Gender plays a part in so many things … be it expectations, stereotypes, or our own definition of ourselves. Society is made up of generalities that have been perpetuated over centuries. Is this good? Bad? Depends on any of the thousands of arguments anyone could use to support their own view. But for every conversation that is had regarding what the world sees as just a boy/man or a girl/woman issue, those expectations and stereotypes stretch just a little more to become human issues instead.
Here is K Piet to talk about one such issue traditionally told from a woman’s perspective. A flip-side, male POV that she felt strongly enough about that she made it the focus of her – and writing partner SL Armstrong’s – upcoming book, Making Ends Meet.
Have you ever read a gay erotic romance starring a gay teenager who is a single father? Yeah… neither had my co-author and I. Despite all the hype surrounding young single mothers (anyone heard of the television show ‘Sixteen and Pregnant’?), and even just teen pregnancy in general, it’s incredibly rare for young fathers to even get a token mention in our culture or our fiction. Taking it a step further and addressing young single fathers? That’s an even more difficult subject to find. Now try to add an alternate sexual orientation, and damn, you’re just shit out of luck. Such fiction simply doesn’t exist in the romance genre. Until now.
When S.L. Armstrong and I (K. Piet) set out to write Making Ends Meet, our inspiration was that simple, but ever-so-complex, theme of teenaged single fatherhood. We wanted to write a unique take on the coming of age aspect of our society. In the past, those who finished high school and entered college had plans on starting a family, if they hadn’t started one already with their chosen dreamboat. Nowadays, there are all sorts of alternative paths for a teenager’s life to take. It’s not socially unacceptable to put thoughts of marriage and family aside until after one finishes school, or even indefinitely. With more and more people waiting to start families, there’s a certain shock value to those who make the choice to have children young.
The focus is usually on the expected mothers when teenage parenthood comes up in our society. While there are good reasons for that, S.L. and I wanted to turn that on its head and focus on a father who doesn’t disappear at the news of impending fatherhood. In the case of Making Ends Meet, Zach (seventeen) has a fling in high school with his close friend, Bethany, mostly experimenting to see for himself where his affections and sexual orientation actually reside. When she winds up pregnant, it’s Zach who wants to keep the child instead of look into other options, even though he now knows for certain that he identifies gay. He even seeks legal representation to ensure that he legally becomes his daughter’s sole guardian, all with Bethany’s permission.
So, you have a gay teenager, fresh out of high school, trying to balance the stresses of living on his own and attending college on his own dime with the responsibility of having a four-month-old daughter to raise and nurture. Whew! With his hectic schedule, he don’t have time to look for Mr. Right. And with all that extra baggage, he assumes he isn’t boyfriend material for most anyway. He wants something that will last, someone who will not only love him, but love his daughter, Mae, and want to be part of a family.
Making Ends Meet is all about the sweet romance that can occur when all the cards fall into place. It’s a precarious balance that Zach tries to find with Wil after meeting him in the check-out line at work. However, through all the work it takes for them both, what Zach discovers is that sometimes the hardest road is the one that ends up being the most rewarding. The hardship along the way makes the payoff even sweeter. It’s a lesson I think everyone learns somewhere along the road, and for Zach, he just happens to learn it as he’s raising his daughter and trying to find his path in life. That his path converges with Wil’s doesn’t take away the obstacles and roadblocks, but it makes the journey more fulfilling to travel it hand in hand.
Here’s a taste of Making Ends Meet, available now for pre-order through Storm Moon Press. Remember, pre-orders directly from the site means 20% off and double the reader rewards points! Totally worth it to buy it early! Plus, this book comes illustrated! ^_~
Shopping for his parents was easy enough, and he was glad to do it when it meant sneaking in a couple essentials for him and Mae. Food stamps only helped with food, and after gloating to his parents about his good grades, he knew they would let him get away with adding deodorant, razor heads, shampoo, and a new toothbrush to the cart. Once they hit the freezer section, he took the opportunity to entertain Mae. She never liked the noises of the Wal-Mart, so it was a challenge to keep her engaged enough to distract her from the bustle of things she couldn’t see or understand yet. He held the door open as he put a giant bag of frozen chicken breasts into the cart. The door fogged up, and he played peek-a-boo with Mae, her little smile more than enough to chase the chill of the freezer from him.
He was just finishing writing ‘Mae’ backwards into the fog on the freezer door when another cart stopped next to them. The woman steering it looked to be in her late thirties, but Mae suddenly had eyes only for the other baby strapped into the cart. They stared at one another and started making the cutest noises Zach had ever heard.
“Hey,” he chuckled softly to the woman, closing the freezer door and wiping his hand on his jeans.
“They’re a little young to start romancing one another, don’t you think?”
The woman smiled at him. “Sorry. I thought I’d stop and let them say hello to one another. Could you pass a bag of chicken over?”
“Sure thing.” Zach dipped into the bottom bin of the case and handed the woman one of the bags. Looked like he wasn’t the only one shopping in bulk.
“Thank you. It’s so nice of you to take care of your sister while you help your parents out. They’re lucky to have a kid like you. I can’t get my oldest away the computer for a few hours without it being like the next World War.”
Zach stiffened, gripping the bar of his shopping cart a little tighter as his heart sank. It took all he had to let go of the bar and run a hand through his hair, make some kind of casual gesture instead of jumping into the freezer to hide for a good stint. “Actually…” He swallowed thickly, hating that his voice came out strained. “She’s my daughter, not my sister.”
The silence that followed was awkward, and he shifted on his feet, watching the woman do the same. Jeez, why did it always feel like he was making some sort of announcement to the world whenever he proclaimed himself Mae’s father? It was like he was being placed under a huge microscope and found somehow lacking. The woman looked him up and down, and there was something in her eyes, some mixture of shock and disapproval that made his stomach churn with humiliation and anger all at once.
“Oh,” came the eventual response, though the brightness in the woman’s voice was gone. “Sorry. I just presumed…”
Zach shrugged, trying to play it cool. “It’s all right. Happens all the time.”
Another short silence made him want to hit something, or at least get up on a soapbox and start ranting like a lawyer in a courtroom making his case to the jury. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the nerve or the bad manners for either. The woman spoke up again. “Well… I should get back to shopping. She’s cute.” Her attention went back to their giggling, smiling children. “Come on, Cynthia. Say bye-bye.”
Both kids started fussing the instant the woman started carting Cynthia away, and he managed a quick, “Have a good one,” before doing everything he could to soothe away the frown on Mae’s face. He’d be unhappy, too, if his conversation were so rudely interrupted. “It’s okay, Mae. You’ll see plenty of other babies soon. You have all your friends over at the daycare to look forward to.”
K is offering up an e-book from her backlist. To enter, comment below about the way you perceive single fathers to be portrayed in gay fiction.
Open until Thursday, August 16th at 11:59 pm (PST). Winner will be randomly selected and notified on Friday.
**Please note that for the purpose of this – and all posts on MANtastic Fiction – gender refers to individual identity regardless of birth, lifestyle, degree of pre/post op, or any other terms of social or medical distinction. Any characters identifying as male are men, any characters identifying as female are women.