Author Chris Cheek gives us fresh perspectives on gay life through his three books published to date.
Where are you from originally?
South London, the Crystal Palace area.
And where do you live now?
The Yorkshire Dales, for the last 25 years in a house overlooking the Ribble Valley, with my partner of 40 years (now husband) Michael.
What do you love about London and why?
Everything – its history, diversity, liveliness and style. I love visiting and miss it when I’ve not been for a while. I don’t miss the commuting, the pollution and the noise, but it’s okay, because I know I can get away again!
What was the first gay venue you visited?
Adams, a disco in Leicester Square, effectively my first date with Michael, in August 1978. I was bowled over by the noise, the excitement, the good-looking boys and that amazing feeling of “I didn’t know there were so many of us”. It was fantastic.
Do your books so far, all reflect aspects of your own life?
They’re not strictly autobiographical, but inevitably they all contain elements from my life and experience, reflected in their settings (both places and working environments), or in the characters whose behaviour and reactions are drawn from people I have known or met.
What is it that attracts you to a story or a project?
The starting point is usually a single incident and the consequences that flow from it. From there, I then build the main characters who will both tell the story and drive the narrative.
What was the last theatre show you saw, where, and what did you think of it?
The Inheritance. I was bowled over, the brilliance of the narrative, the structure, the sets and the acting. Two of the most astonishing, moving and transformational nights I’ve ever spent in a theatre.
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
Reading gay romance novels. I love losing myself for hours in new worlds with characters I can like or even love.
Good red wine, and lots of it!
Best gift you’ve ever received and why?
A small St Christopher pendant, bought for me as a farewell present by a close colleague. It was 1978 and I’d just been fired after a conviction for cottaging. It was the fact of the gift that meant so much.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Two from my transport career, as an adviser to tram schemes in Croydon and Nottingham, I was invited to celebrate the arrival of the first tram in each. Hours of hard work made real. Same in writing: holding the first printed copy of my first novel last spring – mental effort, tangible result!
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
I suppose it would be late 1978 into 1979 and 1980. I’d just come out, accepted being gay and met Michael. The sense of freedom, liberation and belief in the future were very exhilarating.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
Our own 40th anniversary party last October – we had a great venue, were surrounded by the people dearest to us in both friends and family, and everybody had a great time. The whole day had a magical quality to it that it would be difficult to beat.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Not so much a piece of advice as a question. Last year during a session, my psychoanalyst asked me “Why are you so hard on yourself?” It was a lightbulb moment – so I suppose the advice that flows from that might best be described as “learn to love yourself”.
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
Noel Coward, for daring to hint at gay love in an era when it was strictly proscribed, especially in The Vortex and Design for Living. Some of his later work, such as his last play, Song at Twlight, his poetry and short stories, show his great sensitivity and understanding of the issues gay people faced – which can also be seen in his works about other forms of forbidden love, especially in Brief Encounter. Posthumously, these works, combined with the wit and humour of his music and lyrics, mean that he shines out as a gay man who brought so much to the world.
Who are the most entertaining people you follow on social media?
I very much enjoy following fellow authors online, hearing about their trials and tribulations in writing and following the launch of their new works, including authors such as Lily Morton, Lucy Lennox, Sean Ashcroft and Max Walker, to name but a few.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die and why?
San Francisco – as well as the stunning setting and the fantastic architecture, it has been such an iconic place for gay people for all my life. It is also the setting for Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, one of my favourite ever works both in book form and on TV.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
That most people would not think less of me for being gay – and that those who might wouldn’t matter anyway.
Get more information on Chris and order books via bit.ly/chris-boyz