Mathis Bailey is the published author of Confused Spice (2016) and Brown Sugar and Spice (2019). Born in Detroit, he moved to Toronto to further his education and opportunities and became a strong voice for the Toronto LGBTQ+ community. He is a writer, blogger, foodie, travel junkie, bookseller, and overall fun guy! You can follow him on the following social media platforms:
OTD: Can you tell me about your first book Confused Spice?
MB: Confused Spice takes place in Toronto and it follows two guys who are confused in life. One is confused about his career path and the other is confused about his religion. They live in the same building and one day meet each other and find out they have a mutual love for cooking. They get close and start sharing intimate secrets while going on a culinary adventure together.
OTD: What inspired you to write the book?
MB: I noticed that there weren’t a lot of diverse books in Toronto, especially in the gay literature world, so I just wanted to add some spice to it. I used to write food reviews in Toronto, and I have a blog, so it felt natural to try writing a novel. Plus, my husband and I love to cook so we have a lot of fun in the kitchen!
OTD: So, you are really into cooking then?
MB: Yes, I’m very much into cooking, but I like to eat as well! I try to experience new restaurants coming up and I like to review them on my blog and share on my social media, letting people know what’s new and popular in Toronto, or any parts of the world.
OTD: As you know, Danforth is home to Toronto’s famous Greektown. As a foodie, do you have any favourite Greek food?
MB: I would have to say my favorite Greek food is spinach pie. I love, love, love this dish. The cheesy spinach stuffing with the flaky buttery phyllo dough is lick-my-lips delicious. What sends it over the top is a perfect ratio between the filling and the crust. I’m also a huge fan of a succulent lamb shank served with a dollop of thick tzatziki sauce. Talk about a food euphoria! I find Greek food very flavorful and satisfying.
OTD: You and me both! So you have a food blog, but did you always know you wanted to write fiction?
MB: Well no, I studied Journalism at Seneca College and York University. I had already been writing for the Gulf News based out of Dubai and decided to take a creative writing class after that, and after encouragement from my husband. I really wanted to go to culinary school at George Brown, but the waiting list was too long, so I went into journalism to brush up on my writing skills and learn to be disciplined.
OTD: How long did it take you to write the first book?
MB: It took me about five months to write the first draft of my first book, but the whole process took me three years to finish because I was in school at the time.
OTD: In both your books the main character is Pierre; how would you say he grew morally or emotionally from the first book to the second book?
MB: I think Pierre grew by learning himself more. It’s more psychological in his case, because he’s still trying to figure out his life and where he stands, like he’s very confident about his sexuality and being a gay male, but he’s still trying to figure out his life, career-wise, and how to be in a relationship. In the second book, he has more confidence in himself.
OTD: Are there any similarities between you and Pierre?
MB: Oh of course! We both love to cook and travel, and we’re both black, gay men. But everything else is Pierre. I used different traits from people I know to build his character, but I used my core interests and built him up that way.
OTD: Is there a third Pierre Jackson novel in the works?
MB: Yes, there is a third one in the works. I started writing it off and on in July.
OTD: What’s changed in your writing process from the first book to the second, and now to the third?
MB: It’s gotten easier because I’ve been through it. I’ve gotten a lot faster too. With the first one I didn’t know the hell I was doing! The second one was smoother, and I guess we’ll see with the third one.
OTD: Do you already know the angle you want to take on the third book?
MB: Kind of, but I’m still working on the angle I want to take on this one.
OTD: Other than your Pierre novels, have you thought about writing anything else? Maybe non-fiction or a cookbook?
MB: I don’t know, maybe. I’ve had friends tell me I should write non-fiction, about what goes on in North America, dealing with race issues and stuff about equality. But I’m just in a Confused Spice-mode at the moment.
OTD: What have you learned about yourself in this process of writing and publishing your work?
MB: I didn’t know I had the determination to succeed. Some people would’ve just given up throughout the process, but I persisted and got it done. There are always unexpected obstacles, but you’ve got to keep pushing, and that’s what I did!
OTD: What do you hope readers will take away from your novels?
MB: To be themselves, that’s pretty much the bottom line of it all. To not be afraid to be themselves and to explore life, explore themselves, and be comfortable with their sexuality.
OTD: That’s a great message and you are a great person to deliver it! I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us, and I wish you much success in your future!
MB: Thank you, it was my pleasure!