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Interview: Jerome Stueart on “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun”

Jerome StueartTell us a bit about “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun.”

A jazz-playing faun finds everything taken from him a hundred years ago could be his again, if he’s willing to take it from his own student. He struggles to find another way. These two characters are trying to change their lives for the better, and finding it almost overwhelming. It has Jazz, Mentoring, and Hope.

 

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Steve Berman at Lethe Press was putting together an anthology of re-imagined myths for a gay audience, and asked if I wanted to write something.  I tried to re-imagine the Satyr/Faun, Pan, in a “bear” romance (read: big hairy gay men) story.  The story I wrote was awful and boring.  It was trying too hard to be a gay romance in a bar with some magic…and yeah, it just went nowhere, and made me depressed.  So, with me being already over the deadline, I scrapped it, salvaging only a couple of things, and started over. Everything else was new.  I wanted to write something uplifting. I’d been an intern twenty-five years ago for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program pairing up artists with students who want to learn from a local master in some traditional art form–fiddling, basket-weaving, hat-making—and wanted to write a story around that instead. About healing yourself through mentoring someone else.  I took out all the romance because that wasn’t important now.  What was important? These two characters struggle to become someone new.  The young musician who used to be a football player but who wants to play jazz is frustrated by his lack of skill and the hopelessness he feels in changing his life.  “I feel like I’m a tiny tugboat trying to turn a whole life around.”  That sums up this story of these two characters for me, struggling to change.  Steve liked it, and planned to use it, but the anthology never quite got completed.  After a little more than a year, I asked him, carefully, as you do, if the story might be available again. He was incredibly positive–knowing that the anthology might take a lot longer to be published–and he encouraged me to find the story a good home.

 

Was “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I was inspired by these two characters seeking to change their lives—and how hard that is, at any age.  They try, mess up, but they keep going, and they find a way to get what they want, or at least what they need (thanks, Rolling Stones, lol) . I’ve been there, trying to change habits, ways of thinking, whole careers—so that felt personal to me. Mr. Dance and I have also both been hurt by religion but we also both found our way out of our hurt and rediscovered our joys again. And these two characters really inspired each other—and the friends that come to them to help felt like the times I’ve been carried by friends who are helping me become who I want to be.

 

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story, and what was the most fun?

Writing about music was the most difficult challenge. I had a hard time knowing how you talk about music–especially jazz–outside of “that’s a nice melody!” So I looked at James Baldwin’s story “Sonny’s Blues” (which I have loved since I read it first in college) and Rafi Zabor’s jazz novel, The Bear Comes Home, and tried to talk about jazz like the songs were a conversation between musicians, or a fight scene. Which ended up being the most fun!

 

Why do you write?

I love my characters.  I want to see where they’ll go, what they’ll want and pursue, and how hard they will work to get it.  They inspire me.  I like to tell stories of people who struggle but who eventually pull out a win. Those are the kinds of stories that I love to read, so that’s what I want to write.  People making difficult discoveries about who they are. What they really want.  I also write stories that I would want to live inside—with characters like me.  I feel it’s important for me to write more gay, more queer, characters because I never saw any of those characters growing up and the absence of them had an effect on me.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

I lived a weird, magical life in my Southern Baptist-infused home that influences me today.  Of course, we had to memorize a lot of the Bible, and the stories were told and retold to me–Lions’ Dens, Fiery Furnaces, and Jesus Raising the Dead.  There’s a lot of magic and miracles in the Bible that can feed a fantasy-loving soul.  I also used to eat up Greek mythology as a kid— all these passionate gods and goddesses–I read every myth I could find. My mom read C.S. Lewis to the three of us kids in the hallway before bedtime.  My dad, my Preacher, gave me a comic book subscription to Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four when I was 9, and introduced me to Star Trek, which we watched together as reruns.  My parents are awesome people and, looking back, I realize, while we were living in a restrictive and fearful version of Christianity, my folks still managed to sneak in magic somehow, and for that I’m so grateful.  I feel like I still write somewhere from that weird place.  As a writer, I also learned a LOT from Ray Bradbury and Madeleine L’Engle, and later, Andre Dubus, Ron Hansen, James Baldwin, and Alice Munro. I like writers who make me feel something, who make me care about their characters. These days, since we never stop being influenced, I’m probably being influenced by Martha Wells, Mary Doria Russell, and Victor LaValle. At least, I hope so.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a novella about a chef on a starship who’s promoted to diplomat to secure a treaty, and negotiate reparations, with a culture that reveres food and cooks—but she has a lot of guilt herself over what happened, and is willing to do more than anyone knows to make it right.  It’s really a story about how we say “I’m sorry.” and how we deal with guilt.  It also has recipes from one of my favorite Yukon chefs, Miche Genest, the Boreal Gourmet. The chef in the story is based on my “udder mudder,” the partner of my birthmom for twenty years who was a Las Vegas chef. I miss her.

 

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

The author’s website: https://jeromestueart.com/

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