My first Guest Blog went live on the website of author Brandon Shireyesterday, perfectly timed as I attended ThrillerFest 2014. Brandon has a special interest in the issue of LGBT youth homelessness. So I wrote about how that subject connects to my novel. (Special Thanks to Brandon for the opportunity!)
In July 2012, with an early draft of my debut novel tucked under my arm, I pitched the story to agents interested in crime fiction at ThrillerFest in New York City. I always began the same way: “Amsterdam. Summer of 1995. I’m homeless, living in my jeep with my dog, Calvin. True story.” The rest didn’t seem to matter so much. “You were actually homeless?” they interrupted. A flicker of excitement appeared in their eyes. Could be a strong marketing tactic. Homeless author pulls himself from the gutter… But when I told them the homeless protagonist in the book was a young gay man, interest appeared to diminish. The agents politely asked me to send a submission, and several weeks later I received a series of encouraging rejections.
In retrospect, I wonder if the gay element was an issue at all. I’d like to believe it wasn’t – give the agents the benefit of the doubt. These were intelligent literary enthusiasts. It was entirely possible the manuscript just wasn’t polished enough, that I hadn’t finished the work needed to sell the book. I’ve learned a lot about the whole process of crafting a novel in the last two years. And four rewrites later, Calvin’s Head is set to be released by LGBTQ publisher Bold Strokes Books in September.
Awake early, like a child on Christmas morning. Rain patters on trees outside the open screened window. Twelve hours ago I put finishing touches on my first guest blog post, almost ready to send. Somewhat distracted by the overwhelmingly positive response all day to the first book trailer, which had gone live that morning. Phone vibrated on the desk, noting arrival of email. Copy edits of first novel Calvin’s Head. I wanted to tear into the task of perusal immediately. But the day had been long, busy, dinner with friends already planned. I was tired, screen weary, brain dead. Best to wait until tomorrow.
New day, fresh start. I am here, ready, manuscript beside me, Word document beneath this one, waiting for the starter pistol to fire.
I started to write something on Saturday, my birthday. Out-of-town guests arrived earlier than anticipated so I set it aside. Distractions of a football nature took over on Sunday, Monday went missing, and yesterday became yesterday. So here I am, four days later, beginning again. We do a lot of that, don’t we? Starting over, beginning again. Well, I do. And I know what I might’ve written then, won’t be what I write today – even if I include the opening paragraphs here:
On my fourth birthday, I wore my Davy Crockett T-shirt. I was King of the Wild Frontier and mom made me a cake shaped like an old train. Five years later I had a costume pirate party, and mom made a pirate ship cake. Clearly my imagination took me on adventures to far-flung places from a very young age.
When I was eleven I wrote and performed a school play about Roland, a medieval pageboy who saved the castle from marauding invaders. During summer vacation, by day I’d mow the lawn dreaming I was Huckleberry Finn on a river raft. And when the stars came out at night I’d take a spaceship to Mars with Ray Bradbury. Continue reading →
Cricket’s chirp, small birds flit back and forth to the feeder in my parent’s back garden. My brothers and sister took the kids to the drive-in to see How to Tame a Dragon II and Maleficent. A temporary peace has settled on this early summer evening. Soon the fireflies will join me as I sit at the picnic table on the carport, thinking about the past week. My debut novel Calvin’s Head comes out exactly three months from today and everything is beginning to click into place. Continue reading →
A simple question, and the first most people ask when you tell them you’re a writer. Crime fiction, I say. But they usually want to know more. That’s where it can get tricky. From the start, I called my first book a psychological thriller. It’s how I pitched it to agents a couple years ago. After hearing the plot, one asked me, “Are the main characters gay?” “All of them except the dog,” I said. Her quick forced smile told me she was neither amused nor interested. I moved on.
Should I have said upfront it was a gay thriller? Was the gay aspect a reason another agent expressed concern about “our ability to sell this work”? As I thought about it, gay protagonists did seem a rarity in current mainstream crime fiction. In Jonathan Kellerman’s popular Alex Delaware series, the gay cop is almost a sidekick. What about other genres? And next I’m shifting gears with a ghost story, but the same main character. Switching genres within a series and a gay hero? Was I insane?