So what made you decide to publish it after so long?
This site called The New York Optimist started putting my stories up, and they got taken down because of it. And I was like, “Okay, that’s a good sign. I’m pushing people’s buttons still.” This was about three years ago. And then about two years ago, this publisher dude called me up one day and was like “Are you Walt Cessna? We’d like to publish your book.” And I was like, “I’ve had a really shitty week. I just broke up from a really major relationship. I tore a door off its hinges. I was in an alcoholic blackout that landed me in a coma that I just got out of seven days ago. So if this isn’t real, I’m gonna fuckin’ hunt you down and take your first-born child!” It all went from there. And I signed my life away for four years. But I figured nobody else was doing anything with it!
What do you mean you signed your life away?
My publishing company owns everything—my writing. Anything that I write goes through them. Like, if it’s me writing short stories or doing stuff that I do online with poetry and stuff—that’s my stuff. But if I write something for a magazine, or I’m asked to do something—like, I was writing for Blackbook for a little while—that would have to go through them. And also because we’re trying to heavily option the book. I know that somebody’s gonna want to take one of those stories—like Larry Clarke, Gus Van Sant—and make a movie. That’s where I’m aiming. That’s my genre. That’s my bible. That’s who I pay major homage to. So, I’m trying to tailor the whole thing, kind of in a JT Leroy way.
Lets talk a little bit about prostitution, which you admit you’ve done.
Now I think it’s taken for granted, because Rentboy makes it so easy. And so many kids I know—especially kids who model for me—are all hustlers. So many of the popular ones. So many boys hustle, and now it’s like second nature. It’s just an easy way, as an attractive gay boy, to make sure that you can afford the pretty things you need in life. There’s no underground thrill to it anymore.
Your stories make it seem really unappealing.
It is! If you’d ever done it you would know! I mean, the story about Lee and Levi, the two brothers who both have AIDS and fuck guys without condoms to get more money, and they’re not even thinking about spreading the disease—I wrote that right around the time when there was a lot of AIDS paranoia.
It was right around the time I first tested positive, I wrote that story. No, I hadn’t tested positive yet, but the kind of stuff I wanna write about is always dark. I mean, half the people in the book die, either by committing suicide or OD-ing or getting murdered! I’m not attracted to things that usually have a happy ending. My life experience has been that usually there isn’t a happy ending. Life only gets more fucked up. The sooner you realize that, you make it easier for yourself to digest it, the more enjoyable your life can actually be—when these things come at you they aren’t like meteorite surprises.
A lot of people talk about the way New York has changed over the past 20 years or so. How it was so much better in the 80s and 90s. But, reading your stories, it doesn’t really sound so great.
It’s not that things were so much better. There were just better drugs. And you could get into places before you were carded. Teenagers could still go to clubs. It was when people still mixed in places. Nobody mixes anymore, dude! My first club was the Mudd Club—when I was 14! You’d go in and there would be a Wall Street banker, a crazy girl from Avenue A, Jean Michel [Basquiat], Terry Toye, Stephen Sprouse, Steven Meisel. You know, all these people who became cultural icons of the 20th Century were just people you saw at the club mingling together.
You never went to a gay club. Maybe you went to a gay bar in the West Village when you were wanting to slum it and see what the leather crowd was doing. But major clubs, it was a mixture, and now it’s not a mixture anymore.