Tell us a little more about yourself?
I am half of an interracial, gay couple living in a small, Northern California town with a distressingly right wing tinge (California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 was hugely popular here and the town has an ugly, racist history). However, with 2 horses, a California addiction, and little money, we wound up here in one of California’s few simultaneously attractive (to my eye), yet affordable, and easily accessible spots. We’re not far from San Francisco or Sacramento, and we have a sweet little college town just down the hill. We’ve come to love the land, our home, and our friends. Just more proof that you should never let the freaks stop you from doing what you want!
Quickly, tell us about your upcoming releases?
Anybody can read a synopsis, so I won’t bore you with that. But the story reared its head 20 plus years ago when I wrote what turned out to be an interesting, but strangely incomplete screenplay. It was the first thing I had every written in which I felt some pride. After my flirtation with the film industry ended, it wound up in a drawer until I was looking for something to write that wouldn’t hit the mainstream impediments into which my other work ran.
See here: http://astorandblue.com/author-spotlight-leonce-gaiter/
I had never been able to make “In the Company of Educated Men” really work as a screenplay. That’s probably because I am no screenwriter. I’m a writer, who’s been grossly influenced by film. The two media that have had the greatest impact on my writing are the two that writing bears the least similarity to – music and film. Both are visceral and sensual. Writing is the intellectual act of composing abstract symbols for others to decode.
Do you have any specific inspiring incident that turned you out as an author?
I had the idea that I wanted to write as early as junior high school. Over time, I’ve changed what I wanted to write, but the basics never changed.
Who designed your cover art? How did you choose the image?
I spoke to my editor and publisher, who had a talented designer with whom he’d worked successfully. I proposed a broad idea born out of iconic old Blue Note Records album covers. The designer then ran with that and came up with the cover, which I love. It’s most appropriate for a road/memory piece. It hammers home the novel’s sharp juxtapositions—quintessential American landscape, violence, flight, and seeing the past.
Do you outline your work before you write?
As I mentioned, this piece was first a screenplay, which turned out to be a problem. I spent most of the rewriting time trying to erase any vestiges of the screen—making sure that I was communicating fully and not relying on images that would never appear!
Which genre is far more appealing to you as a reader?
Just about the only thing I don’t read is modern literary fiction, and modern popular fiction. I’m a freak for Trollope; I love Robertson Davies; I grew up on Faulkner; I sailed through Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Matarin series. I enjoy good science fiction and fantasy. Unfortunately, I just haven’t developed a taste for modern popular and literary fiction. I think it’s because my tastes run toward the impressionistic-expressionistic end of the spectrum, and the modern style that runs toward kitchen sink realism. I don’t want to read about worlds I’m familiar with full of people that I recognize or consider “just like me.” As stated, I’m a black, gay, Harvard graduate who grew up in cities and now lives in the sticks. No one’s beating on that particular drum, so even if I wanted to see myself in fiction, the odds are agin’ it. Perhaps since I fall so far outside the ideal demographic for modern pieces, I find their attempts at representation cloying? I don’t know. When you come down to it, I guess, as always, it’s just taste. I like the larger than life, the extraordinary. I like to read whole worlds, not just people in this one.
What inspires you to write? Is there any level of similarity with the events or characters in your book and in reality?
I think I write about the people I wish I had the courage or foolhardiness to be.
Which is your current read?
Currently finishing the last volume of Taylor Branch’s history of the Martin Luther King years—one of my rare forays into non-fiction.
What, in your opinion is the toughest part while carving your book?
That depends. My last novel had several false starts. Based on a true historical story, I had to slowly grope my way toward the world I wanted to represent. Starting with the 5 characters of the Rufus Buck Gang, each subsequent draft essentially expanded like a balloon, drawing in other historical figures and elements of the zeitgeist until I had a fully-fledged novel.
With this book, it was fully developing the characters that had remained stunted in screenplay form. I think it’s different every time.
Share one of your favorites from your music band collection, if any?
I listen to a lot of jazz, and when I turn to popular music, I tend toward great songwriters. Joe Henry is one of my favorites, and I quote from one of his songs at the end of “In the Company of Educated Men.” It’s called “Our Song,” and it’s truly an extraordinary piece.
Where can we find your books?
My first novel, “Bourbon Street,” was published by Carroll & Graf, which went belly up a few years ago, so that one’s only available on ebook, and you can get it on Amazon and B&N. “I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang,” is available in paper and ebook at the usual places. As of November 4, “In the Company of Educated Men” is available in paper and ebook pretty much everywhere (I hope!).
What are you currently working on?
Absolutely nothing! I don’t write constantly, only when I have an idea that really grips me. After a point, I go looking for one—but I’m not there yet! Actually, due to recent events, I am considering writing a non-fiction book I’ve been pondering for some time. Following themes that have appeared in a lot of my non-fiction essays, it regards the desperate African-American need to take total responsibility for teaching our history to ourselves because without it, the young descendants of American slaves will never realize that when they are mistreated due to race, it’s not because there’s something wrong with them, but because there’s a long history of something wrong in America.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My site leoncegaiter.com, contains links about my books and information, as well as non-fiction. I think it has all anybody would want to know about me. Actually, I’m sure no one wants to know anything about me. I’d feel very lucky if they wanted to know more about my work.
Thank you for reading this. Hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did.