Fort Worth movie critic Christopher Kelly moonlights
as gay novelist.
This time, the high school victim grows up to exact revenge
on his handsome bully
After nine years of reviewing movies, the last seven with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Christopher Kelly has found himself in not one but two unusual positions lately: Readers are as likely to see his name on the book review pages as in the film section; and not as a critic, but as the subject of criticism. Kelly has ventured from opinion to fiction with his first published novel, “A Push and a Shove” (Alyson, $14.95) which came out last month.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was six years old,” Kelly beams. “I’ve never been very good at short fiction, so it just seemed natural to do a novel. One of my post-collegiate goals was to write a novel before I turned 30 and I started on it at 28.”
When he began, however, Kelly didn’t even have a plot, just a storytelling desire. He knew he wanted something that would skirt the line between literature and pop-fiction “a cat-and-mouse psychological drama like “‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,'” he explains. But beyond that, he wasn’t sure.
Four years ago, Kelly started writing in longhand, scribbling out ideas, characters and scenes. He didn’t edit much at first he just wanted to get something written down.
Over time, the plot (part psycho-thriller, part queermance) emerged: During high school, Ben was the gay kid tormented by Terrence, the big man on campus. Years later, the two meet again and become friends, but the relationship is complicated by secrets and Ben’s attraction to Terrence and Terrence’s hesitance to admit his own feelings. Any autobiographical elements there?
“There is a writer, which is not the character everybody thinks is autobiographical,” he says. “But I try to avoid answering that question, though I guess there are elements of me in both the main characters.”
Writing a book is one thing. Getting it published is something else entirely and in many respects, the greater accomplishment. But Kelly says the process was nearly painless.
He shopped the book to several agents who said it wasn’t commercial before getting a “yes” from Alyson Books, an imprint dedicated to gay lit.
Kelly admits to dreaming of seeing his name on the New York Times best-sellers list, being tagged by Oprah’s book club or having Hollywood option the galleys for a summer release starring Ryan Gosling. And any of those things could still happen. But he’s realistic that a dark novel about gay guys might not be a mainstream hit unless, of course, they happen to be cowboys.
But he’s OK with that. For now, he’s just happy to add “published author” to his resume.
“My mother, who I call my publicist and alternative literary agent, said, “‘If you just make it a little less explicit with fewer porn references, you’d have a best seller,'” Kelly says. “There is an explicitness that designates it as non-mainstream. But I am totally comfortable with that. This is exactly the book I set out to write and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say that again. For the first one, it meant more to me to say this was my artistic and literary vision.”
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This article appeared in the October 19, 2007 edition of the Dallas Voice.