Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonJeff talks about two things he’s been into recently: The 25th Anniversary celebration for the musical Rent, and Queen Latifah in the reboot of The Equalizer. Will shouts out some TV shows we love that are returning this spring.

In February, Jeff hosted a conversation with Philip William Stover for Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown, PA. Philip discusses the Seasons of the New Hope series, which is set a few miles from Doylestown, and the new book The Beautiful Things Shoppe. Philip shares why he set the series in New Hope and his connection to the town, and what he would sell if he had a store like The Beautiful Things Shoppe. He also has some book recommendations.

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Show Notes

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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, Phillip William Stover joins us to talk about “The Beautiful Things Shoppe.”

Will: Welcome to episode 293 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will Knauss and with me as always is my co-host and husband. Mr. Jeff Adams.

Jeff: Hello everybody.

Will: Hello once again, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show.

Jeff: Before we get to this week’s interview, I wanted to talk a little bit about a couple of things I have watched recently. In the first week of March, the New York Theater Workshop celebrated the 25th anniversary of the musical “Rent” with a special streamed program. If you’ve listened to the show, pretty much any amount over the past few years, you know that I am a huge fan of this show.

It’s pretty safe to say that if this isn’t my very favorite musical, it is certainly among my top musicals. I’ve seen it more than a dozen times over the years in various productions around the country. And I was so excited to get to see this particular program to celebrate its anniversary.

There were some amazing stories from the original cast, the director and the creative crew. They surfaced some really amazing props that are still around, like the original film projector that was used in the finale when it was playing in the East village there at the New York Theater Workshop.

There were also some really incredible new performances of classic “Rent” songs in the program. I particularly loved Ali Stoker. Ali is a Tony winner for the recent” Oklahoma” revival. She paired up with Tracie Thoms, who happened to have been the last Joanne on Broadway. They got together to sing “Take Me Or Leave Me” and they slayed that song.

But the really special moment was “Pose” star Billy Porter doing the “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” that takes place in the second act of the show. Let’s just say that Billy took us all to church, having a moment of remembrance for the late composer Jonathan Larson. It was really special.

This particular show has always meant a lot to me. It came out between a year and two years, depending on the staging you’re looking at, after I came out, after I started dating Will, and it just really fits into a special place in my life. So, it was really nice that I got to see this streamed program, hear all these great stories, and really celebrate this musical.

And I really need to go back and now watch it again on one of the DVD versions that I have because it was really special. I wish I could tell you that you could watch this, but it was a special, limited time thing. If you do see any of these clips on YouTube that came off of it though, do check those out. Cause it was really a special.

Something else I’ve been watching recently that you can definitely check out is the reboot of “The Equalizer” on CBS with Queen Latifah. Can we just say that she is such a bad-ass in this show? I tuned into it mostly because I like her a lot as an actress, and it’s been really exciting to see her take on this more action/adventure role, where she’s out there trying to help people who need help, who can’t get it. From a show standpoint, it really goes back to the original with this former government agent who then becomes what people need her to be and get out there and defend the little guy, but she does it so well. She is also a working mom with a teenage daughter. She’s got great tech support from one of her besties from her agency days. Everything about this show just takes the common tropes that this show deals with and makes it fresh and new and Queen Latifah’s awesome. Watch it. If nothing else for her, it’s on Sundays on CBS. And I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you check it out.

Will: And one last quick note about a trio shows that we happen to enjoy that are returning this spring that you should maybe keep on your radar. “Pose” makes its return to FX for the third and final season on Sunday, May 2nd. Now on Friday, May 14th, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” season two is going to premiere on Disney+. And “Love, Victor” is back on Hulu for season two, just in time for Pride month. That is coming your way on June 11th.

Jeff: Super excited for all of those. Some great spring viewing there.

So back on February 18th, I had the opportunity to be in conversation with Phillip William Stover for an event at the Doylestown Bookshop, which is located just a few miles from the town that the “Seasons of New Hope” series is actually set in. Of course, we love Phillip’s books and it was a pleasure to talk to him about the brand new “Beautiful Things Shoppe” and to do it for his hometown bookstore.

