Posts tagged “authors

Band of Thebes’ Best LGBT Books of 2012

With LGBT bookstores shuttering and the consolidation of gay media resulting in reduced promotional opportunities for publishers and authors, few venues remain for discovering literature reflecting the gay experience.  Happily, Stephen Bottum continues to provide one of the best sources for LGBT publishing news on his blog, Band of Thebes, which he began five years ago.

His site has garnered a devoted following of authors, publishers, and readers, with Band of Thebes providing a wonderful mix of book reviews, posts on LGBT authors, and the latest in literary news.

In 2009, he began asking authors to share their favorite LGBT reads of the year, in all genres — fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comics —  leading to the creation of an annual author survey of the Best LGBT Books of the Year.  His eagerly-awaited list for 2012 has just been released, and Stephen graciously took time to share with me more about his inspiration for starting the website, his love for literature, and his annual list of the year’s best.
Stephen, Sacred Band of Thebes refers to an army of 300 men in ancient Greece, which was comprised of 150 male couples.  The theory was that by fighting alongside one’s partner, the desire to succeed would be stronger.  What was it about that story which inspired you to select it as the name for your website?

As far as I can remember, the first men I understood to be gay were of an old school, Paul Lynde-ilk, who at the time frightened me with their snideness. My coming out was prolonged in part by not wanting to join the bitchfest. So the idea of gay warriors fighting for each other was very appealing, minus the mayhem and slaughter. My aim was to create a site to highlight queer writers and filmmakers and artists, and enrich an eager audience who might miss them in the mainstream media.

Where did your love for literature begin?

I terrorized my parents by giving up on books around nine or ten and refusing to read anything other than movie ads and TV listings. Then, at fourteen, I quit tennis, my friends started pursuing girls, and suddenly I discovered those gray blocks surrounding the cartoons in The New Yorker held words. After a few stories by Ann Beattie and Peter Cameron, I was hooked.

What prompted you to start your blog?  Was there a void you saw that you wanted to fill?

Much as I’d like to take credit for reversing the mainstream’s shortfall of gay coverage, I’m sure it was my partner’s idea. Desperate for a way to shut me up, he kept saying, “Hey, you have all these opinions about books and movies, you should blog.”

You’ve been compiling your “Best Books” lists for a few years now.  When you begin the process, do you have a strategy?  A certain mix of authors to approach?

Maligned as she is, Tina Brown is absolutely right that a great magazine should be like a really good party, and the survey is the same: poets rubbing against porn stars, with the added challenge of balancing the L, G, B, and T, and fair representation of ethnicities. Beginning each spring, I keep a wish list of authors to approach, and I was very, very thrilled this year to have about 24 new participants, including  Lisa Cohen, Ellis Avery, Rick Whitaker, Tendai Huchu, Ivan Coyote, Farzana Doctor, the cartoonist Justin Hall, Nick Krieger, whose memoir deserved all the attention Chaz Bono’s received, and young Scottish novelist Kerry Hudson, who is going to be the next Jeanette Winterson.

How do you feel about the mix of the contributing authors?

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Life’s Many Moments: How Our World Shapes Our Art

Author Gregory G. Allen and I, up until now, had yet to meet. Still, we’d found ourselves bumping into each other virtually on any number of occasions.  Both of our debut novels had been short-listed for the 2011 Independent Literary Awards, we’d continually run into each other on twitter, and Advocate.com asked us for a joint interview, which we were happy to do.  As we gathered together for the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City, however, where we’d both be reading and signing our books, I found myself wondering, “Who is this person?” In a way, I felt as if I knew him quite well, but our conversations thus far had all been about our work, and I was very curious as to whom he was as a person, and how his life’s moments had influenced his writing.  Today, at last, my questions were happily answered.

Kergan Edwards-Stout:  Finally!

Gregory G. Allen:  I know, right?  It seems as if we have been connected for so long–

Edwards-Stout: And yet never met!  I’m so curious, having read your novel, Well With My Soul, as to who you are, and what part of you is in the characters you created.  You write so specifically about two brothers.  What was your situation like, growing up?

Allen:  Well, for the longest time, I was the baby of the family–the youngest of five kids in our blended family.

Edwards-Stout:  Five? Wow, that must have been challenging.

Allen:  I was the peacemaker.  I was the sole offspring of both my mother and father, so my role was to try to pull the other siblings together.

Edwards-Stout: That must have really had an impact on who you’d become.

Allen:  You have no idea.  I was the performer.  I was always on stage, singing or acting–I played Elvis when I was in the 4th grade.

Edwards-Stout:  Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Allen:  You kidding? It was great! It started an entire career of seeking that limelight on stage. By the time I was 12, my folks adopted my little brother, and I went from being the baby of the family, to an older sibling.  But I was so thrilled to be a big brother, I was more than happy to give up that title…

Edwards-Stout:  Given all of these siblings and your family dynamic, what was coming out like for you?

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Kergan Edwards-Stout and Gregory G. Allen in The Advocate!

A special thank you to the staff of The Advocate Magazine for featuring Gregory G. Allen (author of Well With My Soul) and I in an interview on our commonalities and differences. It was a lot of fun to do, and I appreciate the opportunity!

Read the full interview here!