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NancyKay Shapiro

NancyKay Shapiro’s first novel, WHAT LOVE MEANS TO YOU PEOPLE, comes out in March from St. Martin's. It's a love story about two men and she dares to think that it will appeal in a big way to women readers.

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To pre-order a copy of NancyKay's book, please click here.

What inspired you to write a book about a love story between two men?

In the years I worked on WHAT LOVE MEANS TO YOU PEOPLE, I was occasionally asked why I, a straight woman, was writing about gay men. Of course, I'm far from the first woman writer to do so-off the top of my head, I can think of novels and stories that wonderfully plumb the inner lives of gay men, by Annie Proulx, Lorrie Moore, Iris Murdoch, Pat Barker, among others-and I've always wished there were more female writers exploring this milieu.

There is an aspect of fiction writing that I don't see talked about when I read interviews with published novelists, but which is often discussed among the striving writers I've come to know in recent years (a disparity that makes me wonder whether it's some sort of secret I shouldn't divulge to the public!). It's what we wryly call 'A Bulletproof Kink,' which is a shorthand designation for the kind of narrative, situation, characters, setting, theme that's irresistibly compelling, that makes a story idea go for the writer-and hopefully, the reader too. It's the kind of story you're drawn to, that you want to be immersed in, as writer or reader.

Like many women, I am fascinated by and admiring of the way gay men, in order to be more fully themselves, must resist society's expectations about what sexuality ought to be. Narratives about the lives and loves of gay men are one of my Bulletproof Kinks. Their vibrant courage in the face of otherness-indeed their often enthusiastic embrace of otherness-is inspirational, even as I feel a deep personal resonance between the gay experience of that outsider status, and my own. And as gay people now seem to be at an historically unique point in a kind of bumpy continuum between transgression and normalization-a progression that not all queers see as a positive or natural one-it's especially interesting to me to write about characters who are finding where they are on that continuum.

Given my strong gravitation towards this particular sort of story, and my sense that many other female readers are also drawn to it, when they can find it, it's no surprise I found myself writing one. (I've always been the kind of writer who writes what she wants to read). I want to live in a world where stories, including love stories, about gay people are as common and unremarkable as any.

How did you go about finding an agent and a publisher for it? What was the process like for you?

Getting an agent can be daunting, especially if you haven't gone the route of getting a Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing (which seems to open doors for many people). Since I didn't have any particular contacts in the writing/publishing world, I sent out a lot of cold queries. But as it happened, a friend of a friend knew a smart young agent, Anna Stein, who agreed to read the manuscript, and took me on.

What would you say has been your biggest dare as a person or as a writer?

Writing something I wanted to read myself -- and hoping others would want to read it too!

Click here to read the first chapter of NancyKay’s novel, What Love Means to You People.

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