For those who don’t know you, why don’t you tell us something about Steve Kluger the person and the author.
When I wrote you several months ago to gush about Almost Like Being In Love you told me a bit of the backstory to this book. Can you share some of it with the fans?
Anyway, Almost Like Being in Love was my way of rewriting history the way I’d wanted it to play out in real life.
Yes and no–wish fulfillment, but not for me. “Last Days” was biographical too, in that it’s my take on what my father’s life could have turned out to be like if he’d only had a hero to champion him when he was a kid instead of my malevolent paternal grandfather, who eventually destroyed him. The family characters are all real: Grandma Ida, Aunt Carrie, Nana Bert, etc.–except just at the point where my father’s life turned south, I brought in the character of Charlie Banks to put him back on course.
In “Almost Like Being in Love,” Travis admits to faking a pain in an upper left molar so he can undergo a root canal he doesn’t need because his new Japanese American dentist is just too damned cute to have to wait six months to see again. That actually happened when I was 39. And the dentist who performed the root canal I didn’t need is named Craig. Ever since then, there’s always a Craig SOMEwhere in every project.
It’s on my tabletop directly underneath framed photos of the two bookjackets (hardcover and paper) and the framed copy of the dedication page that was autographed by Julie Andrews.
Your most popular books (Almost Like Being In Love and Last Days of Summer) were written in epistolary style. I had never read a book that used this writing format before, but thought it was really effective here. There are some elements of this style in Changing Pitches as well. How did you come up with the idea to tell your stories through letters, emails, and articles?
One of my three all-time favorite novels is Bel Kaufman’s “Up the Down Staircase,” which I discovered when I was 15. What impressed me most about it was the author’s style in telling the story of a young schoolteacher caught up in the administrative red tape of New York’s inner-city school system. One chapter would consist of her students’ contributions to the classroom suggestion box; another would be comprised of inter-school memoranda sent back and forth amongst the characters; a third would be the teacher’s long narrative letters to her best friend, etc.
It struck me as a high school sophomore that Ms. Kaufman had hit on the perfect way to tell a compelling story—and when I began writing professionally, I took the same concept and expanded it. Changing Pitches was essentially a journal being kept by an aging major league pitcher, interspersed with news clippings, fan mail, mound conferences, and clubhouse bulletin board notes–and the three novels that followed continued to develop and deepen the style further. It’s most certainly more freeing in the writing process and helps to establish an intimacy and an immediacy that you just can’t get with traditional narrative. The only real challenge is coming up with the storytelling devices peculiar to that particular story and making sure that they cover all bases.
One of the other characters in this book I really loved was Gordo. Was he based on a real person? If so, who was it? (If you can tell us)
The kids in the book both idolize the same movie icon of the late ‘70s, Bobby Di Cicco. So did I when I first saw “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Eventually–and improbably–Bobby became and remains my best friend. So I wrote Gordo for him in case he ever decided to go back to acting, and the Gordo-Travis dynamic is beat-for-beat the Bobby-Steve one.
Some of the bloggers who frequent my website decided to get into the game of asking you questions and here are a few of them –
Nichem, who is probably one of your greatest fans, has quite a few questions
Were either Travis or Craig from Almost Like Being In Love modeled after yourself?
Travis is a 100% autobiographical profile (I really do buy more paper towels when I get down to three rolls because I don’t like eating into the buffer), and Craig is me whenever I get passionate about one of my human rights causes.
Your most recent books have been aimed towards the YA crowd. Do you prefer writing for this group? While I loved Last Days of Summer, I’d like to read another more adult-themed novel like Almost Like Being In Love too — any plans for one in the near future?
Last Days of Summer and My Most Excellent Year were both written as adult novels–they both found YA audiences on their own. I don’t think about demographics when I’m writing a book–whatever story needs to be told is the one I write–so I don’t actually see a difference between Almost Like Being in Love and Last Days of Summer.
What were the circumstances that led to you meeting Lucille Ball when you were 12?
I was at the New York World’s Fair when I was 12 on what happened to have been designated “Lucy Day” at the Fair. She made appearances all over the fairgrounds throughout the day, and I got to shake her hand at the start of the parade that kicked off the entire event. All I remember was being amazed that in real life she was in color and not in black and white.
I recommended both Last Days of Summer and Almost Like Being In Love to my friends (and my son’s friends for the former), and every one of them who has read (your) books has loved them as well. I don’t think I’ve laughed and cried so much during the same book as I did with Last Days of Summer. I read that one to my kids (12 and 10), and at one point I was crying so much my daughter had to take over. BTW, I read Last Days of Summer to them a year ago, and my 12 year old son still talks about funny incidents from the book– he’s a tough customer too, there aren’t many books he’ll actually admit to liking. In Almost Like Being In Love, Travis does a lot of crazy things on his quest to get Craig back. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love?
I think that killing a perfectly good tooth for an unnecessary root canal over a cute dentist who may not even be gay (he isn’t, BTW) is probably tough to top.
Kim W has three questions for you:
At what time did you realize that writing gay fiction was okay?
It never once occurred to me that it wasn’t. Right from the start I never had any difficulty switching back and forth between gay and mainstream fiction.
What’s your favorite baseball dream/memory?
Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, when Carlton Fisk hit the 12th inning homer. I can still see it in my sleep.
And the odd, but favorite question: If you were a taco, what kind of salsa would you like on you? ^_^ (Steve, I swear I have never asked nor will I ever ask that particular question) 😀
I wouldn’t be a taco in the first place. Cilantro is the worst punishment ever inflicted on the human race.
Charles wants to know:
Here’s something I’ve been wondering about for, oh, twenty years or so: what happens after Changing Pitches ends? I’ve never been able to decide whether Scotty acts on his therapeutic breakthrough that he loves JJ by marrying her, or if he pursues (even a little) Jason’s “I would” [like something to happen between us].
I always thought that Scotty and Jason eventually got their act together–not at the expense of either of their relationships, but rather because the pitcher-catcher dynamic is so fundamentally intimate that physical intimacy is merely an extension of that.
My last question – Outside of someone iconic like The Babe, who is your favourite baseball player today?
I have no favorites who play the game today. In fact, if I were just learning about baseball now, I wouldn’t be interested–it just isn’t the sport I fell in love with any more.
Favorite players are Tom Seaver and Carlton Fisk. They were both gifted athletes and are both honorable men. If my nephew were to emulate either one of them, I’d be thrilled.
Thank you Steve.
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