What is it like growing up in a Religious Commune? Author Lloyd A. Meeker tells us and more

Lloyd, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction facebook group. 

Let’s start off with where are you from and live now; I recently read a guest blog post where you mentioned you were born in a religious commune; what was it like growing up?

Yes, a farm in Colorado. Communal life is very much like a small village, with most of the familiar boundaries removed – centrally coordinated work, eating together, one theology, very little private space. Organic farming was a big thing for us, and growing as much of our own food as we could. Pretty radical for the late 1940’s. I went through school being “one of those people” from that weird group northwest of town.

That environment shaped me in many ways, pluses and minuses both. Few empathic children can begin training in subtle energy healing at age ten as if it were a perfectly ordinary thing to do, but I was given that incredible opportunity.

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Although I went off to college and traveled extensively, I lived my life out of the community’s worldview for the first half of my life. I’d never had any other. When I came out and left, I was in my mid-forties. I slammed into a learning curve that nearly killed me. I had very little idea how the rest of the world actually functioned. Let’s just say some dark years ensued.

While I love wild nature, I now prefer to live in a city where I can walk to most of my daily needs. It seems I’ve dropped anchor in Wilton Manors, Florida. It’s a strange feeling, to be putting down roots in a place I’ve never been particularly drawn to, but it also feels very right. And I love being warm!

As you probably know, writers rarely like to toot their own horns…lol, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far? 

Most of the things I feel best about in my life aren’t things I accomplished on my own. I conducted a community orchestra for eight years. I’ve been sober twice as long as I drank to escape. I’ve been cancer-free for eleven years. I’m working on my fifth novel. I can’t honestly claim I accomplished any of that on my own. Spiritually and physically, I’ve relied heavily on many allies.

I think my greatest accomplishment is that I’m happy, living a life that honors my core truths. The ancient Greeks said you could never call a man happy until he was dead, because you had to know how his life ended before you could say he’d been happy. I’ve got plenty of living to do yet and I’m far from finished as the human being I want to become, but if I died tomorrow, you could still say I was one of the happiest men on earth. I have health, love, family, challenging and meaningful creative work, friends, and plenty of books waiting to be written. All that, plus ocean breezes, sunshine and palm trees—there are hibiscus, lemons and a dozen different kinds of orchid growing on our balcony.

Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?

Sure. I’ve been with my husband Bob since 2002, married since 2007. We both came out late, Bob has three adult children from his first marriage, and I have one. All Bob’s grandchildren live in Paris, so we make an annual trip to see them.

We are very different in background and temperament. He’s an extrovert, I’m an introvert. He loves movies, and I have trouble sitting through them. I prefer watching sports, which he has little interest in. We both enjoy cooking, so we take turns. He likes using recipes, I’d rather wing it. We have a very unconventional relationship, but we fit together so well.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Only guilt-free pleasures for me! I love buskers of all kinds, especially Dixieland and Ceílí musicians; thunderstorms; clover honey on fresh cornbread slathered with butter; the way a kelp bed smells at low tide; poetry, passionately delivered aloud; an occasional dungeon scene—it sweeps away energetic cobwebs not reached by softer brooms; Lord Dunsany’s stories; Stephen Foster ballads; farmers’ markets and street fairs; Cirque du Soleil; a half-hour nap after lunch.

Can you share what inspires and challenges you most in your writing? 

The most inspiring thing for me is when I discover more meaning in a scene than I consciously put there. Something deeply true comes out in a way that is congruent with the character, possibly even essential to him, that makes new sense of some element of the story, gives it dimension that previously had been obscured. That’s pure magic to me, and beautiful.

The challenge is that I can’t make that happen. I just have to keep writing the best I know how, keeping my eyes and heart open for it, should it come. That poetic depth rings so artificial if it’s just contrived cleverness, yet it’s utterly luminous when it’s real.

You released a unique and very enjoyable mystery/thriller titled “Enigma” out from Wilde City Press, which features a rare, but refreshing non-traditional protagonist; a silver-fox private investigator. Russ Morgan also happens to be a psychic empath? What influenced you to create and feature a more mature character in a field traditionally reserved for the youthful?   

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Thank you for saying those kind things about Enigma.

Remember in the American version of Queer as Folk when Brian turned thirty? It was an identity crisis—thirty! Doomed to see a wrinkle soon. Ewww. Old. It’s laughable!

I came out in my mid-forties, long after the culture I was just entering had dismissed my market value. To be sure, I take unabashed pleasure in the company of gorgeous young men as much as the next gay man, but I rejected my assigned market niche, which informed me daily I’d already passed my “best consumed by” date.

I’m fascinated by the many and powerful gifts that come only with age—fully engaged with examining and challenging the myths about age that a cynical, petty, frightened and narrow gay pop culture seems addicted to. It’s an especially silly, nasty and cruel form of narcissism, the way I see it. It’s a huge waste—self-defeating, in terms of developing meaningful gay culture.

I confess I have a lot of Russ Morgan in me. I’m letting him make my argument that life really does get better—and much more interesting—after fifty and beyond.

Do you have plans for a sequel to “Enigma” and will gay P.I. Russ Morgan appear again?

Absolutely—I’m working on the next story now. I think Russ has a series in him, and Colorado is a rich setting for his stories—just look at what’s in the news there now—cannabis, gun control, cultural schisms between urban and rural, conservative and liberal. My mouth waters just thinking of the possibilities!

Incidentally, in the book I’m working on now, Russ’ own set attitudes toward age are challenged, because Colin (who is twenty-five and definitely not a self-absorbed twink) won’t leave him alone, and insists on being taken seriously as a relationship prospect. That’s very scary territory for Russ.

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You have also published a very mystical mystery/thriller novel, Traveling Light, released by MLR Press, Inc. The plot of the story combines both the earthy visible world with the spirit realm as protagonist, Ian, uses his shamanic abilities to track down his brother’s killer. I sense an overarching lesson to be learned; can you share more of the premise with us?   

Gladly! My favorite soapbox theme.

The overarching vision I write from is that the visible and invisible worlds are distinct but not separate. They interact all the time, and depend on each other to reveal their deepest beauty. They need each other like we need air to breathe, like music must be heard to be shared.

I’m convinced gay men are perfectly suited to accommodate this interplay consciously, to be stewards of that mystical inter-dependence, the passages of giving and taking between the realms. All my stories are grown out of this premise, because it’s the way I experience life.

Have had you ever had to deal with homophobia after your gay novels are released, and if so, what form has it taken?

Not really, but some conversations have ended abruptly when I say I write mystical gay fiction. I don’t care. Given some of the things I’ve survived, I’ve accepted that I’m on bonus time. Whatever time I have left is way too precious to spend caring about what people like that think of me and my work.

Which living actor would you cast to play your protagonist, Russ Morgan, in your P.I novella, “Enigma”?

Ed Harris, but not his overly gaunt version. Yes, give me Ed Harris. Please give him to me!

Last question; I read recently that you’ll be teaching an online class through Florida Romance Writers on some of the differences in the Hero’s Journey for a gay protagonist. Do you have more details you can share at this time?

Not really, because it happens in October and I haven’t finalized my materials yet. I’ve been obsessed with the Hero’s Journey for decades. When I first realized there was a heteronormative overlay to the myth’s structure, I was offended. Then I realized, hey—straight people have their version, and we need ours. It’s incredibly exciting to explore the similarities as well as the differences.

On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre want to know.

 

Find Lloyd A. Meeker on the web:

www.lloydmeeker.com

5 thoughts on “What is it like growing up in a Religious Commune? Author Lloyd A. Meeker tells us and more

  1. Thanks to both Lloyd and Jon for a really interesting an informative interview. Odd how we can be acquainted with someone for a long time without really knowing much about who they really are or what they’ve gone through. Much obliged to you both.

    Dorien

  2. Rick, it’s odd I think that I’m pretty much a plotter when it comes to writing, but I can’t follow a recipe all the way through.

    I agree with you, Dorien — I love whatever glimpses of the story behind the storyteller that we get from each other now and then. They add dimension to our exchanges.

    Thanks, guys for dropping by…

  3. Thanks, everyone. I really enjoyed interviewing Lloyd! As the weekly interviews have progressed, I’ve tried to get more and more unique with each writer, and hopefully ask questions others have not…thank you Lloyd for such a wonderful interview this week!

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