Tell us about this award you’re up for and how and why we can/should support you.
Goodreads selected my first novel, Hot Head, as one of fifteen candidates for Best Romance of 2011. It’s the only gay romance on the list and it’s up against books by Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and JR Ward. The funny thing is, I had no clue what had happened for about half a day…
On Tuesday I got home from teaching a class and I had 121 emails in my inbox. It took me a while to figure out what had gone down while I was out living my life in the world. Somehow, a contemporary M/M about love and porn in the FDNY managed to place favorably against all those New York Times bestsellers, which knocked me sideways. Actually as another writer pointed out to me, it is the only book on the list written by a guy and one of the two not released by a mainstream New York publisher. So I am literally beside myself with gratitude and happiness. Since GayRomLit I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the ways our genre can move towards mainstream readers, so the attention felt like a wacky shift in the wind and a thumbsup from the universe.
If anyone feels like supporting Hot Head in specific and Gay Romance in general by giving their vote I’d be deeply grateful. The poll is here:
Now for the fun questions: Favorite place you’ve ever traveled?
Prague. I lived in London for several years, so I don’t think I can count it as a vacation destination anymore. Otherwise I would’ve said London. Prague has the seductive, serpentine quality that seems endlessly fascinating and varied. Amazing history, astonishing artistic ecology, beautiful people, delicious food, jaw-dropping architecture and landscapes. It’s simultaneously a loud city and a taciturn city, a fleshpot and a stodgy bookworm, a modern bohemian hotspot and a sinuous occult linchpin of the Old World. Everything to recommend it. When my boyfriend and I were in Tuscany this summer, living in a 12th century castle for a week… we had this crazy glammy-pants getaway and the whole time we kept having to compare it to Prague because of its contradictions. Tuscany is gorgeous, but Prague is magical. And in a way I love being there so much that if you handed me a ticket right now I’d be on a plane in 2 hours. I’d find a way to make it work. I have the same bone-deep love of London because it always feels like home when I touch down, but Praha is probably my favorite vacation spot.
Favorite foods and most hated foods?
Indian is my favorite cuisine. I probably picked that up living in London. Even New York doesn’t have ANYWHERE near the level of Indian food that the UK does. I could easily eat Indian food every meal, every day, for the rest of my life and die happy. I love the variety and the spice and the heartiness of it. My family is Arabic so there’s probably some of that at work in my taste buds: a love of strong flavors and hearty proteins, but Indian will always be my go-to meal. In general Asian food comprises about 80% of my diet: Indian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese… etc.
Hmmmm, most hated food is way harder. I’m kind of a garbage disposal in that I can find something to love on almost any menu. Old sushi would make that list. Fresh sushi is divoon, but when the fish starts to turn and the rice gets gummy there’s nothing worse than the low-tide, call-the-hospital flavor. Vegetarian cooking needs to be exceptional for me to get enthusiastic because I was raised on red meat and butter. Now, I actually love tofu and lentils and the other pretend-you-aren’t-an-omnivore options, but to prepare beautiful vegetarian you have to be bad-ass in the kitchen.
Book/TV show/movie that changed your life and why
Well, a lot of books have changed my life but since I’ve been thinking about her a LOTtoday I’m gonna say Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light because it was the first novel that showed me how deeply a story could affect a reader’s emotional state. It’s also one of the first “romances” I ever read, and looking back now I realize that it is exactly that: a YA romance with paranormal elements. I will never forget the experience of reading the final chapters and crying so hard that I couldn’t see the pages, so fiercely that I had to set the book down and just weep at one point because the feelings were that intense. I remember at 9 thinking, “THIS is what a story can do.” It pulled me inside out. I’d grown up in showbusiness, so I knew all about audiences getting passionate with live theatre, but to experience that kind of emotional tsunami… devastating, eye-popping, life-changing.
About a year later the snotty prep school I attended, wound up hosting L’Engle on an extended visit and the librarians, knowing my obsession with her, assigned me to her for a WEEK as a kind of docent. I almost died of joy. For five glorious days, I was excused from classes and literally accompanied her to all her appearances throughout the school: lunches with the board, speeches to the kindergarten, readings for classes. I was probably ten years old and very shy still. She was a MIRACLE. Madeleine sort of enveloped me immediately and created private jokes with me and laughed with me and whispered to me when the grownups were being stodgy or narrow. At the end of the week, with me sitting in the front row in an audience of 800 little bourgeois robots, she got up and gave a speech entitled “The Freedom to Fuck Up” which created quite a stir I can tell you… She urged all of the children in the room to take startling risks and TRY to fail so that their successes would be more dazzling. The day she left, she gave me hardcovers of all her books (which I still own) and signed them too me (which made a tremendous impression on me). That copy of Ring of Endless Light is one of my most treasured possessions. My whole life my mother had nurtured courage and audacity in me, but my shyness had kept it hidden. That L’Engle week tore a locked door off its hinges for me.
