic envoy’ to the Mochizuki shuudan’s leader.
Makoto stirred as the elite’s movements became more frantic. The shadow wolf’s time with the Mochizuki leader had been particularly distressing, forever wedding the concepts of pain and pleasure in the mind of the last Takahashi. He’d had his first whipping there, hard on the heels of the utter embarrassment of being offered to the Shuhan’s guests as a plaything.
There had been a young medic, the elite had a vague memory of a teen with hair a shade or two darker than tree bark and kind eyes. He had sworn he’d rescue Yoshi, but his promises were for naught. By the time his two weeks were through the shadow wolf swore never to believe anyone’s promises again, it wasn’t worth the pain of disappointment.
“It’s alright, Takahashi-san.” The torture master gently stroked matted strands from his face. “You’re safe. I’m here and I won’t leave you.” The restless elite quieted at the sound of his voice, fingers clutching Makoto’s coat in a death grip.
The young shadow wolf had been the lynch-pin cementing fragile alliances, spending time with the leaders of all the rival shuudan. If Mochizuki taught him pain, Iwagashi taught him extremes, taking two cocks, a fist, being bathed in piss. Patience was the gift that remained. His mind shied away from his time in the barren hall of the Kai, the Kai no Shuhan’s tastes were … specialized. There Yoshi found himself tightly bound and penetrated with a variety of toys and devices. He let out a low pained cry as he relived the first time something had been inserted into the slit of his penis, tears squeezing from the corners of his eyes as the remembered pain and fear coursed through him.
“Sshhhhhh,” Makoto crooned. “I’ve got you, Yoshi. You’re safe, no one will hurt you. I swear to you.”
Some part of the slumbering elite’s mind latched on to that voice, taut muscles relaxing minutely.
“It’s just a dream,” the deep rumble continued. “You’re safe here with me.”
That’s right, Jubo has me. A smile sketched its way across the shadow wolf’s face. He’ll keep me safe. His brief moment of happiness quickly slipped away. If you knew everything I’ve done, would you still call me beautiful?
So much time had just slipped by. On three or four occasions each year Yoshi would pass silently out of the enclave, only to return haggard and drawn several weeks later. When Kobayashi-sama died a part of him rejoiced, even as he damned himself for his disloyalty.
If I’d only known. The thought resonated through the elite’s mind. His frown deepened as he recalled the heady freedom of those few brief days.
* * *
…Let’s end with one more challenge. Write from one word to one sentence giving your reaction to the following:
There is no such thing as failure.
Of course there is. We fail all the time. But failure doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Even as we fail we learn, after all.