Book Buzz: January 2009
Author: John Morgan Wilson
January 1, 2009
Nearly two dozen LGBT authors are creating an anthology, I Do, in support of gay equality in marriage, with all profits going to the Lambda Legal fund. Manloveromance Press is donating print and distribution costs, and there will also be an e-book, all later this year.
With director Gus Van Sant’s Milk still in theaters, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black is getting his due with two Newmarket Press titles: Milk: The Shooting Script and Milk: A Pictorial History of Harvey Milk, which Black put together with a foreword by Armistead Maupin. The latter will be out in late January.
Bella Books has acquired the reprint rights to Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless mystery series, which has won five Lambda Literary Awards for best lesbian mystery. Bella will begin reissuing the earliest titles next year.
If you want to know more about Tamara Allen’s new historical romance, Whistling in the Dark, Lethe Press has just posted a web interview with the author. (Our own interview with Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman can be found further down).
The New York Post’s Page Six quoted Howard Bragman on his rise as an entertainment publicist: “I grew up a fat, Jewish, gay guy…In Hollywood, those are the first three rungs up the ladder of success.” Bragman’s autobiography, Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?, is due out about now.
Running Press has selected two authors of gay historical romance, Alex Beecroft and Erastes, to launch its new M/M Romance line. Look for Beecroft’s False Colors, set in the Age of Sail, and Erastes’ Transgressions, set during the English Civil War, in April.
Lesléa Newman, poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts, not only has a new book of poetry out (Nobody’s Mother, Orchard House Press), she’s just finished a novel, The Reluctant Daughter, which Bold Strokes Books will publish later his year.
Poet Steven Reigns has posted a video featuring LGBT seniors discussing their experience in his autobiographical poetry workshop. Sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, it was designed to give voice to rarely heard LGBT seniors, and resulted in a collection, My Life Is Poetry, available through the web site.
James Magruder’s short play, Penelope and the Sterile Field, won the 2008 Drama Contest sponsored by Third Coast, a Michigan literary journal. James’ play has been performed in Baltimore, New York, and Atlanta.
Speaking of Atlanta, that city’s Dillon Watson is now a first-time novelist with Keile’s Chance, which Bella Books will publish this summer. It’s set in Atlanta’s thriving LGBT community.
Bella Books has also introduced two other new voices recently. Claire Rooney’s first novel, As Far As Far Enough, is already out, with her second novel, The Color of Dust, coming in April. And Bella recently published Whacked, a first mystery by Josie Gordon, featuring an amateur detective who is a lesbian, a soccer fanatic – and an Episcopal priest. It’s intended as a series, with Toasted coming next.
Paul G. Bens, Jr., known primarily for his short, dark fiction, has sold his first novel, Kelland, to Casperian Books for publication in the fall.
Veteran book reviewer Susanna J. Sturgis is now facing the critics herself with the publication of her first novel, The Mud of the Place, a gay-themed story set on Martha’s Vineyard. Reviewing for the Vineyard Gazette, Holly Nadler praised the novel’s “wealth of characters” and dubbed it “a page-turner&rdquo.
Tooting my own horn: Spider Season, the latest novel in my Lambda Literary Award-winning Benjamin Justice series, got a rave from Mystery Scene, including this: “This exquisite novel is the finest yet in a powerful series.” Read the first chapter at www.johnmorganwilson.com.
And now, the Book Buzz Interview, with Lethe Press publisher Steve Berman:
Steve sold his first short story at age 17. Since then, he’s told many a strange and queer tale, in such anthologies as The Fairy Reel, Men of Mystery, and Paper Cities. His debut novel, Vintage made the GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Association’s recommended Rainbow List for queer-themed books for young readers. He has edited five anthologies, including the annual series Wilde Stories, and has been a finalist for many awards including the Lambda Literary. He began Lethe Press in 2001.
JMW: Lethe Press publishes both gay and non-gay titles. What percentage of your total catalog would you estimate is gay or LGBT, and how many LGBT titles do you expect to publish in 2009?
