Doug Howery has been writing both fiction and essays since 1990. In many of his stories, Howery's source of inspiration is in the passion and suffering he has experienced. The Grass Sweeper God is no exception. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about it.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Grass Sweeper God is about
Whores, harlots & homosexuals…God, guns & gays. Incessant societal prejudice with all the ingredients thrown in, including the kitchen sink. The book centers around a close-knit family of drinking, fighting, womanizing with mental and physical cruelty to women forming a main theme, juxtaposed beside nation-wide societal change: The historical gay riots of 1969; Stonewall.
What inspired you to use a Coal Miners town in the 1950's as a backdrop for your book?
I grew up in Southwest Virginia Coal Country. My father was a coal miner who died with Black Lung disease, whoremongering, gambling, drinking & fighting. He was a good, decent father when not drinking. In that part of the country, if you are labeled as “Sissy” “Fag” “Queer” and it only gets worse & you are quickly ostracized to the margins. You become the blunt of all jokes, you are physically attacked; bullying 2.0 on steroids. And at the same time, you are invisible with nowhere to hide.
Tell us more about Smiley and Lee - what makes them so special?
Precocious, effeminate, gender-confused, fragile, articulate and unforgettable 16-year-old Smiley Hanlon, observes the world with a dry detachment. A wise sense of what is right, wrong, and just plain mean; a voice, albeit, self-indulgent that says more about gender-based biasness and violence than anyone.
Lee: A butch gay young man. He is finding his way while coming into his own sexuality. A protector & shield for Smiley. He is the one friend that fights for Smiley while unable to stop the atrocities that are coming at Smiley like a warthog from hell.
Your book explores heavy topics such as identity, bullying and sexuality. Why did you find this important to write about?
People who are, “invisible with nowhere to hide.” Not to be cute with wordplay, I mean, I’m showing complicity & indifference. The bullying, the horrific treatment of a person who is different while anyone left to make a difference looks through the victim like he’s not there. The victim (Smiley Hanlon) is indeed, “invisible with nowhere to hide.” He struggles to keep his head above water in a complacent & indifferent world. People stand at the water’s edge within arm’s length, but do not reach out to pull the drowning Smiley to the bank.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Writing is not my full-time job. With that in mind, it’s interesting that you ask this question. While at a meeting at work, I was asked to introduce myself to co-workers & tell them something that they may not know about me. I introduced myself. I then said, “As far as something that they may not know about me, I said, “It’s a secret.” I got a good laugh out of it. But the facilitator was not happy with my answer. She pressed me to answer. I said, “It’s a secret.” She said, “Well, we’ll move on from “mystery man.” I love mystery. I was happy with myself. Keep ‘em guessing.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Is there something that compels you to write? And do you find that writing helps you achieve a clarity about yourself or ideas you've been struggling with?
I have always expressed myself better in writing than orally. Ideas stream from fingertips. And, I have a quick tongue that can get me in trouble.
Does this book have an underlying message? What do you hope your readers will take away from this?
Yes, it is a message of tolerance broadcasted and juxtaposed through examples of intolerance, bigotry & hatred. Hope. You truly, “Can see the stars from the gutter.”
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Abraham Lincoln. He cast a long shadow. “Character is like a tree, and reputation like a shadow...”
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
Lettie. Because in real life, that was my mother, Nettie. Not to give away any of the story; just know that really happened. “Lettie/Nettie” really did that to her two gay sons. A mother’s betrayal. Alas, the guts of the story are autobiographical. Proves real life is stranger than fiction. I have been criticized that the story is not believable & surreal. That’s a compliment to my craft & my story.
“The Grass Sweeper God” is as much about how we raise our children as it is about accepting our children for who and what they are. Gay people who came before paid a price. Gay young men & women get to enjoy the fruits of that “price” today. But, we must never forget where we came from. I’m not saying we’re where we need to be as far as acceptance because a big part of society to this day does not “accept” who we are. That’s fine with me, I don’t expect acceptance. I don’t push myself upon anyone. But, I do fight for social injustice and for who & what I am.
Example: While at work the other day, the Wendy Williams show was on the muted tv in the operations control center. An effeminate young man or woman was her guest. And employee stated, “I don’t watch that crap, that’s what’s wrong with this country.” I addressed the discriminatory nature of that bigoted statement.
You write about some heavy themes—things that many of your readers have probably never experienced—yet it's very easy to identify with your characters. How do you make them so relatable?
Because, I lived that life. I write what I know & what I have experienced; my pain & suffering. I show my tragedy through real-life, fleshed out characters.
Tell us about your writing habits. How do you make time to write? Favorite writing spot, what is an average writing day like for you?
No writing habits. Only write when the passion hits me. And it has to be about something very important to me.
What are you working on right now?
The screenplay version of “The Grass Sweeper God,” entitled, DOROTHY OF OZ COAL CAMP.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Dougs Amazon Book URL address:
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