New! Author Interview with Steve Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love Book Review
Category: Apple Blossom
Genre: Fiction, YA Fiction, Gay Fiction
Hopefully, you took my advice and picked up a copy of My Most Excellent Year when I last reviewed a novel by Steve Kluger. If not, then here’s another chance to dive into his writing! Almost Like Being in Love is the punch-drunk love story that reminds you what it last felt like to be wholly, totally, stupidly, naively, I-know-this-isn’t-going-to-last-but-I-still-believe-it-with-all-my-might in love. In this book, his name is Travis, but for you it might have been Leslie or Maribel or Abdiel or Jacqueline or Sydney. And you’ll be back there in that time where fights were over which kind of Oreo you bought or who had to turn off the light, and love was the only real thing in the world. I will warn you, though, Kluger breaks your heart a little bit, because the love only lasts the first 41 pages before real life comes a-knocking. Then, you’re transported 20 years in the future to Travis and Craig on opposite sides of the country. But don’t worry, you get to spend the rest of the book rooting for them as they work their way back to finding each other and puzzling out with them how exactly first love and real life are supposed to coexist. If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it. Go find Steve Kluger at your local, independent bookstore, Crawford's Books, and get reading!
And keep reading to hear my special interview with the author, Steve Kluger!
1. Tell me the story of how you became a writer.
I remember being eleven years old and reading A Wrinkle in Time. It was THE book. Every time I went to the library, it wouldn’t be on the shelf; it would already be checked out. Finally, one day, it was sitting there. And I thought, “It’s my turn.” The entire weekend I was locked away reading it. And I would finish it and read it again, finish it and read it again. So I decided to write a letter to Madeleine L'Engle. It was a long, impassioned letter telling her in great detail everything I loved about the book. Six months later I got a response. And she said, “In reading your letter, I notice a strong appreciation for words and the way you use them. I would not be surprised at all if you grow up to become a writer someday.” So in 1984, I sent her my first book. And she wrote me back and said, “I have been waiting for this one for 21 years.” From that point on, every time I wrote a new novel, I’d send it to her.
2. What are some of your favorite novels?
I have a perennial list of books that are always on my nightstand, that never go on the shelf. Reading them is like revisiting an old friend. There is nothing as soothing as knowing how good you’re going to feel when you finish it. You’re not surprised, because you know how it’s going to turn out, but it doesn’t matter. You’re in the story. Iron Duke by John. R Tunis is the best book that no one has ever heard of. Of course, Mark Harris’ The Southpaw. And Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman got me started on the way I tell stories. That book has so many different narrative styles, and I thought, “I could do that. I can build a new writing style for each relationship in the story.”
3. Do you base your characters off of real people?
Oh yeah. My Most Excellent Year was really a family affair. I have a niece and nephew in California and I told their parents that I was going to be the third parent. I was going to be their favorite. The gay uncle is the single most powerful being on earth. By the time my niece was two years old, there was no question that I was right. By the time my nephew was three years old, I wanted to write a story for him. And you know kids, making up words. Well, I liked his words better. I’m a wordsmith, but I found myself using his words. Augie was me when I was that age. T.C. was a combination of me and people I knew growing up. Laurie was my sister. Pops was a combination of my dad and my uncle. And Hucky was my nephew.
4. Where does your passion for writing come from?
Writing was never an option to me. I wanted to be a Broadway star. Madeleine L'Engle planted the seed. I had a Comparative Literature TA in college who told me that if I did not take a stab at writing, it would be a real waste. But still, I didn’t consider myself a writer. I never saw it as a talent; I just thought it was bullshitting. Eventually, I came to it on my own. I was 27 and writing a letter to my friend and it turned into a novel. Since then, every novel I wrote got published.
5. What’s your favorite style of writing?
Lyric writing. Because it’s new. Playwrighting is the fastest way to get to the core of the character. It’s just what’s coming out of their mouths. I grew up in the golden age of Broadway musicals. My mother bought all of them. When you grow up surrounded by music, you internalize it. So when the time comes around to write a musical, I knew what a lyric was. All I had to do was step out of the way and let it happen. The musical adaptation of Last Days of Summer is coming to Broadway as soon as theaters reopen.
6. What are your writing pet peeves?
“Any more” is two words, not one. It’s “all right” not alright. Know the difference between peek, pique, and peak, between discreet and discrete. Always use the Oxford comma.
7. How long does it take you to write a book?
Three to seven weeks. That doesn’t include that I had been thinking about it for eleven years. But once I get the line, it triggers the entire labor process and then I write until it’s finished.
8. What is your writing routine?
I can’t sit down and write every day. I have an idea and I’ll keep a notebook. It’s not really what’s in the notebook. Once the line is my brain, then it germinates over “x” period of years until all of the sudden. Boom.
9. Which one of your books is your favorite?
Almost Like Being in Love. It’s total wish fulfillment. When I was 17 years old in high school, I fell in love with my best friend who was straight. Of course, because that’s the way it happens. In the book, I just completely replicated our entire relationship and then finished it with where I wished it had gone. I really wanted to write this story because I have never been as alive as I was then. I feel lucky. So many people go through life never having that, the smack in the face, arrow through the heart love. Nothing has ever come close to that, and whatever happens, it’s an experience I am so intensely grateful to have.
10. If you had one piece of advice to offer aspiring authors, what would that be?
Read. That’s all. I’ve been an avid bookaholic. I’ll devour it all. I learned about style, narrative voice, how to experience passion, how to draw people in. I discovered my own voice.
You can find Steve Kluger on his website. If you’d like to hear from him, send him an email. He’s a part of that rare faction of authors that sees it as his moral responsibility to respond to his fans and he responds to every single email he gets.