It’s a little daunting writing about my friend’s new book, as she is a real writer and I’m an artist who has a blogging gig and a laptop. Oh, well, Allegra Huston is an old friend and won’t judge me like you are now.
Allegra’s new novel, Say My Name (not to be confused with Call Me By Your Name, although it does share a younger/ older romance theme…) It starts out with this basic premise;
In an antiques shop, Eve finds a mysterious instrument, carved with twining vines and it sends her on a journey —and into a new connection with a young man, who is the son of an old flame. Twenty years younger than she is, he’s a musician, a seeker, a bohemian —and, to her shock, he’s pursuing HER.
OK, I’m in!
Allegra’s first book, Love Child: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found is about discovering, after her mother’s sudden death, that her father was not as she was told, legendary film director, John Huston, but rather John Julius Cooper, the second Viscount Norwich. As a teenager, she goes to live with her sister, the actress Anjelica Huston and her then boyfriend Jack Nicholson in L.A., and tries to discover who her mother, Ricki, really was. It’s a fantastic read. She now lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her fourteen-year-old son, Rafa.
She’s headed to New York tomorrow for a book signing, reading and conversation with author and old pal Joan Juliet Buck. I caught up with her this morning for a quick chat that often digressed from the the subject of her book…
Trey: Hi. Are you all packed?
Allegra: Haven’t even started!
Trey: Well, it’s cold AF as you know…
Allegra: I’ve bought a new sweater in honor of that cold.
Trey: It will be hidden under a coat… so, tomorrow is the big day! “Say My Name” comes out! Are you excited?
Allegra: Yes – it’s been a long time coming! Almost 9 years since my memoir LOVE CHILD was published.
Trey: OMG. Wow. That’s a while. But the timing is good. With “Fire and Fury” and freezing cold winter, everyone is into reading BIG TIME!
Allegra: Nothing better, when it’s cold outside, than snuggling up with a book. When you’ve OD’d on testosterone with Fire and Fury, you can turn to SAY MY NAME for some love and sex and tenderness. And music.
Trey: Yes, the antidote to Trump’s madness… I started reading it and almost couldn’t stop, you nearly wrecked my morning…
Allegra: Nearly…. because it’s actually quite short, and it didn’t take up your whole morning. Short and sexy – which I hope are two good things. So, as a gay man, you’re about the one sexuality not covered in it! What did you like best, if I can ask?
Trey: Well, as a gay man “of a certain age” now, the idea of “Daddy” never appealed to me, but even when I was young, I liked younger. At 24 I had a 16 year-old boyfriend… What about you? How much Cougar researched was required…?
Allegra: Sadly the plot is not based on my life – though many of the moments and emotions are. But please don’t say that word! The whole “cougar” thing makes me crazy. It gives this image of older women as being predatory and hard and desperate, with claws. Chasing. Whereas in every single relationship of this kind that I know, it’s the younger man who did the chasing! And I know a lot! I think the whole “cougar” thing is just another way to demean women and it infuriates me when women buy into it.
Trey: Yeah, well “MILF”, “Cougar”, “Daddy”, they all have their downsides, I guess… they are stereotypes that people do buy into sadly…
Allegra: MILF proves my point. Who wants to fuck who here????? Have you ever heard MSFILF?
Trey: What’s that?
Allegra: Work it out, dude… “my son’s friend…”
Trey: Ah… got it. As they say, to each his own… I’m a social outcast so no judgement here.
Allegra: Exactly. If two people are happy together, who’s to judge?
Trey: ANYWAY, you are likely to get more of these Cougar questions…
Allegra: And I will say the same thing every time! In fact, I already have, a time or two.
Trey: As Quentin Crisp used to say, “Say what you’ve come to say, no matter what they ask…”
Allegra: Should I mention that I still have the purple ostrich feather from the cake at the 90th birthday party for Quentin that you hosted?
Trey: And Serena Bass made the cake!
Allegra: I forgot that! I think she’s coming to my launch party.
Trey: And you rewrote “God Save the Queen” to be “God Save OUR Queen” for him… I have a purple feather too…
Allegra: It was an amazing night.
Trey: It was. I have video that I should digitize…
OK. So, is it the same writing a script, making a short film and writing a book, once it’s done there’s not much to do but see what people think? What’s your experience…?
Allegra: When you write a script, you either have to wait for the money to come together, and the schedules of many busy people to come together, or you have to go out and raise it yourself – which I did for my short film GOOD LUCK MR GORSKI. When you write a book, there’s still a number of hoops to be jumped through, but the path to getting it out in the world is much more straightforward. Which is definitely a plus for me! Though I do find writing a novel harder than a script. More words, for one thing! And since the form is so fluid, it’s not so clear what to do. I felt like I’d been dropped in the middle of the ocean, with no sight of land, and you don’t know if that’s a real current or just an eddy… or maybe a SHARK.
Trey: Just you and a blank page… blank page = open sea
Allegra: I find the blank page quite terrifying. I’ve developed techniques to fool myself that I’m not actually “writing” the book, I’m just “generating material” on the blank page. Then when I’ve covered lots of pages with “material” they’re not blank any more and I can edit them!
Trey: Well, as a former book editor, you have that skill which eludes many writers…
Allegra: Editing is my comfort zone…
Trey: Editing. Same with photographers, it’s not the picture you take, it’s the ones you omit that matter most…
Allegra: One of the best things I learned from Robert McKee was that 90% of what you write is “research.” By which he meant, backstage stuff. So, if 10% of what you write is good, you’re doing great, but you still have to write the other 90%. Or more than 90%!
Trey: As a former art director, now an artist, those extra skills come in handy, I know…
I took that McKee screenwriting course too!
Allegra: It’s also good to understand the jobs of people you’re working with. As a former publisher, I know what my publishers have to deal with!
Trey: So true.
Well, you’d better get packed, honey! Can’t wait to see you. Safe travels!
Allegra: See you day after tomorrow!
You are invited to POWERHOUSE @ the Archway, Thursday January 11, 2018, 7-9PM, 28 Adams Street (Corner of Adams & Water Street @ the Archway), Brooklyn. RSVP here. If you aren’t in Brooklyn, you can get your copy here.