Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, Scott.
Thanks for asking. I’m a gay American of Irish background, lawyer, former captain of the high school football team, skier and kayaker, not a cook, not a gardener, an early riser, a hardcopy booklover who has reluctantly surrendered to the e-book revolution, a lover of short form fiction and poetry, and a person who far prefers silence to conversation.
I am a Bostonian, born and raised, and always amazed when I travel to other parts of the U.S. (most recently Utah) and encounter people far more likely to engage a stranger than we are in the East – and also far more courteous behind the wheel of their cars. We in my home town have rightly earned the moniker “Masshole” (Massachusetts a—hole), and while I can’t say I’m proud of it, it is a distinction well-earned. I guess we all have some challenges to work on!
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
Although I’ve been writing M/M romance for more than ten years, initially inspired by and in collaboration with my boyfriend (also named Scott!), I only rarely read the genre, primarily because I have so many eclectic things I want to read and there’s only so much room in the “To be read” pile – I read a little of just about everything.
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
Blame the Irish: I feel like I was born with pen in hand. First, it was my grandfather, who was an incredibly well-read and erudite man, and then my mother’s best friend Ann, who introduced me to Shakespeare very young. I published my first poem when I was eight years old: “Song of the Humpbacked Whale.”
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
I’m not sure I had any set expectations. It was and is just part of what I do, sometimes well, sometimes badly. It takes up a good chunk of each day, but I feel like I do about my morning coffee: I can’t imagine going without!
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
I had the luck of having two “first books” – one in collaboration with my boyfriend and one as a solo writer. Crafting each was intimate in its own way. The first book was accompanied by a spread in the NY Times Magazine and lots of other publicity (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/12/magazine/a-new-romance.html?_r=0), which was kind of exciting. The second “first book” was a memoir, which I anticipated would have an unhappy ending (I was asked to leave my then church), so I was more nervous about its reception than excited about publication.
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
It’s definitely this: putting aside what I’ve been working on for a few months and then coming back to it, and re-reading what I’ve written, and thinking: This isn’t half so bad as I thought it was!
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
Everything. I’m a compulsive reader. I’ll pick up whatever happens to be lying around. Most recently in fiction, I’ve just finished A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Ulysees by James Joyce, and A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. In poetry, I read Dress Made of Mice by my friend Sarah Messer.
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
History. I loved researching the historical background for my forthcoming novel The Hunger Man, which is set in nineteenth century Ireland during the Great Famine, which resulted in a massive increase in the Irish diaspora. It actually was a mix of history books and Irish folklore, so the novel has magic realist element to it – but also some romance, of course!
Someday, I’d like to find the right topic/story and write a non-fiction book about it.
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
You Are the One is a collection of M/M stories that explore the compromises gay lovers make, with themselves and with each other and with their worlds and gods. Ranging from a terrifying ride through the roads of Iraq that binds two soldiers tightly, to the cocaine-filled antics of married school teachers, to the apostasy of a would-be celibate gay Catholic to the submission of a dick-dock orgy, these stories depict the bonds gay men forge when political unrest, improvised explosive devices, HIV/AIDS, the Church, or a demanding T-ball schedule put their commitments to the test,
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
In addition to The Hunger Man (mentioned above), I’m lucky to have two other novels being released in Summer 2016:
In The Second Half: A Gay American Football Novel (Lethe Press June 2016), a Division I college football coach named Peyton Stone has a secret. It’s not so much that he’s gay. It’s that he’s fallen in love with the starting quarterback Brady Winter. Willing to deny himself for the sake of the Golden Eagles football team, Dexter focuses helping his team score touchdowns, but when he discovers the attraction is mutual, he jumps in with both feet.
But amid a string of victories that bring them closer to a major bowl game, Brady and Peyton grow reckless and giddy and risk their relationship--as well as Peyton's career, the camaraderie of Brady's teammates. Both men find themselves soon find themselves learning that love and devotion is no mere game.
Only Say the Word (Ninestar Press May 2016) asks the question, Can a man be Catholic and gay and still true to himself and his lover? Colm Flaherty sets out to do it. Rejoining the Church, Colm discovers a gift for speaking at Mass that puts wounded people at peace. Miracles and visions abound. Colm is hailed as a “gay saint.”
But the more Colm brings peace to the parish, the more gritty Boston grows ugly around him: Massachusetts is rocked by violent political division over gay marriage, his relationship with his older atheist boyfriend is undermined by devotion to a Church that devalues their love, the Archbishop wants to sell the Franciscan chapel to the highest bidder, and there’s an abused former altar boy out there who has determined that he can win redemption by assassinating Colm in the midst of Mass.
When Colm is shot, all Boston’s tension comes to a boil, and extremists of every kind clash. His would-be assassin escapes, the Archbishop and Mayor only contribute to the culture wars, and Colm’s ex-boyfriend is torn between his grieving and his commitment to gay liberation. The would-be assassin makes a second attempt on Colm’s life, and only a single disgraced priest stands between them and has a chance to preserve Colm for another day.
