Monthly Archives: November 2010

Interview with author, James Klise by Gavin Atlas

James Klise is the author of the new
young-adult novel, Love Drugged (Flux), which tells the story of a gay teen who
steals an experimental drug that, if it works correctly, will “cure” same-sex
attraction.  Klise holds an MFA from
Bennington College and is a high school librarian in Chicago.  He is also the adviser of his school’s
gay/straight alliance. His website is www.jamesklise.com.

Hi, James. 
What first sparked your interest in writing fiction, and what, if
anything, specifically drew you to writing YA novels? 

Hi, Gavin, first of all,
thanks for asking me for the interview!

To answer this question:
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but I got really excited about
fiction writing in college by taking a few fiction-writing classes. After
college, I wrote and published short fiction for grown-ups for many years
before working on young-adult novels. For me, the change came when I began
working as a school librarian, which not only exposed me to all the great new
YA fiction that is being published, but also to real teenagers—an excellent
source of material for any writer. I had forgotten all about being a teen.

In your novel, you’ve invented a medication,
“Rehomoline,” that promises to alter sexual orientation.  What kind of feedback have you been getting
from gay teenagers about the concept of a pill that would make them stop being
gay?  

I have gotten lots of
emails from teenagers, both gay and straight, who have enjoyed the book. Most
readers have observed that Jamie’s story is relevant to any teen who’s trying
hard to “fit in,” by any means necessary. It’s something a lot of kids can
relate to. In my book, the pill is just the miracle my narrator has been
praying for—a way of not having to deal with being different.

Interestingly, just last
month, Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard, was in Chicago, and she was
quoted in a local paper as saying that Matthew once told her that if he could
take a pill to “be like everybody else,” he would. When I read that, I just
about fell to the floor.

Let’s play devil’s advocate.  Let’s say an anti-gay scientist is reading
your book and thinks, “Aha.  The problem
here is that Rehomoline is a dangerous drug that leaves the user sick and
unhappy.  What I need to do is create the
same drug without the side effects!”  So,
first, have you run across criticism that it’s not the concept of the drug
that’s the problem, it’s your villain’s execution of the drug?   Second, how would you respond to such
criticism?

I haven’t really gotten
this kind of criticism yet. I think because people recognize that too many
people really are trying to “cure” young LGBT kids through a variety of
terrible “treatments,” including prayer and therapy. It’s happening now, all
over the country. (All I did in Love Drugged was to make up a new method.) So
what are we going to do about it?  It’s
usually not an “anti-gay scientist,” of course. Usually it’s the ant-gay
religious leaders, the anti-gay members of government, anti-gay school administrators,
anti-gay parents—all the people who actively promote messages that make young
people feel so badly about themselves that they end their lives. I have
messages to share with them as well, which is part of the reason I write. I’m
always interested in learning their names, so I can use them for the villains
in my novels.

Your teen protagonist has some “typical” gay
traits.  He loves musicals and he’s got a
flair for wrapping gifts.  On the other
hand, he also likes horror movies.   How
did you decide what traits to give him? 

Jamie’s likes and dislikes
are similar to my own—I love musicals, horror movies, and even wrapping
presents! Jamie also is a good baseball player, but hesitates to play for the
school team because he fears the locker room may make him uneasy. I remember
that uneasiness, too, from when I swam on my high school team. So that’s
probably where most of Jamie’s traits came from. I didn’t consciously make a
list and then add them into the book.

You have a character, Mimi, who we’re told doesn’t
like Jamie simply because “he tries too hard.” 
I think the lesson there is that no one can please everyone, but is
there more to Mimi’s dislike for Jamie than that?

No, I think you got it. I
do think a lot of teens—not just gay teens—try way too hard to get people to
“like” them, and the effort often backfires. I specifically remember knowing a
girl in high school who I desperately wanted to think I was “nice,” and I
learned from a friend that she thought I tried too hard. The funny thing was,
as soon as I stopped trying, we became friends!

The one gay person Jamie knows of at school is
someone he doesn’t like at all he calls Crazy Paul, and I don’t think we see
Jamie ever coming around.  Were you
saying that just because someone is gay doesn’t necessarily mean he makes for a
compatible friend or are there other sentiments you want the reader to take
away from the Jamie-Paul disconnect?