Philip William Stover Interview

Jeff: Now, before we dive in to talking about The Beautiful Things Shoppe, for folks who don’t know about the Seasons of New Hope series. Tell us a little bit about that and what inspired you to set the series in New Hope?

Philip: The first time I came to New Hope as a child in the late eighties to play a munchkin in the bucks County Playhouse production of the Wizard of Oz.

And that was my first, my parents would drop me off for the matinees and pick me up at night after the second show. And I was a kid. In between shows we’d walk around town and I fell in love with it. Then I knew it was a really special place and a place I wanted to return to at some point.

And so when my husband and I were looking for places to live outside of the city, this was definitely on our radar. And once we sort of discovered the area we’ve sort of slowly moved further away from the city. He teaches at Lehigh and we have a life here.

Jeff: Tell us about this series and the kinds of stories you’re telling in the Seasons of New Hope.

Philip: Well, I wanted to write a story that looked that was about a community and the sort of romances I read growing up. I loved Anne of green Gables and the way that community rallied around Anne, and I never thought I would be able to live in a community like that. So I wanted to create it. And that’s what I did with this series. This series has people, all different types of people, experiencing different things, who all care about each other and want the best out of each other and want to really connect and engage.

And that’s sort of why I wanted to set it here. I also love books that are set in seasons. So I wanted to do a winter and a summer because I want it to have that feeling of being in a place. And that was really important to me.

Jeff: I love how you’ve made this relatively small town so wildly diverse.

It’s one of the most diverse books, especially romance books, that’s out there because it’s not just, yes, it’s diverse because it’s an m/m romance. So, it has that already diversity built in it, but you’ve really made a landscape here of all across, the queer spectrum and. I think you’ve made about as diverse of a town as one could be.

Philip: Oh, Oh yeah. I am not unaware of that. This is a fantasy in that way and in a wonderful way. And we talk about Bridgeton and how that sort of also has this universe of that. But, in reality, it’s sort of like the people I know in my life and the world I live in is actually not so different from the world of New Hope.

And people ask me about the kind of I don’t know, what would you call it… the extreme diversity of that town. But that is what, the life that I lived. Here in Pennsylvania and in New York. So I really want it to represent that. Although I do say something happens when you cross the bridge from New Jersey into New Hope, that sort of changes you in that moment, if you’re going to enter this book, but I’m aware of that, and that is a hundred percent intentional.

Jeff: I like that there’s authors like yourself who create the world as they want it to be. I mean, you say you’re living that kind of life, but you’re also bringing into the world what you’d like to see overall.

Philip: And that comes from, I’ve written for a long time and there was a time to be completely honest where you couldn’t do that in big publishing and not with tweens. And there were times I was told explicitly; you have to change this character. If you want to have success with this type of a publication and this type of group that will promote it, you can’t do that. And when you’re writing and you want your book to sell and you’re in the middle of a contract, you have to make some really hard choices.

I think that’s really different now. But when I first started, that was part of the landscape. And it was definitely, as I got stronger and wrote for myself more, I was much less willing to change any of that.

Jeff: And I think we see the change a little bit. You mentioned “Bridgerton” in the title of our presentation this evening. Certainly when “Bridgerton” came to Netflix, we saw an expansion of what was there already, and bringing on so many people of color and tweaking the landscape, the people, the colors and everything else to make it a story of now, almost, even though it’s set, hundreds of years in the past.

Philip: Right, and I want it to create that, ‘tapestry’ is probably the wrong word, but I wanted to create an experience of community where lots of different people could see themselves.

Jeff: Now for those who know New Hope. What are they going to recognize out of your books? Because I already am disappointed to know from the first book, like the Hideaway Inn doesn’t really exist.

Philip: The Logan Inn exists sort of. So it does sort of, kind of, I mean, I tried to always make the landmarks real, so the Playhouse exists and it’s a landmark. Like if you were going to write about New York city, you might not change the name of the Empire State building. Like it would probably still be the empire state building, but you might change the name of the coffee shop on the corner or something like that.

