Best-selling gay author William J. Mann may have a reputation for scripting steamy narratives, but he has a confession to make. "Sometimes sex scenes are hard to write, " he says. "You don't want them to sound cheesy."
But literary sex scenes are just like their real-life counterparts in one important way, says Mann. "You can't have too much, if it's done well."
Mann likes to tell the story of how a straight critic reviewed his first novel, The Men from the Boys, complaining that there was too much sex. Mann's publisher realized the critique would make an excellent book jacket quote, one the publisher said would make the book fly off the shelves. And fly it did.
With his new novel Where the Boys Are (Kensington; $24), the follow-up to his 1997 debut, Mann revisits estranged lovers Jeff O'Brien and Lloyd Griffith. Picking up where he left off was something Mann says he never thought he would do. But after loads of requests from loyal readers, he chose to write a sequel.
From the Provincetown home he shares with his partner, Mann says the process of composing Where the Boys Are proved therapeutic, forcing him to come to terms with the death of a close friend. Javitz, a character in the first book who is living with AIDS, is modeled after his real-life mentor who died in 1996.
Strong buzz surrounds Mann's new book, says Jim Marks, executive director of Washington's Lambda Literary Foundation. Marks points to Mann's journalism background as a source of the novelist's strength of story. It was Mann, says Marks, who along with activist Surina Khan in the early 1990s transformed Metroline in Hartford, Conn., into "one of the two or three best gay newspapers in the country."
Mann's evolution from reporter to novelist was no mistake.
"I always wanted to write fiction," Mann says of his growth into creative writing. "I always wanted to be a novelist."
Mann will sign copies of Where the Boys Are tonight at Lambda Rising, 1625 Connecticut Ave. NW, at 7 p.m. Call 202-462-6969.