Posts tagged “writer

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.

 


Thank You to My Readers!

I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to all who’ve taken the time to read either my articles on Huffington Post, LGBTQ Nation, and Bilerico Project, or my novel, Songs for the New Depression.  Since the book’s release just over a year ago, I’ve met many wonderful people, including one terrific man who’s read my novel four times and came to the West Hollywood Book Fair, just so we could meet.  I’m humbled that anything I’ve written could so impact another, and cherish the inherent responsibility which accompanies it.

From beginning to end, my novel took 12 years to write and publish, and it is gratifying to have people discover it.  Conversely, my “Please De-Friend Me” article was written early one morning, in less than an hour, when I couldn’t sleep, and at this writing has over 124,000 facebook likes!  The power of social media is simply staggering…

In the past months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting readers at the West Hollywood Book Fair, Homo-Centric, and Palm Springs Pride, and these interactions have touched me deeply.  I value “connection”, and believe that our common humanity has the power to enlighten us and lift up our souls.

I’ve been working on a new book, a collection of short stories called Gifts Not Yet Given, which will be published next year, and as we head toward the holiday season, I can’t think of any better gift for an author than the responses of readers.  Your feedback and support mean more than you’ll ever know, so please keep it coming!

Thank you,

Kergan


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.


Win a Copy of “Songs for the New Depression”!

Chapters and Chats, a great site for readers, is offering a giveaway, with your chance to win one of two autographed copies of my novel, now through October 13th!  Jodi, who is the force behind the site, wrote a glowing review of Songs for the New Depression, and conducted a fun interview with me as well.  I love what she does, connecting readers and authors, and urge you to check out her site.

And, who knows, you just might win my 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…)


Meet, Hear, Chat, Sign: Upcoming Appearances!

Hey everyone,

Thanks for all the great notes about my recent letter to Rupert Everett.  Glad it is resonating with so many!

I’m very excited about some upcoming events I wanted to share with you.  I value each and every opportunity to share with readers my novel, Songs for the New Depression, meet you, and answer your questions.

I hope you’ll check out the following events:

  • Tomorrow, Thursday September 20th, I’ll be in Los Angeles at homo-centric, doing a reading and book signing.  The reading starts at 7:30 (promptly) and is at Stories Books & Cafe.  In addition to reading from my novel, I’ll also be sharing a new short story, which will be part of my upcoming collection, Gifts Not Yet Given.  Check out the facebook event page for more details.
  • On Tuesday September 25th at 6PM PST/9PM EST I’ll be chatting LIVE with Tom on Ramble Redhead.  Tom’s podcast recently hit over 500 episodes, which is a huge accomplishment, and I’m honored to be joining the long list of folks he’s interviewed.  We’ll be chatting about my novel, Songs for the New Depression, as well as a whole host of other topics, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Hope you’ll give it a listen!  Ramble Redhead can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook!
  • On Sunday September 30th, 1:30-2:30PM, I’ll be on a panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair and signing books afterward.  Wonderful writer Nöel Alumit (author of Letters to Montgomery Clift) will be moderating a panel on gay fiction, and my fellow panelists will be Eduardo Santiago (Tomorrow They Will Kiss) and George Snyder (On the Wings of Affection).  For a complete rundown on all of the exciting events, please click here.
  • 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.  More details, coming soon!

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!

Lastly, there is now a discussion group on Goodreads where folks can ask me any and everything about my book (and future books), writing, activism and life. Please consider joining in and chime in with your comments, questions, and opinions!

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


Tuesday September 25th: Ramble Redhead and Me!

Join me as I chat live on Thursday September 25th at 6PM PST/9PM EST with Tom on Ramble Redhead.  Tom’s podcast recently hit over 500 episodes, which is a huge accomplishment, and I’m honored to be joining the long list of folks he’s interviewed.  We’ll be chatting about my novel, Songs for the New Depression, as well as a whole host of other topics, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Hope you’ll give it a listen!

http://rambleredhead.com/2013/04/22/episode-517-interview-with-kergan-edwards-stout/

Ramble Redhead can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook!


Author Spotlight: Jeffrey Luscombe

One of LGBT fiction’s brightest new stars, novelist Jeffrey Luscombe has received much acclaim for his debut novel, Shirts and Skins, recently released by Chelsea Station Editions.  Edge on the Net says that “Shirts and Skins is nothing but authentic in its pathos, eloquent in its delivery, and well worth the read,” and, having recently read the book, I can agree.

While newly published in the states, in his native Canada, Jeffrey first gained fame as the Gay Groom, due to his blog, which chronicled his trip down the aisle with his partner, Sean, and continues to chart his experience as a writer.  Now, he and Sean are legally and happily snuggled into their charming Toronto abode, but Jeffrey graciously agreed to chat with me about his journey to author- hood, his thoughts on the gay community, and what wedded bliss means to him.

Jeffrey, congratulations on the debut of “Shirts and Skins.”  What inspired you to write the novel?

