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Monday, December 2, 2013

Groovy Guys of the Month: Jeff Adams and Will Knauss



This month I'm featuring two Groovy Guys - Jeff Adams and Will Knauss, who have been together for 18½ years. They both love movies, '70s television and the music of ABBA - which definitely makes them groovy in my book - and they are both writers. Jeff's first novel, Hat Trick, was published in September to rave reviews, and Will, who is currently working on various writing projects, wouldn't mind becoming the next Jackie Collins or Sidney Sheldon. I am delighted to have this fabulous couple here on the Dish to share their secret for a long and happy relationship and, of course, answer a few pop culture questions.

I'm also featuring a special Groovy Giveaway of an autographed copy of Jeff's book, so click here to enter to win!

Let's begin at the beginning - how did you guys meet?

Jeff: I moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Humboldt County, California in the summer of 1993. I first met Will that fall. I'd gotten in to a crowd of community theatre folks, and I was doing a bit part in a show that he ran the light board for. We ran into each other periodically after that, but in the spring of 1995, we were both cast in a show called It Runs in the Family. We got to know each other better during the rehearsals and run of the show and discovered we had a lot in common. Will took the plunge and asked me out on a date, which at the time I didn't realize was a date because I wasn't out and didn't consider that a cute boy might ask me on a date. That was on May 1, 1995. On September 7, 1997, we had a commitment ceremony at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre, the place we performed It Runs in the Family. We followed that up by getting legally married in the State of New York on October 19, 2011.

What's your secret for a long and happy relationship?

Will: I’ve never understood the old adage that a good marriage/relationship takes work. The time I spend with Jeff has never felt like work - in fact, there is no other person I’d rather hang out with. He’s my best friend as well as my husband. If there is any "secret", I guess it would be to at least like the person you’re involved with. "Marry your best friend" would be my advice.

Jeff: I can't improve on Will's answer. This never feels like work. Sure we've grown in different ways since we met, but our relationship has only gotten stronger through the years. I never have any doubt that I'm completely loved and supported by him.

Jeff, tell us about Hat Trick. What inspired you to write it?

Hat Trick is the story of Simon Roberts, a senior in high school, a star hockey player and a guy who is in a lot of self-denial about being gay despite the fact he's got a huge crush on one of his teammates, Alex. After the opening game of the season, which happens to be an away game, while Simon and Alex are sharing a room, they end up coming out to each other. Simon is excited and scared by this, but the two start dating while keeping it a secret. Secrets are hard to keep though and it doesn't take long for Simon's family and teammates to find out. His father and brother cause Simon a lot of trouble, and there's a faction of the team that wants both guys cut. The story plays out over the weeks from that opening game through the season's playoffs.

While Hat Trick is my debut novel, I've written many short stories. Some in the m/m romance space were published, and others were published in a literary magazine I started with a college friend (that magazine still publishes, check out www.thefirstline.com).

Hat Trick's inspiration came from a trio of guys I met at an early Saturday morning hockey practice I attended. The players at the practice were a mix of age and skill levels. These three guys were just out of high school. They were very good friends. You knew they had each other's backs even while they were goofing around with each other. As I got to know them, I wondered what would happen if one of them was gay and came out to the other two, or even more what would happen if two of them became boyfriends and had to tell the third. Add to that the fact that I hadn't read an LGBT young adult novel that dealt with hockey, or one that really featured teammates getting together (if there are any out there, please let me know) and I decided this would be a good story to write.

I'm currently working on further stories involving Simon and Alex. I'm planning three more books that take them through college. I'm editing the manuscript for the first of those books this month, so hopefully it will come out sometime in 2014.

Will, what writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve got several things bubbling on the back burner at the moment. I’m excited to try something I’m calling "The Bradbury Challenge". Whenever newbie writers asked Ray Bradbury for advice, he’d invariably tell them to write a short story every week for an entire year. This would instill a work ethic and get them used to working on a deadline. He’d also usually quip that it was impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row. So, I’m taking the Grand Master's advice and will be attempting 52 stories in 52 weeks.

If you google "An Evening with Ray Bradbury 2001" you can watch him explain the "52 in 52" concept as well as listen to his tales of a life spent at the typewriter. It's terrific stuff and I highly recommend it.



Did you always want to be a writer?

Jeff: I've written since I was in middle school. I had an awesome English teacher in tenth grade that had me writing more creatively, and also got me into writing for the school paper (which is why there's a school paper reporter in Hat Trick). In college I majored in journalism and spent the first ten years out of school as a journalist. I'm sure it's why I helped start the lit mag with my friend, and why I blog. I seem to always need to write something.

Will: In my life I’ve wanted to be dozens of different things - actor, director, painter, singer, writer. The one aspect they’ve always had in common is an element of storytelling. So, I’d say that I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller.

