This morning, I got up, checked my email, did, like, five fist pumps immediately, and then did my best to wake up Lana like I wasn’t intentionally trying to do so. Yes, I’m completely ecstatic to let you know that Natty Soltesz’s College Dive Bar, 1 AM has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award in the gay erotica category. And in honor of the great and awesome Natty, we’ve decided to republish the interview we did with him just before the book’s release. Trust me. It’s just as sweet the second time around. —Jacob
Okay, so, I’ve read a couple of your books now, and there seems to be a reoccurring theme: “straight” guys (or “straightish,” as you’ve used before) really enjoying each other sexually. You build these worlds where it’s easy for sometimes heterosexual men to explore sex with other men in really safe, guilt-free, judgment-free ways. Is the depiction of fluid sexuality important to you, or is this just straight-up your kink?
It’s my kink, straight-up. The hunger is real when it comes to questioning, straightish guys. I also get off on consent and communication and agreements. And I value people with queer or undetermined sexualities. So all of that finds its way into my writing. Sex is the great equalizer, you know? It flows in all directions with no regard to boundaries like race, class, gender, and sexual identity, and that’s a beautiful thing. I’ve found a couple straight or bisexual male fuck buddies over the years. When those relationships go well, they can be almost therapeutic.
In your initial email to us, you mentioned that College Dive Bar 1 AM was a “college-town companion” to your short story collection, Backwoods. You’ve definitely captured the rural, small town feel of the Backwoods’ setting in Dive Bar. What inspired you to explore its college life/side?
The realest things in my stories are the settings, and I suspect I’m just cycling through every place I’ve lived, using them as little stages for sex shows. So, Backwoods was about my hometown, which I left when I was eighteen. I traveled a bit, then I spent the last fifteen years going to college and working for a university in Pittsburgh. So, that’s College Dive Bar. There’s arguably no place sexier than a college town. Arguably.
What was the first book of erotica/porn that you read that made you think, “Oh, I’ve got to write stuff like this.”
Nothing has influenced me quite like Lars Eighner’s Wank: The Tapes. A friend gave me a copy of it when I was just starting to get serious about writing fiction. It has this easy voice and casual-but-crafted narrative. Eighner’s work is brilliant, and much of it is in line with what turns me on. I owe a lot to that book and his fiction in general, which might be obvious to anyone who reads College Dive Bar. Hopefully I didn’t steal too much. I gave a couple shoutouts to Wank characters in there.
I know you co-wrote the script for Joe Gage’s really awesome intergenerational porn flick Dad Takes a Fishing Trip. Did writing this film in any way inspire or affect the intergenerational stories you told in Backwoods?
I’ve been exploring the intergenerational thing ever since I picked up my first copy of Handjobs Magazine in a Phoenix porn shop when I was eighteen. Actually, even before that, a waitress at the diner where I washed dishes in high school lent me a stack of her boyfriend’s digest-sized incest story magazines, which were straight, and I was totally intrigued. Joe Gage and I had a pretty unexpected—at least from my end—meeting of the minds. I actually found my work being quoted at me when I sat down to watch one of his movies one day. He—unwittingly, apparently—used dialogue from my first published story to script a scene with Colby Keller and Cliff Rhodes, without my permission. Dad Takes a Fishing Trip came out of that relationship. I wish I could write more scripts. It’s so fun. I want to write for Men.com because I swear they plagiarize me, too (I’m kidding) with all their straight guy and intergenerational content, but they literally don’t credit their writers. Which is a shame because their scenes can be pretty great.
Okay, well, I’ve asked about your inspirations in two separate questions now, so why not do it again? What inspires your erotica, generally speaking? As a writer (and as a human, I guess), what turns you on?
I’m in my head a lot, certainly when it comes to sex. And fantasizing, storytelling, is how I find my way out. I remember the full-body electric jolt I got from stumbling into the AOL M4M chat rooms when I was thirteen and having cybersex for the first time (the room was titled “Join Me in the Shower”). Then one day I was mowing my grandma’s lawn and the homophobic/flirty boy who lived across the alley took the opportunity to shoot hoops alone, shirtless, while I worked. I went home and wrote about it to some online friend and, in the process, wound up writing my first piece of erotic fiction. I wish I could remember what happened in it…I was so young and innocent…we probably just rubbed our sweaty bodies up against each other.
You play a lot with form in College Dive Bar, 1 AM. There’s writing that resembles scripts and letters, in addition to first-person narratives . Was this collection easier or quicker to writer because you didn’t limit yourself to producing the more “traditional” short story collection?
It was pretty fun to write. The idea was to write it mostly in first person or as “primary source” material, the inverse of Backwoods, which is mostly in third person. Writing in third person is a little less intuitive for me, but I love that expansive, clinical gaze you can get with it. College Dive Bar, 1 AM is more of a party, as befits its setting. I wrote most of it quickly right after finishing up with Backwoods in 2010 or so. Then basically forgot about it until this past winter. I got boners when I was rereading and editing it, so that’s a good sign.
Here’s where you tell us exactly what you want us to hear. Have at it!
Dear me, I’ve already said too much, but I am open to follow-up questions!
Oh, good. So, just so everyone knows, this book is sexually inventive and amazing, and your characters feel very real and true in all their fraternity/jock-ness. Tell me: were you ever a brother? If so, are any of these stories based on reality and/or near-reality, and if not, how did you nail these voices so perfectly?
Lord, no, I was never in a frat. Though I have a good gay friend who was in a frat, and he said they had this unspoken thing where the best-looking guys always got in—it gave the frat a better image, you know? Not that the homoeroticism in frats needs to be underscored any further, but there you go. I’ve definitely lived the college trash life, and have had more than my fair share of crusty apartments and straight-dude roommates, so maybe that’s where this stuff comes from. I like writing dialogue, and these stories were a way of playing to that strength. That whole “bro dude” voice is out there in the world—it’s a put-on, it’s masc drag. It’s more than a little silly, and it’s definitely hot. It was just a matter of tapping into it.
There are a couple of really dark moments in College Dive Bar, 1 AM, but I’m thinking of “Why I Did It,” specifically, where you write from the point of view of a “straight” (always quotes) guy who’s feeling a lot of anger and anxiety, and decides to take it out on one of the openly queer characters, Tristan. I love it when queer writers can access homophobia and hatred—and confusion, too—and paint these truly frightening, but still erotic, scenes. Do you find writing from this point of view easy? Does it scare you, your ability to tap into a character that most queer people/minorities would prefer to avoid late on weekend nights—you know, near last call—or do you find that writing these stories feels somehow vindicating/liberating, seeing how Tristan responds to his attacker at the end?
Violence—or the threat of violence—isn’t my particular kink, but I do explore that in the interest of giving people what they want. Sometimes people just want to get fucked—I mean destroyed—and I wanted to honor that. I’ve had moments in real life where sex gets that intense edge of aggression, and “Why I Did It” probably takes from that. It’s not a proper rape fantasy, though, because there’s pretty clear consent from both sides—I think. But maybe there is some of my own internalized self-hatred coming through there, self-hatred I’ve held up to the light, but that maybe never really goes away. It fills my heart to know that we can explore things like hatred and violence in safe ways through fantasy and consensual sex.
College Dive Bar, 1 AM is available from Go Deeper Press and all of your other favorite retailers. You can catch up with Natty at nattysoltesz.com, on Twitter at @nattysoltesz, and on Facebook by clicking right here. GO SOLTESZ!