Jay Greenwood is a gay, WWII photographer in love with a guy, Robbie, who is MIA in the Pacific. We learn of their story as Bunny Prescott, who’s in love with Jay, learns it along with Robbie’s kid sister, Ceola.
That’s the premise of “Dodging and Burning,” the debut novel from D.C.-based author John Copenhaver. It comes out Tuesday, March 6 in hardcover for $25.95 from Pegasus Crime.
Copenhaver, a 43-year-old Marion, Va., native who works by day as the 7-12 English Department chair at Flint Hill School, says finally seeing his book in print after four years of writing and another five to find an agent and publisher, is both an “exhilarating and terrifying” prospect.
He calls the book a mix between genre (in this case, mystery) and literary (i.e. character-driven) fiction, delineations he says are more market-driven than reality.
“As a reader, I love the entertaining mechanics of a mystery plot but without rich character development, I just don’t care,” Copenhaver says.
He cites authors such as Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott and Tana French as writers who excel at this. He credits agent Annie Bomke and Pegasus for understanding his book and advocating for it.
Copenhaver came to Washington in 2002 to pursue a master’s degree in fiction writing at George Mason. He and husband Jeffrey Herrity live in LeDroit Park and often spend weekends in Lost River, W.Va.
He managed to write the book on holidays and weekends and says he doesn’t have lazy days because he’s “terrible at relaxing.”
Copenhaver calls himself a “film buff, music hoarder, cocktail connoisseur, true crime podcast devourer and, of course, avid reader.”
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out for 13 years, and my mother was the hardest person to tell. My father died when I was 8; I imagine he would’ve been the hardest to tell had he lived.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Emma González, the bisexual Latinx teen and high school student from Parkland, Fla., who is standing up for gun control and having such an impact. And any young person who demands better leadership from our elected officials.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I’m a huge fan of live music, and the 9:30 club is a near perfect venue. The Anthem ain’t too bad either!
Describe your dream wedding.
Jeff and I were legally married in December 2016, but we haven’t had a celebration yet. I know, we need to get on it. Really I’d just like a modest wedding with close friends and family — and of course confetti cannons.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Education. To me, it’s the issue that underlies all other issues in this country.
What historical outcome would you change?
The original sin of our nation has and will always be genocide of the American Indian and the enslavement of African peoples. I wish there were some magical way to undo those horrors.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
“The X-files.” (By the way, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny have never looked better!)
On what do you insist?
The cocktail hour
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
“Look what came in the mail tonight!!! March 6th is nearly here!” referring to a staged photo of a stack of my novels. Of course, it’s all about ME!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Something with “Tell-all” in the title and a glamorous Vaseline-lensed photo of me on the cover, hand delicately propping up my chin, a knowing look in my eyes.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Ask science why it wasn’t working on something more worthwhile like cancer or calorie-free tiramisu.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
The Smurfs — and the fourth dimension: time.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Listen to trans people, highlight their stories, help them build bridges to greater visibility, particularly in the literary arts. Also, look to the youth.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A 25th hour in a 24-hour day.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we love sweet, fruity cocktails.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
I loved “Carol,” based on the Highsmith novel, “The Price of Salt.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
The chest bump. Why do straight guys do that?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Since I’m a mystery writer, the Edgar, but there was that middle school science fair where I only received honorable mention. I’m still bitter about that.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That coming out wasn’t going to be as horrible as I imagined. In fact, it wasn’t horrible at all.
D.C. is an exciting place to be. Despite its rich history, it’s still figuring out its identity as an urban space, which makes it fertile ground for writers, artists and creative thinkers.