Thursday, October 8, 2015

Profile: 'Nathan Burgoine's charming debut novel Light

Blogger's Note: In summer 2014, I interviewed queer Ottawa novelist and short story writer, 'Nathan Burgoine, for an article due for publication before Ottawa Pride 2014. However, in the end, the story did not run. In the freelance journalism business, this happens, as I have mentioned in previous posts. When such a story does not run, the freelancer witer is paid a kill fee, which is usually half the price they are owed for the piece. Or, sometimes, if they are lucky and have an amicable rapport with the editorial staff, the writer gets paid the full fee, as I did. Here's the story, with minor alterations. (And with thanks to those who paid me for the work.)

Ottawa queer novelist 'Nathan Burgoine is attending Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words in just over a week. He should be proud for creating a queer hero who debuts at Ottawa’s Pride festival in his first novel, Light.

“I wanted to tell a gay superhero story, and highlight the gay community,” Burgoine, a writer and bookseller, said. “Pride felt like the best setting for that."

Burgoine planted his story here because he attended university in Ottawa, stayed here afterward, and found hope at the festival.

“Pride was where my “chosen family” was found when I came out and ended up flying solo,” Burgoine said.

Burgoine adeptly injects wit and heart into Light. His hero, the perpetually single yet charming Irish protagonist Kiernan Quinn, is a telepath and telekinetic who can bend light. He books time off from his job as massage therapist every year to attend Ottawa Pride festivities. This time, though, an evangelical, right-wing preacher nicknamed Stigmata Jack (think Fred Phelps with bleeding stigmata) and his followers picket events, threatening to kill the deprived ‘sinners’ in attendance. Kiernan, flirting with a hunky leather man, dodging his family’s phone calls, and hanging with his caffeine-addicted co-worker Karen, feels he must step up.

As for super heroics, Burgoine confesses that he loved reading The Uncanny X-Men comic books while growing up in an era without cable T.V. or the Internet.

“People who were born different to families who were otherwise “normal,” and hated for it?” Burgoine says. “Gee. I’m not the first person to make the connection to the LGBT experience with those of Marvel’s mutants, but it was a powerful thing for me as a kid. They were the closest thing I saw to an example in fiction of someone like me. In many of the small towns I lived in, there was no hope of bumping into any representation of an LGBT character.”

“I remember being a kid and never seeing any examples of who I might be as an adult,” Burgoine said. “Being myself and not having to care at all who might see is a big deal, and Pride exemplifies that.”

Photo by Daniel Smith Photography.
From the Bold Strokes Books website.
Although Light is his first book, Burgoine has written for as long as he can remember. Starting with publishing “Heart”, a gay romance story, in 2009, he has crafted short gay erotica and speculative fiction. Burgoine’s clever story “Lesser Evil”, about a C-side super hero crushing on established male heroes, appeared in The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy!, from Northwest Press in 2013. Light, though, earned Burgoine a Lambda Literary Award nomination in the LGBT SF/F/Horror category.

“The Lammys were magic!” Burgoine says of attending the June 2, 2014 ceremony in New York City. “Being nominated on my first novel was terrifying.” However, on a serious note, Burgoine added that everyone warmly welcomed him, despite his initial reaction of being star-struck.

Burgoine draws inspiration from many influences, including gay U.S. author Rob Byrnes’hilarious” capers. Light is often hilarious, too. For instance, the queer community debates what to call their mysterious hero, giving him monikers including ‘Refraction, ‘Disco’, ‘Prism’ and “Rainbow Man’.

Burgoine’s Rainbow Man is happy with his own identity. This sensibility, well, shines in Light.

“Kieran’s joy at being gay was absolutely something I wanted to make certain came through, best represented in settings where he was wholly free to be himself (well, except for the superhero stuff),” Burgoine says.

'Nathan Burgoine will be reading at Naked Heart: An LGBTQ Festival of Words at 4pm on Saturday, Oct 17 as part of the "Fantastic Worlds" event with authors J.M. Frey, Stephen Graham King, Michael Lyons, and myself, James K. Moran. 

Naked Heart occurs Oct 16 to 18 in Toronto. 

Glad Day Bookshop. 598 Yonge St. Third Floor event space. 

For more details about Naked Heart, go here.

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