QWS PODCAST S1E4 – Peter Coleman
In this episode Rob interviews Peter Coleman, about his new book Weekends with Matt. Rob also talks books with Jo @BlarneyBooks & Art; a graphic novel, I Do Not Have an Eating Disorder, by Khale McHurst, and An Exciting and Vivid Inner Life by Paul Dalla Rosa.
Peter Coleman’s Instagram @petercolemanauthor
You can see Peter Coleman at the Dunkeld Writers Festival
Matt Fowles – https://www.fowleswine.com/
Matt’s Instagram – @fowles_wine
Peter Coleman’s Shout Outs
Somm – documentary
We Were Not Men, by Campbell Mattinson
Son of Sin, by Omar Sakr
Raised by Wolves, by Jess Ho
Single, Out – TV show
QWS Podcast S1E4 – Peter Coleman interview transcript
Please note: this interview transcript has been modified slightly for ease of reading.
Rob: This month’s guest is Peter Coleman. Peter has a PhD in cultural studies from Monash University where he tutored in Eastern religion and philosophy. After leaving university, he began a career in the not-for-profit sector where he now works as a consultant. Peter is also an authorized marriage, celebrant and occasional tarot-card reader. He lives in Melbourne with his husband, Mike and an ever expanding book collection. Peter and Matt Fowles book, Weekends with Matt, was published end of last month in July and is available at all good bookshops through Affirm Press. A very warm welcome, Peter.
Peter: Thank you so much for having me, Rob.
Rob: An absolute pleasure. And I just have to say, I really love the book and we have a lot to discuss. We have an opening question that we ask all of our guests at QWS and that is how has your work influenced identity?
Peter: I wrote you a message before today, ‘cause you sent the question out beforehand and I thought it was such a fantastic question. I sort of contemplated it a lot over the past week and I think the big way my work in writing the book, Weekends with Matt, has really impacted me is like so many people in the LGBTIQA plus community I’ve had my share of struggles with depression, anxiety self-criticism. I do touch on all of those things in the book at times and you know, I’m definitely not alone. It’s a very common experience for particularly for people in the community. And I actually, in terms of impacting my identity, I found writing weekends with Matt a really helpful experience.
In fact, because I was writing myself, I mean it’s from my first person perspective, writing myself as something of a, seeing myself as kind of a character in the book and doing my level best to be as authentic and honest about myself in my portrayal and myself, I had the ability to look at myself and my own imperfections and my own character in a kind of more compassionate way I would say as I wrote.
And so I, I experienced a level of self-understanding that I hadn’t really had before writing it. And so in that way, I would say it’s had a, a healing influence of my identity.
Rob: Fantastic. Yeah. I love that. Thank you.
Now for our listeners, I’m just going read the blurb on this beautiful book. And we’ll put it up on our socials as well. But just to describe it’s – is that Claret?
Peter: <Laugh> I think so I think it’s a, yeah, it’s a deep red, Claret red.
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Claret deep red and this amazing peacock (describing the book’s cover).
So, Weekends with Matt, the peacock’s tale describes a wine that is complex and rewarding. A wonderful metaphor for life. Weekends with Matt is a classic odd couple tale of two very different men, and the common ground that can be found over a shared passion. It was somewhere between the Chardonnay and the Zin, Fidel that did I say that right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> that Peter realized he didn’t have a clue about wine on his way to a dinner party and an mild panic. He called Matt a wine loving acquaintance who expertly stared him towards the perfect bottle. The selection was a hit, but it was Matt’s passion that stuck in Peter’s mind. He decided to visit Matt’s vineyard for an introduction to the noble grape one visit led to another. And this unlikely pairing of a pro quoting intellectual and a farmer with a love of hunting found themselves bonding over life ideas, vulnerability, aspiration, nature philosophy.
And of course, a glass of three of wine.
Like a tipsy Tuesdays with Morrie, this well-crafted tale is as much a guide to life as the mysteries of wine.
I loved the wide range of conversations you had had from a wine variety and how it’s grown and made, along with life reflections of philosophy. And it really did, each chapter reminded me of those great conversations you had with friends sometimes late in the night, and you really get into the meaning of life and, and all that beautiful messiness that comes with life. So how, how did the idea for this book come about? Cause it is so unique.
