Interview: Avery Cassell

Jen: Today we welcome Avert Cassell to Romancing the Book. Avery, will you share a short bio with us?
Avery: I live in foggy San Francisco with my snuggly Maine Coon cat. I’m a genderqueer writer, painter, comic artist, poet, parent and grandparent. I grew up in Iran, but my parents are American. You can find me on Facebook as Avery Cassell, Twitter and you can find Behrouz and Lucky on Pinterest as what else…..Behrouz and Lucky!

Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Avery: Behrouz Gets Lucky is both my latest release and my first novel. The first chapter was selected for Best Lesbian Erotica 2015. I wrote Behrouz Gets Lucky because I wasn’t seeing myself represented in the books I was reading. I wanted to read about older genderqueer transgender folks and older butch dykes having hot kinky sex, romantic love, and politically and culturally astute lives. The first chapter describes my idea of a perfect online dating adventure, and the rest of the book is my flowery, romantic, smutty relationship wish list.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Avery: My Aunt Ida lives in the bay Area. She is in her 80s, a lesbian, retired librarian, poet, and editor. She heard about my manuscript through my posts on Facebook and asked to read it. I was reluctant to let Ida read it because of all the kinky sex and gender shenanigans, but Aunt Ida is a force to be reckoned with and eventually I reluctantly capitulated. Her response overwhelmed me…and she ended up doing a fierce editing job too! “But my liking the story is about how good it is.  And that is more valid because I’m not the ideal audience for this material.  I know and practice only vanilla sex and read only vanilla erotica.  My liking you made me want to read your work and the power of the story made me keep reading.  I didn’t find it distasteful or politically offensive as I might have.  That I imagined the whole story as autobiographical is a compliment, too  ~ authenticity!  (Of course I wondered why I didn’t know about the library job, the new lover, and the trip to Iran.  Ha.)” – Ida VSW Red

Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Avery: Sensual, poetic, and intense.

Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Avery: I take notes on my phone constantly. I’m a morning person, so I write a lot on my phone while walking to the MUNI bus stop or while riding MUNI to work. I’ve tried using the speech function on my phone, but just end up with bizarre dadaesque prose. It’s amusing, but not helpful. I keep index cards and a pen on my bedside table to scrawl down any sudden 3:30 am revelations. Sadly, I have also been known to write sentences or ideas on the palm of my hand with a ball-point pen.

Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Avery: I wanted to answer this, question because really, who wouldn’t want to see their book made into a movie!? Trying to answer it led me into a conundrum; both Behrouz and Lucky are so different from pop culture celebrities or actors that they might as well come from another galaxy. They’re unapologetically butch or genderqueer, fey, over age 50, and stocky in build. My imagination is stunted. Who would work? Lea DeLaria is the obvious choice for Lucky. She is sexy and has a delightful dirty swagger. I’m stymied as to who could play Behrouz. Rosie O’Donnell? Susan Sarandon? Alan Cumming would be perfect, but he’s a boy and a bit young. I’m open to suggestions!

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
Avery: I work during the week, so often am too exhausted to do any substantial writing until the weekend. I adore sweets, cafes, and parks. Three of my favorite writing routines involve bakeries. I pack my knapsack with my iPad, a sweater and cap for when it cools down in the afternoon, pens, and a notebook. I like to have writing utensil options. My favorite bakeries are Mission Pie, Tartine, and Arizmendi. At Mission Pie and Tartine I’ll write indoors, with either sweet potato pie topped with soft whipped cream or a coconut tart and a cup of hot tea at hand. My all-time most hedonistic writing afternoons involve Arizmendi’s Bakery giant sticky pecan rolls and the Fragrance Garden at Golden Gate Park. I’ll buy a roll and an Orangina, saunter to the park, eat in the Fragrance Garden while sitting on a secluded bench surrounded by rosemary, lavender, and magnolia trees, and feed the tame squirrels that scramble on the bench stray pecans. Then I’ll wipe my fingers, break out my iPad, and start writing. If I feel stuck, there are pathways to meander down, flowers to photograph, and meadows to nap in.

Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Avery: The author that influenced me the most while writing Behrouz Gets Lucky was the Swedish mystery writer and novelist, Henning Mankell. I’m enthralled with the way he seamlessly integrated the sensuous natural physical environment, his character Wallander’s love of music, political activism, and Wallander’s emotional vulnerability. His attention to detail inspired me to make deliberate conscientious decisions as I created Behrouz and Lucky’s world.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Avery: I’m working on a follow-up book of more shenanigans with Behrouz and Lucky, an illustrated early reader children’s book about a transgender child and his family, and my memoir.