EH: This has been a huge year for you. In addition to publishing your first book of poetry, Sins of the Flesh, your first film was completed in Canada. You sold a novel and several plays, produced and directed another play, and became a parent. What’s it like to have all of that happening at once?
DMB: I honestly cannot believe how much I have been blessed with. A few years ago I started planting major seeds, really focusing on taking my career to a higher level. A lot of that is coming to fruition now and I couldn’t be happier with the results. It can be a bit surreal but I have an incredible support system that keeps me really grounded. It gets a little overwhelming sometimes, but I am enjoying every minute of it.
EH: I know that you feel that adopting Jessica and Ricardo stands out from the rest your accomplishments. Why don’t you talk a little about that?
DMB: My partner, Nick Moreno, and I are now official parents. Becoming parents was a tough process for us, in a legal sense. We went through a lot to make it happen, but we knew that we had so much to offer the kids and vice versa. Nick and I were foster parents of Ricardo and Jessica for a year and then we were given the option to make it a permanent situation. Of course, we wanted that more than anything. The kids have done really well with us. We are definitely a family, in every sense of the word.
EH: There has been some controversy about gay couples adopting children…
DMB: We were very fortunate to be in California, when we were granted co-legal guardianship of them. Nick and I were very adamant about having co-guardianship. It’s the only protection that we have if something were to happen to one of us. I’m not a very political person, but having gone through this process has made me painfully aware of how many rights we don’t have. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that gay and lesbian families don’t have more rights in this country. We are in the process of relocating to Georgia and the laws there are very different. It makes no sense to me. There’s so many children that need a good home, a sense of family and because of politics, it is almost impossible for a lot of people to make that happen. We had many home visits by social workers, had to go to court in L.A. a couple of times, get fingerprinted, interviewed, went through an extensive background check – but all of it was worth it. It was a learning experience for all of us. Both of the children are definitely are first priority. And we are very proud of both of them. Ricardo and Jessica are amazing people and they have certainly added a deeper meaning to our relationship and to ourselves.
EH: Has becoming a parent changed your goals or your focus as a writer?
DMB: I used to go and go and go until I dropped. I can’t do that anymore because I have two young people who rely on me very much. I still devote a lot of my time and energy to my writing and career, but I try to balance it all the best I can. I want to be available to them whenever they need me. I stand to learn so much from the kids. I have incorporated a lot of what I have learned into some of my new material. Being a parent has really changed my perspective on everything, especially where the business side of the industry is concerned. Four years ago, I had just finished my first film, had a top agent, an incredible manager, a lawyer – the entire Hollywood thing was happening for me. At that time, I chose to leave L.A. and go back to school in Chicago. Recently, I’ve had a lot of renewed opportunities in L.A., really nice offers. But Nick and I made the decision not to return to L.A. because we didn’t feel it was the right environment to raise children in. Instead, we are moving to a small town outside of Atlanta, where my family lives.
EH: Do either of the kids show any interest in following in your footsteps?
DMB: God help us but they both want to become professional actors. They went on a business trip to L.A. with me and I took them to a lunch meeting with a production company and they were both fascinated with the whole process of getting a film made. In the last year, they’ve really seen firsthand what the business is like – both the good and the bad.
EH: Word Riot recently published your first collection of poetry. How does poetry come to you?
DMB: For me, poetry is the most personal form of writing. It is very intimate. It certainly comes from personal experiences. I am inspired by emotions, bits of conversation I overhear, my own personal observations and music. Music is a huge influence on me. I’ve studied poetry but my style is definitely free verse and very confessional, like a diary. I like to write things as I see them or feel them. Adhering to certain styles or structures in order to please literary critics who think every poet should be duplicating what’s already been done — that’s too confining for me. I’m not an academic poet at all.
EH: Describe Sins of the Flesh for someone who isn’t familiar with it yet.
