It’s Monday, but I’m far from sad about it. This week promises to be unforgettable! I am thrilled that in just two more days “The Role” will finally be in bookstores across the country. Over the weekend I had a lot of time to think about what it will be like to have “The Role” out there in the world. One thing I really love about it is that the story is now out of my hands. When I finished my rough draft, I felt a real accomplishment, but when I read over it a few weeks later I was devastated. It needed a lot of work, and I was sad that it ended up taking years of re-reading, rewriting, and revising it to get into shape. During that time, I felt a certain amount of guilt, my characters had done so much for me. They truly haunted my dreams when I was drafting the novel, and often times those dreams ended up making it onto the page. I knew that, as their author, it was up to me to make the book good enough to publish. So now that we are only two days away, I feel a bit like a parent sending their child off into the world. Together, we’ve made the story strong enough to make out into the world, and while I’m sure it won’t be loved by everyone, I am confident that it will find a way to the hearts of the readers it was meant for.
With only three days remaining, I am taking Sunday to prepare for the coming week. A good friend of mine suggested a very good tactic for handling reviews. He told me that I should write down every possible critique I think I’ll get hit with, and that way, if I do, I can look at the list and at feel better having prepared for it. He also said that if I get hit with something not on the list, I am entitled to feel a certain degree of justified surprise. When I was in college the theatre department had a similar policy on sour grapes when it came to being cast in a show. Basically the idea was this: If you auditioned for a show, and were not cast in the role you wanted (or not at all) you were entitled to a full 24 hour period of time to wallow in misery. After that, you had to get over it, and move forward. As both a freshman and sophomore, I struggled to get cast in any of the shows. This made sense as I was competing not only with the incredible talent that came into the department on my year, but also competing with actors who were older than me, that the faculty had more knowledge of. However, I am always thankful that I came in as a messy (I had a lot of bad actor habits) underdog. Having a whole series of people to look up to, to compete with, really forced me to practice my craft and eventually get better.
In writing, finding rivals is harder. Most authors I want to emulate are older (or dead) and have reached a level of success that makes them less likely to mentor new writers. However, there are some shining examples (Steve Berman who runs Lethe Press for example) of successful authors who reach out to younger writers and do what they can to lift them up. I like the idea of paying it forward, which is one of the reasons I agreed (for the 3rd year in a row) to be a judge for #QueryKombat. While I certainly hope that “The Role” and the other books I hope to one day get published will eventually make me an author others aspire to be like, I hope that I’ll always remember to make time to give those that reach out, a helping hand.
With only four more days til “The Role” officially launches, I’ve started to really look to my next project. Currently I am working on a novel that explores Gaymer culture, but in the event that “The Role,” does very well I do have a companion book in mind for it. While Mason’s story is most likely at an end (at least for now) some core members of the cast have stories I’d love to tell. When I was writing “The Role” my process was very structured. I was unemployed, so I would wake up, have breakfast, read a bit, and then start writing. Nowadays, I not only have a day job, but I’ve also got a lovely daughter to take care of. This has led me to really struggle to change my perception of what I need to do on a daily basis. For starters, I’ve accepted I won’t likely have the chance to write every day. The advice to write every day is one of the oldest, and it’s one I wish I could follow. However, I do think that the advice to “write every day” is more about encouraging writers to not put off writing (which is very easy to do.) In addition, I know my old word count goal of 1,500 words a day is not likely to be feasible. When I had a few hours a day to do it, it was easy, but nowadays I’m shooting for writing 500 words at least three times a week. This is hard for me, because it feels too slow. When I go the gym I like to have 90 minutes to do it (which I have not had in ages.) The reason is, I prefer to do my cardio (treadmill) for a full 60 minutes. Factoring in transit time to and from the gym as well as basics of getting dressed, that mainly takes 90 minutes. Lately, I’ve not had that kind of time, and for a few weeks I just told myself I should get my cardio by walking around outside. The problem is, I don’t push myself as well as a treadmill forces me to, so I’ve had to adjust my thinking. The same is true for writing, while it maddens me that my new goal accomplishes as much in one week as I used to accomplish in a single day, writing at least that much per week is better than me waiting til I will magically have more time. Of course, if I’m lucky, I’ll write more, but at this stage baby steps are needed. Fortunately, my daughter is learning to walk, so I’m watching her learn to take literal baby steps, and that’s a great thing!
It’s Friday! As I settle in for the weekend, it occurs to me this is my final weekend before my book comes out. As of next week, I’ll finally feel like I can truly call myself an author. Shortly after I came out, someone handed me David Leavitt’s book “The Lost Language of Cranes.”
I read it and was instantly enamored with it. I used to be able to quote large sections of it, as if it were a classic tome. Reading that book make me feel like I wasn’t alone. That the feelings I felt were not completely crazy. My first true romance was very similar to the one described in the book, and I was glad to have that book as a sort of emotional road map. A small part of me hopes that “The Role” can be that kind of book to someone. That they will pick it up and read it, and feel that someone, a stranger, understands them.
Tonight I am thrilled to get to rehearse reading my first chapter! I was chosen to be a part of the Queens Literary Crawl in conjunction with the Line Break Reading Series.
As an actor, I’ve always felt that rehearsal was absolutely essential, and I’ve always been the person that wants to run it one more time (often to the dismay of my fellow actors.) My novel “The Role” focuses primarily on what happens from the time a person gets cast in a show up through opening night. Most of that time is spent in rehearsal. When you are doing a show on stage, anything can happen. This uncertainty is one of the biggest thrills of performing live, but it is also something that I always want to be prepared for.
