Inside the Book:
Title: You Are Here
Author: Chris Delyani
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.
I didn’t intend to write about ‘big’ subjects when I started my novel You Are Here in the mid-1990s. Much like the novel’s hero, Peter Bankston, all I’d wanted was to write a story that people might both enjoy and maybe even think about afterwards. Then I put the manuscript in a drawer and didn’t take it out again for more than 10 years.
But by 2009, when I was approaching 40 years old and had begun an earnest rewrite of the novel, I did have big ideas on my mind. California voters had just written a gay marriage ban into the state constitution—a decision that hit me personally, especially since I’d married my partner three months before that disgraceful vote. I’d always thought the ban would eventually be overturned, but in the meantime I decided to make it grist for my story: to have Miles Bettencourt, a major character in You Are Here, become engaged to his boyfriend and then have the boyfriend walk out on him right before the marriage ban, seemingly shutting the door on marriage to him forever.
Happily the marriage ban has since been overturned across the country for good. Miles can presumably marry whomever he wants. Whether or not Miles would be any better at marriage than the many, many heterosexual people who have enjoyed marriage rights for centuries, I’ll leave to the reader to decide.
I wish the other major issue on my mind in the rewrite—the specter of global warming—was as quaintly outdated as California’s gay marriage ban. Sadly, global warming seems poised to become the defining issue of this century. And probably the next. What that might mean for the city of San Francisco—walled in on three sides by water, and the ‘here’ of You Are Here—is something I can’t bear to contemplate. And so I dealt with the issue the way I dealt with the gay marriage ban, as grist for the book. I’m not nearly as sweet and kindhearted as Peter Bankston, but in one respect I do resemble him. We both share the conviction that art can make sense of the unfathomable.
Many centuries from now, on the off-chance someone does stumble across my book in a library or some trash heap, I hope that reader will realize the long-lost city of San Francisco was a place where good people lived, or at least where flawed people did their best in tough circumstances and tried to do the right thing. The sea can rise and swallow up the buildings, but it can never erase San Francisco’s spirit—any more than that foolish gay marriage ban could erase a person’s right to love.
Meet the Author: