Author: Rodney Ross
Length: Super Novel (336pgs)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (14th May 2012)
Heat Level: Low
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥4 ½Hearts
Blurb: The midforties are that time in a gay man’s life when his major paradigm shifts from sexy to sensible. But when Barry Grooms’s partner of twenty years is killed on Barry’s forty-fifth birthday, his world doesn’t so much evolve as it does explode.
After navigating through the surreal conveyor belt of friends and family, he can’t eat another casserole or swallow much more advice, and so, still numb, he escapes to Key West, then New York. He embraces a new mantra: Why the hell not? He becomes so spontaneous he’s ready to combust. First, he gets a thankless new job working for a crazy lady in a poncho, and then has too many drinks with a narcissistic Broadway actor. Next, it’s a nude exercise class that redefines flop sweat, and from there he’s on to a relationship with a man twenty years his junior, so youthfully oblivious he thinks Karen Carpenter is a lesbian woodworker.
Yet no matter how great the retreat from the man he used to be, life’s gravity spins Barry back to the town where he grew up for one more ironic twist that teaches him how to say good-bye with grace.
Review: Barry and Andy have been together for 23 years. It is Barry’s 45th birthday and tragedy strikes. As Barry struggles with the minefield of life, his friends and family look on helplessly, as he tries to find his path as just Barry.
This is a touching story of love, loss, anger, grief, new beginnings and trudging on with your life in the face of a terrible tragedy. It isn’t so much of a romance, it has romance, but it is not the focus, and there will be no dancing off under the moonlight with a new love. In this story we come across Barry the night before his birthday as he celebrates with his husband Andy. We stay with him through the next year as we see his loss, his new beginning, further loss and where he begins to heal.
This is not a book that you can put down easily once you get into it. As a matter of fact. I couldn’t even tell you where or how I became ensnared in Barry’s life. The characters that are described in this book start to become real to you. Their characteristics come to life and you begin to feel like you get to know Andy, Barry and all their friends. When tragedy strikes you can feel their horror and pain. You understand their reactions to everything and the need for levity at the funeral. And. you also understand that life still moves on, as their lives start to pull them back to reality.
We join Barry on his journey as he tries to find his life without Andy; dealing with avoidance, both physically, emotionally and mentally, with friends and with acquaintances who don’t know of Andy’s death, on the pitfalls of far-flung friends as having to explain again and again of his loss. Of beginning anew, making new friends and taking a new lover. This is about a man who has been set adrift from his rock and is trying to find a raft to stabilize him… so please don’t expect him to be having loads of sex and finding new love. Although Barry does have a new brief relationship we don’t get to see the sex, it is inferred.
I really wasn’t sure about this book when I first cracked it open, as the prologue seemed a little spacey to me. But then, I got into the first chapter and somewhere along the way I became enthralled with all the characters and their lives, their interactions and their friendships. There are some humorous parts and some tear making parts, some regretful parts and some angry parts. And watch as he steps into the dating pool again and fights a quagmire of online profiles.
I really do have to recommend that everyone give this one a try, it might not be dripping in sex and happy ever afters into the sunset but it is a great book and a touching read.
Pixie made contact with Rodney while he was vacationing in sunny Palm Springs, CA. He was gracious enough to take a break from sunbathing on clothing optional beaches to grant MM Good Book Reviews and interview.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Hello Rodney, are you in the land of the living now?
Rodney Ross Here I am. Yes…just some suck-ass Wi-Fi here at the resort.
Rodney Ross From sunny Palm Springs, good morning, hon. May I call you hon?
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Yes that’s fine with me, do you prefer Rodney or Rod?
Rodney Ross Rodney.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Okay, so let’s begin. Rodney you have just released your first book, how does it feel?
Rodney Ross Hon, my apologies…I am having erratic Wi-Fi…as opposed to erotic.
I am hoping that by signing off, then returning (I’d get better reception.) I am now with you.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Yep. Seems that way. 😉
Rodney Ross So far, so good. To answer your question: it’s gratifying, of course, to see my work unleashed upon the world. But, until I hold the paperback version in my little palsied claws, it won’t quite feel real.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews I can see how that would work. Like when you finally get a printed copy, it makes it more real.
Rodney Ross It does. I’m a very tactile person — not a hoarder, but my bookshelves groan under the weight of the works I REFUSE to part with.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews So, The Cool Part of His Pillow is not the typical romance, but I found it to be a compelling read. Tell the readers a little about it please.
