Interview with Jeff Stookey

What is your writing process?
I like to do a lot of research and then let things bubble up. When I first started on this project, Medicine for the Blues, I was still working and I’d get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and write for an hour every day. I’ve been told it’s good to write while you are still near the dream state. A friend told me that William Burroughs’s advice was never look at your emails until afternoon. That’s good. Also, I jot down notes, sometimes in the middle of the night or early in the morning, sometimes during the day, then string the notes together in the narrative. It’s quite amazing how much coincidence plays a part when you commit to a project. I hear this a lot. Things just sort of jump out in front of you. For example, while I was working on the character of Jimmy Harper, an older man gave a talk at the Hollywood Theatre about being an organist for the silent movies. That became part of my novel.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
When I was a child, my mother read to me from Winnie the Pooh. The stories about the Heffalumps and the Woozles sent me into gales of laughter. When I was in grade school I read a couple of Nancy Drew stories because my older sister was reading them. It was from reading those books that I realized I could put quotation marks on the page to make people talk and I became fascinated with writing stories in school. In junior high I encountered J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. That was magical. Subtle, funny, serious, heartbreaking. I was hooked and I wrote a number of short stories before I finished high school.
What kind of historical research did you do?
When I first started working on this story, I heard something that Umberto Eco said. When he started writing The Island of the Day Before, he read everything he could find of about the sea—Robert Louis Stevenson, Melville, and other classics—and he looked at all kinds of pictures related to 17th century sailing.
So I started collecting postcards from the early 20th century and reading Fitzgerald, Hemingway, DosPassos, and others. Then I ran across a book on gay history called The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives & Gay Identities - A Twentieth-Century History (1998) by John Loughery. That started me on a deep dive into what I discovered was an explosion of historical research into gay history. My website has an extensive bibliography if you are interested in pursuing this topic. I would especially recommend the writing of Jonathan Ned Katz and Peter Boag.
Another important aspect of research delved into the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Oregon and across America in the 20s. One of the most fascinating books I ran across was Kathleen Blee’s Women of the Klan (1991, reissued in 2008).
How did you come to write this novel?
I spent most of my life obsessed with movies and filmmaking. When I read The Color Purple and saw the 1985 movie, I decided that writing was a better and easier medium. I sat down to write about my father and about Jesse Bernstein, a writer friend who committed suicide, but an image came to me that I kept exploring and trying to figure out who the characters were and the next thing I knew it had become a novel. I never expected it would become three books.
What has influenced your writing? Who are your favorite authors?
I can’t say that I have styled my writing on any particular authors. I just sat down and started writing. Some of my favorite writers are Lawrence Durrell, J. D. Salinger, Christopher Isherwood, Wendell Berry, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and I love H. L. Davis’s Honey in the Horn. Favorite classics include Marcel Proust and Shakespeare.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Exploring the lives of Carl Holman and Jimmy Harper, I had to see the world through eyes that were not familiar with a post-Stonewall world. These characters were figuring out homosexuality, just as I had, growing up in a small town in rural Washington State. Having to sort out and hide my true feelings about sexual attractions is a major theme in this trilogy.
North central Washington is extraordinarily beautiful country. That landscape certainly had an influence on me and helped me create the rural scenes around the Bisby Grange, a fictional place, and other natural settings in Medicine for the Blues. Small town life also had an influence bsides growing up around cattle and horses. Details of this part of my background come into play in the stories that Carl and Jimmy tell about their personal histories.
Published 2018-01-04.
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Books by This Author

Dangerous Medicine
Series: Medicine for the Blues. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 100,150. Language: English. Published: October 10, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » General, Fiction » Historical » USA
Dangerous Medicine follows Dr. Carl Holman’s struggles to navigate his medical career in the face of social and personal obstacles from the KKK, society, and other dangers. Dangerous Medicine is Book 3 of Medicine for the Blues, an LGBT historical novel trilogy based on extensive period research of the 1920s.
Chicago Blues
Series: Medicine for the Blues. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 85,670. Language: English. Published: April 15, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Historical » USA
Chicago Blues tells the story of jazz piano player Jimmy Harper and his adventures in Chicago where he descends into the jazz underworld and becomes entangled with a sinister mob boss and with a Negro drag performer. Chicago Blues is Book 2 of Medicine for the Blues, an LGBT historical novel trilogy based on extensive period research of the 1920s.
Series: Medicine for the Blues. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 91,380. Language: English. Published: October 10, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » General, Fiction » Historical » USA
In 1920s Portland, Oregon, a homosexual surgeon—a veteran of WWI—meets an ambitious young jazz musician, who is questioning his own sexuality, and they struggle with social conventions and the Ku Klux Klan. This is Book 1 of the trilogy Medicine for the Blues, a work of LGBT historical fiction which explores the complexities of gender and sexuality through the lens of the early 20th century.