And that’s sort of the way I look at it, the bridges the same and there are some moments like the quack shack. If anybody’s from New Hope, they know there’s a quack shack, which is where you can go to get food, to feed the geese. And I hate all forms of swans and geese. I think they are horrible creatures and I’m terrified of swans.

And I wrote a scene in the Hideaway Inn where there’s this real asshole of a swan, it’s a goose, but they’re same idea. So, those are real things and there are bad swans in the world. So that’s real too. If there are good swans, please let me know. Show me a Swan. Show me one nice swan and I will change my mind about them.

Jeff: If anybody who’s watching has one of those swans do let us know.

Philip: If you have a nice swan let me know.

Jeff: Here’s your chance.

Tell us about The Beautiful Things Shoppe, this brand-new book that you’ve got. Second in the series and set in winter.

Philip: I really wanted to write a winter romance and I didn’t want it to be centered around a holiday.

I wanted it to be all purpose winter, I guess. So I moved it to January, so it really has snow and sledding and hot chocolate and all the types of wintery things that we love here. And it’s about two guys who have to share an antique shop. One is into retro vintage toys and lunchboxes and the Muppets and Smurfs and all of that type of stuff.

And the other is a very serious 19th century connoisseur. And it’s about their clashing aesthetics. But it’s also about if you’re from New Hope, this part of the book is a real place. There is a bank that is a mid-century bank, and it is connected to a 19th century building. I would go to New Hope and we’d walk around and I’d always think those are, that’s such an odd couple, those two buildings together, this 19th century bank and this mid-century bank with a drive-through is right next to it. It’s this really weird thing. And that’s actually what I started thinking about how those buildings are tied together. And that becomes a plot point in the book. Anyone who’s from the area knows there is a big controversy right now about a parking deck being built in New Hope and there’s lots of conversations and debate about it. I did not know that, but if you’re listening and there’s a way I can capitalize on that with this book, I would love to know.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s interesting, like ripped from the headlines, except you didn’t even know that was happening when you did it, which is kind of awesome.

I really love Danny and Prescott in this book because not only do they sell very different things in the shop, they’re about as opposite as opposite can get in terms of one’s very easygoing when it’s very uptight and very proper.

How did you construct these characters? Where did Danny and Prescott come from for you?

Philip: We have a very big mirror in our living room and I looked in it to see my relationship with my husband who would live in a stainless steel sink if he could and just wipe everything out at the end of the day.

And I would like the entire house covered in cabbage roses, silk cabbage roses, everywhere. So we are opposites like that. We often introduce ourselves as he is the nice one and I am the fun one and people laugh at first and then they say, Hey, you know what? That’s pretty accurate. So we are real opposites, but we came together and over 20 years, our styles actually have merged.

And we have found a way, but I think this idea of, I love opposites attract because you think the thing you don’t like is really the thing you kind of liked. And that’s what I wanted to write about.

Jeff: One of my favorite things you do in the story is, I mean, definitely at the beginning, they’re both very much at odds with each other about how the store will be run and how things are going to work.

And then there’s that very slow transition of, ‘I’m standing my ground here because I’m supposed to, but I kind of don’t want to cause it kind of like him’. Where those fun scenes to write? That general pulling back.

Philip: No. And I’ll tell you why as a writer, you know this because you have to really make sure that you’re very careful with that line, especially in romance, which is a very specific genre.

And if the character goes too far over one way it can be a mess. That part’s really hard, that said it’s really fun to write characters who kind of hold their ground and stick to it. But then also feel like maybe I shouldn’t have done that because I feel that way all the time where I, I’ll get into an argument that was and be like, how could you possibly do that?

And then I think, Oh, well, that makes sense. But I’m not going to let him know that. Because that’s not marriage. So, I built on that.

Jeff: And you’ve also thrown in a lot of usage of forced proximity. I mean, this isn’t a scenario where they’re snowed in or, forced to share one bed or anything, but they’re in such close quarters in that store that it’s like, you can’t get away from each other without walking away from your business.