Years later I learned about her close personal friendships with many wacky gay artists and now I wonder if when we met that first Monday, Madeleine saw the little gay boy in me struggling to draw breath in that horrible Republican enclave. She urged me to write and to dream and to live out loud…and I listened. Almost a decade later, I came to school in New York and wrote her a long letter, thanking her for everything she did that week, all the windows and latches she yanked open, and she wrote back, warm as ever, generous as the sun. Afterwards, every so often I sent little updates letting her know I was still trying to fuck up often and well.
What an unbelievable brilliant light she was on the earth. We are poorer for her passing.
You’ve been given the key to the TARDIS and she’s decided she wants to let you drive. Where do you go/what do you do?
I travel to the day after my death, to my own house, and I read and watch all the things I’ve written and directed in my life WITHOUT having had to sit down and write them first! THAT would be heaven to me, to read and watch my own work without having to endure the process of creation, revision, and production… then when I’d finished I’d kiss my widower goodbye and come back so I could do it properly knowing the reward before I started. A rare gift, that: to know the target before you shoot.
You have a weekend turn unexpectedly free and you have by some miracle nothing pressing to quick go finish instead. How do you spend your 48 hours?
Nice! Well, I spend Saturday morning writing, because I ALWAYS have things I should be writing and not writing feels so goddamn weird and unsettling. I stop both days for lunch with my boyfriend and then we nap, read, fuck, watch old movies on the couch until dark in whatever order seems best. Saturday night I drag him out twostepping because there’s nothing better in the world on a Saturday night. Sunday morning I call a bunch of friends and put together a last minute brunch. Walk back from that and spend the afternoon doing some fix-it project around the house because my boyfriend loves building and fiddling with practical things and I rarely have time to participate. And then Sunday night we go out for Indian and maybe a wander through Strand Books. Home for food coma, and wake up Monday feeling like a homo sapien sapien sapien with all the time in the world ad nothing to lose.
Cats or dogs?
Well I like dogs too, big ones mostly. I grew up with bouviers and borzois and pit bulls and great danes, so I like a dog that has some heft. Actually I love all animals for the most part, lizards, snakes, rats. My mom represented an exotic pet store when I was a kid and my family had a ranch, so we had some weird-ass pets growing up.
But my animal of choice is no question cats. Cats have always loved me, and though I was “allergic” when I was little I loved them so much that by the time I was 11 or so, my allergies just…vanished. (?!) I like how independent and strange and quick they are. Cats fit me, definitely, and I sort of understand them better, although I think dogs are wonderful. With cats I feel like I communicate directly with them and we understand one another. I haven’t met more than 2 or 3 cats in my life that didn’t love me instantly and vice versa. LOL
Chocolate: your feelings on it.
Ummm. It’s a food group. How can I have feelings about a food group? That’s like asking me about my feelings on air.
I love chocolate and tend to be a bit of a snob about it. I like BITTER chocolate and natural as possible. And when possible I drink raw, unsweetened chocolate, thick and spicy out of steaming bowls. I like the chocolate to bite back a little and to be so dense that it has a smoky, furry feel in my mouth. The best “candy” I’ve ever had was in Belgium, where the chocolate is made daily like bread. And yet Godiva, which is touted as being delicious and “Belgian” tastes like scented wax. Give me the real thing any day! There’s a chocolatier in Brooklyn named Jacques Torres who makes REAL drinking chocolate in the winter, a bubbling Willy Wonka lagoon-sized urn that he peppers; I love walking over on a cold morning for a bowl. Delish!
You find a build-a-man/woman machine. Assuming the ethics of it wash out or that this is in a dream and nothing matters, what do you do next?
I create a clone of myself so I can get more work done without feeling like I’m being a lazy asshole and avoiding other things I need to be doing. Then I create a clone of my boyfriend so that my clone work-self doesn’t go insane or lapse into depression. Then I build clones of all our friends and family so that the happy couple are surrounded by the people they love.
And then I realize that I’ve just imagined and created a perfect argument for Candide’s best-of-all-possible-worlds thesis and hop back in the aforementioned Tardis and undo the creation of all those unnecessary redundant people so that I can get back to living this amazing life I’ve been given. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody, not even myself. LOL
What’s the question you wish I’d have asked?
“Hey Damon, what are we gonna be doing when Marie and I come to visit New York next month?”
Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to M/M, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at: