All Peter Bankston ever wanted to do was paint.
An aspiring painter, Peter scratches out a pauper’s living in San Francisco, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Instead, he finds himself getting involved with not one but two very different men.
Like Peter, getting involved with another man is the last thing on Nick Katsaris’s mind. Smart, handsome, and good-humored, Nick’s done more than just survive—he’s positively thriving in San Francisco. But when he meets Peter, what begins as fun and games quickly turns into a game he can’t control.
Miles Bettencourt’s days are filled with longing. For him, San Francisco is haunted by Stuart, his missing ex-lover. Desperate to win him back, Miles wanders the streets in the hope of running into Stuart again. Instead, he runs into Peter—the one man who might hold the key to what Miles is looking for.
These three gay men soon form one very unlikely love triangle. Sometimes, when people break apart and then come together, they learn that discovering that where you are is the key to knowing who you are.
Question1- What was the hardest part about writing your book?
The hardest part about writing my book was making the time to write it. I used to be proud of myself that I’d get up at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays to work on it before heading off to my day job—until I realized I was spending too little time on it.
Question2- Do you have a favorite excerpt from the book? If so, can you share it?
One of my favorite scenes occurs at the end of the book, the scene in which the reader sees the painting created by Peter Bankston, the novel’s protagonist. Lest I give too much of the story away, I present the scene here without placing it into context:
Ben moved into the hallway and used his elbow to flick on a switch. Nick blinked to adjust his eyes to the light while Ben moved further into the hallway, stopping at the stairs and turning to the wall on the other side of the stairwell, across from the banister. Nick walked up to Ben, took the gin fizz Ben held out to him, and looked across the stairwell.
The rectangular canvas, far larger than any of the canvases at the art show, was a swirling mass of blue—aqua, peacock, midnight, and every hue in between. The swirls were denser on the left-hand side where they seemed to crash against the painting’s edge like waves against a sea wall, sparser on the right-hand side where they seemed to unbraid and rebraid lovingly, passionately, draining down to the bottom right-hand corner, which was left blank. Some of the swirls looked delicate, others bolder, still others as thick as if smeared on by the artist’s own fingers. Here and there looped threads of gold, orange, and crimson, the loops woven jaggedly into the blue, the lines tracing figures of people, animals, planets, stars; and near the center of the painting, as if laid onto the surface as an afterthought, floated a single pinkish-purple dot about the size of a dollar coin. Wherever this painting came from, it didn’t come from an old sketch; it came from a newer, wilder, more sensuous region of Peter’s imagination. And the size of it! If Peter were here he’d probably twist his toe into the floor and deny his ambition, but Nick knew better.
“Well, what do you think?” Ben said after a minute or two.
“It’s a map,” Ben said. “That was my idea. I told Peter wouldn’t it be neat if he could paint one of those ‘you are here’ maps like you see at the mall, except make it a life map, and that’s what he came up with: a painting called You Are Here. But I never thought he’d come up with something like this.”
Nick stared at the dot floating in the center of the painting and then followed the zigzagging line of the gold and crimson strands.
“I always get a lift when I look at it,” Ben said. “There’s something, I don’t know, ecstatic about it, don’cha think?”
Question3- What do you hope readers will take away after reading the book?
That they have read a believable story featuring people they recognize. The main characters are all gay men, making gay readers an obvious target. But I tried to cast my net wider than that. Hopefully readers of all preferences will be able to see the basic humanity underlying this story.
Question4- Who or what is the inspiration for the book?
I had a couple of inspirations. One was the city of San Francisco, the city I’d moved to in order to devote my life to writing fiction. The novel’s action never leaves the city’s limits. I had met a lot of people, both good and bad, during my first couple years living there, and I wanted to create a portrait that took in the whole picture.
The other inspiration is more literary: Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park.” In it a vain young man falls in love with the virtuous heroine, but the virtuous heroine won’t have anything to do with him. The young man’s pursuit is what drives that novel’s action—a pursuit that had always captured my imagination. In “Mansfield Park” the heroine is steadfast in her refusal to give in to temptation. In my novel? Let’s just say that the hero’s choice surprised me.
Question5- Have you had a mentor? If so, can you talk about them a little?
I’ve had many excellent teachers over the years, but none I could call a mentor. For my third book “Best Man,” though, I hired the services of Charlotte Cook, an excellent story editor who also happens to live near me. I thought I knew what hard work was until I met her.
Question6- I have heard it said in order to be a good writer, you have to be a reader as well? Do you find this to be true? And if you are a reader, do you have a favorite genre and/or author?
Absolutely! I read a wide range of novels where I am constantly thinking about the choices the author has made to make a scene come alive or take the plot in a certain direction. (In the case of one of Anne Tyler, one of my favorite living authors, the question I often find myself asking is “how does she do it?”) I recently finished “My Brilliant Friend,” by Elena Ferrante, and I’m still marveling at how she’d used mere words to create a gritty Neapolitan neighborhood in the 1950s. I wish I’d discovered her sooner.
I also enjoy reading nonfiction. One of my favorites of the past couple of years was Robert Massie’s biography of Catherine the Great. I swear, if Catherine hadn’t actually existed, I would swear her story was the stuff of fiction. I also read the New York Times every day and try to imagine myself in the shoes of the people I read about—rich or poor, good or bad (but mostly good; sadly, there are some people out there I can’t imagine ever wanting to be). Still, I find most people endlessly fascinating, and a constant inspiration for stories.
In 1993, Chris Delyani moved to San Francisco from his native Boston to devote his life to writing fiction—and he’s been at it ever since. His first novel, The Love Thing, was published in 2009. He lives in Oakland, California.