Philip: Right? I knew I wanted to do something with force proximity, and I wanted to find a way and winter was really perfect for that because there’s a wood stove and they’re around it. They go sledding and have to hold on to each other. They do all things I do. They make pierogis at the church. They go to a rummage sale. These were all things you could find me doing on any weekend. Really. There’s not a lot of, I mean, I wish the writing had more imagination in it. That’s what I do. I go, I make pierogis and I go to rummage sales. So that’s in the book.

Jeff: If you were stocking the Beautiful Things store, what are you putting in it?

Cause I know you collect certain things. So what’s going in your store if you’re the proprietor?

Philip: Well, I do have a… thriving would be the wrong word but thriving Etsy store. And so when I was writing the book, if I needed the scene, I would go down to our basement where I keep everything on shelves and think, Oh, what’s one of the strangest things I own? And then that would make it into the book. So my Etsy store is full of lovely. I have a lot of vintage of linens things that I can’t actually use. Like how many vintage tablecloths can you have? And that’s not a rhetorical question. I want to know how many can I have because my answer would be 142, but that’s probably not the right answer.

So what I do is I buy them, then I resell them, but I have them for a little while and I really enjoy that. I love holding them and sending them off to someone who’s going to love them more. So I would have lots of fifties vintage kitsch things.

Jeff: So you’re more on Danny’s side of the store more than Prescott.

Philip: Oh yeah. 19th century stuff. No, thanks.

Jeff: Did you have to research to figure out what was on his side of the store or did you just go to the antique stores there?

Philip: I had to research when the 19th century started I mean, it was, I had to pick ideas from it. I know many historians at a university where I work.

And so I was able to ask people some questions and things, and I was able to go to a lot of online auction sites in the high-end. We happen to live in Manhattan, near an auction house that I could walk by all the time. And that was very inspiring. And I learned a lot about 19th century antiques, and, and I know a lot of people who take that type of thing, very, very seriously. And that’s not how I think about my collectibles. I really think of them as fun. And like, if they’re broken, I don’t care. Like, if it’s missing something, that’s fine by me. But I, so I wanted to think about that contrast too, about how people treat their collections differently.

Like for example, my husband is the director of a museum and his relationship to objects is completely different than my relationship to objects. He treats them with a different type of respect than I treat mine.

Jeff: Now Prescott and Danny both have the thing that is prized for them in this book, which just all the more sets up what their personalities are like. What’s your prize possession in your collection?

Philip: Well, I’m going to contradict everything I said about the 19th century, because my favorite object is in 19th century lamp.

It’s called a slag lamp, which was a British lamp that looks kind of marbleized, almost stained glass. And they created these silhouettes, the scenes in it. And the glass goes against it. So it looks like a sunset or a farm, these very beautiful thing. You’ve seen them. And this is my prize possession because I got it super cheap.

They put it in the window of the thrift shop on third Avenue and 23rd street as I was walking by. And as I’m walking by, I see her put it in the window and I’m late for class. And I don’t care. I walk in and I buy this lamp and it’s like probably a $500. I get for 70 bucks. I buy the lamp. I bring it home till this day I have not taken the price tag off the lamp because when people come over, they say, Oh, that’s a nice lamp. And I take the price tag out and I say, look how much I paid for this lanp. So that is what is my favorite object. And it’s not just that it’s beautiful. It’s that I got it at such a good price and I will never take that price tag off.

Jeff: That’s one of the things, for people who go and look for this kind of thing, it’s about getting that steal and it sounds like you definitely got a steal there.

Philip: Yeah.

Jeff: Now you just need to put Smurfs on it.

Philip: Oh, I had, I’ve had my share of Smurfs. Believe me. That was all based on real life. I collected Smurfs as a child.

Jeff: I loved how they meandered around the store to different places.

Philip: They are everywhere. I just think when I was a child growing up, they kind of found their way all over the house, much to my mother’s chagrin.

Jeff: As you were writing Prescott and Danny, do you have a favorite scene, that was your favorite or was like the most fun to write for you?

Philip: I like to write friendships. I like to write scenes where the friend sort of, and if there are any friends here though, maybe I will just say, I like to write scenes where the friend is able to see the other person more than they can see themselves. And reflecting that back to the friend helps them understand themselves or get through a problem. Like I love to write those scenes. And Arthur does that with both Danny and Prescott. He sort of is able to see beyond what they can see and what they’re, where they’re stuck and where they’re limited. And he does it in this incredibly, I think, loving and generous way of.

