This post is part of an ongoing interview with author Mark John Isola about his forthcoming book Inky Flesh, so check back for more questions. Once posted, a link following the current Q&A will allow you to click through to read the next question–or begin reading from the first question: Why the title Inky Flesh? Quotes that are reasonably sized and maintain the context of the discussion are permitted for review, interview, academic, and blogging purposes—a link to the web page quoted will help maintain context.
Here is the current question:
Cal: Your work is very intertextual—implicitly and explicitly. There are references—quotes even—to authors here and there in the stories. So, your influences are very clear. But, if we think about the tradition of gay literature, what specific authors have influenced you?
MJ: There are many authors I think of in this regard: Andrew Holleran, Paul Reed, John Preston, Patricia Nell Warren, Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, and the Violet Quill, writers like Felice Picano, Edmund White, George Whitmore, and Robert Ferro. And, of course, the short story collections by E. M. Forster and Tennessee Williams. There is also James Baldwin, especially Giovanni’s Room and Another Country. I probably read John Knowles’ A Separate Peace about a dozen times as a kid. I also really liked his novel Paragon. These are not necessarily gay narratives, but they resonate for me in a similar way as they have for others.
I should say many other names from the glossies and the internet, but I do not remember the names of all those authors—many of these were web handles, but there were many. All of these writers gave me something to think about when it comes to writing sexual subjectivity.
Andrew Holleran’s brilliant novel The Beauty of Men and most anything by Paul Reed have probably had the most durable impact on me. I also remember being really impacted by Felice Picano’s Like People in History and George Whitmore’s The Confessions of Danny Slocum.
I was very taken with reading Ethan Mordden and Armistead Maupin. Maupin’s Tales of the City was quite popular as a series of novels and via television, so this is probably a very recognizable reference. Maupin and Mordden similarly influenced me, and I find their work comparably appealing. I have been very taken by their narratives.
Cal: What about Mordden and Maupin were you so taken with?
MJ: Their thematic purview, the memorable characters, the clarity of the writing, the serial narratives, and their ability to fold in and overlap a great many recurring themes and character interactions—also their stories are very recognizable as real human experience. They are also very fun to read. This is simply seductive. Maupin and Mordden’s influence will probably surface in my writing at some point.