The Great Gay Reads Interview: David Llewellyn

As promised earlier this week here is another author interview for your delight. I think David Llewellyn is one to watch, he is incredibly talented with a very different and individula writing voice that makes me think of authors such as J.G. Ballard and William Burroughs. You will know from my review of his second novel ‘Everything Is Sinister’ that I think he is deserves to be huger than huge and am sure it is only around the corner. I will be re-reading his debut novel ‘Eleven’ later on in my quest to find the Great Gay Reads which is another brilliant novel.

Introduce yourself to the readers, tell us more about yourself…
My name is David Llewellyn. I’m teetering on the brink of 31 and was born in Pontypool, South Wales. I’ve lived in Cardiff since graduated from Dartington College of Arts in Devon in 2000.

How long have you been writing for?
Professionally, on and off, for about eight years, but it’s only really taken off in the last three. I was writing stories long before that, though.

What made you want to write? Who made you want to write?
I enjoyed writing stories even when I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old. I was lucky in that I had several teachers, even in primary school, who encouraged it. My teacher in my fourth year of junior school (year 6, to all you youngsters), Mr Williams, was very supportive and gave us lots of writing assignments. When I was 11 and in comprehensive school I wrote an essay which the teachers thought I’d plagiarised, and I was taken to see the head of English, Mr Brown. He was the first person who said to me, “You might be a writer one day.”

What were your favourite reads growing up?
To begin with, Roald Dahl. I remember a teacher reading as The Twits when I was about four or five, and I loved it. It was so bizarre and grotesque. Later on I started reading the Stephen King books my Mum would take out of the local library.

Were there any books that really helped you growing up gay?
I’d like to say I devoured the collected works of Armistead Maupin or Edmund White when I was in my early teens, but I didn’t get round to reading Tales Of The City until after I’d watched the TV adaptation. There were certain books which certainly made me realise my sexuality in my early-to-mid teens; William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, and Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha Of Suburbia certainly had an impact on me, in terms of style and content. Later on I read some of Gore Vidal’s earlier works, such as The City And The Pillar.

How do you feel about the state of gay fiction today?
I suppose it depends how you define gay fiction, really. In one respect it’s no longer all that controversial or shocking for there to be gay content in mainstream literary fiction, with writers like Alan Hollinghurst and Patrick Gale enjoying enormous success, but then do we define their writing as “gay fiction”? I think as a “community” we’ve come to a bit of a crossroads, and we have to decide whether what we want is “mainstream” fiction (and indeed films or TV) which have gay content, or whether we still want our own distinct subsection of media, fiction included, which caters specifically to us.

Do you feel that as a gay writer you are obligated to include gay characters in your work or to give something back to gay readers?
I wouldn’t say I felt obligated, no. The moment you feel obligated (as opposed to, say, compelled or driven) to include gay characters is the moment your writing becomes forced. I would say it’s possibly easier for me, as a gay man, to write gay protagonists, but I’ve not written anything to date in which the majority of the characters are gay, because that’s not my experience of the world. Most of my friends are straight, most of my colleagues are straight, so for me the gay characters in my writing are part of the fabric, but their sexual preference isn’t an element of the plot itself.

What new gay authors do you think we should be looking out for in the future?
I’m crap at knowing who the next big thing will be, but there are quite a few writers whose work I really like. Paul Burston’s novels are real, unashamed page turners. He writes in this brilliantly gossipy fashion, with snappy dialogue and characters who just jump off the page. I reviewed James Lear’s last-but-one pornographic opus, The Palace Of Varieties, back last year, and can’t recommend him highly enough, particularly if you like your filth beautifully written. Some of the most artfully realised smut since Genet’s Querelle de Brest! Clayton Littlewood’s star seems to be in the ascendancy right now, with the publication of his Soho diaries, Dirty White Boy. I’ve been following the blogs on which they’re based for about 18 months, and can honestly say they are the only online writing which has ever moved me to tears, often within a few short paragraphs of having me nearly wetting myself with laughter. I’m also eager to see what Neil Bartlett comes out with next. His book, Skin Lane, is an astonishing piece of work; creepy, sexy and fascinating from beginning to end. I’ve actually met all of the above, and I know Paul, James (aka Rupert!) and Clayton personally, but I’m quite genuine when I say they are talented. All three of them have, at some point, sent me spiralling into a jealous rage, which they can all take as a compliment!

What are your thoughts on the ‘gay fiction’ section of book stores, shouldn’t it be all inclusive or is it a good device for people to be able to find gay fiction?
Aaaaargh! I knew you were going to ask something like this, damn you! I think it’s a bit of a two edged sword, really. There are obviously going to be certain books which appeal to a predominantly gay audience, but then I think good fiction (or good art of any kind) rises above that and has a broader appeal. I suppose this comes back to what I was saying about us having reached a crossroads. I think gay literature should be promoted and supported, yes, but at the same time I think it’s vital that we promote writing that has some merit to it, and not just work that happens to have gay content and characters. We’re hopefully past the point when we’ll accept what we’re given, regardless of quality, just because we want to see ourselves represented on the page. That’s not to say that all gay fiction should be high art or that every gay novel should be dense or cerebral, but I do think we no longer have the excuse to ghettoise ourselves or hide ourselves in the darkest corner of the bookshops.

What is your Great Gay Read of all time and why?
If I was going to be all highbrow and sophisticated, I’d say something like the opening chapters of Moby Dick. Ishmael and Queequeg’s burgeoning friendship is like a 19th Century Brokeback Mountain, only without the sex! Dropping all pretension, though, I’d have to say Tales Of The City. Maupin’s a fantastic storyteller, and he really helped capture a time and a place, while bringing gay characters and subject matter into mainstream fiction. Also, Michael’s coming out letter to his parents was pretty much the template for my own coming out letter to mine, so I’m eternally grateful for that!


~ by greatgayreads on August 10, 2009.

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