Podcast Interview with author Scott James: “People Don’t Want the Government in their Bedrooms”

One of the best things about living in the Bay Area of San Francisco is that I get to meet and mingle with some of the most talented artists in the world: Amy Tan standing six feet away from me, singing “These Boots are Made for Walking” with the band, Los Train Wreck, as I sit drinking cheap wine at El Rio in the Mission; Robin Williams winking at me as he sits with fellow cyclists, when I get my morning coffee at Java Hut in Fairfax; my neighbor, Don Novello stopping in his car to give me advice about my book, as I work in my garden; Joyce Maynard serving me stew and critiquing my writing, and getting to sing, “Be My Baby” with Deborah Grabien and other local literati at the California Writers Club Centennial Celebration. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that I discovered, as I work and walk amongst those who are celebrated for their art, that they fall into two categories ─ those who are willing to give ‘newbies’ like me a hand, and those who are not nearly so obliging.

Scott James, bestselling author of SoMa and The Sower, New York Times columnist, and three-time Emmy Award winner, falls into the first category. From our introduction, Scott James has been…well, the only way I can describe him is, ‘an old-world gentleman.’ He’s gracious, helpful, available, and respectful. For example, it’s not only that he agreed to give me a quote for my book cover, he actually said, “I’d be honored to.” Now tell me ─ what bestselling author would you expect to say something like that? And when I pressed my luck further asking him for this interview, he said, “Thank you so much for thinking of me.”

As an author, it’s hard for me not to think about Scott and his writing. Innovative and daring, he is an inspiration to all who are not only trying to break into the field, but who have opinions they wish to share that are different and new, and perhaps, not so popular. He is both widely criticized and widely lauded, not only for his bestselling fiction, (which he has written under the name, ‘Kemble Scott’) but for his investigative work at the New York Times.

As you can read on his website, he started writing fiction when he moved to San Francisco in 1997, because he wanted to capture the outrageous behavior he witnessed in his new neighborhood, South of Market (SoMa). After writing dozens of these tales, he created a home for them online by launching the e-zine SoMaLit, SoMa Literary Review, with co-editor Jon Stuber. Some of these short stories later inspired his debut novel, SoMa. Released by Kensington Books in 2007, it was the first novel launched with videos on YouTube. The videos, coupled with the support of independent booksellers in Northern California, helped SoMa hit the San Francisco Chronicle bestsellers list its first week in stores. SoMa also became the number one bestseller in June 2007 in the Doubleday Book Club’s InsightOutBooks division, and in June 2008, SoMa was honored as a finalist for the national Lambda Literary Award for debut fiction.

In May 2009, Scott released his second novel, The Sower, which takes on this provocative premise: What if there was a virus that could cure all diseases known to man, but it could only be spread through sex─ and gay sex ─ at that?

With this foundation, he explores the possible results and calamities, with the underlying themes of what it means to be socially ostracized, the horrific damage to mankind caused by corporate greed, and even a lesson in a tragic history most still want to see shoved under a carpet – The Armenian Genocide.

Scott’s decision to premiere The Sower as an exclusive e-book received media coverage around the world when it became the first novel sold by tech start-up and e-book publisher, Scribd.com. In August 2009, the first print edition became available when Numina Press published The Sower in hardcover. For the print launch of The Sower, Scott daringly restricted in-store sales of the first editions to independent bookstores, because they had been the longtime supporters of his work, and because he believes they are “the cultural curators” of the literary world.

In his podcast interview with me, he talks frankly and endearingly about the detractors of his work, (some who hail from the gay community, interestingly enough) and how California’s Prop 8 affected his own life with his long-time partner, a Stanford University professor. He reads from his latest work, The Sower, and gives us some humorous background into how the story came about.

I challenge anyone who supports Prop 8 to listen to this podcast and not be moved to rethink their position. And I challenge anyone who listens to Scott’s reading to not be curious about how The Sower begins and ends.


Scott James’ books are pictured below, and his new column can be accessed by clicking on the New York Times logo.


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