I had the first line of this book in mind head for years. It just took some time to actually get down to work and write it.  After I earned my Masters in English a few years ago, I was accepted into a PhD program at McGill in Montreal but, to be honest, there was nothing I was interested in enough to spend four years writing a dissertation on. And since I had always written fiction, I decided to finally get serious about it.  So I applied to the Humber School for Writers program and four months later I had finished half a manuscript.

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Terrific New Review of “Songs for the New Depression”: Out in Print Queer Book Review

I’m so appreciative when a review ‘gets’ my novel.  The lead character isn’t easy to like, so when a reviewer or reader understands his tale and embraces it, as Out in Print has done, it means the world to me.

Songs for the New Depression Review by Out in Print Queer Book Review

Buy it now.

I don’t have to like the narrator of a novel to be engaged with it. Empathy certainly helps, but it isn’t necessary. I can think of many wonderful books narrated by extremely dislikeable characters—one of my all-time favorites, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, being the obvious front-runner. Gabriel Travers, the protagonist of Songs for the New Depression is no Ignatius J. Reilly, but he’s a despicable character telling a marvelous story.

Gabe, a caustic, suspicious, mistrustful cynic, is dying of AIDS, cared for by his boyfriend, Jon—who is the only person Gabe is unable to alienate. He has nothing but scorn for his parents, Lenny and Gloria, his best girlfriend Clare and the many tricks he has encountered. In every exchange that calls for compassion or at least civility, Gabe manages to be sour, mean and utterly unlikeable—which is what makes Songs for the New Depression so damn fascinating.

The book is structured in a reverse linear fashion, each of its three sections mirroring a song from Bette Midler’s third album, “Songs for the New Depression.” It begins with Gabe in 1995 (the song is “Shiver Me Timbers”), suffering from AIDS and trying to have a marvelous European vacation with Jon as he tires and eventually gives out. The second part of the book takes us to 1986 (the song is “Samedi et Vendredi”), Gabe in his twenties—trying on and discarding faces and friends as he seeks to find his place in the gay scheme of things. The third part takes place in 1976 (the song is “Let Me Just Follow Behind”), and Gabe is in high school, recovering from an abusive incident alluded to in the previous sections but explored in depth here.

This reverse structure is brilliant. Layers of the adult Gabe are peeled back, but rather than revealing the root cause of his cynicism—as common sense would dictate the author do—Edwards-Stout instead reveals that Gabe has always been like this and was, in fact, worse when he was younger, for no apparent reason. Sometimes he gets close to being human, but he always ends up saying the bitter thing rather than the right thing.

But the bitter thing is, many times, the telling thing. The trenchant observation. The unutterable truth that no one else dare speak because its very blasphemy underlies a fundamental veracity. In this, Gabe is fearless—refusing to sugarcoat or varnish his words to spare anyone’s feelings. It is his largest gift and his biggest fault.

Full of wit, wisdom and woe, Songs for the New Depression is an ugly yet irresistible piece of fiction. Buy it for someone you hate.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler


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.


AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: GREGORY G. ALLEN

One of the unexpected but utterly pleasing discoveries on  my journey as a writer has been in connecting with other authors on similar paths.  Coming from the world of entertainment, where competition — though masked with a smile — is vicious and shoot-to-kill, I’ve been surprised and heartened to see just how much some authors support and lift each other up, and do so on a continual basis.  One such author is Gregory G. Allen, whose novel Well With My Soul was a finalist in The USA “Best Books 2011” Awards and is also on the 2011 Indie Lit Awards shortlist.  Despite the fact that our books are “competing” against each other for the Indie Lit Award, I’ve found Greg to be incredibly generous with his time and support.  For Greg, it is not about competition, but inspiring readers and in helping to make this world a better place.  He does that through both his work and his life, and I am honored that he agreed to be my first Author Spotlight!

Q & A: Gregory G. Allen

Your novel Well With My Soul is a tale of two brothers struggling to find themselves, juxtaposing their childhood in the South with their latter-day adventures in New York City.  How did this story first come to you?  What was its impetus?
I worked on this story for several years; first as a play – then a novel. I wanted to address ‘the closet’ from a different angle. There were several high profile people in the news being “outed” and my goal was to create a back-story on the choices people make to get them to different places in their lives; and ultimately – what brings them peace where they can find that place that ‘all is well’.

I’m sure, as with most writers, there are certain elements of yourself in your characters and their stories.  What aspects of yourself do you share with your characters, and where do you diverge?  
Readers always ask me which brother I am in the book and really – I’m a mixture of both. I think I have the drive and passion of Jacob, but I also enjoy being the caregiver that is Noah. I left home at 18 from Texas and moved to New York to be an actor and my path changed many times through corporate America, an Artistic Director of a theatre company, and now I run an arts center on a college campus. So like the two brothers in this story (that follows them for 15 years), my path went in many directions as well.

You’ve also written Proud Pants, which is on my reading list.  Tell me more about that.  
That story also covers brothers in a different way. It’s the story of my half brother who passed away at 34 from a brain tumor, but had a life of addiction and pain. It was a love letter to my own mother (his step-mom) and the relationship they shared. I was so pleased how that book speaks to readers dealing with addiction, being an outsider, and of course – family. (more…)