Collin Kelley is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning novelist, poet, and playwright from Atlanta. He has three excellent volumes of poetry as well as the novel we’re talking about here under his belt, which to me makes him a formidable force among local poets and writers. He’s been a journalist for over two decades, having worked for various Georgia-based magazines and newspapers. He’s also a consummate blogger, maintaining a longstanding and popular web site at:
It just so happens as well that Collin Kelley is my friend.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Collin across a table and a microphone and asked him some pointed questions about his new novel, its standing as a work of “Gay Literary Fiction”, his place in today’s fluctuating publishing world, and his opinion of the Star Wars prequels. I decided that our interview would be that much more interesting if you could LISTEN to it. So here it is in a podcast format.
Below, you’ll find a series of questions in a readable format, each followed by an audio track of Collin’s answer. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and that you’ll go right out and pick up a copy of Conquering Venus (or click over to Amazon to buy one). It’s both a compelling and enlightening read.
Will: I know you spent time in Europe in 1995, just like the main characters of this novel. So that leads me to think maybe some of this is autobiographical. Is it? How much of it is?
Following this question, Collin went on to share a few more words about the inspiration behind Conquering Venus and its eventual genesis:
Will: What do you think of the idea that authors tend to inject some of who they are into their characters, or to use episodes from their own lives in their writing?
Will: You’ve hinted to an almost mystical tie which binds the main characters of Martin and Irene. To what extent did you want to “lay on” this magical realism? In your mind - regardless of the perception of your readers - is the “magic” genuine? (After his answer, I had to follow on with a question that was dear to my heart - it also helped me sneak in a Star Wars reference. Listen closely!)
Will: Your marketing campaign has happened in a “viral” capacity and largely on the Internet - where very little insulates you from anyone out there who might take issue with your very candid approach to gay characters. Has there been any backlash? (The answer is surprising, folks!)
Will: How do you feel about the fact that the novel is distinctly labeled as “Gay Literary Fiction”?
Will: Do you think sales and reception of the book would have been different had it been published back when you first started trying to do so, back before the setbacks to the gay rights movement brought about by the Bush Administration?
Will: So then… is this version very different from before?
Will: The publisher for Conquering Venus is Vanilla Heart. Tell us a little about them and your relationship with them.
Will: Since the big presses are all looking for the next J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown, how do you see the role of small presses like Vanilla Heart in the future of publishing? How will it effect you and your book? (Somehow our discussion sidetracked to a discussion of electronic tools for media consumption, but I think that’s OK, because that’s part of his answer - the discussions go hand in hand.)
Will: And what does that mean for physical bookstores?
Will: You just got nominated for yet another Pushcart Prize. Tell us about the Pushcart - and how many times have you been nominated? (He hasn’t won yet - fingers crossed!)
Will: So… how’s the new book (the sequel to Conquering Venus) coming?
Will: And has Vanilla Heart contracted for it yet?
Conquering Venus is available NOW from Vanilla Heart publishing. The book’s available at most online stores that sell books, as well as in finer bookstores across the country. Check out Collin’s web site for more details. Also be sure and check back later this week, when I present a reading of Conquering Venus by the author himself!