Authors Tackle AIDS: Gregory G. Allen and Kergan Edwards-Stout



 Allen: I think, while HIV may no longer be a death sentence, there is still a stigma attached. Also, in gay fiction we went through a period where you couldn’t open a book without it being an AIDS story — and then they just sort of stopped. But AIDS hasn’t stopped.

Edwards-Stout: A few months after my partner Shane died, the protease inhibitors hit the news, and this guy came up to me and said, “It’s too bad Shane wasn’t strong enough to hang on.” As if surviving HIV has anything to do with willpower. Ironically, that same guy died a little over a year ago, as his body had become resistant to the drugs. People are still dying, just more quietly.

Allen: I know. A few years back I went to a friend’s funeral and it just sort of hit me: It does still kill. Oddly enough, recently I've read three other books that deal with AIDS.

Edwards-Stout: But while both of our books incorporate HIV/AIDS, I think our novels are much more universal than that.

Allen: That’s true. I was told by many publishers that in our current economic state, my “depressing story” wasn’t a viable commodity. So I went with a smaller press, which was willing to take risk on work that isn’t mainstream commercial. Unfortunately, the downside of going the indie route was learning the hard way that no magic bullet can get an indie book into The New York Times.

Edwards-Stout: What I liked about going the indie route was having greater control over the work. What ended up on the page was entirely my call. But promoting the book has been a challenge. Like you, unless it’s mainstream and published by a bigger press, it’s hard to get people interested.

Allen: But even with traditional publishers, authors must do their own marketing. Social media has been an amazing way to meet other authors, as well as bloggers willing to review and interview independent authors.

Edwards-Stout: One of the best parts of this experience has been in meeting you as well as other cool writers. I’ve been surprised at how supportive everyone is, especially as we are technically competitors.

Allen: You and I both come from entertainment, where competition is fierce. In this field, the pie is larger and we can all have a slice. Readers can read both our books —

Edwards-Stout: And perhaps discover another author because of a similar book they enjoyed.

Allen: Exactly. But if it comes down to an awards contest —

Edwards-Stout: [Laughing] You are going down!

Allen: We'll rumble like West Side Story.

Edwards-Stout: How about we just say loser picks up the bar tab?

Allen: Deal.

Kergan Edwards-Stout and Gregory G. Allen will both be signing copies of their novels at the Rainbow Book Fair on March 24, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City.

Tags: Books