Posts tagged “literature

Interview with Award-Winning Novelist David Pratt

Looking After JoeyDavid Pratt, Lambda Award-winning novelist for Bob the Book, is back with a funny and touching new novel, Looking After Joey (Wilde City Press). In it, Calvin, a single accountant, must look after Joey, a porn character who unexpectedly steps through the TV into Calvin’s life–and can’t go back. Calvin’s friend Peachy comes to the rescue, declaring that he and Calvin will teach Joey what he needs to know to be a gay man in this world—from Cher and Liza to how to cross the street without getting hit. But on a deeper level Joey’s presence causes Calvin to reevaluate what he desires, and his yearning for connection propels everyone through the story, as they find themselves forming a family of choice.

As our work shares many themes, primarily those of love and family, I appreciated the time Pratt took to connect to discuss our definitions of family, particularly their meaning for us as gay men.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: David, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! As you know, I was a big fan of Bob the Book, and was so pleased to hear of your new novel. One of your gifts as a writer is in bringing objects to life. In Bob the Book, you animate a book, and in Looking After Joey, you create depths and layers in a porn character.

David Pratt: In Bob, I actually created humans in the guise of books, who live as books might if books were sentient. In Looking After Joey, it’s Joey’s vulnerability and curiosity that bring him alive. He’s a porn character who crosses into our world, like a baby bird fallen from the nest. His reactions to what we call “real life” are hilarious and touching. Or both at once, as when he sees his first handicapped person. There is humor to it, but the scene is also gripping.

Edwards-Stout: Key to my enjoyment of the book was the role that family plays in it. Your lead character, Calvin, is on a quest to find a relationship, but ends up finding much more than that. It occurred to me, though, that while I know much about you as a writer, I don’t know much about your personal life, aside from your relationship with your partner, Rogério. How did you meet him? (more…)


Author Spotlight: Brian Centrone

Brian Centrone I had the pleasure of first meeting Brian Centrone last year at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York. We’d become virtual friends via Twitter, connecting through a group of writers who support each others’ work. Friendly and witty, I was interested in learning more Brian, and the publication of his new novel, An Ordinary Boy, proved just the opportunity.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: Brian, it’s great to connect with you again, and congratulations on your new book! Your online bio is very charming and witty, but give me some of your back-story.

Thanks, Kergan. The bio on my website is an attempt to write about myself without having to write about myself in a formal manner. I grew up in the Bronx and attended Catholic school for 9 years. It was in the third grade that I caught the writing bug. The school was putting together their first ever creative writing journal and I was determined to get published in it. I told my teacher I wanted to write a novel and she corrected me by saying short story, but I was really talking about bigger dreams than just the school publication. My story did get published and I was over the moon. It wasn’t until years later that I realized they published every student who submitted work. My story was about three friends that received an apparition from the Virgin Mary and thus become priests and a nun. It’s God-awful, but it’s my very first publication, and it did fuel my desire to be a writer. I’ve been keeping that one a secret for years!

Aside from the nuns, what have been the most impactful moments in your own life, and how did those shape who you’ve become? (more…)


Provincetown Magazine Features Excerpt from “Songs for the New Depression”

I’m so grateful that a reader emailed me, noting they’d first discovered my novel by reading an excerpt in Provincetown Magazine.  As I hadn’t seen the excerpt in print, this was a very pleasant surprise.  I’ve always loved the time I’ve spent in P-town.  It has given me both a sense of peace and community, and my vacations there have provided many memories.  In fact, one of my new short stories, The Cape, which is in my forthcoming collection, Gifts Not Yet Given, takes place in Provincetown.

This past summer, Russ and I were fortunate enough to be able to take our kids to the Cape, and that wonderful week in P-town was the highlight.  Thank you, Provincetown Magazine, and thanks to the wonderful reader who alerted me!

Excerpt from "Songs for the New Depression"

Excerpt from “Songs for the New Depression”


Groundbreaking Gay Mystery Series Finally Comes to E-Book

Michael NavaIn 1986, the United States looked very different than it does today.  Ronald Reagan was president.  It was the year of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the blockbuster film Top Gun.  LGBT people were largely marginalized.  Latinos hadn’t yet become a surging political force.  And while AIDS had begun claiming countless in the gay community, it was only in 1985 that the larger public became more fully aware, due to the sensationalized death of star Rock Hudson.

It was in this era of the so-called “Moral Majority”, a largely white, conservative, Christian view of America, that author Michael Nava crafted one of the most unlikely of literary heroes: Henry Rios, a gay, Latino criminal attorney with a passion for justice.  Himself an outsider, Rios acted on behalf of those without a voice, often wrongly accused of crimes.  While introduced in The Little Death, Rios would go on to solve mysteries in a series of seven books, culminating with Rag and Bone in 2001.

The Rios series would win five Lambda Literary Awards, and Nava was honored by The Publishing Triangle with the Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for Gay and Lesbian literature.

As the revolutionary Henry Rios series finally comes to e-book, Michael Nava took time to share more with me about the development of the character, his thoughts on bringing an end to the Rios series, and his forthcoming novel, The City of Palaces.

Kergan Edwards-Stout:  You first gained literary acclaim for your Henry Rios mystery series.  How did the tales originate?

Michael Nava:  I started writing the first novel almost as a lark in my last year at law school.  I was working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the Palo Alto jail, where I interviewed men who had been arrested to determine if they were eligible for immediate release on their own recognizance or would have to post bail the next day.  Palo Alto didn’t have that much crime so I spent many nights just waiting around or trying to study.  At some point, I started writing what became The Little Death; indeed the very first scene has Rios walking into a jail which was the Palo Alto jail.

