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Jameson Currier has been publishing his own stories and novels for two decades. He is also the founder of Chelsea Station Editions, a gay press that has released an impressive number of varied titles. Furthermore, Mr. Currier recently launched a new literary journal companion, Chelsea Station. As we say farewell to another year, the author/publisher/editor discusses his newest novel, What Comes Around, how he manages to find time for sleep, and his holiday wish list.
Congratulations on your new novel, What Comes Around. It’s a fascinating and curious read. Please tell us about it.
It’s a poignant and quirky tale of a gay man’s friendships and his quest to find a meaningful personal relationship.
What Comes Around centers on an unnamed protagonist. Readers follow him over the course of four decades. Was the factor of time ever difficult to manage or navigate?
Like the narrator aging, the stories were written over a period of thirty-two years. All of the stories were shaped by personal experiences. I didn’t consciously start linking them together as a longer narrative until around 2003, when I realized I had written several stories in the second person and they each reflected a similar point of view about dating and relationships.
You chose to utilize the second person point of view to tell this tale. For me, this is a rather brave, and sometimes tricky, device. Why was this element of craft appealing to you?
The second person point of view relies on exposing a staggering amount of self-examination and revealing an incredible amount of personal details and internalized opinions, but I find it allows me to display a more cynical and wittier perspective than what could be conveyed in the first or third person. It’s also a wonderful framework to expose how a person makes decisions and arrives at nuggets of understanding or disbelief, whether they are tragic or comic.
I also find that I can write very swiftly in the second person. The first story I ever wrote in that point of view was after a blind date. I was able to complete a first draft in less than two hours. (Of course, I spent the next five years polishing it…)
You have released more heavy, topical books (The Third Buddha), offerings that dabble in comedy (Desire, Lust, Passion, Sex) and speculative novels as well (The Haunted Heart and Other Tales). Your writing is never boxed into one genre. Is your catalogue of work deliberately varied? Or is genre shifting an effortless need?
As a reader I enjoy fiction in many genres—the craft of storytelling is what pulls me into a book. If a book is well written, has engaging characters and strong narrative line, it doesn’t matter to me what genre it is as long as I can make a connection as a reader. I approach my own writing—my storytelling—the same way. I usually arrive at a reason why I want to write a particular story rather than what genre I will be working in, then I find the characters and plot and begin to tell the story.
And as a writer I also like to be diversified and stretch my writing muscles, trying things I might have never tried. I think working in many genres and points of view is a great challenge and keeps both the writer and the writing fresh and vibrant.
Two years ago, you founded your own independent press, Chelsea Station Editions. One year later, you launched the companion literary journal, Chelsea Station. What inspired you to embark on such an adventure? Along with your personal writing, it appears that you have, as they say, “many balls in the air.”
I will be the first person to admit that I am wildly over-extended. I started Chelsea Station Editions because I found gay fiction outlets shrinking and I needed and wanted a home for my own writing. Steve Berman of Lethe Press was instrumental in showing me how a small press could use the print-on-demand and e-book models. I started the literary journal Chelsea Station for the same reason. I noticed there were fewer outlets for gay writers to publish literary fiction that addressed gay characters and themes.
Chelsea Station Editions is also a one-man shop—I’m the reader, editor, copyeditor, book designer, Web master, accountant, and publisher. I love doing book designs—it allows me to use the other side of my brain—and another reason why I decided to start Chelsea Station: to be able to learn more about design. The most daunting part, however, is the bookkeeping. I had no idea how time-consuming it would be.
During dinner with author David Pratt, I once speculated that, with all you do, sleep must be a rarity. Is this true?
I actually sleep a lot. And I am a big advocate of afternoon power naps. I have also broken the habit of waking up to write myself notes. Must be an aging thing…
Describe the experience of discovering new talent, as well as fostering established writers.
I wouldn’t say that I discover new writers or new talent, I discover stories. If what someone has written and sent to me is a wonderful read, I will help publish it. I have encountered a few writers who have been resistant to rewrites I have suggested but I always try to be encouraging and if they don’t like my recommendations, I try to point them to others who might be more willing to publish their work as is. Also, I know that the press is small and limited in what it can publish and it reflects my personal taste in storytelling, so if I don’t think Chelsea Station Editions is the right home for a manuscript that I think has some merit, I will try and suggest other publishers for the writer to approach.
What do you see in the future for your writing? For Chelsea Station Editions?
I am working on a sequel to The Wolf at the Door, my novel that was set in a haunted guest house in New Orleans. The sequel is titled A Devil in the House and it’s a wild ride of séances, possessions, and exorcism. And there are a few other manuscripts I have been working on. Chelsea Station Editions will also have a busy 2013. We will release two debut novels early next year—Fortune’s Bastard by Gil Cole, a novel set at the end of the Italian Renaissance and inspired by characters of Shakespeare, and True Religion, a ghost story by Joel Weinberg, set in a fictional town in Pennsylvania in the 1980s.
We’ll also publish some novellas. There are some other books still in my reading queue to consider and I hope to have two or three more issues of Chelsea Station out next year.
What do you make of the current LBBTQ literary community? Is there camaraderie? Is there competition? Is there a gay literati?
I think that Facebook has helped create a modern queer literary community and I am a strong advocate of writing workshops and literary festivals, such as the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival which is held in May each year in New Orleans. It brings queer writers together face to face to interact and share their writing and I have been fortunate to meet many good friends through this experience.
One Sunday, I received an email from you, stating that you’d like to publish my debut collection of stories, Dirty One. I couldn’t believe it, so, I read and re-read your note all day. Alas, it was true! You had changed my life and made all my literary boy-next-door dreams come true.
I was honored to publish Dirty One. It was the most polished manuscript I’ve read. And the stories were superb and nothing like what anyone else was writing. And you know, I was also a fan of your work from our Velvet Mafia days. When can we expect some more new stories from you? And how far along are you on your novel?
That’s very kind, Jameson, I’m working on my novel, Parade, and other projects and having a great deal of fun. So…soon, soon, soon! Can readers hear you read from What Comes Around anytime soon?
I tend to shy away from readings these days, unless they are group readings. I’ve never understood the reason behind having a prose writer perform his work in front of an audience. It puts pressure on the writer to perform and puts the craft of writing into second place. I’d rather stand in front of a room and hold a sign up that says, “Please read my story. I think you might like it.”
Any big post-holiday plans? Any post-New Year plans?
I am grateful to be around for the holidays. I’m recuperating from unexpected surgery that occurred while I was on vacation in Venice during Thanksgiving, that ended up being a three-week ordeal. My US doctors said that the Italian doctors saved my life.
What did you Santa Claus to bring you this Christmas?
I wish there was some kind of organization that could provide grants to small independent LGBT publishers (who are not non-profit organizations) to help them publish new works. While there has been changes in the traditional publishing models in recent years there continues to be a misconception that publishers—even the smallest ones—are flush with money. I’m not only limited by time and the amount of work that needs to be done, but what I can afford to publish.