Every year numerous small-town gay men flock to Toronto in search of more exciting lives. Yet many will find that our nation’s largest city can be treacherous for naive and trusting boys.
This easy-to-relate-to situation is the jumping-off point for Karldon Okruta’s debut novel, Kaz. A young man from small-town Ontario makes the move to Toronto only to come into contact with a psychotic hustler and is driven to take actions he never dreamed of.
Okruta may be familiar to Ottawa queers, as he worked at the now-defunct gay haunts Club 363 and Briefs before opening his own establishment, Franky’s on Frank, which closed just after the new millennium broke.
The newly minted author describes his debut work as romantic suspense and says he most definitely used his extensive experience working in Ottawa’s gay bar scene as inspiration for his novel.
“The experience of being in the hospitality industry allows me to recognize certain characters, certain personalities that stood out a little bit more than others that I was able to incorporate to build my own characters.”
However, Okruta says that while the novel may be semi-autobiographical, he guarantees that no one in Ottawa should be afraid to find themselves in his book’s pages.
“Nobody here needs to hire a lawyer,” Okruta says with a laugh. “Now that the story is written, quite funnily, I’m finding my real life getting into what Kaz is going through. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god, did I just write out my whole fate?’ There are elements, of course, with the main character and the subsequent characters in the book, where there are personalities of people I’ve crossed paths with. I’ve taken certain elements of characters, but it is all fictional.”
As for his readers, Okruta invokes one of his favourite sayings to express his gratitude.
“If people could love each other as much as I personally love my readers, then I think we would definitely have a more peaceful world to live in.”