I recently received a lovely review for my latest book THE HANDYMAN’S HISTORY. I was very pleased with her enjoyment of, and enthusiasm for the book. One thing sort of tickled me, though. To this young women Ed and Rick’s experiences in 1985 genuinely WERE historical. Really? It wasn’t THAT long ago. After some more thought, I realized the reviewer was right. This book and the three that proceeded it ARE gay history. Who knew?
The specific reasoning I had for setting Ed Stephens’ story in the past is all but lost in my foggy memory. I do recall thinking that Ed and Rick’s “meet cute” wouldn’t work well in the age of the internet. I also know that a good deal of my frustration with reading gay fiction in the eighties was the total lack of representation of guys like me; gay men who lived in the flyover states. We didn’t seem to matter. I was determined to change that in my writing. So, instead of putting Ed’s story in the 21st century, I decided to go backward to a time when men such as Ed were all but invisible. And frankly, this pop culture geek relished the idea of recreating a bygone era.
Here’s the thing, though: When the first book (THE HANDYMAN’S DREAM) was published in 2005 I didn’t think of it as anything but contemporary. Oh, sure, it was set twenty-five years in the past, but I assumed contemporary readers wouldn’t have an issue with that. I think my mind was so focused on guys like me — same life experiences and the same age range — that I assumed it’s 1980-1981 time frame would just be a novelty, something to set it off from other books. And you know what? Gay men my age LOVED it. I’ve had two men share with me their coming out experiences AFTER reading DREAM. I remember thinking, “well, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, my life was worth it. My writing actually effected these men’s destinies.” How ’bout that, as Rick would say.
Well, here it is 2019. Time keeps flying forward, and poor ole Ed and Rick are still stuck in the eighties. I suppose I could either abandon them and go to work on more contemporary characters, or move them up to 2019 and discover what they are up to now. I’m not crazy about either of those options. I have to go where the muse takes me, and the muse has already told me that my next book will be another Ed and Rick story, and it will take place in 1987. It’s what I enjoy. It is what I am good at. But you know what? I now get that I am not writing contemporary gay fiction. I am indeed writing HISTORICAL gay fiction. How cool is that?
I’ll be honest: I’m often lost in the whirl of life in 2019. I have no problem adapting to the changes; I couldn’t live without the internet, and I think Chromecast is one of the best inventions ever, but now I am facing the cold, hard fact that my frame of reference is stuck somewhere in the 20th Century, not the present. (Let’s just be fucking grateful that my sociological and political outlook is VERY current, unlike a lot of people I could mention. Go Pete Buttigieg! You are my new hero, and I have no problem with having younger heroes. You know what’s going on today. I don’t.)
So it’s all good. I’ve been enlightened. When someone asks what kind of books I write (that’s ALWAYS the first question) I shall say confidently “I write historical gay fiction.” Hell, now that I think about it, it really is up to us old farts to share our experiences, whether anyone wants to listen or not. ‘Cause I’ll tell you, now that I am old, I realize what I didn’t thirty or forty years ago: That history is important. “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Trust me, young LGBTQ folks: You do NOT want to have go through the shit shows we fogies survived.
SINCE I FOUND YOU JOEL CHRISTIE 1966. This non-hit is one of the most joyful lost gems I’ve discovered in the past few years. If this does not brighten your day, check into a facility. You need help. If you really like it, I strongly suggest you go digging around the ‘net for more about and from Los Angeles’ Gold Star recording studio. Ah…audio ecstasy! Modern day producers should take a lesson, hell, take a whole course!