Tim Anderson is the author of Sweet Tooth, a gay diabetic memoir and Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Jimmy, and his cat, Stella, and also writes young adult historical fiction under the name T. Neill Anderson. Tim blogs at seetimblog.blogspot.com. He is interviewed here by Michelle Tompkins, an award-winning strategic communications consultant and writer. If you are reading this, you’re invited to the Sweet Tooth book launch party on May 28, 6-9 pm at WiX Lounge in Chelsea, NYC.
MT: Tell us about Sweet Tooth.
TA: It’s a funny, gay diabetic memoir of adolescence and angst in the 80s. It starts with my diagnosis, at age 15, with type 1 diabetes, and the concurrent realization that I was just unavoidably, irrevocably gay. It was the worst summer ever.
MT: Did you face bullying?
TA: Oh sure. Some genius saddled me with the nickname Tinkerbell Tim when I was in 4th grade. It followed me until I switched schools in 8th grade to get away from the bullying. High school was much better because by then I’d found the punks and goths and thrift store bombshells/new wave weirdos that became my people.
MT: What are you passionate about?
TA: Health care. I can’t believe the health care debate in this country is so idiotic. Folks can say what they want about Obamacare, but for this type-1 diabetic it’s a dream come true. I didn’t have health coverage for years because of my pre-existing condition, which meant that I paid out of pocket for insulin, blood testing supplies, doctor visits, blood work, and all the rest of it–things I needed to merely stay alive–and then had to live in fear of something else happening to me and not having any coverage. I wish we had single payer, but I’m happy enough just living without worry.
MT: How did you get started writing?
TA: My first book, Tune in Tokyo, started as a series of emails I sent to folks back home while I was living and working as an English teacher in Japan. People really responded to the stories, so I wrote the manuscript but couldn’t interest a publisher. In June 2010, I self-published it and then miraculously got a great review in Publishers Weekly. That’s how Amazon Publishing found me. They reissued the book in November 2011 and brought it to a much larger audience.
MT: Humor is such an important part of your books. Do you use humor to deal with difficult situations?
TA: Sure. I don’t know another good way of dealing with them! I’m constitutionally incapable of not trying to lighten the mood by coming up with a zinger.
MT: What kind of role do music and pop culture play in your book?
TA: Music was a lifeline for me as a teen and Sweet Tooth is infused with music and pop culture. I was lucky enough to be coming of age during an era of really incredible music made by ultra-stylish weirdos. And it wasn’t just a soundtrack to what was going on in my life, it was also what introduced me to the playground that is the English language. It was the lyricists whose words I always had bouncing around in my head that got me interested in nailing down an emotion or state of mind via the perfect chunk of language. Morrissey is a master of that. The Smiths are the main touchstone in Sweet Tooth because the thematic content of so many of their songs dovetails so beautifully with what’s happening in the story.
I was also very moved by the movie Torch Song Trilogy, and not just because it was about being gay. It was the writing and the story and the zingers. And as dark as it got at times, it still had an “It Gets Better” quality to it that spoke to me.
MT: What are your hopes for your book party on May 28?
TA: That people show up! Wix Lounge in Chelsea is a great space and a great sponsor. I used one of their web templates to design my own author site. I’m really looking forward to reading from the book–I haven’t done any reading events for it yet, so this will be its maiden voyage.