Witty conversation and gay romance are what you can find in Eliot Schrefer's "Charming Young Man".
What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?
I was in the Seattle Art Museum, and I came across a small portrait on the top floor, tucked away near the men’s room. It was by John Singer Sargent, of a young pianist named Léon Delafosse. I listened to the audio guide, rapt. Léon wasn’t born wealthy but showed incredible aptitude for piano, winning the first prize in piano at the age of 13 from the Paris Conservatory. He vaulted into Belle Époque high society, meeting Marcel Proust and the dandy count/poet, Robert de Montesquiou. But Léon had a falling out with the count and disappeared from history at the age of 17. "Charming Young Man" is my attempt to figure out how it all went down, in novel form.
What does "Reading Rainbow" mean to you?
I feel like we authors of LGBTQIA+ books for young people are in a war zone right now. All we want is for kids to know that their experiences are shared, both by other people in our contemporary world but also by figures from history. And yet we — and even more so the librarians and teachers trying to keep a diversity of books in young people’s hands — are facing more and more animosity over it. That just makes me want to fight harder, though! Young people die from feeling alone. They need these stories.
Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?
Books are unique among modern media in that so many are produced each year. For each major film produced each year, there are thousands of new books. That means written literature can cast a wide net of representation in the way that films or TV can’t. I love how many identities are represented in books today, and I know we can keep expanding that net ever further.
Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it.
Léon was going to be the next huge thing — France’s Mozart. And yet he existed in a world (1890s Paris) in which everything revolved around who you knew and which parties you were invited to. It’s a decadent, fascinating society, but one that could be very punishing to someone from the lower or middle class just trying to get by and make art. I love the idea of an underdog working uphill against the system. Charming Young Man is sort of like Working Girl but set in the 1890s. Unfortunately, there’s no Melanie Griffith in it.
What can fans expect from your book?
Great champagne, witty conversation, gay romance, and good music. You’ll also find out if Marcel Proust was a good kisser.
What's up next for you in the bookish world?
I’m hard at work on the sequel to my 2021 gay sci-fi novel "The Darkness Outside Us". In fact, it’s due to my editor tomorrow, which reminds me…