In September 2012, Frontiers
magazine put out its annual ‘Best of Gay L.A.’ issue
featuring Marcelino Rosas
on the cover and a bright orange S’Cream truck.
It was a hot, cool, SoCal image
that represented our City of Angels in urban pop saturation. And like may Angelenos, Marcelino had irons in the fire.
I was pleased to learn that one such iron was a book, Afuera
... or “outside” en inglés
is the coming-of-age self-acceptance journey of outsider Roberto, a gay, athletic overachiever raised in a conservative, religious and selectively abusive household. Not unlike other gay-themed stories, this novel contains sex ... and large point size, both of which make reading fun. Check out Marcelino’s responses to a few questions about his process, and feel free to find yourself Afuera
, too. What inspired you to write this book?
I was reading in the newspaper about a lot of young gay teen suicides and of kids who just didn’t know how to deal with what they were going through. I felt that I could relate to them, remembering that I’d felt the same hopelessness that many of them felt. So I wanted to write this book in the hope that even if one young person read it and said, “Hey, maybe it’s not so bad that I’m different. Things will get better. I just have to hold on,” it would have been worth it. My goal wasn’t to sell millions of copies of this book. It was to tell this story in hope that it just might save a life. How much of Roberto’s experiences differ from your own?
I took inspiration from my life and the people around me. Many people think that this is my autobiography, but it isn’t. Sure, it has some similarities, I admit, but it’s not my story; It’s Roberto’s. I have some close friends asking me, “Is it true? Did that really happen to you? What’s real and what isn’t?” And I always say the same thing—“It’s a fiction novel. Don’t try and diagnose it. Does it really matter what’s real and what isn’t?” I just wanted to tell this
story and to write about important issues that I’m passionate about, like giving immigration more light, telling Roberto’s coming out story and showing his struggle to find himself. Afuera contains both deeply personal family accounts and highly erotic passages. Was there any stylistic struggle with how you wanted to tell this story?
This book came out exactly how I wanted it to be. Everything in there is intentional. The typos, grammatical errors, the tone... I wanted the readers to feel like they are in his head. I wanted it to be raw and more real; not perfect. I think it was important to stay real and not try to sugarcoat things. People are struggling with these problems every day, and I think it’s important to talk about it in a way so that they know they aren’t alone. Now, about the sex. I know at times it can be very graphic. But, again, I think it’s better for readers to actually feel like they are there, to picture it, to lust for it. I had some people, including other publishing companies, wanting me to tone down the sexy. But in the end, I kept it the way I wanted it to be, because I thought it needed it. It’s part of Roberto’s coming of age, and you read exactly what he feels or thinks. How has your family reacted to your book?
My family has actually been really positive about the whole thing. Before it came out, I told them to read it at their own risk. I explained that it has some gay sex in it and at times would be very graphic. Also, that they should understand it’s a fiction novel, and although I had my own ups and downs when I came out, it was not to be taken as a way of how I related or felt about them. I have many aunts and cousins who bought it, and they told me that the loved it and were proud of me. Some, I haven’t even spoken to about my own sexuality, but it’s been heartwarming to feel that it’s not something they see as an issue, or something they needed to label me as. What really touched me was when my younger, straight brother called me and told me that he had read it. He said that it was good and hard to read at times (made a joke about the sex parts), but that overall he liked it and that he was proud to have a gay brother. You go into great detail about certain events and encounters. Why omit details regarding the prison abuse?
I think it would have been a bit too much if I added more details to that. Call me vanilla, but I can’t take much abuse in movies or books, especially such a violent sexual attack as experienced by Roberto. I think I gave enough information to give the reader an idea of what Roberto went through, without it being too graphic or disturbing. There's a particularly horrific incident in the book that takes place at a West Hollywood club. Can you give us a hint at which bar that horrifying anecdote occurred?
Ha, no comment. But I think if you are an L.A. local, you can figure out which bar / club it most likely occurred in.
What’s next for you?Matt Riddlehoover
has approached me about making my novel into a movie, so I’ve been working with a screenwriter on a script for Afuera
. It’s a bit early to give further details, but I’m extremely excited to see things unfold and taking shape. I’m just over the moon to know that someone is even interested to take it to this level. Then I’m also working on a sequel to Afuera
and a third book that’s completely different than the first two but still dealing with gay culture and gay issues.