Friday, December 11, 2015

From the Archives: My Interview with Award-Winning Author Kergan Edwards-Stout

From the Archives: My Interview with Award-Winning Author Kergan Edwards-Stout


I met Kergan Edwards-Stout a few years ago, at the Rainbow Book Fair, in New York City. I'd 'known' him from Twitter and Facebook, but, call me old fashion, there's still nothing better than meeting one of your favorite authors face to face. Not long after that meeting in Manhattan, I got to read his (then) brand new collection of short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, and upon finishing the read, I knew I had to talk more with the author about his books, written and yet to be written.

Here's our interview:

How does an author come up with the idea of a short story collection after having published an award-winning debut novel? I ask because many believe that short stories and such collections are not that popular nowadays...
I try not to think about whether or not a book is marketable when I write it.  I write from an emotional need, and I can’t let marketability affect my writing—I need to stay true to my impulses.  For my first book, Songs for the New Depression, it was about a cynical gay man facing death, and I knew it would be a hard sell! (laughing) Still, I had to tell the story which lingered in my soul. For this new book of short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, the collection is tied together by holidays, from Halloween to Easter to Thanksgiving, and I tried to capture the emotional life changes that people go through.  My hope is that readers will be able to relate to the characters as they experience these “life moments.”

Your stories are quite fascinating, enlightening... therapeutic, in a way. Throughout your collection there's a feeling of renewed appreciation of one's self, of life, and what is meaningful in life--friends and family, etc.
That is exactly what I was going for!  To me, what is most interesting in life is our emotional journey.  The ups and downs we experience, and how we deal with those challenges, really define who we are.  In each story, characters suddenly find themselves faced with an unexpected choice, and their growth, or lack of growth, is very telling.  Hopefully readers will find themselves transformed in the process.

Holidays do that to most of us, bring out the best in us, I think. Gifts gives a new sense to holidays around the year. It helps us discover not only ourselves, but also the essence, the true meaning of holidays.
Personal growth can happen at any time, but I know that for many, holidays are a key time, as family and friends gather, allowing for such interactions to occur. 

You also take on a variety of topics, some more popular than others. AIDS comes to mind, but also dealing with illness, facing mortality, among many others. I admire you for doing that.
Thank you!  I know some of those issues will be very surprising for readers expecting Hallmark-card holiday stories, but I didn’t want to write what people may expect.  I wanted to write what felt authentic to me.

Why do you think writers, or other artists for that matter, don’t take on these less popular topics? Are they afraid?
For me, it comes down to, why do I write?  Many writers out there are concerned and driven by book sales, and calculate their stories to fall in line with whatever is popular or follow formulas true to a specific genre.  But I never started out wanting to be a writer.  Writing found me.  It was way to get my tangled thoughts and emotions out of my head so that I could more closely examine them.  And my stories then reflect the issues I care about.

So, are any of the stories inspired by actual events? They capture everyday life with such finesse, readers may forget the tales are fiction and feel they are reading about their own lives.
Some were definitely inspired by real life.  As you know, my debut novel was loosely based on a partner who died from AIDS in 1995, and there is a story in the collection which was inspired by his final days in the hospital.  And even the stories which are completely fictional have some personal impetus, as they burst out from my creative conscience, and largely fall in line with my world views.  Many are about being respectful of each other, being authentic to who we are, showing compassion, and the importance of discovering and claiming our own unique place in the world.

What would you like readers to take from Gifts Not Yet Given?
My hope is that readers will find themselves touched by the characters…  They are a varied bunch, from young to old, gay and straight, of different religions and ethnicities, but emotionally we are all the same, driven by the same desires and needs.  I hope people connect to our shared humanity.
Do you have any upcoming book events lined up that you may want to share? After all, the holiday season is just around the corner. Gifts would be a great...gift to be given for the holidays.

What are you working on now?
I have a memoir called Never Turn Your Back on the Tide, which is my next project.  It was based on a relationship I had where, after adopting a son together, I found out that my then-partner wasn’t at all who he’d presented himself to be.  It’s a tricky thing to write, emotionally, but it’s a story I need to tell.  It’s one of those things that when people hear it, they say, “That is so crazy—it can’t be real!”  But it is, and I lived to tell. 

With your challenges, having lost a partner to AIDS and another to deception, it sounds like you have a wealth of experiences to write from.
It’s true.  And, at the same time, my partner Russ and I have two kids, so I have little time to dwell in the past, which is a good thing.  I’m able to draw on these varied experiences when I write, but they’re easy to put aside when I hear one of the boys, calling out my name.


Kergan Edwards-Stout can be found via his website, Facebook, and Twitter. His new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, can be found at Indie Bound (Independent Book Stores), Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or at your favorite book sellers.