Great question! In my
view, the Jamie-Paul disconnect comes about because Jamie is so terrified of
what Paul represents: a sort of “out there,” visible gay teen. Fear motivates
most of Jamie’s responses in the book. By the end of the book, Jamie is more
visible, too, but not because of any newfound courage on his part—the drama of
the story propels him there. Which happens in real life, often enough. A lot of
times, LGBT people come out because of circumstances beyond their control.

You’re a high school librarian.  What changes, if any, have you noticed in the
atmosphere at your school since the problem of anti-gay bullying began
receiving national attention? 

I’m fortunate to work in a
community that is extremely diverse, a place where celebrating “differences” is
just standard practice—so I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen anything new or
different at our school. From what I’ve seen, most people’s anti-gay behavior
tends to change only when they know actual gay or lesbian people, not by media
attention or school policy. This is why it’s so important for LGBT people to
come out, whenever possible.

There was a recent “It Gets Better” campaign to
combat gay teen suicide.   As a teacher,
what do you say or what do you think any adult should say to help a gay
teenager in despair? 

I think every educator is
responsible for ensuring that every student feels safe. We’re not therapists,
but we can make every kid feel safe. We can answer questions and point to
resources. Someone recently asked me, “So do all the gay kids in your school
feel they can come and talk to you now?” And I said that I hope that they feel
that they can talk to just about every member of our faculty, not just me. It’s
every single teacher’s job to bring out the best in every single student.

In the back of your book, you mention that you were
once one of the many gay teens who hoped for a magic pill that would “take away
the gay.” Now you’re quite content with life. 
What events in your life do you think led you to change your
outlook?  Around what age did things
start turning around?

I think just growing up,
being on my own during college and after. I needed to MEET some gay people.
Find some role models, you know? That was the greatest challenge for me as a
gay teen: the complete invisibility of GLBT people in my life. When you don’t
have any role models, it is very difficult to know who you might be, or to
imagine any kind of future for yourself.

I think now if I could take a magic pill, I’d want
one that would cause me to always make good decisions such as going to the gym
instead of eating cookies.  Or maybe a
pill for Pat Robertson that would make him see the light. What kind of magic
pill, if any, would you still want to take?

LOL at this question!  Boy, I could use that get-me-to-the-gym pill,
too.  My partner, if he were answering
the question, would suggest a take-a-break-from-the-Internet pill. I would love
a pill that would allow me to get by with less sleep. (I mean, yeah, I know
such pills really do exist, but…no, no, no—not for me!)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Thanksgiving

Jerry and I would like to take this opportunity at the start of the holiday season to thank everyone for their continued support of Out in Print.  We couldn’t do it without you.  


We will be taking Thursday off to spend Thanksgiving with our loved ones, but don’t worry, we’ll be back on Monday morning with an exclusive interview with author, James Klise. 


We hope everyone has a fabulous Thanksgiving.


Jerry and Bill

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sweet Son of Pan by Trebor Healey (QueerMojo/Rebel Satori Press)

Buy it now direct from Rebel Satori Press or from our Amazon.com store –Sweet Son of Pan
 

While I’m not
qualified to perform a scholarly “exegesis” on scansion, meter, and so forth, I
can tell you that Trebor Healey’s collection of poetry is wonderful.  I’m not sure how old Healey is, but I’ve read
a little bit of his poetry before, and then as now, I found an overarching
youthful exuberance—an eagerness for sex, for discovery, and for life.

Whether creating
his own take on Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” with a bright enthusiasm
for a hard-on with a bend in it or keenly observant, wildly original, and
loving depictions of the young men he’s adored, Healey’s work is both
accessible and eloquent; lyrical but fun to devour.  Many of these poems transcend a loving
obsession for sex, invoking the power and the bliss of the divine, be it Greek,
Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian.  

To me, many of
Healey’s poems evoke a sensation similar to that of the Samuel Coleridge poem
“Kubla Khan”— bursting with erotic energy to the brink of geyser-like
orgasm.   However, one of my favorite
poems of Healey’s  is “My Type,” which
beautifully depicts the longing and pain of young, unrequited love.  For its ability to capture the combination of
hurt and adoration, it’s a poem I’ll be reading many times over.  The alliteration and rolling, tumbling
language of his piece, “Bubble”, made that poem another I enjoyed very much.  “Fraternity” powerfully exposes the façade of
organized collegiate brotherhood along with the hidden longings, the confusion
and disappointments, and the true bonds that sometimes linger, even if only
party is aware of them.    

