Kergan Edwards-Stout is an award-winning director and Huffington Post contributor, Kergan Edwards-Stout was honored by the Human Rights Campaign as a “2011 Father of the Year” and recently published his debut novel, Songs for the New Depression, which was short-listed for the Independent Literary Awards.
He summaries his novel as follows. Gabriel Travers knows he’s dying; he just can’t prove it. With the clock ticking, Gabe begins to peel back the layers and tackle his demons — with a little help from the music of the Divine Miss M and his mom’s new wife, a country music-loving priest.
Let’s begin, Terry. What is the most overrated virtue?
Chastity. But I’m not telling my kids that.
What is the one thing other people always seem to get wrong about you?
Until the publication of my novel, I’m not sure anyone thought there was as much going on in my head as there actually is. Most folks just saw me as a “gay dad.”
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
I would erase the divide between the have and have not’s.
What pet peeve do you have about other people?
Wastefulness. Whether it is food, water, resources, or–for writers–words.
Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie?
The trite answer is to say that it is alright to lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. But, as I grow older and–hopefully–wiser, I’m not entirely sure even that is justified.
What is your philosophy of writing?
Write from the heart and let the words flow.
Is your writing an art or craft or some combination of both? Please discuss.
I think of writing as an art, which is more passionate and emotional. Too often, writers treat it more as craft, making sure every syllable is perfectly placed, but–to me–that kind of perfectionism usually robs the writing of its soul.
If you could go back ten years and give yourself one piece of advice what would that advice be?
“It doesn’t get any better. Life is harder than you think it will be. The trick is to find the joy, even amongst the rubble.”
What’s the name and genre of you book?
My debut novel is entitled Songs for the New Depression, though it is neither a song, nor inordinately depressing. It is a work of literary fiction, along the lines of a Michael Cunningham book, but mixed with the humor of Augusten Burroughs.
Who is the audience for this book?
I believe the book is for everyone, as the themes of love, longing, sex, and redemption are very universal. But if you ask my publisher, the primary audience is the LGBT community and straight women, as the themes seem to resonate strongly for both audiences.
Describe your protagonist and describe the challenges the protagonist needs to overcome.
Set prior to the HIV drugs we now have, Gabriel is a gay man facing death, and wondering how the choices he’s made have led him to this point. Blessed with beauty and a sharp wit, Gabe has–more often than not–used words as a weapon, to keep others from getting close. Now, he’s facing the ramifications of such behavior, scrambling to make amends to those he has wronged. In particular, to find peace, he needs to reconcile an incident which, while it occurred long ago, continues to haunt him.
Quote a passage from your book (up to 100 words) that you love. Elaborate on the meaning of the passage.
James Baldwin once wrote that, “Americans lack a sense of doom, yet here I stand.” Over 12 years ago, that line popped into my head. At the time, I didn’t know who was speaking it, its context, or where it would lead, but that one line is now the opening sentence of my novel.
What surprising things did you learn while writing this book?
I think, most surprisingly of all, I learned that I am actually a writer. When I was younger, I would’ve never imagined that this could have been a career option, but here I am!
10. How has your upbringing influenced you writing?
My upbringing and life experiences have helped define my voice as a writer, so that everything I write has a certain shared sensibility.
Do you prefer fermented or distilled?
I’m drinking chardonnay right now.
If you have a career outside of writing how does it fit into your life as a writer?
I do have a day job, but–ironically–what helped me finish this novel was a long period of unemployment, as a result of the current economic state and my consequent layoff. My new job is in marketing, the skills of which have been very beneficial in leading others to my book.
Do you have a special routine you go through before you begin writing?
First and foremost, I need quiet. Which means I need to do it when my kids are at school, or I’m on vacation, alone. The rest comes naturally.
That’s the interview. Thanks for listening. Here’s what some reviewers had to say:
“Engaging debut… Written with moxie and delivered with pitch perfect perspectives.” Kirkus Reviews
“Edwards-Stout’s debut boasts the kind of dark humor that made Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, Dry) a household name.” Advocate.com
“Simply stunning…” Dana Miller, Frontiers/LA
“Songs for the New Depression is a thoughtful read that should speak to many.” Midwest Book Review
“This is a work that will make you both laugh and cry, and fair warning: it is difficult to get through certain portions of the text because Edwards-Stout is quite explicit in detail, which is testament to the fact that he is such a brilliant writer. This is not one to miss.” Liberty Press
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