Posts tagged “books

The Best LGBTQ Literature of 2012: “Songs for the New Depression”

Best LGBTQ Books 2012I’m so grateful that my novel Songs for the New Depression has been mentioned on another Best Books of 2012 list!  Indie Reviews names their favorite reads of the year, and my book is mentioned, along with others by my pals Drake Braxton (Missing) and Arthur Wooten (Arthur Wooten’s Shorts), and many deserving others.

Add this nod to the other Best Books of 2012 mentions at Out in Print, Alfred Lives Here, and Butterfly-O-Meter Books, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Award for LGBTQ fiction, and I’m slowly realizing that 2012 was a really incredible year.

Things like this only happen when we follow our dreams!

Here’s wishing everyone a 2013 filled with love, happiness, and joy.

My best,

Kergan


Literary Spotlight: Ken Harrison, Publisher of Seventh Window Publications

With fewer of the big publishing houses making a concerted effort to produce new gay fiction, I’m happy to see Seventh Window Publications, founded by Ken Harrison, focusing on that market. Authors such as Drake Braxton, Eric Arvin, Jeffrey Ballam, Xavier Axelson and G.L. Roberts , among others, have found a home at Seventh Window, and the imprint has many titles in the pipeline.  Ken Harrison graciously sat down with me recently to talk about the state of publishing, gay books, and some of Seventh Window’s upcoming titles.

Ken, I appreciate your taking the time to chat!  First, how did Seventh Window Publications come to be? 

I started out as a writer, and Seventh Window began when I realized that I didn’t want to write. That’s a strange realization, mostly because even as a child, I had always wanted to be a writer. But once I started to get published, I realized that I had to be out there, front and center, seen and heard. Which is was not what I wanted. But I could not leave the work that I love, so I began Seventh Window, which allows me to pursue my passion in a way which fits me personally.

How do you see Seventh Window fitting into the larger publishing landscape?  What role do you see Seventh Window playing?

Some of the most exciting fiction comes from the small press.  A small press will take chances, mostly because a small press is usually working for the sheer love of publishing. When a small press finds a book they like, it doesn’t try to fit it into a mold, but embraces it for what it is.

What kind of work appeals to you?

Myself, I like dark romance. You know, stories about people falling in love that you wouldn’t normally think of as typical romance. Because of this I’ve published authors such as Xavier Axelson, Drake Braxton, and GL Roberts. These authors created stories about people who have been hurt by life and somehow still find a reason to love, which I find inspiring.  There’s something about an author who is willing to show a character with very few—if any—positive influences in their lives, yet finding the positive, finding love.

Are you yourself a romantic?

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Upcoming Appearances: Kergan Edwards-Stout

Hey everyone!

Fall is shaping up to be an incredibly busy season, and I value each and every opportunity to share with readers my novel, Songs for the New Depression, meet you, and answer your questions. And, yes, I have another book up my sleeve for the holidays, if only I can meet the deadlines!

In the meantime, please check out the following events:

  • On Thursday September 20th, I’ll be in Los Angeles at homo-centric, doing a reading and book signing.
  • On Sunday September 30th, I’ll be on a panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair and signing books afterward.
  • On the weekend of November 3 & 4, head to Palm Springs Pride, where I’ll be appearing at the Author’s Village, brought to you by Q Trading.

Hey, I’m a media whore, so if you have other venues at which I can appear, let me know! 🙂  If you missed the fun radio podcast I did with This Show is So Gay, please check it out.  They were really terrific, and the interview was lots of fun!

In addition to the book being available on Amazon, BN.com, and other online sellers, I’ve recently gotten notes from such wonderful stores carrying the book as BookShop Santa Cruz and Q Trading/Palm Springs, both in California; Morris Book Shop in Lexington, KY: and RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH!  If you know other stores which should be carrying Songs, please let me know.  This book has percolated within me for many years, and I’m hoping that it resonates with as many as I can reach.

I hope you’ll come out and see me at these events.  There is nothing better than meeting readers and talking about art, life, and love, so I hope you’ll come to one of these fun happenings and connect!  More info to follow!

Take care,

Kergan


Of Mother’s Day and Misogyny

As a gay man, I’ve long been accustomed to being called names, and have developed, as a result, a rather thick skin; perhaps too thick.  Negativity tends to roll right off my back, as if my body were slathered in Vaseline, or–in my case–AstroGlide Sexual Lubricant.  Typically, I am able to greet each and every volley with a shrug, but a recent event occurred which I’ve yet been able to shake.  Someone insinuated that I hate women, and while I’d never remotely thought that to be the case, given the many terrific relationships I value, as we approach Mother’s Day, I ironically find myself pondering how I feel about the opposite sex.

To give a brief introduction to the incident, I recently released my debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, and have been happy to see it receive positive reviews from such varied sources as The Advocate, Midwest Book Review, and Kirkus Reviews, who tout themselves as “The World’s Toughest Book Critics,” just to name a few.  Today, it was even named the winner of the 2012 Indie Book Awards in the LGBTQ category, and was shortlisted in the same category for the Independent Literary Awards as well.

Given this acclaim, I was a bit disheartened to read my first negative review, which–of course–I’d fully anticipated.  I’ve long known that you can’t please everyone, and understand that not all readers will appreciate a book about a funny but cynical man facing death, trying to make amends to those he has wronged.  After all, the character has more than his share of gallows humor, and his tale of love, longing, and redemption may not resonate with everyone.  Still, it was not the reviewer’s issues with the story which gave me pause; it was that her main objection to the book seemed to be that it was, in her words, “dripping with misogyny.”  She further noted, in the comment section of her post, that “it is hard not to see the author behind the scenes choosing to write it.”  And that, in the end, is what really pissed me off.

To be clear, the character of Gabriel Travers is indeed misogynistic.  He is hateful, petty, and spiteful, even on the best of days, and a good deal of that venom is spit towards women.  But the reviewer missed the more important point, in that Gabriel hates everyone and acts similarly towards others, yet always reserves the harshest criticism for himself. He strikes out to prevent others from getting too close, only to wonder why his friends hold themselves at arm’s length. Like so many of us, he wants to grow and better himself, but hasn’t a clue as to how to do so.

Aside from this overarching character trait, what the reviewer failed to note is that the women in the book–each and every one–are working to better themselves. Gabriel’s mother makes great strides in learning how to love, another woman ultimately rejects Gabriel due to his negative nature, and a third offers him redemption, when he most needs it. They are the true heroes and heroines of the story–which is part of why Gabriel is so angry with them.  These women are doing for themselves exactly what Gabriel himself hasn’t yet been able. It is one thing to want to change; it is another to know how, and to have the tools necessary for such growth.

Far from being blessed with a nurturing and warm Leave It to Beaver maternal figure, my own mother was more like the character Mary Tyler Moore played in Ordinary People–brittle, tightly-wound, with the possibility of explosion just around the corner.  My sister, dad, and I continually walked on egg shells, highly aware that even the smallest of missteps could easily break our fragile truce of peace.  Today, happily, my mother has grown and bettered herself, becoming, if not the mother I’d always wanted, at least a mother I can live with.  I’m appreciative of her efforts towards growth, and have tried to improve my own damaged self, with varying degrees of success.

While my mom may not have been the ideal image of maternal nurturing, thankfully, there have been other women who have more than met that need.  My eldest son, Mason, was born to a wonderful woman in Tennessee, who allowed me to be in the delivery room at his birth.  She realized that she wasn’t able to tend to his parental needs, and so entrusted him to my care.  Her generosity, warmth, and spirit carry on to this day, through our continued contact.

Our youngest, Marcus, had a more difficult and challenging relationship with his mother.  When he was 6 months-old, his birth mom took him to a crack house, which was then raided, and he was placed into foster care.  Though they attempted to reconnect the two, given her inability to leave drugs behind, it proved impossible.  Still, I’m grateful to her for the gift she gave us: an amazingly resilient and loving son.

