Title: Galley Proof
Author: Eric Arvin
Cover artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Galley Proof
Genre: contemporary gay romance/gay fiction
Length: novel/200 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This book about the writer of m/m fiction was as much about the writing and writing process as it was a lovely and fun love story, although at times I felt a little bit uneasy with the main character.
Fiction writer Logan Brandish is perfectly happy in his peaceful small-town routine with his best friend, his cat, and his boyfriend—until he meets the editor of his next book, the handsome Brock Kimble, and the lazy quiet of everyday living goes flying out the window. Faced with real passion for the first time, Logan becomes restless and agitated, and soon his life and his new manuscript—a work in progress he’d always thought would be completed—are in a shambles.
But as Logan is learning, you can’t always get what you want… at least not right away. To take his mind off the mess, he takes a trip, but even the beautiful Italian, um, scenery can’t keep his thoughts from his erstwhile editor for long. Logan just might have to admit there are some things you can’t run from.
I always thought of Eric Arvin as one of the most interesting writers in m/m gay fiction (I think his works at the very least qualify as both), but I never had a chance to review one his books here before, so here I am :). I was expecting good writing, but I was not expecting this book to have so much thinking, poking fun, just discussing the writing, the literary process and to do in such enjoyable, light-hearted way. And yes, m/m fiction is involved of course :), so definitely expect some meta thinking.
Here is what Logan, the narrator of the book has to say about himself as a writer doing research somewhere in the starting part of the book:
“Striking through the brush of the Internet with my invisible machete like I was E.L.Doctorow’s slow brother or Mary Renault’s jealous cousin. But if you are going to write historical fiction, you’ve got to have some historical facts. Unless you’re Dan Brown.
That was mean, I know. But come on. As if he’ll ever read it.
There is a lot on the Internet about ancient warships. Galleys, triremes, and the like. I hit all the major sites, looking for nuggets of interest. The truth is, though, no matter how interested you are in a subject, no matter how passionate, after a while it’s just work. Every so often I would wander on a page centering on erotica. The ancients make for great sexual imaginings. Time is the great fictionalist. M/M fiction, it’s called. That kept my interest going for far longer than it should have. I was supposed to be researching, after all, not being turned on by muscle slaves and mean emperors.”
The book is full of stuff like this, so if you do not want to think about the m/m genre on the meta level, if you are not curious about what may motivate a writer when they are working on the craft, I do not think that this is a story for you. It has so many literary allusions which I noticed and I am sure quite a few which I missed. After all, what do you expect from the book, which chapters are named — “Great expectations”, “Vanity fair”, “The awakening” and some other familiar titles. I thought it was very amusing.
And the book which Logan tries to write sounded very amusing as well – after all, writing a romantic comedy on an ancient warship is indeed a very bold project. So here we have the writer of m/m/gay fiction (I am using it interchangeably because as I said before I am having trouble boxing Mr. Arvin under a narrow definition) creating a narrator who is a writer of historical/m/m fiction (amongst other things) and who is writing a book which may or may not acquire a life of its own.
I thought the love story was lovely, believable, enjoyable and fun, even if it was more of a secondary plot line, and I liked how the writer gave the guys the thing in common to start getting to know each other since they were both in writing business. I did enjoy Broke, although I thought the author in the beginning overdid it a little bit with contrasting how boring Curtis was versus how spontaneous and fun Broke was. I thought that overall breaking up and moving on was written with ease, it’s just as I said, I got the message that Curtis was boring and the relationship the narrator settled in with him, I did not need it repeated that many times. But since there is a theme of change and growth for several characters — and it is a very important one — I could not even stay annoyed about resolution of Curtis’ subplot. I enjoyed how it was resolved.
As I mentioned previously, mostly I enjoyed this story quite a lot, but in a sense some of the nagging thoughts I had had while reading were the main reason why I cannot grade the book higher than I did. Yes, I really loved thinking about the writing in this genre and writing in general. I am not a writer, but I really, really love analyzing books, so of course the whole subject interests me. But in a sense I was also distracted by the narrator, funny and charming and a bit self-deprecating and vain as he was. I think I felt this way because I kept wondering how much of a stand-in for Mr. Arvin the narrator really was and I do not know how and why it happened. It is odd; it is not like I have not read stories in this genre about writers writing m/m fiction. I have — and more than one — and nothing like that happened before. I hope I am making sense. I completely realize that there is something from the writer’s soul in every single character from the books any writer creates, I understand that. But this was I guess a bit too close for my comfort? I wanted to enjoy the narrator, but sometimes I was left wondering so how much of it is a fiction and how much it is the reality which is going on in author’s life? Am I peeking in the life of real person, or just watching the fictional character grow as a person and writer and find happiness?
I guess I just wish that I could avoid those thoughts in my brain about potential allusions to reality, which were distracting for my reading enjoyment. Maybe if Logan was a writer but not m/m fiction, I would not have felt the way I did? There are also several observations about what m/m readers want and what is happening in m/m fiction…I don’t know, it may have been just too close and too much feeling that the writer is talking directly to the reader. I realize that it is such a subjective thing and as I said, I think overall the book was wonderfully done, but I honestly think that if other readers may have similar issue, I have to share my tiny bit of discomfort, which I did not expect to have but I did.
Regardless of this niggle, highly recommended.