May 11, 2021

P.J. Vernon And Not So Fun Thrills At A Bathhouse

P.J. Vernon And Not So Fun Thrills At A Bathhouse

Ep:083 P. J. Vernon was born in South Carolina. Called a "rising star thriller writer" by Library Journal, Vernon's debut, When You Find Me, was both an Audible Plus #1 Listen and an Associated Press Top Ten U.S. Audiobook. His next novel, Bath Haus, praised as “a nightmarish white-knuckler” by O, The Oprah Magazine and pitched as “Gone Girl with gays and Grindr,” publishes June 15 from Doubleday. He lives in Calgary with his husband and two wily dogs.

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Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery by Rosalie Knecht

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Brad Shreve's Website

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Transcript
Brad Shreve:

In this episode, my guest is PJ Vernon author, a Bath Haus, where we discuss, how do you research bath houses when you're writing a book about bath houses? Plus Justene recommends a book that overwhelmed her by just how bad a day. a protagonist can have. I'm Brad Shreve and you're listening to Queer Writers of Crime, where we feature LGBTQ authors. of mystery, suspense and thriller fiction.

Justene:

What's going on, Brad?

Brad Shreve:

Justene I have a interesting situation here. I am with my in-laws up in the California desert, which is very awkward, cause I'm used to my nice, comfortable little studio. section of my apartment. And right now I'm sitting on a day bed with my computer and microphone on a card table.

Justene:

that's always fun.

Brad Shreve:

it's, it's. It works. Let's put it that way. So if there's a little bit of difference in the sound, people know why they, it could be echoing, cause I don't have all the soundproofing and that sort of thing. So, but I don't think there'll be able to tell a difference. And it's, it's been beautiful up in the desert. I'm not looking forward to this next week. It's going to be in the mid nineties for the rest of the week. But

Justene:

Oh, my, I really would like mid nineties anytime soon.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I know, I know you would. but it's very comfortable and they're nice folks. So that's a good thing. I have a few things to talk about very quickly. Last week, I talked about Have a Blessed Gay with Tyler Martin. Remember I talked about that podcast. I listened to it and I need to clarify something because I made it sound like it was a show for athiests. And that not is not what it is. I was talking about that particular episode where he discussed the. history of Jesus and the beginning of Christianity, but nowhere does he deny that there's divine inspiration there as well. that's just, not included in what he talked about. And he talks about all religions and all spiritual beliefs. it's generally for everything and he's open to it and treats them all respectfully. So I just wanted to clarify that,

Justene:

okay. Good.

Brad Shreve:

not a, it is not an atheist show.

Justene:

It was just your atheism slipping through in your, to the discussion, not his.

Brad Shreve:

That is correct. That is correct. Then I'm going to bring up something with, Buy Me a Cup of Coffee.

Justene:

Ah,

Brad Shreve:

We had one of our listeners AC. And I got to tell you, I was confused. Do you remember the Howard Cosell show that I'm going to date us here? and Howard Cosell back in 1975,

Justene:

Yes.

Brad Shreve:

It was supposed to replace the Ed Sullivan show and it lasted about a year.

Justene:

Oh, did it last that long? Well, I, I would have guessed it only lasted two episodes.

Brad Shreve:

It lasted a little, little longer than that, but it wasn't around for very long. Anyway. I remember. I was much younger, but teenage girl across the street, came to my house and said, you've got to watch the Howard Cosell show tonight. He has a band on that they say are going to be the next Beatles.

Justene:

Ah,

Brad Shreve:

Do you know what band that was?

Justene:

Rolling Stones.

Brad Shreve:

Well, no, they'd been waiting. They were there way before the Beatles. They start in the early sixties.

Justene:

Yeah, but they didn't get big until after the Beatles. Didn't they?

Brad Shreve:

Uh, no, they were pretty big. They were pretty big but it was K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

Justene:

Oh my, Oh my, that, that does date. You

Brad Shreve:

It does for those that don't know K.C. And the Sunshine Band, I think they ended around the disco era.

Justene:

started and ended.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. Yeah. that's the way, uh-huh-uh-huh I like it. That's the song. most people probably know them from. So anyway, I'm going off on this tangent because when I saw AC I all of a sudden got my head K.C. And I thought maybe he's K.C. With K.C. And the Sunshine Band. Maybe he retired. I know it's anyway, so he has nothing to do with K.C. and the Sunshine Band, I just thought I'd bring them up. So his name is AC and he lives in Provincetown and I've heard there's a lot of gay people that live in Provincetown. And he loves listen to the show when he's out working in his garden. And he had nice things to say about you and I and the both of us together. So he said, he's thrilled. he found it. He also said, he's very happy that we brought back the wheel.

Justene:

Oh, good.

Brad Shreve:

Yes. Yep, yep. Uh, he is a writer though. I don't think he's writing currently. And he said he was, it makes him very happy to hear other writers get those bizarre questions that he always got.

Justene:

That's good. Yes. Well, I suspect all writers get something similar to that.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. Yes. So again, it's AC and Provincetown and AC, thank you very much. I'm sure your garden is beautiful. And again, he donated to us from Buy Me a Cup of Coffee. And if you folks would like to do the same, you can go to our website and there's a button there that has it, or even better right there in the show notes. There's a link you can click. And as I keep repeating myself, I will do this show no matter what I love doing the show. And I think it's important, but any help to keep it up and running is greatly appreciated.

Justene:

and they're not actually buying us a cup of coffee because all that money just gets folded back into production.

