Case Studies in Modern Life is my first published book and it has been a long time in writing.
I have been writing all my adult life. I was eighteen when I discovered I could write stories. At first I was writing sketches for a drama group. It was an amazing feeling turning an idea I had into something written down that worked and then watching actors perform my words. It was also the first time I realised I had an ear for dialogue. I would hear people talking in public and remember how they spoke; later, I would be able to write in the style of their dialogue.
I also experienced something else. If people enjoyed a sketch, they didn’t call “Author, author!” They really weren’t interested in who wrote it; people usually heaped their praise on the actors, and I liked that too. I could happily hide away in the shadows and carry on watching people and writing about them.
The first piece of writing I sold was a short monolog to my then local radio station. It was about someone who stole pillows, and only pillows, from stately homes. It was about getting away with the “perfect crime” because no one cared about missing pillows. It was a silly piece but again, when it was broadcast, I could hide away behind the knowledge that the vast majority of people who heard it knew nothing about me.
The first short story I had published in print was a story about a gay couple spending Christmas apart because one wasn’t out to his family. It wasn’t a happy story; I’d wanted to capture the reality of life for some people. But as I saw my own story in print, with my name attached to it, I had a marvellous feeling. The vast majority of people who read this story had no idea who I was. I could communicate with people and all they knew about me was my name on a magazine page. People read it without any prejudice against who I was. They would like the story, or not, based solely on its content. That felt so good.
You’ll be sensing a theme by now; I like to hide behind my writing. My writing isn’t about me rehashing my life as fiction, rewriting my life so that I always come out on top, re-writing history so that I am always the winner. My writing is my way of exploring themes and events that fascinate me or make me angry. I want to find the people behind a subject. I don’t want to be the focus of my writing.
The theme of Case Studies in Modern Life also took a long time to come about. Coming out as gay changed my life in many ways and it certainly gave me something to write about. As I explored my gay life, I found there were so many different things to write about. At first, I wrote wish fulfilment stories. I was in my twenties and wanted the best of all possible worlds. As I grew older and experienced more of life, I saw the ways in which gay men adapt to the challenges of their lives or don’t, and this started to fascinate me. How do gay men maintain relationships with lovers, friends and relatives? How does being gay affect our attitudes to health and illness? How and where do gay men find a place for themselves in this world? After reading some of my stories, a friend of mine suggested that I put together a collection about gay life that didn’t focus on the typical subjects of dating apps and finding a boyfriend. I am so grateful for her advice.
The stories in this collection cover some of my favourite themes to write about. There are stories about sex, not sex stories about people’s attitude to sex, which I find endlessly fascinating. There are stories about relationships. Not stories about trying to find a boyfriend, but stories about how relationships work or don’t work; the compromises we make inside relationships and that unique moment of joy that I thought we might never see. There are stories about the issues gay men can face in our modern world, some that only gay men face and some that are universal to all people. And there are stories about how health, ill health and a change in health can affect someone’s life, but this is something I have seen first-hand (though all the characters in this collection are fictitious).
If you read my collection please leave a comment about it, here or even on Amazon, and if you are minded please write a review of it. Comments and reviews drive people to my work, as they do for any author.
Edited by Drew Payne