The Little DeathEdwards-Stout:  Your lead character, a gay Latino criminal attorney involved in solving mysteries, broke many barriers.  Were you conscious of how groundbreaking he might be? (more…)


Legendary Author Patricia Nell Warren: Ever the Front Runner

The Front RunnerI recall it as if it were yesterday: stepping inside the sprawling bookstore, which smelled faintly of dust; walking past the periodicals, where gay porn titles peeked at me ever-so-discretely from the uppermost row; crossing to the back of the store, reaching “my” row, and nervously looking about before finally stepping up to the shelves, above which hung a large sign, “Gay Studies.”  I felt uncomfortable standing beneath it, as it labeled not just the shelves, but my own burgeoning identity, and committing to this unfamiliar label so publicly felt entirely premature.  While the “Gay” part I understood, it was only years later that I realized the second part of the sign was equally true, as I was studying the world I would soon fully inhabit.

Coming out has changed greatly in the years since, but what I found through the books on that shelf provided for me the same reassurance as those emerging today seek;  through the stories, I learned I was not alone.  Novels by such authors as Larry Kramer, Armistead Maupin, Andrew Holleran, and Felice Picano filled me in on this mysterious world, where other men openly searched for love, but one book from that time stands out to me as unique, and resonated with me deeply.  Patricia Nell Warren’s groundbreaking novel The Front Runner follows coach Harlan Brown and his protégé Billy Sive as they discover love against the backdrop of the Olympics and a changing world.  As a young man myself, I had yet to find a book which spoke to my generation, and identified both with Brown, as he emerged from his more rigid, conservative environment, as well as Sive, who embodied the new, free spirited era, exploding on the horizon in front of me.

Prior to The Front Runner’s publication in 1974, Warren authored her first novel, The Last Centennial, published in 1971.  She had also published three volumes of Ukrainian poetry independently, as well as amassing a large body of unpublished work.  While the debut of The Front Runner introduced Warren to a new legion of fans, she was surprised to find that the book rankled some in the literary establishment, who were uncomfortable that such a seminal gay male romance had been written by a woman.  It didn’t seem to matter to them that she had come out in 1974 as a lesbian.  In the years following, however, Warren solidified her reputation in both the gay and literary worlds with continuations of The Front Runner saga (Harlan’s Race and Billy’s Boy), as well as novels The Fancy Dancer, The Wild Man, and The Beauty Queen, and non-fiction (including Lavender Locker Room and My West.)

The Fancy DancerWhether as an American writing Ukrainian poetry, a runner helping to usher women into the sport, a woman writing gay male fiction, or as a writer, taking control over her own work as publisher with Wildcat Press, Warren has long been a game changer, moving into uncharted waters and navigating them for others.  She graciously agreed to take time out from her busy schedule to talk with me about her body of work, issues facing the LGBT community, and the rewards and challenges of having written a literary classic.  As a bonus, she also reveals more about the prospects for the long-awaited The Front Runner movie, as well as the continuation of that tale in a fourth book.

Kergan Edwards-Stout:  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.  In reviewing your work, I became very curious as to the key, pivotal moments in your life.  What most shaped you and your journey?

Patricia Nell Warren:  It wasn’t so much a moment, but an experience, of being raised on a ranch in the West, at a very particular time.  So much of what we think of as LGBT literature is based on an urban worldview, but growing up in a rural setting, as I did, is very much a part of who I am today.  Looking back, now that I’m 76, that life gave me a very different viewpoint, as you’re living in a situation where, any day, there could be a storm that wipes out the wheat crop.  That kind of day-to-day existence is challenging, and in many ways, at heart, I’m still a ranch kid. In fact, I’m co-writing a book on that with my brother, called Kids on a Ranch.

Edwards-Stout:  Did you find it difficult, making connections with people in that kind of environment?

Warren:  Our ranch wasn’t that far from town.  We were close enough that we could walk, bicycle, or ride our horses into town, so we had lots of friends.  It wasn’t an isolating kind of life, but it was definitely a different life, with different jobs at home than the town kids, who may not have known one end of a horse from the other!

You had to take a very practical approach on how to handle things, which today has led me to have political impatience.  My dad used to say, “When your horse is caught in barbed wire, you don’t sit around making speeches.  You grab the wire cutters and get to work!”

Edwards-Stout:  Look at what has happened recently, with the Sandy Hook shooting(more…)


To the Reader Who Saved My Life…

Dear Bob,

As we enter this new year, full of promise and possibility, I realized that I could not in all fairness properly close out the old without first repaying a major debt.  One that I owe to you, dear reader, for quite literally saving my life.

To begin, I have no idea when we first connected, or how you stumbled upon my novel…  Maybe it was the cover, peaking coyly at you from a stack in a bookshop.  Perhaps you saw one of the online advertisements, or heard about it from a friend, or read one of the “illuminating” promotional interviews with yours truly.  Whichever the route, you likely had no idea, when you reached for the book, that the very act of reading it could so profoundly affect me, and all for the better.  How could you know, after all, that while I’d long envisioned a life for myself as a writer, until you contacted me, I’d begun to consider stopping altogether? (more…)


“Songs for the New Depression” lands on another Top Books of 2012 list!

Best LGBT BooksMy sincere thanks to Butterfly-O-Meter Books for including Songs for the New Depression on their Top 10 Books of 2012 list. I’m overwhelmed with the response to my novel, and truly appreciate the mention! Also, thanks to Out in Print, Alfred Lives Here, and QueerMeUp for inclusion on their lists as well.  It has been a wonderful year, and I appreciate all of the notes from readers about how the novel has touched you.

The holidays encapsulate all of the bittersweet, subtle emotion I hoped to convey in the book.  At times joyous, others sad, and still others sexy and raucous…  Life is a wonderful mix, and I am grateful every day that I’m alive and able to experience and be moved by it.

I hope that you each have a wonderful holiday season!

