I'm pleased to welcome David Pratt to share his latest release, Looking After Joey. If you're in the Washington DC area, stop by the OutWrite LGBT book festival next weekend where David and I will both be hanging out and signing books.
Happy reading! Love, Ellis
David is giving away a copy of Looking After Joey! Leave a comment to enter (be sure to include an email address so we can contact you) at the end of this post.
|photo (c) 2014 Eva Mueller; model Nicholas Gorham; design Adrian Nicholas; entire cover (c) 2014 Wilde City Press|
Thanks for joining us at Café Risqué today. Can you tell us briefly about Looking After Joey?
Sure! It’s The Purple Rose of Cairo meets gay porn. In Woody Allen’s comedy, Mia Farrow goes to the movies daily to swoon over movie star Jeff Daniels. One day he looks out and beckons her to come into his movie. She does and, in turn, she brings him out into this world. Now, imagine that with gay porn. Our hero, Calvin, enters a porn video in pursuit of his romantic obsession, Joey. Joey then follows Calvin out into what we would call reality. Hilarity ensues. Some very touching moments also ensue. Calvin in effect becomes like a dad. Of a very odd sort.
How would you classify your writing, genre-wise?
Both Joey and my first novel, Bob the Book, have been called speculative fiction. Bob was called a romance, and Joey has been embraced by the M/M romance community, too. I would say the most important thing to me is the comic-picaresque aspect, the theatricality of the author deliberately juggling everything but the kitchen sink. I’m in love with the elements of narrative. More characters! More incidents! What other novel has lubricant, cheese (the dairy kind; get your mind out of the gutter!), porn stars, Dawn Upshaw, butt plugs, Christopher Isherwood, scat videos, a perfectly ridiculous jukebox musical and a Roman soldier with a crucifixion fetish? Now, all that makes it sound “wacky.” It’s really not. It’s very sweet. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry some, too. The main thing real life has that porn doesn’t is time passing. As times passes in Joey, people grow and move on but stay loyal to one another. It’s very touching. Life should be more like that. But you will definitely laugh, too! It’s been great for publicity. People report laughing out loud at Joey on the bus or subway, so others ask them what they are laughing at, and they tell them about the book!
|cover by Peach Boy Design and Distillery and (c) 2012 Chelsea Station editions|
You’ve had a long career. Can you tell us briefly about it and how that led to your writing Joey?
I published short stories for years before publishing a novel. In short stories you can experiment a lot, because if it doesn’t work, you just move on; the investment has not been much. My story collection, My Movie, not only has the story that was the seed for Joey, it has a story about a woman who goes walking through the fictional land her son and his best friend created for movies they made as adolescents. There’s a story about a man who hooks up with a stranger and finds a mysterious—and horrifying—second bedroom in what the stranger insists is a one-bedroom apartment. A man with AIDS is carried to Heaven or Hell (we’re never sure) by a convoy of semi trucks. In one of my unpublished stories, a geranium rapes an adolescent boy and performs a sex-change operation on him. No only does the short form allow for more narrative risks, those risks are likelier to pay off, because you have more control than with a novel. Nonetheless, the success of those short fiction experiments probably helped convince me that I could try a whole novel with a crazy premise. Actually, Joey has about five crazy premises.
What makes Joey a book only you could have written? (I sort of stole this question from Chuck Wendig, but I love it, so you can blame him for this one)
I would like to think that no one else combines irreverence and tenderness in quite the same way I do. Often in the exact same moment.
Joey has an interesting speculative (I would almost call it paranormal) element combined with a sort of satirical take on porn. For me, it provoked a lot of thought about the way we view adult actors and other sex workers in society. Personally, some of my favorite sex workers have additional jobs—they’re computer engineers or anthropologists or biochemists—yet early in the book, Joey is presented as a childlike blank slate. Was this intended to make a statement about the way we generalize adult models and actors? Was there a different message you wanted readers to grasp?
Keep in mind that Joey is not a real live porn actor. He is a porn character. He is a persona, not a person. The novel is about him becoming a person. But the persona we start with is nonetheless very lovely—sweet and giving and appreciative, and he never loses that, even though he witnesses some less-than-kind human behavior.
You write a very colorful cast of characters. I especially enjoyed Peachy, and his quirks. Did you feel more connected to anybody in this story, in particular?
Calvin is the most like me. That’s why he gets a lot of complex solo scenes—at the Prado and then at the clothing store in Madrid; watching the YouTube video with Dawn Upshaw; or the scene that might be my favorite: his thoughts while watching Peachy and Joey bop down the street singing songs from the musical they have just seen. (Devising that fictional musical was a little treat I gave myself!)
|cover by Peach Boy Design and Distillery and (c) 2010 Chelsea Station editions|
What do you like to do with your spare time?
Do I even have spare time? I’m not sure. Regardless of income or lack of, I consider writing a profession, so time spent writing is certainly not spare, nor is time spent doing anything that supports writing, like blog posts and other social media. I do listen to music when I can, all types. And I walk, as in, for my health. And I like to cook, which I rarely get to do these days at any complex level.
What’s next for you?
A young adult book—with a bookstore in it! I have a long manuscript about my college days and a shorter one about a woman who grows up as the daughter of a Broadway composer. And there are short stories in various stages of development. One is about a man who hears whispering everywhere in his house, unless he goes into his home office, where it is perfectly silent. Until…well, I’ll have to see if I can get that one published. Thanks so much again for being such a fan and for having me as a guest today!
|David reads from Looking After Joey at NYC's Bureau of General Services Queer Division|
About Looking After Joey:
Check out the book video, here.
About David Pratt:
David Pratt is the author of the Lambda Award-winning novel Bob the Book (Chelsea Station Editions) and a new novel, Looking After Joey, from Wilde City Press. His short stories have been collected in My Movie, also from Chelsea Station. He has published in several periodicals and anthologies. He has presented work for the theater in New York at HERE, Dixon Place, the Cornelia Street Cafe, the Flea Theater and the NY International Fringe Festival.