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Michael Cunningham Author The Revolution Is Working
Although the world knows him as a writer who happens to be a gay man, Michael Cunningham claims no particular insight about this sector of the publishing market. "What I do look forward to," he says, "is the day when the notion of gay and lesbian books or a gay and lesbian section in a bookstore will seem as strange and old-fashioned as a section devoted to books by women or books by people of color. I'm more than ready for books to be on the shelves all together and for readers to be trusted to decide for themselves what books they want. For me and my friends, whether gay or straight, it's never a question whether or not a book is by a gay writer or if it's a story about gay people. We just read books."
This is, perhaps, one of the lessons that the overwhelming success of The Hours has taught him. "One of the really great experiences for me with that book was how broad the readership turned out to be," he tells PW. "I thought I'd lose a lot of my gay readers, but I was really happy to find that gay guys wanted to read a book that wasn't so directly about them. And most of the reviews didn't center on the sexuality of the book either, even though there were complicated implications about the women characters as lesbians."
The media seems very open to gay topics now, suggesting to Cunningham that "the revolution is working, however slowly. It has to be a good thing for human rights. The more gay people everyone sees, the better it is for everybody." In terms of publishing, he notes, "If a novel in which three women share romantic kisses can sell more than a million copies, that should make it easier for the next book. If you're lucky and things turn out well, yore work will push slightly ahead of what's possible to publish and what's possible to sell.
"One of the most unambiguously good things that happened with The Hours," he adds, "was when someone would come tip to me and say, 'I'm so happy about the success we're having,' meaning all of us who are not straight white guys."
Asked about current projects, Cunningham says, "I'm hard at work on another book, although it's been difficult to get anything done for the last year or two. This one isn't very gay. In fact, it's probably my least gay book, although there are gay sprites fluttering around its edges. It's not that I felt it was time to write my heterosexual novel. It's simply what interests me now."--ROBERT DAHLIN
John Scognamiglio Editorial director, Kensington Gay Protagonists and Erotica
Having established an unapologetically gay and lesbian publishing agenda, Kensington is not about to make any major changes, says editorial director John Scognamiglio. "In 2003, we're publishing 12 hardcovers and 22 trade paperback originals and reprints. Going forward, we'll be doing as many. We've been publishing most of the books in hardcover first and then in trade paper, but with the economy the way it is, hardcover sales across the board have been a little soft. Trade paperback sales seem to be growing, so I might experiment more with paper originals--unless an author already has a track record in hardcover."
Scognamiglio notes that as his publishing program progresses, "We learn what works. A novel with a gay protagonist performs better than a book that's about a couple of guys falling in love and is 100% gay. The World of Normal Boys by K.M. Soehnlein is such a book, and we have to go back to press …