Kergan


“Songs for the New Depression” named one of the “Top 5 Books of 2012”

I’m so grateful to having “Alfred Lives Here” name Songs for the New Depression as one of their Top 5 Books of 2012!  What a thrill to be recognized.  Here’s what it said:

Songs for the New Depression

A realistic touching beautiful story of a man battling AIDS, his life and friends and loves.  The story goes from clever and funny to really hard to read because it is so sad and so real. I wrote a post about this one here. If you haven’t read it yet, read it now.

Add this to the wonderful inclusion on Out in Print’s Best Books of 2012 list, and I can easily say that I’ll always remember 2012.  How wonderful to have had my book resonate with so many.  I appreciate your emails, notes, and support, and look forward to introducing you to a new book in 2013!

Happy holidays,
Kergan


2012 Holiday Gift Guide recommends “Songs for the New Depression”!

What a thrill to have Songs for the New Depression land on Queer Me Up’s 2012 Holiday Gift GuideQueer Me Up Come to think of it, a red ribbon around this book might be just the ticket!

Happy holidays!


Legendary Author Michael Nava praises “Songs for the New Depression”

Michael NavaComing out in the 1980’s, I eagerly devoured every LGBT book I could lay my hands on.  Novels from such authors as Armistead Maupin, Larry Kramer, and Patricia Nell Warren filled my crate shelves.  But given my even-earlier leanings toward the mysteries of such stalwarts as the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Agatha Christie, the books of Michael Nava held particular appeal.  An attorney, Nava created one of the most indelible and groundbreaking of characters in Henry Rios, a gay Latino criminal defense attorney, and his books were more than mere mysteries.  He has been honored with five Lambda Literary Awards, and was also awarded the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award for Gay and Lesbian literature.

I recently met Nava at Palm Springs Pride, where we were both signing our books, and was absolutely floored when he bought mine.  (I was such a fan, I would’ve given it to him for free!)  Still, even knowing he had it, I never expected him to read it, let alone contact me.  Color me shocked when I received a lovely note from him on the novel.  After a brief exchange, he sent me the following quote, which I’m so happy to share with all of you!

Songs for the New Depression is an affecting novel, written with great literary flair. I particularly enjoyed its portrait of Los Angeles in the 80’s and 90’s, as well as the author’s brave willingness to write about the AIDS epidemic at a time when so many of us seem to want to forget that terrifying era. At times laugh aloud funny, and at other times intensely moving, it is the first of what I hope will be many books to come from Kergan Edwards-Stout. I recommend it.”

Such moments as this make all of the challenges of writing well worth it!


Popular Gay Author Morphs into Female Broadway Legend in His New Fictional Memoir

When I began my journey to author-hood, one of the first and most generous writers with whom I connected was the prolific and witty Arthur Wooten.  Offering advice and willing to share tales of his own publishing adventures, Wooten quickly became a favorite.  While his books range from the très gay On Picking Fruit and its sequel, Fruit Cocktail, to family dramedies, including Birthday Pie andLeftovers, to even children’s books, such as Wise Bear William, it’s safe to say that his latest novel, Dizzy, will surprise even his most ardent fans.  A “fictional memoir,” Dizzy transplants Wooten’s own battle with an unusual disease onto his fictitious heroine, Broadway star Angie Styles, with all of the pluck and wit his readers have come to expect.

I recently caught up with Wooten, fresh off having two of his titles land on the acclaimed Band of Thebes’ Best LGBT Books of 2012 list, and we chatted about his body of work, the accolades he’s received, and his new “fictional memoir,” Dizzy.

Arthur, thanks so much for taking the time to meet!

It’s always a pleasure, Kergan.

Given that your new book is a “fictional memoir,” the obvious first question is, what do you and your lead character have in common? 

Angie Styles, my lead character in Dizzy, and I have so much in common. We both have bilateral vestibular disease with oscillopsia. That means that we have no sense of balance and that our brain’s ability to detect where we are in space is compromised. Unless my brain can lock my eyes onto something, it has no idea where I am. In darkness, I don’t know if I’m upright or upside down. And every step I take is like bouncing on a trampoline–It never goes away.

That sounds so challenging…

And it really messes up your vision, too! Another thing I have in common with the character is that for fifteen years I was in show business: acting, singing and dancing. We both live on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, have been forced to reinvent ourselves, and we’ve had to retrain our brains, literally, in order to keep functioning in the world. (more…)


An Acclaimed Gay Author Surprises with Two New Novels

I first met fellow writer Trebor Healey at Palm Springs Pride, where we were both signing copies of our novels at the Authors’ Village.  Given that the title of my first novel includes the word “depression” and his recent title contains the word “sorrow,” we quickly bonded over a shared lament of others trying to convince us to change our titles into something “more happy.”  Feeling that our work embodies both joy and heartache, we each chose to stick with our original vision, and I’m happy to say that Healey’s new work, A Horse Named Sorrow, is as wonderful and nuanced as its title.

Healey’s debut novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, was awarded both the Violet Quill Award and the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction, making his new work highly anticipated.  Entirely by happenstance, Healey found himself with his next two works both released on the same day.  While A Horse Named Sorrow is a meditative tale set in San Francisco, Faun focuses on an adolescent boy discovering that his body is quickly morphing, but not into the expected stage of puberty.

Having just named A Horse Named Sorrow as my favorite LGBT read of 2012, I was pleased that Healey was able to take some time with me to discuss his work and inspirations.

Trebor, when we first met, we talked about the use of “sad” words in our novel titles.  Why did you feel so strongly about your title for A Horse Named Sorrow?

Well, first of all, it’s a line from a Nick Cave song, and it’s a song I really love—the Carny Song—and it’s very much evocative of what San Francisco was to me at that time…a carnival, a circus, but a macabre one haunted by an enormous overarching sorrow. And when you think of how a horse plods along when it’s tired, it’s just such a perfect metaphor for the weight we feel when we carry sorrow. And we carry it. Grief is a profound experience, it’s one of the cardinal experiences if you will. But my book is not really a sad book; in many ways, it’s very comic and full of youthful enthusiasm, but it’s about something real, and one of the things the characters have to do—that we all have to do—is carry the sorrow of life with us until we are able to set it down or transform it into something else. I also think sorrow is a beautiful word—the symmetry of it, with the two r’s and two o’s, and the sound of it is wonderful. There is a lot to every word and we can experience it fully, and I think words in titles of artworks are important that way. They have a lot of work to do and they need to be good, full words.