Peter: Yeah, it was interesting because we had discussed it for many years and both of us were – and you know, as it recounts in the book I met Matt and I became friends 20, more than 20 years ago when we met in Florence on a university trip which was a fantastic experience and we’d stayed in touch generally – but you know, very on and off long periods without speaking and so forth. But you know one of those relationships where you sort of click back in when you do speak yeah. And we’d had this idea and quite genuinely, as I talk about in the book, watching the documentary Somm, yes, had really opened my eyes because as I say, I’m by nature, not a big drinker and I don’t, I didn’t know anything about wine. I don’t generally drink that much alcohol.
And so, but I was very interested. Particularly watching Somm about how this world of wine and it just opened things up to the people that were so invested in it. And it had so many different layers and dimensions to it. And I just found their passion really inspiring. Like I, I thought, wow, something that’s so involved and intense. And, and then I also thought, well, wine’s often in the past been associated with philosophy, which we touch on and, and sort of seen as the philosopher’s drink.
And so Matt and I had sort of workshop and discussed these ideas over the years and then nothing really came of it, but we, we talked about it a lot and had conversations about it. And then when COVID hit I was, you know, working as a consultant, as I still do, my work really dried up during that period. And I was sort of at a loose end for anything to do, like a lot of people. And I contacted Matt and I was like, “Shall we do the book?” And he said, yes.
So that was kind of how it all happened. And it was a really a sort of amazing experience made 2020. I know from a lot of people (2020) was a really terrible year. And of course for me personally, I had a great time <laugh> so yeah.
Rob: So with you and Matt writing the book, were you like, were you sort of, did you plan it out together? Were you just doing chapter by chapter? How did that all work?
Peter: So again, it is all, I mean, we had to mix and match conversations with places we had visited together, but had necessary obviously had those conversations at those places at those times. And I clarified that at the beginning, but what we did was we did get together when we had the opportunity and did plan it out. Plan out by wine and by theme. And we talked a lot about the different wines and how they relate and their natures and, and how that draws out different themes.
We also recorded conversations. So we had conversations and recorded them. And then a friend of mine, who’s an editor, transcribed the conversations for us. Which was hugely useful. Yes. And then I essentially did the writing. So it was, we had the conversations and then I would sit down, turn out the chapters and then I would send through to Matt, he would look through give any feedback he had, and then we sort of evolved the process from there.
Rob: Wow. That, I mean, it must have also – from what you had already done to then also have this project -you know, your friendship must be from doing this book, must have really, even furthered the friendship
Peter: I’ve said that to him a few times, like I say, “You know, of all the great things that have come out of doing this book the way our friendship has deepened through that experience has been one of the best things.” Like just incredible gift. And I’m so looking forward to the experience of the book being out there and getting to sort of show the friendship, but absolutely.
Rob: Cause by the end of, you know, end of the book, it really feels like a like a, is it familiar, or a family bond that you (both) have.
Peter: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, one thing, one thing that kind of came of it, which wasn’t this, the intention at the beginning, but it ended up evolving into this book about friendship. I think fundamentally more than anything, it is a book about friendship. It’s a portrait of a friendship. And I think another thing that’s, I sort of realized in reflection after the book was written, was there aren’t that many books, or media, that portray a close friendship between a straight man and a gay man? You don’t actually see it that often in media. Absolutely.
Rob: Yeah. And I was gonna say that’s what I also love that, you know, that representation around the friendship and yes, it’s a gay man and a straight man and you’re absolutely right. And the care that goes in there. Yes. So no, well done, I think.
Yeah. And I mean, another thing I realised just to, just before we move on, is that in a weird way, going through that process, if anything, I realised I probably had more prejudices against Matt than he had against me, which was kind of an irony. Particularly when we first met, I mean less so over time, but I had, you know, like a lot of gay men had been, you know, experienced bullying growing up and so forth. And you know, this was often directed from, you know, men and I had quite, I think negative ideas of straight men generally in my, in my head. And yeah. My friendship with Matt is one example of a number of friendships I have, which have really, you know, help me overcome that prejudice from my end, which is interesting.
Rob: Yeah. Very interesting. And I think we also see Matt examining, toxic masculinity and where he is in that. And he’s not, but do you know what I mean? But that awareness of this is a problem and this is, you know, being part of a segment that is problematic. And what does that mean? You know, when you are a heterosexual. Yeah, so that, I think that was really well done in the book like this examination. And like you said, your examination of that relationship to heterosexual men who, you know, I shouldn’t say, I’m not talking about all
Oh, of course, but
Rob: But are the majority of perpetrators of violence towards gay men, like that’s the story.
People who write memoir, I often wonder how it feels to have aspects of your life out now in such a public way?
