Monday, November 21, 2011
I had a dream.
No, really. Eleven months ago, I woke up on a cold January morning at about 4:30am and transcribed the scenes from a trio of dreams I had. I didn't stop writing until 11pm through that day. Fortunately, it was a weekend.
I decided to try to write 1000 words a day. I almost succeeded, writing more some days, fewer others, and many days off. But the inspiration kept rolling in.
The muse said, "Hello dere," and I listened. Now I've submitted the final proofs, have to make yet another round of corrections, a few tweaks with the cover, and it'll be a book, out on December 2.
The book is set within a similar length of time, one year, albeit thirty-two years ago and in a fictional version of cities I either visited or lived in for a short period of time (actually, less than a year in Pittsburgh).
Where did it come from? I have lots of ideas and inspirations. It truly is a work of fiction. Yet as one of my favorite authors Chuck Palahniuk once said, in a sense, "Everything is autobiographical."
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Here's the first in a four-post series in which I offer some deserved thanks for my blurbers, i.e. the colleagues who wrote praise-filled comments about Every Time I Think of You.
That they dared to read a half-completed manuscript PDF riddled with embarrassing grammatical and syntactical errors just shows how much hope and patience these guys have. And like most good authors, they're also busy, so taking the time out to read somebody else's incomplete work takes a certain dedication.
First up is Eric Arvin. Whew. What to say that fans don't already know? He's cute. He's a sexy muscle hunk. He's nice. His Facebook posts are hilarious. His blog is deliciously Not Safe For Work.
Oh, and his books! Transcending the obvious marketing ploys that feature shirtless hunks on most of their covers, his fiction has a marked diversity, ranging from the light satires to cerebral dreamlike tales. And, a few of his works are illustrated with a definite flair for one-handed enjoyment, if you're drawn to enormously hung cartoon characters.
Here's my review of two of Eric's books, Another Enchanted April, Woke Up in a Strange Place. Yes, this is a case of unabashed logrolling.
When I'm inspired by Eric, I don't know whether to get to the computer or the gym.
Here's his blurb:
“Jim Provenzano has written a tender, nostalgic tale in a simple yet elegant prose that comes straight from the heart. It’s beautiful, literary, and effective without affectation. We’re moved by these characters because we recognize in them our own once-believed indestructibility.”
- Eric Arvin, author of Woke Up in a Strange Place, Simple Men and Subsurdity
(If that last title sounds familiar, consider that the new ABC comedy sitcom Suburgatory nearly rips off Arvin's titles and themes just one move shy of plagiarism.)
“The coming-of-age story gets a welcome and much needed shake up in Jim Provenzano’s graceful and surprising novel about falling in love. Always going where you least expect it, the story is by turns heartbreaking and arousing, comic and introspective, familiar and altogether new. These are characters you’ll remember long after the last page.”
- Michael Thomas Ford, author of Full Circle, The Road Home, Last Summer
Prolific just doesn't seem to be an accurate enough term for author Michael Thomas Ford, whose work pretty much defines the best of late 20th-Century gay fiction. Long before I'd finished the first draft of my first novels, Ford was already the recipient of deserved literary awards. I consider him a mentor from afar, since we've only met a few times. Even in person, his disarming demeanor and sharp wit make an impression.
From his series of popular gay fiction to his humor essays, and the immensely popular new and upcoming Jane Eyre vampire/zombie series, he's a busy guy. In between penning bestselling fiction and editing anthologies, Ford also has a (now somewhat inactive) hilarious pop culture blog.
Just before his recent cross-country move with a partner and slew of pets, Ford offered a kind blurb for Every Time I Think of You. You know what they say; if you want something done, ask a busy person.
“Every Time I Think of You captures the joy of finding love for the first time, with all the sweetness, comedy and tragedy that experience inevitably entails. And it does so with the audacity and brutal honesty to admit that yes, even the broken and imperfect among us deserve to experience everything that life has to offer. Kudos to Provenzano for daring to show that disability and sexuality aren’t mutually exclusive, and that crips can be just as good in bed (or elsewhere) as their non-disabled counterparts.”
- Ray Aguilera, former editor of Bent Voices
One of the important aspects of Every Time I Think of You is a sense of authenticity. The work has to ring true with the narrative about disability. One of the first resources I looked up was the website Bent Voices.
Although no longer active, its archive provided fascinating and diverse perspectives from many gay male disabled writers, both professional and amateur. I sought all kinds of experiences, and soaked them in without appropriating others' experiences. I read the anthology Queer Crips to figure what sort of story hadn't yet been told.
As a non-disabled person, I kept the narrative in the perspective of a young gay man whose boyfriend-lover-whatever becomes disabled. To write in the first-person tense from a disabled perspective would have been too hokey and untrue. While it's certainly fine to write fiction about the lives of people whom we are not, there are certain stories where it would not be appropriate, unless the writing is good enough.
So I was pleased to learn that Ray, one of Bent Voices' writer/editors, was not only local, but a previous contributor to the Bay Area Reporter's news section, and the subject of a recent feature article.
Ray kindly read the book, gave it a sort of 'seal of approval,' and is now a writer-photographer contributor at my dual editor job with BARtab. The guy knows his cocktails!