In A Horse Named Sorrow, you vividly recreate San Francisco in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  What is your impression/recollection of that period?

It was a very intense time—terrifying and urgent and enormously alive as only a place under siege can be. I came out into the AIDS crisis and the city was on fire in a million ways. There was anger and activism, art, conflict, love and sex, and the feeling that you were at the center of history on some level. Maybe we all feel that way when we are 21, but there was a vitality during that time that I’ve never experienced anywhere or anytime since. It was a time that demanded things of people. My brother was fighting cancer, I was working at an AIDS hospice and active in ACT UP and Queer Nation, I was meeting my first boyfriends, reading my first poems out loud to strangers in smoky cafes. It was a time of birth for me, I suppose, in all the pain and blood and wonder that birth entails. It was exciting, and yet that overarching sorrow was there, like the fog rolling in every night.

How did that then lead to this novel?

Well, the things that make you feel, in all the rawness of feeling, are what you write about, I suppose. I worked on this book for 15 years. I knew it was a book I had to write. And I had to get it right. And oddly, or maybe not, it wasn’t until I was in a place where I felt that intensely again—in Argentina where I lived for a year—that I was able to finally get it right.

One of the key images in the book is a bicycle, wrapped in different strings.  How did that come to you?

I actually rode a bicycle across the country in the summer of 1986. It was an amazing way to travel, and felt to me like traveling by horse, which is how the whole horse/bike/sorrow metaphor first came together. The speed, the human scale, the way you had to maintain your vehicle and plot your trip. It’s very meditative and seemed a perfect style of journey for a person in need of retreat and reflection. As for the strings, I think that came from how kids used to tie strings around each other’s ankles and wrists, and the idea was that you’d make a wish, and when the string came off, the wish you’d made would come true. There is a lot about wishing in the book, both the good and the bad of it.

You have a very diverse body of work, having written everything from poetry, to erotica, to fantasy, to both non-fiction and fiction…  As a writer, do you follow your muse, or do certain influences impact your decision of what to write next?

(more…)


Out in Print names “Songs for the New Depression” one of their “Best Books of 2012”

I’m so grateful for Out in Print Reviews including Songs for the New Depression in their wrap up of the top books of the year; it is a career highlight for me.  Not only does it affirm my instinct to write, but it also means that others may eventually discover my tale, and hopefully it will inspire and resonate.

Out in Print wrote, in part:  “Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written… You’ll read this once for its emotional impact and again to see how the author achieves it. But no matter how many times you dive in, you’ll be impressed.”

My Christmas gift came early this year!


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?

(more…)


The Best LGBT Books of 2012

One of my favorite websites, Stephen Bottum’s Band of Thebes, just released its list of authors’ top picks for the best in 2012 gay and lesbian literature. I was honored to have been asked to submit my favorite, and was thrilled to see two of my friends, Arthur Wooten and David G. Hallman, on the list. Congratulations, guys!

If you’re looking for interesting reads, check out this list!


The Rainbow Hour: An Interview with Kergan Edwards-Stout

I’m so thankful to GSHRadio’s Rainbow Hour for including me on yesterday’s show, in honor of World AIDS Day.  What fun, to follow the hysterical “America’s #1 Tupperware salesgal” Dixie Longate!  The hosts, Victor, Otto, Gregory, Steve, and I chat about HIV/AIDS, my novel, as well as my piece on Huffington Post, “Please Defriend Me,” which has had almost 130,000 facebook likes.

My section starts at 48:28! 🙂

Thank you all!


Author Xavier Axelson Makes the Leap from Erotica

Following success as a writer of erotica and as columnist for Examiner.com, author Xavier Axelson has surprised readers with his debut novel, Velvet, a work of historical fiction which tells the tale of a royal tailor.  While still containing the potent mix of love & longing for which he is known, the novel format allows Axelson to explore other elements which the short story format didn’t allow.

Prior to Velvet, Axelson had cultivated a devoted following of readers for his shorter, more steamy work, leading venerable critic Amos Lassen to anoint Axelson “a master of the erotic.”  Now, however, with a new and different tale to tell, I was eager to learn more about Axelson’s journey between genres and formats, and the inspirations behind his work.

Kergan Edwards-Stout:  Xavier, you were so gracious in interviewing me for Examiner, it is great to be returning the favor!  With Velvet, you’re finally releasing your first novel.  I guess the obvious question, given your success with erotica, is what made you decide to write a work of historical fiction?

Xavier Axelson:  It was a complete surprise.  I didn’t start out with the intention to write a historically-based novel.  Then again, I never thought I would write erotica!  I just go where the story and characters tell me.  They are driving, so I simply follow behind and trust they know what to do and how to steer.

What can you tell us about Velvet?

It is the story of Virago, the royal tailor, and is set against a backdrop of decadence, privilege, and intrigue.

When you begin a new work such as this, especially when it contains historical elements, how deeply do you delve into research of the period?

Velvet is based on historical ideas, but the world and its characters within are completely fictitious.   I love research.  I find it is a great way to take the fear out of the unknown.  In this case, Velvet was a pleasure to research because I love the Elizabethan, Medieval and Shakespearean periods.  This story opened my eyes to so many unique details involving the coronation of Elizabeth I, the interior structures of castles, and even how the blind learn to sew and cut patterns.

Prior to this, most of your work has been with short stories and novellas.  What prompted this leap to the novel form?