Rodney Ross My getaway to Palm Springs has at least given me some breathing room, time to focus on promotion…I have made the rounds of the few LGBT bookstores here and thankfully found DSP product…so I immediately set upon charming the owner or manager into ordering THE COOL PART OF HIS PILLOW.
Rodney Ross Thanks, hon, for the compliment. I know it doesn’t conform to the norm. Frankly, I was a little surprised Dreamspinner was keen on it. It is almost anti-romance, in that romance is almost completely subtracted from the main character’s life, with a very good chance he may never recreate happiness again. So, actually, it’s about finding new bliss, repurposing and reformatting and reinventing.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews I must admit to being fascinated by Barry. How did you come up with his character?
Rodney Ross Well, writing it as I did in first person, he surely embodies a lot of my views, politically, etc., but anyone who would consider it memoir is mistaken. I really wanted to address a certain age in the LGBT community, when a certain invisibility descends, and what happens then when the certainty of your life also vanishes. That Barry is successful, has money, all of his hair and teeth and a sense of humor means little when the touchstone of his life, his partner Andy, is whisked away in one horrendous moment.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews I have got to say, what a way for it to vanish, when I was reading it my heart was in my throat. You showed complete destruction of a person’s life in brilliant detail.
Rodney Ross His thought processes become a little skewed, his innate skepticism multiplies, he doesn’t trust much of anything, and then realizes that there has to be a sunset for him to dream on, somewhere. And so begins his journey…not exactly EAT, PRAY, LOVE, more (like) DRINK, SULK, BITCH for a time, but he works his way through. It was difficult to write. Having a partner of many years myself, it was difficult to conceive of such apocalyptic horror, and the ongoing trauma of the legal system, the viral video of the accident itself.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews I think it was brilliantly written. You grasped his stages of grief really well. It came across the page and let us join him and mourn with him.
Rodney Ross That was my goal. Grief is such a process, and to share it so publicly is additional torment. It redefines you. It becomes The New Normal.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Don’t give it away. I was imagine all sorts of accidents, especially with Andy racing a train earlier in the book.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews And the actual shock of what really happened. wow.
Rodney Ross And without going into Spoilers, my hope is that the novel also demonstrates that, yes, sometimes the shit continues to hit the proverbial fan, and you have to don a bigger rain bonnet. It’s an unthinkable exit, that’s for sure. Yet, I also wanted to couch this in humor.
Without mumbling the trite “My favorite emotion is laughter through tears” stuff from STEEL MAGNOLIAS, indeed, I felt the circumstances needed a light touch. I have always been, and continue to be, a hopeful person, so that informs my writing. That tears are being shed does not preclude the possibility that a smile can be found in the darkness. You have to give the reader breathing humor.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews You did. It was exceptionally well done. Okay, less me gushing and more about you. As you said you have a long-term partner/husband and I read that it was your 30 year anniversary this year. How’s Greg been in the support and encouragement?
Rodney Ross Greg is the ultimate support system, which makes him sound like some space-age ventilator. As a writer himself — plays — he knows too well the angst and torment and anxiety and heavy lifting of writing. I mean: it’s not so easy. Digging ditches is hard labor, but constructing a plot and dialogue is itself a lot of sweat.
And Greg appreciates the fact that I will often disappear, when the muse hits, for hours in my office, tapping away, living other people’s lives. He’ll come in with a drinkie, or a reminder that dinner has gone cold, or laments that maybe pretty please could we go somewhere and look at real people and not just the ones I’m inhabiting?
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Sounds like he keeps you on track. ;-).
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Well, do you have a certain process or is it something less structured, when you sit down to write?
Rodney Ross A hybrid of both. I knew the first sentence of TCPohP when I sat down to write, and I knew the last, so I had an endgame, but I was always open to exploring how much I could get away with…several characters evolved radically, but they were always in the outline. I work from copious note-taking. I rarely share what I do with Greg, or anyone. I might run a concept by him and if he makes a squichface at me, I know maybe I am on the wrong track.
Key West, as literary-minded as it is, doesn’t have many reader groups, or author get-togethers, so I really don’t have a lot of interaction in that way…which can be a help or a hindrance, as it is.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Has Dreamspinner helped with their authors’ forum? Putting you in touch with other authors and the like?
Rodney Ross A bit. Again, I don’t really seek or need help with the craft…it’s really the promotion aspect that I have sought input on…book signings, the practicality of how to take a credit card, how big should the posters be, beer and wine versus soft drinks, all of those basic things that are unfamiliar terrain to me.