Brad Shreve:

And I worked out and only one cup of coffee anyway. So yes, it goes into the production. It goes into pay for my editing software and a blah blah blah blah. I could go on the list, but it'd be kind of boring. It's all of the technical side they're paying for and the small and the small stipend I give Justene each week.

Justene:

Yeah, no, he's not giving me a stipend. Don't let him, he is selling you a bill of goods.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I force you need to read a book every week or more, to keep you on your toes

Justene:

Well, you know, we may have to just give me a break when the fall TV series, you know, Starts up in earnest because beginning of the Fall, I just watching TV and not reading.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I have it settled in the Fall for us to have two weeks in a row off. There will be some things for our listeners to listen to, but it's going to mostly done in advance. And I think they'll enjoy it for two weeks in a row. We certainly will enjoy having two weeks off in a row.

Justene:

We certainly will. We certainly will.

Brad Shreve:

And I think that was it. Um, yeah. My guest today is, PJ Vernon. We talk about his book Bath Haus and, it's a really good book and it was, a fun conversation. So with that, I'm turning everything over to you. Okay.

Justene:

Okay. What book am I doing? Okay, now I've got my notes. I've I've been waiting. Uh, this is called Vera Kelly is not a Mystery and the author is Rosalie Knecht and this book's got a great pedigree. It just won the GP Putnam's Son's, Sue Grafton Memorial Award.

Brad Shreve:

that's a big deal.

Justene:

Well, and what is that Memorial award part of?

Brad Shreve:

That is part of the Edgar awards from the Mystery Writers of America.

Justene:

Yeah, it is a very, very, uh, high award. And not only has it been, uh, well, It's been nominated for the Lambda, Best LGBTQ mystery. And, I think the Edgars is, is a far higher award, but, the Edgar doesn't necessarily focus on gay content.

Brad Shreve:

No, they have, they used to be kind of snubbed their nose a little bit at it, looking

Justene:

yeah. But I looked at.

Brad Shreve:

has really changed, changed.

Justene:

Yes, it has really changed. It has indeed really changed.

Brad Shreve:

In fact, our good friend, Greg Heron is, uh, I believe he's the vice President of Mr. Writers of America this year, or what's the past year.

Justene:

Yes. Yes.

Brad Shreve:

So what do you have to tell us about Vera Kelly and

Justene:

Vierra Kelly is not a mystery.

Brad Shreve:

Okay.

Justene:

This is the second book in the series and, but it works as a standalone. In the first book, Vierra Kelly is a spy, a CIA operative. That to me seems like an equivalent agent, but, she ends up, at the end of the book, quitting the agency. So now at the beginning of this book, She works in a newsroom. It is 1967 where homosexuals got fired for being homosexuals. So she gets up one morning and her girlfriend breaks up with her because like many main characters, which I enjoy, Vera Kelly, mostly. communicates in grunts. and doesn't talk about feelings and all, all the usual failings of, of many main characters. Yes,

Brad Shreve:

So, is she a hard-boiled female?

Justene:

She is a hard-boiled female. And, but she's a hard for a female who is a, news editor at the beginning of the. Of the book. So her girlfriend breaks up with her. And then, later in the day, when she gets a break, she calls the girlfriend asks her to reconsider. And someone at the switchboard is listening in realizes that she's a lesbian and within about a half hour, she gets fired. Yeah. So this is pretty much the worst day of her life. I mean, she'd used her savings to buy this house and it requires a lot of repairs. So here she is, with, uh, responsibilities of a house, no girlfriend, no job. I got to say, I just, I get overwhelmed by just how bad this is. So

Brad Shreve:

You mean by bad? Her life is

Justene:

yes,

Brad Shreve:

Okay. I'm going to clarify you. Weren't talking about the book.

Justene:

No, no, I would not recommend it if it was a bad book, Brad. Okay. It's how bad the life is. I mean, it just kind of, uh, yeah, of course then, you know, she trades up for a life of danger, so she, she, was in a life of danger and now she's going to trade up for a life. Again, she decides that she's going to become a private investigator and she opens up a. Agency puts an ad in the paper. people call and thinks she's a secretary, which you know, happened in 1967. But you know, when I started work as a lawyer in late eighties, there were people when I would make a phone call, they would assume I was the secretary and not the lawyer calling. so that prejudice, was, continued for many years. But I digress. Okay. So she starts this agency. She gets a couple of cheating spouses and then two people come in. They are Dominican Republic refugees. This is about the time of the Dominican Republic revolution. Which, you know, in my, my, uh, lack of historical knowledge I had not realized happened. It sounded like it was a lot like the Cuban revolution, one strong arm, dictator left, and another strong arm dictator came in. they are very wealthy traveling, but they have a niece and nephew who got stuck in the country. and are in jail and they can't find the news of the grand nephew, the son of these two people in jail. He was sent here to New York to live. And, he was a retired servant of the family and that when that retired servant died, he disappeared. So they've hired her to look for her, for, to look for him. The nephew. So this search takes her to a boys reform school where she goes undercover as a staff member. And then eventually it takes her down to the Dominican Republic where she runs into a, a gay male reporter who was also doing his own investigation into, um, The secret police, which were supposedly disbanded after the reservoir revolution, but we're still operating in secret. So they weren't, they were a poorly kept secret before and now they're more of a well kept secret. So as she's, you know, ducking weaving secret police, she finds that she can't trust anybody along the way. Some people you think that are suspicious, turn out to be friends and some people you turn out to be friends or suspicious. And the whole thing is remarkable. it gets a thrilling recommendation for me, Brad.

