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July 10, 2007
Contact: Andrew W. M. Beierle

Author of two-headed conjoined twins novel explores the concept of “inhabiting alien characters” on Bookseller Chick blog

Lambda Literary Award-winning author Andrew W. M. Beierle discusses the methods he used to relate to his main characters—a pair of two-headed conjoined twins, one straight, one gay, who share a body—on the blog Bookseller Chick.


Beierle's ground-breaking second novel, FIRST PERSON PLURAL, hailed by early reviewers as “utterly original,” “intricately imagined,” and “that rarity in fiction, a novel of ideas,” will be published by Kensington Books on August 28, 2007. It has been named a September 2007 Main Selection of the InsightOut Book Club. His debut novel, THE WINTER OF OUR DISCOTHEQUE, received a 2002 Lambda Literary Award.

An extremely rare set of conjoined twins of the type dicephalus (literally “two-headed”), Owen and Porter Jamison are separate individuals from their necks up but share a single body. As they grow to adulthood, their differences become more pronounced: Porter is outgoing and charismatic while Owen is cerebral and artistic. When Porter becomes a high school jock hero, complete with cheerleader girlfriend, a greater distinction emerges, as Owen gradually comes to realize that he's gay. Porter's unease with his brother's sexuality leaves Owen feeling increasingly alienated from his twin, especially when Porter falls in love and Owen becomes the unwilling third side of a complicated love triangle. And when Owen finally begins to explore his own desires, the rift grows deeper.

“My interest in writing about the alien, the 'other,' was sparked largely by three novels,” Beierle writes in an essay entitled “Freaks 'R' Us: Inhabiting Alien Characters.”

In Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn, a mother ingests a variety of drugs and toxic substances during pregnancy to produce offspring who will populate the family-owned sideshow. Mrs. Caliban, by Rachel Ingalls, depicts a love affair between a lonely married woman and a sea monster. In The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, a romance between a meek librarian and a very tall young man.

“In FIRST PERSON PLURAL, I wanted to use my two-headed protagonists as a metaphor for the alienation I felt as a gay man. Despite the progress gay people have made since I came out at the age of eighteen in 1969, I remained constantly aware of feeling different. And I felt that no matter how hard I tried to fit in (short of going back into the closet), I would always remain as obviously different as if I . . . well, had two heads. Voilá.

“While I did not set out to write a “message” novel,” he says, “it is my fervent hope that straight people who read FIRST PERSON PLURAL may find something in the character of Owen with which they identify, some hope or habit they recognize as their own, and thereby come to understand that we are not so different, any of us, under the skin, behind the labels, beneath the armor we each don daily to protect ourselves and to conform.”

Paula Peterson, winner of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference Bakeless Prize for nonfiction for her memoir, PENITENT WITH ROSES, writes, “Andrew Beierle's imagination and empathy have no limits. In FIRST PERSON PLURAL he charts new emotional territory, bravely escorting us deep into the tangled relationships and complicated desires of his two unforgettable protagonists, whose tragedy is that they are [simultaneously] inseparable and profoundly divided. Welding great compassion to psychological acuity, Beierle forces us to confront the unthinkable.”

“What a remarkable book!” writes Jeff Mann, author of Loving Mountains, Loving Men and A History of Barbed Wire. “The protagonist of Andrew Beierle's new novel is one of the most unique and unforgettable characters in fiction. Deftly written, funny, wise, and poignant, First Person Plural is an excitingly original addition to contemporary literature.”

Beierle wrote FIRST PERSON PLURAL over the course of five years, workshopping the material at the Sewanee, Bread Loaf, Napa Valley, and Kenyon Review writers conferences with the personal guidance of such literary luminaries as Alice McDermott, Randall Kenan, Claire Messud, and Christopher Tilghman, respectively.

For nearly three decades, he was an editor at Brown and Emory universities and is now an independent communications consultant to educational and nonprofit organizations. His debut novel, THE WINTER OF OUR DISCOTHEQUE, was honored by the Lambda Literary Foundation in 2002. His work has appeared in the Harrington Gay Men's Literary Quarterly and in Rebel Yell: Stories by Contemporary Southern Gay Authors.


“Upon reading the premise of this novel, I expected the easy route, a comedy, but what I got instead amazed and moved me, a daring novel filled with insights not only into the bizarre aspects of human anatomy but into the equally bizarre anatomy of human love. Andrew Beierle has given us a love story between two men bound by something stronger than love, flesh. FIRST PERSON PLURAL reads like a memoir, as if it has been poured out of the heart of a man who has suffered first-hand the indignities and miracles described in this novel. How Mr. Beierle submerged himself so deeply I have no idea. This book will stagger you; but better yet it will remind you of something too easily forgotten: that human existence is by its very nature heroic.”

—Lee Durkee, author of Rides of the Midway

“Utterly original . . . tender, comic, bittersweet, and well-written, with lovable characters, heartbreak, and redemption—in other words, with all the right ingredients.”

—Jan DeBlieu, author of Wind, winner of the 1998 John Burroughs medal?for distinguished natural history writing, and Year of the Comets

“Deftly written and intricately imagined, in FIRST PERSON PLURAL Andrew Beierle has created twin brothers so original and compelling that this extraordinary novel is destined to leave a profound and indelible impression on its reader. An auspicious achievement by a remarkably talented author.”

—Jameson Currier, author of Where the Rainbow Ends

“A metaphorical tale of differentness, an extended exploration of the complexities of identity—the possibilities, limitations and internal contradictions that exist in us all— FIRST PERSON PLURAL is striking and original, and that rarity in fiction, a novel of ideas.

—Katherine V. Forrest, twice winner of the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery and recipient of the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award.

“In this story of two men born with different heads and different hearts but the same body, Andrew Beierle explores one of the most perplexing dilemmas we humans face:  how much does a man owe to himself, as he searches for his own identity, and how much to those closest to him, in this case the other half of his own body?  The fact that one of these joined twins is gay and the other straight leads, almost inevitably, to loneliness, confusion, and finally angry confrontation.  Although we as readers may find ourselves wishing that each of these two men could have his own life—and his own love—we ultimately come to understand, as they do, that they cannot change what destiny has handed them.  Their only choice is to find a way to live in harmony with each other.  I salute both the courage and the insight that Beierle has brought to this engrossing and sensitively written story.

—Robert Taylor, author of A Few Hints and Clews, All We Have Is Now, Whose Eye Is on Which Sparrow?, Revelation and Other Stories, and The Innocent


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To read the first chapter of First Person Plural and see additional advance reviews, visit the author's web site: http://andrewbeierle.com

Contact the author: andrewatlanta@bellsouth.net

Book reviewers:

To read the first chapter of First Person Plural and see additional advance reviews, visit the author's web site: http://andrewbeierle.com

For review copies, contact the author: andrewatlanta@bellsouth.net


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