Thursday, September 17, 2009

Local 'Player' Pens Romantic Fantasy

Profile in the Philadelphia Gay News:

Even though he’s an independently published author, Fredric Joss Shelley, 35, has a lot to live up to with his long-awaited second novel.

His first book, 2002’s “A Boy Less Ordinary,” was based on his ”Six Degrees of Hayden columns,” which enjoyed a six-year run in various gay publications on the East Coast. His fans and readers eagerly kept up with the exploits of Hayden, a highly extroverted gay socialite in search of unconditional love.

Shelley aims to build on his success with his sophomore effort, “The Alphabetical List of Would-Be Princes,” which follows a gay man embarking on a romantic quest, with his “would-be” princes occurring in alphabetical order.

Shelley said his fantastical premise comes from some of his favorite films.

“I get a lot of my inspiration from film — movies like ‘Amélie,’ ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ and ‘Phoebe in Wonderland,’” he said. “There’s a balance of simplicity but they have a creative approach to introducing you to a character’s world. When I see films like that or read a book that has a similar feel, they attract me right away. I wanted to create something that was similar to that.”

And while “Princes” is a romantic comedy like his first novel, Shelley said the creative process for this book was different.

“The discipline of outlining and researching was more intense because it was all in one fell swoop as opposed to doing it as you go along in spurts,” he said. ”Just staying focused was a big challenge.”

He added that the main character is not based on his life.

“I think a lot of people had me tagged as Hayden in the book I wrote last. So I decided to go the opposite way and have something that was a little bit opposite of myself.”

Given the celluloid sources that fired Shelley’s imagination, it’s not surprising that he could picture his writings on the big screen someday. But he is cautious about the idea.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “As a reader, I’m very protective of the characters that I read and always saying things like the book was so much better than the movie because you adopt, in your mind, what you envision that world being like. So it’s hard to have a movie meet the expectation. But I’d certainly like to see someone try.”

When Shelley isn’t writing, he’s acting, most often locally with the Dumpsta Players. Shelley said performing with the irreverent comedy troupe has helped his writing.

“They both work in tandem,” he said. “Acting lends itself to the writing process. When you act, you have to develop a background for the character and your motivations. You’re taking a step further than what’s on paper. In some way, you’re writing a story yourself. It’s apples and oranges to me. I get fulfillment out of both because both of those options give me a chance to be creative. When I first went to see a Dumpsta Players show, I though it was really eccentric, whether that’s good or bad. There was a bit of both, but I was immediately drawn to that. One of the things I like most about the Dumpsta Players is there’s always the ability to surprise. In 13 years, with every single show, there’s some element of it where I think, how did you get away with that? So as a writer you don’t want to be too obvious. You want to be able to give readers something that familiar but you don’t want them to predict everything that comes along. You want to give them a little bit of shock here and there.”

Shelley hosts a reading at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Giovanni’s Room, 345 S. 12th St.