Author Adam Hurly (photo credit: Nate Poekert)
I was recently introduced to The Prospectives, a story, written by Adam Hurly, that follows a gay man making his way in New York City. Hurly is garnering attention not only because he's telling a great story but because of the platform he's using to tell it: Instagram. Every week a new part of this serial unfolds, paired with an illustration by Sam Kalda. I sat down with Hurly to talk about this exciting project:
Phillip Miner: Why did you choose Instagram for telling this story?
Adam Hurly: A couple things came into play at once. First, I wanted to write something that people could read without having to go out of their way. I wanted to find them where they already were looking. Also, telling a story in small pieces seemed like a manageable endeavor. I had heard about an app called Wattpad; essentially it's a bunch of teenage girls writing fan fiction or romantic stories. And there are some 20-year-old writers on there who have millions of readers. Between classes they'd go publish a chapter -- unedited and with typos. Within hours they would have thousands of comments. I looked at what they were doing and thought, "They're pacing their creative projects in a really healthy way." The platform wasn't for me, but I thought I could adapt it to Instagram easily, so long as I had the perfect visuals. I immediately thought of illustrator Sam Kalda, a childhood friend and fellow Brooklyn resident.
PM: How did you come up with the story?
AH: It was fairly easy. It's basically about people I might encounter in my own life and draws from the many experiences that my friends and I have had. This itself isn't a unique idea. My job was to create the characters and nuances and to tell a story that makes accurate observations, all while retaining a plausible plot. The difficult part is in making those observations without trying to arrive at any conclusions. I want readers to sometimes admire and sometimes despise these characters. I need it to feel human and sincere to modern times.
PM: You do a good job of that. The Prospectives really mirrors being gay in New York City right now.
AH: Thanks! I'm happy you think so. I want this piece to be a time capsule. To do that I have to accurately represent how people communicate. There's a lot happening with phones: Characters are communicating -- or miscommunicating -- via texting, they're cruising Grindr and chatting with men who then ignore them in the bar, or they're flirting with some guy in person who is too distracted by his hookup app to give him proper attention.
PM: All of this has happened to me.
AH: Me too! I passed someone on the street, and we looked each other in the eyes, recognized each other from apps, and we nodded at each other, like, "Oh, hello. You're the guy who lives 967 feet away from me." We both smiled in acknowledgment; it felt really neighborly. I think that's the way it should be. I've also passed this guy on my block with whom I went on a date and then texted for a couple weeks after, and even though we both faded out amicably, he totally ignores me as if we've never met. I really don't understand it. I don't lose any sleep over that, but it's such curious behavior.
PM: More than just apps, I noticed many different types of gay relationships are represented in The Prospectives. Was that intentional?
AH: Very much so. I try to use all of these characters to show different aspects of dating and sex. The main character, Eric, has dated two different people at this point. This first guy is his age and demographic, but the relationship isn't taking off because of intimacy issues and the allure of hookup culture. Then Eric dates a much older man he finds attractive because he sees an ideal future version of himself. Conversely, I think the older man, Simon, is attracted to Eric's potential.
Adam Hurly and Sam Kalda (photo credit: Daniel Seung Lee)
PM: I noticed that identity was an important theme throughout your story.
AH: Yes. First of all, the name "The Prospectives" works on two levels. Most obviously it takes place in Prospect Heights, but more importantly each of the main characters is a "prospective" something. They're all teeming with potential to affect their communities and industries. Because the story takes place in New York, a lot of this transformation occurs around work. In New York, your job is your identity; the first thing people ask is "What do you do?" A lot of people come here to define themselves professionally. These main characters are on that wavelength. They're here to work hard. They're here to make an impact that ultimately benefits their life. They're in their late 20s, finding more responsibilities at work that affect their personal lives. This can only affect the way they see the world and the way they interact with one another. For example, the main character is given a fake name by his boss. This person with a different name becomes this really ugly version of himself, but a version who's successful in his field. I spend a lot of time developing how he tries to hold on to his original identity and take the lessons he's learned and try to branch out in his own direction. At the heart of all of this is exploring how identity is resultant of where these characters came from and where they're going. It's a story about growing up and how we adapt to a push-and-shove environment when we are most dynamic and susceptible. I think about this every day: The longer I live here, the more callous I am. However, I am also more sincere and more confident. I'm originally from South Dakota, and I feel further away from that mild-mannered foundation each day, for better or for worse. I'm just trying very hard to keep it in my rearview as my foot is pushing hard on the pedal.