A few years ago, I had the good fortune to nab a copy of Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits. It’s no secret I adore Jerry L. Wheeler, who is both my editor and who has an ability to come up with the most unique themes for his erotica anthologies—be it trains, the circus, or diners—and presents the reader with collections that manage to spin those themes into an amazing whole. If Strawberries has a theme, it’s a propensity to take the reader aback. The uniqueness of the stories that give the collection as a whole its strength, and it’s a rare short story collection that wanders through this many ideas and still holds the reader’s attention so completely. From the first story, “Strawberries,” you become aware that Wheeler has the ability to walk the reader down a teasing path and then deliver a reveal full of dark shivers. I’ll certainly not look the same way at a farm’s landscape again.
Recently, Jerry did a revised edition and a re-release. This meant that (a) the cover is now an Inkspiral Design and thus gorgeous as always, and (b) the credit can be clear that this was a Lammy Finalist for Gay Erotica. Also? The revised collection boasts four new tales, and so I thought I’d take a wee stroll through the foursome, and since we’re all trapped indoors for the most part, Jerry was kind enough to do a quick back-and-forth with me about the new tales.
NB: Okay, “Necessary Elvis. I’m pretty sure I remember how this title happened. This was sort of my fault, right?
JLW: Yes. You had a story in another anthology called “Necessary Evils,” which I misread as “Necessary Elvis.”
NB: And I joked that if anyone could write that, it would be you. You’re the person I think of first when it’s music-themed prose.
JLW: You said I had to write a story with that title.
NB: I’m sure I was polite about it. I mean, I’m Canadian.
JLW: Uh-huh. This was the result. Elvis is alive and old, rescued from a nursing home by a CNA who believes in his vision of a church rising from the river—a church that will take him home to Glory. If only they can avoid the cops long enough to get there.
The result, by the way, is great. A darkish tale, the world-building is fantastic, and there’s a sense of in media res I really admire to the whole. And as someone who never, ever has a title before I write a story, I can’t imagine what it’s like to start with a title and then come up with something this grand.