The Long and Winding Road

Hey there, Tuesday! How are you doing? I slept well last night–we watched an interesting documentary called The Imposter before going to bed, which raised more questions than it actually answered, to be honest–and I woke up feeling rested and rarin’ to go this morning. Well, maybe a little over rested, if you know what I mean; I’d rather have fun than get anything done today. But that is NOT an option. Period.

Since my next Todd Gregory opus is dropping next week, I thought I’d start talking a little about the Todd Gregory books, how I came to be Todd Gregory, etc.

I started publishing short stories as Todd in or around 2003, and primarily it was because I’d been doing wrestling erotica under my own name (which is actually kind of a pseudonym itself, but more on that later) and so anthology editors would request wrestling stories from me when they’d invite me to write something for their next project. While I didn’t mind writing wrestling stories, I also wanted to write other things; so I decided if erotica readers expected wrestling stories from Greg Herren, then I would have to use another name to write erotica stories that didn’t involve wrestling. I chose Todd Gregory because it was also, like Greg Herren, part of my actual name: Gregory  Todd Herren. I’ve always gone by Greg; the only person who ever called me ‘Gregory’ was my maternal grandmother, and in her thick Southern accent it came out as “Gregruh”, which I’ve always kind of liked. So, technically, ‘Greg Herren’ is my real name but isn’t my LEGAL name. So, Todd Gregory kind of worked for me, and I think the first story I published under that name was called “The Sea Where It’s Shallow,” which remains one of my favorite stories of my own. And thus, Todd Gregory was born.

Flash forward a few years, and my editor at Kensington asked me if I was willing to write a gay erotic novel set in a fraternity. I had already edited the anthology FRATSEX under my own name, and it was enormously successful– it had actually earned out before it’s official publication date, and continued to be a lucrative source of income for me for years before Alyson chose to stop paying me–and so I said, “sure.” The working title for the book was Fraternity Row, and while it was going to be a gay erotic novel, I wanted to deal with issues of homophobia within fraternities, and the fraternity closet. The name was changed before publication, and let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with this cover:

every frat boy wants it

Every Frat Boy Wants It.

The title kind of bothered me; once you’ve been in a fraternity, you hate the abbreviation ‘frat’ (you wouldn’t call your country a cunt, would you? echoes through my head every time I see it) but I’ve learned to live with it. It’s funny, though, how you get trained…anyway, part of my character Chanse MacLeod’s scarring past included being in a fraternity while he was at LSU, and I used that fraternity again, Beta Kappa (doesn’t exist in real life). I also decided to invent a small city with a college, Polk, California, and California State University-Polk (‘see as you pee’), which were loosely patterned after Fresno and Fresno State.  I decided to make my main character someone who had moved to California from Kansas, much as I had, and I dug back into my files, where I had created characters for a fraternity based novel years ago–Phil Conners, Blair Blanchard, and Kenny Ryan–and decided to use the structure of that story to create this one, only with a gay twist.

As I walk into the locker room of my high school to get my backpack, I’m aware of the sound of the shower running. Even before I walk around the corner that will reveal the row of black lockets and the communal shower area just beyond, I can smell that pungent smell of sweat, dirty clothes, and sour jocks. I would never admit it to anyone, but I love that smell. Especially when it’s warm outside–the smell seems riper, more vital, more alive. For me, it is the smell of athletic boys, the smell of their faded and dirty jockstraps. At night, when I lie in my bed alone jacking off in the quiet darkness, I close my eyes and I try to remember it. I imagine myself in that locker room after practice, the room alive with the sound of laughter and snapping towels, of boys running around in their jocks and giving each other bullshit as they brag about what girls they’ve fucked and how big their dicks are. I try to remember, as I lie there in my bed, the exact shape of their hard white asses, whose jockstrap is twisted just above the start of the curve, and below the muscled tan of their backs. It’s the locker room where I first saw another boy naked, after a;;–the only place where it’s acceptable to see other boys in various states of undress. The locker room always haunts my fantasies and my dreams.

It was fun to write, and it was about how my main character, Jeff Morgan (I ended up creating a new main character) met Blair, who talked him into rushing the house, and how the two of them slowly developed into a relationship; with Jeff having other experiences along the way as he fell in love with Blair, who didn’t seem to want to be in a relationship with him. The book, with all of its lusty sex scenes, was really about falling in love for the first time, as well as becoming comfortable with your own sexuality.

I still get royalties. It was originally published in 2007, and you can still get the print copies from second hand sources, but the ebook is still available and while the book–which I haven’t read in a while–is probably pretty dated now, it’s still selling ten years later.

Which is kind of cool, really.

And now back to the spice mines.

 

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