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With his first novel The Lodger, Drew Gummerson accomplished something that is rarely seen in modern gay fiction; a well rounded story with believable characters and a plot that is not punctuated by long, detailed sex sessions. It's a very well-observed story of a freelance writer, Honza, who takes in straight guy Andy as a lodger to help pay the bills. However this is a tale of misunderstandings with the always underlying question - will Andy end up in Honza's bed? Drew has been talking to OutUK's Stevie Gardiner about the book.
Author Drew Gummerson

OutUK: Where did the idea for The Lodger come from?
Drew: In a lot of books characters seem to meet on page 3 and then are in love by page 7. I never believe in it. I wanted to write a book about intimacy and about how intimacy can develop between unlikely characters. A book about a lodger seemed the ideal set-up to explore these ideas. I put the murder in because I wanted to write something where the reader wants to know what happens next. Thatís the kind of book I like.
The Lodger
OutUK: How much of the character of Honza is based on you...and did you know an Andy?
Drew: Iíve been surprised to read in reviews that my book is obviously autobiographical! Nothing that happens in it has really happened. But saying that, a lot of Honzaís memories are my own - his time in America, working in Japan, sharing a room in Prague with four straight guys. So I guess if we have the same memories we are alike after all. Oh dear. And no, Andy is a work of fiction.

OutUK: How difficult was it to write...isn't this your first novel?
Drew: It wasnít difficult to write although it took a lot of time and effort. Also lots of cups of tea and long walks. And pencils. Actually it is the second book Iíve written although the first one to be published. The first one was a learning experience, great fun to do but best left under my bed gathering dust.

OutUK: I thought it was interesting to see the differences explored between straight and gay men when they're thrown together under the same roof...what interested you about this?
Drew: I think itís something all gay men are interested in. Are we the same as straight men or different? In my experience I think weíre a lot more alike than certain cultural stereotypes will let us believe. Thatís something Honza learns - heís as guilty of stereotyping other people as other people are of him.

OutUK: The relationship between Andy and Honza's young nephew is well drawn...is it based on your own experience?
Drew: Yeah, absolutely. I spent a lot of time looking after my ex-boyfriendís nephew. Nicholas is based on him - his love of the Power Rangers, Disney movies, cheeky smile etc. Just before I started writing The Lodger there was a headline on the front page of The Telegraph outraged at the fact gay men might be able to adopt children. This I found offensive because it seemed to suggest that I wouldnĎt be a suitable role model. The Lodger is a comedy but hopefully it makes a serious point that not all families have to live up to the nuclear ideal of mum, dad and 2.5 children.

OutUK: Reviewers have been very complimentary about this book and noted your accurate portrayal of the gay scene today...what do you think are the best and worst aspects of gay life in the UK at the moment?
Drew: Yes the reviews Iíve seen have been lovely. Thanks everyone. The best aspect has to be that itís there! And I mean that seriously. Iím 31 and even since I was young(er) gays in the media etc have become much more visible and gayness much less of an issue. What I donít like about it are pretty much standard boring things - it's too commercial, too body conscious, too much focused on sex. However, weíre pretty lucky in this country - as Sandra Bernhardt said on Graham Norton's show once, ďYouíre an openly gay man on TV and nobody gives a fuck.Ē Or something like that.

OutUK: What's your own background...are you a full-time writer?
Drew: I wish. That would be my dream, to be able to spend my time writing. I have a job just like everyone else. I work in a call centre. God, has that spoilt any writerly mystic I might have had! Buy my book and rescue me!

OutUK: What are you planning next?
Drew: Well, Iíve already completed another book. Itís about a gay darts team. Now Iím working on a book set in Sydney. Itís about the world of the illegal immigrants. My ex-boyfriend is one. Oh and thereís a murder in this one too. I just couldnít resist.


Drew Gummerson is the writer of The Lodger, which was a finalist in the Lambda Awards, and Me and Mickie James. He has been published in various short story collections.

 

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