It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that Kyle Scafide is something of a Renaissance man. Among other endeavors, he’s worked as an educator, a realtor, a musician, and a publisher (for a number of years, he was the owner and editor-in-chief of the now defunct local LGBT-themed magazines, Impact and Eclipse). He also has a Master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from UNO. I recently met with him to discuss the publication of his first novel, Angel on My Corner.
JM: Thanks for meeting with me, Kyle. How long have you been writing?
KS: I started even before I bought Impact. Before that, it was mostly for my own benefit. I’d done an article on travel and real estate for a magazine, and when I went into academia, I wrote some scholarly articles. But I’d been really wanting to write fiction since I graduated from college. In my senior year, I had the fortune of having Walker Percy as my professor, and I saved a letter that he wrote to me, encouraging me to continue writing. I look at it every now and then to make me feel better (laughs). But yeah, this is my first published book.
JM: How did Angel on My Corner come to be?
KS: The initial idea came to me over two years ago. It’s about love and friendship, and our disconnection from the world. It’s also about questioning our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil. Finally, it’s about the relationship between the sacred and the profane, the secular and the divine.
JM: I don’t want to give too much away, but the book explores themes of love and betrayal, and loss and redemption, from what is ultimately a Christian Existentialist perspective. Do you feel comfortable talking about your own spiritual journey?
KS: Absolutely. Growing up, I was very Catholic. We went to church two or three times a week. I didn’t meet my first non-Catholic until I was in fourth grade! At 17, I decided to go into the seminary. I loved it, and would not give up that experience for the world. Those were formative years for me, and I came out to some people while I was there. Then I went to grad school in Belgium for a while. It was very liberal there, and I began to question things. You realize how little you know, and how much of what you’d believed was wrong. I started to question my faith. I ended up finishing at Notre Dame, but as a lay person.
JM: How did you resolve any spiritual conflict you might have had about your sexuality?
KS: I had a core group of supportive friends who were also gay and Catholic. I continued to work as a church musician. But about ten years ago, I was fed up with what the pope was saying about homosexuality, that it was “intrinsically disordered.” I just quit. Now I consider myself an agnostic. I still believe in a higher power, but I can’t go much beyond that. I believe that there is an order of things, and that we have a responsibility to creation and to each other. But I haven’t had any church affiliation in years. Most of my spirituality now is meditation. My peace comes from getting quiet with myself, centering, and meditating on who I am in the universe, and where we are in the universe.
JM: It sounds closer to the spiritual side of agnosticism to me.
KS: Yeah, even now, one of my mantras is something from the Psalms. And the reason why I don’t feel at odds with that is because it doesn’t matter what vehicle you take to understanding and enlightenment, just that you’re headed there.
JM: You mentioned Walker Percy, but who are some of your other influences as a writer? And what do you enjoy reading?
KS: I’ve read everything that Steinbeck has written. I like the works of Dostoevsky, especially with their existential bent and themes of good and evil. Also Camus’s The Plague and The Stranger. Those are some writers that I’ve really enjoyed. Now, it’s varied. I’m in a book club, and we’re reading The Last Madam by Chris Wiltz, which has a local flavor to it. We also read Less by Andrew Sean Greer, and As Meat Loves Salt, by Maria McCann. I really enjoyed those. And sometimes I just read what I can find on Kindle, or things I find from the New York Times Book Review. I don’t usually like genre fiction, but I did enjoy Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. I don’t read much nonfiction, but I like history. And I’m a big fan of reading The New Yorker; there’s always good short fiction in there.
JM: Tell me about your time in the publishing business.
KS: I knew nothing about it, and then a dear friend of mine, Stephen Forster, a photographer for Impact, approached me and told me that the previous owner, Roy Letson, was looking to sell. When I bought it, I was very young – 30 years old – so I just had that sense that I could do anything. They were still using the typesetting method at the time, so I spent a substantial amount of money moving us into the desktop publishing era. I learned about publishing as I went along. Jon Newlin was the editor-in-chief under Roy Letson, and he stayed on with me. He really did everything! Within a matter of four years, we had quadrupled circulation, quadrupled sales. But I also had a full-time staff, so it was much more expensive than it had been. When Jon and I had a falling out, we went our separate ways, and I became editor-in-chief.
Those were different times. I’ll tell you this one story, and if Rip and Marsha were here, they’d probably tell you the same thing. When I first bought Impact, I went to the place where they had been getting Ambush printed, and I went to pick up the boards. You had to bring the boards – these big pieces of paper – to the printing press. This woman there came back holding the pages away from her like they stank, and handed them to me. That was the last time we used those printers. After that, we only got printed at places that respected us. I started shopping around, and…Does Ambush still get printed at a place in Kosciusko, Mississippi?
JM: I think so.
KS: Rip and Marsha found out my secret (laughs)! I started shopping around, and found out about this place in Kosciusko that charged less than half of what I’d been paying, which was a significant amount of money. So that really helped me devote more money to content.
JM: What writing projects are you working on now?
KS: I have several at the moment. I finished a book called My Friends, My Chosen Family, and I’m halfway through another novel. I’ve also got a memoir about my grandmother, with the working title, Adventures with Mamaw. She was just a riot, and it’s stories about her. I’m hoping to get that published next year.
JM: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to have included in print?
KS: There are some people that I offended in the past, being a publisher and editor. Not purposefully. There were a few articles I was asked to write that had to do with the way the city was handling Ryan White funding at the time. And someone ended up having to resign from her job. The person was a stalwart member of our community, and I don’t think our community would have most of the things we’ve gotten done if it weren’t for her. I think of it often. So that’s one thing. Also, after I sold Impact and Eclipse, I heard that some bad things were written about me, so I felt like I just needed to take a break from the community for a while. So now I feel like, in a way, I need to apologize for just disappearing the way I did.