Brad Shreve:

Really does sound remarkable.

Justene:

Yes. Yeah. It's very tightly written. and her descriptions of both the New York and the Dominican Republic are poetic. New York seems like a, the city of lights rather than, you know, the gritty, the gritty background, too many detective novels and, Vera is compelling and intelligent. and has her wits about her. the supporting characters are just that supporting characters. We really get sucked into Vera's life is as if, you're seeing the world through her eyes.

Brad Shreve:

So they're not cardboard characters. They're just not much focused on them.

Justene:

That's right. That's right. These are people that she doesn't know. well. And so you don't know well.

Brad Shreve:

Fair enough. Yep. And who, who wrote the book?

Justene:

The book was written by Rosalie Knecht It's K N E C H T.

Brad Shreve:

and there'll be in the show notes.

Justene:

It will be in the show notes. And it's terrific.

Brad Shreve:

And do you have anything from ReQueered Tales this week?

Justene:

Well, we do, uh, next week, we're coming out with a, another female novelists, Nikki Baker. This is the third book in her series. Now the Virginia Kelly mysteries, lives in Chicago and she's gone back to her hometown for her 10th year anniversary her high school reunion.

Brad Shreve:

So another Nikki Baker book.

Justene:

You know, the Nicki Baker book. This is the one coming out. It's it's, it's almost that I know I've been promising the forward by Cheryl Head, but really it's almost here next week.

Brad Shreve:

Oh, so it's the one we've been talking about.

Justene:

So one we've been talking about, I know you've just been waiting.

Brad Shreve:

Yes, I have been. I haven't been, so my guest today is PJ Vernon. And I don't know if you've seen, there's been a lot of attention about his latest book Bath Haus. So we discussed that quite a bit

Justene:

Yeah. Uh, I'll be interesting to see what, you know, what he has to say about Bath Haus to see, if it's a different take than your take on a bath house or not.

Brad Shreve:

I will tell you I've read the book and it's a much different take. On mine, it's much different. It's actually a thriller, first of all, not a mystery. And, but we get into how do you research a bath house.

Justene:

okay.

Brad Shreve:

So that gets a little interesting.

Justene:

Yeah, it sounds good.

Brad Shreve:

All right, well, see you next week.

Justene:

We'll see you then Brad.

Brad Shreve:

Welcome to Queer Writers of Crime, PJ.

PJ Vernon:

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Brad Shreve:

I want to tell you, as I was reading your novel, I kept thinking something. I kept thinking, he's getting this wrong. He's getting this wrong. And I'm going to tell you that I'm going to make you wait. To find out what that is after I do your introduction.

PJ Vernon:

Suspense. I love it.

Brad Shreve:

Exactly. PJ Vernon was born in South Carolina called a rising star thriller writer by Library Journal. Vernon's debut, When You Find Me was both an Audible Plus Number One listen.And an Associated Press, Top 10 Us Audio Book, his next novel Bath Haus praised as a nightmarish white knuckler by O the Oprah magazine and pitched as Gone Girl with gays and Grindr publishes June 15th from Doubleday. And it's currently available to pre-order. He lives in Calgary with his husband and two wily dogs. So are you ready to hear? What I thought you were doing wrong?

PJ Vernon:

I am so ready.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. I don't know what possessed me, whatever reason I thought I was reading a mystery. Now, all your blurbs say it's a thriller. Even the title on your book says Bath Haus: A Thriller, but for whatever reason I had in my head, I was reading the mystery and there's a. I hate rules, but there's a rule in mysteries that the person has to die by the fifth chapter. And yes, it can be broken, but I kept reading and kept reading them. And I was engrossed, totally engrossed. I kept saying, when is, when is the murder going to happen? Ooh, he's going awfully deep in the, into the story and there's no murder I'm not giving anybody any spoilers, because I'm not going to say whether a murder happens or not in the story, but it sure didn't happen when I thought it was going to happen or nothing happened when I thought it was going to happen regarding the murder. Despite that it's a wonderful thriller.

PJ Vernon:

I appreciate that so much.

Brad Shreve:

Now When You Find Me was also a thriller or a suspense novel as this one is why thrillers?

PJ Vernon:

I think thrillers. So it's, it's interesting. I sort of, I actually didn't know that's what I would, what I would wind up writing when I started taking myself seriously as a writer. I actually thought I was going to be writing a, a high fantasy game of Thrones style. and I've got that manuscript in a closet somewhere. It's it's 200,000 words in eight points of view. It is, I think writing is so subjective. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's objectives, not a great read. Um, but, but I noticed I was sort of, I was sort of not interested in the parts of you as a reader of high fantasy. As well, um, that, that I love the cast of thousands and the geopolitics and all the sorts of expectations. I bring to a story like that as a reader. and I found I was much more drawn to the family dynamics, the dynamics between relationships and toxicity and manipulation and those sorts of things. Um, and so I sort of experimented my way. into a genre that I've always enjoyed, but didn't quite know I could, I could hit my stride. I love it. Cause it's voyeurism. When I go for walks at night, um, I will freely admit to looking in, you know, lit living rooms and things when you're, um, walking down It's whether it's, you know, Oh, how did they decorate, you know, their house? Or are they fighting or what have you. So there's that part, That itch that it scratches And then uh, that scratch that, that. Scratch itch that it scratches. on the flip side, there's the, relate-ability the, the, it could happen to me, um, aspect and, um, you know, as a very anxious person in real life, I don't know, there's something about, thrillers that's cathartic to read T uh, thrillers, that's, that's cathartic to read, um, these things, hese horrible things happening in a controlled environment. within the confines of the story, uh, where I know the author is taking me towards a conclusion and I don't know, there's just something about them I, I. It's the greatest, you know, the second greatest love of my life will be a thriller. I've got to respond to a couple of things. You said my husband has always saying you are so damn nosy. And my response is always, no, I'm not. I'm a writer. I'm absorbing it all. I mean, yeah, I'm nosy as hell, but as for a good reason, Talking about. the feeling like what would the situation be like if you were in it, has there been a time when you've been writing a particular scene and you could feel it in your bones? This is good. I got this right. Uh, absolutely. I, I, for me personally, um, it's almost like a binary. If I feel that. then I'm happy and I, and I think I've got it right. I think I'm on the right track. And I keep moving if I don't feel that, I think, you know, I'm like, well, I maybe have, okay. Taste. Why is what I'm doing, not giving me that feeling. I shelved the whole manuscript in between, um, When You Find Me, uh, and Bath Haus specifically for that reason, I, I don't know. I have to feel like I'm in it because when I'm writing fiction, I, you know, whatever, for whatever reason that you write, uh, whether it's for yourself or for other people, they're all completely amazing and justified reasons for doing it. I do it for other people. Um, and so. If I, myself, aren't getting, if I'm not getting that feeling while I'm writing, then I start to think, well, am I going to be delivering this entertainment, you know, for a reader? Why, why not? So I kind of have, have to feel that feeling or the scene needs to be changed for me.

Brad Shreve:

I love that feeling when you can feel your palms sweating or when you laugh out loud. When I laugh out loud, I know I did it right. One day. I just couldn't stop giggling. I don't think anybody else thought the line was as funny as I did, but I giggled for days. So I kept it in there. So let's get to Bath Haus. Tell us the story.

PJ Vernon:

So, uh, the story. So I know the, the, the pitch, uh, you know, Gone Girl with gays and Grindr, or, or Gillian Flynn with gays and Grindr. Right. I, uh, Gillian Flynn is a very influential voice. for me, in terms of, I read, I would read a cereal box, um, if Gillian Flynn wrote it and I would study it and learn from it and try to take the pieces that I could. Um, but at the end of the day, it's a story about. one person, Oliver Park, who is, and every day he's he's, I think to me, incredibly relatable, um, and makes all kinds of mistakes as we all do, and behaves in ways and tries to navigate himself out of mistakes, in ways that we all do. Um, and he's, it's a story about someone who, is figuring out. I think who they are, um, on the inside. And I, and I mean that beyond just sort of the, the soundbite of, uh, do you know who you are? Because I I've discovered, thus far in my life and hopefully have, have quite a bit more of that, you know, to, to live, that I'm, I never really know who I am evolves right. From, from one phase of life to another, um, depending on all sorts of situations. And so. It's a story about someone trying to survive someone who, is always trying to do the best they can with what they have in front of them. Um, and it's, it's a story about, people who take advantage of, of that people who, um, uh, manipulate or control or, or kind of are drawn to folks who don't quite know who they are when you don't know who you are. It's easy for other people to come into your life and tell you, who, who that should be. And more often than not, it seems like you find out the hard way that that's not at all who you are, if that makes any sense.

Brad Shreve:

Makes total sense.

PJ Vernon:

Rambling.

Brad Shreve:

No. Yeah. One thing I found interesting is it's obviously Oliver's story, and most of the story is told through Oliver's point of view. But some chapters you switched over to his partner, Nate, in his point of view, why did you feel that was necessary?

PJ Vernon:

It's interesting. I'll be, I'll be completely candid about it. So the original manuscript that I finished, uh, quote unquote, uh, and sent out, um, actually did not have that point of view in it whatsoever. It was exclusively Oliver navigating the story, um, and my editor who, Rob Blume, at Doubleday who's, who's incredible. Uh, saw it and, and love loved the book so much and took, he, he called me and he used this metaphor, which really resonated. He said, you have written something incredible. It is the bones. It is, you know, the lungs, the heart, the organs everything's there, but I, I, we could do more. We could push it, we could have the sinew, the muscle, the nuances, all of those different things. And then he sorta, you know, we went through all of that and, you know, You. And he invited me to, to revise and resubmit it. and while I was thinking through it and what I was going to do, I'm like, maybe that's, that's, what's missing because you know, every character, um, in any book should be, so fleshed out. So three-dimensional so real, but certainly certainly such an important character. And when I wrote Nathan's scenes. And when I put myself in Nathan shoes, when I was listening to music, like Nathan would listen to music and try to try to think how he would think the story became so much less, um, of. Characatures are relying on sort of tropes that I have consume for entertainment as a kid. And I certainly don't want to, I don't want to spoil anything. but there was just, it became so much deeper because what, what was at stake? It was no longer just Oliver. It was Oliver and Nathan, then Nathan and another human being who has something incredible to lose in this story. Who's been betrayed who has a lot of hurt and a lot of pain in a different bank. And when, when his voice. It's all of a sudden popped up on the page, then it, it, it changed so much about just that the momentum for me, that the book had. I'm so thankful that I was able to include it. And by the way, just to, to go back to what we were talking about earlier in that manuscript, I shelved, uh, in between a lot of Nathan, uh, came from that, which was, which was really cool, too.

Brad Shreve:

I hope I'm not giving too much way. I don't think I am because this is all pretty much in the beginning. Oliver is cruising online, checking out guys. He goes to a bath house. This is all without Nathan's knowledge. So basically he's in the process of cheating. I like Oliver, I do like Oliver, but did you feel like you were taking a risk that people would find that so offensive, they would dislike him?