Here’s an
example from “Bubble”:



All questions are consumed
in the fire of wonder

And his hair

is free and roiling,
boiling

as smoke

There’s nothing he can do about
it,

the 4-year-old-boy madness
of its play

His waist rides low

like a Harley chopper

for he’s stalky

Tight, small circles

river rocks

and water eddying

way down in valleys

where meadows lie

and flowers bloom

popping
and pirouetting in the wind


Here’s one
thought for people who’ve started buying e-books but have yet to buy an
electronic volume of poetry.  With PDFs,
my Sony E-Reader changes the line breaks, and that usually makes little to no
difference in a novel.  However, line
breaks are often significant in poetry, so I read the book on the computer
screen instead of the e-reader.  Perhaps
another format would have worked or, if not, I’d suggest going for the print
book.  

This is poetry
that drips with talent and dedication, where the beauty of the words and their
arrangement make them far more powerful than meaning alone.  This collection should not be missed. 

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Freeman – Clare London (MLR Press)

Buy it now direct from MLR Press or from out Amazon.com store – Freeman
 

The very first sentence of London’s
“Freeman,” sets a tone of indomitable noir. There is the tough, man
of few words, Freeman—not Mister, no, just Freeman—upon a bar stool in a seedy
joint where he finds, if not comfort, familiarity with the “…ugly…dark
decor that reflected more the patrons’ need for discretion and swift, nameless
hook-up than for stylish interior decoration. But then I wasn’t there for the
trimmings, either. It was just somewhere to be.”

The read gradually eases into
storytelling less noir, and more reflective of London’s talent for providing
the reader with the protagonist’s turmoil, strengths, insecurities, and
always—to the final word of novel—his mystery. Who is Freeman? We never really
get to the essence of who this man really is.

Freeman tells us that he,
“…finds things for people. Source[s] them. Cars, properties, retail
goods, collectibles. Information…research. Whatever they want and will pay
for.” Private dick? Maybe. Maybe not. I came away from the novel not
really knowing what Freeman’s thing
is. Intentional omission on London’s part? Probably.

We do know that Freeman has history
with George, an entrepreneur who controls several enterprises—including the gay
bar in which Freeman first presents himself—a history that was good,
productive, lucrative…purely in a business sense. During that history—and the
timeframe is a little cloudy here—Freeman was married to a woman, and was
apparently in love, or lust?, with one of George’s underlings, Miki, a
strapping, dark-complected hunk who, we get the impression, enjoyed rough sex
with Freeman. Somewhere along the line in this history, George steps over to
the dark side with his business ventures, and, as a consequence, Freeman ends
his dealings with George, leaves Miki and goes…somewhere. Again the mystery.

Freeman does return, however, and
finds himself in George’s ugly, dark bar, sitting on a stool where he
encounters a young man—one of George’s kept boys, who is expected to and does,
um, service George. We also discover as the story progresses, George has
married Freeman’s ex-wife. Additionally, we learn that Freeman’s return to the
scene of George’s now surly undertakings, is for the express purpose of
exposing George, and ending his nefarious operations.

Enter now the young man—George’s
kept boy from the ugly bar—who Freeman quite tentatively, certainly warily
allows to step into his life. The young man will not reveal his name (for good
reason) to Freeman, so Freeman nicknames him Kit…perhaps an apt moniker for
the long-haired, headstrong, lithe, horny, barely-legal kid he proves to be. 

London’s forte with this tale is
clearly, at once, her passion to keep Freeman as a rather amorphous character,
whose past is cloudy, not really defined. That we, as readers, might want to
know more about Freeman is perhaps London’s tease; something that—as she gives
us a wink and a sly smile—she might, just might expose in future works. We
await the exposure. Freeman is, after all, a character we want to know.

But it is in London’s ability to
creep, ever so slowly, into Freeman’s noir persona with regard to his
relationship with Kit, where we find her other passion within this novel: the
possibility of love amongst two unlikely partners.

