Interview with LL Book Review: Kergan Edwards-Stout
Thanks to the good folks over at LL Book Review for the fun interview!
By Shannon Yarbrough on April 1, 2012
Tell us a little about your book.
Songs for the New Depression captures that moment in the gay community during the AIDS crisis, prior to the HIV drugs we now have, with all of the love, humor, friendship, sex, and danger those days held. Lead character Gabriel Travers knows he’s made mistakes in his life, and doesn’t want to die without making amends–but has no clue as to how to do that. With the clock ticking, he begins to peel back the layers and face his demons, with the help of the music of the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had a partner, Shane, who died in 1995, as well as other friends I lost through my work at AIDS Project Los Angeles, and I wanted to find a way to honor them. The temptation is to write about that period in sepia tones, but I really wanted to try to bring that period to life, as vividly as I could. And one day a sentence popped into my head. I didn’t know who it was or what it would lead to, but that eventually became the first sentence in the novel.
What are you doing to market your book?
Happily, positive reviews are helping to market the book, and my articles on Huffington Post and other publications bring new people to my website. I’ve also done readings and signings, most recently at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York. I also looked at this first book as an investment in myself and my future as a writer, and put money into online advertising as well.
How have sales been? Where have you had the most success?
My book is out in hardcover, paperback, and all e-book formats, but–not surprisingly–Kindle is definitely my biggest seller. Sales are increasing, month over month, so I’m hopeful that this book will reach many people. I’m not so interested in the financial return, as much as that I really think most folks haven’t really considered the full impact of the AIDS crisis, and I hope my book spotlights that for them.
How are readers/reviewers reacting to your book?
Terrific! The big reviewers, such as Kirkus, Midwest Book Review, and Advocate.com have been very generous. But I’ve also been pleased with reviews on book blogs sites, and in such unexpected places as Liberty Press, which is a small paper in Kansas. I had thought, given the location, they’d be less open to this frank urban story, but they totally embraced it. And being short-listed for the 2011 Independent Literary Awards was a big feather in my cap as well.
What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?
I think the hardest challenge was in returning, emotionally, to those days. While fictional, there is a lot of truth in the book, and putting yourself in the mindset of someone who is dying can be grueling. Luckily, I have two young kids, so they forced me out of that state–sometimes whether I wanted to be or not!
What are the future plans for you and this book?
I’m continuing to promote the book, as I hope it reaches beyond the typical “gay” audience and finds a home in the hearts of other readers. What’s been interesting to me is how many women have read and loved the book. While the lead is gay, the themes of seeking love and finding acceptance and redemption are so universal, I guess it really resonates with them. Plus, I think women are typically more open to epic kind of love stories such as this.
What is your next project?
I’m tackling a memoir next, which focuses on a period in my life where an event occurred which caused me to question my every reality. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say, if I was a woman, this event would easily be turned into a Lifetime TV movie, and I’d be played by Valerie Bertinelli.
Have you published anything else?
I have a variety of articles on such sites as Huffington Post, Bilerico Project, and LGBTQ Nation, and I blog regularly at http://kerganedwards-stout.com.
Any advice for other writers/indie authors out there?
Stay true to your voice. One of the most empowering things for me in going the indie route is that everything on the page, for better or worse, is under my control. And finding our own specific voices and telling our stories is how we can open hearts and minds, and change the world.