I didn’t set out to write a novel!  I initially assumed that Velvet would be a novella, but, as the story progressed, the characters became more generous with their voices and stories.  I felt it was my duty to return the favor and ensure their voices were heard.

While other authors pick one genre to focus on, it seems that you write what you want, regardless of genre. 

It’s true.  I don’t stick with any one genre.  In between Earthly Concerns and Velvet, I wrote a short story called Cravings that was published as part of a zombie/horror collection.  I’d never thought about writing a zombie story–and that’s exactly what intrigued me.  I refuse to believe in genre imprisonment.

Where does your desire to write come from?

It comes from a need to write.  I feel compelled to do it, as writing is an extension of my physical self.  It speaks to my truest, most authentic self.

Most of your earliest literary success has been with the erotic.  What is the most common misperception of erotica writing?

That it has little literary merit.  However, I find the works of Henry Miller, Marquis de Sade, Anaïs Nin, and The Sleeping Beauty books by Anne Rice to be worthy defenders against such misconceptions.  Erotica does not automatically equal pornography.

In addition to being described as a writer of erotica, I’ve also seen you labeled as a writer of psychological horror.  Given all these different labels, how would you describe yourself?

Well, erotic, exotic, and a little psychotic!

In your work, is there a fine line between the three?

I think many people feel intimacy, whether sexual or otherwise, is terrifying.  Psychosexual elements fascinate me, and while there is a fine line between the erotic and horrific, it is this line that is the most appealing to walk along.  The idea of the beautiful grotesque and the terror found in the mundane are both subjects I enjoy exploring.  Lines were meant to be crossed, as long as you’re brave enough to face whatever it is you may encounter on the other side.

With your background, is there a concern on your part that your work might not be taken seriously?

I don’t think what I do is serious.  My writing is incredibly personal to me and while I may be attached to what I do and view it as important, I am not curing cancer or stopping global warming.  That being said, what people may or may not think is beyond my control.  My writing speaks for itself and there are many works of erotic fiction that are masterpieces.

Who would you name as the top three people that inspire you, and why?

Tennessee Williams, because his writing awes me, his ability to dig into the darkness frightens and inspires me to follow after his characters… Lars Von Trier, because his visions are startling, eye opening, and undeniable.  And Georgia O’Keefe, because I believe in the power of the natural world she conveyed in her art.

Given that list, with all of their unique viewpoints and themes, when you look at your own work, is there one overarching theme or message you want to communicate? 

Hope, and the belief in oneself to find the light in the dark.

Xavier Axelson can be found on facebook, twitter, his website, and on Examiner.com.

Cross-posted on Kergan Edwards-Stout and Huffington Post.

 


Love, Loss, & Art: A Conversation Between Two Gay Novelists

Fellow author Jeffrey Ballam and I share many characteristics.  We are both gay men, debut novelists, human rights advocates, twitter friends, and have undergone the grieving process, with each of us experiencing a partner’s death due to HIV/AIDS.  I have been curious to discover more about his journey, and recently we met at the West Hollywood Book Fair to chat further about love, loss, and the power of the written word, as well as his just released novel, Out of the Past.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: Some people have been writers their whole lives, but–like me–you came to writing later in life, having had other careers.  What lead you to writing?

Jeffrey Ballam:  I’d always enjoyed creative writing in school, and pushed myself to be as creative as possible. When I came out, I began writing poems as a catharsis for understanding my new feelings and reconciling my faith and my sexuality. Being a born-again Christian with early Mormon roots, you can see the need to do so…

I can imagine!

What about you?  Why did you start writing?

I’ve always been involved in the arts, but never really saw writing as a venue for me.  I worked with some amazing playwrights, such as Michael Sargent, who has such a specific, visceral style, that I wasn’t sure how I could ever compete on that level.  What I later realized was that it wasn’t about competition.  In telling my own stories, my style naturally evolved, and I found my own specific voice.

Your novel, Songs for the New Depression, is the story of a man who comes to terms with his past as he prepares to die.  It is also a tribute to your first partner, Shane Sawick, who passed away due to complications from AIDS.

Shane died in 1995, and while I took me a while to process and determine exactly how, I knew that I wanted to find some way to honor him, as well as other friends, lost far too young.  Then, one day, a line popped into my head.  I didn’t know who it was or what they were talking about, but that line eventually morphed into the first sentence in the novel.  I know, Jeff, that you lost a partner to AIDS/HIV as well…

Yes, but I was at a point where I was beginning to realize I had outgrown the relationship and was preparing to leave when he was diagnosed in 1992, so I stayed until he died in 1994.  Given that, and that I am recently divorced, I completely understand that pain of loss and letting go. Your novel is really about your lead character, Gabe, and his attempts to come to terms with his impending death.  Is that related to your letting go of Shane?

The act of writing the novel was a way of letting go.  But I also have found myself, having grown up in the AIDS era, preoccupied with the reasons we live, and the reasons we die.  I wanted to write a cautionary tale, about seizing and embracing the moment, and correcting mistakes, before it is too late.  And that desire for redemption led to Songs for the New Depression

The AIDS pandemic is such a difficult and emotional issue to tackle.  What has the reaction been to that particular dimension of the story?

For those readers that lived through it, I continually receive wonderful notes, thanking me for capturing that moment in time.  But I’ve also heard from others, “Oh, your novel sounds great, but depressing.”  While I don’t see it that way, as I feel it ultimately challenges people to live more authentically and freely, I also realize that an “AIDS novel” is not an easy sell.  My hope is that people will read it and think, “I don’t want my life to be wasted,” and embrace the here and now… 

And I think it does that.

What about you?  What inspired you to write Out of the Past?

Believe it or not, it started with a dream.  In 2008, I woke, remembering a dream which I felt would make a good story, and I simply sat down and wrote it.  Once that dam burst, the tale came flooding out.

Without giving too much away, what is the book about?