A 3-part question: what was your favorite book as a child, a teenager and an adult?

Jeff: As a child I loved Charlotte's Web. I have memories of my mom reading a chapter a night to me during bath time. Also the Winnie the Pooh books were a cornerstone of my childhood. As a teen, Stephen King's The Stand (the original, not the longer version) was a tremendous read. I also read a lot of Star Trek paperbacks. As an adult, I find Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay to be one of the most perfect books. I don't often re-read books, but I've read that three times since it came out. My autographed first edition hardback is a prized possession.

Will: As a kid, I loved picture books and I had a sizable library of my own thanks to those in-school Scholastic book clubs. I honestly can’t recall my mom ever saying that I couldn’t have a book that I’d circled on those tissue paper-thin order forms (Thanks, Mom!). I also loved the Narnia books.

I didn’t read much as a teen - I was too busy being a sullen drama club geek. As an adult, I’m currently on a non-fiction kick, especially if it has to do with the authors who cranked out stories for the pulp fiction mags of the 1930s and '40s.

What was the last good book you read?

Jeff: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan was incredible. He keeps coming up with new ways to tell a story. The mix between the journey of the two title boys along with the other modern day boys, overlaid with a historical perspective of gay men who are no longer among the living was powerful. I have to give props to some other amazing books I've read in 2013 - Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, Proxy by Alex London, Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler and Dumb Jock: The Musical by Jeff Erno should be on everyone's holiday lists. They're each very different, though all are in the Young Adult genre and awesome books.

Will: Matthew Mitcham’s autobiography, Twists and Turns. His candid take on the difficult road to Olympic success and personal happiness is just as sunny and inspirational as the Aussie cutie-pie himself!

What are five of your favorite movies that you never get tired of watching?

Jeff: Dead Poets Society (1989), Out of Africa (1985), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Steel Magnolias (1989) and Mouiln Rouge (2001).

Will: In no particular order - Now, Voyager (1942), Flash Gordon (1980), Valley of the Dolls (1968), King Kong (1976) and Beyond the Forest (1949).

What are your five favorite TV shows of all time?

Jeff: Space: 1999, So You Think You Can Dance, The Big Bang Theory, Family Ties and Fame.

This question wasn't asked, but Deep Dish covers musicals a lot, so I am compelled to give a shout out to my top five favorite musicals - Rent (which I was lucky enough to see the original Broadway cast), Les Misérables, Next to Normal, [title of show] and Ragtime.

Will: Ninja Warrior (as well as its American counterpart) is my all-time favorite show. For me, different TV shows have meant different things to me throughout my life. As a kid, I loved (and still love) Wonder Woman and Super Friends. As a teen, soaps meant a lot. Falcon Crest was my go-to drama, but I was totally gaga for the cuckoo shenanigans of The Colbys. Now, despite seeing each episode countless times, I never seem to tire of The Big Bang Theory.

If you were asked to choose the Sexiest Man Alive, whom would you select?

Jeff: Derek Hough, a pro from Dancing with the Stars. I've loved him since he started on DWTS, and I'll record the shows even if I'm not that into the celebs just to see what he's doing. He's got a great body and he knows how to move it, and he doesn't mind showing it off either. Derek is not my usual type - that would be more Ben Affleck - but Derek gets me in front of the TV every week, and often I record his dances for future watching.



Will: For Sexiest Man Ever - he’s sadly no longer with us - I would pick Jon-Erik Hexum. As a pre-adolecent, he got my libido humming on the TV show, Voyagers. I know I’m not the only gay man (of a certain age) who felt that way. He was so achingly handsome, and that voice - God, that deep, sexy voice! The TV movie he made with Joan Collins, Making of a Male Model, is a high camp masterpiece and I highly recommend it.



If you could have anyone in the world - living or dead - be a guest at your dinner party, what three people would you invite?

Jeff: Vito Russo, Bob Fosse and Patricia Nell Warren.

Will: Jacqueline Susann, Jon-Erik Hexum and Oscar Wilde.

What's next for Jeff and Will?

Will: We both plan to publish in 2014 as much as possible. We're also researching ideas we've got for self publishing projects. We're interested in creating a Jeff and Will brand of m/m romance. We're not sure the form this will take. We're discussing everything from self-publishing stories to starting a magazine for short stories. We'll keep everyone posted on our website with what we're up to. And we'll be at a couple of LGBT lit gatherings - RainbowCon, April 17-24 in Tampa where Jeff will make his first conference appearance as an author - and GayRomLit in Chicago in October.

Thank you, Jeff and Will, for being such groovy guys!

To learn more about Jeff and Will, visit their website, www.jeffandwill.com. To learn more about Hat Trick and purchase a copy, go to www.HatTrickNovel.com. You can also follow Jeff on Facebook and Twitter.

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