Kage Alan’s latest book, Andy Stevenson vs. The Lord of the Loins (Zumaya Boundless; $14.99) —a sequel to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation—is an adroitly written and funny tale about the perennially bemused Andy Stevenson, a gay college student who struggles with the semester’s assignments as he looks for love. His sexual encounter with fellow student Tristan leads to heartbreak. And then, with his best friends, Kim and Ryan, he plots Tristan’s downfall. Windy City Times spoke to Alan.
Windy City Times: Is Andy based on you? And why did you write a sequel about him?
Kage Alan:I’m not Andy and Andy’s not me, and yet he came out of my experiences. In the first book, he’s almost an idealized version of how people think somebody gay might be at certain times when they don’t know who they are. There, the character came to terms with his sexuality, so, as an author, what do you after that? You try to find a relationship with someone compatible. I had a lot more to say about the character in the second book, which was about relationships, about finding something you don’t want, thinking you do and then finding what you do want and realizing the difference between the two. The first one comes back to bite him in the ass.
WCT: Your book is filled with banter but it doesn’t seem gratingly artificial. How do you write dialogue so that it’s fresh and funny?
KA: The dialogue is usually the first thing that gets done. I hate going in and adding description because I think I’m terrible at it. I base the dialogue on the importance of the scene, what I’m trying to convey with it, and on the dialogue I have with my own friends. A lot of the way my friends and I talk is exactly the way we will talk to each other. And we do have a lot of banter back and forth. So it’s taking the best of the banter.
WCT: I’d like to talk about one scene in particular without giving it away—the pivotal one between Tristan and Andy. It’s very funny, but it’s also about something possibly traumatic.
KA: That was the one scene in the book that I rewrote the most. It felt too harsh too often. And I wanted to leave it as open-ended as possible. I see it as: Andy was there in the moment, he was questioning it, but he wasn’t really allowed to fully explore the questions before the event happened. In my mind, if he had really, really wanted to go, he would have gone. He knew something wasn’t right. But he went through it anyway because he thought it was what he wanted. But that was the one scene I struggled with the most. [I wanted] to make it seem like he didn’t want to be there but he went through it anyway and was ultimately overpowered by the whole sensation—which is why I injected a bit more humor into it.
WCT: Another pivotal scene takes place in a bathhouse, and it’s Andy’s first time in one. He’s monogamous and his sexual life seems quite different from that of earlier generations, when gay men’s first experiences might have been in bathhouses. And then he has a conversation with one of the regulars who explains what some might like about bathhouse culture. Was that a deliberate attempt to talk about different sexual politics?
KA: It was deliberate. When I put the bathhouse scene in, I thought, there’s got to be a point to this. He’s got to balance his ideas. What does it mean to him? How can he express that? So he has a conversation with someone else who says, “We can argue the morality but this is what it used for, this is what it means to people.” And then he throws it back to Andy by asking, in essence, what does this mean to you? If it doesn’t mean any of these things, why are you here?
I was trying to show two sides of the story there. Tristan exemplifies the stereotype: fun, free, do whatever you want. Andy sees that and he knows from his first love Jordan that it doesn’t have to be like that. And he doesn’t like it when Tristan uses him, and doesn’t want to make that mistake again. I think he goes against the stereotype because people do think that all gays go and have sex the first time.