Peter: Yeah. That’s a really good question ‘cause in a lot of ways it is quite terrifying if I’m really honest. And, but it was something that both me and Matt talked about in the book, and I pushed for probably more than that in the first instance, where I was saying, “We have to be honest about who we are. People don’t want to read about sort of two-dimensional personas. I want to read about people, perhaps struggles, imperfections, and who are honest about that and have a sense of humor about that.
But putting myself out there, particularly I can speak from my half about my personal struggles, my difficulties coming out, my issues with depression, anxiety and things like that. It was very difficult. You know, you do really feel you have to sort of move through a level of discomfort. But I also felt that by talking about that, I know from my own part reading about other people who’ve had those experiences, I found really useful myself. Yes. Yes. So that was something I felt would, would deepen the book and be of service to the reader. Hopefully. So that was something I really thought about. But yeah, it is, it is confronting.
Rob: But like you say, I mean, you both come across so authentic and yeah, sharing that. And it’s just, there’s so many readers who are going to hard relate to, “Yes, this was my experience or I know someone who went through that.” So no, I think it was courageous – anyone who does memoir. I always say how brave I think they’re, but I just think, it’s a really wonderful thing to do.
So did you have and we’ll, we’ll get to sort of tips about writing. But, but did you have a mentor? Or when it came to writing, and writing memoir, was there anyone you could sort of touch base with outside of that?
Peter: That’s a no, no I didn’t. I think, and again, I’ll talk about it later. I think my life of reading served me a lot. I’ve done a huge amount of reading. I’m a big reader. And so I think that, more than anything, helped me. Yeah. So, no I did, but I didn’t have.
I found it though, a very time consuming, obviously as any writer, I will tell you <laugh>, as you know yourself, you are a writer, so you know, it takes a lot of time. Yeah. But I really enjoyed, and maybe also an added benefit of writing it during lockdown. I really lost myself in the world of the book. And so I found that part of it sort of enjoyable for me. I got to lose myself in that world and while the world was, you know, going through crisis, it was kind of a, a wonderful place to escape to. Yeah. So in, I think that was a real benefit to the writing process.
Rob: Yeah. And one of the reasons I, I asked that as well is because right at the beginning, when you said, you know, seeing yourself on the page almost as a character, I mean, that’s absolutely, I hear that from people who have written memoir and teach memoir, so that’s spot on.
Now I loved learning about wine and my knowledge is just completely, very limited. So my question is, have you continued your wine education? Do you still enjoy wine? Do you enjoy it obviously more so now that you have had this education?
Peter: So yes, I enjoy it a lot more than I used to a hundred percent. I wouldn’t say I’ve actually this year. I had unfortunately, out of it now, but I had quite a big chunk of long COVID. Which I’ve now fortunately got on over quite recently. Yeah. So I haven’t been drinking much wine or alcohol this year ‘cause I didn’t really feel like it, but generally yes, I, I do enjoy wine a lot more. I found Matt’s way, teaching wine really open and accessible – and I hope that comes through in the book – that absolutely literally anybody, it is not, it is not in itself difficult. You know, if you have an imagination, you can enjoy wine essentially. And that aspect of it really opened up my world. And also, I mean, I’ve had funny experiences with wine since, because for example, Campbell Mattinson who writes that lovely quote on the cover and has been a big supporter of the book. He is a very well-regarded wine critic and I’d never heard of (him) beforehand because like I didn’t know about (wine). He’s also a novelist and his novel, We Were Not Men, a big shout out amazing book, fabulous novel, read it, everyone listening.
But he, and I’ve sort of developed a friendship. And he’s taken me to the City Wine Shop and taken me wine tasting. That’s been an amazing experience ‘cause we just got to sit down and Campbell’s a very humble person. He wouldn’t sort of boast about his ability or anything, but you know, we tasted wine together and just sort of talked about the wine very gently and yeah, that’s an amazing experience. And absolutely I do have a much greater appreciation and wine, I suppose nowadays is a lot more accessible to me. Like I’m not intimidated by wine. I will give it a go. I will do tasting, I will tell friends how to do tasting, which not difficult. And then, you know, go through detecting seeing what comes up for you. Does it provoke memories? What does it evoke for you? Does it, do you get feelings out of it? So yes, absolutely. I wouldn’t say I I’m a, a consistent wine drinker still to this day, but I definitely do have a much bigger appreciation for wine and enjoyment of wine.