Not telling them, Oh, you you’re so wrong. You don’t understand anything, but telling them, look, keep looking. We’ll see more, go deeper, understand more. And that’s I love to write those scenes are fun.

Jeff: And you could tell that you have a good time with them because Arthur is certainly one of the more forward facing of those characters in this book, but the entire town who embraced Prescott and Danny gently moved in the right direction without, beating them over the head about you should go do this thing.

Philip: And I wanted to write the community as a character, you know, I won’t give away the ending of this book, but that last scene where the community is chanting for them is really the book I wanted to write. Like that was always in my head.

Jeff: And it’s one of the things that I love about your brand of small-town romance. The community is strong. The community is vibrant. There are so many elements to it. You don’t go surface level on any of it.

Philip: Well, you know, I really wanted to write small town romances. I’ve written books that take place in the city where I living. And I really in The Hideaway Inn there is a scene that takes place at the Tinicum Arts Festival, which is on the 4th of July in the book.

But here it’s after the 4th of July, and this is a festival I’ve gone to with my husband for years, and it’s really lovely and very beautiful. And I remember I grew up going to these things with my parents and I remember being a gay kid and thinking, Oh, I love this so much. One day I’ll have to leave it one day.

There won’t be a place for me here. And I wanted it. Like I wanted it to go to like County fairs and things, but I knew, I felt that if I wanted to be gay and be in the world and find love and have a career, it couldn’t happen here because I was gay and I’m probably for other reasons. And that was, I’ve always, always missed that part of my life. So when I was able to return and in that book, the character does return and looks at the small town and thinks maybe things have changed. Like maybe the frame for what we think of as a small town has shifted just a little bit. That’s what I think about with “Bridgerton” and these changes, like the places where we were, I thought I was excluded maybe there’s a place again. I’m not sure, but I wanted to write about the reconciliation of that, of like what it means to return to that in ways that you never thought you could growing up.

Jeff: And that’s really effective with Vince in the Hideaway Inn because there’s not just his journey to finding his happily ever with Tack, but it’s really becoming more himself and coming and finding the happily ever after with the town again, essentially.

Philip: And finding a way back to that and also finding, I like to write about gay characters who struggle with finding their place in the world and finding a place with themselves. Danny has this also he’s, I don’t know if I can say this because I wrote it, but I think he’s funny so, when he talks about being funny as a way of protecting himself from the world, but also how, when you do that for a long time in your life, it no longer becomes a choice. It’s just how you are in the world. And I want to write about characters you sort of begin to question that like, is this how I am, because I want to be this way, or is this how I’ve been in the world because I’m protecting myself and Vince in the hideaway and is really struggling with that.

Jeff: And it’s good to see these types of stories, right? Because representation matters. Of course, as we’ve already talked about a little bit, but projecting these things for other people to see either to see themselves or someone who they may know or aspects of family, they may see in these books and seeing that diversity across romance now is so incredible.

Philip: Right. So much of that is changing. And also, there’s diversity and there’s own voices. And those are paths in the woods that sometime diverge and sometimes don’t, and sometimes they are helping each other and sometimes they’re going in opposite directions it seems, but they are, they are sisters and we’re still navigating and figuring that out, but I really wanted to write stories about authentic gay male experiences that I know of. So in the Beautiful Things Shoppe, Prescott who’s the 19th century connoisseur talks about expertise and how expertise is something that gave him power and made him feel safe. I have a beloved friend who’s also a first reader I had at one point she was reading some of the romances and said, Oh, all your characters want the same thing. They always want to be safe. And I was like, Oh yeah, that’s a thing for like, as a gay guy growing up, like, that’s a big thing because if you’re not safe, you don’t feel like you can do the next thing. So my characters are always finding ways to be safe. For me, that’s an authentic part of coming into my own.

Jeff: And the feeling the need to be safe. I think we see that through so many aspects of society these days, the need to be safe and also to be seen.