Anything you want to say to your readers?
I think of reading as a conversation, not necessarily one-on-one between reader and writer (though that, too), but among us readers and writers, where one thing we read informs another, and we share that realization with others, as well, if only to say: You’ve got to read this book/magazine/poem – it will change the way you think about X!
Scott D. Pomfret's recent releases:
You Are the One
The Second Half
Excerpt from Only Say the Word (coming in June 2016)
The Archbishop’s limousine was waiting at the curb in Scollay Square. Colm was startled. As always, a heavy pall hung over his mind as a result of the seizures. In his pocket was crammed a half-dozen notes from the crazy old mission priest Russo that he had yet to digest.
“May we give you a ride?” the archbishop proposed.
The face looking at him through the open window was thin and drawn. The eyes were ice blue. Colm fought back a sense of instinctive revulsion. This was the man who made it so hard to be a gay Catholic. This was the man who routinely reigned down condemnation and division and hatred, saying that the supporters of gay marriage were in league with the forces of evil.
“Don’t be shy,” the archbishop said. He cracked the door. Colm got in.
Archbishop Sheridan was dressed in simple black with a Roman collar. He was very short. His feet seemed hardly to touch the floor of the car.
“Shut the door,” he said. When Colm did not, he reached across and shut it himself.
“I have to go back to work,” Colm said.
The archbishop smiled, but no warmth reached his eyes. He offered his ring, which Colm kissed dutifully because he knew his uncles would have done the same.
“I didn’t know you were so young,” the archbishop murmured. He reminded Colm of the youth of many of the girls who had had visions over the years. “Youth and innocence,” he emphasized.
Colm said nothing. The car felt close, hot and fetid, the heat turned too high and somebody’s socks not well washed. It was all he could do not to plead sickness and jump out.
“You have an extraordinary gift,” the archbishop said. “Praise be to God. Would you read for me at the Cathedral this Sunday?”
The archbishop customarily preached at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sunday, a massive structure not far from where Colm lived, with gargoyles and flying buttresses, and a massive statue of the Virgin out front that turned alabaster white at night under the Halogen lights. Sometimes when he walked past, Colm shadowboxed with the Virgin, ducking the blows that never came back to him.
“I couldn’t do that,” Colm said. “Once a week’s enough.” He felt a profound sense of mistrust toward this supposedly holy man.
“You're very like Jack,” the Archbishop observed.
“Oh. You know Father Falvey?”
“I'm his pastor.”
“Well, of course, you’re the bishop ... but I meant, do you know him? Personally?”
“Oh, yes. Almost thirty years now.”
“How do you think we’re alike?”
“Both of you are so convinced you have a call from God that you won’t listen to the demands of men.”
Colm was stung. “I don’t know that I have a call from anyone.”
“I believe you.”
“Good. Because …”
The archbishop grimaced.
“Your voice. For a moment, you sounded .…” Sheridan smiled grimly. "Burdens of office,” he murmured. He seemed to be making a calculation on exactly how far he could go. “I had a … a brother like you. That's who you sounded like. My brother. Long gone now. Dead. God rest his soul.”
Colm crossed himself automatically. He regretted that he didn't like the bishop at all, but it seemed he could be of service to him yet. “Tell me about your brother,” he coaxed.
“Where were you educated?” The bishop asked sharply.
Colm mentioned the French-speaking high school he had attended in Kansas City at his uncles’ expense. The bishop spoke swiftly to him in heavily accented French. Colm answered in kind. The Bishop looked satisfied. He shook his head. “Oh, yes, definitely something familiar about your voice. So comforting. I had forgotten it entirely. Dem-- My brother could speak French, too. He was a brilliant man.”
“Your brother?” Colm promoted again, but the archbishop had sealed up again, his face as tight and still as a plaster saint. In the face of the bishop, Colm detected the still, fixed disappointment of age. The disappointment of a man who had once had boundless ambition. It was chilling, repulsive, obscene. It made Colm glad to be young.
After work, Colm raced home as early as he dared. He found Sandy in the kitchen, amped on that high-speed cocktail of bitterness and defiance and sentimentality that after three years still stimulated Colm as much as the first two minutes of meeting him. Colm frisked him, weighed him, shaped him. He ran his hands over Sandy’s hips and his ass and ribs and up to his chest. Crazy as it sounded, Colm wanted to touch every part of his skin and tell him all that he knew from the beginning to end, alpha to omega, all of God’s infinite bounty.
In the kitchen, he unzipped Sandy’s pants. Sandy’s breath became shallow and forced. He murmured sweet nothings, animal sounds that might simply have been kisses, or any old word or phrase. Colm felt capacious enough to take all of his lover inside him -- not just the obvious, but also his torso, his limbs, his head, all the awkwardness and defiance and fire and the sudden spells of the most profound sweetness and affection.