Rob: Yeah. Brilliant. I love that in the book in chapter where, where, you know, exploring a different variety and it’s colour, then…
Peter: Then taste. Yeah.
Rob: Right. and just how, how Matt was saying, and you were grasping this idea that it’s different for every single person. Yeah. And I love that sort of really broke down that idea that it’s just a sort of fortress of knowledge that no can, you can’t access unless you’ve grown up on a vineyard. Yeah, yeah. Just beautifully done.
Peter: And I mean, that’s sort of, well, thank you. And I mean the thing with wine is what happens is once you do feel it’s successful and you do start accessing and then thinking, well, that smells kind of like flowers or that tastes like plums or whatever your palate you’ll find will start to open up more. So you’ll discover that the smells that come through, the tastes that come through, what you’re seeing in the wine, it will expand because your sort of your wine imagination will begin to be activated as it works.
Rob: Amazing. Amazing. So you just yeah, you’re starting to so does that cut across to, did you find like with food and meals you were starting to think, or you could kind of switch it off?
Peter: I suppose it’s something wine because you’re so deliberate about it when, when you’re doing wine tasting is you’re really taking the time and, but definitely, I mean food hugely
Rob: Because you do Matt and yourself do talk about that pairing between
Peter: Oh, absolutely.
Rob: Yeah. Fascinating.
Peter: Yeah. Matt and Matt’s very much thinks about wine in terms of food. That’s a huge, hugely informs his thinking and I’m very excited. You know, I always love going to the winery cuz you know, he always treats me with such delicious food at the Cellar Door. That’s amazing. I live a very good life in that regard, but he, yeah. Food. And, but I suppose the key thing is, you know, it’s that Proust quote that I say earlier in the book, you know, the true voyage of discovery is not to see new places, but to see with new eyes. And so I suppose kind of the key to it is the wine, or the appreciation of wine gradually, hopefully builds your level of attention where you are appreciating any number of different things. You can appreciate music, art, nature… anything, you know. It’s just that level of attention and allowing your imagination in to expand out what you’re experiencing.
Rob: Yeah. And look, I, I highly recommend this book to everyone because I just think it’s fantastic and I love this philosophy and that you also touch on it in the book around what you were just describing in terms of, you know, getting more present in that actual moment you’re tasting, you are there. You’re not thinking, “What do I need to do tomorrow?” So there’s something beautiful about being able to be so grounded now. Shout out to Matt. His name of his vineyard for our listeners?
Peter: Fowles Wine. It’s in the Strathbogie Ranges. He’s probably most famous for his “Ladies who shoot their lunch” wine. So definitely keep an eye out for that. That and you know, his Shiraz was on the top 100 wines in the world recently in Wine Spectator magazine. Yeah. So yeah, but there definitely, if you out his way swing past his winery, go to Cellar Door at Fowles Wine, the food is delicious, the wine delicious. It’s a beautiful place, so yeah.
Rob: Brilliant, brilliant. And before we get onto the writing question, what is your hope for this book being out in the world?
Peter: Yeah. I, I really hope people come to it not worried. They don’t need to even be interested in wine necessarily. I mean, you can definitely learn a lot about wine and appreciate, but I think I, my hope is people will come to it with the idea that it’s a book about friendship. It’s a book about understanding. It’s a book about looking past surfaces, looking more deeply into things and, and really connecting. And that includes with other people with yourself, with your life, you know, looking and thinking more deeply. And I think that’s, that’s the core message of the book and wine is sort of a vehicle for talking about that. But again, I would really encourage people. I hope won’t be intimidated by the wine aspect because you know, it’s not intimidating in the book. All can easily learn about the basics of wine appreciation, but more than that, it’s about, as I say, at the end of the book about so much more than wine, you know, and that’s the key thing. Yeah.
Rob: Brilliant. Thank you. Now, for listeners out there who are writing, and maybe they’re beginning or emerging, any top tips.
Peter: Yeah. So my first one I mentioned earlier is read. And I mean, writers read and what I always recommend is read widely. Read multiple genres, read fiction, nonfiction. Don’t be intimidated by scary books either. You know, give them a go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything. I think just a constant diet of reading is just so essential to writing.
Another thing I’d say is it’s, it’s never too late, you know, I’m 41 this year. I started, you know, I <laugh> thank you. I started writing the book when I was 39. I’d sort of given up my dream of becoming a writer, and you know, part of one of the blocks in my head was like, “Oh, it’s too late to start writing and so forth.”