PJ Vernon:

Um, I think everything's a risk. Uh, certainly because people won't like, uh, you know, there'll be folks that don't like, any particular thing that you do, but it's a very real thing. and, and certainly, uh, you know, from a. theoretical standpoint, you know, depending on, um, what kind of, relationship that any, any person or any reader, uh, finds themselves, find themselves in. Um, terribly unsympathetic, which is why I also, was really eager to sort of set up a story where people are like, Oh my gosh, this guy is cheating on, his partner, what the hell is wrong with him, but then just a few pages later, you know, he's almost killed for it. So then all of a sudden readers have to, they're confronted with this question of, you know, yes, he's. cheating. but lots of people do that. Uh, and do, does he deserve to die for, uh, for that? and that's a question that they'll have to wrestle with and navigate the plot and figure out. Um, but we all do unsympathetic things and sympathetic things and we all make mistakes and we all do great things and not so great things. And, um, it's very real to me to open it. That's the story in a moment of vulnerability from both Nathan and Oliver's perspective.

Brad Shreve:

Do you think the story would have been different from a reader's perspective, perhaps if Oliver had succeeded and actually did have sex?

PJ Vernon:

Um, you know, I think, I think that's a, that's a fab. That's a great question. Uh, I, I wanted it, my gut says probably, um, because, you know, We we tell human beings, tell stories to make sense of the world around them and to either validate what they believe or learn something new or what have you. And I feel like if there had been some sort of payoff on that front, for the character then than maybe people might have made judgment calls inside, you know, ranging from while he died, doing what he loved to, you know, all the way to like, well, that's what happens, you know, if you don't wear a seatbelt and you get in the car and you, and you die in a car accident that you went to Darwin award, good for you. You know? So I I've never considered that, but I think people would view it differently.

Brad Shreve:

To me it comes to the question is if you don't. Do it, is it really cheating?

PJ Vernon:

Oh, that's why I'm loving this. I think, I mean, it depends on it's like expectations and the sort of it's, it's the sort of a relationship that you find yourself in. I think it's very clear, um, from the opening page and how Oliver and Nathan's relationship works, that it's a very. Almost there's an almost desperation to it that they want to adhere to this. What, what a relation, what they've been told a relationship looks like, and they think comes from this, um, you know, moneyed family, That, uh, you know, filled with extensively horrible people. and you know, but it's, it's this whole idea of like, I want to be like them. I want to be like my mom and my, my dad and they've got, you know, a family and this is the rules and this is the, uh, Puritanical patriarchal. However you want to describe it. Um, uh, definition of, of what a relationship looks like. So I want that, and I'm sure, that Oliver knew that, and I'm sure that he knew, that if Nathan. even saw him, you know, downloading a hookup app or Googling, uh, S where a bath house might be, then he would consider that cheating. And I think the, the sort of bigger picture thing is then, you know, if, if you're in a relationship and someone, you know, and you both agree to certain terms, and one of you breaks those, then, that's technically cheating. It's a separate question of whether or not that that was the right sort of, system to sign up for, I guess,

Brad Shreve:

Well, I'm going to ask something of my listeners and I want everyone to go to the website, Queer Writers of Crime dot com. And there's a little microphone that you can click on. And it's your choice whether to leave your name when they are, but I would like to know if you don't go through with it, is it cheating. Leave a message. It'd be great to hear what your thoughts are.

PJ Vernon:

So excited to read them,

Brad Shreve:

Let's hope they do. Please do.

PJ Vernon:

Please. Do

Brad Shreve:

I want to, I'm going to touch a touchy subject for myself here. one of the reasons I relate to Oliver, I don't know what your age is, but you're much younger than I am. And I like to think back to the days when I walked into a bar or I walked into a bath house or just happened to be walking down the street in West Hollywood and not only connected eyes with someone, but I knew within five seconds I was going to get laid. And I was telling my husband about this. I said, you know, I have no desire to cheat. I'm totally committed to you, but I miss that intoxicating feel when somebody is, objectifying, you there's a thrill to that. And in that way, I found Oliver very intriguing. I don't like to ask how, where do your characters come from, but in this sense that I'm going to ask you, where did that character come from?

PJ Vernon:

Yeah. I mean, you, you get that thrill the same way that I get that thrill, uh, in the same way, other human beings get that thrill because I feel like there's, you know, a billion years of evolution, in our DNA and, and there's a, there's a very good, um, reason, reason for it. just from a, again, an evolutionary standpoint. and so to not to pretend that that's not important, Um, and you know, I, I don't know what the statistic is, but, uh, about how many times every human being thinks about sex every single day. but it is an enormous amount. So it, to me when I'm writing a thriller, and I'm trying to present these characters, um, in a way that readers can hopefully just slip right into, like, why the hell would, would I not. Um, you know, have, have sex be, be such an important part of it. and then I think separately, I don't, I don't know if this is necessarily part of the question. but when, I came from a very conservative community, a very conservative, a very traditional Christian community in South Carolina, went to a Christian private school where. Um, you know, if, uh, if you know, a young woman is pregnant, then instead of helping that person in there, you know, in a very tumultuous, uncertain time when, when they could really use some, you know, someone, some love, they'd be kicked out of school. Right. Um, and so you're, I basically always felt. Uh, that I was transgressive that I was wrong, that I didn't fit in whatever I was told I was supposed to fit in. And when that's sort of the F formative perspectives that I had, then why would I not question all the other rules that, you know, that, that, that world told me I should, you know, adhere to. And so I just, you know, There is nothing wrong with, uh, with, with loving that feeling or, you know, like it's human, as much as folks try to say, it's not, or it should not be. And, you know, I spent my, I spent way too way too many years in my life. Being super concerned about what my internet browser history looked like and what people might see all my internet browser history that as soon as I didn't give a shit about that anymore, then I was done with it, um, and certainly done with it, uh, in fiction as well. Uh, because it's exhausting and it's not right to, to make, you know, to make folks feel, feel so ashamed for something like that.

