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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

The Chat with Lucian Childs

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Lucian Childs’ Dreaming Home (Biblioasis) superb debut, a novel-in-stories, is a tender and powerful queer coming-of-age that spans forty years and multiple cities.

Praising the book, the Ottawa Review of Books says “Childs is an excellent writer, with a keen ear for dialogue and great skill in depicting the complexities of emotional conflict … His
characters are living souls, and life being what it is, they will continue to struggle to find happiness.” 

Lucian Childs is a fiction writer and a contributing editor of the 2017 Lambda Literary award finalist, Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry.

His stories and book reviews have appeared in Grain, Plenitude, The Puritan and Prairie Fire, among others. Born in Dallas, Texas, he has lived in Toronto, Ontario, for fifteen years, since 2015 on a permanent basis. For more about his work, please visit



Dreaming Home has such an interesting and compelling structure, containing six linked stories that nevertheless feel like a novel. Why did you choose to put the book together this way?


I think of myself as a writer of short stories. I love their unitary narrative arc. Though constraint gives the short form its power, I’ve found myself chafing at the narrowness of the frame.

Characters without childhoods, family lives, careers—the interplay of all that over time.

In 2020, I started working with Caroline Adderson on what I thought would be a collection of twelve previously published stories. Though I initially balked at her suggestion to link them, it did seem the stories divided into two groups, each with an implied decades-long arc. Given my desire to stretch the bounds of the form, I threw myself into fleshing out that overarching narrative. To fulfill that schema, I stripped the original stories to the bone and wrote new ones on top of them. John Metcalf at Biblioasis agreed to publish the first group, provided I further integrate the stories to give the complete work a novelistic feel.

I don’t necessarily recommend this method, but it was an incredible opportunity for someone self-taught like myself to learn from masters of their craft, who have thought deeply about fiction for so many years.

Although each of the stories is narrated by a distinct character, at the heart of the book is Kyle, who we follow (mostly through the eyes and reflections of others) from childhood in Texas through to midlife in Puerto Rico, with a long stretch in San Francisco in between. Tell us more about Kyle, for readers who have yet to read the book.

Though the novel is often quite funny, it is at its core an exploration of the effects of childhood trauma. Without giving too much away, when Kyle is fifteen, his sister, Rachel, outs him to their father, a Vietnam War vet who finds relief from his PTSD in a militant religiosity. The situation quickly spirals into violence, both physical and psychological.

Though the novel is often quite funny, it is at its core an exploration of the effects of childhood trauma.

Kyle goes on to exhibit traits common to people who’ve experienced childhood trauma: depression, feelings of lack of self-worth, homelessness, difficulty sustaining personal relationships. The monolithic nature of this embodied pain is often immutable. This isn’t a very good basis for fiction, which requires variety, characters facing and, at least to some degree, overcoming obstacles.

Because of this, I didn’t want to focus solely on Kyle. Forty years and two hundred pages of him staring up at the ceiling wouldn’t make for a very good read. So, the book is a kind of relay race, each character running a little further down the track with Kyle’s story (and their own). Though it is mostly secondhand, along the way we’re given a lot of information about Kyle.

Hopefully, by the time Jason takes the baton across the finish line, readers will have pieced Kyle together for themselves.

We follow Kyle through San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s, including his time as a gay man in the depths of the AIDS crisis. Why was it important for you to write about this time?

It takes a great deal of effort and imagination to create something solely from research, as I did in the sections set in Killeen and outside Waco. But more than that, at least in part writing fiction is a nostalgic act. Like Kyle, in the ’80s I ran away from Texas and from my family to experience freedom as a gay man in San Francisco. It was a heady time: circuit parties, bars, bathhouses, street life. All those men, and women too, coming together so openly made for a magical and unique experience. Those three middle chapters of the book are really a love letter to this extraordinary city and my time there.

Like Kyle, in the ’80s I ran away from Texas and from my family to experience freedom as a gay man in San Francisco.

Of course, setting the story in the gay neighbourhood of the Castro during the AIDS epidemic is a good narrative choice as well. In fiction, the stakes need to be high and it was quite literally life and death there at that time. Though AIDS isn’t the direct subject of the book, loss and, to a lesser degree, death are. So having the epidemic be the backdrop to that part of the story set a strong tone.

One thing readers may not know about you is that you’re a debut author at (a very young!) 74 years. How does it feel to have your first book out there at this stage of your life?

Incredible. Dreaming Home has only been out a few weeks, but already the response has been very positive. For someone who has been working more or less in obscurity for almost twenty years, I’m over the moon.