Peter: It’s never too late. You know, as I say, you, you’ve never missed the boat, the perfect age to start writing your book is the age you are right now. So that, that’s a big thing I’d say. And then the other one is trust your own process. So find your process and work with that. Don’t think there’s a particularly right way to write. I know for a lot of people, the way they write is doing it – a lot of drafting, which is fantastic method, draft and redraft. I tend to be one of those writers that’s very, quite slow and I tend to be very methodical and try and work through everything. And it doesn’t mean I don’t redraft, but yeah, you know, I would do that less because I’m very much focus on each bit as I go. But work with what works for you. Find a process and just trust in that. That’s what I’d say. And don’t get too hung up on techniques. They can be helpful, but you know find the voice that you want and trust that I think.
Rob: Beautiful. That’s fantastic. Fantastic voice. Thank you. So something that we ask all of our guests is a shout out question.
So firstly, how can listeners connect with you on socials, any events? Website?
Peter: So my best socials is my Instagram. So I’m @PeterColemanauthor or one word. So if you go to Peter Coleman author, that’s probably where the majority of my social media activity goes on. So check that out. Also, please check out Matt’s Fowles wine @fowles_wine to check him out there.
In terms of upcoming events, probably the big one in the not too distant future is the Dunkeld Writers Festival, which is happening from the 26th to 28th of August at the Royal mail hotel, which has fantastic food there. I’ll be with Rick Morton, who’s another writer he’s presenting there, and that should be really fun. And we’re presenting with Jess ho who’s another firm author and they’re a non-binary author and we’ll be talking about food and wine. So it should be really fun.
Rob: That sounds amazing. And so for our listeners, I’ll have all of that in our show notes as well. Perfect. And also like to give you the opportunity, if you want to shout out any LGBTIQA plus artists, books shows organizations, social media accounts, anything you like.
Peter: Yeah, absolutely. So the ones I’d shout out to is, again, Affirm Press who published Weekends with Matt. They’re a great supporter of LGBTIQA Plus authors. A particularly a book I’ve loved recently is Son of Sin by Omar Sakr, a queer author, and it’s amazing. Jess ho who I just mentioned, they’re a non-binary author, Raised by Wolves is by them. There’s also a really beautiful book out by an author, Daniel Gray Barnett. And it’s a children’s book. It’s called All the Colours of Our Rainbow. Which is all about rainbow families. And it’s a children’s book to help introduce children to the idea of rainbow families. So that’s really beautiful.
I’d love to give a shout out to my friend, Lee Galea. He’s a gay, independent filmmaker who lives in Melbourne. You can check him out on his Instagram @indiemelbournepro
He’s also made a TV series, independently made TV series called Single, Out, which is about gay, non-binary, lesbian friends, all in Melbourne.
And then finally last but not least, Get Outside Australia, which is a Bush walking tour company run by my friend Kane Ford, who’s a member of the community, and he’s now got tours running out of Melbourne and Brisbane. He does Bush walking tours. If you’re new to Bush walking, glamping, weekends away, they even did I think a Pride Weekend, not that long ago. Right. And so that’s fabulous. So please check out Get Outside Australia.
Rob: Fantastic. That is awesome. And as I mentioned before, lessons, we’ll have these in our show notes, so please check them out. Perfect. Thank you. Thanks Peter. Now our closing question that we ask everyone is what is your hope for the LGBTIQA plus communities?
Peter: So again, this was a question you sent beforehand and I gave it quite a bit of thought, the word that really Springs to mind is understanding. So, and that works in a few different ways. So obviously in my experience, the big thing for everybody, and particularly it impacts people in the LBTIQA plus communities is not feeling understood and feeling understood is one of the most powerful healing things any of us as human beings can experience. So my real hope is that people in the community can feel understood, can feel heard, can feel listened to, that’s so essential. Also in that same vein, I think understanding is really critical. So all of us need to continually work on developing an understanding for people not like us. And I mean, there’s often even a lack of understanding within the community. There’s things like bi-fear or transphobia still happen within the community, racism, ableism, all those things. Yeah. And there are various ways of educating yourself and understanding and listening more deeply. And I think all of us, as, as much as all of us need to be understood, we also need to extend understanding. And I think that’s pretty key. So that, that would be my real hope for the communities.
Rob: Beautiful. Yeah. Excellent. Thank you very much. So that’s Peter Coleman, author of Weekends with Matt, which is out now by Affirm Press. Check it out.
Thank you so much. And it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you.
Peter: Thank you so much, Rob. Really appreciate it.