Scroll To Top

Ask & Tell

Ask & Tell


Do you have a lifelong dream you secretly suspect will never come true? Maybe it's learning to fly an airplane or backpacking through Europe or running the Boston Marathon. For Robert L. Sheeley, that enduring fantasy was writing the great American novel. But it wasn't until the Cleveland native was diagnosed with HIV at 34 that he took his first steps toward turning his aspiration into reality. Today, after years of writing, pitching to publishers, rewriting, and countless other challenges, Sheeley's dream has come to fruition. His debut novel, Rainbow Plantation Blues, has been published. How did Rainbow Plantation Blues come about? I was diagnosed with HIV in August 2002, and up to that point my priority in life was sex with hot men. But finding out I had HIV made me rearrange those priorities. Writing a novel was a dream I'd had my whole life but never really thought would come true. Why do you think it took learning that you had HIV to finally turn that dream into reality? For a lot of people, when they find out they have HIV, they sort of give up on living and they give up on their dreams. For me, it was the opposite; it was a wake-up call. It forced me to slow down, take a step back, and focus on what truly was important in my life. The book explores an American slave owner's same-sex relationship with one of his slaves. Why did that theme appeal to you? I'm a history buff, particularly American history and the era of slavery. And I always thought to myself, I wonder if slave masters were screwing around with the men as well as the women? It makes sense that some were, but it had never been discussed before. It seemed to be a story that's never been told but needed to be. You acknowledge in the author's bio in the book that you have HIV. Why is it important for you to let readers know that? A lot of people living with HIV are closeted about it, ashamed of themselves, feeling alone. They need concrete examples of the fact that we still can'and do''have goals and dreams. We still can work to realize them and shatter self-induced and societal myths about our plights. I want others to know that if I can do it, then so can they''no matter what!

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Bob Adams