Monday, 21 May 2018

Gay drama steps up a gear

Call Me anytime
We've had a raft of really great new gay stories being transferred to screen lately.

Call Me By Your Name and God's Own Country kicked off the year for me.

Two very different stories set decades apart, but both uplifting tales of gay love. They were equally stunning, and led to both winning many awards culminating in wins at this year's BAFTA/Oscars gong shows.

But, thankfully, it wasn't just on the big screen that we were being treated to new dramas of the love that hitherto dared not speak its name.

Darkly compelling
We're still recovering from the sumptuous, dark, disturbing and compelling real life drama The Assassination of Gianni Versace. A superb cast beautifully and audaciously took us through one of the most shocking gay serial killer stories of recent times. 

Currently, we're being treated to A Very English Scandal courtesy of  the BBC. A drama about the scandal involving then Liberal party leader and gay scoundrel Jeremy Thorpe, that rocked the UK political establishment in the 1980s. Hugh Grant plays the seedy politician at the heart of the affair and the fabulous Ben Whishaw as ex lover/victim Norman Scott.

Wilde is back
Around the corner we will all be heading back to the cinema to be enthralled by The Happy Prince, as gay actor Rupert Everett makes his directorial debut with the poignant biographical drama of the final chapter of Oscar Wilde's life. i definitely think we're going to need tissues for this one.

Streaming channel Netflix has also thrown it's rainbow coloured beach towel on the gay section of the broadcasting beach as it prepares to screen new coming of age drama, Alex Strangelove.

There's many more to come in what's turning out to be quite a year for LGBT cinema and TV drama. Check this list out. It's encouraging to finally see a broad variety of gay stories being written and transformed into major productions, whether for the cinema or TV.

Of course, I'm hoping that someone at BBC, HBO, Netflix or Hollywood will ring any day now telling me that coming-of-age coming out stories like Love Simon are the next big thing and that they'd like to film my book Changing Trains next.

Well, one has to hope. To quote Mr Wilde, "We're all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

What they're reading on Fire Island this year

Life really should be a beach
The other night I was Facebook messaging with a lovely woman I didn't know, but who co-runs a fab book group called The Fiction Café - Book Club, and whom I discovered was based in New York.

I was thrilled when she told me she had ordered a digital version of my novel for herself. Great, and thank you very much.

But then she added that she had also purchased a paperback version for the guests to enjoy at a beach property she manages on Fire Island, a long slithering and beautiful barrier stretch of land off the East Coast of the US.

Now I was born on the coast. Okay the east coast of Scotland, not half as sunny, so I've sought out
Gay favourite Fire Island
hot beaches out my whole life and I have great memories of partying on Fire Island in the late 1990s.

Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines, as most visitors will know, are two of the most exclusive areas of the island and have long been popular destinations among the gay community. Don't we just love a bit of destination exclusivity?

By the way, there's a lot of beach in my novel Changing Trains. As the main character Sam travels around Europe, he heads to some fab beaches from the overcrowded sands of Benidorm on Spain's Costa Blanca, to the chic glamour of Cannes and Nice and the glittering, opulent shores of Monaco's Monte Carlo.

Isherwood (left) & Auden, Fire Island regulars
But back to Fire Island, and I only just discovered that my muse for Changing Trains, Christopher Isherwood, often visited the island along with his great friend, the poet WH Auden. Of course both typically got up to no good and were generally outrageous, I'm very pleased to learn.

Now, I don't have the rights to use it here, but if you Google 'Isherwood on Fire Island', you will come across photos of these two friends, together with fellow British writer Stephen Spender, on Fire Island in 1947.

I'm really touched that my little novel about Sam, travelling around 1980s Europe, coming to terms with his sexuality and learning about the wider world, has made its way to one of my favourite US beach destinations.

But I'm more impressed to learn that my muse also enjoyed everything that Fire Island has to offer, long before I was around. I feel closer to Isherwood now and share his love of fun in the sun.

So thank you Meghan Gibbons, I hope the boys enjoy their reading material. This modern day British, gay, writer is hoping they'll give it a glowing review on Amazon, once they've bronzed themselves in the hot Fire Island sunshine of course.

Friday, 27 April 2018

All the famous people - and us, too

As a first time author it's often quite difficult to be seen and heard. More so, if you don't have an agent or publisher.

