An Author and His Books, Steven Rowley
Steven Rowley writes humorous, heartwarming, satisfying fiction that puts a smile on your face
Most of the books I read are written by female authors. It’s not a conscious choice, it’s just something I have always done; it probably stems from reading Harlequin romances decades ago followed by Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins, Jacqueline Susann and many others which were racier versions of Harlequin romances. When I find a male author that I enjoy reading, I will go back and read all of his backlist and that is exactly what I did with this author. I read the ARC for his most recent book and enjoyed it so much that I read his first two books, one right after the other.
Steven Rowley was born in 1971, grew up in Portland, Maine, and is a graduate of Emerson University. After living on the East Coast for many years, Rowley moved to the Los Angeles area in 1994. He says it took him ten years to get serious about his writing. He spent his early years in LA doing all the touristy things like Mann’s Chinese Theater, the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax, and studio tours, among other “only in Southern California” things to do. To help him write, he took a job at a literary agency and then a studio for marketing and publishing experience. He tried his hand at screenwriting, being a temporary at an entertainment law firm, and nothing was helping him further his writing ambitions and career.
That is until his beloved dog Lily died in 2013 of brain cancer, and to help him grieve, he wrote a short story about a dog with an octopus stuck to its head. He says it was odd, but it made sense to him. He turned the short story into a manuscript, Lily and the Octopus. After being rejected by dozens of agents, by chance, the manuscript was given un-agented to an editor at Simon & Schuster. As they say, the rest is history. People say he was an overnight success with his first published book, and his response is “that they don’t see the previous 15 years of writing that it took to achieve his first big writing success.” He lives in Palm Springs with actor and playwright husband Byron Lane.
Let’s get started with his books:
Lily and the Octopus - Beginning with the second sentence on the first page, this book takes you places you never knew you wanted, much less needed to go. I’ve encountered magical realism in books before, and I don’t usually continue reading as I have difficulty believing in something that isn’t real; I’m too literal and factual to suspend belief. And maybe what I think is magical realism is just Ted talking for his dog, who knows. I kept going, telling myself to “just read it” and not analyze it, and I’m so glad that I did. Ted and his dog Lily are so sweet and endearing that you want to know more about their monopoly games and movie nights where they discuss the merits of actors’ names. This book gives you permission to laugh, cry and talk about the death of a loved one and move on afterward. It’s sad, quirky, funny, unbelievable at times, and pulls at your heartstrings the rest of the time. The reviews are all over the place; it’s probably best not to read any of those first, which I didn’t. I don’t know that I would have read it if I had read the reviews first.
The Editor - Writer James Smale lands a book deal at a major publishing house, and he winds up with an unbelievable editor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. When she sees that he’s writing about his mother, it strikes a chord in her to help him deal with the hurt from his past. He can’t seem to finish the novel; the relationship with his mother is even worse than usual, and all of this affects his relationship with his partner. Onassis, who has become a friend, now becomes a mother figure to him and helps him bridge the gap with his mother while learning so much about himself in the process. I thought the premise of having Jackie O be his editor and a central character in the book was genius. She was so private in that time of her life; we know so little about her. He gave us his version of her and what she might have been like as an editor. So much has been written about her as the First Lady; this was a welcome change, no matter how fictional it might have been.
The Guncle - Gay uncle “Guncle” Patrick feels stuck in his life; still mourning the loss of a past love and now a stalled acting career, he finds himself temporarily in charge of his niece and nephew after a tragedy. His lifestyle isn’t conducive to raising children, but his sister’s lifestyle is even less conducive, so he takes on the responsibility to be their “stand-in” parent. Taking the kids in for the summer seems to be the right thing to do; little did he know the impact they would have on his life. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, and heartbreaking at others. You see the kids and Patrick begin to heal through their losses and see Patrick realize that family is everything. There are so many life lessons here; overall, this is a delightful and fun book to read. I read it as an ARC, and if I hadn’t, I don’t know that I would have ever known about his other two books, much less read both of them.
The Dogs of Venice - This is an Audible original short story performed by Neil Patrick Harris. I have not listened to this as I do not have an Audible subscription. It does sound good, and the Amazon rating is 4.1 stars. The rating for the performance (Harris’) is even higher.
I don’t know that I have a favorite of these books, as I adored them all. All three came to me at a time when I needed them the most, as books often do. While they may be funny, heartwarming, inspiring, and sad at times, they all teach life lessons and give insights that the reader can see in their own lives. He writes with passion and humor; I’ll read anything he puts pen to paper to.
I had so much fun watching and listening to these interviews. Rowley is so funny and personable; he makes his books come to life when he speaks, and you can’t help but want to read them. Here are a few links to video interviews and articles about him and his books:
Here is a quick 10-minute interview about The Guncle with Janeane Bernstein from KUCI 88.9 FM.
This is a more extended interview by Warwick’s Books with Rowley and his husband, Byron Lane. This one was so fun as it delves more into his personal life and the stories behind his books.
This is An interview by Bianca Marais (Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh) with both Steven and Byron.
Here is an ElectricLit article after Lily and the Octopus's release and the reasons he wrote it.
This is a San Diego Tribune article about The Editor and his writing process.
Lastly, a Booktrib article about The Guncle and that Patrick is probably the character closest to who he is in real life.
Amazon has optioned Lily and the Octopus for a movie. However, I can’t find anything recent about whether the movie is moving forward or not. 20th Century Fox has the rights to The Editor. Lionsgate has purchased the rights to The Guncle, which Rowley will write and executive produce. I’m not a big movie watcher, but count me in for all three of these.
I can’t wait for his next book, how about you? Have you read any of his books, and if you did, what did you think about them? I know Lily deals with such a sad topic, but there is so much more to it to make it worthwhile, so take it from me and give it a chance; you won’t be sorry you did.
I had a lot of fun putting this together, almost as much fun as I had reading all three of his books. I hope you enjoyed it too. Have a great week and happy reading!