Whether there is a HEA ending this
story, is something you will have to find out for yourselves. Perhaps a hint
from Freeman’s conclusions: “There was something about having him [Kit]
beside me – something about the vibrant way he spoke, moved, thought. I’d never
spent much time on the concept of happiness. Things in life were either
good…or they weren’t. Kit had made me rethink many things.”

I enjoyed this book. I recommend
this book for those who crave noir, mystery, detecting, and the potential for
love within the backdrop of improbability.

Reviewed by George Seaton

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Carousel – Stefani Deoul (A&M Books)

Buy it now from A & M Books or at our Amazon.com store –The Carousel

Some books are more than the sum of their parts,
transcending their base elements to become deeper and more important than they
might seem at first. They provide the comfort of traveling to a known
destination in familiar surroundings but take an interesting and surprising
route. Such is the case with Stefani Deoul’s The Carousel. 

The plot veers dangerously close to a Lifetime movie. An
unnamed, broken woman (Charlize Theron) shows up outside the Old Town Diner, run
by the plucky Millie Hickson (Sally Field). The woman falls in love with a
bunch of trashed-out carousel horses in a nearby junkyard, and the renovation
of those horses provides the spark for the renewal of the town, its inhabitants
and her own personal journey towards wholeness.

In the hands of a lesser writer, this material might well be
mired in mawkish sentimentality, but Deoul never stoops to the cheap sob. Her
merry go round lady is dark and unpredictable, and her relationship with Millie
has a tense dynamic that gives the plot some real drama. Deoul’s prose is
straightforward and uncluttered, sharp enough to make its point and lyrical
enough to leave an impression.

The sub-plots and minor characters are also interesting and
well-drawn, especially the expert carvers Sam and Morris, whose age and
experience demand they pass their skills to an initially unwilling apprentice,
teenage Cameron. Reverend Dalton, an early cheerleader of the project, is also
a fascinating character, but nearly all the cast has a role to play in the
finish of the carousel.

If all this sounds a bit contrived, I swear you won’t
notice. The prose is that good and the characters will sweep you up in their
enthusiasm until you find yourself cheering them on, chagrined at their
setbacks and elated by their successes. If you’re expecting a strongly lesbian
novel, however, this isn’t it. There is a lesbian “twist” at the end, which any
astute reader can see coming, but this book is full of strong women in
leadership roles, taking on challenges and making dreams come true. 

Stefani Deoul’s The Carousel is a warm, entertaining
read whose ending will leave you smiling and just a bit sad that it’s over. But
don’t blame me if you have visions of stately wooden horses frozen in mid-prance
as they bob up and down to calliope music and you lean out in space to grab the
brass ring. 

Sally Field would want you to. 

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Muscle Bound – David Marlow (iUniverse)

Buy it now at Giovanni’s Room

Whenever I hear the words “muscle bound,” I always think of men trapped behind narcissistic iron bars, imprisoned by the maintenance of their self-image. Whether or not that’s true, I’d love to read a book where a bodybuilder breaks out of that confinement when his life goes wrong instead of returning to it like a recidivist. David Marlow’s Muscle Bound isn’t that book, though it does have some interesting characters.

Chase Hyde is a bodybuilder and a self-avowed ‘roamosexual’ who takes great pains to fall only in lust and never in love. Until he meets fellow muscleman Hunter Rowe, that is. Hunter pursues Chase fervently and, ultimately, wins his prize as we knew he would. It’s then that things begin to go wrong.

The plot—of this part of the story, anyway—has enough twists and turns to keep a reader’s interest, but the trouble is that Marlow gives us only 88 pages of the Chase/Hunter story before switching to nearly 200 pages of backstory. Some of it is relevant to the Chase/Hunter drama, but much of it isn’t.

By the time he brings Chase and Hunter to the forefront again, I’d forgotten why I was interested in them in the first place. Marlow tries to compensate for this by building in a wicked breakup and revenge scenario. Unfortunately, that hinges on a flaw in Hunter which hasn’t been foreshadowed well and doesn’t spring organically from the character.

