Yes, you can judge a book by its cover…

Lukas A-Happy-Finish_wbanner_hi-res

My publisher, Sizzler Editions, has recently chosen the cover of my anthology of gay fiction, A Happy Finish, as part of its Cover Cavalcade of ‘Loveliest Covers’. Now, it is indeed lovely for me to be part of such a delightful, saucy and sexy cavalcade, and to pick up an honorary ‘title’ of Loveliest Cover, but sadly this has got nothing whatsoever to do with me. I didn’t design or make any suggestions for the cover. The only comment I was able to make about it was to ensureg that my name was spelt correctly – at some point I’d become ‘Lucas Scott’ and I was having none of it. However, I will take the tiara for the title anyway, thank you very much,  and sit here with it on my head . Look at me, I’m a princess, wearing my invisible crown.

I don’t know the cover artist for my book, and don’t really know what decisions they made or why,  in creating the cover image. But I do really, really like it. (Of course, I should point out that’s not my torso on the cover – I wish! And the snow topped mountain in the background isn’t where live, or write – again, I wish!) Yet, it can’t be an easy job coming up with any image for an anonymous author, whose selection of short stories sprawls from vampires to butchers to full moons and London buses  and science fiction clones. What I like is that there is a sense of mystery and beauty  about the image which I would hope is part of my work, an eroticism that encopasses  place as well as person. there’s an exciting and passionate naure to the cover which, again, I like and recognise in what I hoped to achieve in the stories themselves.

Authors rarely get any say in their cover images. And, to be frank, that’s probably as it should be. We can be precious, and contrary, and – well, quite illiterate in the Art Of A Good Cover. Only rarely have I been involved in choosing a cover picture for either my fiction or my non fiction work. And, yes, some of the covers I’ve hated. But, really, my job is to write the damned things, not wrap them up to sell. My publisher and the artist know much, much better than I do what is likely to sell, or what makes a good image. That’s their job. To be honest, for A Happy Finish I couldn’t even come up with the right title. Originally,  I’d sugested something clever, and wittty, and self-referential, and then my editor gently and sagely suggested something much simpler – like the title of a story that was actually in the cllection.

I chose not to go down the self-publishing route for A Happy Finish because I know there are other, more professional , more knowledgable and more experienced people who  have better insight  into the ebook trade than I do. On average, an author needs to write 48 books a year just to make the minimum wage! So you will see why it’s important to seduce you, dear gentle reader, into cooing and whooping at my sexy, exciting, intriguing covers as you browse through endless novels and books on the interweb, and for that cover to catch your flirty eye and poersuade you to part with your hard earned cash (or credit card, or bitcoin).

Some writers may well be control freaks, and want absolute say at every stage of the publishing process. In which case, you probably do need to self publish, and good luck writing those 48 books a year, or waving the magic wand that creates an overnight bestseller. For most of us, we need to recognise that you, gentle reader, most probably do judge a book by its cover, and then also decide if you like the writing .. or not.

Do feel free to tell me of your ‘lovely covers’ . In the meantime, A Happy Finish is available direct from sizzler .

And yes, I’m still wearing my invisible crown.

Now Was Not Like That Then

outrage impertinent decorum growing up positive

Once upon a time, in a universe far away, I landed my first writing contract. It was all terribly exciting. Getting a real book into print, ad being commissioned. I was a post-grad student terribly excited by ‘gay theatre’ and ‘gay drama’,  the new ‘queer politics’ that had emerged in the 1990s and which seemed to inhabit different areas of my life – politics, friendships, relationships, culture. I was in the process of trying to make sense of all this when Cassell started its own pioneering ‘queer studies’ publications list, and I was invited to be in the first round of authors to contribute. My research enthusiastically – and probably, naively – coalseced around an idea of ‘gay theaterical manoeuvres’ – the notion that sexual identities are created through our body, our language, and the spaces we inhabit/invade. A clumsy, but idealistic way, to try and marry some of my lived experience as a young queer writer and activist following a backlash from the AIDS crisis, and new(re-emerging) prejudices and homophobia. No equal age of consent, no equal marriage, no gays in the military, no ‘promotion’ of homosexuality.

What strides, what leaps there have been since then. And, for me, that book – Impertinent Decorum – was published in 1990, and I was then  offfered a second commission, for a collection of oral histories on the theme of ‘Young people and HIV/AIDS ‘- an area I was doing work in as a dramatist, activist, and writer.  I got the opporunity to write another book, and to sit and listen to many inspiring life stories. ‘It’s like talking to a counsellor’, one of them told me. Which is what I also eventually became.

My third commission from the same supportive editor/publisher was to document the rise and history of the direct action group we both belonged to, OutRage! I had lots of chats, listened to a whole load of gosssip and rarguments, from people I barely knew and people I knew well – ‘including ‘the busiest gay man in London’. Even then, we found we were looking back at a world that was changing and disappearing, hence the title of my introduction to the book ‘Now Was Not Like That Then’, after a comment from a vociferous anti-gay contributor on a television talk show. Much of the time we were being vindicated and ‘str8’ society was coming round to a rather more liberal  (or assimiliationist) vision of ‘equality’. It wasn’t exactly the ‘Queer’ agenda we’d started off with, but if that got the police to investigate homophobic murders rather than hanging round toilets trying to entrap gay mean, it seemed an imporvement. OutRage! was published in 1998, at a time when the organisation itself was changing and diminshing, but before the real impact of its arguments and campaigns saw fruition. Many will argue that OutRage’s direct action was counter-productive and it was the more measured politicking of groups like Stonewall that were responsible for the change.Wotevs.

It was kind of exhausting  wirting non-fiction about things I felt so strongly about. Writing the books was a way for me to re-imagine, but also to record, what was happening around me. After those books, I took to greater flights of fancy with queerotica and sci-fi. But it was glorious to have a commision, and to have space, simply to write,with a supportive publisher backing me.

As with gay rights, publishing has moved on and Now Was Not Like That Then. My publisher was acquired by a much larger publisher, so I find myself strangely housed within the Giant Halls of Bloomsbury, who have recently confirmed that they will be e-publishing those early books. E-publishing! My edior and I talked about such a thing in the 1990s and we both thought there might be something in it, but at the time the publishers themselves weren’t so convinced. All that business about licenses and formats seemed too complicated. So I continued to take a train down to That There London and the gleaming and daunting publishing houses, with a big fat print-out opf my latest 200 page book, Ofcourse, I LOVED going down to the Big City with a physical print-out of my latest  book. It was so …. heavy and impressive. And, even better, to get the print copies or proof-copies through the pose, so I could hold MY BOOK in my hands. Mmm, Precious ….

I still write. Mostly, these now get e-published in the first instance. Which is equally exciting, for me, but it’s rarer to go to a bookshop in Vancouver or wherever I travel and find one of my books on the shelf. But, for me, those first three titles remind me of the many thoughts, conversations, arguments and struggles of a young writer. I’m welcoming their return, and hope I can forgive myself the mistakes which will be so evident to me today.

My first published words were It’s Cool To Be An Artichoke which have also been quoted in the blog. Recently, professional footballer  Thomas Hitzlsperger and Olympian Tom Daley have come out. Moves are foot for equal marriage. Now was not like that then. Later today, I have an appointment with a space station. Funny where your writing and (re) imagination can take you …