Queer Lit Q&A: Jeff Mann
I kicked off the Q&As last week with ‘Nathan Burgoine, and this week I present the only man who could challenge him in the champions league of ‘Nicest Man In Queer Lit’. (If you’re wondering, its a very sedate championship, with a lot of tea-drinking and a bit of hugging. Quite a few beards, also.) Everyone’s favourite Appalachian mountain, Jeff Mann writes both beautiful poetry and hot-and-hairy fiction, all of which are great and you should read right now. I loved his sorta-YA book Cub (still have a literary crush on the protagonist Travis…), and a fair number of his bondage-and-bears stories have appeared near mine in anthologies (see: Threesome, The Biggest Lover) so at least one of us is in good company. Hear what he has to say…
1. Tell me about a novel of yours that you feel like shouting about today…
I’m pretty excited about the novel that I’m working on these days. It’s called Country
, and Bear Bones Books, an imprint of Lethe Press, is publishing it in September of 2016.
Back in October 2014, my wonderful publisher, Steve Berman, suggested that I write a novel about a closeted country-music star who gets outed and who loses his career. In fact, Steve pretty much gave me the entire plot. The story changed some in the writing, of course, but the plot remains very close to what he suggested.
Steve and I have worked together for so long now—since 2008, when Lethe Press reprinted my first essay collection, Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear
—that he knows exactly what sorts of suggestions will inspire me. I never would have written my third novel, Cub
, without his prompting, and I never would have written Country
either. So I owe him immeasurably.
Country has been great fun to write. It’s allowed me to examine my own career disappointments and my tendencies toward narcissism and depression. It’s encouraged me to do research in Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee, and to set scenes in some of my favorite places in West Virginia. It’s given me an opportunity to use some of my favorite country-music stars as models for the novel’s main characters and to base several secondary characters on a few friends and acquaintances (with their permission).
2. Recommend me a novel/short story by someone else that you think everyone should be reading…
I’ve been a big fan of Canadian author ‘Nathan Burgoine’s fiction ever since he and I ended up publishing short stories in several of the same anthologies. I’ve gotten to know him at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, and he’s one of the sweetest, most thoughtful writers I’ve ever met and an enthusiastic supporter of other LGBT authors. When he published his first novel, Light
, back in 2013, I gobbled it up in only a few days…despite the fact that I’m a very slow reader.
This month—May 2016—he’s published his second novel, Triad Blood,
from Bold Strokes Books.
It focuses on three ongoing characters from his short fiction: Curtis, who’s a wizard; Anders, who’s a demon (and on whom I have a savage crush); and Luc, who’s a vampire.
I’ve been writing fiction about my own ongoing vampire character, Derek Maclaine, for over a decade—most of the short stories have been collected in Desire and Devour: Stories of Blood and Sweat
, and there’s a full-length novel about Derek’s adventures, Insatiable
, coming out from Bear Bones Books in the next year or two—so I’m a big fan of paranormal queer fiction. No one does it better than Mr. Burgoine! To have an entire novel devoted to his triad—after getting little sips on and off for years in anthologized short stories—is a huge treat, and I’m enjoying the novel immensely. The fact that it’s set in Ottawa pleases me too, since I love fiction with a strong sense of place.
Jeff Mann has published three poetry chapbooks, five full-length books of poetry, two collections of personal essays, a volume of memoir and poetry, three novellas, four novels, and two collections of short fiction. He teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.