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Acceptance of Differences In All People

Jeffrey Sotto Author Interview

The Moonballers follows a gay tennis star that feels threatened by a straight player that joins their organization. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve been part of a queer tennis league in Toronto, Ontario, Canada since 2003. Back then, we only had queer members, and I always thought it would be funny to see how the league would react when straight people started to join. I then put the idea aside as I worked on my first book. Then in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president, I thought about this premise again, and started to imagine what my main character would be like – a president who wanted to keep certain types of people out; in this case, keep straight people out of a queer sports league.

Stefan wants to be the best, and when someone tries to take that spot from him, his worst side comes out. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Stefan is toxic masculinity personified; he’s the ugliness of the ego that comes out in all of us when we feel inferior to others, and must compensate by bullying. As I mentioned, I looked at Donald Trump as for inspiration for Stefan; I feel his actions are a response to a threat of being replaced as the “queen bee”; he is driven by his ego and need to feel worshipped as president of the league and the best player. In all his villanry, I tried to make his antics as ridiculously absurd and funny as possible.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to highlight the consequences of the ego’s response to feeling inferior. But I “flipped the script” by having Stefan, and the league, queer. I wanted to challenge the idea that toxic masculinity is only associated with heterosexual men. There’s sometimes a stereotype that gay men are supposed to be softer, effeminate, and ultimately weaker than straight ones. But as I’ve witnessed in my almost 20 years as part of a queer tennis league, when the competitive juices for superiority — the “need to win” — rears its ugly head, the toxicity that manifests can come from anyone despite their gender, sexual orientation, and all other parts of their identities. In other words, we are ALL toxic as*holes. Lol. Further, there is a message about the need for the acceptance of differences in all people, and the pervasive bias and intolerance in everyone, including those who insist they are “woke.”

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Similar to the tone of my first novel, Cloud Cover, which was a lot more serious and dramatic than The Moonballers, I want to do a modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. In this version, the Adam character will be a middle-aged, gay, HIV-positive asexual, and the Eve character will be a young, bisexual and polyamourous woman. Being inspired by Eve’s liberated way of living, Adam will re-enter the dating world in hopes of finding love and connection. Considering the political events unfolding in the United States right now, I want to show their journey together in coming to terms with the outcomes of pursuing their own empowerment and personal freedom, despite what institutional or ideological constraints are placed upon them. This book is still in very early stages, but I’m hoping to publish it by 2026.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

“MAKE TENNIS GAY AGAIN!”

Winter 2016. The Toronto Torches—aka the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Tennis League—had come to a crash under mysterious circumstances.

Spring 2020. A new queer tennis organization has been created in the nearby wanna-be-downtown suburb of Torpedo Valley. Proud and out Stefan “Steffi” Porsche relishes in his dominance as both the President of the league, and—coincidentally—the league’s best player. That is, until strapping and super talented Khalid Adam arrives. But differences threaten to disrupt the order of the gay institution: Khalid is … STRAIGHT, sending Stefan into a neurotic tizzy.

Will the hyper-competitive and heterophobic Stefan maintain his invincibility, or will Khalid dethrone him? Can Khalid—and all those outside the queer majority—be kept from invading the sacredness of the gay tennis league? Or will President Stefan succeed in his quest to “MAKE TENNIS GAY AGAIN!”?

With a colourful cast of characters, campy humour, and dramatic twists à la Pedro Almodóvar, The Moonballers: A Novel about The Invasion of a LGBTQ2+ Tennis League … by Straight People (Gay Gasp!) is an action packed and wacky sports parody about intolerance, love, and the absurdity of socio-political extremes that will hit you like a hard shot straight to the face!

The Moonballers

We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it and stay out of our space! This is the unofficial slogan of the Torpedo Valley tennis organization created by queer people for queer people. The league president is Stefan Porsche, an ace tennis player who is out and proud of his sexuality and superior tennis ability. When Khalid Adam joins the league, Stefan is immediately threatened. Not only because he is a great player but also because Khalid is straight as a board.

The Moonballers: A Novel about The Invasion of a LGBTQ2+ Tennis League … by Straight People (GAY GASP!) written by Jeffrey Sotto is a unique take on how ridiculous it is to harass someone because of who they are. Turning it upside down and showing Stefan Porsche actively trying to push Khalid out of the tennis organization simply because he is straight forces the reader to think. They must grapple with how unfair such behavior is.

Sotto has delivered this message in such a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek way. He does a great job of balancing every person’s negative and positive traits. Sometimes you will despise some characters, but that’s what makes them so believable. Stefan’s behavior is beyond aggravating and downright criminal. He does have some redeeming qualities that readers will discover as they read through the entire novel.

Sometimes, you need to parody the issue to make people see their hypocrisy. People respond to humor more than anything, and Sotto tapped into this factor to deliver this humorous and charming novel. The Moonballers is a delightful, witty, no-nonsense book that is excellently written and is one read you will not want to put down.

Pages: 290 | ASIN : B09VTFQ42P

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The Disappointment of Promise

Jeffrey Sotto Author Interview

Jeffrey Sotto Author Interview

Cloud Cover follows a gay man struggling with grief, romance, and mental health issues. What was your inspiration for this thought-provoking novel?

