"Something that concerns me as I grow older is a desire to leave the world a better place. Last month I had a minor heart attack, which is something that prompts a life review and brings that general concern into a much sharper focus. I realized that leaving the world a better place had been an ongoing theme in my activism and, looking back, it was actually a big part of both of my new books.
In my novel Young Digby Swank. I wanted to show how all the social constructs placed on kids, from gender roles to threats of damnation from organized religion (in Digby’s case the Roman Catholic Church), really warp a gay youngster’s sense of self. The world wants to convince these kids that they are the problem. I wanted to show that there are much bigger bullies out there than the other kids on the playground. I also wanted to tell a survivor’s story and show the sense of self it often takes for LGBT kids to survive all that bullshit.
However, the real challenge of Young Digby Swank was showing all this stuff, but at the same time making it really funny. A laughing reader is much more receptive than a somber one, at least that’s true for me. Plus, it made the book a lot more fun to write. Telling a painful story in a hilarious way became easier once I knew there would be a happy ending. Survivor’s always have the best stories and humor is one of the greatest survival tools at our disposal. My view of the world: if you can’t laugh, you’re in trouble. And honestly, the church and the gender roles and the small minds all become completely absurd with just a little perspective. I am really pleased with the end result, at least as pleased as I can be without feeling guilty and slightly sinful. What can I say, Catholicism casts a long shadow.
My second new book is the non-fiction title The LGBT Book of Days. This book offers another perspective on LGBT life. This time the entertaining avenue wasn’t one of humor, but of trivia. I am a huge geek that way, an enormous geek actually. I love facts, love history, love putting it all together like the pieces of a big queer puzzle. Compiling the book was fun for me and I also knew it was going to result in a solid reference book and a great tool for people to investigate further on their own. This book isn’t a timeline, it is a book of days so it captures what things happened on each day of the year whether it is the birth or death of an LGBT person, a milestone protest, a pop culture event, a significant LGBT headline, a publication, the start of an organization, etc. I have written a few LGBT history books and it always drove me crazy that this information wasn’t compiled in one simple place with an index in the back. I wanted it to be quick reference and a lazy Sunday afternoon all rolled into one.
The LGBT Book of Days chronicles the unforgettable events and incredible lives that have forged our history and made us the strong, brave and proud global community we are today. This book was compiled to help show people, and especially youth, all the LGBT people who have come before and the wonderful contributions they have made to the world. The book is meant to be a sort of homage to those pioneers and also a means of education and inspiration for those to come.
So when I had the heart attack, one of the things that ran through my mind during all the testing and whatnot was the satisfaction that Young Digby Swank and The LGBT Book of Days were both completed. That sense of contentment, with all the chaos going on around me, made all the years of activism and struggling as a writer worth it. When I was getting wheeled in for the angiogram I just laid there thinking “What do you know, I made the right choice after all.” In retrospect, there’s no feeling like it in the world."
About Owen: Writer and historian Owen Keehnen has had his fiction, essays, erotica, reviews, columns and interviews appear in dozens of magazines and anthologies worldwide. Keehnen is the author of the humorous gay novel Young Digby Swank (Wilde City Press, 2013), the gay novel The Sand Bar (Lethe Press, 2012) and the horror novel Doorway Unto Darkness (Dancing Moon Press, 2010). He is also the author of The LGBT Book of Days (Wilde City Press, 2013). Along with Tracy Baim, he co-authored Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow (Prairie Avenue Productions, 2011) as well as Jim Flint: The Boy From Peoria (Prairie Avenue Productions, 2011). Over 100 of his interviews with various LGBT authors and activists from the 1990s have been collected in the book We're Here, We're Queer (Prairie Avenue Productions, 2011). He co-edited Nothing Personal: Chronicles of Chicago's LGBTQ Community 1977-1997 (Firetrap Press, 2009), was a contributor to Gay Press, Gay Power (Prairie Avenue Publications, 2012) and wrote ten biographical essays for the coffee table history book Out and Proud in Chicago (Surrey/Agate, 2008). Keehnen was on the founding committee and executive board of The Legacy Project and is currently a contributing biographer for the LGBT history-education-arts program focused on pride, acceptance, and bringing proper recognition to the courageous lives and contributions in LGBT history. He was the author of the Starz books, a four-volume series of interviews with gay porn stars. He has had two queer monologues adapted for the stage and served as co-editor of the Windy City Times Pride Literary Supplement for several years, was a co-founder of the horror film website RacksAndRazors.com, and a featured poet in Wilde City's 2013 collection Falling Awake. He also has written several gay erotica titles under the pen name Ewan Creed. He lives in Chicago with his partner, Carl, and his two ridiculously spoiled dogs, Flannery and Fitzgerald. He was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2011.
Young Digby Swank by Owen Keehnen
Publisher: Wilde City Press; 1 edition (September 11, 2013)
Amazon Kindle: Young Digby Swank
Meet Young Digby Swank…a gay boy in a very Catholic world. This is his story—from his miraculous birth, his troubled childhood and his quest for popularity, all the way to his dreams of becoming Pope and/or a beauty queen. Follow Digby through Cub Scouts, through his stint as an altar boy, a prankster, an outcast, a cross dresser, a vengeance seeker, a hell-bound sinner, and more. But it’s not just Digby you’ll meet on this journey! Say hello to Digby’s overbearing relatives, a few bullying nuns, some eccentric neighbors, and oh, let’s not forget the parish gossips of Running Falls, the small blue collar town in which Digby lives.
Yes, meet Digby Swank. A boy searching for love, belonging… and maybe even a halo. Surely those devil horns will help keep it propped up!
The LGBT Book of Days by Owen Keehnen
Publisher: Wilde City Press; 1 edition (September 9, 2013)
Amazon Kindle: The LGBT Book of Days
The LGBT Book of Days is a reference book, a fun trivia compilation, and a tool for further investigation into our rich, colorful—and profoundly challenging—past. Year by year, month by month, day by day, this book chronicles the unforgettable events and incredible lives that have forged our history and made us the strong, brave and proud community we are today.
Compiled by gay author and historian Owen Keehnen, this comprehensive and important book has been written in appreciation of those who have come before…
And as a reminder to those who will follow.
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