Dad of All Trades

By Richard Schultz, Nov. 6, 2014.

As if parenting, screenwriting, directing, teaching wasn’t enough to keep Abdi Nazemian (pictured) busy, the 38-year-old recently added novelist to his list of accomplishments.

Nazemian is the screenwriter of The Quiet, Celeste in the City and Revolution, which he also directed. And his debut novel, The Walk-in Closet, is already creating quite a buzz — it’s already been named the winner in “Gay and Lesbian Fiction” at the 2014 International Books Awards.0

Echo chatted with Nazemian about his new novel, his latest screenwriting project and his life as a gay dad in Los Angeles.

Echo: What inspired you to write your first novel?

Nazemian: I have always wanted to write about Iranian culture. Growing up gay, I experienced one culture at home and another outside in the community with different message from each. Home was a microcosm of Iranian culture and I was inspired by that duality … I’ve been told that I’m one of the few writers who are exploring Iranian gay life.

Echo: Whose work has influenced you?

Nazemian: My novel reflects different inspirations. Certainly my years as a child watching old movies had an impact on me. The book is glossy and fun, but tackles important issues without hitting the reader over the head. I like to merge genres and mix mystery and comedy with drama. I am drawn to work by director Pedro Almodóvar whose work is funny, sad and mysterious at the same time.

Echo: What were you like as a child?

Nazemian: I was obsessed with Archie comics. I also watched old Hollywood movies. They fascinated me. I was a 10-year-old obsessed with movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. I thought I was the only boy like that. Years ago, I went to a screening of Mommie Dearest and discovered the entire audience also quoting lines with the film. I realized that I was not alone and my experience was shared by a larger community of other gay men. I named my dog Hedy Lamar — that says it all.

Echo: What’s your take on gay parenthood?

Nazemian: I have 3-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. I do find myself making different parenting choices. My children reflect me. They both like Madonna. When asked their favorite song, they both answer, “Vogue.”

Echo: What prompted your choice to have children?

Nazemian: As I have gotten older, I wanted to continue the cycle of life. I enjoy the daily surprises and constant change. Parenthood makes me focus on the day to day rather than the distant future.

Echo: Since your novel incorporates Iranian culture, are you sharing that culture with your children a well?

Nazemian: We speak and read French together; they are learning Farsi as well, I play Iranian music. As I share these experiences with my twins, my appreciation of the richness of Iranian culture has deepened.

Echo: Has being a dad impacted your writing?

Nazemian: It has definitely made me a better writer. I’m more empathetic and compassionate in my outlook. I also seek out work that means more to me. I want to create things that reflect me. I want my kids to look at my work with pride. I’m writing more about parenthood. Even in my new screenwriting project about Rebel Without A Cause, I’ve found that James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo were teenagers searching for a parental figure. And, in several ways, director Nicholas Ray became a flawed parent figure for them.

Echo: What is your process in developing this James Dean script?

Nazemian: I’ve done tons of research. It’s clear to me that Dean was bisexual. Of course, in 1955 Hollywood, that would never be revealed. Mineo was gay and the director Nicholas Ray was bisexual as well. So, there was a lot of sexual tension on the set of Rebel Without A Cause.

Echo: What’s the status of the script?

Nazemian: I’m working with Waters End production company. Once I do my research, I let my imagination verve away from total truth to create a compelling narrative. The public’s knowledge is limited on Dean’s sexuality. I’ve created an ensemble script that tackles adult topics; something that old Hollywood did so well.

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