I first met Kergan Edwards-Stout at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York. Kergan Edwrads-Stout’s debut novel Songs for the New Depression won the Next Generation Indie Book Award and place on several Best Books of the Year lists. We’ve both been members of a terrific group of LGBT authors and publishers on Twitter who support each other’s work, so it was a pleasure to finally connect with him in person. With his new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, coming out on October 15th, I thought it would be a great time to find out more about this new title and what he’s been up to since we met in person.
Ken Harrison: Kergan, it is great to reconnect!
Kergan Edwards-Stout: Thanks so much for the opportunity! I love Top2Bottom Reviews, so it is a thrill to be on it!
Harrison: It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. What have you been up to?
Edwards-Stout: Well, with two kids, my life is all about our family. Given how much I’m in my car, shuttling our boys to school and such, it seems as if “author” has been replaced with “chauffer.” But I’ve been busy writing—
Harrison: Are you still writing for Huffington Post?
Edwards-Stout: Yes, I am, but I’ve been really focused on getting this new book out.
Harrison: That is Gifts Not Yet Given, right? What is it about?
Edwards-Stout: It is actually a collection of 14 short stories, each set around a holiday. From Halloween to Memorial Day, Thanksgiving to Christmas, the tales illuminate those small, surprising, and pivotal moments in which personal awakenings occur and hearts unexpectedly expand.
Harrison: What was your goal with the book?
Edwards-Stout: Well, after Songs for the New Depression, I was looking at what I wanted to do next. I’ve been working on a memoir, which explores a very traumatic event in my life, but memoirs are very tricky to write, and this one—well—it ain’t an easy one to tell either, given the emotions it brings up. Songs took me twelve years, from beginning to end, and as I didn’t want another 12 years to pass before the next book, I looked at all I’d written in the past, and realized I had several short stories already written.
Harrison: And they’re all about holidays?
Edwards-Stout: They’re related to holidays, but they’re more about specific characters than about the holidays themselves. I tried to create what I call “holiday stories for the rest of us.” The characters are young and old, gay/straight, of all ethnicities and faiths, etc.–I wanted to highlight our common humanity. I wanted a book which conservative straight folks could read, and maybe have their eyes opened, while the LGBT community might read it and think, “At last, we’re included.”
Harrison: What do you mean?
Edwards-Stout: Well, the first story, The Nutcracker, is about a straight woman who has been career-obsessed her whole life, suddenly at a holiday office party finding herself wondering why. And the next story, Festive Beaver, is about a young gay boy orchestrating his elementary school’s Mardi Gras celebration. There’s something in it for everyone.
Harrison: When we first met, your debut, Songs for the New Depression, had just come out.
Edwards-Stout: That’s right!
Harrison: Tell me more about that book.
Edwards-Stout: Well, prior to writing that, I had never thought of myself as a writer. Then one day a line popped into my head. I didn’t know who it was or what it meant, but I wrote it down, and it is now the first line in the novel.
Harrison: Wasn’t it inspired by your partner who died?
Edwards-Stout: Yes, as well as other friends I lost. But my goal in writing it was to try to capture that moment in time, when we didn’t yet have the drugs we have today. It is my attempt to capture that mix of love, sex, fun, and uncertainty many of us experienced. I kept thinking, what would it be like to know you were dying, and yet have regrets? The novel kind of spiraled out from there.
Harrison: And it has gotten a lot of praise…
Edwards-Stout: I was really pleased and surprised to find it on Library Journal’s recent list of gay fiction… The book isn’t for everyone, after all. The lead character is a very cynical but funny man, facing death. But readers have embraced him, and I’m thankful that they have given him a chance.
Harrison: What’s next for you?
Edwards-Stout: Well, I have to pick the kids up from school, but after that, it is back to writing.
Harrison: My best wishes to you and to your new book, Gifts Not Yet Given. When does it come out?
Harrison: Well, hopefully we’ll connect again before the next Rainbow Book Fair, but until we do, best wishes!
Edwards-Stout: Thanks, Ken! Can’t wait to see what Seventh Window publishes next!