Local author talks about ‘when you don’t know’

By |2004-03-11T09:00:00-05:00March 11th, 2004|Uncategorized|

Tony Manson is a busy man. A graduate of Ferris State University, he has an associates degree in cosmetology and a bachelors in retail marketing, both of which he puts to work for him every day. In the daylight hours he works for Directions salon, which is it situated on Grand River near the Motorcity Casino, just above the trendy martini bar Half Past Three, which he manages by night.
As if that’s not enough to keep him busy, Manson has recently added author to his resume, releasing his first book, “When You Don’t Know,” last year.
“It’s actually about a man coming into his own, a young black man, who is gay, learning life’s lessons,” explained Manson, who decided to set his story in Detroit. “A lot of stories I read take place in Chicago, New York, Atlanta; and I’m 40 years old, and there’s a lot of things in this city that happened that don’t exist any more. The city has just changed completely. So I just decided to go back in time, to my time of just coming out, when things were exciting. Back then, there was always something to do.”
Set in the early 80s, Manson uses several local landmarks in his book that no longer exist, clubs like the Continental, Shoppers, Todds and the old Bookies. But the heart of the story is not the location it takes place in, so much as the life it chronicles, that of a young man named Peyton Nixon.
“He goes through an ordeal where the first man he really falls in love with ends up cheating on him, and he learns that sometimes you’ve got to forgive and forget,” said Manson. “They end up going their separate ways, but as years go on, they end up meeting again. He learned that love is love. Everybody makes mistakes. You just can’t count one and count it out. That’s with everything, friendships, sisters, brothers – everybody makes mistakes. But he had to learn that.”
So is that where the title comes from?
“Everybody asks me, ‘What is it that you don’t know?’ But it’s not a question. It’s a statement, and the statement is when you don’t know life’s lessons, love, what’s good you for you, what you don’t know. Then the thing is when you realize you’ve learned the moral to the story, a lesson.”
Manson has learned many of those lessons himself, but he says he and Peyton are not the same person. “Peyton is not me, but Peyton shares a lot of my emotions,” he said. “I’d say maybe 40 percent of Peyton is me.”
It’s been several years now since Manson first starting writing Peyton, something that was not planned.
“A friend of mine, she had a little dinner party, and one of her friends, we sat and started talking, and there was like a 20-year age difference between him and I, but we had a lot of things in common,” Manson recalled. “He told me, he said, ‘I think you should write a book.’ I blew him off, but then I went and got a little cassette tape recorder, and I made about six or seven tapes, just different scenes. It wasn’t consistent, it was just different scenes and I was trying to get the feel of it. So I let him listen to them and what he told me is that I needed to make them more personal, more real. He said I needed to attach some of my emotion to it. So then I took that input, and I sat down and I just started writing it, longhand, and it just started coming to life to me. I could see Peyton, visualize him, and that was it.”
When Manson finished his story, he didn’t even consider finding a publisher. Instead, he decided to publish it himself.
“I wanted it to be the way that I wrote it,” he said. “My biggest fear was that if I got a publisher, they were going to change or edit or rewrite it. I put a lot of effort into writing it. A lot of comments I get from people have been that it’s very vivid and descriptive, but you know, I just wanted to get rid of the myth of, you know, people see gay love just one way. I just wanted to show that it’s emotional, it’s romantic, all those things exist, it’s just not that preconceived notion that they had. Love is love across the board, no matter who you are.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.