"Every Time I Think of You is a rare combination of delicacy and power, a story of 'the unbearable weight of first love' told with both innocence and urgency by its wise and charming adolescent narrator. It rekindled faded memories of the intensity of youthful desire—the mystery, the promise, the excitement, the disappointment. Intelligent, subtle, and compelling, Jim Provenzano’s novel is, most of all, audacious. Bravo!"
- Andrew W. M. Beierle, author of First Person Plural and The Winter of Our Discothèque.
Andrew W.M. Bierle. Not only an author, Andrew is a professional editor and stock photographer.
His first novel, The Winter of Our Discothèque, was a breakaway hit that transcended the genre of "beach reading." Deceptively set in the world of gay nightlife and class divisions, the work took on serious themes while satisfying the needs of popular fiction.
Bierle's second novel, First Person Plural, about conjoined twins, straight and gay, took on allegoric themes while exploring realistic queries of identity and manhood. Both are fascinating and well-written, which is why I asked him to blurb me.
Andrew was also helpful in his reading of Every Time, providing a few pointers on descriptions of Penn State, one of his alma maters. He kindly took the time to read the manuscript while in the middle of editing some other large academic works.
Friday, November 4, 2011
So, days before I was almost completely finished with re-re-rewrites on the manuscript, and fantabulous designer Kurt Thomas completed the book cover, the Penn State child molestation scandal broke in pretty much every U.S. media outlet. Students rioted on campus, get this, in support of coach joe Paterno, who allegedly knew about the abuse, but did nothing.
What does this have to do with Every Time I Think of You? Very little, actually. But I had months before decided to have the main characters eventually attend Penn State. It has, and historically for the book's timeline, had, the state's largest Forestry department.
It seemed a no-brainer. Reid should go to Penn State. For the potential sequel, I could easily do some research and recreate my own similar 80s college experiences at Ohio State to the similar university.
But the scandal changed everything. Even though one of my readers, an author and Penn State alumnus, gave me pointers on a few facts about the campus, I suddenly realized I wanted nothing to do with this now-tainted university. Even though my book takes place 30 years ago, the mere thought of having to bring this problematic school into my literary world became unthinkable.
Here's Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff a Penn State alumnus, sharing his thoughts on it from a gay perspective.
So I switched Reid's major to one that wasn't anachronistic, and chose Temple University. Philadelphia is a big change from State College for a latter chapter setting, but I moved a few parts around and made the changes.
In the end, I think it turned out to be a wise choice. The idea of characters attending school in a big city, and even further across Pennsylvania from their home in Greensburg, has already inspired more ideas and potential than the somewhat isolated, and football-obsessed Penn State.
I found so much more applicable contemporary and historical stories about Temple U, like this one about a landscape architect student who won't let his disability stand in the way of his dreams. He's kind of a hybrid of traits that both Reid and Everett share.
Temple also has an honored place in the history of wheelchair basketball, another element in Every Time. Its Institute on Disabilities could play a major part in the possible sequel, because it existed at the time of the current novel.
So, wiping the taint of Penn State out of my book wasn't a quick decision, or an easy one, but I think it was the right one.
Others may choose to swiftly move on. Only a week later, the corporate media works toward dismissing and minimizing this scandal with a touchy-feely "let the healing begin" feature timed with the university's subsequent football game. Note the deliberate use of children in the accompanying photos.
No, sorry; it's not time for healing. It's time for arrests and investigations and jail time, including a closer look at the suspicious death of a prosecutor who tried to bring this horror to light years ago.
Sometimes, real events have an impact on fictional work. When I thought I had really "finished" PINS in 1998, Matthew Shepard was murdered (in a similar fashion to a character in PINS), and the Columbine shootings horrified me. Both events forced me to rethink how a school and a community react to a tragedy.
This also proved to me the advantage of being an independent author. Had I already submitted a manuscript to a publisher, it would have been very difficult to make so many changes.
Anyone who thinks authors sit cloistered alone in their privacy without a connection to the world doesn't know authors. We connect to the world in multiple ways.
(This post is pre-dated to not upstage my later more uplifting posts.)
Thursday, November 3, 2011
As much I'm tickled by how simple it has been to convert books to Kindle and Nook editions, I still try to support independent bookstores. After all, they were also stocking my books whenever possible, and helping other indie authors with promotions, book clubs, and events.
So it was with sadness that I heard about yet another LGBT bookstore closing, this time OutWrite Books in Atlanta.
So many have closed, yet others have figured out how to survive: online sales, discounts for members, welcoming author events, plus diversifying their stock with some mainstream items.
Giovanni's Room is one of the best. Back in 1999/2000 during my extensive book tour for PINS, I read at Giovanni's Room on my birthday on a night when a lovely snow fell upon Philadelphia.
And because of its history going back to 1973, the pioneering store might just also make an appearance in the possible sequel to Every Time I Think of You. Oops, that's a bit of a spoiler, eh?
Lambda Literary Foundation has the most recently updated list of indie and LGBT-friendly bookstores in the U.S. and Canada. Do patronize them.