Title: Looking After Joey
Author: David Pratt
Publisher: Wilde City
What’s the elevator speech for Looking After Joey?
“Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo meets gay porn.” A gay porn character steps out of the TV into the life of an average Joe in New York City. The porn character must deal with “real life,” and the average Joe and his best friend must take care of him. They teach him how to be a gay man here and now. So it becomes My Fair Lady with a twenty-something hunk. Needless to say, misunderstandings ensue!
You dedicated this book to your partner, Rogerio Pinto. I can think of several other male authors whose life-partners have played a role in their books (and I don’t mean as characters). Could you talk a bit about Rogerio’s involvement with Looking After Joey? [Note: my husband, Gary, was one of my beta readers and is a brilliant copy editor]
Rogério has a brilliant understanding of narrative. It helps him as a professor and researcher, writing the grants and papers that maintain his career. He also has a natural grasp of narrative in all the arts. When he hears a brilliantly developed piece of music, say, he knows it immediately. The same for a narratively brilliant painting, in whatever style. He loves BBC series for their facility with story and character. He did yeoman’s duty on Joey. He read it twice in a row last fall. He sees right away what works and what doesn’t, and I would say that, in one way or another, I go with eighty to ninety percent of what he suggests.
At least one review refers to your book as an “existentialist farce.” How does that strike you?
I would say “existential comedy.” Farces have a desperate edge, nonstop door-slamming and mistaken identities and so on. Joey is loopy and frenetic at first, with lots of characters and outrageous situations, but then, after the Labor Day bash on Fire Island, the party is literally over. The book becomes more reflective. The characters must make choices. The madness of summer is over, and they have to grow up. There are still hilarious moments, though, like Stuart at the wedding. Maybe “existential sitcom” is the best label. Rogério and I watch “The Golden Girls” a lot. In the space of a couple of minutes they go from one of Rose’s goofy St. Olaf stories to a serious issue involving family or ageing. The Girls aren’t quite existential, but I picked up a lot from them over the years. You know, I can’t swear to this being new, but it seems that simultaneous comedy and drama, even simulatenous comedy and tragedy is a recent thing. Last night I saw The Mysteries at the Flea Theater in New York—a six-hour adaptation of the York Mystery Plays done by 48 contemporary playwrights. You had the crucifixion going on and you were crying and then laughing at the very thing that had you crying. I think I scored a few such moments in Joey. Like the line in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter-through-tears in my favorite emotion.”
Who is Joey? What does he mean to you?
Joey and Calvin together represent the part of me that feels totally uncool (like Calvin) and afraid to go outside (like Joey and, later, like Jake). I’m not really agoraphobic, but I would prefer to just snuggle under my blanket all day with my coffee and a book or a laptop to write on. No living to earn, no retirement to think about. Oh, and this would all happen on a flowery balcony in New Orleans or a houseboat in Amsterdam! At the same time, Joey has an openness to the world that I would aspire to. He treats Doug as a divine gift, and he appreciates all that Calvin has given him, even if Peachy’s machinations are more colorful and get more practical things done. You have to have both: the support and the action.
How exactly do you know so much about the world Joey comes from? Did it require lots of research?
Oh no, I researched all that already, in the eighties! I guess that was the heyday of feature porn films that sort of had plots and characters and settings. Now we have “amateur” porn that comes in 15- or 20-minute bites, with guys just being themselves. That’s not new, of course. Today’s amateur videos are like the Super-8 loops you used to see in peep shows, before VCRs came along and allowed them to show features in 30- second segments for a quarter. In amateur porn, there is usually no setup or situation. They strip and have sex, often on the same sofa with the same house plant in the background in every video that producer makes! The awkwardness and informality can be sexy, the bemused, reluctant straight guy kind of letting the gay guy do it for him. Some of it is quite polished with very fit, groomed guys. And feature-length porn does still exist. Maybe there are still pizza boys on their last deliveries of the day with no change but a hundred. I don’t know. With all the amateur stuff and the clips available, I don’t have the patience to find out!
Peachy and Calvin are best friends, feeling somewhat trapped at a transitional time in their lives as gay men. Did the plot of Looking After Joey come from them, or did you create them to suit the plot?
The plot grew out of Calvin and his dreaming and desiring. Originally it was a short story called “Calvin Gets Sucked In,” from a collection I published in 2012 called My Movie. There was no Peachy. But when I decided to have Joey come out of the video into Calvin’s world, that required Peachy —someone who could cope and juggle, who was a fixer, who always had a plan, even if it was misguided. Peachy makes decisions quickly. He has definite opinions. He knows people Calvin doesn’t know, and he will do stuff Calvin won’t. He’s Calvin’s steadfast, loyal bridge to the crazy world that’s outside the apartment and the little orbit of Calvin’s life. Except for the shady stuff, Peachy is like Rogério, and I am like Calvin. Peachy knows and manipulates the larger world, but he likes the steadfastness chez Calvin. Life is normal there: drinks after work, late night reruns. He’s part of that, but he also likes to scheme and plot and call in favors and climb socially. Peachy made things easy for me, too. There had to be a character that we believe could produce a birth certificate for Joey with just a few phone calls. That’s not Calvin.
