Posts tagged “nonfiction

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?

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