I worked in Advertising for over two decades, but I never promoted ME. Now, I — and the novel, of course — are the product, and it’s still a little off-putting. I am by nature talkative and friendly, but shaking the hands of strangers is surreal. So those are the things I have asked about, and gotten both good and not-
As bookstores vanish, there is less opportunity for those venues, so you have to explore the idea of LGBT centers, LGBT coffee shops, bars, lounges…I mean, if I could sing, I’d probably write a Karaoke blurb and perform the goddamn thing.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews So you had a lot of experience, you learn as you go along I suppose. Well, after this you’ll soon be an old pro. I gotta ask how it was for you when you first started submitting your book to publishers.
Rodney Ross Hateful.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Ooohhh is that gossip I hear, come on spill.
Rodney Ross I felt like I had missed on some quota.”Oh, we already an LGBT author.” Or, “We have a book about The Gay coming out in 2013.”
I was surprised how closed the market is — mainstream publishers, I mean. If you aren’t Sedaris or Burroughs or Cunningham — all of whom I love — it becomes difficult to avoid the gay ghettoization.
My people is about people, not political concepts, it’s about pain, which is universal. But I think what most Literary managers and Editors saw was, “Oh boy, another one about a lonely gay man.” If, of course, they responded at all, which many do not. Silence. I heard crickets. My own labored breathing. But nothing for weeks.
I also think gay sensibility informs so much now, the industry has become a little blasé about it. Gay characters abound, sassy trannies show up on Page 83.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Well you have Dreamspinner now who know a good book when they see one. *g*
Rodney Ross Indeed. I was elated that they found worth in my work because, as I said, it doesn’t really conform to certain strictures they indicate in their Submission requests. So I felt they appreciated the writing…and their Editorial Staff is without peer, lauding what they felt was good and gracefully indicating where I’d made a misstep, overstated something or needed clarification.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews So you found Dreamspinner Press is breaking newish ground in the M/M genre, does this mean you have another book in the works?
Rodney Ross I do indeed, and it does an LGBT component, but isn’t driven by it, so I don’t know where it will find a nice home. But yes, I DO think Dreamspinner took a bit of a gamble on me; I hope readers do, as well. If people are seeking hot sex scenes, they won’t find them, but they will find a whirling dervish of a plot, some twists and, I hope, a sense of fulfillment for my character by the final page.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews I think people who read M/M are now opening up to more versatile story-lines and we appreciate the authors who take a chance on us. 😉
Rodney Ross I hope you are right. I am a bit apprehensive. I myself like to read explicit sex passages, but it didn’t feel right for this particular tale…since its first-person, it would have come across as a bit more salacious, like a lovemaking narrative.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews So, after the experience that you have had, what would you recommend to someone else who is thinking of submitting their work?
Rodney Ross I didn’t even THINK about this as M/M, frankly; I just thought it about one gay man and his survival.
DSP has been so kind. Their responses to inquiries are lightning-fast. I just E-mailed this AM to lightly grouse about it not being on Amazon or Barnes & Noble yet, and I had a response within 30 minutes. The answer: big e-tailers will go “live” with it when they damn well choose, but the detail has been furnished to them.
Of course, fiscally-speaking, I would much prefer people buy from DSP directly, or request it at their local bookstore, but I also know people tote around gift cards, and there are those are NOT comfortable registering at an LGBT website, whether because they are closeted or just don’t like to “register” anywhere.
Elizabeth North has assembled a dazzling and capable staff that truly appreciate the writer and their voice; I never once felt at all they were trying to cookie-cutter me into anything.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Hmmm, we always try to post the direct link to the publishers when we do a review as it shows support to the author and the publishers… and I think I read somewhere that authors get a better percentage from a publishers sale. Okay, you spoke about publicity earlier so I have Got to ask, where the hell is your website?
Rodney Ross I don’t have one, nor will I. Knowing my own OCD characteristics, it would consume too much time, administering, blogging, updating, and I wouldn’t get any writing done. I know, I KNOW, this does not particularly endear me to those who want access to their author’s site, but I will direct people to FB, or Twitter. I’m savvy enough to know my own weaknesses, and I would be so engaged with the site, decades would pass and my novel-in-progress would languish.
And yes, I DO get a better percentage from a direct sale from DSP…but I still have friends, family and others who do the Amazon thang, and they are growing impatient with me. But hell, yes, hon, put up those Direct LINKIES!
I am a slow methodical writer who polishes as he goes along, and my output is probably not as prodigious or as swift as many others….hence, the limitations I place on myself when it comes to Internet visibility.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews LOL, I know what you mean, sometimes you can lose yourself in trying to keep on top of everything and then fall behind *sigh* I do that with writing reviews. So stick a profile up on Goodreads chick, I did a web search for you and ended up with a Rodney Ross who writes articles for Bass Fishing, Gah.
Please tell me that wasn’t you!!
Rodney Ross Uhm, no, that wasn’t me, and yes, I will take your counsel and update my GOODREADS Profile; I am pretty sure I have one, but it may need more detail re: the novel and such.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews The novel is on there just no personal information or contact details 😉 so this is where I get personal… does you have an all over tan? *snigger*
Rodney Ross Currently, yes. I and my traveling companions spent a little time at a clothing-optional resort where we exercised our option.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Okay I am really jealous… I have grey skies and rain and hail. *sigh*
Rodney Ross As I mentioned, I am in Palm Springs CA this week, where it has been a hellish 107 the other day….but, of course, it’s a “dry heat,” whatever the fuck that means. It’s been a good trip. They — a couple such cuties — actually went hiking today to Joshua Tree.
I said, “See ‘ya” and eyed a breakfast burrito. I haven’t yet let them read the book; they want to discover it at my book signing in Key West mid-June.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Lucky you. I am going to be sick with jealousy. Okay back on track, what hobbies do you have, when you have the time?
Rodney Ross I garden, tend my three glorious cats, give my husband unsolicited advice, judge strangers, pass gas and blame others, travel.
Rodney Ross We’re both theatre buffs, so we do NYC a coupla times yearly, just returned from there weeks ago, a friend is managing EVITA so I had to check out the Ricky Martin mojo.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews So honest answer here, you and hubby have been together for thirty years… did you start dating when you were ten?, because you so don’t look over forty in your pictures.
Rodney Ross We really are so fortunate to have retired early enough to still be vital and run around and enjoy stuff, before health makes its inevitable decisions for us.
We courted in college and were living together by our senior year, true story, and yes, I have availed myself of coupla surgical procedures, so thank you making me feel my money was well-spent.
I am 50. This, when I type it, makes me go into a light convulsion. I may have to take to the bed with a cold compress and gin through a bendy straw.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Wow. hope my hubby looks that good at fifty, but I doubt it. Lol Hmmm Gin.
Rodney Ross Botox, laser resurfacing and some light lipo under the chin, that’s the key. Better living Through Sutures.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews An honest man, if it makes you happy do it, that’s my motto. So a few more rambles, Let everyone know where they can find you so they can let you know how much they love The Cool Part Of His Pillow.
Rodney Ross People can join me on Facebook, or they can search for THE COOL PART OF HIS PILLOW Page on FB, they can access my gasbag Twitter thoughts @RodTRoss, or they can E-mail me at RodneyTRoss@aol.com.
And if they ever visit Key West, just look in the gutter.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews God, you had me snorting tea out my nose then. That burned.
Rodney Ross I will never deny that I favor a drink or 12.
Sorry. Now how would I know you were sipping something as sophisticated as tea when I am actually staring at a bottle of Grey Goose on our bar and wondering: is it too early?
Rodney Ross My friends will return and I’ll be half-blotto in my shorty robe, showing a shiny nut and babbling about someone named Pixie and Portia.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews They will call the men in the white coats. Lol
Rodney Ross If they’re cute and hung, let ’em in.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Okay, the most important question of the interview… ~drum roll~ If the world became a magical place tomorrow, what magical or mythical creature would you be?
Rodney Ross Probably a fire-breathing dragon, so I could hunt down those who wronged me and char their ass.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Yeah. A kindred soul, although I’d be a hell-hound.
Rodney Ross I have recurring dreams of flying, as it is, and God knows I get the heartburn after Mexican, so I am actually halfway to dragon status. And wearing these sandals out here has given me a scaly hoof, too.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Oh god, Portia will kill us when she reads this, but what a way to go, I’ve had loads of fun Rodney, but I will have to draw the interview to a close, otherwise were gunna delve into the unknown. So, Rodney it has been a pleasure to have you here on MM Good Book Reviews and I have had a ton of fun, any last words to your new fans?
Rodney Ross Buy my damn book.
I thank you so much for hostessing me. Sorry for the singed nostrils, but if you had unfortunate hairs that probably took care of them.
Well, I guess if they are NEW fans they did buy my damn book, so let me amend that: thank you for buying my book. To those who haven’t: buy my damn book.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews God I love you, you’re brilliant, and we will have to do this again when you release your next one.
Rodney Ross Yes, please, ma’am, I’ll take another! My best wishes to you and yours. Grey Goose is calling me.
Pixie Mmgoodbookreviews Bye Rodney thanks again for the interview.
Rodney Ross Bye!