The book is based on my own experiences. Tony and I have a lot in common. The death of my parents when I was young, being bullied in school, and being in the closet really affected on me. I had been dealing with mental health issues – specifically depression and anxiety since my late teens, and an eating disorder since my late 20s. I underwent psychiatric therapy and was in and out of recovery programs. I couldn’t make sense of all the events that happened to me, of this “cloud” I felt was following me. During that time I journaled a lot. The only reason I could come up with as to why these things occurred was so I could have a story, and maybe share it with others who are experiencing the same. Maybe it would help them. Maybe it would help me. I so wanted to make my pain and grief mean something. So I started piecing together my journals and continued writing what eventually became the book.

Tony is an an intriguing and well developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture with his character?

To me, Tony represents the pervasive mental state that that plagues many people today: disenchantment and contradictions; the disappointment of promise; the loss of hope. The disenchantment causes his disorders, and as a result, he is full of contradictions: he no longer sees the bright future he once saw for himself, yet he still tries to improve his life in what little capacity he has. He is suffering emotionally with depression and anxiety and he is suffering physically with eating disorders, but he still drags himself to doctors and the recovery facilities. He is devasted by the death of someone he loves, yet reluctantly, he tries to find love again. He feels he is being judged by the gay community, but really, he is just as, if not more, judgmental about his overweight boss and his millennial coworkers and boyfriend.

This novel does a great job of capturing the reality of mental health issues and eating disorders. What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Thank you. For those suffering from any kind of disorder, talk to someone. There are people around you that care so much about you, but the mental illness makes you blind to that. That was probably the worst thing it did to me. Reach out, ask for help – that is how the stigma is broken. The world is good and full of people who love you and want to help you.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Although I’ve generally received positive feedback about Cloud Cover, I’ve been told that perhaps my next book could be “a bit more cheerful.” Lol. So I’m going with that. My first love has always been tennis. My parents taught me how to play when I was 8 years old. I have been part of a gay tennis league for almost 20 years … and oh the drama you get when you put a bunch of gay athletes together! There are just too many good stories for me not to share! I’m going to try to write an absurd comedy/satire about a gay tennis league, and the chaos that ensues when straight people start joining.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitter | FacebookInstagram

Tony, a gay man struggling with grief and mental health issues centered around his body image, is about to turn 35. As this “cubicle daydreamer” takes steps to improve his situation, his life is turned upside down when he is drawn to a younger, flamboyant and free-spirited artist named Antonio.

Will Tony successfully make a meaningful connection with Antonio despite their many differences? And how long can he hide the secret devastating to himself and to their relationship? Part romance, part drama, part comedy and a raw portrait of disorder, Cloud Cover captures the experience of love and loss—of others and of oneself—amidst past trauma, modern expectations and resulting inner turmoil.

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Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover: A Novel by [Sotto, Jeffrey]

Cloud Cover by Jeffrey Sotto starts off with a warning so intense that it grabs your attention and you just have to continue reading. Like on the news when they say “these images may be disturbing… viewer discretion is advised.” Indeed, the books’ graphic exploration of eating disorders (from an in-depth exploration of a violent binging and purging episode to hair loss and bleeding gums) is slightly terrifying for anyone who isn’t aware of the very real consequences of anorexia and bulimia. But in addition to being horrifying, it is fascinating like seeing a horrific car accident.

The thing I really loved (and I am not sure if “loved” is the right word, but I definitely couldn’t put it down) about this book was its reality and Sotto’s ability to accurately portray the struggles that people who see themselves as “different” go through hundreds of times a day. Though Tony (the main character) isn’t actually all that different from those around him, being a gay man with severe mental health issues is enough for anyone to feel like an outsider among the masses. Anyone who struggles with any mental illness will immediately empathize with Tony as he runs the exhausting race of attempting to navigate a life fraught with the invisible pain of mental illness. And really, who can’t relate to that on some level? We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of mental health issues, whether it is simply never being happy about how we look in the mirror or feeling dissatisfied with our current status in life and feeling like we are missing something.

The book delves into so much of the human experience in one fiction novel. So much so that I could not believe this was Sotto’s first book. Throughout the book we explore how those with mental health issues interact with the people around them. Tony’s blossoming romantic relationship with Antonio provides insight into how someone with the dark secrets of mental health navigates between the pain of their lives alone with the hope of happiness that new love provides. The constant juxtaposition of how Tony is living with how Tony could live is regularly portrayed through scenes like an episode of what should be a happy couple indulging in a delicious meal ruined by Tony’s ongoing inner monologue about how he plans to purge himself of the calories the very second he is able.

This book will be an excellent read for anyone, though those who can relate more closely to Tony’s issues will probably get even more from the book. In all, I would recommend this book for anyone interested in taking an unfiltered view of the things that some people hide inside them which they may otherwise go their whole lives without otherwise being introduced to. It is a book for those who long to understand humans and their experiences.

Pages: 339 | ASIN: B07ZRTJ255

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