An interview with Gavin Atlas.
by Gregg Shapiro
Snapshots of Seduction: Cody (Lethe Press, 2014), with text by Gavin Atlas and photos by Garrett Matthew, is not your typical book of gay erotica. For one thing, it’s an unusual size, more akin to the shape and length of a kid’s book—so be sure to put it away when the nieces and nephews come to visit! The (short) story of Joseph, a professor and photographer, takes an unexpectedly, well, erotic turn during his Las Vegas rendezvous with stripper Cody. Atlas, who lives in Houston with his boyfriend, John, is also the author of The Boy Can’t Help It and The Full Ride, and a contributor to some erotica anthologies. I spoke with Atlas about his work last month.
Gregg Shapiro: Your new book Snapshots of Seduction: Cody takes a different approach to gay erotica with the inclusion of photos in the book. How did the concept for the book come about?
Gavin Atlas: I’ve seen photo fiction before, but now that I think about it, you have a point. It’s been a small part of pictorial magazines such as Playgirl. Oh, look what I just admitted I used to read. [Laughs] I think by making photo fiction the entire focus, Lethe has taken it to a new level where the quality of the narrative is as important as the artistic quality of the photography.
Which came first with Snapshots, the text or the images?
The images. I studied the photos at length to create something that captured what I thought was going through the model’s mind. Maybe the images should always come first? For example, if it was central to the plot that the story was set at night, and then the photographer and the model were only available during the day, etc.
How did you connect with Garrett Matthew, the photographer who took the pictures in the book?
Aren’t his photos awesome?
Yes, they are.
My publisher, Steve Berman, knows Garrett Matthew since he’s local to Philly and has done some other photo shoots for Lethe. Garrett’s work is featured in L.A. Fields’s collection, Countrycide[with porn performer Doug Acre on the cover]and some forthcoming books, including a new erotic collection by Jeff Mann.
How did model Cody Allen get involved?
I’m going to guess because he’s friggin’ adorable. Also, Cody is a good friend of another Lethe model, Nick, who posed for the deluxe edition of Scruffians!and for the cover of The Full Ride.Cody has worked as a go-go boy in the past.
How much of Gavin is in the narrator Joseph?
Very little. I identify more with the Cody character, although in my original draft, I think the reader would want to cuddle Cody. In the finished version, I think the reader would more likely want to spank him (and, uh, that’s not me). I do like Joseph, and when I picture him, I can see why Cody would want him. In my head, he’s a hot daddy, but he also has a quick wit and a lot of lust which he has trouble suppressing, at least around Cody.
Is Snapshots the first in a series? If so, have you started working on the next one?
I don’t know. My understanding is that they need to find the right models for the next titles. I’m also told “the casting couch is exhausting.” [Laughs]
When did you begin writing gay erotic fiction?
Around age 18, but I moved away from it for years and tried literary fiction. Even then, most of the conflict centered on sexuality, but those characters weren’t happy. The characters in my erotica stories are almost always content, at least by the end of the story. [Laughs]
Do you write exclusively gay erotic fiction, or do you also dabble in bisexual or mainstream erotica?
Nope, no dabbling [laughs]—strictly
gay when it comes to erotica. Besides Snapshots of Seduction, you’ll find most of my work in two collections, The Boy Can’t Help It and The Full Ride, which is brand new.
Do you also write in other prose genres, and if so, which ones?
I wrote one story under the name Taylor McGrath, which is a sweet [gay] romance. You’ll find it in the awesome anthology Foolish Hearts. I’m attempting to invent a genre called “ridicu-lit,” which is not erotic but, like much genre fiction, has two goals. In erotica, the author wants to tell a story as well as arouse the reader. In “ridicu-lit,” the author wants to tell a story and make the reader laugh. It sometimes has “meta-fiction” traits where the characters break the fourth wall or mention continuity errors. (“Wait, how are we in your living room? Didn’t your house burn down in the last chapter?”) A friend in England told me they have a similar genre there called “pantomime,” so perhaps I’m not inventing anything. [Laughs]
Writers should also be good readers—do you read genre fiction, too?
The short answer is yes, but I have ADHD, so I’m a terrible reader. I read short-story collections and anthologies, partly because I love them and partly because they help with my own writing.
Who are your favorite genre fiction authors?
For mystery, I would say Josh Lanyon. Erotic fiction—the awesome C.B. Potts and the also-awesome Vincent Diamond. For urban fantasy, I’d say Kimberly Frost and Jim Butcher. Space opera would have to be Aaron Allston (would you believe he made me cry?) and Timothy Zahn. Humor writers I like are Joe Keenan and Rob Byrnes, while for romance I look to Timothy James Beck and Suzanne Brockmann.
Who are some of your other favorite authors?
I’ve loved short-fiction collections from Lorrie Moore, Erika Krouse, Melissa Bank, and Miranda July. Humor from David Sedaris. Memoir from Felice Picano. Novels from David McConnell and Robert James Baker. My friend Nathan Burgoine has a novel, Light, which I read in three days. Because I struggle with reading, the fact I raced through it was a serious big deal to me. I can also think of more insanely amazing short stories by Stacey Richter, David Yu, and Ann Harleman, and a story I just read this year by Paul Brownsey.
For a book with pictures, there are no photos of the author or photographer in Snapshots. Are you both camera-shy?
Have you seen the picture of Garrett on Facebook? He’s cute, isn’t he? I’m not sure why he’s not in the book, but I’ll guess because it helps the reader imagine himself as Joseph, the photographer, instead of having a fixed image. As for me, yes. I’m camera-shy. [Laughs]
Gregg Shapiro also writes the GrooveOut column in this issue of OutSmart.