Sunday, August 16, 2009

The story of "Semesters" the greatest gay college novel you'll never read

One rainy day when I was six years old, I complained that I was bored. My mother took out some loose leaf paper and told me to write a story. So I did. Impressed by what I had accomplished, my mother decided that I had a talent for writing.

From then on, everybody assumed that I would grow up to become a writer. I possessed a good imagination and from the few stories that I did put down to paper, (regretfully, there weren't enough) I showed talent but I never pursued the gift with much vigor. I wrote some well-received stories in junior high classes but whenever I tried to write on my own, I quickly lost interest or the story did not shape up the way I had hoped. The story I was writing down onto paper never came across as original or striking as the one I was hatching in my head. This disconnect stopped me from writing almost entirely until my sophomore year of college. Thanks to a wonderful Creative Writing teacher, I was able to write more than I had in years, but the problem remained: I was still unable to write for myself outside of school.

In college, I hung out with an unconventional, colorful crowd whom I figured would make great material for a novel. After graduation, the story grew in my mind but again, I had no idea how I would make the tale come alive. How could I make the story unique? What could I do to make the characters seem real? I didn’t have any idea.

Thirteen years passed. In the summer of 2006, I finally sat down at my new computer and began the story I’d put off for so long. Five months later, I had completed a 700 page first draft of my novel. Since then, I have gone through four additional drafts. I now have the story I wanted to tell. Is the novel publishable? Would anybody really ever want to read it? I don’t know.

What is this magnum opus? Is it a heartrending tale of personal adversity? A bildungsroman about a young, plucky kid? No. It's a novel entitled "Semesters" about gay and lesbian college students whose opening sentence is

"On Todd Salazar’s first day of college, while his belongings were still in neatly labeled boxes on the dorm room floor, he had sex with his new roommate Darin."

Not exactly the stuff of literary immortality. But I wanted to write a novel that was fun to me, one that I would enjoy. It was inspired by a story that had always been gnawing at the back of my mind ever since I graduated college. I just had no idea how to write the story until I read the novel that would make all the difference: Jackie Collins' "Hollywood Wives." Finally, a way to structure the tale! Yes, I suppose I should say it was Faulkner or Morrison - no less influential upon me- but it was Collins who sealed the deal.

What I do know is that I finally – after too much time- wrote that novel I knew I had in me. I keep telling people that the main reason that I want it to be published is so that I can take a trip back to Paris - or anywhere for that matter. I'm tired of living on unemployment and sick of sending out resumes into the ether. I can always start a second book, and I probably will but there's something special about "Semesters" for me because in my way, I finally did fulfill some of my promise.

1 comment:

  1. Quite an achievement, Ed. Good luck on finding a publisher.

    Incidentally, I think that open line is a very, very good one, and certainly wouldn't sell it short vis-a-vis literary immortality (in the sense that such a thing truly does exist). You have a well chosen, quite memorable name up front, you start the sentence with something rather mundane (the unpacked boxes) and then strike the reader with that sexual act suddenly as if out of nowhere. All of which balances the sentence quite nicely and makes it memorable.

    As for influences... I'd say whatever gets you going is good. And at the end of the day it's not who helps you out in your head while writing (or even to get you writing), it is what you do with that. I mean, I could easily see someone relying on both Faulkner and Morrison and ending up with a load of crap on their own plate, whereas someone else could find inspiration in crap yet weave literary gold out of it.
    Besides, high and low culture (to the degree that exists as a social construct) has much less to do with literary quality than social perception of culture. Simply put there is crap and gold alike (and everything in between) in both camps.