Brad Shreve:

Well, in my case, I don't know how big Calgary is, but Los Angeles we live kind of in suburbia. And yes, obviously there's some gay couples and single people in our area, but it's quite a distance to go to West Hollywood or a gay bar or where there's small clusters of gay community. Driving from one part of LA to another part of LA is almost like driving to another state. So it would be a major task for me to go to a bar to see if, Ooh, Can now that I'm older. Ooh, there's a daddy. He hot. And it's not worth, it's not worth it to me to go through that much trouble, but there is always that. Hmm. I'm wondering, I'll probably walk into a bar one day and see if it's not so much in my mind that I'm going to drive across town to do it. This is your second novel. So obviously you're not a full-time writer as of yet. Do you have a day job?

PJ Vernon:

I, I actually, uh, did until very, very recently. Um, I, so I am in a past life. I was an immunologist for, uh, uh, the defense department working in combat casualty care. So that was my day job. I was in a long distance relationship with my husband, Barry, who, is Canadian, for a couple of years. And that's, that's why I'm here. I abandoned gainful employment, uh, to, to move up here and be with him, um, and wa and that gave me sort of the room to take myself seriously as a writer. But at the same time, day jobs are, are incredibly important. and so I wound up, Seeing that our local library here at Calgary public library, it's, uh, the second largest, uh, municipal library system in Canada had a massive capital campaign for our new central library, which is phenomenal if you've, if you've not seen it or heard of it, like we w. Once we're on the other side of all, that's going on. We got to, and you're up here, man, we've got it. You got to see it. It's incredible but they were looking for someone, um, from a fundraising perspective and a funds development perspective. And I've used to pay myself, uh, at a grants that I would write. So I thought, you know, I love books and I love people who love books. So I think I can. Do I can get money on behalf of such a cool organization. And once I was in there, I drank the Kool-Aid and started to appreciate what libraries do outside of the scope of what a lot of folks who don't necessarily need libraries, appreciate them for. Um, and so I did that. for, for a few years and I still am a volunteer fundraiser there when my schedule and my usefulness, permit. So, so that's, that's what I've done up here in Canada. Uh, Calgary, Public Library and Calgary Public Library Foundation are just incredible organizations and, uh, you know, love getting, getting resources for them and advocating for them. However I can.

Brad Shreve:

Well, it sounds rewarding, especially for an author.

PJ Vernon:

Definitely.

Brad Shreve:

So given all that, that you're doing and also writing, and you mentioned to me earlier that you have ADHD, how do you work life balance? All that,

PJ Vernon:

um, T B D so I, I didn't. Discover, that I had ADHD until I came up here and, uh, visited a doctor, I, my entire sort of adult life, young adult to adult life, I've had anxiety and panic attacks and all sorts of different things like that. And I had always gone to. To seek help situationally, right? If something very stressful is happening and I'm having these, these issues, um, I would go and I never, in a million years thought that I, I had ADHD and nor would I have, asked a doctor about it. Um, but I was also living on my own and people with ADHD, at least me, and from what I hear from therapists and folks who, also have ADHD. it's really hard to do things for yourself to set balance, like you said, for yourself and boundaries for yourself. Um, because we rely on. You know, I rely on other people sometimes to, and feedback externally, you know, to know, is this what I should be doing? I only file my taxes or file, or do you know something that's difficult for me because someone else tells me I should do it. And it's very hard to do it. but all of a sudden I came up here and I've got my, my husband, Barry. And if I am having a panic attack alone in an apartment in grad school, it only affects me if I'm having a panic attack, here. and I'm with the love of my life. It affects someone else. If my depression or anything that's going on with me is affecting someone else. That's what catalyzes, um, Oh, I'm hurting someone else. Someone else has something at stake here. I should go talk to someone and see what's going on. And, and so, um, In classical ADHD form. I have totally forgotten what the question was and went on about how I arrived at

Brad Shreve:

It was actually about life balance. And actually, I think you answered it just fine.

PJ Vernon:

I'm trying to, I've got a lot of friends that are helping me out with how to say no and things like that.

Brad Shreve:

So I'm curious when you were diagnosed with ADHD, was there a relief.

PJ Vernon:

Oh, my God. Yeah, there was a huge relief because, um, I had been treating symptoms for so long and I had, and you know, people love to say, when someone has a degree and has lots of acronyms after their name and you show up in their office and they S and you say, I'm sad. And they say, no, you're not, you're anxious. And this is something you believe them. Um, and that's not to say, you know, I had any sort of malpractice, interactions with, with physicians or whatever, but. I believe them when I come in and say, I'm, I'm having anxiety because of X, Y, and Z. And they say, well, let's talk about anxiety and how we'll treat that. Then I'm like, Oh, that's what I have. And then, I showed up in my, uh, she, she retired right before the pandemic happened, but my therapist who I love Dr. Kathleen Atkinson, who retired here in Calgary, um, I was in that office because I finally realized that there's an anxiety portion. To it, but there's also this part that I described at the time as a manic. Hyper, um, energetic state. It's the reason why I'm able to write a first draft of a novel, not a good one, but a first draft of a novel very, very quickly when I become hyper-focused on it. And I get this sort of euphoric search, um, when I'm doing something like that, but I can't seem to do to, to get anywhere else. And I had this moment, I was like, Oh my gosh, what if that's part of it too? Like, it's not just, I'm anxious and can't do things and I'm sad, but it's man, I also have these moments of just, I can do everything. So, you know, as fast as possible and, because of pop culture and not being, completely, um, steeped in what things are, I was like, that sounds like, you know, uh, potentially bipolar. And that's why I went to go see, um, a doctor about it. And within five seconds, She was like, can I get you to stop really quickly? And I'm going to bring you a questionnaire. And she, talked me through it and I, and I had been able to relate so many things in my life for so long to what's happened. Um, so for anyone listening, I would just say, yeah, keep going and keep talking to folks until you get answers that make you feel that way about whatever you might do, you know, handling.

Brad Shreve:

I was curious, I do have bipolar disorder and it's no exaggeration to say. The day I was diagnosed is one of the best days of my life because I looked back and I said, Holy shit. It all makes sense now. And there's something I can do about it, you know, because until then I just, why am I this way? And I had no idea why.

PJ Vernon:

You punish yourself, you have no idea what you're doing. Cause you can't label something. You can't decide, you can't name it. You can't determine what's going on. And because, and so in that vacuum, it's just like, I'm going to punish my it's not only, I don't know what's going on, but I'm doing wrong things. And I'm being told I'm doing wrong things constantly. Uh, and so when all the sudden someone says, Hey, actually you're not. And this is what's going on. Then you reframe all that, all those cognitive distortions reframed themselves in a way that's like, Holy shit. Oh my God. You're right. I'm actually, this is who I am. And this is how, how I can navigate the world. You know, it's, it's, it's, it's a cool, amazing to be able to, to find out, why, why are the way you are?

Brad Shreve:

Well, you said it perfectly, it's giving it, the name is what made a difference. Giving it, the name. Back to your book. And I'm going to kind of put you on the spot here. LA used to be known as bath house city, one of the big cities for bath houses. And I think we're down to three. They keep closing. I think it's down to three though. I looked in Calgary and it looks like you only have one called Goliath and I'm curious. This is really putting you on the spot. How much research was involved in writing your novel?

PJ Vernon:

I, I, Hey, I knew the title of your book. This isn't putting me on the spot. Like I absolutely knew it was coming. So, um, what, so what I did to research my book, uh, in that regard was, um, I always call it like the year 2013, um, which isn't necessarily encapsulates everything, but, There was a year when I got out of, so we had talked about where I came from and all that sort of baggage that I brought with me. And so I went to grad school in Pittsburgh and, you know, was in a relationship for the first time along just, I was very eager to be in a relationship like I was told I couldn't be in, you know, for, um, uh, my entire life. And then, you know, because I was also young and didn't quite know, uh, what. I wanted, because I, for the first time I, you know, I didn't get to experiment my way in high school. Like other other folks did necessarily, I found myself in a relationship that, you know, wasn't quite, uh, a good fit for me. And on the heels of that, I all of a sudden, you know, as, as someone with an diagnosed ADHD at that point might have to, doesn't get that dopamine rush from their own neuro wiring necessarily was like, well, now I'm gonna find out. Um, and so I did a lot of, a lot of research within the, within that timeframe. Uh, whether, you know, that was what I was like. On Grindr and all those other apps that, you know, winding up in all of these situations, get a good trouble laughing about them at the time, but doing the things that I didn't get the chance to do that other folks get to do, um, when they're younger. And of course that includes like, I'm like, there's something called a bath house where you just like go in and, and figure it out on the way I'm going to find out what that's about. Um, and then take. Creative liberties and you know, like later in life and write a book about it. But, uh, but yeah, that I, I knew I had the research to all that stuff down before I became an author or knew I wanted to be one.

Brad Shreve:

I was married to a woman at one time. and after we divorced, my therapist said, don't be like a lot of married men who come out. They act like a kid in the candy store. Well, you know what? I acted like a kid in a candy store and I was wild. So I will tell you that the opening, if it's just the first chapter may go into the second chapter, you captured that gritty yet exciting feel. So well that if nobody's ever been in that kind of environment, they will feel it

PJ Vernon:

I appreciate it. I did my work. I did my research for that. I was, everything smells like cleaner in here. Why

Brad Shreve:

I know most writers have other than writing something else. They're passionate about. What are yours?

PJ Vernon:

I am passionate about, uh, cooking. I'm passionate about being outside. Um, I'm passionate about. It like weird, like weird things. Um, you know, my, I just went on a random road trip because, you know, we can't do much these days and, uh, to get out of the house and, um, you know, up here in Calgary, we're in the foothills of the Rocky mountains to our West, but to our East is just canola fields and flatness. And, there are like dust devils that we saw because it was windy and dry. And I was like, I've never seen a dust devil before. And then like for the whole. Three hour drive there in back. I'm just fixated on like, is that a dust devil? Can you see another one? Is that that's one hurry, pull over. We have to take, uh, like my passions. I don't know. It's. Weird things like that. Um, UFO's the whole story that I don't know if you had seen it a few weeks ago that, uh, the Pentagon confirmed some UFO's, uh, these pyramid shapes over some sort of, um, uh, strike carrier, strike group out off the coast of, uh, near, near in your neck of the woods. and like, so now I'm just like, that's my passion. Like I'm like researching it and looking at all the tweets and all those sorts of things. so, you know, I, I don't know. I. My passion is sort of whatever, is in front of me and grabs my, my interest outside of, uh, writing and outside of just wanting, um, you know, a home with a family that I w my husband, our dogs that I, that I love, and that love me. And, and. I don't know those are my passions. I, I should say immunology as well, but I don't want to, I don't want to lead the conversation there specifically right now.