DMB: The collection is very, very different than anything I have ever written. It is very personal and at times very angry and dark. But it’s not all about unrequited lust or horrible tragedies. There’s a lot of love in there, too. The reaction to it has been very interesting. Aside from pissing off a handful of people that I wrote about, people like it because it is honest. Some of the poems were written during really turbulent times in my life – some of them were written while I was in L.A. working in the film industry. A lot of them are about men, both good and bad. I think anyone who is curious as to who I really am or what I have been through will enjoy it. I think it will also have a certain appeal to the gay community. With that said, the collection is not entirely autobiographical. A handful of the poems are fictionalized, in order to get a certain point across.
EH: How long did it take to collect these poems?
DMB: It took me twelve years to put the collection together and it was a labor of love. I went through agony deciding on what poems to include – which poems really told my story as a poet.
EH: What’s it like reading such personal work in front of an audience?
DMB: Reading poetry is very tough for me. It’s like standing up in front of a group of people and reading your diary to them. I think because it’s so personal for me, it makes it more difficult to read. I would much prefer to read anything to an audience than poetry. I’d rather read the TV Guide than my own poetry. However, I am very comfortable reading fiction. Perhaps there’s some sense of protection because fiction is supposed to be “make believe”.
EH: Let’s talk a little about your fiction. Many of your first person stories are narrated by a female.
DMB: When I first started writing professionally, I was immediately aware of the lack of honest depictions of women in the media. So often, women are objectified and play the mother, the whore, the sexy girlfriend. Women have so many dimensions to them, so many emotional layers that are generated from living in a male dominated society. I enjoy writing for and about women because they have so many amazing stories to tell. They are also an extremely appreciative audience. Women are looking for themselves portrayed in the media – real versions of themselves and not a size 2 version – and when they see something that they identify with, they embrace it. I have been very fortunate to receive a lot of feedback from readers and audience members who commend me for bringing female characters with substance to the forefront. This has happened a lot with my novel “Ambrosia”. Nothing else I have ever written has generated the kind of response that the book has – and it isn’t even published yet. After readings, women will come up to me and tell me how much they identify with the main character, Tina Duncan. She’s a very flawed character and women really like that – she’s not a saint or depicted as the perfect woman. She’s very human and I think that’s why so many women are connecting with the material. As a male writer, I might not be able to fully understand a woman’s perspective, but I can relate to the emotional core of those issues. Several of my new projects are much more diversified in terms of culture and issues and gender and I am writing some pieces from a male perspective.
EH: Do you think being gay gives you insight into the feminine perspective or is that just a stereotype?
DMB: I don’t think being gay gives me a greater insight into women. I think it comes more from my appreciation of them as people and what they bring to this world. Men are boring. Their stories have been told for centuries. Women are much more fascinating.
EH: Much of your writing revolves around romantic relationships. Which is easier to write about, love or heartbreak?
DMB: For me, heartbreak is definitely easier to write about and much more fascinating. I love creating emotionally-driven characters and the emotions related to heartbreak are very complex and layered. From heartbreak comes despair and that often leads to strength. I like to create flawed characters that find their own strength along the way. I love despair. When I was younger, a lot of my work was very angry and angst-filled – some of my plays like “Threnody” and “Frozen Stars”. Now, I am discovering different emotions in my voice as a writer. I really enjoy writing dramatic material – something that has an emotional affect on the reader or the audience.
EH: I’ve noticed that many of your dramatic pieces do have a certain comedic touch.
DMB: Writing comedy is very, very difficult but I seem to be writing more and more of it. For example, my novel “Ambrosia” is definitely a comedy – I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve written in my career.
EH: What writers (or filmmakers or poets…) do you feel you’ve been most influenced by?
DMB: My greatest influences in writing are Tennessee Williams, Joyce Carol Oates, Beth Henley, Carolyn Forché, Joy Harjo, Dorothy Parker, Fannie Flagg, Olivia Goldsmith, Dorothy Allison and Sandra Cisneros. In terms of film making, Allison Anders and Gillian Armstrong are probably my biggest inspirations.
EH: What authors do you read?
DMB: I’ve been reading a lot of Dorothy Parker lately and I just finished a biography on Sal Mineo.
EH: I know it’s a loaded question, but do you have favorite books?