Marlow’s writing is vivid and well-appointed, even if the lavishly detailed descriptions of workouts get a bit much. Chase and Hunter are interesting characters, but Marlow’s best creation is Christian Falconer, a closeted Christian (get it?) who winds up breaking Chase’s heart. Christian is central to the 200 pages of backstory but once Chase and Hunter become the focus, he’s relegated to a minor part.

While the novel is well-written enough to be entertaining, it doesn’t hang together structurally. The clump of backstory in the middle doesn’t serve the plot well. Marlow’s time would have been better spent honing and refining Chase and Hunter, deepening that story so that the twists, turns, betrayals and revenges would have had more of an emotional impact in the end. Applicable parts of the backstory could have been easily dropped in and the whole thing tightened up for a shorter, snappier read.

As it is, Muscle Bound is an interesting, if lopsided, workout. Hmm. Maybe a cycle of ‘roids would have helped.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Love Drugged by James Klise (Flux/Llewellyn)

Buy it now from Outwrite Bookstore  or from our Amazon.com store – Love Drugged

Many gays and lesbians, including the author of Love
Drugged, and admittedly, including myself, would have at one point willingly
taken a pill if it could cure homosexuality.
To frightened teens, that sentiment makes a lot of sense.  Who would want to put up with the bullying
and degradation?  Who wants to suffer
through seeing images in the media claiming “God hates fags” or listening to politicians
stating that you don’t deserve equal rights because of something you had no
control over?  Certainly many gay teens
fantasize about such a drug.  In Klise’s novel,
his character, Jamie Bates, gets to be the first person faced with the
opportunity.

As members of school service club, Jamie knows Celia, the
prettiest, richest girl in school.  She
wants Jamie to be her boyfriend.  It
happens that Celia’s father, Dr. Gamez, is a wealthy and powerful
pharmacologist trying to develop Rehomoline, a blue pill that “cures”
homosexuality.  It will be rather obvious
to the reader, long before it’s obvious to Jamie, that Dr. Gamez can tell Jamie
is gay, and that he’s doing his darnedest to get Jamie to illicitly grab some
Rehomoline and start taking it.  Thus,
Dr. Gamez, who was never able to win approval from the FDA to test the drug,
gets himself a highly illegal case study.

Klise is careful not to condemn medical drugs as a whole
while showing why Jamie might think pills will solve his problems. Jamie’s best
friend, Wes, has his life greatly improved by Ritalin.  Jamie’s grandparents need daily medications
to keep them healthy.  Some of the girls
at Jamie’s school are on birth control pills with their parents’ full knowledge
and approval.  However, Klise is clear
that Dr. Gamez’ goals are insidious.
This is not something like an anti-depressant that happens to kill a
person’s sex drive.  Rehomoline is a
dangerous drug that produces a myriad of frightening side effects with the goal
of destroying not just a sex drive, but any kind of gay male desire or
attraction.  It also causes headaches,
muscle aches, severely impaired vision, violent muscle spasms, and the
hemorrhaging of blood and brain fluid through the nose.  However, this is perfectly preferable to Dr.
Gamez than allowing Jamie to be gay.
Furthermore, what’s horribly sad, yet believable, is that it’s also preferable
to Jamie.

Jamie is given some flaws.
For one, he does steal the pills, and moreover, he steals money from his
parents and grandparents.  He may be the
hero of the story and the one with the most at stake, but it can’t be
overlooked that Klise presents another victim: Celia.  Jamie wants to be straight so he basically
lies to Celia so he can date her, performing his own experiment to see if
making out with the prettiest girl in school could make him hetero.  Worse, Dr. Gamez had no compunction about
using his daughter to gain access to someone he could experiment on
himself.  I think if people realized how
many girlfriends, wives, husbands, families, etc are vastly hurt by the fact
that gay people are forced to pretend to be something they’re not because of
societal oppression, a lot of opinions might be changed.  Klise hints at exactly the kind of damage
that could happen.

The book is not a hundred percent perfect with minor
problems with believability (why does Celia happen to mention that her birth
date is the security code to her house?) and somewhat unremarkable voice and
characterization (Jamie’s parents don’t have quite enough substance).  However, it is a book that is tremendously
important.  I hope school libraries will
choose it for their shelves as now, more than ever, its message of hope and
understanding is one to which young people desperately need to be exposed. 

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized