Coming Back to America

American author Vestal McIntyre found a husband and a home in the U.K., but his first novel, Lake Overturn, brings him back to the Idaho countryside of his childhood.




“No,” he says, laughing. “The other three came out before me. I had a girlfriend from 16 to 20, and she moved to Boston with me when I went to college. And when the whole thing ended, I came out. Actually, she told my parents! It was not cute.”

As true Christians, his parents were very supportive. At one point, when the American Baptist Churches were debating the denomination’s position on homosexuality, McIntyre says his mother stood up at the meeting and said, “I have four gay kids, and they grew up in this church. And if you don’t vote to be affirming of them, they won’t come here anymore. Is that what you want?”

I tell him that I remember Boston in the mid 1980s as a pretty homophobic place, and he looks askance. “In Idaho these rednecks would hang out outside the gay bar in Boise and throw beer bottles at people as they left,” he says matter-of-factly. Tufts University, on the other hand, had a center where students could safely hang out: “Going to Boston made it possible for me to come out.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, McIntyre moved to New York. He was accepted into the graduate creative writing program at Columbia University but decided to instead take a job as a waiter at Florent, the now shuttered Meatpacking District diner and then late-night home to drag queens, club kids, and the loudly fabulous. “Back then I didn’t know my writing, and I would have been really influenced by other people,” he says. “So I decided to do my own thing.”

McIntyre had a few stories published in literary magazines, and in 2004 a collection of his work, You Are Not the One, was published by Carroll and Graf. “I didn’t care how much it sold,” he says, “but I really wanted a review in The New York Times.” That came in February 2005, when the paper declared, “McIntyre’s stories can be funny, but in a scary, manic Augusten Burroughs kind of way. And when they aren’t -- when they focus on something as unexpected as a high school student who sets out to read Moby-Dick to a cousin with Down syndrome -- they’re crushingly sweet.” Today, McIntyre refers to You Are Not the One as a collection of experiments that helped him forge the voice that informs Lake Overturn.

Tags: Books