Humans of TCGMC: Chris Unger
*Prior to this conversation, Josh and Chris discussed his background in vocal performance, from high school musicals to community theater.
Chris: I’m eagerly awaiting your next prompt!
Josh: THAT’S BECAUSE I’M TRYING TO THINK OF WHAT THAT WOULD BE. BECAUSE I HONESTLY DON’T KNOW. WHAT CAN I LEARN ABOUT CHRIS? I KNOW YOU LIKE TO PERFORM, BUT WHAT ELSE DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN LIFE?
Chris: My other job is at Barnes and Noble. I’ve worked there for over a decade now. So books are a big part of my life. Last year, I actually made a New Year’s resolution to read every single day. It didn’t matter how little or how much – just as long as I was reading every day. I’ve now kept that for almost 2 years, and at the beginning of this year, I added writing every day to that. Since January 1st this year, I have written and read something every single day.
Josh: GIVE ME SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF SOME OF THE THINGS YOU READ.
Chris: A little bit of everything. My friends and I are part of a book club, but for the most part, I read whatever catches my eye. I’m the kind of person who, if I see something interesting, goes ahead and buys it. I don’t care if I don’t have space on my shelves for it, because it’s there when I need it, whether I read it next week or next year. I keep a written journal of my readings for the year so I can look back and see what I read throughout the year. Sometimes it’s short stories, sometimes it’s historical or contemporary fiction. Sometimes it’s young adult literature.
Josh: TEEN VAMPIRE ROMANCE NOVELS?
Chris: I haven’t quite branched out to that genre yet, but I wouldn’t put it past me.
Josh: THAT’S A VERY MINNESOTAN THING TO SAY.
Chris: Well I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, so that’s right on the money!
Josh: WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO YOU WRITE?
Chris: Starting out in the year, I would pick random things to write, like a short story or a scene. Occasionally something very fact-based based on my experiences. One time, I was sitting at a coffee shop, trying to figure out what to write that day, and I came up with this crazy plot of someone who overhears a terrorist plot, and then tries to stop this horrible thing from happening. Lately, though, I’ve been continuously writing the same story every day, since mid-October. It’s kind of a murder-mystery type novel with a supernatural element.
Josh: HOW LONG IS IT? WHAT’S IT ABOUT? DO YOU TYPE OR WRITE?
Chris: I’ve lost track of how many pages. I write it out by hand. I’m actually on my third journal this year, so I’ve already filled two journals. I’ve probably written 70-80 pages of handwritten story for it. It takes place in the 80s in a northern Minnesotan small town. This very strange murder of a truck driver happens. It’s very unusual at how gruesome it is. So they start investigating this, and another murder happens, with the same M.O. There’s a high school kid who is also a hustler on the side. It’s the 80s, so there’s this whole “down low, cruising” culture. And it turns out his family has a connection to some other murders in the area. He’s finding about his family’s past, and somehow it’s all going to come together to stop these murders. That’s basically it, without giving too much away!
Josh: CHRIS, THIS IS SO MUCH COOLER! YOU WERE A FABULOUS PERFORMER IN “SHE’S GOT YOU” IN THE PRIDE CONCERT THIS YEAR, BUT YOU GOT SO MUCH MORE ANIMATED TALKING ABOUT YOUR WRITING.YOU GOT EXCITED TO TELL ME ABOUT THE STORY. I’M WILLING TO BET A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT YOU WRITE.
Chris: I think unless someone’s seen me writing, they probably don’t know. It’s funny because I think you’re the first person I’ve ever explained the plot to. It feels good to finally share with someone. I love books so much, and I’ve forged so many friends with authors.
A lot of times, if I really like a book, I’ll try and find the author on Twitter, and I’ll send them a message. More often than not, I get a response back – even if it’s just a thank you. I’ve forged relationships where they’ll send me stuff. There’s a couple of great LGBT authors, like David Levithan, who wrote “Two Boys Kissing,” which the chorus did two years ago. The first time I went to New York, we went to dinner and a show together. We’ve got a real friendship going. The other, Bill Konigsberg, writes young adult gay-oriented books. I’ve always kept him on the back burner. I think I started following him on Facebook, and he sent me a manuscript for his new book, called The Bridge. He asked me about my opinions. It was amazing, because it was his baby, and he was giving it to me and trusting me to look over it. He said he’d put me in the special thanks section of the book.
Josh: DAMN, YOU’RE COOL. I THINK YOU SHOULD SHARE THAT WITH MORE PEOPLE. WELL, I MEAN, YOU’RE GOING TO BE WITH THIS. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR YOU? HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED GETTING INVOLVED IN A MORE FORMAL WAY IN THE WRITING WORLD?
Chris: I think if I could get something published, it would make my life. I’ve spent so much time meeting some of these amazing authors. I’ve actually gone to a lot of author events. I’ve been to the last two National Book Festivals, and I’ve gotten to meet some giants of the writing world. Andre Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name, Amy Tan, who wrote The Joy Luck Club, I got to meet them and talk to them one-on-one. I got to meet Madeleine Albright ––
Josh: SHUT UP.
Chris: And she wrote a book called Fascism. It was saying, “America, look at what Donald Trump is doing. It looks like a lot of these instances.” Because she comes from a country that was under the former Soviet Republic. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I did get to hear her speak this year. Even though she’s very fragile physically, her mind and her spirit are vibrant.
Whenever I meet someone like that, I’m inspired. For a long time, I’ve considered myself an old soul. I’ve always had a deep connection to the past, and I think it’s through reading and writing that I can grasp the ungraspable. If you ever come to my apartment, you’ll see that it’s basically antiques and books and antique books. I like to see where we’ve come from. It weighs heavily on me.
My story, for example, is set in the 1980s. Even though I don’t have a real physical connection to that decade, I never get tired of reading stories about the AIDS epidemic. Even though I feel privileged to be living in a time where the LGBT community is not as frightening and abnormal, because it’s been normalized, there is still plenty of work to do. Those who have come before have had to go through the hardest of the hardships – through grief and pain – and I don’t want that to be something that’s ever forgotten.
Josh Elmore (he/him), singer and member of our small ensemble OutLoud!, created Humans of TCGMC in 2018. He graduated from Carleton College with a B.A. in Linguistics and has since worked in sales, higher education, and, most recently, as a bilingual insurance agent (Spanish). Endlessly curious, he has dabbled in improv theater, stand-up comedy, sword fighting, the cello, and modeling for fantasy-themed photo shoots.