For me, my assessment of people has not been based on gender, but on deed.  And, thankfully, my list of the phenomenal includes many women, particularly our dear friends Deb and Mary Kay, who became the first legally church-wed lesbian couple in Orange County, CA; Karen, who works tirelessly in the jail system, helping to wean inmates off addictive behavior; and darling Lisa, who continually offers me  smiles, encouragement, and words of good cheer.

While this is, by necessity, a short list, my admiration for women extends far past the few mentioned.  I came of age during the AIDS epidemic, and will forever pay tribute to those brave women who stepped into vacant leadership and caregiver roles, whose many accomplishments are now largely forgotten.  But simply listing the women whom I admire is a bit akin to the old “some of my best friends are ___” argument.  The bigger question is, what makes someone a misogynist, and am I one?

When I contemplate the word “misogyny,” I think of anger, hatred, and dislike, which doesn’t remotely correspond with my feelings.  And when I think of “women,” no negative connotations arise, either.  Still, if a friend were to call me out for perceived misogyny, I would no doubt listen, for I have found that I become a better person from examining my failings.

With a creative work, however, linking artist to art can be tenuous at best.  In my novel, each and every word Gabriel utters, whether towards women or men, was carefully chosen for effect; sometimes for humor, sometimes for pathos, and other times to offend.  It is his nature to live life unfiltered, but for me, I long ago learned the perils of such behavior, and work rigorously to examine my insecurities and feelings in an ongoing attempt to better myself.

While I’m not convinced that I am, indeed, misogynistic, I’m leaving the door open to that possibility, for the best way I can think of to demonstrate my respect for women is to live authentically, treat others honorably, with my eyes open to opportunities in which I can improve myself, those around me, and the greater world at large.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Cross-posted on Huffington Post and Bilerico Project.


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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A Review by Author Carey Parrish: “Songs for the New Depression”

I’m really overjoyed that Songs for the New Depression seems to be striking such a chord in readers–particularly when they happen to be authors themselves!

A Masterpiece of Modern Literature by Carey Parrish

It isn’t often I read a book that touches my soul, but that is exactly what happened with Songs for the New Depression. Author Kergan Edwards-Stout has crafted a story that is beautiful, tragic, and consuming. Once you start this one, you won’t be able to stop. And keep some tissues handy.

Meet Gabriel Travers. A man approaching 40, Gabe is ill with HIV and he thinks he’s dying; no, he knows he’s dying. Nobody believes him but he knows it. His life hasn’t been everything he wanted it to be, but whose has, eh? The world he lived in back in the 80’s is something he recalls fondly but which in the present day is a mere memory and a passel of regrets. He never found true love. He never became what he thought he wanted to be.

He lets his thoughts drift back to his high school days and the first love of his life, Keith. Keith was perhaps the only person who knew the potential Gabe possessed and it was with Keith, and only Keith, that Gabe shared the savagery of an attack that has left him scarred ever since.

Gabe’s story is one of personal redemption. In what he believes to be the finality of his life, he at last sets out on the journey of self discovery that will hopefully rid him of his regrets and put to rest the bitterness of a past that he’s never been able to shed.

Readers can delight in Gabe’s journey because it is one that we all at some point in our lives, for whatever varying reasons, have to take. Maybe Gabe isn’t the classic literary hero, he is a very flawed character in many respects, but no one is perfect, and anyone who reads this tale will relate to Gabe in a very personal manner. His love of Bette Midler, his reliance on the help of his mom’s wife, a priest who loves country music, and his own remembrances of what he sees as a life half lived will open the door to the reality of what he actually is, was, and will become.

Kergan Edwards-Stout has written a masterpiece. A bravura debut novel, its heartfelt message is ultimately timeless.

Mr. Edwards-Stout, well done, sir.

For more about Carey Parrish, author of Marengo and Big Business, please check out his website.


LGBT Book Review Blog: “Songs for the New Depression”

Very appreciative of the great review for Songs for the New Depression!

Shelly’s LGBT Book Review Blog

Today’s fiction review is about a novel, yes, but it’s also about the soundtrack of a life. Songs for the New Depression, the first novel for author Kergan Edwards-Stout, is set to the soundtrack of the Bette Midler album it takes its name from. The book is loosely based on the life story of his now deceased former life partner Shane Michael Sawick and an obvious passion for the music that moved a generation of gay men.