Philip: Yeah. And the tension between being safe and being seen. And that’s what happens to these books. For me as a child, being safe, meant not being seen or control in how I was seen by being seen as funny or something, but being, so then you move to being an adult and being seen and being safe at the same time is sort of a goal. And sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t.

Jeff: Exactly. Yeah. We’ve got a question from one of our viewers. Can you talk about Jules in the Hideaway Inn because they loved them so much.

Philip: Oh, Jules is the child of Tack in that book and a child who is figuring out who they are, and this book has a lot to do with ideas of masculinity and gender, what it means. When I wrote the Hideaway Inn I really thought of it as a book that’s about what it means to be a man and to be in love.

And where our notions of that come from, how do we know what it is to be a man? And how do gay men know what it is to be a man, because we often we live in a culture of gay men that can be hyper-sexualized, that can be hyper masculinized and finding our way through that is hard. And Jules is a child who is figuring out their gender identity but doing it on their own terms without any of the hang-ups that the adult characters have.

And I wanted to write a child that sort of balances the struggle of the others. And I wanted Vince to see that. Once my husband and I worked at university and lived in a dorm once we asked this kid who was gay and was telling us about his major. And we’re like, Oh, what are you going to do?

And he was like, Oh, I’m going to be a surgeon. And afterwards we went home and we were like, did that strike you as like really interesting? And we were both like, yeah, because when we were gay, the idea of being a surgeon would have meant like a very, sort of a much more challenging path in that it was a very male dominated field and being gay and that would have been an issue.

It just would have been like, we went in, like he works in the arts. I worked in the arts. We kind of found these fields where we’re very happy, but I was so struck by this a generation that does that. And that’s where, and there are others, in my students have always inspired me. Especially because I think, wow, that must be such an interesting generation to be in. And so Jules, was really inspired by that. I don’t know if braveness is the right word, but that freedom, that freedom and that’s who Jules is.

Jeff: I absolutely adored Jules also in that book, just a ray of light and sunshine every time you saw them.

Philip: Yeah. I wanted them to be super fun.

Jeff: What is a book you’ve read recently that you would recommend

Philip: I read two great books. “As Far As You’ll Take Me.” Do you know this book?

Jeff: I don’t know that book.

Philip: Phil Stamper. I love that it’s about gay kid who goes to London and it deals with music. I know nothing about music. Like I can’t hear any notes. I can’t sing or really play anything, but this book is about being in a very sort of high-level orchestra and about his relationships and romances.

And I just read the Aiden series and Blake Allwood’s books that are really, really great. So I love all of those. Oh, and Kathy Lee Gifford has a new memoir, which I also loved, but that’s different.

Jeff: That’s a relevant book that you can share that you’ve enjoyed recently.

Philip: I grew up watching Kathy Lee on TV. I’m sorry. I’m not going to be sorry for still be interested in her. So yes.

Jeff: As we wrap up here, how can people keep up with you online?

Philip: Well, I’m mostly on Instagram at Philip William Stover, and I post lots of pictures of my dog and lots of pictures of Bucks County, because that’s where I am. All the time now. And we take a long hike every morning with the dog and I snapped photos there. And I also share upcoming things about my books.

Wrap Up

Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the author interview for yourself, simply head over to the shownotes page for this episode at And don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

Jeff: And thanks to Philip and the Doylestown Bookshop for inviting me to take part in that event. In the show notes, you’ll find links so that if you want Phillip’s books in paperback you can pick them up from Doylestown Books. In addition, Doylestown Books is one of the bookstores that you could support if you use for audiobooks. We’ll have links so you can get the audiobooks from and support DoylestownBbooks at the same time.

And, of course, you could also take advantage of the special offer we have with where listeners to the Big Gay Fiction Podcast can get a two month audio book membership for the price of one. You can get the details for that by going to

Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now coming up on Monday and episode 294, we’re going to have a show full of reviews of what Jeff and I have been reading recently.

Jeff: So many books. We have really been on a book binge it feels like the last few weeks. So we’ve got a lot of stuff to talk about.

Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, please stay strong, be safe and above all else. Keep turning those pages and keep reading.