It reminded him of the first time he gave another man head, one of the first truly spiritual, truly transporting experiences of Colm’s life. He had seemed to be floating outside of himself, looking down at his mouth wrapped around a man’s cock with a mixture of madness and disbelief, thinking: This is my body, this is happening to me now, can hardly believe it. It had seemed as unlikely as the end of the world.
"Take off your clothes!" Sandy ordered. His voice was harsh, a laceration.
Colm stood and removed his shirt. Murmurs of appreciation rose from deep in Sandy’s throat. Colm thought over and over and over: God loves us. God loves us. God loves us.
He kissed Sandy on the mouth. Whoever tastes of me shall not die, but live.
Right there in the kitchen, Colm spewed forth everything. Everything about the seizures. Everything that he had been asked. He told him about his struggle with the church, the coming culmination, the visit of the archbishop, the finishing of what had been started.
As he spoke, Sandy was transformed in front of him to a pillar of salt. His eyes narrowed and yellowed like a cat’s. He yanked up his pants. He said, “You’re out of your fucking mind.”
Colm was irritated that Sandy’s concern for details and domestic proprieties blinded him to a picture so much more vast and beautiful. He wanted to smother him in kisses to stop the flow of complaint from his lips. Every once in a while, Colm was able to muster just the right words of compliment that rendered Sandy red-faced and speechless, a modern day miracle, a sense of transformation or transmutation or transubstantiation as great as what happened on the altar, as if by uttering a few chosen words, Colm had changed Sandy’s substance from a poor complainer to a satisfied saint. He tried it now.
“I know how it sounds, Sandy, but this is …. There’s no other explanation.”
Sandy ticked off diagnoses on his fingers: “Brain tumor. Epilepsy. Schizophrenia.”
“I’ve been to the doctor. It’s nothing like that. I’ve been to the confessional. I’ve prayed and thought about it for weeks and weeks. You can ask yourself, why me, why now, but, man, it’s best just to go with it.”
“No, what I ask myself is, why me? Why do I have to be the one whose boyfriend goes cuckoo over all this Catholic stuff?”
“It’s not just Catholic or not Catholic. It’s not about the Church. It’s bigger. It’s about faith, Sandy. Please. Take the leap. Take the leap with me.”
Sandy shook his head and turned away. “I won’t say anything,” he promised. “To anyone.”
Colm laughed. He wiped a bit of cum from his mouth and threw his arms wide and said, “Oh, tell everyone. I don’t mind. Tell the world.” He laughed. Even to himself, Colm’s voice sounded too desperate, too high, too fast. He made a concerted effort to modulate it, saying, “Isn’t it crazy? Be careful what you ask for, that’s what Rory and Padraig would say. You’d think a religious boy would want than a holy miracle, wouldn’t you? But that’s the problem. I don’t want the miracle to happen to me personally. I’m content with a regular life. A job at a good law firm. A boyfriend to come home to at night and make love with. A nice apartment. Loving family. A church where they respect me. It would have been amazing -- and gratifying -- to be permitted to witness a miracle that happened to someone else. That would rock. But I don’t need it personally. I’ve got enough faith.”
Sandy turned, marched to the bedroom, and shut the door.
Time seemed to accelerate. The days flew by like squares of light through a train window. The church itself seemed to grow more cramped, down to just two or three pews, and fighting for space. The ceiling dropped a few inches and the floor rose up, and the walls inched closer and yet there were more and more souls stuffed into this space, could scarcely breathe for fear of damaging them, and the structure of the church gave an ominous creek as if at any moment it would explode and centrifugal souls spatter out to cover everything in Scollay Square with a thin veneer of misery.
The seizures had given Colm a sense of a vast and imminent, but indifferent presence. When he closed his eyes, the presence was there. He prayed, and it was there. Colm could have hidden his head in the sand and still the presence was there, each time larger than it had been just a moment before. Larger, or perhaps closer. Perhaps both.
Colm desperately wanted to think the presence was a deliverance, but the presence was too vast to be summed up or easily categorized as one thing or the other. He could not possibly hope to get his arms around it. And yet all the while he felt it closing on him, driving events to a dimly foreseen culmination.
The only time in his life Colm remembered feeling such unrelenting, thrilling apprehension was in the days before he came out to his family during college. His fear had turned out to be groundless. All his uncles and aunts doubled over themselves in an effort to show they still loved him. Uncle Padraig had pulled Colm aside and apologized for anything at all he might have said over the years to offend Colm. When that effort had been made, Padraig had breathed a big sigh of relief. He punched Colm on the shoulder and said, “Now let the shit begin.” And Padraig had told another round of homo-jokes, and Colm had fired back one about poorly dressed breeders, and they had gone back and forth all night until Padraig had hugged Colm with tears in his eyes and gushed, “Being a fag hasn't changed you a bit, you little motherfucker.”