Polari Salon, Southbank Centre
Since publishing Changing Trains, I've done a few public readings, one TV interview and a number of guest blog appearances.

But the most successful thing to push sales of my novel was a post on Facebook by an old friend who read it, loved it and then shared this fact with his social network. My sales leapt when that endorsement went out.

The best thing about it was that this was a genuine comment, unsolicited and unplanned. I was very grateful and learned a real lesson in what makes your book sell.

But still, my little gay coming-of-age adventure isn't exactly top of the charts. What I need now is someone with a huge media following to pick up my book, read it, enjoy it (they don't HAVE to love it) and then share this fact with their followers. 

I bought this album
So I've been thinking about who may like my little story. Of course, my fave singer Sam Smith is top of my list. I think I may even have Tweeted him once suggesting he might like to read Changing Trains, while on the road. 

After all, I bought his latest album and have liked it all over my social media. Why wouldn't he want to return the favour? My character is even called 'Sam'.

Bennett likes trains, too
I've also thought about stalking Alan Bennett, one of my favourite writers and fellow 'northerner Londoner'. 

I've considered dropping a copy of the novel through his letterbox with a note saying "Please read me and then like me - someone's life depends on it." He mentions trains quite a bit in his 'Keeping On Keeping On'.

Changing Trains was inspired by Christopher Isherwood, so maybe Tom Ford would like it. I've messaged the directors of Call Me By your Name and God's Own Country - still waiting to hear back, though! Busy people.

Kylie Minogue, who has provided the soundtrack to my own life, I'm sure, would really like it. Stephen Fry, though, I'm not so sure. Ian McKellen I hope would give it a go and Dustin Lance Black at least had the good grace to Tweet me a congratulations on publishing, which was lovely.

Of course you don't have to be an Elton, Tom Daley or any of the above. If you like my book and have more than one Facebook friend, you could change my world. 

And the best thing is - it's totally free for you to share the fact you liked something you read. Isn't that amazing?     

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Where the journey started

Dundee's impressive skyline
This Easter I drove to Scotland to visit the family. Usually, I prefer to take the train, but, being a last minute decision, I opted for the car, which proved to be a big mistake.

Eleven hours after setting off from London, I pulled into Dundee, under cover of darkness, exhausted by a drive marred by traffic jams, road closures and inexplicable delays. Lesson learned.

In case you've never been to Dundee, it has to be one of the UK's most impressively positioned cities. Hugging the banks of the 'silvery' river Tay, the town is crowned by the Law Hill, a very, very old and long extinct volcano. Sunsets over the estuary are something to behold - especially if you live across the Tay in Newport - and the river is renown for its salmon fishing.

Dundee is also home to the impressive and imposing brand new V&A museum, due to open in September 2018. The city is also the birthplace of comic books the Beano, the Dandy and their much loved characters, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan.

It also happens to be where Sam's journey in Changing Trains starts. He sets off from Platform 1, in the old subterranean station.
New terminal & hotel

The ugly old terminal has, mercifully, been knocked down and a new one with an hotel attached has been built in its place. I'm sure it'll be lovely when it opens, but I can't help think the Council planners got it a tad wrong using the same tan colour tone for the new facia as the old plastic coating.

Whatever the case, none of this detracts from the fact that Dundee and it's surrounding beach towns and villages is fast becoming a popular destination for tourists and those looking to relocate. Who knows? Maybe I'll even move back. If the weather was warmer, I'd already be there.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Licence to chill - with a book

Do you expect me to talk? No, Mr Bond, I expect you to read.
Popular book blog The Portobello Book Blog has a spotlight feature this week in which they asked me a raft of questions about my debut novel.

It was great fun to do and if you get the chance to take a break for five minutes, please do click on the book blog link above and have a little read for yourself.

In case you don't know, James Bond and the Bond franchise come up in Changing Trains quite a bit, which could be why Daniel Craig's handsome figure grace's all links to the interview. I'm certainly not making a fuss.

And in case anyone thinks James Bond has no place in a gay travel memoire, just remember the scene in Skyfall, when Bond is being sexually intimidated by flirtatious and warped villain, Silva. The cheeky and precocious 007 spy hits back, asking: "What makes you think this is my first time?"