Last week we posted an excerpt from genderqueer erotica novel “Rye.” Here is the follow-up interview with author Sam Rosenthal.
Name: Sam Rosenthal
Age: Older than most people guess.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Who are you, and what do you do, in your own words?
I’m this guy, who has a son, and runs a record label, and sometimes writes & records albums with my band. And I recently wrote a novel.
You are perhaps best known for your involvement with Black Tape for a Blue Girl as a lyricist/songwriter, and the record label Projekt. What led you to pursue writing novels?
It seemed like writing would be an interesting new way to express myself in a longer format than I get with songs. I discovered, along the way, that writing is quite fun. I work alone, and I can change things whenever I want, and the characters don’t get upset with me when things they did disappear. That’s not as easy, in a band.
Do you think your work as a lyricist influences how you write as a novelist?
In so far as my songs always have themes and concepts weaved within (and hidden behind) the main story, yes. It’s harder to do that in lyrics, where space is at a premium. But I think I did come to RYE as an artist: one who creates moods and settings.
I was just reading a review of Rye that said they enjoyed that the book has both sex and a somewhat more literary, explorative side. The writer was saying that developed characters who are exploring deeper topics isn’t common in erotica. But for me, art is all about people and why we do what we do. That is what makes life interesting. Uncovering the meanings behind our actions. And I like bringing that into art.
What was your inspiration for Rye? Do you identify with the character Matt at all?
Oh yes, of course I do. Matt is like me in many ways. But then so is Rye. I think as a writer, you put bits of yourself into all of your characters; and then you shape them from experiences, as well as just throwing in “wouldn’t it be cool if?” bits.
My inspiration was to write a love story about the kind of people I love. Matt & Rye’s characters came first. But then Rain popped up and sort of charmed me, and kept wanting to be in the story more. That was a pretty amazing development. I had no idea where the story was going, when I was writing it. Plot points came into my head, and I thought, “Ok, I’ll try that and see how that works.” It’s sort of like when I’m making an album. I never pre-think melodies or lyrics or anything. I just start making music, and see what comes up. My editor was suggesting I put together an outline, to sort of understand the flow of the book. But I work with the flow as a jumble in my head, and it slowly becomes clear to me as the process moves along. It’s just the way my brain works.
What do you think are the biggest challenges related to writing about topics like genderqueer and polyamory when many people are unfamiliar with these concepts?
What? You say people aren’t familiar with these topics. Oh. Hmmm??? (laughs). For me, Rye is a romantic comedy. With a lot of sex. And a story. I wanted who and what the characters are to be weaved into the story, so even if you don’t know about these things going in, you learn and see it in action via the story. So for people completely new to this, watch and learn!
Tell me about the book’s cover model Avery.
I was looking at profiles on a modeling website, searching for somebody who might be good for the cover of RYE. I stumbled onto Avery, and thought, “Yeah, that’s kinda what Rye looks like in my mind.” Avery is really smart and insightful; we got to know each other more, after the book came out. As some people wonder, Avery is not the inspiration for Rye; but somebody who looks like Rye.
You mentioned that a lot of the people attending your readings are fans of your music. Have they generally been receptive to the book?
The ones who attend the readings, yes. However I think there is an overall response from the music fans that goes something like, “Squirm, squirm. Urm? I don’t read erotica.” I feel the music fans are afeared of the book. Which is unfortunate. Because they’re missing out.
Have you read any other books about genderqueer, and what did you think of them? What types of books about genderqueer would you like to see?
I read the collection, GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary; it had a couple of really amazing stories. As far as what types of books I’d like to see? Every kind. I don’t think any one person tells the entire story here. Everyone adds there little bit to the overall arc, and that creates a whole picture.
Any projects or plans in store for the future?
Well yes, I have to get started on the sequel. What are Matt and Rain and Rye going to do next? That’s what I want to know! Many people have asked the same thing. I wonder, did J.K. Rowling have the entire Harry Potter story arc in her head, when she sat down to write the first book? Or did she keep having to find new ways to fight evil every book. (laughs). That’s what I’m wondering. How Matt and Rain and Rye are going to fight evil. Oh, wait. Got myself confused there. I do have some very broad ideas of what I’d like to happen. But gotta get down to it and get started…