When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
I had a friend named Suzy Perkins in grade school who wanted to be a writer and artist. She and I created our own newspaper with articles about our friends and classes. We never showed the papers to anyone, and I have no idea if she kept any of them, but our passion for writing spurred me on to write an essay for a church contest, which to my surprise I won. The prize was a few dollars and a rosary. I felt like I was on my way as a writer then.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Either a writer or an artist. When I went to bed at night, I would either make up a story as I drifted off to sleep or I would imagine painting a picture. I also wanted to be a teacher and would end up being the one in my group of friends who came up with an activity and guided us through it. As it turns out, I’ve ended up being all three: I was a staff writer at a number of newspapers, I taught English composition at a community college, and I participated in a mail art group making artist trading cards (ATCs) and art booklets (decos) which were traded around the world.
If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
Well, since Foothills Pride Stories, Volume 2 is the print version of four eBooks, let me give you casting ideas for one of the books, Relative Best. Dye a young Harry Connick, Jr.’s hair red, and he’d make a wonderful Zeke Bandy, the viewpoint character of the book. Zeke runs the Bandy Hotel in Stone Acres, California, but his real passion is playing music for the patrons of Stonewall Saloon. Connick would be great at singing the gayified country songs that Zeke adapts for his playlists.
I loved Adam Beach in the movie Smoke Signals, and when I wrote Relative Best, I more or less saw his face when I thought of Vic Longbow, Zeke’s love interest. Again, it would have to be the younger version of Beach.
If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
How about Fiction Day? People could dress up as their favorite authors or characters. Meals could be planned around recipes found in stories. And the highlight of the day would be readings from favorite books as well as the sharing of volumes among participants. It would be like Bloomsday on June 16, but would be held on May 27, my birthday, because, well, I came up with the idea!
If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
I would choose either Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, or Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst. With both women, I’d ask how she got through her days, what biographers got right and what they got wrong about her life, and what she thought about her continued popularity and her place in the academic literary canon since they both abhorred the male-centric canon. I’d take them both to Dantorels café and have lunch where we’d talk about the changes between the nineteenth century and today. I wouldn’t so much interview either of them, but chat with them about writing, craft, and women’s role in society. I’d ask my daughter Becca to join us because I think she’d enjoy meeting both women too.
The second half of Pat Henshaw's Foothills Pride series is finally coming out in print - four of her stories in one volume:
During the recession at the beginning of the 21st century, many gays and lesbians moved from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento to the Sierra Foothills. FLAG (Foothills Lesbians and Gays) was formed. This series was written for them.
The influx of San Francisco Bay Area gays is now commonplace in Stone Acres, California. But that means big city problems—much to the dismay of long-time residents of the small community.
In Relative Best, Zeke Bandy’s hotel becomes a haven for a battered youth. Native American Vic Longbow, who escaped a similarly brutal upbringing, comes face-to-face with it at Zeke’s place. With trouble surrounding them, can Zeke and Vic find their own peace and love?
On the outside, hardware store owner Frank McCord is the town’s bachelor handyman in Frank at Heart. Inside, he’s pining for true love, particularly the regard of software designer Christopher Darling. But recently divorced Christopher isn’t looking for another husband.
Country contractor Ben in Waking the Behr has always believed he’s heterosexual…until he meets city entrepreneur Mitch O’Shea. Mitch never thought he’d settle down with a guy from the country. Can a gay city mouse and a sexually confused country mouse find love?
When UC Davis horticulture grad Fen Miller agrees to help out in his cousin’s nursery over Christmas, he rents a room in sous chef John Barton’s Victorian house. John, another shorter than average man, catches Fen’s interest. But John’s past comes back to threaten them both in Short Order.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight. You’ve been a great audience.” The couple at the center table looked up at me with almost identical grins. Despite this being an extra gig in a very busy week, I’d enjoyed playing for their bachelor party—even if it made me feel my loneliness more sharply.
“I’ll leave the happy couple with these words from an old Native American chief who, if he was smart, said them to his other half: ‘I will fight no more forever.’” I raised my glass of water and shouted over the noisy crowd, “To Sammy and Ned—may they have a long, happy, peaceful life together!”
The raucous audience at Stonewall Saloon whooped and hollered through my words and got even louder after my last sentence. Rising from their seats, Sammy and Ned raised their clasped hands like boxers who’d won a particularly hard bout but now were on their way to a great wedding.
As they gushed about how happy they were that everybody could make it to their wedding, I started to pack up my banjo and guitars. Tonight I’d left the fiddle backstage because I was so tired. I’d been burning too many candles from both ends. After locking away the instruments in the storeroom and breaking down the mic and the amps, I caught the end of Sammy’s speech.
“If you enjoyed Zeke Bandy’s guitar and banjo playing, remember he’s here at Stonewall Thursday and Friday nights. We’re honored to have him play at our wedding.”
