Thursday, November 24, 2011

Interview with Kergan Edwards-Stout, author of Songs for the New Depression

Author Bio: “KERGAN EDWARDS-STOUT is an award-winning director, author and screenwriter, and was honored as one of the Human Rights Campaign‘s 2011 Fathers of the Year. Songs for the New Depression marks his debut novel, with shorter works appearing in such journals and magazines as American Short Fiction and SexVibe. Kergan lives in Orange, California, with his partner and their two sons. He is currently at work on a forthcoming memoir, Never Turn Your Back on the Tide, and blogs regularly at”

What inspires your stories?

It really varies, but they usually have a personal connection, in some manner. Over 12 years ago, out of the blue, a line popped into my head: “James Baldwin once wrote that Americans lack a sense of doom, yet here I stand.” At the time, I didn’t know where that line came from, who was speaking it, or what it would become, but that line stuck with me, eventually becoming the first line of my debut novel, Songs for the New Depression.

I’d read Giovanni’s Room many years ago, and that concept, that Americans lack a sense of doom, really resonated. Except, for me, having lost a partner and many others to AIDS, I feel as if I’ve known doom all too well. But who could have foreseen that just reading his book would, years later, inspire my own?

What genre do you gravitate toward and why?

So much of what I see and write is framed by my life experiences, and as I’m a gay man, that is a key element of much of what I write. However, after my next book, which is a memoir, I’m writing a novel based on a screenplay I penned, which is very much for children. It mixes the quest elements of Harry Potter with the quirky holiday theme from the movie A Christmas Story, and takes its readers on a fantastical journey. Definitely a different audience!

What are your work habits like?

It took me over 12 years to write this first book, which happened in fits and starts. I have two kids, as well as a full-time job, and it is really hard—at the end of a long day—to fit everything in. But I finally decided that if I was to finish the book, I’d have to sacrifice in order to do it. So I started getting up each morning at 5AM to go to the gym, which then gave me more time later in the morning for writing, and I also started saying “no” to my kids—which is very hard to do—but I made it clear to them that when Daddy is working, he needs to focus.
In a normal week, I try to write 1-2 hours a day, but if I have extra time, I put it towards writing. And if I take time off from work, I use that to write as well. I’m a good binge writer.

What do you consider your best work?

Definitely this novel, Songs for the New Depression. I think it is because, while a work of fiction, I connect so personally to the story. It follows a man dying of AIDS in 1995, before the HIV cocktail. He knows he’s made mistakes in his life, pushed people away, and wants to make amends, but doesn’t know how. We then see him in his 20’s, living that 1980’s life, wrapped in ego. And then we follow him in high school, coming into his own, and learn about the event which altered everything and informed his future choices.

Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?

I usually have a sense of where the story needs to go, but I let it get there organically. I prefer to do my main writing longhand, as I think it helps me tap into my subconscious. Writing on the computer, I often find myself spending more time editing than actually writing.

What experience do you want for your readers?

I hope that this novel moves people emotionally. We need to honor those lost to AIDS, as well as to wake up to our greater role in life, which is to care for others and treat all respectfully, both people and planet. I hope that readers will feel moved enough to act for the greater good. And, if nothing else, I hope it provokes an emotional response in them, whether gay or straight, that internally they connect with the character’s journey, as we are really all the same.

Are any of your character traits or settings based on real life?

Yes, the main character, Gabriel, is loosely inspired by my partner, Shane, who died in 95 as well. They share a certain sensibility and character traits, but the story itself is entirely fictional.

What are your most significant challenges when you write?

Simply finding the time! With two kids and a job, that leaves little time for much else! I’m hoping this novel puts me on a different path, where I get to use my writing skills more.

What are you currently working on?

This memoir, Never Turn Your Back on the Tide, is based on an experience I had which made me question everything, including my own sanity. Let’s put it this way--if that part of my life were a t.v. movie, it would be on Lifetime, and I’d be the naïve wife who discovers she is married to a serial killer! (laughs) Well, not quite, but it was pretty dramatic!

Do you have any writing advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?

Do your homework and learn everything you can. While I first tried going the traditional route, sending the manuscript to agents and publishers, I finally decided to do it myself. My book is literary fiction, and as there is currently a glut on the market, publishers weren’t interested. Not knowing any better, I almost went the Lulu route, as many of my friends had done, which—for me and my ultimate goals—would have been a mistake. Instead, I formed my own publishing company and am releasing the book through that. Having it come through a company gives it more cache than the other route, and by cutting out the middleman, the royalties are much better. For anyone considering this option, check out Aaron Shepard’s book “POD for Profit.”

Also, pay attention to what is going on inside of you and listen to your own unique voice. While just about anyone can “write”, I think a good writer uses their individual point of view, bringing that to their work, and it makes all the difference in the world.

Songs for the New Depression is available at



Barnes and Noble

Thanks for stopping by, Kergan! - LR

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