In Peter Gelfan's novel, "Found Objects," a happy, bisexual and interracial triad struggles, when a fourth person arrives on the scene. Aldo and Erica were happily married, but a bit bored, when they fell in love with Marie and her two kids and became one big happy family. Until Marie's disappearing act of a husband, Jonah, shows up and wants to make amends.
Quote from Found Objects:
“I am a tidy person, my wife is not. Our lover, Marie, can go either way.”
SL: What made you decide to write about an idyllic three-way relationship?
PG: Plenty of stories recount the struggles of people from a “normal” social milieu who fall in love with someone outside of it—different nationality, race, religion, class—or discover they are gay or bi. The underlying question of such stories is, can it work? Can they find happiness? I started this story with the initial status quo of a happy bi threesome plus children in order to immediately get past the usual question and explore what happens next.
I have often been surprised and puzzled by unconventional people who are stuck in their own ways, especially when I find I’m one of them. “Found Objects” is a story about unconventional people who are pushed to go beyond their own set of conventions, and have trouble doing so. I can’t think of any unconventionality more personal or emotional than sexual nonconformity.
SL: The triad in your book included two bisexual women and a straight man. What is it about bisexuality that intrigues you?
PG: Bisexuality is intriguing in its own right, no? But that wasn’t what I found most intriguing. Throughout my life, I have always been surprised by whom I fell in love with next. I’d have a good idea of what kind of person I could go for or couldn’t, and then fall in love with someone outside my self-subscribed pool.
In “Found Objects,” none of the three central characters started off looking for a bi or polyamorous relationship. They just fell in love with one another. We have a habit of slapping labels on things, and it seems that once we have labels, we have to take sides.
SL: Have you ever been in a relationship like that of your characters? Is it a fantasy of yours?
PG: The characters and storyline of “Found Objects” are fictional but largely a mash-up of people and situations I have known and been involved with, blended together with imagination.
For me, there is a big fantasy: that such a thing could ever work. In all the actual or incipient polyamorous relationships I have in any way been a party to—by which I mean an ongoing, multi-partnered relationship rather than the occasional group-grope or swinger scene—they have all quickly fallen apart for unforeseen reasons. Somebody takes a sudden dislike to their best friend, someone else gets scared, greedy, jealous, or insecure. It’s always a big disappointment, because in principle, three or four or five seems more interesting, amicable, and viable than two. I wanted to explore this question with “Found Objects.”
SL: Do you have any personal experience with bisexuality? If so, what kind?
PG: The answer to the previous question gets into my personal history on the subject about as far as I want to go. But when more than two people are involved, the lines blur, as does the fraught question of sexual identity and any pat answers to it.
SL: So I guess you’re taking the fifth on that. What made you decide to start the book off with a threat to the triad’s idyllic existence? I found myself wishing I could have spent more time reading about their happiness before anything else was interjected.
PG: I thought about this question as I was writing. I wanted to get the plot—the conflict, the struggle—underway early. As well, I considered the state of mind readers should be in when they enter the fray. I decided that if they wanted more of the good times rather than felt sated by it and were ready for the axe to fall, they would be more in step with the characters.
SL: How do you think the children benefitted from having three or four parents at home instead of just two?
PG: These four parents, like most parents, all had something to offer the children, and all were lacking in some way. None of them was abusive or overbearing. Having four of them, delivered more good parenting and made up for more of the others’ gaps, than two parents would. I don’t see it as much different from a traditional extended family in which grandparents and uncles and aunts participate in the care and rearing of children.
SL: Why was the story told only from Aldo’s point of view? Why not alternate between characters? I would have liked to know more about what Erica and Marie were thinking. To me, the bisexual characters are the most unusual, and therefore the most interesting…why not explore them more? Although I think that keeping Jonah a bit of a mystery helps the story.
PG: This was another tough question I grappled with when I first started. I could have used at least three POV characters, but worried that in such close quarters, this could risk becoming repetitive and slowing the pace, as different characters mulled over the same events.
It’s fascinating that we all have to go through life without knowing what other people are thinking, feeling, and planning. We live in abysmal ignorance of what’s going on right around us, even if we concoct predictive scenarios as a guide, and drum up self-confidence in their laughable accuracy. In a relationship with more than two people, the problem is multiplied. I wanted Aldo’s ignorance of the others to be an important element in the story, one readers could experience with him.
SL: What made you decide to use interracial relationships in the story?
PG: The simple answer would be, why should they all be white? But there’s more to it. I thought the parallels between racism and homophobia could be useful, and I wrote this book for general readers, many of whom might be more familiar with racism.
However, that’s all after-the-fact rationalization. What really happened was that as I started to write Erica and she swam into sharper and sharper focus, I realized she was black. I slapped my forehead and said, “Why didn’t I think of that in the first place?”
SL: Aldo was able to adjust when another woman entered his couple relationship and extended it into a ménage a trois. Why couldn’t he tolerate another straight man coming into it? Why not a ménage a quatre?
PG: Good question. Don’t expect an answer from me. I was yelling at him the same thing everyone else was—“You idiot, what’s the matter with you?” That question must also top the list of all-time favorite self-interrogations. But I give Aldo credit for coming back to tackle it.
SL: Is writing about bisexuality and multi-partner relationships a one-time thing? Or do you intend to tackle this topic again?
PG: Although I’m sure it will come up again, at this point, I’m not planning it as a central topic for another novel. But you never know.