A Conversation with Jamie Freeman By Gavin Atlas

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Jamie Freeman describes himself
as a part-time writer with a full-time day job. He dabbles in genre fiction
(erotica, gay romance, horror, micro-fiction and literary fiction), reads
obsessively, and knows every musical theater lyric ever written.  Jamie is the author of works such as Quicksilver
in the Hand
(Untreed Reads), The
Marriage of True Minds
(Dreamspinner Press), The
Wages of Sin
and Brother
Dave’s Traveling Damnation Show
, both from
Fantastic Fiction Publishing. 

 

GA: Hi, Jamie! 
Great to have you at Out in Print. 
Your twitter ID is “BitterJamie”. 
Considering U.S. politics and the hypocrisy of the powerful and
closeted, I would call you Understandably Bitter Jamie.  Still, you seem like a sweet guy, so let’s
try to cheer you up.  What are some
things that usually make you laugh? 

JF: I love a good farce – doors slamming, romantic
misunderstandings, rapid-fire dialogue, disguises and prat falls.
  I read P.G. Wodehouse and Joe Keenan to cheer
myself up sometimes; both of them make me laugh out loud.
  And I watch an endless stream of Frasier or Will
& Grace or Arrested Development reruns.
 
In my life I always try to surround myself with people who have a quick
wit, a keen sense of the absurd, and the ability to make me laugh.
  I think if my life were a sitcom, I’d want it
to be written by Joe Keenan and Amy Sherman-Palladino and directed by James
Burrows.

 

GA: Keeping with the cheering up theme, I think
you live in Gainesville, Florida, so what are some things that, hopefully, you
enjoy about the South
?

JF: You know, as a teenager I dreamed of escaping
the South, couldn’t wait to get away from the churches and the mosquitoes and
the gators.
  But after college I wandered
back and rediscovered my hometown.
  I
think I saw it with new eyes.
  Gainesville’s
a university town nestled among the live oaks, palmettos, and pine forests of
North Florida.
  It’s like a natural
spring, a little blue oasis surrounded by rural red counties.
  There’s a fantastic, valiant library system
here, legal protections for the LGBT community, a gloriously diverse population
(at least for North Florida), and a gay mayor.
 
In a way, it’s the best of both worlds: 
the liberal atmosphere of a city varnished with all the eccentricities
of a small Southern town.
 

 

GA: I  know
one thing that is important to you is music, particularly musicals.   Which songs or albums make you happiest?  Do you have favorite songs to sing?  I noticed in “Brother Dave’s Traveling
Damnation Show” that there’s music playing through most of the story.   Does music ever trigger a story idea for you
or affect your writing in other ways? 

JF: I have a couple of playlists on my iPod that
I listen to when I need a boost.
  One has
a bunch of the “I Can Do It” songs – think of “Don’t Rain on my Parade” from Funny
Girl – and the other has act one finales – think “One Day More” from Les Miserables
or “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.
  I know
every lyric of every song, but I’m a truly terrible singer.
  I only sing when I’m alone.  I’m so terrible my poor dog will scamper out
of the room when she hears the opening bars of a Sondheim ballad.

But listening to music has become an integral
part of the creative process for me.
  I’m
always jacked in, listening to something whether I’m mulling over plot points,
outlining, writing or editing.
  I try to
pick music that matches the mood of the scene I’m working on, but it’s all very
organic.
  A scene may veer off and I’ll
have to stop to change the music, or the music may lead the narrative in an
unexpected direction.

 

GA: You have a story in a Cleis Anthology, Brief
Encounters
, called “Senator Blanding Fucks Up”.   I’ve tried to write similar stories many times,
and when I read yours, I thought, “That’s genius.  That’s exactly it.”  I bet much of the LGBT population seethes
when some anti-gay politician or minister is revealed to be a self-hating gay man
himself. So I imagine “reactionary revenge erotica” is empowering or thrilling
for many people, but how do you feel about that assessment? 

JF: Well, I think you’ve hit the nail on the
head, Gavin.
  People love to see Icarus
fall.
  I think a lot of these modern
political outing stories are like Greek myths come to life.
  Powerful, ambitious men (not women,
interestingly) consolidate power by railing against the gay agenda while they
slink in and out of public restrooms or vacation on South American beaches with
male prostitutes.
  But eventually these
guys always fly too close to the sun and someone brings them down.
  Living in the South I sometimes feel like there’s
a closet case behind ever angry pulpit and a self-loathing bully behind the
wheel of every pick-up truck.
  Wherever
it’s unacceptable for homosexuals to live peacefully in the open, there will be
self-loathing men hiding behind their sermons or their fists.
  Until they fuck up, like the good Senator
did.