I see tweeted repeatedly that people over 40 are too old to start a literary career. This may be true if you want to acquire an agent and to publish with a big house, one that is looking for a long relationship and a big payday. Smaller publishers are focused on nurturing new authors without as much regard for their financial potential. Dan Wells and the folks at Biblioasis have made a name for themselves by principally caring about the literary quality of their books. I feel enormously grateful that they’ve taken me on for Dreaming Home.

Dan Wells and the folks at Biblioasis have made a name for themselves by principally caring about the literary quality of their books. I feel enormously grateful that they’ve taken me on for Dreaming Home.

At this late date, it’s also very exciting to be at the beginning of something. In a way, I feel like a twenty-six-year-old who just got his MFA and is ready to take on the world. I’m teaching my first class in the fall. I’ll hopefully be in Kansas City in February to moderate a panel I’ve put together of amazing writers. It is inspiring to find myself part of a community—writers who love the written word as I do and who have been so generous and welcoming to me. In Canada, particularly, where both the book and I have found a home.

After I finished reading the book, I immediately wanted more stories from these characters. The book has a very episodic feel…we become invested in the characters in such a short period of time. Any chance we will meet any of them again?

Thank you—this is probably the highest compliment a writer can get! Because of the brief time readers get to spend in any one point of view, I feared they wouldn’t deeply connect with the characters. I’ve been gratified people are having the same response as you. Some readers have said the writing in Dreaming Home feels cinematic. They feel vividly placed in the action along with these characters, which I think fosters this attachment.

I’m quite attached to the characters, too! So, yes. You will see a few of them again. Dreaming Home is the first of three linked short novels. In the second book, we see Diane, although as a fifteen-year-old girl. We also meet Kyle’s grandparents, Elaine and C.K. Turner, who are mentioned throughout Dreaming Home.

In the third book, we’ll find out what happens when Rachel goes back to Texas to take care of the grandfather. We’ll get to know Elaine as well. Like the state itself, both the grandparents are outsized characters. Especially Elaine, who, as we say in Texas, is a kick in the pants!


[ From “Kyle,” the third of six sections in the book. ]

By 8 a.m., Kyle was dressed in business drag, balancing a paper coffee cup in one hand while jostling in the subway against others similarly attired. Under his arm, he cradled a plastic case containing plans he’d drawn while working at Mark’s architecture firm. Kyle had felt bereft when Mark retired and closed up shop. Kyle loved that entry-level job. At lunch in the garden behind the home office on the flanks of Mount Sutro, he listened to Mark’s architectural war stories, engrossed by experiences collected over forty years. Kyle’s maternal grandfather, C.K. Turner, was a real estate speculator and builder, just as Mark was, and Kyle felt honored to be following in their footsteps.

Before noon, Kyle had interviews at two downtown architecture firms. The men who reviewed his drawings were collegial, but they made no offers. There was always the problem of Kyle’s CV. He had only taken a couple of semesters of drafting at community college and had worked at Mark’s firm less than three years.

He felt happy after the interviews, even so. Eating his sandwich at a park tucked among the office towers and ringed with lanky, quivering poplars, he felt at one with the throng gathered there, not just by necessity but by the desire to work. In one corner of the park, a pencil-thin Black man with long, elegant arms carved out a performance space on the grass. He wore a bright-pink dress shirt and a white tie, with earphones clamped to his head, a Walkman hooked at his belt. After a series of balletic turns, he arched backward and did a flip, to the applause of several onlookers.

Kyle fought the old habit of viewing himself unfavorably. He didn’t need the Bible verses he memorized at the Ministry to know envy was a sin. Proud as he was of his new body, his muscles now were taut, confining straps. He could no longer reach behind to scratch the middle of his back and he moved with all the grace of a battle tank. Something lost, something gained. He worried that the one canceled out the other.

After lunch, he wandered among the skyscrapers, admiring the architecture, imagining what it would be like to work at one of the big firms there—Gensler, say, or Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in a drafting room with hundreds of others.

By the time he returned to the Castro, the late afternoon rush hour had begun. The clatter of train cars behind him, he plodded up the Muni subway station’s broad steps under a cloudless sky, while around him men discussed their Halloween plans. One had a poodle skirt and a pink angora sweater to die for. Another planned to sashay around the Castro all night wearing nothing but a rhinestone tiara and Doc Martens.

Kyle was carried up Castro Street on this wave of men, past a large poster promoting safe sex—two bare-chested hotties, each with a shiny, square condom package in one hand.

Excerpted from Dreaming Home by Lucian Childs. Copyright © Lucian Childs, 2023. Excerpted with permission by Biblioasis. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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