Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guest Author Day with Rodney Ross

Welcome to my Reading Nook, Rodney Ross. Please make yourself at home and let my cabana boys/girls get you a mojito.


Yes, except I finished my drink and would like another from your cabana boy. I was really thirsty.

Now let’s get started. Tell us about ‘The Cool Part Of His Pillow’. What inspired it?

Barry Grooms is a success by any measure: expansive interior design gallery, 20-plus years of stability with partner Andy, financial security, he still has all of his own hair and teeth. Then everything changes when, on Barry’s 45th birthday, a horrendous construction crane collapse kills Andy and their two pugs. The plunge into widowerhood is surreal enough – casseroles of sympathy, being offered someone else’s snotrag, a parasitic grief support group –  yet Barry is damaged, not destroyed, and my hope is anyone who has experienced loss and retreated into denial will find resonance.

As a gay man of a certain age – is that evasive enough? -- I wanted to voice something relevant to a certain demographic: loneliness borne of loss, not of abandonment or cheating or even illness, but unthinkable circumstance. I wanted to talk about the absence of love after having had it…when AARP is about the only thing that may come courting. It’s also funny, full of wicked observation.  Barry’s smartassedness, his skeptical eye rolls, are what ultimately save him, making what bliss he finds that much sweeter because it’s genuine.

If you could throw a party with any five people (living or dead) who would you pick and why?

Novelist John Irving, because my introduction to his writing changed the way I looked at literature; Bette Davis, because she’d keep everyone else suitably on edge; Tennessee Williams, who I hope arrives sober; Barbra Streisand, because she could entertain us after dessert; and Ina Garten (without Jeffrey, because he works my nerves something bad), who can cook the damn dinner, bringing her good mayonnaise and homemade chicken stock.

What are at least five things you have on your bucket list and have you done any of them?

Having a novel published was certainly one of them. In no particular order:

Attending the Tony Awards
Attending the Academy Awards
(do you sense a trend here?)
Owning a female cat who has kittens (I have never experienced this)
Visiting Italy (this actually will occur in 2014)
Witnessing -– not participating – in an orgy. (Does that word and concept date me?)

Do you work on one project at a time? Or do you multi-task?

One at a time. Having come -– or, rather, escaped, from the arena of Advertising –- I multitask quite capably, but that doesn’t guarantee a satisfying result. I wish I could
divide my brain like the segments of an orange and each juicy membrane would address a different novel, screenplay or play, but I have to bring my whole fruitness to a single game.

What song would best describe your life?

Anything from Karen Carpenter.  As a younger gay, I instinctively understood the forlorn quality of her voice; now, as an Eldergay, I appreciate even more her. When pressed, I would say her rendition of ‘Superstar’ would accompany me to a deserted island, along with guacamole,
Grey Goose and a glycolic facial wash.

Do you listen to music when writing? Do you feel like some stories write themselves a soundtrack with specific music? If so, what book and what kind of music influenced it?

I prefer silence when I write in my office: no music, no TV in the other room, even ambient noise outdoors can be distracting. Occasionally, when traveling, I’ll listen to my iPod and scribble some notes and, inevitably, it’s usually sparked by a film soundtrack. The compositions of Rachel Portman are especially inspirational.

Are any of your characters just like you or have personality quirks/traits of you or someone you know?

Any writer who denies that his or her characters, certain passages and dialogue aren’t couched in real-life are big fat liars. My focal character Barry has a pessimistic skepticism that comes easily to me, and his mother in the novel mangles the English language the way mine sometimes does. Beyond that, little slices of dialogue, or an anecdote, have been purloined from my life, but usually so altered as to be unrecognizable by the people who lived it or said it. The plotline, most assuredly, has nothing to do with my own chronology.

Who are some of your other favorite authors and genres to read?

As noted above, I love John Irving, and that his latest works have been LGBT-oriented makes me treasure him all the more. I admire Michael Cunningham’s lean, yet vivid style. Bob Smith, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs make me laugh AND think. I am not above enjoying a trashy, salacious or libelous memoir – I’m currently reading Full Service, by Scotty Bowers, the Hollywood hustler who serviced people like Cary Grant. I also like reading plays and, among current playwrights, Tracy Letts and Jon Robin Baitz are role models. 

When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought?

“Kiddo, you need some work done ASAP.”

What is one thing scientists should invent?

A cure for HIV/AIDS. Working, as I do now, as a public information specialist for an HIV/AIDS social services organization in Key West, I see firsthand the hideous and grim toll this scourge  continues to take, not just on our clients and their loved ones, but in terms of healthcare, politics and advances in the LGBT community.

Anything else you want to mention?

Does your cabana boy make home deliveries?

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
Dreamspinner Press

The mid-40s are that time in a gay man’s life when his major paradigm shifts from sexy to sensible. But when Barry Grooms's partner of twenty years is killed on Barry's forty-fifth birthday, his world doesn’t so much evolve as it does explode.

After navigating through the surreal conveyor belt of friends and family, he can't eat another casserole or swallow much more advice, and so, still numb, he escapes to Key West, then New York. He embraces a new mantra: Why the hell not? He becomes so spontaneous he's ready to combust. First, he gets a thankless new job working for a crazy lady in a poncho, then has too many drinks with a narcissistic Broadway actor. Next, it's a nude exercise class that redefines flop sweat, and from there he’s on to a relationship with a man twenty years his junior, so youthfully oblivious he thinks Karen Carpenter is a lesbian woodworker.

Yet no matter how great the retreat from the man he used to be, life's gravity spins Barry back to the town where he grew up for one more ironic twist that teaches him how to say good-bye with grace.


Specific book information:
Publication Date: May 2012 Publication

Paperback                           ISBN 978-1-61372-504-7

e-Book                         ISBN 978-1-61372-505-4

Here’s the slightly-condensed PROLOGUE OF ‘THE COOL PART OF HIS PILLOW’…

            Let me be very clear.
I am not mocking the cashier’s fractured English.
Being breezily called “ma’am” by pizza delivery dispatch, I don’t dare.
I hesitate to quote her. I was raised not to ridicule another’s accent or language barrier. Mickey Rooney’s Mr. Yunioshi and his buck teeth in Breakfast At Tiffany’s always disturbed me and Jonathan Pryce’s eyes taped back to look Asian as The Engineer in the original production of Miss Saigon was just wrong.
I could rephrase it more PC: “Here’s your change.”
But when I handed this tiny woman with a bun a twenty dollar bill, it’s what she said.
            “You change.”
            My attention is elsewhere. I am lost, as friends call it, in aesthetic astigmatism, eyes twirling different directions in survey of my radius. It’s what I do, what I used to do, edit your stuff, reduce clutter. I am that precious someone who finds  electrical cords distasteful and wishes all lamps ran on batteries. I’m the dumbass who complains in the sports bar if an HD broadcast isn’t set to the right aspect ratio. Little things, big things, they all count and, gift or curse, OCD Me is compelled to reset this bodega, counter to shelf, beginning with the crowded checkout.
            The first thing I’d do is find a new place for those small, foreign-made American flags, since I stopped counting at 52 stars. Vials of ginseng energy drink provide companionship to pilgrim salt-and-pepper shakers. A chalkboard tells me I can have a $3 Sanwich! For 50 cents more, can I get the D? And so many spools of twine. It takes a lot to lash your nerves together here, I guess.
This is the stuff that drives me bonkers.
Like the dairy case, which I want to squeegee. It looks like someone’s been kissing it. I can barely see the Yoo-Hoo behind the glass.
            “You change.”
She could be congratulating me, or it could be urgent instruction. The cash register says $18.03. It’s a current model I would swap for something with period charm, before Hell’s Kitchen became Midtown West.
            A male employee, trying to activate an edible color from the bottom of a soup kettle, stops stirring to stare at this wayward customer holding flowers.
“You change.”
Why don’t you change? And hey, how’s that courtship working out for Eddie’s father?
It has been said that most of the biggest moments in your life often pass unnoticed or remarked upon. That’s funny. My last year has been accompanied by a John Williams score. I just did my damndest to stay afloat. I can make order of your disorder but, for my own life, I’d need a considerably bigger featherduster.
This is not, you see, not where I thought I’d be on my 46th birthday, buying two dripping bunches of daisies in crinkled plastic for myself, ahead of another customer holding a plastic container of fake crab with the real stench.
No, this is not the life I thought I’d be living. 

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