Ely Percy is a writer and novelist who is about release their new book Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz. The book is being launched at a special event at Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow on 15 March. We have caught up with Ely to discuss Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz and LGBT publishing.
Can you tell us a bit about your new novel Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz?
Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz is a genre-bending, queer tartan response to the rom-coms of the 80s written in the style of an Italian-American gangster movie. The narrator, Vicky Romeo, is a twenty-one-year-old working-class butch lesbian and an aspiring actor. She’s also a bit of a womaniser and she has a slight obsession with Robert DeNiro.
The novel follows Vicky over an eight-and-a-half week-period, during which time she navigates rehearsals for the Les Artistes’ all-women production of The Importance Of Being Earnest, as well as rocky relationships with her pals and her parents (who are also a lesbian couple), all the while trying to woo new lady love interest, Julie Turner aka Joolz.
Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz is set in Glasgow in 2001. Have you noticed a big change in the city since then?
Absolutely. I moved to Suffolk in 2014, and every time I come back it seems to have gotten gayer!
I couldn’t believe the amount of rainbow flags I saw flying from cafes and corporate buildings in the city centre last July. I was amazed.
Of course, it’s sad to see that many of the specifically LGBT spaces I’ve known and loved are now long gone, and I can’t help but think that as a community we’ve lost some of our heart and our history with them.
You are launching Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz at the Aye Write Festival. Do you have anything special planned for the launch?
After sixteen years of trying to find a publisher for this book, just being part of the festival is celebration enough for me.
My friend, Zoe Strachan, who has written several novels and edited an anthology of queer Scottish writing (Out There, 2014) has agreed to chair the event so that’s particularly exciting. I’ve known Zoe for about eighteen years now, since before the launch of her first book (Negative Space) – I interviewed her back when I was a college student and she has always been a massive champion of my work, so it feels incredibly poignant that she has taken on that role.
With LGBT+ bookshop Category is Books recently opening in Glasgow and queer anthologies from 404 Ink, Knight Errant Press and Monstrous Regiment there seems to be an increase in LGBT+ publishing in Scotland. Why do you think this is happening now?
I think the world is changing and I think Scotland with its progressive views on minority genders and sexualities has taken the helm to become part of something brilliant. I think younger publishers have; a) recognised there’s a massive gap in the market – because queer people have always been here and we’ve hungered for stories that accurately represent us for a long time – and b) they’ve grown up in the Harry Potter era with books that championed underdogs and this has made them more sensitive and sympathetic towards the needs of writers from minority groups who have been historically underrepresented in traditional publishing.
I think it’s also possible that many of these publishers are queer writers and readers themselves and they got into the industry because they were desperate to change it.
Are there any new writers or books you are enjoying at the moment?
I recently read Helen Donohoe’s debut novel, Birdy Flynn, and I was completely blown away by it. It’s an Irish coming-of-age story told from the perspective of a young person who is struggling to make friends and find a place in the world; and it was funny and sad and a bit horrifying at times. At one point I actually dropped the book by accident because I was so shocked at one of the plot twists. I don’t think I’ve been so affected by a novel since I read Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith over a decade and a half ago. Funnily enough, it’s another LGBT-themed book and Sarah actually provided a quote on the book jacket. I can’t recommend it enough.
Another writer whose work I’ve recently discovered is Gray Crosbie. Their poems appeared alongside my essay My Big Fat Gay Reconnaissance Mission in Queering The Map Of Glasgow (Knight Errant Press, November 2018) and I just loved them. Gray has actually got a book of short stories coming out later this year and I can’t wait to get hold of a copy.
The Glasgow launch of Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz is on 15 March 2019 at the Aye Write Festival , with the book available to pre-order now from Knight Errant Press. The Edinburgh launch is on 19 March 2019 at Lighthouse Books.