DMB: I have three: “Daisy Fay and The Miracle Man” by Fannie Flagg, “My Wicked Wicked Ways” by Sandra Cisneros and “A Country Between Us” by Carolyn Forché.
EH: You write stories, screenplays, poetry, novels…How do the ideas come to you and how do you decide which genre a story falls into?
DMB: When I sit down to write a new piece, I am usually unaware of what genre it is going to eventually fall into. Ideas for new material come from everywhere. I’m like a satellite and ideas seem to find me. I am influenced by music a lot. One of my newest plays, “Baby In The Basement”, totally came from the song “Dusted” by the now-defunct band Belly. I saw the whole story in my head the first time I heard the song. I also get a lot of ideas from words or phrases I hear people say. Two of my new plays, “Highway Flowers” and “Scotch and Cat Food”, both came from phrases I heard someone say. A lot of ideas come from people I meet, usually strangers. A lot of “Better Places To Go” came from a conversation I had with a woman working at a motel in Grand Island, Nebraska. She told me these outrageous stories and I used all of them in the play. I was in an airport recently and this young woman told me her entire life story – being a single mother and traveling to Nashville to get custody of her child. She had no money and spent the night before her court date, sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I will definitely be telling that story soon.
EH: Do you follow a schedule when you write?
DMB: I write almost exclusively at night. It’s when I get my best ideas, when my creative energy is moving, when I’m the most inspired. I always write with music around me – certain songs work really well for creating a mood or a tone in a piece or a scene.
EH: Even though everything ends up processed by a computer eventually, some writers prefer to write out first drafts longhand or type them on a certain sentimental typewriter. What’s your method of madness?
DMB: I got my first typewriter when I was thirteen. I wrote over a hundred short stories in high school. I was always writing and when I wasn’t writing, I was reading. I graduated to a computer about ten years ago. At first, I resisted it but now I can’t imagine writing any other way. Computers have revolutionized the editing process for writers. This is especially useful when writing screenplays. With “Frozen Stars”, the production company had me do 32 rewrites on the script. In the end, only 12 pages from the original script made it into the shooting script. Without a computer, the experience would have been even more hellish than it was. Usually, I will write something, go away from it for awhile and return to it later, with a fresh perspective. When I am working on something, I never read someone else’s work. I am too easily influenced.
EH: Do you still enjoy the process or does it feel more like a job?
DMB: I love writing. It is definitely my passion. Certain aspects of it – the administrative side of things – that feels like a job. When I first started writing professionally, I had no idea about the business aspect of the industry – the meetings and contracts and correspondence. A lot of it takes away from valuable writing time, so it is tough to balance it all. But it is very important for a writer to be involved in any major decisions that are made on their behalf. It’s always important to protect yourself, especially where contracts are concerned. This is really important in the film industry. I enjoy writing screenplays but all of the work that goes into selling one is tremendous. I saw a press conference with Jessica Lange recently and she said, “Hollywood is no longer run by creative people. It is run by accountants.” That sentiment couldn’t be more true. I’m really lucky because I have an incredible support system. My partner is very understanding about living with a neurotic writer – the creative process and the toll it can take on you.
EH: So what’s next? You have a couple of movies coming up, and a new novel?
DMB: I am busier – and more insane – than I have ever been. My first novel, “Ambrosia”, will be out by the end of the year. I am moving to Atlanta within days. There, I will be directing a short film and my first feature film in four years, “Shimmer”. I’ve been told that my first film “Frozen Stars” has a chance of finally being released later this year. A script of mine called “Rock It Girl” was optioned by an awesome company in L.A. They will be in production on the film this summer. Also, my screenplay “Adrenaline” is being produced. I am working on a script right now for actress Patty Duke – a film adaptation of my stage play “Pensacola”. I am also working simultaneously on two new stage plays, “Highway Flowers” and “Scotch and Cat Food”. My management company is in talks with a cable network who are interested in having me create some original programming for them. That would be an amazing experience. I’ve always wanted to write for television. When I first started writing, it was my dream to write for “The Young and The Restless”. Maybe, it will still happen. It’s a crazy time, but I am enjoying every minute of it.