Writer Justin Luke Zirilli returns to the character and setting of his gay Roman à clef, Gulliver Takes Manhattan, with the steamy sequel Gulliver Takes Five. This time around, though, we follow Big Apple twink Gulliver Leverenz on a night out, viewed through the eyes of his six closest friends.
Below Zirilli, who knows a little something about New York nightlife as one of the masterminds behind BoiParty.com, discusses Takes Five, his relationship to his character, and dating in the big city.
What’s the link between the original Gulliver Takes Manhattan and Gulliver Takes Five?
Gulliver Takes Five is like a gay version of the film Crash. You get to look at a single night in Gay New York from six different perspectives, none of which actually belong to Gulliver (hence the title). Instead, we spend time in the heads of Gully’s friends—promoter Todd, exes Servando and Rowan, Gully’s own ex Marty, the insane Brayden and Gully’s soon-to-be beau, Chase. The link is in the subject matter—nightlife, dating, drama, sex and violence. You can also expect a lot of love and hate directed at New York City and some surprise cameos.
Was writing this book easier or harder than Gulliver Takes Manhattan?
It was actually easier—I got to leave Gulliver’s head and sit in six other guys’ brains, exploring things that Gully would never do. And I got to flesh out Gully’s crew, who will continue to appear in future novels.
How much of your own life, or what you see at the clubs, is in the books?
Oh, tons in regards to the clubs. I am a story collector—people know that I am liable to steal details, names, quotes and stories wholesale from them, especially if you’re drunk and talking to me at the club.
My life, however, has little-to-no connection to either novel. I’m a sheltered Long Island mama’s boy who lives in Hell’s Kitchen with a boyfriend of more than four years. I sometimes wish my life were as exciting as the characters in my books, but most of the time I am happy it’s not.
Which of the lead characters in the Gulliver books do you relate to the most?
To be honest, I’ve placed bits of me in every character. But for the most part Todd, the nightlife promoter, is sort of my fantasy version of myself. He does what I do—but he’s also filthy rich, covered in muscles and beloved by all. I’m too lazy to spend time at the gym, and I know there are people out there who don’t necessarily adore me. Todd also has an amazing apartment that I’d kill someone to get. He’s part me, and part my straight brother.
Gulliver’s a huge mama’s boy and a sarcastic, cynical guy—that’s kind of me, too. Brayden, the psychotic hothead, does things that I imagine doing when I’m angry, but never actually would. And Marty is my fantasy version of me back when I was in college, because he actually has a career in theater. And the list goes on…
What’s the hardest part of dating in New York City?
New York is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and especially the people who live there. So you’re immediately in competition with every new beautiful guy who steps off the plane, train or bus. During the tender, fragile time of a relationship, before you learn to love each despite your flaws, you have to stay on your A-Game and watch your back. You have to be the hottest, smartest, funniest, and most interesting person you can possibly be. It’s exhausting. I don’t even do any of that, I just get exhausted watching other people do it!
Gulliver Takes Five is out now on Amazon.