So, yesterday I didn’t write much, but I did get something very very important done: I finished the copy-edit/proofing of Bourbon Street Blues, which is now one step closer to becoming an ebook (and a print-on-demand hard copy, if someone so desires), and that really is exciting for me. Bourbon Street Blues is, out of all my books, special to me for so very many reasons. I always thought, for one thing, that it was a much better book than my first (with apologies to Murder in the Rue Dauphine), and for another it was the book where I created Scotty Bradley and his friends and family and world, and Scotty is, well, I’ve always been terribly fond of Scotty.
It’s sometimes hard to believe I’m currently writing the eighth Scotty book. I would have never dreamed there would be three Scotty books, let alone eight, all those years ago when I first dreamed him up. I was determined to create a character that I’d never seen before in gay fiction, or at least in any of the gay fiction I’d read at that time, and my reading at that time was pretty extensive. The late 90’s/early aughts was a strange time to be a gay writer, or to be a gay reader of gay fictions. We were just finding ourselves again after the development of the initial drug cocktails, which meant HIV/AIDS was no longer necessarily the death sentence it was known to be for so lo those many years. Most gay literature, from almost the very beginning of the plague, had been the art of the epidemic: about death, about loss, about hatred but also about love and compassion.
It was a strange time, frankly. All of us gay writers were faced with the conundrum: do we still write about HIV/AIDS? Do we pretend it doesn’t exist? Can we write about it and try to de-stigmatize it in our work? Do we mention condoms, condom use, safer sex? What responsibility do we, as gay writers, have to our community?
Scotty was, in some ways, a reaction to the work that had gone before mine, and to HIV/AIDS. At the time I was creating him, and writing his first book, the equality movement for the community was moving away from the focus on HIV/AIDS and looking at other issues of equality: overturning the sodomy laws; same sex marriage; and overturning ‘don’t ask don’t tell’, so that we could openly serve in the military.
Gay sexuality had become something dark since the early days of the plague, and even with the drug cocktails prolonging life and all the other medical advances that were taking the definition of the disease from fatal to chronic (i.e. something that could be managed with a drug regimen), there was a lot of sturm and drang about gay promiscuity; and while the sexually liberated days of the 1970’s certainly had a part in the spread of the disease, it wasn’t a punishment for gay promiscuity any more than the bubonic plague was a punishment for the schism of the church in the fourteenth century.
So, when I created Scotty, I wanted to create a character that I hadn’t seen before; someone who not only embraced his sexuality but reveled in it. Scotty was highly promiscuous; wasn’t interested in a boyfriend or monogamy; and had absolutely no hang-ups or judgments about sexuality or promiscuity. He was a personal trainer and taught aerobics, was a former member of a male-stripper troupe who sometimes got back into his thong and moonlighted as a dancer now and then for extra cash. He smoked pot, drank, and celebrated the Gay High Holy Days of New Orleans (Southern Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras) with Ecstasy. He was good-looking and sexy and he knew it, but wasn’t arrogant about it in the least; he was, if anything, amused by the fact that people found him, in his own words, “irresistible.”
Above all else, though, Scotty was, at heart, a nice guy who cared about other people.
I was surprised by the way people reacted, and related, to him. I was expecting to get bashed in the reviews–after all, hadn’t some reviewers dismissed my first series creation, Chanse MacLeod, as ‘just another gay stereotype’?–but the reviews were all incredibly positive, for the most part, other than the occasional one-star on Amazon.
I also wanted the book–and the series, as it turned out–to be light-hearted and funny, even as it took on social issues.
And you know else? Proofing Bourbon Street Blues was the first time in many years that I read the book again. And it ain’t bad. Ain’t bad at all.
And by the way, here’s the new cover for when it’s released again, courtesy of amazing cover designer J. T. Lindroos:
I absolutely love it.
And now, back to the spice mines.