What inspired you to write The Family Way?
A few years ago, I was asked by good friends to help them start their family. As a gay man of a certain age (I was about to turn 40), it wasn’t something I ever thought I would get to do. The whole process was fascinating and brought up so many questions and emotions. I knew I wanted to write everything down and spin my thoughts into a fictional story that explored what it means to be a “father” when you’re a gay man, as well as the different ways queer people create family.
The Family Way takes place in Montreal, the same city you are from. How does your own experience of living in the city impact the way you wrote your novel?
I find Montreal very inspiring (the city plays an even bigger role in my debut, The Geography of Pluto). I often feel like it talks to me. It constantly shows me things that then make their way into my novels. I love how Montreal is a beacon for those looking for change. So many of my friends hail from different parts of the country, as well as from across the globe. Somehow, they all ended up here, and that mix—along with the mix of French and English living side-by-side—makes for such interesting bedfellows.
What do you hope readers will take away from the story?
That family means different things to different people, and that they come in various shapes and sizes. As LGBTQ people, we’ve had to work long and hard to have our relationships seen as legitimate in the eyes of society and the state. We can now get married and adopt children, but what if we don’t want those things? A person’s chosen family (which can include former lovers, long-time friends, etc.) can be just as important—if not more important—than any kind of nuclear family or family of origin.
What are you reading right now?
A bunch of things. I run a reading group called the Violet Hour Book Club, and this being Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month, we are reading Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead. It’s about a Two-Spirit sex worker trying to make his way to his stepfather’s funeral. I also just picked up Sarah Schulman’s epic Let the Record Show, which offers a political history of ACT UP New York, an organization that was instrumental in getting the American government to address the AIDS epidemic.
Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, what are your techniques to overcome it?
Writer’s block often comes when I don’t spend enough time in the world I’m creating. Maybe I’ve been working a lot or not feeling inspired. In that case, the key for me is to try and make sure I dip into the project every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to tweak a paragraph. The more time I stay away from the text, the harder it is to get back in. I also listen to music a lot and have playlists for each of my projects (including The Family Way). Sometimes, if I’m struggling with something, I’ll put it on my earphones and go out for a walk or do the dishes and just think about my characters.
You are the founder of The Violet Hour, a queer reading series hosted in Montreal’s gay village. Can you tell us a bit about why you created the series and your hopes for its future?
As an aspiring writer, I’d often visit L’Androgyne (Montreal’s former LGBTQ bookstore). I’d talk to the staff and browse the titles, fantasizing about one day seeing my own book on its shelves. Unfortunately, that never happened because the store closed in 2002. Since that time, I’ve felt that something was missing in my literary life. Losing L’Androgyne also meant losing a community, one that was built around a shared love of queer books. I wanted to create a space where LGBTQ booklovers could once again gather and interact, where they could discover new works by Canadian authors who would now have an additional stage to present their work. One day, I hope to incorporate the series as a non-profit and create more robust programming around LGBTQ literature.
Are you working on any new writing projects?
I am about a third of the way through a draft of my next book, which is about an Italian Canadian family living in the Montreal suburb of Saint-Hubert during the late 1980s. And I’m also filling the well for the one after that, which revisits some of the characters from The Family Way. I also have two pieces in a ground-breaking new anthology out this month, Here & Now: An Anthology of Queer Italian-Canadian Writing.