It’s here! Today marks the launch of the Booksforqueers.com blog, just in time for Pride month, and we mark this momentous occasion with an interview with Chris Gill, whose new novel The Nowhere is out today.
When the idea for Booksforqueers.com first struck, my main objective was to make finding LGBTQ+ books as effortless as possible. Of course, many book retailers offer an LGBT section, but it’s often difficult to then get granular with the genre.
Lesbian love stories sit next to transgender biographies, with gay outback mysteries thrown in between (okay, maybe I made that last one up). But with BooksforQueers.com, everything is broken down by gender, sexuality – and most importantly – genre too, ultimately making your search for that next queer read a breeze.
That brings me on to my second objective for the website: to build a resource for queer people wanting to find books that represent them, their identity, and their experiences. This is why I have invited Chris Gill, author of the much-anticipated novel The Nowhere, to chat. In short, The Nowhere is a coming-of-age Australian mystery with a gay protagonist (wait – isn’t that a gay outback mystery?)…
Mark: Hi Chris, tell me what inspired you to write The Nowhere.
Chris: Hey Mark. Well, I knew I wanted to write a standalone coming-of-age novel set somewhere remote where the protagonist is trying to come to terms with himself. Having moved to Australia by way of London over five years ago, I’d travelled around some smaller, outback towns that had inspired me – but decided to push it even further and set it somewhere way out in the middle of nowhere that I hadn’t even been.
Although I spent most of my formative years growing up in England (aside from six years in New Zealand as a child), I could relate to the feeling of isolation felt by Seb – the book’s protagonist – having grown up in a small country town. I had to go through the coming-out process in a small town in 2000s, which came with enough of its own challenges, so I can only imagine how it must have been having to do the same thing on an outback farm in the 1990s. I could feel the torment and anguish as I wrote the book.
Mark: So it’s fair to say your own journey of acceptance when it comes to your sexuality played a big part in the writing of The Nowhere?
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, it would’ve been hard for it not to have in some shape or form. Don’t get me wrong; Seb’s story is very different to mine. I was lucky to have a loving, supportive and accepting family and network of friends around me. Most of the torment came from inside my own head.
Whereas Seb’s relationship with his father is testing at the best of times, and with his only company for the majority of the book being Jake – the captivating neighbour he grows feelings for – he doesn’t really have an ally. Any queer person knows the importance of allies when they’re coming up (and ultimately, coming out).
Mark: You mention the torment you faced around your sexuality being in your head. Tell us more about that.
Chris: Well, I think most LGBTQ+ people will have had that light bulb moment – especially in the era I grew up (things have undoubtedly come a long way, although not for everyone everywhere). That moment when all the repressing going on in your head can’t do its job anymore and you’re like – ok, yes. That’s who I am.
I remember that moment so clearly, laying in my teenage bedroom in the dark. “I’m gay” I said aloud, although it would be a couple more years until I could really say it without hiding behind a veil of bisexuality or simply the need not to be labelled. There were many years of self-loathing and shame that growing up in a straight world had conditioned me to feel. It’s like a lifetime of unravelling and un-learning, in many ways.
Mark: You’re obviously in a much better place now with your sexuality?
Chris: 100%! Never did I imagine a day where I’d be able to get married or have kids. I got married to my partner of over nine years earlier this year! So that was a real moment of imagining putting my arm around my 17-year-old self and saying “it’s going to be ok. You’re going to be all right!”
That’s not to say there’s not a long way to go with the fight, though. And I’m very much aware that not everyone has the same freedom as I. As we speak there is a teenage boy or girl worrying about being disowned if their parents find out their sexuality. There are religions and parts of the world where being your authentic self is enough to be imprisoned, or even killed.
We’ve come so far, but there’s still a long, long way to go.
Mark: Seb seems to share this same self-loathing you described feeling as a teenager, and reading him refer to himself in his own thoughts as ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ (in a derogatory way) is quite confronting.
Chris: For sure. It was confronting writing it, and at times I wondered if it was too much including it in the book, but I had to be true to the times. And that word, ‘queer’, is such an interesting one, right? How it’s been reclaimed. I love how it’s meaning is broader than just being gay, too. Like, you can be gay and feel like a misfit in that community. I think queerness lends itself to outsiders inside a world of outsiders.
Mark: We wish you the greatest success with The Nowhere and all your future ventures. Anything in the pipeline?
Chris: Right now my attention is fully on getting The Nowhere under as many noses as possible. I poured so much of myself into this project, so I don’t take for granted any one person who might take the time to check it out. Beyond that, much more writing. I’ve got some ideas kicking around for my next book, so I need to carve some time out to sit down and get that going. Wish me luck!
The Nowhere is out now via PRNTD Publishing. Order yours here.