 

GA: Going back to music, your book, Quicksilver
in the Hand, brought to mind the Kate Nash song, “Foundations”.  That made me think perhaps your book should
be read twice, the second time to identify where the problems start and each
following misstep.   I imagine writing
this might have been cathartic for you, but were you also thinking of a
potential benefit to readers?  If people
started recommending Quicksilver to each other, perhaps as an ironic primer on “how
to treat your partner like he’s a child and your subsequent terrible
relationship” would that feel satisfying? 
Weird?  Not at all what you’d
want?
 

JF: “Foundations” is a great song and an apt
point of reference for describing Quicksilver. 
It’s funny, that story has gotten a really wide array of responses from
readers.  Everything from “can you write
a sequel so that Julian and Tony can get back together?” to “it’s so
unrealistic – how could Julian have stayed with him past the first date?”  Everyone has their own perspective on what
was going on between the two of them. To me, the essential truth is that Julian
is a man who stays too long at the dance; Tony is a man who always needs to
have his dance card filled.  I started
with a story tentatively titled “27 Things I Hate About You” – which was
actually a lot more like Nash’s song – but then I began to wonder who would
care about this crazy angry character, so I wrote “27 Things I Love About You”
as a companion piece.  And then as the
two pieces evolved, the concept of time kept popping up unexpectedly – think about
that great tick-tock beat of the Kate Nash song – and as the sense of time and
inevitability started to dominate the work, the Shakespeare quote surfaced from
somewhere and the work resolved into the story you read.  I think if you asked a dozen readers when the
trouble started, they might each choose a different moment.  If people recommend it to each other, that
would be just great.  And if they want to
argue about what’s really going on between the two characters, even better.

GA: When reading, what kind of characters or
plots do you gravitate towards most?  

JF: I read a little bit of everything, and I
always have about half a dozen books going at once.
  I’d have to say I’m a character-driven
reader.
  If the characters are strong or
compelling, you’ve won me over.
  If the
dialogue is smart and real and engrossing, you’ve got a fan for life.

 

GA: A story I read of yours, “The Ambivalent
Gardener and the State of Grace” (from Muscle
Men
, Cleis Press) conjured up Eudora Welty for me.  Was that intentional?  In general, which authors or books have
influenced you?

JF: I may have to turn in my Southern Writer’s
card for admitting this in public, but I’ve never read Welty.
  Or Faulkner. 
Or O’Connor.  But I grew up in the
South listening to the same musical cadences of life, watching the shimmering heat
engulf everything during the summer and the cool breezes stir the Spanish moss
as winter approached.
  I used to listen
to my grandparents gossiping and telling stories at the kitchen table, blowing
cigarette smoke into a blue cloud that hovered over coffee and cakes layered
with homemade jam.
  I believe there’s an
essential rhythm to life here that, when I start to write about home, seeps in
and pervades everything.
  It’s really a
beautiful, terrible, wonderful, scary thing.

In high school I simultaneously discovered
the Violet Quill writers and the Edwardians.
 
Some of the writers to whom I return again and again are from those two
groups:
  E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf,
Edmund White, Felice Picano, Robert Ferro, and Andrew Holleran.
  I also love Michael Cunningham, David
Leavitt, Christopher Isherwood, and P.G. Wodehouse.
  When I’m writing dialogue, I often read plays
by Tennessee Williams (he probably influenced Sherie and Wanda), Edward Albee
and John Guare.
  And over the past year
I’ve discovered the genius of Samuel R. Delaney.

GA: Hey! I was just going to ask about Wanda and
Sherie.  “The Ambivalent Gardener” contains
amazing Southern voice and characterization. 
You describe Sherie as speaking “with the slithering cadences of orange
blossom honey and malice.”  This may
sound crazy, but I want more of those two. 
What was the inspiration for those characters?  Also, I understand you’re developing this
story into a longer work.  Can you tell
us about the project? 

JF: I love Wanda and Sherie.  They are such a fun pair to write – and they
will definitely be back!
  I used a pair
of great aunts and a gay couple I know as a starting place for the two of them,
but before I’d even finished writing that first scene, they had jumped out of my
head and taken on lives of their own.
 

When I finished that story, I knew there was
so much more to tell, so I’ve been working on expanding it to novel
length.  I’ve just reached the halfway
point, but it’s going well.  I’m hoping
to have it completed later this year (Fingers crossed – I’m a terrible
procrastinator!).

 

GA: The genie question:  Keeping in mind that there’s fine print that
you’re not allowed to wish for “infinity wishes” or “world peace” what would be
your magical request?  

JF: You know, I struggle to find time to write,
mainly due to the fact that I have a day job that interferes with my nocturnal
writing schedule.
  So I’d have to ask the
genie for enough money to not have to work.
 

 

And also, world peace.   

Thanks, Jamie! 

Keep up with Jamie at his blog, Stalking the Truant
Muse
(jamiefreeman.net)

 

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