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How The True Story Of A Gay Man And His Dog Became This Summer’s Must-Read Book

"Simon & Schuster has been unwavering in their belief that a gay lead character can carry a blockbuster novel."

Anyone who has lost a pet knows how horrible the experience can be, but author Steven Rowley was able to turn his pain into one of the summer’s most anticipated novels.

Lily and the Octopus is based on the true story of Rowley’s late dog, Lily, whose cancer took the form of an evil octopus in the author’s mind. More than just a heartwarming story, it takes a deep look into just how far we will go to shield ourselves from the pain of loss.

Rowley’s journey began with him just writing down memories of his good times with Lily after she died, but his boyfriend encouraged him to turn those mini-stories into something bigger.

The result was Rowley’s first novel, Lily and the Octopus, which he assumed may be where the story ended.

“When I finished the book, I was proud of it as a piece of writing, but felt the subject was so
deeply personal that I wasn’t sure it would connect with anyone who didn’t know me or didn’t
know my dog,” he said.

The author decided he would just try to self-publish the book, but fate intervened, and the manuscript landed in the hands of an excited editor at Simon & Schuster who felt they had “something magical” on their hands.

Even more exciting, perhaps, is the fact that the publishing company has made this one of its lead summer titles, which is rare for a book with a gay main character.

“While publishing leads the film and TV industries in terms of distributing stories with fully-rounded characters that reflect the diverse LGBT experience, many gay love stories and books with gay lead characters are still relegated to niche imprints and smaller publishing houses,” Rowley said. “Simon & Schuster has been unwavering in their belief that a gay lead character can carry a blockbuster novel and be a summer beach read.”

He also noted that, while “man and his dog” stories are popular in fiction, they are usually almost exclusively about heterosexuals.

“I’m thrilled to be able to add a gay entry into the genre,” he said. “After all, who loves their dogs more than gay people? We’ve been at the forefront of taking them from pets to full-fledged family members.”

Lily and the Octopus comes out in hardcover and ebook on June 7.

Adam Salandra is a writer, performer and host in Los Angeles. When he's not covering the latest in pop culture, you can find him playing with his French Bulldog puppy or hovering over the table of food at any social gathering.
@adamsalandra