The SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT. MICHAEL AMPERSANT, author of GREEN EYES & an EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT of THIS IS HEAVEN. 

When did you start writing?




When a friend of my mother got a typewriter. I was eight years old then and would spend hours sitting there just typing. Then I got a typewriter myself and moved into poetry, writing 20 poems per day. That was in the tradition of automatic writing, the idea was not to think at all while typing (side remark: Truman Capote about Jack Kérouac: “He doesn’t write, he types.”). I wrote scientific books during my academic career, and I started my non-academic writing with a feature script, FREEDOM FRIES, which tells the alternative history of George W. Bush’s retirement (Bush, the 43rd president, has a change of heart). I couldn’t get it produced, of course, and then tried to turn the script into a novel, getting about half-way…I lost faith because of libel-concerns—Dick Cheney, Bush’s vice-president, orders the murder of Bush at one point in the story. 

I then started a blog, and wrote a lot of blog posts, rashly, quickly, which gave me some confidence. My first novel, the GREEN EYES, the prequel to my new book, evolved from an unprintable piece of porn I wrote around a picture by Joe Phillips, Latino Boy, but said piece of porn ended on a cliff-hanger, so I had to write another piece (which also ended on a cliff-hanger, and so on), and after a few pieces I knew I had the material for a book. So, in some sense, the GREEN EYES were written by accident. My new book, THIS IS HEAVEN, is a sequel to the Green Eyes.

Why do you write?




Good Question. I asked this myself already at the age of eight sitting behind the typewriter of mother’s friend. I enjoy it.

What influences your writing?


As to authors, the major influence would be Mark Twain. As a boy, I must have read TOM SAWYER twenty times. I shouldn’t compare myself to Twain of course, but the way he pokes fun at the world, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Other writers? Let’s mention just one, David Foster Wallace, the author of INFINITE JEST. He’s so good, he’s somehow beyond style. I started reading Infinite Jest while already writing the Green Eyes and discovered that he was using lots of tricks I had just invented for myself. Very encouraging.  

Which genres do you write in?




The Freedom Fries is alternative contemporary history. The Green Eyes is erotic romance, and the sequel, This Is Heaven, is an erotic thriller. I started a YA novel, THE SENATOR AND I, which is sci-fi (in some sense). But regardless what I’m doing, it usually turns into a Fast Action Comedy. 

What themes are in your writing? 




The two fiction books I’ve finished are fairly erotic, and fairly explicit in places. So, sex would be a theme. But it’s not the principle message. There’s this aphorism by Mark Twain: It’s easier to fool people than convince them that they get fooled.  That’s what I’m writing about. Highly topical in the age of Trump, I’d say. I’m interested in language, and lots of my writing is about language and how it’s used and misused. I’m also interested in politics. Here’s one little fragment from This Is Heaven (with Nick, the owner of Nick’s Restaurant, speaking):

“People have a right to forget,” he says. “Think of slavery. That wasn’t ‘slavery’ at all—that was ‘our peculiar institution.’ ‘Suffragette’—that was our term of derision for a bunch of uppity bitches. ‘Miscegenation’—that was miss, you understand, and illegal to boot. ‘Separate but equal’—my God, we swore by it until fucking Truman put them all in the same bunkbeds. And Brown versus Schoolboard—have you seen the clips, Brown emanating from a court hearing, and the entire American press stalking him with sneers and laughter ‘cuz he’s black and wannabe white? And now you guys, with your rainbow marriage. There’s only one solution for real Americans, who have never, ever, been racist, or misogynists, or segregationist, or anti-Semitic, or homophobic, or whatever was wrong with us in the past—or will be wrong with us in the future—and that’s forgetfulness.”




Where do you write?




In bed, behind my desk, and, since I got a new computer with a better battery, outside on the balcony. 

What’s next for you in writing?



I have plans for a play, a comedy of manners, Oscar Wilde style, set mildly in the future, about an aging psychoanalyst, Sarah. Her household robot, Robbie, is 25 years old, and gradually falling apart. It’s a piece about emotions—why we love our dogs, or our robots. Okay, a little bit more: it’s Sarah’s 50th birthday, and when she and her then-boyfriend David broke up 25 years ago, he promised to show up at her 50th birthday, regardless. David moved on to found the company RobotsAreUs, now the world’s leading robot maker. Robbie was his first, experimental creation…

 

At the moment, I’m writing—well at the moment I’m writing this interview—but otherwise I’m taking notes about a piece about Donald Trump (of course), titled “Trump Is a Symptom, Not the Cause,” which will try to explain his phenomenon as a consequence of modern information technology (shortening attentions spans, outsourcing of memory, etc). I’m also thinking about a third book of the GREEN EYES series, titled “The Yellow Parrot” in which the green-eyed lead character Alex has to solve the puzzle of the disappearance of said parrot, the pet of a famous, NYC-based art critic. Spoiler alert: the parrot is rumored to have a sixth sense for the art market, and got itself abducted by a vicious hedge fund manager dealing in contemporary art.

Something about you


Interests: I’m interested in too many different things. And I’m obsessed with the Trump phenomenon, of course.

