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Saylor, Steven (b. 1956)  
 
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Now best known for his highly successful mystery novels set in ancient Rome, Steven Saylor began his writing career by publishing erotica under the pen-name Aaron Travis.

Steven Saylor grew up in the heart of Texas. He was born in the Gulf coast city of Port Lavaca on March 23, 1956, but his parents divorced when he was a small boy, and his mother moved their three children to Dallas, where she attended secretarial school. Upon completing the course she settled her family in the small town of Goldthwaite in the hill country, where her mother lived.

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The family was poor, but Saylor recalls that his mother was a resourceful manager. She also valued education and encouraged her children to strive for academic success.

While life in a small country town may have its idyllic moments, it can also present an awkward situation for those who diverge from the local norm. Saylor recognized at an early age that he was one who did.

When he was about ten, he read a story entitled "I Married a Homosexual" in his mother's copy of Cosmopolitan magazine. He realized that he was gay but had a hard time finding information about homosexuality. Eventually he was able to buy some porn paperbacks in a neighboring town, and he found them more helpful than the articles offered by encyclopedias or the cruel and insulting image of gay men and lesbians presented in the popular Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex (1969) by David R. Reuben.

After high school Saylor enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in history, with an emphasis on Rome. An excellent student, he graduated with high honors in 1978.

Free from the social constraints of small-town life, Saylor was able to explore his sexuality in Austin. He socialized with other gay men and frequented gay bars (of which the city boasted three at the time). During his freshman year he met and fell in love with fellow student Richard Solomon. The couple has been together ever since. They officially registered as domestic partners in San Francisco in 1991.

Saylor came out to his older brother when he was nineteen. Other family members, including his sister and a cousin with a gay son, were also aware and accepting of his sexual orientation. He hesitated to confide in his mother, who had stated that homosexuality was "a sin against God" and that "finding it out about a child would 'kill' a parent."

Prompted by a letter in which his mother complained that he did not "want to share even a little of [his] life" with her, Saylor, then twenty-three, revealed his sexual orientation and also told her that he had been writing for gay magazines.

Saylor's mother assured him that she still loved him although his sexuality perplexed her. She declined to read his writings. She continued to welcome Solomon to her home, as she always had. Saylor stated, "My mother could accommodate, even if she could not accept."

Saylor's first published writings included articles and book reviews for gay magazines. In the early 1980s, following a move to San Francisco, he also became an editor, working at the magazine Drummer, a gay S/M journal.

Saylor's first fiction was erotica written under the pen-name Aaron Travis. His first Travis story was published in 1979. He explained in a 2004 interview that he wrote erotic fiction when he was in his twenties because that was where he found his muse, but he also emphasized the seriousness with which he undertook the task, stating, "I probably did more actual rewriting on those stories than anything I've done since, because for me, writing erotic fiction is like writing a piece of music, because if one note is wrong, you lose [the audience]." He added that "writing erotica was actually wonderful training for just being able to write what I am seeing and thinking"--both conveying the psychological states of his characters and describing the actions and relationships of their bodies.

The Travis stories and novels are characterized by an unusual immediacy and intensity. While they are generally set in the world of leather culture and feature S/M activity, the obsessiveness of his characters is delineated by means of sharp psychological insight, which serves to heighten the eroticism.

Saylor commented on the evolution that he sees in his Aaron Travis writings. He called the earlier works "much meaner" with "a lot of very sadistic stories." By contrast, he considered a later work, "Getting Timenchenko" (which is set in his hometown), "a kind of sexual healing," adding, "I worked out all kinds of conflicts, things about my sexuality."

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Steven Saylor (front) posing with Roman legionnaires in Kensington High Street, London in 1999.
  
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