Brad Shreve:

Well, given the beautiful area that you live in and you like to be outside, do you do a lot of hiking?

PJ Vernon:

Yeah, I do a lot of hiking because I hate sports and I'm not good at them. Um, and I feel like, you know, it, sports are something that people just generally casually connect over so much. And it's really hard to do that when you're, when they require not saying hiking does not require skill, but my hiking does not require skill. So if I was just, if you were like, let's play tennis tonight. After I was like, I love tennis. it would very quickly become apparent that I don't, but hiking, if I was like, let's go for a hike. We could totally do that. Cause, cause I'm just, hiking. I don't have to have it at least of skill that I honed and I love it. Love hiking. BAMF the, the continental divide, this East coast kid, like our mountains have trees on the tops. So I had never quite seen, um, something, something like the Rockies until I had moved here and loved being out there.

Brad Shreve:

Well, before we get to the end of the show, I have what's called awkward questions. Authors get, and what I'll do is I'll spin the wheel and you'll come up with a question. These are random questions. I surveyed authors to get. difficult or bizarre questions they've actually received in the past.

PJ Vernon:

And I love it.

Brad Shreve:

Alrighty. You ready for your question?

PJ Vernon:

No, but I am going to answer it.

Brad Shreve:

Do you have talent or do you practice or both?

PJ Vernon:

Oh, okay. Yeah, no, I'm ready for this one. The answer is, um, both because I at least believe that talent is not something people are born with. I think talent is something that you learn. I think, I wrote my way into being a better writer than I was when I first started. Um, and so I, I totally don't buy into, this idea that. That I'm talented. I buy into this idea that I, I wanted something and I was passionate about it. And so I was willing to be really, really bad at it. Um, until I was not as bad as I was before and became good enough, for other folks to, to read it and at least take something away from it. So it's practice it's practice, practice, practice, learnable.

Brad Shreve:

Do you mostly read thriller novels?

PJ Vernon:

I mostly read thriller novels. That's the greatest proportion of books that I read. Um, but if we were going to talk about like exclusively pleasure reading, um, it would still be the biggest bulk of, of what I read. but not, not any by any stretch of the imagination. Uh, exclusive, I love, love, love, historical, like narrative non-fiction. I love. Um, specific segments of history, uh, that I am constantly consuming everything I can about. Also, you know, books that I biggest Dune fan ever. Um, I love Dune. I love everything that it's like a 700 page, the first one, 700 page. page turner,. That's so deep with so much. even though there's also all kinds of problematic things that I find when I read through it now, I'm like, Oh my God. Oh my God. You know, as I go reading through it again, but no, I it's, uh, I want a good story. And the second I'm hooked by something, um, I'm, I'm down and it doesn't matter or what genre it is or what prep tents or perspective or POV or age category, or if it's even fiction.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. I can't remember if it was on the air or I was talking to somebody specifically last week. I said, I don't like westerns. And then I say, but that's not really true. I like a good book. And in fact, good book happens to be a Western. I'll enjoy it. It's just not the one I'm likely to pull off the shelf.

PJ Vernon:

Yeah, absolutely. And I would even say when we talk about like Queer cause like Queer thrillers mysteries, or, you know, it's. It's not like, you know, will folks want to, relate to a character like Oliver, just because they've, they don't know like you and I knew what it's like to go into an establishment like that, or live that, and come from necessarily that sort of background or that sort of relationship dynamic or what have you it's that's not even the question. Like, will they want to read it? It's just like, well, if it's good, maybe some of them will, and that's pretty cool.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, something that's interesting. I read almost exclusively queer novels, almost exclusively and through Sisters In Crime. I can't remember how I won it. Recent sent a book that I had won a mystery novel, and it's from an author that I presumed to be straight and I'm looking forward to it because now that I have this book, I feel an obligation to sign novel. I feel an obligation to read it. And I'm really looking forward to see it from a different perspective. And I think it's important It's just really hard when there's one that you particularly like to force yourself to do that.

PJ Vernon:

Yeah. And I should, I should also clarify too. I mean, certainly I also, as we all do have subjective tastes and there are some books I'm certainly far less likely to pick up. Usually my, if my husband Barry loves a book, that would be one of them. Um, you can take a look at our bookshelves and very quickly decide who's books are to the point where he's my toughest critic. And if he loves something I wrote, I'm like, Oh shit.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I want to thank you for your time. It's been great conversation.

PJ Vernon:

It's been so fabulous. Thank you.

Brad Shreve:

And remind our listeners guest is PJ Vernon. His book is Bath Haus and the house is spelled H A U S It comes out on June 15, but before you forget, go order it right now. It's available on pre-order.

PJ Vernon:

Thank you so much. And thank you so much for having me. I am. So, as I said before, we went live, this is the first Bath Haus pad podcast, um, that I've ever done. And I could not have been more excited for it or to, to be more grateful to you for giving me the opportunity. And I appreciate it so much. Um, thank you. I it's been, I've had a blast. I keep talking, but I know we gotta go.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I feel honored it was the first, since that came out. So thank you. I enjoyed it as well.

PJ Vernon:

Thank you so much.