At the time, I didn’t know what I was writing, who the character was, where the story would go, or even where the inspiration came from. Today, that line is the first sentence of the prelude in my new book, Songs for the New Depression.
Where in my subconscious did that line originate? And what made me write it down?
While I still don’t know the answers to those questions, whenever I have said that line to myself, the voice I heard speaking it was that of my deceased partner, Shane Michael Sawick. The voice was somewhat cynical, funny, smart — the ultimate New Yorker. There was a bravado to it; a confidence that I know he didn’t always feel.
I’d read James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room back in college, and the concept he laid out, that Americans lack a sense of doom, stuck with me. And while that may be the case for many Americans, I feel quite differently. Having watched so many die from AIDS, including Shane, I feel like I know doom all too well.
Songs for the New Depression is about a man facing imminent death, looking back at the choices he has made — or didn’t make — which have lead to his current state. And whether subconsciously or not, my book shares many elements with Giovanni’s Room: in both books, key sections take place in Paris, the lead characters are gay men struggling with questions of “how to live”, and death is never far from either story.
Somehow, over the course of several years, what had originated as a singular thought mixed through my own experiences, morphing into a full novel, which will be published in October.
Check out this new trailer, which gives a taste of the flavor of the opening prelude, and you’ll see how that simple sentence took root and grew, finally becoming Songs for the New Depression.