Jeff & Will kick off Pride 2023 with authors Byron Lane and Steven Rowley. Byron’s Big Gay Wedding looks at a wedding in a small Southern town. Steven’s The Celebrants features a group of college friends who reunite every few years and now have to face a secret one of them is harboring. In addition to the books, Byron and Steven talk about being a creative couple, and what it’s like to release books at the same time. They also have book recommendations, and share what Pride means to them.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: The Podcast on Apple Podcast | Spotify | Amazon Music
- Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill by Lee Wind
- Episode 194 – “Five Dollar Bill,” Queer History and YA Lit with Lee Wind on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Love is All Anthology Volume 6 by various authors
- Unity Coalition website
- Out Memphis website
- Lucie’s Place website
- Bring Crime Out of the Closet website
- Byron Lane & Steven Rowley Interview
- Byron Lane website | Twitter | Instagram
- Steven Rowley website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Big Gay Wedding by Byron Lane
- The Celebrants by Steven Rowley
- The Thurber Prize for American Humor: Steven Rowley
- The Guncle by Steven Rowley
- A Star is Bored by Byron Lane
- Father of the Bride (Steve Martin film) on Amazon Prime Video
- Father of the Bride (Spencer Tracy film) on Amazon Prime Video
- The Big Chill on Amazon Prime Video
- August: Osage County on Amazon Prime Video
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Amazon Prime Video
- Noah Galvin on Audible | Libro.fm
- Bros on Amazon Prime Video
- Fire Island on Hulu
- The Old Place by Bobby Finger
- Let’s Not Do That Again by Grant Ginder
- The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
- The Male Gazed: On Hunks, Heartthrobs, and What Pop Culture Taught Me About (Desiring) Men by Manuel Betancourt
- Hi Honey, I’m Homo: Sitcoms, Specials, and the Queering of American Culture by Matt Baume
- Matt Baume YouTube channel
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we kick off our Pride Month programming with husbands and authors, Steven Rowley and Byron Lane, who are here to talk about their brand new books.
Will: Welcome to episode 424 of the Big gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Will and with me, as always, is my co-host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, Rainbow Romance Reader. It is great to have you here with us as the super summer bonus episodes continue.
As always, this podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, including a monthly bonus episode that you’ll find nowhere else and the opportunity to ask questions to our guests, just like Fiona does in this very episode, go to patreon.com/BigGayFictionPodcast.
Will: There’s so much great stuff happening right now as we launch into Pride 2023. We talk about all the great books that are coming out this month, every Friday in our podcast newsletter. But in addition to that, we’ve got even more great news to share.
Jeff: Yeah, there’s a few things that we do wanna highlight.
Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: The Podcast
First up, one of our favorite YA books, “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill” by Lee wind is now a podcast. Lee joined us back in episode 194 in 2019, and boy does it not feel like it was that long ago, to talk about this book that focuses on a young man who causes a major backlash in his hometown when he brings to light the real history and evidence that indicates that Abe Lincoln was queer and in love with a man.
Lee has turned the audio book, which is narrated by the amazing Michael Crouch, into a podcast and every Thursday in June he’s gonna be dropping multiple chapters of the book. Now Lee’s releasing it in this way for free, not only to celebrate Pride month, but also as a response to the banning of queer books, history, and information across the US.
By making the book free and available through the podcast platforms, it’s available to any young person who wants to hear it, regardless of where they live or if it’s available in their libraries.
As Lee said when he announced this podcast release quote, “If I’d found out that Abraham Lincoln was in love with another man back when I was 13 or 15, it would’ve changed my whole life. Growing up gay and closeted, the idea that important people in history were also guys who like-liked other guys, might have helped me love myself a little bit more. It certainly would’ve given me hope. While I don’t have a time machine to go back and give my books to myself when I most needed them, I could pay it forward. ‘Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: The Podcast’ is a way to empower the young people who need this today.”
“Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: The Podcast” is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. We love so much that Lee is putting this great book out there for young people, and we hope it finds its way to them during Pride Month or any month thereafter. If you could help spread the word about this, we certainly hope that you’ll do so.
Love is All Anthology Volume 6
Also, just released is volume six of the “Love is All” anthology. It is so great to see this new edition out there and oh, there are some terrific authors included this year. You’ve got BL Maxwell, you’ve got a collaboration between Chantal Mer and Susan Scott Shelley. There’s Connor Peterson, Gabbi Gray, Nic Starr, Sean Michael, V.L. Locey and RJ Scott write together. You’ve got Lee Blair, Xio Axelrod, and Piper Malone.
This anthology is benefiting three organizations this year. The Unity Coalition is a Latinx and indigenous organization in Florida that organizes and supports several LGBTQ+ arts, leadership, and awareness programs across the state. Out Memphis offers direct aid and support programs to queer and trans people in Tennessee. The organization also runs the Metamorphosis Project, which is a program that provides emergency support and transitional housing to unhoused LGBTQ+ youth. And then there’s Lucie’s Place, which is named for Lucie Marie Hamilton, a young trans woman who died in 2009. This is a nonprofit in Arkansas that provides services to unhoused LGBTQ+ young adults.
Ah, so many great organizations served there. “Love is All” is available for a very limited time anywhere you buy eBooks so make sure to grab up your copy ASAP.
Bring Crime Out of the Closet
And lastly, this is something that both celebrates Pride as well as National Crime Reading Month, which honestly I didn’t know it was a thing, but it’s kind of cool that it is. Authors Charlie Cochran, Clare London, and Fiona Glass have brought together a group to celebrate the month with “Bring Crime Out of the Closet,” a celebration and exploration of LGBTQ+ characters in crime fiction over the years.
Now, during the month, many authors are gonna share some of their favorite reads and discuss how they see the role of LGBTQ+ characters in the genre today. It’s a great lineup of authors throughout the month, including some who’ve been guests on this very show in the past, including CS Poe, Gregory Ashe, and Hank Edwards. You can find out more and read the posts from the contributors at BringCrimeOutOfTheCloset.WordPress.com.
And of course, we’ll have links to all of these things in the show notes as well.
Will: Well, all of that is completely amazing. What do you say we keep the amazing Pride ball rolling and smoothly introduce this week’s guests.
Jeff: Absolutely. We couldn’t really think of a better way to kick off Pride month than to have husbands and authors Steven Rowley and Byron Lane join us. Steven’s been here before, two years ago, when we talked about “The Guncle.” This time out, he’s talking about his latest, “The Celebrants,” which focuses on a queer group of college friends and the reunions that they have. It’s got major, “Big Chill” vibes, and it’s been everywhere in the news lately. It’s been featured on Amazon Billboards in New York. It has become a read of Jenna Hager’s from “The Today Show.” It’s really great to see this getting so much attention.
Byron’s also just released “Big Gay Wedding,” which centers on a gay wedding happening in a small southern town. As you’ll hear in the interview, it’s kind of a mashup of “Father of the Bride,” “Steel Magnolias,” and maybe a dash or two of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “To Wong Foo.” Besides the books, we’re gonna find out from them about being a creative couple who is releasing books at the very same time. They’ve also got book recs, and we’ll find out what pride means to them in 2023.
Byron Lane & Steven Rowley Interview
Jeff: Steven and Byron, welcome to the podcast. It’s wonderful to have you here to kick off Pride Month.
Steven: Thank you so much for having us.
Byron: We’re honored.
Jeff: And Steven, before we get too far into this, I gotta give you major congratulations. Just a few days ago, you were named the winner of the 22nd Thurber Prize for American Humor. You’re up in company with like Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, David Sedaris. That’s amazing.
Steven: Yeah. I feel a lot of pressure to be funny now, so I’ll try, but we’ll see. No, I’m still on cloud nine from… I’m sure it will sink in one day, I’m not sure today it’s quite yet that day. But it really is a real honor to have a book like “The Guncle,” which was my last book, be up for a prize like that. I sort of think I swindled the Thurber committee a little bit, and that it’s really a book about grief, but hopefully it’s also very, very funny. And it was truly an honor to be in Columbus, Ohio this weekend where the Thurber House is, and to accept that award. So, I’m just thrilled.
Jeff: Yeah. It made me so happy to see that on Twitter. It’s like, look at that. That’s amazing. It’s like two years later, the book is still gathering all this kind of…
Steven: Oh, yes. We talked about it when the book first came on, and that’s two years ago. And it’s the little book that could, it just keeps going and going and going. So, there was something about it that has touched readers, and I’m so grateful for that.
Jeff: Absolutely. And Byron, you’ve got your own book now coming out too. In fact, you’ve both got books coming out on the same day.
Byron: It’s so crazy. But it’s also really exciting. I mean, sure, there’s some competition going on in here, but I’m glad I get to do some joint events with Steven and see what it’s like out there. You know my first book, “A Star is Bored,” came out during COVID, so no one was doing any events. So, this is the first time with “Big Gay Wedding” that I get to kind of hit the road and see what all the fuss is about.
Jeff: Is there a big travel schedule kind of on deck for you two like going out on tour and whatnot?
Steven: We’re doing a bunch of events together, which I think will be… Well, ask us again at the end of this podcast recording. We’ll see how our double act sort of goes. But we’re the sort of like Roxie and Velma from “Chicago.” We’ll see.
Jeff: maybe get a song in dance number later in the…
Steven: Yeah. But it’s all just coincidence. We have different agents, different publishers, we wrote the books at different times. It’s just the stars aligned that somehow they are coming out on the same day. So, we’ve decided to lean into it, and have a little fun. The alternative is that we break up and never talk again. So that doesn’t seem…
Jeff: No. Happily ever afters, that’s what we’re about. So, it was just, like, coincidence that the publishers dropped them on that same day. Because I love seeing on Amazon, when you’re looking at the hardback, it’s like, buy these two things together.
Byron: That’s, like, the best compliment in the world when people can say that. I mean, of course, I love this guy, so I’m in that way a fan of his work. But also just as a reader, like, Steven’s work touches on heart and humor in a way that I aspire to, and hope mine does too. So, it’s not really like we’re writing two wildly different things. We’re not like one a sci-fi guy, and one a…
Steven: Yeah. Speculative nonfiction or something, you know, crazy. But yeah, I guess that’s a, you know, who else has that endorsement of their marriage a little bit. If you like this one, you’ll like this one. If even the algorithms think we’re well paired, then I think we’re doing okay.
Jeff: There’s some kind of, like, sticker or something you should get now from Amazon that designates you as that kind of couple from now more, Amazon recommends us.
Byron: Pairs well together.
Jeff: So, Byron, I’m gonna start with you. Because I had to find somewhere to do this, and your book comes first alphabetically.
Byron: That’s all right, I’ll take it.
Jeff: Please tell everybody about “Big Gay Wedding.”
Byron: “Big Gay Wedding.” So, “Big Gay Wedding” is a modern take on that classic film with Steve Martin, “Father of the Bride.”
Steven: The classic one is Spencer Tracy….
Byron: Well, I’m young. I’m young. So…
Steven: See, I’m old. So, that’s my “Father of the Bride,” right?
Byron: That’s right.
Steven: You’re Steve Martin.
Byron: That’s right. But instead of “Father of the Bride,” it’s a mother, and it’s a couple of gay grooms. And so it’s a conservative mom. She runs a rescue ranch in a small town in Louisiana, a ranch for misfit animals. And her son Barnett is gay and comes home with this big news. He wants to get gay-married there on their farm. So it serves up a lot of old wounds, and it forces the mom to sort of face her own coming out as loving and supporting her gay son.
Jeff: You mentioned “Father of the Bride” which I was certainly thinking about a little bit. But it’s also like there’s a little bit of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” lurking around in there, with, like, these people descending on a town. And then there’s a little bit of “Steel Magnolias” in there because of where you are. It’s like you just took everything, and kind of squished it all together in this nice package.
Steven: Yeah. You found the big in “Big Gay Wedding.” Yeah.
Byron: That’s right. So, “A Star is Bored” was very personal. It really was a story that was inspired by real life. And “Big Gay Wedding” took a little bit of a turn in that I’m not mirroring my life as much.
Steven: We, in fact, had a very little gay wedding.
Byron: We had a little gay wedding because it was COVID, I just had chemo for testicular cancer. So, we were trying to keep the world away a little bit. And in this book, it’s fun to play around with people who I’ve known in my life from the South. So, everyone from relatives, to servers at restaurants. There is this spirit down there, and I hope that I captured some of that in “Big Gay Wedding.”
Jeff: Is this the wedding you would’ve wanted to have had given the opportunity?
Steven: Wait, I’m gonna close my ears, and then you can answer honestly.
Byron: What’s really weird, I never had a dream about having a wedding at all. And part of that was just gay marriage wasn’t a thing. And so for me, my wedding with Steven was really perfect. It was here in Palm Springs, in a city that we love, and a house that hadn’t been touched since the ’60s. So, it was really old and cool and classic, mid-century modern stuff. And so I feel like I had a great wedding. And for the book, I hope I gave the characters Barnett and Ezra their perfect big gay wedding. And that was what was really important for me there.
Jeff: Hearing about the mid-century modern house, it makes me think of the house from “The Guncle.” That’s the first thing that popped into my head.
Steven: Yeah. It’s not totally dissimilar to how I might have pictured Patrick’s house, but this is, yeah, maybe Patrick’s house on steroids.
Jeff: Oh, nice. I do love how you brought all these people together. Like, it’s married on a farm. It’s a little Hallmark movie kind of vibe with the smaller town, very gay. What was, like, your process for what you jammed into the days leading up to the wedding for Barnett and Ezra to, like, do in this town?
Byron: Well, I tried to really tap into what it was like for Mike coming out in the South, and that was this sort of southern speak of not speaking. So, it’s like, how’s things, instead of asking, like, “How’s your boyfriend?” Or, “Are you bringing your little friend?” Instead of a parent saying, “Oh, are you bringing your partner?” And so there were all these sort of things that were not really discussed. And so in these modern times, I think it’s a little more difficult, and I think maybe it should be for parents to get away with that. And so I tried to craft a story around that where some of those barriers are broken.
Steven: Yes. Hold some feet to the fire.
Byron: That’s right. Let’s get talking.
Steven: Yeah. And it’s also great to see queer stories that take place outside of New York, L.A., San Francisco, or even Palm Springs.
Jeff: Yeah, I really like that it took it and put it in the South, especially the environment we find in the South now. I think it’s important to start those conversations and to expand everybody’s idea with what’s happening down there. Yeah, I hope there’s good conversations, especially in places like Texas.
Steven: Yeah. I can say like just in the climate, even in the two years since “The Guncle” came out, it’s scary how quickly things are backsliding. And so there was a really innocent book about a gay uncle who gets custody of his niece and nephew. I never got pushback from that in the first year it was out, and then along comes Ron DeSantis, and the Don’t Say Gay bill. And suddenly, I’m attacked left and right on Twitter, because they assume that any gay person with custody of children is a deviant of some kind. And it’s just… You know, to be able to see that happening in real-time, like to go one full year of the book being out, and never get any pushback like that, and now coordinated attacks like that, it’s really frightening.
And the same with marriage equality. We thought that was the law of the land, but we can no longer take anything for granted. And we’re gonna have to fight for every right that we have.
Jeff: Yeah. So, it’s great. I mean, I love having books like this out there showing the world that we want, but also having the discussions to make sure we keep the world that we want too.
Steven: We should pause here and say these books are wildly funny. Hope nobody’s so… I know that we’re getting really serious here, but they’re a lot of fun too.
Jeff: Well, you just won the humor award, so yours have to be funny now.
Steven: Right? Knock knock.
Byron: You’re under obligation.
Jeff: There’s a particular line in “Big Gay Wedding” that struck me. And I really love the quotes you have from the “Undisputed Guide to Respectable Southern Nuptials.” It was just like, I grew up in Alabama so, so many of them resonated for me as being that kind of thing. But the line that’s here that opens part six is, “May anything outside of your love be damned.” I really found that a powerful thing to hold onto that to me, essentially says no matter what happens, your love is what matters, and everything else just be damned. How was it for you writing those things that frame each section? Because this is not a real book.
Byron: Yes. It’s not a real book, but I’ll tell you, I have had people ask me, like, “Where did you find these quotes?” And I’m like, “Outta my brain.” Because I did try to capture some spirit of, like, old school thought of how marriage was viewed back in the day, where just man and a woman, where the lady didn’t have rights basically. And so to contrast that with now these modern times and this modern “Big Gay Wedding”. So, that’s really where they came from. And so each of them sort of… It’s a little bit of a way to frame the story that’s about to unfold.
Steven: I’m gonna remember that though next time. It’s like, did you take out the trash? No, that is outside of our love. Be damned.
Byron: Be damned.
Steven: Be damned.
Byron: That’s right.
Jeff: This one was interesting too. Because in some ways I found this particular line to be progressive for the time that this book is supposed to have come from, which was sometime in the 1800s, if I’m remembering right.
Byron: Yes. Well, I think the…
Steven: The book within the book.
Byron: The book within the book. I think what I was really going for for those things are, you know, another thing with these books like that, and sometimes self-help books in general is a sense of I know everything, I know what’s best, I know what things will be like forever. And we know that that’s not always the case. People are not always… Things change, our understanding of society, and all that evolves and grows. And so, to say everything outside of your love be damned, I can see that both as a weapon, and a source of comfort for people. And so, I’m glad that it struck you in a powerful way, because I think that in the past, perhaps in the fictional world where that book came out, it was used as a weapon and used to keep people apart, and families apart. But to look at it in a different light, that it’s something beautiful is also it’s own source of strength.
Jeff: Yeah. And that’s really where I took it. Because especially when you consider found family in gay relationships, in some cases, you might be pushing your biological family away, or even society dumping all that stuff on you. So, it’s interesting that you put that other spin on it too where, how it might have been viewed in the 1800s as well. So, now I wanna go back and reread all of those things, and think about it in the two ways.
Byron: Yes. Yes.
Jeff: So, Steven, let’s talk about your book a little bit.
Steven: Here I am.
Byron: I’ve got a copy.
Steven: Oh, thank you. My agent here has a copy to hand.
Jeff: You’re looking at a different couple of movies that you’ve brought together here and mashed together with “The Celebrants.” Tell us about this story.
Steven: Yeah, so “The Celebrants” was inspired by having re-watched “The Big Chill” early when we were sheltering at home in those early days of COVID. We were sort of going back and looking for old movies for comfort. And it was a movie I remember loving, but it’s very much about middle-aged, and what the back half of our lives are gonna look like, and a group of college friends coming back together and stressed about getting older. And all of them in the movie are 35, 35 years old. The actors are 35, the characters are 35. And I thought, oh, hell no, like, we’re not calling that middle-aged anymore.
So, all of our characters are a little bit older. But it is a story of a group of college friends who make a pack to reunite at difficult moments in their life. And when we talk about found family, this is a group that for better or for worse is there for each other again and again.
Jeff: As you were putting this together, what kinda led you to the array of characters that you did bring together in this group?
Steven: Yeah. I think from the start, there is a same-name, same-sex couple, the Jordans, they’re both named Jordan, which I just got an endless kick out of. Because that was always a fear of mine growing up, that I would meet another Steven, and they’d be like, “Oh, should we invite the Stevens?” And they’ll be like, “Oh, God, not, you know, no Steves.” So, that was a lot of fun to deal with. Beyond that, I have my own group of college friends, there’s some inspiration, there’s no one-to-one parallel there. But it’s fun to take little pieces of people you know and put them together in a centrifuge and come up with a completely new and whole character. I think is a lot of fun.
Jeff: Were any of these people more difficult to write than the others? Because you’ve got a big cast here and alternating points of view popping all over the place.
Steven: Yeah, that was both a challenge and a freedom in a way. So, my first two books were written in the first person, so they, you know, obviously stayed tight to one character. Even “The Guncle” was written in the third person close. So, we stayed with Patrick’s perspective through the whole book. And it’s not that this is an omnipotent point of view, but we do switch. There is a section for each character where we kind of focus on each one a little bit more. I had so much fun in writing that. Just when I thought, like, I’d exhausted one character, I got to jump into the shoes of another. And that is just, it was juice as a writer, it was fresh energy. And I think the book benefits from that too. There’s a fresh energy that comes in each time we switch characters.
Jeff: Did a similar kind of energy burst happen as you kept moving the timeline too? Because there’s all this past, and present, and moving around that way as well?
Steven: Yeah. Playing with their reunions, which happened throughout different dates. So, I had the luxury of looking at the calendar and picking, and, okay, what was happening in the world at this time? I sort of purposely steered clear of COVID just because… The book in itself overall, you know, the message is very much about telling the people you love what they mean to you while you still can. It’s a reaction to so much that we’ve lost over the past couple years. And if we haven’t lost a person in our life, we’re certainly mourning togetherness, or time that has sort of slipped away.
So, the whole book is sort of a reaction to COVID. So, I didn’t specifically wanna dive into those years per se, but 2016 is one of those years that was a rough one. And, even in the present, even in 2023, it sort of had to sort of guess ahead as I was writing this last year. Okay, hopefully, no world event comes crashing down that makes this feel false. So, it’s a kind of a high-wire act.
Jeff: Looking at the time, like you talked about, especially riding into the future a little bit with as chaotic as things are, that you pulled it off without running into that is really kind of a blessing.
Steven: Well, let’s see. There’s a few weeks left until the book comes out. We’ll see what happens.
Jeff: Well, at least we know right here, as we’re talking at the start of May, it’s all good in the moment. Let’s talk about Jordan and Jordy a little bit. I can’t imagine, like, putting my writer hat on for a second, trying to balance characters who have the same name even between Jordan and Jordy because they sound kind of alike, they start with the same consonants, they are the same name. Did that trip you up at all, or did everything kind of work itself out in the end in terms of trying to write them?
Steven: Yeah. Well, when I decided I wanted to use that as kind of a trope, my first job and my commitment is to the reader is to make sure that I can orient them, that they aren’t confused. And I think maybe that there might be some slight confusion in the first chapter until you get a sense of who these people are. But as you said, they’re Jordan and Jordy, one has a nickname. And then to sort of give the characters that in real life, and what happens when someone is forced to give up their full name in favor of a nickname, you know, because that’s what the group decided, and what that does to you emotionally.
Jeff: And that’s an interesting way to look at it too, because nicknames, especially if you maybe don’t want it, can certainly be difficult.
Steven: Well, especially from our… You know, like, if you were a kid, and you were called Bobby, but, you know, as an adult you don’t feel like a Bobby anymore, you’re a Robert but, you know, no, there are certain people in your life who are always gonna know you and want you to be Bobby. And sometimes it’s difficult to become an adult, and these are college friends who are just starting their lives. So, to still be assigned these sort of roles that they had when they were young, sometimes it doesn’t quite fit.
Jeff: I love that in the acknowledgments, you acknowledged David and David for taking all of your questions about being a same-name couple. How helpful were they with this?
Steven: Oh, very. I grilled them for like an hour to, like, “Let me know, I wanna know every joke, I wanna know every challenge, I wanna know every mix-up, I wanna know even within your families, how are you addressed?” So, that was the right early curiosity, I sort of wanted to get deep down. But that’s the fun kind of research. Because that’s research you can do over a cocktail or three because that’s when the really good stories come up.
Jeff: Yeah. You’re not just trapped behind Google or something like that, or reading some old history book, or something.
Jeff: I always love to ask people what their favorite scenes are. We’re gonna mix it up a little bit this time.
Steven: Uh-oh, lightning round.
Jeff: So, Steven, what’s your favorite scene in “Big Gay Wedding”?
Steven: Oh, goodness. Okay. Well, no one has read it yet, so I’m gonna try to be slightly vague, but there are a couple of family dinner scenes, one in particular. And I know from experience… First of all, I love a big family dinner scene, like, I can think that’s where all the chaos, and all the good sort of meat happens in a story sometimes is around the dinner table.
Steven: No pun intended, I know. From “August: Osage County” to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” there’s chaos at the dinner table always. And Byron writes some exquisitely, and I know from experience how difficult they are to pull off when you’re writing that many characters in one scene. And also, how rewarding it is when you do it right, and you did it right. So, look for those big family dinner scenes.
Byron: Thank you, baby.
Jeff: Reading a scene like that just makes me think good thoughts for your audiobook narrators. There’s so many people in one spot. All those voices coming together.
Byron: My narrator is actor Noah Galvin, who people know from television and Broadway, and all that stuff, so it’s gonna be great. He’s so great.
Jeff: Yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing him do it. Because I’ve heard him do other audiobooks, and I really like how he tends to perform the reads. So, yeah, I think I’m gonna pick your book up again to kind of take it in at a more leisurely pace, and hear him do all the Southern too. Like, I’ve not heard him take on Southern Byron. What about favorite scene in “The Celebrants”?
Steven: Do you need to read it?
Byron: I need to hurry and kind of do the… But, skydiving. There’s a skydiving scene in here that is the funniest I think Steven has ever written funny scene, and maybe the funniest scene I’ve ever read is really… I don’t wanna give anything away.
Steven: Don’t overshoot.
Byron: I won’t give it away. But I think it’s really brilliant, and it brings out all the feels, as the kids say.
Jeff: So, now people know what, as they’re reading, just to look out for as they’re going.
Steven: Now we should get together and write a skydiving dinner scene.
Byron: Oh, brilliant. This is the Thurber Award Winner. I love that.
Steven: We’ll see.
Jeff: I can’t even imagine how that would actually look, but if you write that, please let me know because I’d love to read.
Steven: I’d put it like a long noodle unless, like, flapping in the wind.
Byron: That’s great.
Jeff: What does it look like for you two to be creative husbands? I mean, do you go away to your own corners to do the writing? Is there like consulting, “I’m stuck here, help me out?” What does this look like?
Steven: Are you in the bushes outside our house? Like, how do you know? Because that’s pretty much it.
Byron: There are actual corners. Yeah, almost the farthest apart from each other, but…
Steven: And still be in the same house.
Byron: That’s right. So, it’s quiet here. So, really, we kind of do our own thing, and then we meet in the middle for lunch. And then again in the evening to take Raindrop and Shirley for their walk adventure. And for sure, I lean on Steve a lot. I mean, he’s had so many brilliant works of art published, and I can go to him and say, “Is this how this happens?” First of all, just the process of publishing, but also…
Steven: I’m good with that.
Byron: Yeah. And then also with the writing, “Hey, what do you think about this as a chapter or a midpoint? Should I expand on this?” And so, he’s a husband and a resource.
Steven: But that’s the challenge of it too. If Byron’s coming to me with something he’s just written, is he asking me to look at it as a husband, and just offer support and the motivation to continue, or is he looking for a critique from another writer? And so, sometimes wearing two hats can be challenging, but I think we do it well. And since I don’t have a lot of hair on top, I should wear as many hats as I can in the Palm Springs sun.
Jeff: In terms of the hats, like, Byron, do you come to him and say, I need you to be my husband now, or I need you to be Steven the author now?
Steven: I think I feel more intuitive than that, which doesn’t mean we always get it right, but I think it’s more intuitive.
Byron: I think for both of us, for anyone, married, not married, friends, editor, giving notes is truly an art form. It is what’s best for where the writer is in their life, in their career, in the process of this book. Speaking of hats, it takes, like, an empathy hat, it takes a critical hat, sometimes it’s a tough love hat.
Steven: Yeah. And receiving notes likewise can be just as difficult. It’s almost like the stages of grief. The first one is outrage, like, “Absolutely not. You don’t understand this at all, you’re a moron.” And then it filters down through like two days later…
Byron: He’s never said that to me. I’ve never said that to him.
Steven: Two days later you’re, like, more open to hearing it, and then a few days after that you’re like, “Oh, that’s a really great note.” Because it’s just like you have to have time to grief what you were trying to do almost until you’re open to being like, “Okay, yeah, this person is actually trying to help me make it better.”
Byron: Or you see maybe what they were trying to say, and sometimes…
Steven: Yeah, it wasn’t articulated as clearly as you think it was.
Byron: But in general, I just like to hear all of it and if I need to pass it through a filter in my mind later, fine. But I do like to just get to be honest truth.
Steven: Also, the biggest part about receiving notes is deciding which ones to use and which ones to ignore. And that’s true for us too, you know, we can always ignore each other’s notes too, but we’re there if we need each other.
Byron: I also like to ignore him when it comes time to do chores. I don’t wanna vacuum, I don’t wanna run the dishwasher. Marriage.
Jeff: Have you thought about collaborating on anything besides, like, the skydiving dinner scene that we just talked about?
Byron: I don’t think it’s elevated itself to actually happening, but I know we’ve joked about it. And so, we kicked it around a little bit.
Steven: Yeah, we’ll see. I mean, I never say never. Right now, I think things are going well for us. We’re excited about the projects we have going on. But, we kind of do the same thing. And I think our senses of humor are similar too. And if you like my work, you will like Byron’s work, and vice versa hopefully is true as well. So, look out, who knows?
Jeff: I can only imagine what you two would come up with together because of those senses of humor. You both seem to like big casts a lot too. So, it would just be an interesting piece together at some point. A few years down the line, we get to have you back and talk about a collaboration.
Steven: Talk about our 1,000-page collaboration, which is, yeah.
Jeff: The 16-hour audiobook.
Steven: Yeah. Get ready, Noah.
Jeff: Since this is going out in Pride Month, I’m curious to know what pride means to you both sitting here in 2023.
Byron: Wow. Well, the thing that I come back to is something that I actually heard recently that pride is the opposite of shame. And when I think about my pride in my LGBTQ community, I really do think of it in those terms. Like, I have nothing to be ashamed of anymore. And when I was younger, I did feel shame about being gay, growing up in the South, and having family that wasn’t exactly supportive, that kind of thing. And now I look at it and I’m like, “For what?” So, there’s really no shame left. And I’m proud of this community. I’m proud to be gay, and if “Big Gay Wedding” can play some small part in people having that word gay on a bookshelf, two guys holding hands on a cover, and a story about unconditional love, not just of two men, but family, a mother who loves her son, then I’m all for it. That’s where my head is in Pride.
Steven: Yeah. And I was gonna say, I recently turned 50, although I have another birthday coming up this week, so I’m stretching the definition of recently. But, you know, I was thinking too, as a young gay man coming out in the very early 1990s, that I thought life would be rather short and sad, and lonely to be quite honest. And if anything, the opposite has been true. And life is full of joy, and community, and is by comparison to what I feared relatively long. Although, it’s starting to go by faster and faster. But I really reflect on that, and I feel important not only to tell these stories but to be happy, and to find joy in life because there’s so many men my age, and just a little bit older who would, I’m sure kill to be here at this time, whose lives were cut tragically short, and their voice silenced, and I wish they could be here to see all the changes. And yes, some of the fights are the same and just as tedious as always, but there’s been real progress even if it’s slow and painful, there is progress and that is something to be proud of.
Jeff: Absolutely. Well said to you both. Thank you for sharing that. I do have a question for Steven that comes from one of our Patreon community members. Fiona’s a huge fan of “The Guncle.” She’s read it, she’s listened to it. Is there anything that you could share about its movie adaptation?
Steven: Yeah. I hope to have… Sadly, I don’t want to be coy. There are things that I’m just frankly not allowed to announce yet, but things are moving along. You know, we’re on a writer’s strike at the moment as we record this. And so, I don’t know how that will slow things down or not, but I would love to see the movie in production by this fall. We have a script, we have a director, Jason Moore, who’s wonderful, who directed the first “Pitch Perfect” movie, and most recently “Shotgun Wedding” with J.Lo, and Josh Duhamel, and Jennifer Coolidge, who’s great obviously. And we do have an actor attached, I can’t say who it is yet. So, full steam ahead hopefully this fall, and I’ll announce more in detail as soon as I can.
Byron: Tell Fiona it’d be worth the wait. It’s gonna be worth the wait.
Jeff: I guess Fiona was wondering who you might have in mind for the lead, but since you’ve got a cast, it’s kind of an invalid question. So, now we’ll just have to wait and see.
Steven: I love to hear who readers pictured, and I’m always excited to hear that. And it’s an interesting and evolving conversation too about the importance of out gay actors playing gay roles. And I don’t know that I have a hard and fast opinion about that, but it was something that was very important to me for this role particularly. I think back to Maria from “The Sound of Music.” Mary Poppins had actual magic, but Patrick’s magic so much that he has that, his empathy, and his humor, and his politics, and his pop cultural references all stemming from his experience as an out gay person. So, I think it’s really important to have a gay actor take on this role.
Jeff: So, now I’m gonna delightfully put my thinking cap on and be like…
Steven: For now, it narrows down the list. We’ll see. Unless they’re willing to come out for this role. We’ll see.
Jeff: Because it’s been certainly wonderful to see movies like “Bros” and “Fire Island” and some of those other ones and I can’t say what it is because actors act. But there’s something about those two movies that in particular where it’s like you know that these men are out, and it somehow does translate to the screen.
Steven: Yeah, yeah. “Bros” in particular, even casting the straight roles with gay actors was really fun to watch. I take great pride in “The Guncle” being a big studio, family comedy fronted by a queer lead. And that’s something that shouldn’t feel radical but does. And so, I’ll be very proud to see that up on the screen.
Jeff: As I recall, you adapted the screenplay, or the book to the screenplay.
Steven: Yes. Correct.
Jeff: How was it to adapt?
Steven: Well, that’s always an interesting process. I’ve done it for this and “The Editor,” and I did not for my first novel, which is also in development. You’ve gotta make your peace with the book is the book and that there are certain things that will translate to the screen and other things which don’t. And so, you can’t be precious about your own work and willing to break it apart to build it back together stronger.
Jeff: Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Fingers crossed you get going this year so that maybe it comes out in ’24 sometime.
Steven: That would be the goal.
Jeff: We love book recommendations, of course. What have you guys been reading recently that maybe our listeners should check out other than each other’s books?
Byron: We have books here to recommend.
Jeff: Oh, you’ve got props. Awesome.
Byron: I got a pitch here for “The Old Place” by Bobby Finger.
Steven: Another podcaster.
Byron: Another podcaster, which is so brilliant, so heartwarming.
Steven: And another southern story.
Byron: Another small-town story. Yep. Can’t go wrong. And then, let’s see, do you want to talk about Grant?
Steven: Sure. I’ll do this one. Just out in paperback, I got the hardcover here. But Grant Ginder’s, “Let’s Not Do That Again,” wrote “The People We Hate at the Wedding,” which was a great movie on Amazon earlier this year as well. But his newest I love, “Let’s Not Do That Again.” And it’s just out in paperback.
Byron: And then we have some friends who have books coming out, “The Male Gazed,” “Hi Honey, I’m Homo,” Matt Baume wrote this one.
Steven: Yeah. And Manuel Betancourt.
Jeff: Oh, I love his YouTube channel.
Steven: Yeah. Yeah. So, these are great non-fiction books. One that’s kinda a memoir, and one about the history of queer characters on TV. So, we’re very excited about those as well.
Jeff: Awesome. Those are some great things. We will link all of that in the show notes, of course.
Jeff: So, as we wrap up, what could you say about what might be coming out for you guys next? Now that these books are just dropping, what can you see on the horizon?
Steven: I was like, you’re either my mother or my agent, that’s sort of, what’s next? I was like, “Can we not just enjoy these for a few minutes?” We’ll see if we can get through our twosome act on the road a little bit and enjoy where we’re at. It’s so much work to get a book across the finish line. And so, I’m excited about that.
Byron: And I think like all creative people, both of us have ideas swimming around constantly, and so it’s always just a measure of what’s gonna land, and which voice in our head is gonna be the loudest.
Steven: Yeah. Well, I have some fun things coming up. Stay tuned. I’ll announce as soon as I can.
Jeff: And to that end, where can people keep up with you online as you get ready to announce things, and also to keep up with the tour?
Byron: I’m in all the usual places, so my website’s byronlane.com. I’m on Twitter, @byronlane, and on Instagram, @byronlanedotcom. But it’s D-O-T spelled out because some other guy named Byron Lane got there first.
Steven: And I’m @mrstevenrowley on Instagram and Twitter, and Facebook. And the tour is up on my website, stevenrowley.com. So, hopefully coming soon to a city near you.
Jeff: Fantastic. Well, Byron and Steven, thank you so much for hanging out with us. Best of success with these two books you’ve got coming out, and hope to see you back here with us sometime in the future to talk about some more stuff.
Byron: Oh, Jeff. I loved chatting with you, Jeff. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Steven: Thank you.
Will: This week’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. We’ve got links to absolutely everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to Steven and Byron for the super fun conversation. I loved hearing all about these new books and how they’re getting to go out and promote them together. These books just came out last week on May 30th, and I’ve already seen some super fun Instagram posts from the events that they’ve done so far.
Will: All right. I think that’s going to do it for now. Coming up next author Lisa Bunker is going to be joining us to talk about her new middle grade book, “Joy, to the World.”
Jeff: “Joy, to the World” is about a 12 year old trans girl living in Texas who is banned from being on her school’s cheer squad. Lisa co-wrote this book with young trans activists and former Texas resident Kai Shappley, and it was so great to talk to Lisa about writing this book that is very much about what’s happening right now in red states across the country. It’s a great conversation that you won’t wanna miss.
Will: If you made it this far, all the way to the end of the episode, Jeff and I want to sincerely thank you for joining us for this week’s Pride episode. And we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.