JOHNNY: Marriage is a complicated issue. I just wrote two paragraphs about it and then deleted them. I don’t think we disagree, by any standards. I just like to talk about myself.
So, to focus a little bit, I’m going to pick up on your last question because I like to talk about myself. Right now, I think my most solid model for what I’d like to see Queer Young Cowboys become is Doomtree, this Minneapolis-based hip-hop collective. Seven different artists who come together in different permutations, sometimes as a whole group, sometimes as solo artists, but build a body of work that fits together. Blends together. I want QYC to be something between a publishing company and a record label, a collective and a co-op.
I want to build the fairest deal that I can for writers and readers. Right now, the technical and business side of things is very much a one-man show. I can’t create a regular publishing schedule like that; I can’t have monthly or bi-monthly releases on a schedule. I just want to find good shit and help it find an audience.
Honestly, in a year or two I’d like to have something that can support me, and bring some money to my writers. I like sending out royalty checks. I like knowing that I helped make that happen. I’d like to expand what it means to be a publisher. I think prose will always be my focus, but I’d also like to make short films, web series, art books, comics, and porno mags.
I want the QYC stamp to mean “This is good shit.” To mean “this is a piece of work that someone really thought about.” I like art that makes me think. I like porn that makes me think.
As for the manuscript I’d love to publish, shit that’s a hard one. I might have to think on that one some more.
So I’ll deflect and ask: What about you? Where do you see yourself as a writer in the next two years? Do you currently write anything other than erotica, or would you like to?
BENJI: So I’m going to answer your question elliptically, because that’s what I do best. When I was a teenager I had this mentor, a guy who I met online that read my work and thought there was something decent in there. He convinced me to apply to a great college even though I was willing to settle for a local school to be with my friends. I got in and he convinced me to go, etc. etc. I was a lonely kid and being gay didn’t help. He prophesied I’d be dating within a year of being away at school, I was boyfriended in less than six months. Almost everything came true with a single glaring exception: He told me I would grow out of sex.
I was preoccupied with writing about sex, probably because I wasn’t having it and he told me that it was temporary. I’m still writing about it. Sex is the through line.
I also write poetry (because I only love niche markets, apparently) which follows many of the same concerns as my smutty prose, though maybe in a slightly more high-minded fashion. I have a mostly finished first draft of a fantasy novel hanging around and various other projects that may or may not ever see the light of day, but what writer doesn’t?
As for where I see myself in the next two years as a writer: it would be nice to rely a little less heavily on my day job and lean a little harder on my writing to pay bills, but I’m flexible on that front. What I really want is a deeper conversation with my readership (i.e. to create a readership) and with the writing community at large. I think this year has taught me how to be more forthcoming about what I want and proactive about how to get those things. The next two years will probably be about following through, putting in the leg work to make the connections I want to make with publishers, readers, and other authors.
To that end, I think your comparison to the Doomtree collective speaks highly of your vision (not to mention that I’ve been playing Dessa’s “A Badly Broken Code” on repeat since I bought it). As far as being part of a community of writers who are doing interesting things with gay fiction, I think QYC is a veritable mecca. As you’ve probably guessed from my many gushing emails, I am thrilled to be a part of what you’re doing.
And one more question for you: you have/had a widget on your site reading “The Ocean’s Angry Chatter” and a word count next to it. Any details on what that project was/is? Your rabid legion of fans are probably as curious as I am.