Hobbies: Not so many, fortunately. I like hiking and chess, and movies. Reading (haha). 

Passions: Sex, of course. 

Country of Residence: France, Cote d’Azur. I was born in Berlin, Germany, and spent most of my active life in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I’m thinking about moving to Portugal.

Pets: Dogs and cats. 

Favorite writers: I’ve mentioned Mark Twain and David Foster Wallace already. A few more: Vladimir Nabokov, John Updike, Thomas Mann, Donna Tartt (especially her first novel, “The Secret History”), Hemingway, Flaubert, Annie Proulx, Oscar Wilde… 

Artists: Yes, artists. Ernest Hemingway mentioned in an interview in The New Yorker back in 1950 that his writing was influenced by (the painter) Paul Cézanne and (the composer) Johann Sebastian Bach. Occasionally I’m thinking about this. It’s never too late to try, so I’ll hazard that my writing is influenced by (the painters) Paul Klee and Joan Miró and (the composers) Ludwig v. Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach. So, I’m even more influenced than Hemingway was. 

PREVIOUS PUBLICATIONS



Novels

Green Eyes—an erotic novel, (sort-of). Lustspiel Books, 2015.

This Is Heaven—Green Eyes, Part II. Lustspiel Books, 2017.




Novellas/Short stories:

Active Duty. 2013 EtherBooks.

Astral Engineering. A retelling of Jules Verne’s “Voyage to the Moon” from the (gay) point of view of Michel Ardan. 2014. Unpublished.

La Corniche d’Or. 2014. Temptation Magazine.

The Fountain of Geneva. 2014. The Bear Review.

Jamie 1.0. 2015. Gay Flash Fiction.

Jennifer. 2016. Gay Flash Fiction.

There Is so much Sex Going on in the World. 2016. Lustspiel Books. 

Rilke’s Ghost. The author and his partner Chang vanquish the ghost of Rainer-Maria Rilke. 2016. Unpublished.

Le Trayas Station. The author meets a sluggish, pretty, Arab youth, whose brother is a terrorist. 2016. Unpublished.

Florence. 2017. Gay Flash Fiction.

It’s Immoral. 2017. Bunbury.

John Is a Great Guy. 2017, forthcoming. Gay Flash Fiction.




Feature Script: 
Freedom Fries. Alternative History: George W. Bush has a change of heart after his retirement. 2009. Unproduced.


BLURB This Is Heaven:




Alpha males, delicate souls, and the Undead hit it off in a new scramble for the last happy ending. 

A billionaire dies a suspicious darkroom death in Georgia Beach’s only gay haunt. The Vampire Festival is about to start. A professor of quantitative metaphysics predicts Armageddon for Thursday. Her sister, Juliette, falls in love with street-smart Romeo. Elsa, author of heat-level romance, meets ravishing Ben, progenitor of erotic techniques. Shakespeare, Albert Camus, Enid Blyton, Mark Twain, and many other writers appear in cameo. Corpses pile up. Alpha-hunk Alex recovers from a suicidal overdose—with amnesia—and can’t remember his sexual orientation. John, his oversexed lover, is losing it. Is Alex still gay? Is John is still trolling? (Yes.) Will their partnership survive the End-of-the-World?

Explanation: 

This Is Heaven is a satirical combination of sex (gay and straight), crime, politics, and culture (both high and low). Set in the (fictional) town of Georgia Beach, GA, the book relates how John and Alex, the anti-heroes of the Green Eyes, manage to hijack the resort’s Summer Festival despite overwhelming adversity from many quarters, including metaphysical ones.

The title is a sequel to Ampersant’s first work, Green Eyes, which was a finalist of the prestigious Lambda Literary Awards of 2015.  

Links 

Michael Ampersant website / Facebook / Twitter 

Green Eyes Buy Link / This is Heaven Buy Link 


And to Finish here is This is Heaven Excerpt 


42 JOHN IS A GREAT GUY

Alex is at his home; that’s where he’ll be, in his single bed, which is exactly the size of Ben’s. 

In cases like this the second time is the real thing, the first time is spilled booze and confusion and pent-up petting and laughter, and cum, eventually. The second time, they’ve had seas of time, they spent the whole day together, Alex on his mysterious errands, Ben riding shotgun, or taking the wheel because he’s never driven a hybrid car. They won’t talk about sex of course (not theirs, at least), and they won’t talk about Alex taking pictures of Ben (or Romeo, for that matter), but they will talk about Alex’s amnesia, and about engineering. Ben, you’re at Georgia Tech, right? Good school, isn’t it, one of the best in the country; Ben is proud, and Alex is proud because Ben is proud. They talk about the harp bridges that Ben is going to build, and about girls and women—Alex half-apologizing for the ‘practical joke’ of the first outcall with Greta and Jane, and Ben cracking up (“practical joke”). 

Alex might raise the subject of Ben’s other outcalls, but he won’t talk about the Knights, and they wouldn’t talk about John, except that John is a great guy, a great guy—Ben finishing Alex’s sentence (“a great guy”). A few days down the road they might share a joke about me, perhaps, when the dust has settled; this after Alex having talked about his soul again, how Ben, (you, Ben) found his (Alex’s) soul—yes, it could go that deep, both of them commanding an emotional depth that John sadly lacks. Terrible sentence.

So, a few days later they’ll have a serious conversation in simple terms, like ‘life,’ and ‘future,’ and ‘help,’ (Alex asking for help), and ‘love.’ There would be no need for mixed metaphors or spurious allusions to popular culture, the way John always gets it wrong, and then there is this innocent joke about me, so innocent that they kiss another French kiss as the punch line. And there would be no need for French words like ‘orientation,’ or ‘preference,’ or ‘bisexual.’ The joke, yes, the joke would be that they need a larger bed, the way John always needs a larger bed. 

This joke seals their relationship, they realize, both smiling their sheepish smile at each other. Alex knows about the smile, and Ben has an inkling as well. Alex may reach for a little alpha-moment, like saying ‘ambiguity is a strength, not a weakness,’ and Ben answering, ‘unless one is writing code,’ and both dudes will love it. But we are not there yet.
We are still in the Prius, Alex giving directions. They both realize all too well that this is their second time, both reasonably sober still, honestly trying to kick bad habits and talking about Luke since the fridge is empty and they are on their way to his store. Ben’s cell goes off (speaking of the devil), but Ben’s concentrating on the traffic until the ring tone dies. They burst into Luke’s ice room (the coldest convenience store in the world), Luke himself behind the counter (the undead never sleep), Alex asking for a six pack and grinning with duplicitous conviction—Alex knows that Luke knows that they know that he knows and so forth. So, Luke doesn’t grin at all since he’s jealous, terribly jealous—almost as jealous as I am at this moment—and because he doesn’t dare to ask why Ben doesn’t answer his phone.

There’s still an off-chance they didn’t really do it on Tuesday night, too drunk, or spent, and this is their first time indeed. There’s a sense of absentmindedness as they scale the stairs to Alex’s pad. The stupid door’s jammed and kicked open, the A/C’s repaired, we know, Alex is off to the bathroom. Ben won’t sit down until Alex returns, he’s fussing with the nibbles they also bought from Luke. Dude is back from the john, and now we’re into quantum tunneling—it’s a matter of nanometers how much daylight will be left between them as they plop down on the mini couch. Serious conversation resumes. Alex is keen to talk about his problems with an engineer, somebody intelligent who can think things through, and Ben is keen to forget about the A-level shit and to please the smartest, handsomest, least-expected person of his life. Ben is smart, too, he’s minoring in philosophy, he’s much better than John at posing the right questions and helping Alex to find answers as to the relationship between introspection and soul—e.g., whether the term ‘soul’ makes sense here—until he cracks up with a solid ebony laugh, reminding Alex of his (Alex’s) perennial talk of Heaven—a place where body and soul come together like never before. He has this on good authority from Dr. Martin Luther Fletcher, his father, by coincidence. 
We’ve reached a branching point even though the next iteration is the same. Ben cups Alex’s ears with both hands and applies a big smooch to dude’s lips. 

Now the branching: 

(1) If this is their first time, there will be uninhibited petting and groping until they reach Alex’s single bed about which Ben will briefly comment (“exactly like mine”), and then they make love. 

(2) If this is their second time—more likely, alas—there wouldn’t be anything immediate, the kiss would be deeper, the lips wetter, but that’s all. They disengage and look at each other. 

It’s real this time, Ben lost in admiration of Alex’s beauty—beauty here in the widest sense of the word, full Plato—and so it’s about Alex’s inner assets, his entire α-being. Alex reciprocates—not quite as platonic as we’d like (Ben’s body, skin, lips, cheerful profile pass his mind)—but soon we return to the truer issues, Ben’s own charisma for example, or his effortless formality (not that we’ve seen much of his effortless formality during this episode, but I assure you), or Ben’s bearing, accentuated and tender (somehow letting others know how important they are—his secret weapon during A-level assignments and a key ingredient of his alchemy with Alex, I guess). And the nostrils, OMG, I failed to mention Ben’s breathing nostrils.

The longer this lasts the more it means. Now what? Alex will put his big hand on Ben’s thigh (Ben, as always, not wearing shorts but snug simple jeans). There won’t be any petting, it was a bit awkward last time. They get up. They embrace. Alex is obliged to make the first step because he’s the host. Or Ben, how about Ben taking the initiative by the graces of his effortless formality, e.g., unbuttoning Alex’s shorts. Alex reciprocates, outer legwear drops. They both wear Ben’s MuchachoMalos—we really had enough, never-ever will we mention this brand again—the unmentionables drop by sheer force of will. Ben wears white socks, which he’ll keep on during the proceedings (at Alex’s instigation, haha). Ben’s half-open Hawaii shirt, that’s a task for Alex, the three buttons left. Now Alex raises his arms, and Ben peels the green tank shirt from his lover’s torso. For the next eternity, they will undress like that, each other, each night, up there on their own, private cloud bank.

                                                    {•}

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