Talk about the older men in your book. They are certainly vivid, amusing characters, but none of them seem to be admirable. What do these guys mean to you?
I think Desmond and Fred are “admirable under the circumstances.” Desmond’s ways of dealing were formed by a different culture than we have today. It’s a culture I grew up with, to some extent, the older man squiring the young one around, initiating him into the underworld of fine things and, of course, sex. As for Fred, he did what he did largely for his nephew. His young, straight nephew, whom he may eroticize just a bit. Calvin also thinks Fred eroticized the money, the exponential growth of his lube empire. His drive wasn’t all about the promise he made his sister. Still, Jeffery is better taken care of and with better prospects than if Fred had not built that empire, especially because Fred extended his largesse to Jeffrey’s widowed father, too.
Desmond, as I mentioned, has a different fixation on the young and the straight. He’s lecherous, but he is successful with these “lads.” He’s not all talk. And he doesn’t hide anything. He is upfront about what he wants and what he does. He’s as frank as Stuart, with a different delivery and a different vocabulary. That’s why the two ultimately get along. So I do admire these guys. I created them; I can’t help but love them (and love performing them in readings). Now, Jürgen I can’t admire. He is a criminal. His obsession with youth is out of hand. I sympathize, I feel badly for him, but Jürgen is not admirable. Finally, keep in mind that many of the younger characters are not purely admirable, either. Basically, you have four loyal, sane buddies at the center of the book, viewing the world from the safety of their unshakable friendship, and then you have a Loony-Tunes circus taking place outside: the sharks; the lechers; the social climbers. That’s me and Rogério, cozy in our Washington Heights nest, looking out on a world of crazy people—loving many of them, frustrated by some, hating a few.
The dominant audience for gay romance fiction is, still, straight women. Looking After Joey, on the other hand, seems specifically to target a gay male audience—or at least to target an audience who wants to understand aspects of what being a gay man means. Who were you thinking of as you wrote this, if you actually had an audience in mind?
I wrote Joey to entertain myself and to work out my own issues of ageing, loss and feeling uncool. If I thought of an audience, I would describe it as “anyone of any gender who has a seriously twisted sense of humor.” I did not think of Joey as a romance, and it isn’t in any traditional sense. It attracted the attention of the romance community because of Bob the Book, which is a more conventionally romantic, but even that wasn’t planned. I just put Bob out there. A few months later I went on Goodreads and saw all the wonderful reviews from the gay rom lit world. I knew something of this world, but neither I or my publisher thought that I would be embraced by it. In the case of Joey, it helps that I am published by Wilde City Press. They call Joey “mainstream,” a new category for them, but it has some sex and romance — and that adorable cover! – and so it has been embraced by the romance community, too. I am very grateful to them. This blog tour has been a total pleasure. You have all been great!
From the author of Bob the Book comes a funny, fast-paced, touching tale of love, laughter, family of choice and fabulousness!
Wouldn’t it be great if a porn character stepped out of the TV, into your life? Well, be careful what you wish for. Because that’s how Calvin and Peachy end up looking after Joey. And teaching him everything he needs to know to be be a gay man in New York City. His final exam? A fabulous Labor Day party on Fire Island. But first, they all have to get invited. This will involve a rogues’ gallery of eccentric Manhattanites, including portly, perspiring publicist Bunce van den Troell; theatrical investor Sir Desmond Norma; studly thespian Clive Tidwell-Smidgin; lubricant king Fred Pflester; and a mysterious young man named Jeffrey. Tender, wise, witty and often utterly deranged, Looking After Joey will make you wish that you, too, had a porn character at your kitchen table asking, “So, when can I have sex?”
About the Author:
David Pratt won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award for his debut novel, Bob the Book. His story collection, My Movie, from Chelsea Station Editions, includes new work and short fiction originally published in Christopher Street, The James White Review, Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, Velvet Mafia, Lodestar Quarterly and in the anthologies Men Seeking Men, His3 and Fresh Men 2. Recent anthology publications include Paul Alan Fahey’s The Other Man (JMS) and Jameson Currier’s With (Chelsea Station). David has directed and performed his work for the theater in New York at the Cornelia Street Cafe, Dixon Place, HERE Arts Center, the Flea (in a workshop directed by Karen Finley) and in the New York International Fringe Festival. David was the first director of plays by the award-winning Canadian playwright John Mighton.
David Pratt has kindly offered an eCopy of Looking After Joey to 1 Lucky Commenter
Contest will end 5 days from original posting date at 8pm CDT. Must be 18 or older to enter, void where prohibited.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|