The book has garnered some rave reviews from both gay and straight outlets due to its honest and open portrayal of a death too soon from AIDS and also, no doubt, due to the fact that Mr. Edwards-Stout has been quietly making a name for himself by having works of both fiction and fact published in the magazine press and for being named by the Human Rights Campaign as one of their 2011 Father of the Year honorees. When I was contacted by his publisher about reading and reviewing this book, and when I saw those reviews, I responded to the inquiry with excitement. I wasn’t disappointed.

The lead character in this tale is Gabriel – often known as Gabe and, to his mother and an old friend or two, Gabey. Kergan wrote the book in a backwards chronological format. It opens with a prologue after Gabe has died from the scourge of AIDS. It proceeds in three parts – late life leading up to his death, the middle period where he contracted the disease, and his closeted high school years where he was trying to discover where he fit in the world, and then it ends with a short epilogue that brings the story forward in time again. It’s unusual to begin a book at the end but for Gabe’s story it works well.

At the beginning of the book, which again, portrays the end of Gabe’s life, he has some redeeming qualities. He’s found the good in life and in himself and he is prepared for death. As you as a reader go backward in time with him, you’ll almost feel yourself hating who and what he was. In the middle part of his short life he was a stereotypical sarcastic, bitchy queen with a sex fixation. As a woman, a lesbian woman, had this book been written in forward chronological order it’s very likely I would have given up on Gabe somewhere about the middle of his mid-life. While my heart broke for the young Gabe of the 3rd part, the 2nd/middle part made me want to grab 20 something Gabe and slap him silly for being such a total ass to everyone he came into contact with and, quite frankly to slap a chastity belt on him and throw away the key. I’m not a violent person but, wow, part II Gabe was a real piece of work!

Mid-life Gabe doesn’t love himself and he sets about his life to make himself unlovable by others. He always seeks “love” but he never finds it because, after the trauma of his teen years, he has blocked out any form of love but sex. When he seeks sex, he’s actual seeking real human contact, love and acceptance.

There is A LOT of gay sex in this book. Again, as a lesbian, it did absolutely nothing for me and had the book not started where it did, about the 5th time he was “intimate” (for lack of a better word) with someone in any way I would have closed the book for good. I didn’t do that because of the way the author so skillfully set the scene and built Gabe’s character. The sex is integral to the story. It is why Gabe is who and what he is.

Another thing that’s integral to the story is the soundtrack. No, there is no CD with the book. Gabe, during his life, became a fan of the Bette Midler, The Divine Ms. “M” a gay icon in the period the early and mid stories are set. Each of the three parts has a song that it flows with. Trust that you don’t have to own the album to feel the music. The references are throughout the text.

Many tout this book as an important piece of fiction that should be read by all because of it’s portrayal of AIDS. I’ll give them that. I would add that it’s not only an important piece of fiction because of the message, but it’s a great piece of fiction writing regardless of the message.


Book Talk With Charla – Review: “Songs for the New Depression”

I’m extremely grateful for the terrific review given to Songs for the New Depression by Book Talk With Charla.  Doesn’t get better than 5 out of 5 Stars!

Book Talk With Charla:

This book touched me at the core of my being!  It gives a real look at what life is like with AIDS.  It is a story of love and devotion, and a self examination of a dying man.  It takes you inside of Gabes head and as you read, you suffer along with him and sometimes you laugh. You will find that his concerns are the same as your own.  I think that is why this story had such an emotional hold on me.  I’m not just talking about the disease and the suffering because of it.  I am talking about the path that each persons life takes them down. This book will have you examining your own conscious and the things you have and have not done in your life. Like another reviewer, I suggest that you keep a box of tissue handy because you will certainly need them. I am so glad that I read this because it has brought to mind things that I had not thought of before.  If you remember anything that I have said about this book, please remember this; It is a story of love and devotion! I read this book in just a couple of days because I could not stop once I started reading.