New Review Calls “Songs for the New Depression” a “Gem”

I’m so grateful for the wonderful review of Songs for the New Depression in the Examiner by noted author Alan H. Chin, calling it “a gem.”  Under any circumstances, that alone would  be high praise, but what most people don’t realize, though, as I normally don’t discuss it, is that–from beginning to end–I published the novel largely by myself, making the accolades even more meaningful.

In December 2010, after 12 long years of on-again, off-again writing, I finally finished the novel in order to be able to give it to my partner, Russ, as his 50th birthday gift.  After meeting my deadline, I then began trying to sell the book in the traditional manner.  I approached over 250 literary agents, and was rejected or did not receive a response (which is the same thing as a “no”–just less polite) by every single one.  I sent the manuscript to publishing houses, large and small, and was again rejected.  I took every route possible, and was told “no,” time and again.  It was incredibly demoralizing, to have written something which I felt so passionately about, only to have my baby repeatedly deemed ugly.

Finally, I received two rejections which sent me off on an entirely different path than anticipated.  One was from the agent who represents Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham (The Hours.)  She’d read the novel, enjoyed it, and had shared with other agents in her office, calling the writing “contemporary, fresh, funny,” only to then let me know that she couldn’t “sell it.”  There was a glut of literary fiction on the marketplace, she noted, and marketing a book such as this would be difficult, at best.  While that should have been disappointing, it really wasn’t.  Neither was the next rejection letter I got.

An esteemed editor and publisher, Don Weise, who used to run Alyson Books and now heads the LGBT press, Magnus Books, also read the novel.  Again, I got the same response, which essentially said,”I love your book, but literary fiction just ain’t selling!”

While no one likes rejection, to have been told by two well-respected sources such as these just how great they thought the book was proved a huge boost to me, launching my “make-it-happen” instincts into overdrive.  My feeling was, if these amazing folks love it, but there just isn’t a marketplace for it, why not create my own marketplace?

Thus began a huge leap into the world of indie publishing.  I had no money, so leaned on friends to help me edit the novel.  I learned how to make videos, in order to create my own promotional tools.  I learned code to be able to build my website.  I wrote my own press releases, contacted reviewers, acted as my own shipper, and more, in order to both publish and promote my book.

While the novel may never make me rich, that was never the intent.  I wrote a cautionary tale of love, loss, and redemption, and for those folks who’ve read and “gotten it,” my hope is that the novel will feed and nourish their souls.  Happily, most of the letters I’ve received tell me that it has.  Others won’t like it, and that’s okay, too.  I’d rather have written something which is polarizing than to have written something bland.

This particular reviewer, however, “got it,” and I feel so grateful.

Songs for the New Depression isn’t the story of my partner, Shane, though he inspired it.  This is really my emotional journey, entirely fictionalized, of going from self-serving to self-loving.  Of going from a person I hated into one in whom I now see value.  Going from someone scared of taking leaps into one for whom leaping has become mandatory.

Each and every person who reads and appreciates the journey means that my learning and efforts have not been in vain.

For those of us who choose the lonely road, it is a hard one, but the rewards at the end are also ours to savor…

Please check out the full review here, but following are a few lovely quotes:

“This is a sad story brushed onto the canvas with insightful, dark humor and touching flourishes…

Gabe is not a likable character, yet the author skillfully presents his protagonist in such a way that the reader understands why Gabe chooses to push people away, even people he loves. Also, the three snapshots are told in reverse-chronological order, so the reader builds up sympathy for the character while he struggles with AIDS, and then in the end, reveals the sexual incident that derailed Gabe’s life, to finally bring understanding. Reversing the order was a stroke of genius.

The author presents a story that is heartfelt and authentic, and told with great skill.

If you are looking for a gushing mm romance with a happy ending, keep looking. If you are looking, however, for a well-written, intelligent, bittersweet tale of love and overcoming a troubled past, then I can highly recommend this gem of a book.”

3 Responses

  1. Kergan, you are a force. Thank you for telling the story of how you came to publish. An 18th century bishop of Dublin ( I just read) admonished his clergy to preach “not because you have to say something, but because you have something to say.”
    Your themes, struggles and life experiences are universal and you are one of the most convicted people I know. You really have something to say, and for this the world will be and is a better place.

    October 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

  2. A great post, Kergan. It took me six years to finally get that first one published, and yes, it takes meeting people along the way that have faith in you to drive you to make it happen. That seems to happen more than you would suspect.

    Congratuations on a wonderful novel. I look forward to #2.

    alan chin

    October 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm

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