Posted Tuesday 25 April 2023
Author Phil Stamper revealed the inspiration behind The Gravity of Us, his best-selling book that was selected as 2022's KU Big Read, to an audience of Kingston staff and students at a recent event hosted at the University's Penrhyn Road campus.
The Big Read scheme, which has featured titles such as About A Boy by Nick Hornby and My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal was developed to create a sense of community for Kingston University students, staff, and alumni as well as providing a common talking point for new starters who all receive a book ahead of beginning their studies at the University.
The Gravity of Us is a coming-of-age romance novel between two gay protagonists. Mr Stamper, who graduated with a master's in Publishing and Creative Writing from Kingston, reflected that, during his childhood and being part of the queer community himself, he became acutely aware of the lack of LBGTQIA+ storylines in books that portrayed positive and happy scenarios of gay people in loving relationships.
"It wasn't until I was 19 when I watched my first movie with queer representation in which the queer characters did not have something terrible happen to them. I look back now on the content I was consuming and think how incredibly damaging it was for me and my outlook on life," he said.
For this reason, Mr Stamper was determined to create an LBGTQIA+ story that was not only fun and easygoing but also provided a place of escape for his readers – something he felt was missing in the books available to him when he was growing up.
"I didn't want the Gravity of Us to be weighed down by homophobic issues as this can be really triggering for some people, so I wanted this book to be a safe haven for the queer community, where you come in and know you're going to have a fun time and see a cute love story unfold," he added.
First year fine art student Beth Golding appreciated this sentiment and felt overjoyed to read a book about a queer character that was relaxed and casual. "It was a relief to not read about discrimination and 'coming out' for once. I felt i could escape into this book positively and calmly. It made me very excited about starting university." she said.
Professor Alison Baverstock, KU Big Read director, praised the novel for telling a simple love story which has been received positively by students and staff at the University. She said: "One of the points we really liked when we were discussing which book to choose for the KU Big Read was that the Gravity of Us is uncomplicated. They are simply gay, and they fall in love. It's been a joy to have Phil speaking to our students and staff and you can tell his book has helped to bring a strong sense of community here at Kingston," she said.
Mr Stamper also discussed in depth the rejection he experienced within the publishing sector and the many hurdles he had to jump over to succeed. Using his own example of having applied for more than 150 jobs before landing his dream job with Penguin Random House in New York, Mr Stamper encouraged students at the event to remain committed to achieving their goals, no matter how many times they faced challenges.
"It's always humbling to know that your journey never ends as I still face rejection today, even six years on from getting my first book deal," he said. "You need that kind of tenacity so that, no matter what passion you're following, you have to keep going for it. Giving up is really the only way to be certain that your dreams will never come true - so don't give up hope." Some of Phil's other novels include - As Far As You'll Take Me, Small Town Pride and the Golden boys series.