It focuses on a young man, Paul Vanderwall, who has to come to terms with his fears of moving forward into a new relationship, and ultimately, to come to terms with himself. In that way, he’s like your character, Gabe.

Paul is both a schoolteacher and coming out of a broken relationship, as are you.  Where do the similarities between the two of you begin, and where do they end?

We are very similar, in those respects, and neither of us is looking for a relationship. Paul had closed himself off to the idea, and was caught by surprise. We are both very romantic, though he is a bit more open to the idea of a relationship. I’m not sure if there are any differences, other than age. He’s a lot younger than I am. I’m in a neutral place right now, if I meet someone who interests me, great. If not, great.

Has your ex-husband read the novel?

I’m not sure. We were together when I wrote it, but he couldn’t read it as he felt that I didn’t divorce myself enough from Paul where he could see a clear differentiation between the character and the writer.  But, in a way, I think he’s right.  Paul and I do share similar views on relationships and we’re both very romantic, though Paul has a bit more of an adventurous spirit.  Even though we were together when I wrote it, and our divorce was not the most amicable, he does seem interested in its success. Whether he’s read it now, I don’t know. He seemed shocked when I said it would be published.

Is being a romantic one of your defining characteristics?

I think it is.  A friend defined me as a romantic, yet one who is realistic.  In the book, I tried to capture some of what romance and realism mean to me.

Has it been difficult, juggling your competing demands of writing, teaching, and personal life?

The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, so I try to make sure that my students receive enough attention, and that I am well-planned and organized for my next day’s lessons. My four-legged children come next, as they don’t understand why I can’t play with them all the time. Writing, right now, takes a back seat to everything.

I know you love teaching, but do you foresee a point where writing becomes your primary focus?

Possibly, when I retire.  But you have a full-time schedule as well!  You have a job, a partner and two beautiful children, not to mention your writing for several websites.  And I understand you’re working on something new as well.  Gifts Not Yet Given?

It’s a collection of short stories, all themed to holidays, and will be coming out next year.  I kind of see it as “holiday stories for the rest of us.”  The characters are a mixture of gay, straight, young, old, and yet the tales capture that warm, bittersweet tone of the holidays, as each character experiences some form of personal awakening.

How do you find the time to do it all?

Late nights–and lots of Chardonnay!  (laughing)  Like you and your students, our kids come first.  My main job is to make sure they are well-cared for, and I love it.  Writing comes far behind, but at some point, when the kids are older, I’d like it to move up in line. 

I know what you mean!

So if someone said to you, right now, “I can give you either love or a career as a writer, but not both,” which would you choose?

Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I’d have to go for love.

For more information on Jeffrey Ballam, please see his website, facebook and twitter.  Kergan Edwards-Stout can be found at his website, facebook, and on twitter.

Cross-posted at LGBTQ Nation and Huffington Post.

 


A U.S. President’s Great-Great-Grandson’s Big Gay Vampire Novel

While it may come as a surprise to learn that Ulysses S. Grant’s great-great-grandson, Ulysses Grant Dietz, serves as Chief Curator for New Jersey’s Newark Museum, it might come as a bigger surprise that he is also an author, with two gay vampire titles under his belt.  Dietz is one of the few people I know who has managed to incorporate his many disparate passions into unified whole: he is a father, with two teenage children; he has a job he loves, overseeing the museum’s impressive decorative arts collection; he reads voraciously, reviewing most everything he reads; he is the author of two novels and five non-fiction titles; and he is an out gay man, proudly advocating on behalf of the LGBT community.

In 1998, Alyson Books released his first book, Desmond: A Novel About Love and the Modern Vampire, which went on to be nominated for a Lambda Literary award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. Now, after a 14-year wait, his fans finally have their hands on his much-anticipated sequel, Vampire in Suburbia, which has finally hit the stores.

Thank you so much for sharing some of your time, Ulysses.  The obvious first question is, why so long between novels?

In a word: children.  I was polishing up Desmond during the kids’ naps while on parental leave back in 1997, and once it was published, the rest of my life distracted me from writing fiction. I’ve been thinking about it for a long, long time.

What inspired your first novel, Desmond?

In part, every vampire novel I’d read, from Dracula (which I read in middle school, the first time) to Anne Rice’s novels. Specifically, when I wrote the first draft of Desmond back in 1988, Rice’s Queen of the Damned had just appeared. Desmond as a character is my direct response to Rice’s Louis, as well as Lestat.  In fact, as my book opens, Desmond has just finished reading Queen of the Damned.

What was it about this character, Desmond Beckwith, that compelled you to continue his story?

In the first book, Desmond is surprised by love. He has resigned himself to a life alone over the course of two centuries. Yet he lives in the world. He has secrets he has to keep from the world. It’s a delicate balance he maintains; and then the carefully constructed life he’s made for himself is shattered by the appearance of Tony Chapman.  Desmond is a romantic; although he’s a vampire, he loves life. In the second book, Desmond gradually realizes that he doesn’t really like living in isolation, without friends.  It’s this quest for connection that drives him. At the end of the first book his story was, in a sense, only beginning. I had to write the second book to bring Desmond’s personal search to some sort of closure.

In the blurb for Vampire in Suburbia, it notes that Desmond is handsome, rich, gay, a vampire, and he’s looking for a house in Jersey.  So, I gotta ask, is he related to Snooki? 

Actually, I confess that, after a martini with a friend, I’ve joked about a third book called Vampire Down the Shore; but I haven’t figured out how I might work Snooki into the plot.

But seriously, the setting for the second book is something I’d thought about for years. It literally takes place where I live, in suburban Essex County, including within the museum where I have been a curator for thirty-two years.  Desmond ends up in New Jersey in the wake of 9/11. His New York office is near Ground Zero, and Desmond, quite simply, is afraid. So he moves his company to Newark, to one of the many office towers near Newark’s great art deco Penn Station – just ten miles from Manhattan.  I’ve set the book in 2009, just after he regenerates (as my vampires do) back to the age he was created: twenty one. He realizes that, this time around, he doesn’t want to start all over again and simply leave behind the people who became his friends over the past 44 years.  He also finds himself yearning for two things he gave up in the eighteenth century: land, and a family. It’s not your usual vampire story, but I’m as much a romantic as Desmond is.

Given your lineage, did you ever have any pushback?  You know, a descendant of one of our nation’s presidents, publishing a novel about gay vampires?

Not yet. I’m on the board of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, but I don’t think any other board members have read it, or are likely to.  I’m a little more anxious about my professional world, because the book has a whole curator theme going and my colleagues in the field are buying it to be supportive.  I’ve talked it up on my Facebook page and people are intrigued. I keep telling them that it’s not really for them – but what can I do?  They’ll figure it out.  I’m imaging lots of embarrassed silence.  I don’t think the Civil War buffs are going to even notice it exists.

Do you ever feel any added pressure that comes from your heritage?  A responsibility to be a role model?

Oh, sure.  But being a role model, living up to my name, is the whole reason behind my determination to live my life out and proud. It’s the reason I’ve refused to use a pseudonym on these books, as if I have something to hide in writing them. I’ve had to instill that pride in my kids, and that pride includes being gay as much as it includes being a great-great-grandson of a president.  Living my life with integrity – as Ulysses S. Grant did  – without regard to what people say, is my way of being a role model.

How did your decision to speak out on marriage equality come about?  You wrote a piece for one of the New Jersey papers about same gender marriage…

I’d forgotten I actually wrote that! I’m remembering it as an interview. It was for the Newark Star-Ledger back in 2009, and I was actually photographed in the Ballantine House – my main gallery space in the Museum, which is featured in Vampire in Suburbia. I can’t remember who contacted me or why – but marriage equality was and is a big issue here, and the fight for marriage, not just civil union, is something I’ve been interested in for years.  My partner Gary and I have been involved in gay politics in New Jersey for thirty years. We know a lot of people.

You and Gary have been together for 37 years now.  How did you first meet?

We met at Yale, specifically at the Gay Alliance at Yale.  I remember the day vividly.  I was a junior, and Gary had just graduated and was working for the Yale Computer Center.  He’s a software engineer. It was October 1975 and I had just turned twenty.  He was my first date ever.

That is amazing!  Long before my partner and I adopted, you and Gary became parents.  That must have been trailblazing…  What was that experience like?

I guess we were pioneers. We had lesbian friends who had started families; and our brothers each had children who were very much in our lives; so we were primed for a while before it dawned on us that we could have our own children.  Surrogacy was not legally possible in New Jersey then, so we decided to go with adoption. We tried domestic adoptions, but after one particularly heartbreaking failure, we decided to look into international adoptions. At that time international adoptions were possible for gay couples – but one of the two partners had to essentially disappear, and the other one had to adopt as a single person.

That must have been challenging…

I kept a detailed journal for four years once this process started. It reads like a Tolstoy tragedy. It was a very rough four years.  Several failures, including a disastrous venture in Russia where Gary spent a month in Siberia with our baby – only to have the child taken away from him and the adoption canceled by someone somewhere in the bureaucracy who felt that no man could have a good reason to want to raise a child alone.

But eventually we succeeded – and succeeded on two separate adoptions within a month of each other.  So our son, Alex, and our daughter, Grace, arrived and changed our lives in 1996.  I adopted them through a second-parent adoption a year or so later.  We didn’t even have a domestic partnership, but we were legally bound together by our children – our names are on their US birth certificates. It was amazing.  And once you have your children, all the bad memories fade away.

I know reading is one of your main passions.  Have you read anything recently that you couldn’t put down?

Reading is an addiction with me. I always have my Kindle with me. I love young adult novels, written for teenagers, that have gay themes.  I just finished Benjamin Alire Saenz’s beautiful book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. It’s about a Mexican-American teenager in El Paso who finds a best friend one summer. The friendship between the boys is beautiful; but what I loved most was the importance of the parents.  Many young adult novels marginalize the parental figures – as teenagers themselves try to do.  But Saenz makes the parents important, and makes their love for their sons crucial in the narrative.  It’s a wonderful book.

With your unique worldview, as an out gay dad, partner, author, reader, curator, etc., what do you see as the biggest issues facing the LGBT community?

What I see as the biggest issue facing our community is our complacence in the face of the upwelling of right-wing religiosity in this country, in the secular world and especially in politics.  I came out in the 1970s, before AIDS, and things have improved so much since then it’s hard to believe.  But, for all the acceptance my family and I have experienced in our little bubble of diversity in Maplewood, New Jersey, there is a significant anti-gay world out there trying to figure out how to undo all the progress we’ve made. I’m a devout Episcopalian, by the way, and church is important to me; but I feel somewhat like an assimilated Jew in Germany in the early 1930s, who felt that they were safe and beyond harm.  There are young gay folk who talk about the world being “post-gay,” and it’s just not true. Not yet.

Hopefully, that day will come soon.  Lastly, you are so entrenched in arts and culture.  What impact do you think those have on us as people, and as a society?

That’s a loaded question.  Look, I’ve given my life to the Newark Museum. I believe in art and the power of art to transform lives.  My entire career has been dedicated to connecting people with objects; to telling stories that help people see the world in a slightly different way. I help people fall in love with the things I love. My non-fiction books have been part of my curatorial life; my novels are just another aspect of that story-telling instinct.

The books of Ulysses Grant Dietz can be found on Amazon, with more information on his publisher’s website.

Author photo courtesy of the Newark Museum. 

Cross-posted on Huffington Post and LGBTQ Nation.


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.”


Q&A with Marten Weber, Author of “Benedetto Casanova” and “Bodensee”

While readers of gay fiction may be familiar with author Marten Weber due to his best-selling novel Benedetto Casanova: The Memoirs, over the years he has crafted many a tale, with each set in unique and varied places and times.  He graciously took the time to answer some questions as to his work, writing process, and issues with which the LGBT community grapples.

With tales as disparate as Benedetto Casanova (a fictionalized memoir set in Italy), The Almost Unbelievably Curious Case of Jeremiah Hudgejaw: America’s First Gay Wedding (set at the beginning of the last century), Shayno (a tale of mid-life crisis set in Silicon Valley), as well as your new title, Bodensee (sci-fi), it seems you’re intent on covering every place and genre under the sun!  What guides your decision of what to write next?

I think most genres in modern literature have become very stale and narrow. Every new best-selling thriller out there seems follows the same formula. Writers spend too much time copying television shows and learning from bad teachers in overpriced writing courses. I want to bring a new approach to each genre. I’d like to show that it can be done differently, outside the established boundaries.  Not every crime novel has to read like CSI in book form. Luckily, I don’t have the pressures of a publisher’s money-making machine behind me, so I can write what and how I want, and experiment.

What commonalities does your work share?

Most of my writing starts with specific aspects of relationships between men, but I then put them in whatever setting I want. Bodensee may be science fiction, but it’s also an attempt to merge sci-fi into the context of a 19th century literary tradition.

What’s more, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of genres at all. These categories were invented by book-sellers so they knew which shelf to put a book on. Authors shouldn’t care about them.  You’ll find that most of my books cross boundaries. I’m working on a crime novel now which will have neither murderers nor police inspectors as major characters, nor a traditional investigation. So most publishers would say that doesn’t quality as a ‘whodunnit.’

(more…)


Author Spotlight: David G. Hallman

When I lost a partner to AIDS in 1995, I immediately found myself adrift in a sea of ever-changing emotions, which with I wasn’t yet equipped to deal. I didn’t have the tools needed to properly channel and process my chaotic state, until I tried writing about my experience. Author David G. Hallman suffered a similar loss when his partner of 30 years was diagnosed with cancer, only to die just two weeks later. He too used writing as a way to explore his emotional state, and that commonality helped us forge a friendship when we were fortunate enough to finally meet at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York. His memoir, August Farewell, details the death of his partner to cancer and was noted by The Advocate magazine as one of the 21 Biographies or Memoirs You Should Read Now, calling his novel Searching for Gileadan honest examination of questions about God, injustice, love, and death.” It was a pleasure to speak with him recently about his life and journey to author-hood.

Kergan Edwards-Stout: Hi David. Nice to talk to you again.

David G. Hallman: Good to connect with you too, Kergan. The last time was over martinis in New York after the Rainbow Book Fair! I remember getting fortified so I’d be in good shape for the Black Party that night.

KES: Yes, the rest of us were a bit in awe that you were heading out to dance all night after being at the book fair all day!

DGH: Well, I’m not a father of two kids like you and your partner, Russ. That takes an impressive amount of energy. I bow to you in the personal stamina department.

KES: As you mention stamina, you’ve been through quite an emotionally exhausting journey. While you’d written other books prior, you wrote your memoir, August Farewell, after the dramatic death of your partner, Bill, from cancer. When you began writing, was it as a cathartic outlet or were you intending it to be a book?

DGH: I never intended anyone else to see it. Bill was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in August 2009 and died two weeks later. After it was over, I started panicking that I would forget the details of those excruciating, intimate, heart-wrenching, spiritual, god-awful sixteen days that were, at times, punctured by Bill’s uproarious sense of humor. So I started writing the story of those days and spontaneously began integrating vignettes from our thirty-three years together. I wrote nonstop for six weeks. But I only did it so that I could have that record to go back to and relive our time together in the years to come. Just like how we treasure photo albums.

KES: Why did you decide to publish it? (more…)


West Hollywood Book Fair: Humbling

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My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who came out to support me at the West Hollywood Book Fair yesterday.  I met a wonderful guy from Florida who has read my novel, Songs for the New Depression, a staggering FOUR TIMES!  Wow.  How humbling to think that something I’ve created has had such an impact on someone so many miles away!

I appreciated the opportunity to be on the gay fiction panel, along with wonderful writer Nöel Alumit (author of Letters to Montgomery Clift), Eduardo Santiago (Tomorrow They Will Kiss) and George Snyder (On the Wings of Affection).  Lots of fun!

Coming up next, I’ll be appearing at this year’s Palm Springs Pride Author’s Village, brought to you by Q Trading Co, on Sunday November 4th, from 1PM-2PM.  Come visit as I sign books and answer your questions.  Hope to see you there!


Butterfly-O-Meter Gives “Songs for the New Depression” 5 Butterflies!

Gotta tell you, I love-love-love it when someone reads and understands my book, Songs for the New Depression.  With a challenging lead character in Gabriel Travers, it seems from most reviews that readers either love or hate him; there is no in-between.  Yes, he is flawed, critical, and at times downright awful, but he is also smart, funny, passionate, confused, and genuinely attempting to change his ways, if only he knew how.  I sympathize with him a great deal, and don’t always understand it when someone else writes him off as simply mean, unlikeable, or without redemption.

Happily, most folks do “get” him, including this terrific new review at Butterfly-O-Meter.

You should head over there to read the full review, where she notes that the book is in her top 5 reads of the year thus far, among other flattering things.  Here, though, is my favorite of her quotes:  “So, all in all, this book is a work of art. It won’t be a hit and run, it won’t fleet away after you’ve galloped through it, it won’t leave you the way you were when you started the read. I was touched, moved, impressed and sort of shaken after reading this, and I’m still recovering now, 24 hours later, and you know what? That’s what a book should be able to do for you. That’s what art should be able to do for you, alter your soul once you’ve been touched by its magnificence. I’m altered.”

Thank you, Butterfly-O-Meter!