Join Prism Book Alliance® as Diana Copland goes Outside the Margins today.
WHY WE CAN’T LEAVE OUT THE ‘F-WORD’
I’m dedicating this month’s OtM blog to my dear friend Brandon, who I love. And I wish he lived closer to me than Denver because I want to hug him on a regular basis.
Brandon Witt wrote what I think is a truly beautiful book. Perhaps ‘Then the Stars Fall’ touched me so deeply because it’s about a man who is a widower, and I’m a widow. Brandon seems to understand what that particular grief feels like and makes his character Travis so very poignant because of that understanding. I also find other events in the book both realistic and deeply affecting; the near sexual assault of sweet, kind Wesley by a very very creepy villain, Wesley’s kind treatment of all of the animals who come under his care (he’s a veterinarian) including a truly obnoxious cat named Horace. Fourteen year old Caleb’s blossoming into a teenager when he’d been acting like a parent to his two younger siblings, Avery and Mason, six year old twins so different from one another but so very real. Oh, Mason. How I want to scoop up this little man and hide him away from a world that isn’t meant for people that kind. And Wendy, Travis’s sister who’s been acting as surrogate mother to her brother’s motherless kids, she’s a larger than life woman with a big laugh and a big heart. There’s so much in this book I loved, so much which made it feel authentic to me. A huge part of that was Travis being brave enough to admit that as much as he loved his wife, he now has come to love someone else; another man. Another step in Travis’s evolution is how he deals with the knee jerk reaction in a small town to an event like that happening to ‘one of their own’.
Brandon posted on Facebook recently about a review he received for Then the Stars Fall where the reviewer protested the fact that he’d used the terms ‘fag’ and ‘faggot’ too much. I have a very visceral reaction to the words, too. There are two words no one had best use in my presence because I will call them out; the f-word, and the n-word. This was a lesson I taught my kids early; we don’t use those words. So I sort of get the reaction of this reviewer. But I also think that in this instance they were wrong.
In Brandon’s book the terms are used in both hatred and ignorance. There’s one completely loveable character, Travis’s best friend Jason, who says it all of the time. But Jason doesn’t get that’s its hurtful because he doesn’t mean it to be. In his ignorance he’s a terrible bigot but he doesn’t know that. For others in the book it’s used as a curse, intending to hurt, intending to belittle and demean. Wesley is different, and he’s out, and so the reaction of some is to sneer and call him a fag. Almost worse are the characters that say nothing but by their attitude project their prejudice. Some of the most affecting scenes in the book are when people Travis has known his entire life suddenly become cold or call into question his very character, all because of who he’s fallen in love with. He hasn’t changed, not at all. But they think he has and their treatment of him, even without the f-word, is hurtful. Really hurtful.
I used to write fanfiction. I’m not ashamed of it; I met some wonderful people there, people who have become very important in my life. I started out writing M/M there because people were so openly accepting of it, even at a time when the broader acceptance of our genre was a long way out. I’ll never forget the sign-up someone left on a gift festival post describing what she favored if someone was picked to write her a story. She said she didn’t want any plots where the characters had to struggle with prejudice. She wanted a nice, fluffy story where everyone was accepting of homosexuality and the characters could just be in love. Even though in the canon of this particular fandom the characters had been written as straight. Even though there was literally no mention of gay characters in the host material, she wanted happy happy joy joy, their sexuality a footnote not a major plot point.
I knew that nothing I wrote could make this person happy. See, when I looked at the host material all I could see was scenario after scenario where them coming out as gay was going to be a big deal, and that there were going to be people who had an issue with it. Because in life, people have an issue with it. Sometimes a big scary issue with it. And to deny that they do is to deny a huge reality of life for people on the LGBT spectrum. Some people are frightened of it, or don’t understand it, or are just assholes. But as people who write gay fiction we cannot ignore that bigotry and hatred exist, because to do so ignores the struggle LGBT people have had to deal with in their real lives every day.
I understand that some people just want the happy. But to leave a review at Brandon’s book, calling the work ‘offensive’ or that the use of the term faggot is unnecessary is in its own way painfully ignorant. I will not homogenize my books and edit out the struggle for acceptance my friends in the LGBT community have endured. Prejudice towards them is a fact of life. All one has to do is turn on the news. Or watch Youtube. Or read Twitter, where people have perfected the art of being an asshole in one hundred and forty characters or less. It’s there; black people, gay people, mentally challenged people, Trans people, and fat people. Anyone who doesn’t fit the homogenized normative is called out by the bigoted, the ignorant, and the cruel. This is the reality of life for millions of people all over the world. Just because SCOTUS gave them the right to marry doesn’t mean my gay friends won’t lose their jobs, or their children, or their homes.
I’m really glad Brandon wrote a book full of love and laughter, and yes, even ignorance. It’s genuine and it’s powerful and it moved me. And I will continue to write books where the fight for the right to love openly is at the heart of every piece. Because until no one is called faggot or freak or fat ass, or told they’re going to hell because of who they love, then to ignore it is to also ignore the dignity and the poise and the amazing grace of people who have dealt with that crap most of their lives. I won’t do it. I admire their courage too much.
I don’t think Brandon will do it, either. And we’re all better for the fact that he won’t.
Title: Then the Stars Fall
Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 09/29/2014
The death of his wife four years earlier left Travis Bennett a shell of the man he used to be. With his dog by his side, Travis raises his three children, manages his business, and works as a ranch hand. But every day, every minute, is an aching emptiness.
Wesley Ryan has fond memories of the small Ozark town of El Dorado Springs. Seeing it as a safe place to put his failed relationships behind him, Wesley moves into his grandparents’ old home and takes over the local veterinary clinic. An early morning visit from Travis and his dog stirs feelings that Wesley seeks to push away—the last thing he needs is to fall for a man with baggage and three kids as part of the package.
Life, it seems, has other plans.
About Diana Copland
Diana Copland began writing in the seventh grade, when she shamelessly combined elements of Jane Eyre and Dark Shadowsto produce an overwrought Gothic tale that earned her an A- in creative writing, thanks entirely to the generosity of her teacher. She wrote for pure enjoyment for the next three decades before discovering LiveJournal and a wonderful group of supportive fanfiction writers, who after gifting her with a “”Best New Author”” Award encouraged her to try her hand at original gay fiction.
Born and raised in southern California, Diana moved to the Pacific Northwest after losing a beloved spouse to AIDS in 1995. She lives in eastern Washington with four obnoxious cats, near her two wonderful adult children.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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