When the crowd cheered, I stood, turned, and waved to the fifty or sixty bobbing heads on the other side of the stage. Whistles and catcalls joined the shouts and cheers. I had my fans and a lot of regulars in the audience.
“See ya tomorrow, Red! I love you!” some drunk yelled, and the crowd cheered louder.
“Oh, cut it out, guys! You’re making me blush.” And they were, with all their yells and waves and hoots and hollers.
A cry went up about more beer from one side of the room, and the night proceeded like all the others when I played. Attention spans flew out the window as the beer and hard drinks flowed.
Completely sober, I put away the rest of the equipment and shut off the power on the platform that bar owner Guy Stone had designated as a stage.
Jimmy Patterson, Stone’s significant other and owner of Penny’s coffee shops here in Stone Acres, California, waved at me as I returned to the barroom from the storage area in the back.
“I got a table!” He was trying to shout over the noise.
As I limped toward him, men slapped me on the back and told me how much they enjoyed my playing. I kept moving, even though guys tried to stop me and give me requests for Thursday night. One guy even grabbed my face and kissed me, which would have been really flattering, even hot, if he hadn’t stopped, stared at me, and said, “You’re not Tom.”
I turned to walk away, only to hear him shout, “Red, you’re cuter than Tom.” I didn’t turn back but heard him yelp like he’d been hit.
I ended up sitting at a big table in the corner of the drinking area with a decent view of the tiny new dance floor. At the table with Jimmy sat four guys—flamboyant designer Fredi Zimmer and his husband, staid, reliable Max Greene, both of whom I knew fairly well, and two guys I didn’t know.
My eyes were drawn to the one who had strong cheekbones, long blue-black hair, and vibrant adobe-colored skin. He could easily have been a poster boy for the California Native American Heritage Commission. If I could pick a guy to kiss me unexpectedly, he’d be my choice. The libido I thought dead from overwork rose from its grave.
While the guys wrangled over who was paying for the next round, I took in the other man to the left of my preferred eye candy. This guy flaunted nearly white-blond hair, startling blue eyes, and a California tan, like the ultimate surfer dude. He did nothing for me, but I appreciated the effect he’d probably have on a lot of other guys here tonight.
I could easily see the humor in the three of us sitting at the same table, though. Considering I’ve got bright red hair, porcelain white skin with a thick spattering of freckles, and cornflower blue eyes, this table covered a large portion of the rainbow.
Jimmy introduced us while he partially stood to get Stone’s attention. “Zeke, these are two of the groomsmen, Vic Longbow and Hayden Weller. Zeke Bandy.”
Both of them nodded, a nod I returned.
“Hey, man. Nice pickin’ up there.” Hayden, the beach god, waved his nearly empty glass of beer at me.
“Thanks.” I never knew what to say when someone complimented me after a performance. While part of me was floating on the post-performance high, the rest of me was critiquing what I’d done and what I’d like to do over.
“Are you recorded?” Vic’s voice was low and soothing, the kind of sound that oddly created a center of calm in the middle of the barroom noise. I gladly stepped into the peace and took a deep breath.
I looked down, fleetingly taking in the scarred tabletop, and balanced momentarily on the pinpoint of serenity Vic had presented me.
“No, no recordings. I haven’t ever had the time or energy.” I shrugged. I owned and ran the historical hotel in downtown Stone Acres. When was there time to record?
“Where do you get the songs? Are they yours?” Vic was focused on me so much that the rest of the table dimmed.
“No. God, no. They’re all old tunes that have been knocking around forever, mostly by bluegrass and folk groups. I take it you don’t listen to this kind of sound?”
He smiled. “You’ve opened up a whole new door for me, and I can’t wait to explore what’s inside this new music room.”
His look caressed me enough that my dick perked, and suddenly I dared to believe my dream of finding a boyfriend and possibly a husband wasn’t as nebulous as I’d always thought. If someone this fine could look at my skinny ginger self and respond even half as much as he was, I was on the right path. I grinned at him and he at me.
Yeah, he was too hot for me with his high cheekbones and exotic hair, but I could practice on him and dream, right?
Pat Henshaw, author of the Foothills Pride Stories, has spent her life surrounded by words: Teaching English composition at the junior college level; writing book reviews for newspapers, magazines, and websites; helping students find information as a librarian; and promoting PBS television programs.
Pat was born and raised in Nebraska where she promptly left the cold and snow after college, living at various times in Texas, Colorado, Northern Virginia, and Northern California. Pat enjoys travel, having visited Mexico, Canada, Europe, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Egypt, and Europe, including a cruise down the Danube.
Her triumphs are raising two incredible daughters who daily amaze her with their power and compassion. Fortunately, her incredibly supportive husband keeps her grounded in reality when she threatens to drift away while writing fiction.
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