Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mark Simpson

Every once in a while, I receive correspondence from fellow authors that find me on Amazon and want to get in touch. I got to know Mark Simpson that way. He is a very nice guy and a wonderful author too. His first book, Kabuki in a G-String, won global acclaim. A former Fellow of the Library of Congress, with a Ph.D. with distinction in Comparative Literature, he understands literature's power to change lives. Lastly, he is a pioneer, a trailblazer as well as a man of influence in general.

I am very proud to have him guest post on my blog.

I give you, Mark Simpson!

1. How did you get your start writing gay fiction and/or erotica?
 I started writing at the age of 15 or 16 as a way of expressing my feelings toward men, especially older, stronger, hairy-chested guys at my school. If I couldn’t talk to them directly, then I could at least create characters and personalities for them, and make their character love someone like me. My copious notes became pretty good short stories, I must say. Curiously, it worked to help me figure myself out as a gay guy (and learn that older hunky guys sometimes liked being stared at, and occasionally surprised you with a confession of lust for you … more like an adolescent demand to … fill in the blank … but confession of lust sounds more romantic) but also as a writer. I saw that I honestly could write; that I had a capacity to create characters, make situations come alive. From there, I went on to the school lit mag, university papers, journals … and all the rest just fell into place.
(Nathan: That's how I started writing too. It was a way of expressing how I felt toward hot men). 

2. What inspires you?
 First and foremost, men inspire me. I love to watch men in coffee houses, on the street, stores, everywhere. This morning, I was watching a young New York cop on a horse, attempting to give a ticket to a double-parked semi. That cool dude of a handsome cop moved as a man moves, with real intelligence and awareness; and his horse responded to his every subtle tap or bump, which I found so sexy. Amazing. Secondly, cities inspire me, with their rough-edged wild rhythms. I’m especially attached to New York and Paris, both of which inspire me immensely. All of my novels, thus far, have been set in Paris … it’s a true crossroads of the world, and the intersections of class, nationality, religion, language all complicate relationships, especially gay relationships. So many Frenchmen have boyfriends who are American, Serbian, Swedish, English, Algerian, Argentinean, and so on … much, much more common there than in New York.
(Nathan: Men inspire me too. ;) Secondly, I've been to Paris, France only once and didn't know it was such a liberal city. I gotta go back and check it out!)

3. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?
 I’d like to smash in the face of the smug bourgeoisie, the still-homophobic mainstream of society that insists on peripheralizing and stereotyping. I want my novels to crack open the real world, where gay men have sex for the same reasons straights do (with as many duplicities and betrayals, as well as commitments and passions). I want to look and sound like the epitome of grandmotherly virtue, child of prep schools that I am, so that I become a fifth column inside the establishment … poised to help all of us push gay literature through the mainstream and beyond. Look, the great literary movements all faced resistance. Zola was banished, Flaubert was arrested and tried for writing pornography, so though we now take Realism and Naturalism as givens … a general part of literary history … they were only achieved through fights, resistance, and a continual push against the pudgy arms of the bourgeoisie (always to “épater le bourgeoisie,” as Flaubert said …  to “shock the middle-class.”
(Nathan: That's the most original answer I've heard). 

4. If you had to choose, which one of your novels do you like the most and why?
 I love Shirtless in Iceland. Not only does it accurately capture daily life in Paris, but it really manages to paint in the true daily life for most gay men in Paris. I love Emma, the bitch goddess, married to gorgeous straight Jérémie … but best friend to the gay American Peregrine. She’s a total woman, a sexual being, but mean and feisty and powerful. I am in love with Anselme, the hunky gay French editor, who only late in the novel shows his true colors. He’s my ideal man (if anyone’s interested). It’s a good book; I’m proud of it. Of all my books it has the most sex, in fact a few scorchers (by my tame standards). I like that too!

5. If you had a message for your readers and fans, what would it be?
 First of all, of course, thanks for buying my books and writing to me … sharing your own stories and lives. Secondly, I’d like to ask them to try writing something themselves. Writing is so powerful, so liberating, and so intensely personal. I’m always happy to have a quick look at something one of my fans has written … even if I can’t, obviously, promise a long and detailed analysis. Thirdly, I’d like them to send me a message about what they’d like me to write about next. I’m at work on an historical novel at the moment, set in Paris in the roaring 20s, but I’d love to write something in response to reader request.
Thank you, Mark!
You can visit Mark at his blog.  
Mark's books are available on amazon.


  1. A very nice sensitive thoughtful and engaging article. Thank you Mark and Nathan.

  2. Great interview, Nathan. It was great getting to know yet another great author :)