I refer to the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival quite a bit, I know, but it’s been very much the epicentre of my literary life. I’ve been blessed to meet dozens of authors through the event, and today’s author is no exception. Jerry Rabushka agreed to have a chat with me about his upcoming stories in not just The Biggest Lover, but also Men in Love.
Spring approaches with the promise of new beginnings, fresh adventures, and the thrill of romance rekindled or discovered. Hot, sexy guys abound—meeting on the ball fields or the boardroom, at the theater or the classroom—falling in love and lust for the first time or celebrating a lifetime. Come join the rites of spring and indulge yourself in the passion and pleasures of our luscious men in love. Stories from some of today’s popular m/m romance authors explore the many faces of men in love: gay for you, seductions, weddings and more.
NB: Welcome! We’re finally sharing a table of contents, which makes me happy. I think we’ve hopscotched each other in various collections of the Saints & Sinners short fiction contest collections, but never the same year until this year—when you won! Can you tell me a wee bit about your two tales? You’ve got short fiction pieces in both The Biggest Lover and Men in Love.
JR: “Golden Walrus” from The Biggest Lover, is about two guys feeling their age and wondering if they should pair up or just continue on their own. Hector Lieberman is 49 and suddenly finds himself a lot bigger than he planned on, but this catches the eye of hot and hairy Barkley Roger, who’s is 38 and feels he’s almost too old to find that bigger and older man to take care of him. Heck’s interested in Bark, but has two conditions: that he cut his ponytail and that he recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Bark has some nasty stuff in his past that’s stunted his emotional growth ever since.
“Crewman,” from Men in Love, features Noah, a haphazard painter, and Carl, his boss, who keeps insulting him and manhandling him. They’re both tough on the outside guys, and Noah’s too dense to figure out why Carl keeps him on crew if Carl keeps complaining about Noah’s incompetence. Since this is part of a book called Men in Love, you can probably guess why. But how can you tell someone you love them when you can barely admit you like them?
NB: You’re no stranger to writing characters that don’t fit in the typical ranges seen in gay romance and gay erotica (I remember loving that about the characters in “‘Til it Bleeds”). The Biggest Lover explores a theme rarely seen in erotica. Did you find theme inspiring, or were there any challenges you hadn’t expected?
JR: I’ve often written about relationships where there’s a difference between the characters, age, race, interests, something that makes them not a usual pair. I feel there are so many romances that imply love is reserved for the rich and beautiful. What I try to do is this: even if the characters aren’t conventional beauties, they are attractive to the people in the story—the people that matter most. (Once someone stopped reading a short novel I wrote because, he said, he wasn’t attracted to the characters.)
NB: Yeah, I’ve bumped into that, too. The “I can’t enjoy a book with two men” comment comes up in some of the romance circles, unfortunately. You’d think a romantic story could transcend, but for some readers it seems it’s too difficult.
JR: In “real life” a lot of bigger folks find love and happy marriages or relationships. I guess a challenge is, when a character is specifically attracted to that, and the other character feels it’s a liability, how do you reconcile that? That comes up in “Golden Walrus,” and neither party is quite sure how to handle that.
NB: After talking with Jerry L. Wheeler about Men in Love, I know the range of stories in the collection really runs a wide range. Do you have a favourite kind of romantic story—the meet cutes, the long-term relationships, or something else?
JR: I tend to like “how they met” and what happens after that, and can the guys build their relationship off that initial attraction. In “Crewman” the initial attraction goes on for a long time, but nobody’s sure how to act on it, so the story picks up when they finally get to the point. There’s a certain heart-pounding in a first meeting and I like exploring the possibilities, hopes, and sweat that can be generated during a first encounter. I’ve always been a fan of random meetings turning into something. I met my partner of 8 years on the riverfront in New Orleans, where neither of us lived. We got to talking and here we are now still together. I think it comes from my experience of never really fitting in anywhere so love and friendship has to come from unusual places if I can’t find it in the typical haunts.
NB: On that note: is there an unusual anthology theme you’d love to see (and contribute to)?
JR: Most of my romantic characters have awesome mustaches, that’s what the “Golden Walrus” is, so there’s one I could get into. Perhaps The Biggest Lover can start a trend where people who aren’t usually the subject of romances can get their place in the sun.
NB: Hey, I’m a fan of the facial hair, too. What do you think, everyone? Moustache theme?
You can get Men in Love directly from the publisher, Bold Strokes Books, here. You can get The Biggest Lover directly from Bear Bones Books, here. Otherwise, you can always use Indiebound to look for your closest brick-and-mortar, or visit any store where quality LGBT books are sold.
Jerry Rabushka is the author of two published novels: The Prophecy and Star Bryan. He is a prolific playwright and his plays are produced throughout the US and beyond. He is also a pianist and composer with several CDs of original music. He’s the winner of several writing competitions including three with Saints and Sinners, and the long-time editor of a national business trade publication. He lives with his partner in St. Louis, MO.