I’ve recently read Ron Naple’s debut novel “My Last Dance with Auntie Brie” and posted a review on this site as well as on GoodReads. Shortly after that, Ron sent me a PM saying he was delighted with my review, I wrote back, and one thing leading to another, we ultimately agreed we ought to continue our friendly chat on Skype. Now, it’s six pm here in Paris, France, so I’ve poured myself a glass of red wine in lieu of the almost compulsory French aperitif. I’m sipping it when our connection is established.
ParisDude (lifting glass in a mock-toast): Hi, Ron. So good to see you! Thanks for accepting to chat about your book.
Ron Naples (toasts back with the cup of coffee he’s holding): Same here! I would have loved to join in with some wine myself, but it’s only 9 in the morning over here. And that’s definitely too early for wine. (chuckles)
We chit-chat for a while, Ron immediately putting me at ease. Then it’s time to launch into the main subject.
PD: Ron—I’ve read your short bio on amazon and have seen that you held several jobs in your life. I’ve also noticed one thing: none of them is even remotely connected with writing or publishing. So, what exactly made you start writing?
RN (shrugs): I’ve always felt my story was a good one, and it needed to be told. I was intimidated by trying and getting it published, though, because I felt I was lacking professional writing experience. But I did read many books on how to write and publish. I also kept checking my grammar and punctuation with online sources while I was writing it. When I felt it was good enough, I hired an editor, who helped me with manuscript formatting and submission guidelines.
PD: Your novel is supposedly based on your own experience. Tell me—how much of it is really true?
RN: Most of it, really (laughs). All the characters in my book are based on real-life people. I’m still in touch with a few of them. All the places did exist, some still do. And the events, although exaggerated at times, really happened.
PD: Some of the drag queens’ quips in the book are truly hilarious. I’m thinking of that fabulous line, “The best way to get over one man is to get under another!”, for instance. Are they quotes, or are they part of the fictionalization process, if I may say so?
RN: Mostly quotes—things I’ve heard drag queens say over the years. I really did play my drums in a drag show in Ptown, you know, together with my character Auntie Brie.
PD: Alright, so most of your book is true. But—the wedding scene? (winks) All true? I mean—really?
RN (laughs): OK, guilty. I might have embellished it a bit. But I sold you, so why not? My sister loved that scene, by the way. It was an over-the-top version of what actually happened, but in my mind, it happened like that. Wouldn’t it make a great movie scene?
PD: It would, alright. Er, now a more personal question. Your bio says you’ve been living with your partner Joe for 37 years… Having read you novel, I wonder if Joe and that cowboy character, Mitch, are the same person…
RN: No. I really did fall in love with a cowboy when I was in Boston, and we lived together for a while. But I met Joe in San Francisco many years later. We’ve been together since 1982. (shrugs as if saying they’ve simply been meant to be together). Unbelievable for me as well.
PD: I find it rather inspiring. Way to go for me and my boyfriend! I take it you’re planning to write a sequel to “My Last Dance with Auntie Brie”. Can you tell me more about it? What will this sequel be about?
RN: You’re right about that. The sequel will play out in San Francisco, and I’ll try to tackle all my West Coast adventures. I have so much more to write about; all the wild times I had in the 80s. It was quite a different time before AIDS. I’m lucky to still be alive!
PD: Sounds interesting! When do you think it will be published?
RN: Well, I have to write it first (laughs). In fact, “My Last Dance” started as a journal I wrote in Ptown 38 years ago. I completed the first draft in 2015. It took me nearly 4 years to find a suitable publisher, that was the hardest part. I’m hoping the sequel won’t be as arduous. I’ve started an outline for it, but my focus has been on promoting my current book.
PD: Of course. And you know what? I’m really looking forward to reading that sequel, so do hurry up! Now, I guess I’m being nosy, but do you have any other writing projects?
RN: You’re not nosy (smiles, then thinks about my question). Other writing projects? Not really. You know, I have created a website for my massage practice, and I have recently launched a website for this book. I’ve written documents for various jobs I’ve had through the years, though—guidelines, policy and procedures etc…
My boyfriend walks in at that moment and asks me if I want him to start preparing dinner. I notice Ron listening to our exchange in French, almost as if he understood what we’re saying.
PD (surprised): You speak French, Ron?
RN (shakes his head): Not at all. I took a class in high school but have forgotten it. I’m entertaining the thought of visiting Paris for my birthday in October, though.
PD: That’s great! Know what—let’s have that glass of wine then!
RN (nods): That would be wonderful!
PD: Well, I guess you have work to do now. Best of luck for “My Last Dance with Auntie Brie”. And thanks again for your time. It was a real pleasure chatting with you!
RN: And you as well. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
About the author
Ron Naples, a native of New Britain, CT, has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area with his partner Joe for the last 37 years. In his youth, Naples was a professional drummer and played in many successful venues. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1979, majoring in jazz performance, and the LA Recording Workshop in 1983, majoring in recording engineering. In 1987, Naples enrolled in Contra Costa College in San Pablo, CA, where he earned a degree in Interior Design. He has worked most of his life as a showroom designer for furniture stores. In 2004, he attended the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, CA, and became certified in massage therapy. Today he works for various spas and runs his private practice in Richmond, CA.
Title: My Last Dance with Auntie Brie
Author: Ron Naples
Publisher: MLR Press
Release Date: April 19, 2019
Genre(s): Coming Out
Page Count: 89,000 words
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
“My Last Dance with Auntie Brie”, Ron Naples’ debut novel, is a fictional story based on his coming out experiences in the ’70s. It is a vivid translation of a time when closet doors were nailed shut, but more than a vicissitude, it is also a peek back at the madness of the Disco Era.
Raised an Italian Catholic, Ron escapes his disciplinary family life when he’s introduced to his first gay bar. There he meets Auntie Brie, a drag queen who shapes his destiny. His impending dream of becoming a professional musician is shattered when he is seduced into the gay party arena.
Feel the reverberations of the disco beat as Auntie Brie seduces you on the dance floor. Revisit some of the infamous clubs of the day including NYC’s Studio 54 and escape to the Cape on a summer vacation gone wild with one of Ptown’s most prolific houseboys.
His familiar tour de force reaches even farther with his insight and questions surrounding gay culture. It delineates a 70’s puritan society filled with fear and ignorance which ignited The 1979 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights to end violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
“My Last Dance with Auntie Brie” defines an entire gay generation who succumbed to the hedonistic lifestyle of that time which has now become legendary. It carries the universal message of unconditional love and acceptance; we all need somebody to love us just the way we are.