“I'm a little tired of him pretending that Pride is some folk festival with pierced nipples," grouses author Michael Rowe. He is talking, of course, about our hapless mayor, Rob Ford, and God knows the two of us could spend the entire day on the topic. But we have something more important to discuss — vampires!
Michael Rowe has just published an amazing page-turner of a novel called Enter, Night
. It’s about a 17th-century Jesuit vampire being awakened in a small town in Northern Ontario, but it’s also about small-town repression and features a harridan of a matriarch who is as much a monster as the vampire. The first few chapters are so gripping and gruesome that it’s impossible to put down.
Rowe is best known for his anthologies, including Writing Below the Belt
, Other Men’s Sons
and Queer Fear
. Enter, Night
is his first novel. “That whole Twilight
thing leaves me cold,” he tells me. “This is a very old-fashioned view of vampires, an homage to Tomb of Dracula
magazine and Dark Shadows
We share a love for Bram Stoker’s Dracula
. “It’s about this evil entity that comes to England to fuck with the virtue of British women. I think it has tremendous appeal for gay people because we are perceived as the same. It’s a wonderful commentary on both xenophobia and Victorian prudery,” he says. Though his own novel includes a gay subplot, he feels that the setting is just as important. “I did a lot of canoeing as a kid, over 2,500 miles through Northern Ontario and Manitoba. I was aware of the beautiful desolation of these small northern towns. It’s our Transylvania.”
Rowe was born in Ottawa in 1962, the son of a career diplomat. In his youth, he lived in Havana, Geneva, Paris and Beirut. “We would move every four years, and I would have to make new friends and learn a new language every time. I fetishized normalcy but have since discovered that there is no such thing.”
When he was 15, Rowe got a modelling contract in Paris, but it ended quickly because “I had a very specific look, and when I turned 19 my face changed, and all of a sudden I was too young to do the adult stuff and too old to do the teenage stuff. So I decided to go to U of T and started freelancing, made my first sale to a sports magazine and wrote about sports for a long time.” Indeed, sports are a big part of his life. He even took up boxing once. “I found out in my 30s that the one thing I can do really well physically is throw a punch.”
He worked as a journalist for years, writing for The Advocate
and other publications. One of his best pieces was about meeting the parents of Barry Winchell, an American soldier murdered for being gay. “I’ve interviewed a lot of really dumb movie stars, but after you’ve talked to someone like Winchell’s mother and watched her keep her composure because her son’s story needs to be told . . . well, I have not been able to do a puff piece since.”
Rowe is currently working on a ghost novel and a third essay collection, and is always on the lookout for fresh new talent. He singles out Xtra
’s Porndoggy columnist, Jeremy Feist. “His blog brought me to tears. He’s a natural instinctive writer, and I expect huge things from him.”
As much as Michael and I love vampires, we can’t help but turn our attention to real-life monsters — conservative Christians!
“There is nothing more nauseating to me,” he says. “The Republicans I grew up with bear no resemblance to the ones today. And Stephen Harper is a direct-to-video version of the worst of them.”
“I think Michele Bachmann should be the monster in your next book,” I suggest. Rowe laughs. There’s one book we would both love to read.
Enter, Night by Michael Rowe, ChiZine Publications, $17.95. michaelrowe.com
Michael Rowe's photo by Jason Krygier-Baum