In the world of entertainment and fiction, we’ve all probably read a book, regardless of topic, that was just a bit too “preachy” for our taste. Because, after all, if we didn’t already have an opinion on the matter, we probably wouldn’t be reading it. But to keep it substantial, realistic, and interesting there needs to be conflict and obstacles to overcome. And while we think we have a handle on a situation in real life doesn’t mean we actual “know.” So there has to be a balance.
Here is Jamie Fessenden to talk about straddling the line and finding the balance between preaching to the choir and inspiring the audience.
Writing the Future
As someone who came out at a time when homosexuality was still listed as a “mental illness” in the DSM-III and the gay men’s group meetings in my small town moved from house to house to keep them secret, signaled by a pink balloon on the mailbox, I cannot avoid thinking of my writing now as a means of forging a better tomorrow for the gay community.
Whenever I write a happy, romantic ending for the characters in my latest novel, part of me hopes that readers who had been unable to envision this kind of joy for themselves before picking up the novel can now see it clearly.
I’m not alone in this, of course. I see the same sentiment expressed time and time again by other authors of M/M literature. This doesn’t mean that we’re all filled with a sense of epic self-importance. Not everything we write is meant to change lives or alter the foundations of our society. Mostly we write to entertain. Certainly, nobody would ever accuse me of saying anything Epic and Important in my silly comedy about college boy sexual experimentation, We’re Both Straight, Right?
But everything authors of M/M literature write — sexually explicit or not, humorous or full of dramatic angst, realistic or paranormal or science fiction — contributes in its own small way to building a world where “gay” or “bi” or “trans” are simply expressions of ourselves, rather than perceived mental illnesses. And by drips and drops, great channels can be carved.
When we do occasionally get the urge to write an Important Book with a Message (and it can happen to the best of us), I would caution my fellow writers that trying to infuse a novel with a message is often the worst way of getting the message across. If a book fails to entertain with interesting characters and well-written prose and dialog, a reader will put it down or (worse!) groan and roll his or her eyes whenever the “moral” of the story becomes too obvious. And then of course the message reaches no one. It’s best to write a good story with interesting characters and let readers draw their own conclusions about what the novel “means.”
Having said that, I confess that my next release is what one might call a “message” novel: an exploration of how the suicide of a gay teenager affects his small town community, in which his father is the pastor of a fundamentalist church. This situation could easily become a cliché, but I didn’t want to over-simplify the situation. Instead, I wanted to create in the boy’s father a man who is simultaneously pig-headed and extremely intelligent, preaching hatred yet a pacifist, an asshole but someone whose suffering makes us sympathize with him. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether I’ve succeeded in this.
Itineris Press, the best in quality GLBT faith-based fiction, is proud to offer By That Sin Fell the Angels by Jamie Fessenden.
It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.
At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.
Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open for the devil—and for a second tragedy to follow.