All Peter Bankston ever wanted to do was paint.
An aspiring painter, Peter scratches out a pauper’s living in San Francisco, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Instead, he finds himself getting involved with not one but two very different men.
Like Peter, getting involved with another man is the last thing on Nick Katsaris’s mind. Smart, handsome, and good-humored, Nick’s done more than just survive—he’s positively thriving in San Francisco. But when he meets Peter, what begins as fun and games quickly turns into a game he can’t control.
Miles Bettencourt’s days are filled with longing. For him, San Francisco is haunted by Stuart, his missing ex-lover. Desperate to win him back, Miles wanders the streets in the hope of running into Stuart again. Instead, he runs into Peter—the one man who might hold the key to what Miles is looking for.
These three gay men soon form one very unlikely love triangle. Sometimes, when people break apart and then come together, they learn that discovering that where you are is the key to knowing who you are.
Life and Death in Public Places
I was in the thick of rewriting You Are Here when the HBO aired its last episode of the mob drama The Sopranos. I watched the last episode on DVD a few months after the actual airing, and so had a chance to listen to the Internet chatter about that tense closing scene in the diner. The dramatic cut to black. Did Tony die, or not?
For me, it didn’t matter. (Although for the record, I’d say Tony does die.) What mattered to me—especially in the context of my writing You Are Here—was that the final act of Tony Soprano’s operatic story had happened in a place as mundane as a diner. That the witnesses to the end of this story were total strangers, eating their dinners in the other booths.
That Sopranos scene gave me the idea to write my own life-or-death scene in a diner. I went to a hamburger joint near my job in San Francisco’s Financial District on my lunch hour, the same time of day as the diner scene in You Are Here. I bought some lunch, slid into one of the booths, and tried to imagine what it would be like to be sitting there with a knife at my back. (In The Sopranos, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” is playing on the jukebox; on my own trip the hamburger joint, the song was Susan Boyle’s studio rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”) I’d taken a notebook with me and wrote down all that I saw, heard, felt. Most of all, I looked at my fellow diners, imagining them cheerfully oblivious to the near-murder in their midst.
This is what I love about writing fiction. To sit in a place as ordinary as a diner on my lunch hour and imagine extraordinary things happening there, even if the extraordinary was a man sitting in a booth with a knife at his back. I really shouldn’t have needed The Sopranos to teach me the importance of setting in the writing of important scenes.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that crazy about the ending of The Sopranos. I know many people out there believe Tony doesn’t die, that in fact he and the family muddle through. But whether or not Tony dies at the end is crucial to understanding the entire story. Imagine if Shakespeare had left the endings of his great plays ambiguous: does King Lear die at the end, or not? It shouldn’t be the viewer’s (or reader’s) responsibility to solve how a story ends.
So, here, I respectfully diverged from The Sopranos. My diner scene has a definite ending. To learn whether the characters live or die, all the reader has to do is read.
In 1993, Chris Delyani moved to San Francisco from his native Boston to devote his life to writing fiction—and he’s been at it ever since. His first novel, The Love Thing, was published in 2009. He lives in Oakland, California.