In my time as an actor, I’ve had to do some funny improvisations to cover when things go wrong. One of my favorite examples was when I was pretending to be Patricia, an ugly girl who goes to prom with Joshua (who is basically gay Jesus in the 1950s), in Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi. The play is done with a minimal set, so in the scene wherein my character attempts to make out with her gay boyfriend in a car, we were just two actors seated side by side on stools. Unfortunately, during what is supposed to have been an awkward pause, the stool underneath me gave way and I fell to the ground. To make light of this, I made a joke “I hope this is a rental” since essentially it looked like half the car just imploded. Given the way the scene was supposed to go down (it’s supposed to be awkward and terrible), it wasn’t hard to come back from this rather embarrassing problem. However, I was happy that I knew my part backwards and forwards so that I wasn’t remotely fazed. Below is a photo of me as Patricia:
Today we hit number seven, which means we are exactly one week away from “The Role” hitting shelves! One thing that many people want to know is how I picture my characters. So I thought, today would be a fun day to pretend I was casting the movie version (rights are available Hollywood!) of my novel:
When I think of Mason, I’ve always imagined someone like Logan Lerman playing him. Logan is a great actor who starred in one of my all time favorite movies (and books) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” I think Logan has the right look (though he’d actually have to gain weight to play Mason at the beginning of the book) and I think he would bring the right amount of vulnerability in the role.
Kevin Caldwell is supposed to be almost painfully attractive as well as incredibly talented. As a result, the most logical choice to me is none other than Jonathan Groff. I think Mr. Groff is a treasure, who has the ability to play anything (and he isn’t hard on the eyes at all.)
Eric is Mason’s thin gaymer boyfriend. The closest person that really comes close to this is Ezra Miller. Coincidently, if Mr. Lerman played Mason it would be a funny reunion for them. Miller and Lerman shared a kiss (albeit a tragic one) in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
I can think of no one better than Jim Broadbent. In addition to his amazing work in Moulin Rouge, lately Mr. Broadbent was in the LGBT Spy show “London Spy.” I think he would bring the perfect amount of gravitas to Merchant.
When I wrote Lycan, I always pictured him being played by Jim Rash. While I’m used to Mr. Rash being a wacky dean on “Community.” I think he would be able to pull of the wise and loving mentor/physical trainer, as he is wonderfully witty and in amazing shape!
Julia is often described as having a Marilyn Monroe figure, so I figure Megan Hilty (who famously vie for the chance to play her in the TV show “Smash”) is a perfect choice. In addition to her work on "Smash" I had the great pleasure of seeing Ms. Hilty in the recent revival of “Noises Off!” where she truly slayed the role of Brooke. I think Ms. Hilty would bring a lot to Julia, although she would might be a bit young. Julia is supposed to be aging out of the ingénue role, which I don’t see Ms. Hilty doing any time soon.
My good friend Joe Okonkwo (with whom I’m doing a reading at the Bureau of General Services in June) gave me a great quote from legendary author Toni Morrison:
If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
When I sat down to write “The Role,” I did so for many reasons, but chief among them was that I was tired of waiting for someone else to write a LGBT novel that explores the drama that goes on backstage. As an actor, many of my favorite memories involved me coming home and recounting all the crazy stuff that happened. For example, a few years ago I was doing a show, and when the curtain was about to rise, one of the actors had not yet shown up. When the stage manager finally managed to reach him, he was on the Staten Island Ferry headed into the city. This meant he would be at least another thirty to forty-five minutes. We had no understudy for the role, so we had to wait, which meant we also had to fill time. We were fortunate that one of the playwright’s distant relatives was in the audience, and he gave an impromptu speech to help us buy time. I was absolutely mortified in the moment, but as soon as it was over, it became this amazing legendary story that I love recounting at parties. The show went on (as it must) and everyone gave a really excellent performance (especially the actor who was late!)
These kinds of moments were what I hoped to convey in “The Role.” I wanted to write a novel that points out that while the actors are telling one story on stage, many times there are even bigger ones happening behind the scenes.
Today marks our official dip into single digits! There are only nine days left until my book hits shelves. Today, I celebrate a special moment for me as an author: I was reviewed by Jeff Adams, an LGBT Fiction author who is also a major theatre person. You can check out Jeff’s review of “The Role” on his website, as well as hear Jeff discuss it on his wonderful “Big Gay Fiction Podcast.” I actually got to meet Jeff a few weeks ago at the Rainbow Book Fair. He and Will Knauss, his partner, used the book fair as an excuse to make their annual NYC Theatre Trip, and I was really thrilled to talk to someone who was as big Broadway fan as I was. Like most people who visit, he’d seen more in a few days than I’d seen all year, and I was completely jealous that Jeff had seen the workshops of “Waitress” as well as a preview performance a few days before we met. The fact that Jeff is not only a LGBT fiction reader, but also a fellow LGBT fiction author, made his very kind review even more enjoyable for me.
As of today there are only 10 days left until my book officially launches. Many people who pre-ordered copies have had received them in the mail. Here are some fun photos of them!
If you happen to receive a copy, feel free to share them! I’m so excited to finally know that this story in my head is finally going to be in the hands of readers!
I’m very excited to announce that the E-book version of “The Role” is coming out early! In fact, you can buy it right now.
As I basically look at screens all day, I’m still partial to holding a physical book in my hands, but I’ll admit I tend to buy a lot of books for my kindle. There is just no denying that they are a lot easier to handle. I’m so excited that people can officially start delving into the story I’ve spent so much time on. Grab your copy today!