SB: Ironically, I never envisioned Lethe as a LGBT press but between releasing the work of good friends and writers orphaned by changes in the industry, by 2007 Lethe had emerged as a player in the field. I would say that roughly 75% of our books are queer-themed. We hope to release over thirty LGBT titles in 2009. Most of these will be reprints of older works, while there should be at least one original work a month.
JMW: In a nutshell, describe what kind of LGBT literature you publish.
SB: Our specialties are inspirational books and speculative fiction (fantasy, horror, and science-fiction). These are two fields that fascinate me because both depend on a sense of wonder. I’m pleased that we’re a strong presence in the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. Lethe has also released and/or reprinted literary collections, mysteries, and a variety of erotica.
JMW: Who would be some of the more recognizable names among your authors in this area?
SB: In the field of inspirational titles, we’ve released many of Toby Johnson’s books, as well as John McNeill’s latest, Sex as God Intended, and a reader of Malcolm Boyd’s work through the decades, A Prophet in His Own Land. In speculative fiction, we’ve released anthologies with the work of Lambda Literary Award-winner Richard Bowes, New York Times best-selling author Holly Black, and Hal Duncan, a Scottish writer nominated for the World Fantasy Award. My own novel, Vintage: A Ghost Story, reprinted by Lethe, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and Gaylactic Spectrum Award. And we’ve released work by such critically acclaimed and award-winning authors as Jameson Currier (Still Dancing) and Catherine Lundoff (Crave).
JMW: In the past year you’ve added two new imprints, White Crane Books and Bear Bones Books. Tell us about White Crane Books first.
SB: White Crane Books is actually a partnership rather than a true imprint. A number of years ago, Toby Johnson introduced me to Bo Young and Dan Vera, the editors of the journal of gay culture, White Crane. It became quickly apparent that we shared a desire to ensure that wonderful books on gay wisdom stay in-print. Our goal with the line of books is to both reprint classic works such as Two Flutes Playing by Andrew Ramer as well as release new material, such as the James White Review. Bo is the lead in all acquisitions for the line.
JMW: And what about Bear Bones Books?
SB: When I volunteered at Giovanni’s Room bookstore in Philadelphia, I noticed how many customers might identify with Bear culture. Yet, very few Bear-oriented books ever released. When Ron Suresha, who has long been one of the lead authors and editors in the movement, called me to discuss an imprint of Lethe devoted to releasing titles aimed at Bears and their admirers, I was immediately eager to begin. And one of my favorite authors, Jeff Mann, and I had been in talks to reprint his essay collection, Edge. So that became the first in Bear Bones Books. We have plans for reprinting the other classics in the field as well as new anthologies. Ron serves as acquisitions editor for these books.
JMW: You’re expanding at a time when the economy is forcing a number of publishers to cut back and downsize, and others to disappear. Why?
SB: Well, I could say that with print-on-demand technology our costs are relatively low. But the real answer is dedication to the LGBT community. For me, Lethe is not only a business but a means for supporting LGBT authors. So many writers are frustrated that there are fewer and fewer presses that are releasing good, queer books. These individuals have a voice they want shared and, as an author myself, I understand their aspirations. Some gay presses are focused more on the reader. And while satisfying the consumer is always wise in business, I want the authors we release to be content, too.
JMW: Where can readers find Lethe Press books?
SB: Of course the GLBT booksellers carry our books, as do many other independents that are in queer-friendly neighborhoods. Our books are carried by the major wholesalers (ASP, Baker & Taylor, Bookazine, and Ingram), so any retailer can place an order. I don’t believe in just online distribution, so I make sure the LGBT books are decently discounted and returnable. That said, we do good business with TLA Books (gay-owned and-operated) and Amazon.com, and many of our books are available as e-books.
JMW: Any special thoughts on the coming year for LGBT readers?
SB: Well, gay marriage is back in the news because of the Proposition 8 debacle. So, no doubt there will be a number of new releases on that subject. What interests me more is the growing number of authors who are releasing mainstream work with incidental LGBT characters. I’m also tracking the post-gay trend in young adult literature. It hasn’t quite caught on, but I believe we’ll soon see more and more characters who refuse to define themselves by their sexual experiences.
That’s all the Book Buzz for now. So, go read a book!