Five Things I Learned from Writing the Little Boy Lost Series ~ Outside the Margins with JP Barnaby

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JP Barnaby OTMThe Little Boy Lost series became my first wholly original body of work within the gay romance genre—and as they say, go big or go home, right? It started out as a slightly different format. I’d been aiming for something like Stephen King’s Green Mile series or John Saul’s Black House, but the books seemed to keep ending up novel length instead of serial length. So, we went with that.

The story started with one scene recurring in my head—the final scene of the third book. From that point, I wrote backwards to give characterization and substance to Brian and Jamie, and then forward to round out their story.

It’s still one of my favorite stories.


Be respectful of those you’re writing about.

The third book moves Brian into the realm of porn. Mike and Em are already models and Brian decides that rather than moving back home to Alabama and giving up not only his search for Jamie, but the life he’d built in San Diego, he’d model instead. At that time, I didn’t know much about gay porn, the men who made their living doing it, or the technical details of what happened during a shoot. In order to make the story as realistic as I could, I enlisted the help of a few adult models on Twitter. One in particular, Devon Hunter, helped me get into the head of a guy doing gay porn, he provided explicit detailing for scenes, and helped to expose me to a world I’d never experienced. Because a gay porn shoot isn’t the final result you see on the screen, that’s the product of hours of editing, splicing, and dicing to give you the best bang for your buck. An actual shoot is grueling, and really, not at all sexy.

Homelessness among LGBT kids is staggering.

Even before I started the series, I knew at some point, Jamie would be homeless. So, I started researching not only homelessness in general, but for LGBT kids in specific. One a trip through O’Hare airport, I happened to see a homeless young man sitting on a bench nearby in the bus terminal as I waited. I gave him a $20 and half my pizza and asked if he’d talk with me for a while. The insight he gave me on homelessness was invaluable.

I had no idea the extend of the LGBT Youth homeless problem until I really started to research. Of course, I knew it happened—parents throwing their kids out because they’re gay. But I had no idea it happened with such regularity. The numbers and the stories affected me so much that when we translated the series into a Young Adult offering, I asked Dreamspinner Press to send all the royalties to Lost-n-Found Youth, a nonprofit that helps gay kids get back on their feet again.

The people around us have real stories to tell.

When I wrote about conversion therapy, I had no idea there were people around me who’d actually been through it. I thought it was for bored rich people who weren’t satisfied with the children they’d brought into the world. Then, I mentioned something about it on Twitter and a friend, Jason, sat down on the phone with me one night and we talked about his experiences in a “pray the gay away” camp. He described the horrible feelings of failure as, when they worked each day to “cure” his homosexuality, it never seemed to go away. He talked about the demeaning and dehumanizing ways they tried to make him straight. It gave me a perspective on the experience I never would have had otherwise.

Writing characters people see themselves in makes a difference.

When we open up a blank page and start to create our characters from thin air, we decide on a hair color, an eye color, maybe give him a name. But at some point, we need to flesh them out, give them a personality, make them relatable. I’ve had dozens of guys write to me to tell me how much they saw of themselves in Brian or Jamie. How they were bullied in school or hated for who they were, and then they found acceptance with our LGBT community. Or, sometimes, how they’re still struggling to be able to be out and free in their lives. But by giving them a voice and someone they recognize, it helps them to feel not so alone. One boy in particular, a junior in high school told me his story—afraid to come out to his family or at school, scared of who he was and what life would be like as he got older. But, after reading about Brian and Jamie, after talking to me about his LGBT community, he did finally come out. He ended up class president, a beautiful, confident young man who is now in college. So, you never know whose lives may be changed after reading your stories.

Never ever submit a dependent series until it’s finished.

So, I submitted the six book Little Boy Lost series to Dreamspinner Press after I’d finished the second book. Elizabeth and I decided on a three-month release schedule. So, each book would come out three months after the previous book. Which meant, the next four books had to be delivered in three month intervals. I had three months to write and polish a 50,000-70,000 word novel. We have the three-month part, right? I hit the first three deadlines (books 3, 4, and 5), but the pressure of the last book after so many people had read it and were waiting on that final installment—I missed the deadline. I just couldn’t find that one thing to pull it all together. (Devon Hunter actually found it, thank God.) So, we pushed back the release date and moved forward. But, it taught me to never submit a series like that (each book dependent on the one before) until the entire series is finished. That way you don’t disappoint your readers if you just can’t deliver, and you’re not making yourself crazy trying to make everything perfect and in line with the book before—that book which has already been released and can’t be changed.

There were far more things I learned from writing Little Boy Lost in a technical sense—things like pacing, editing, and plotting. Poor Lynn West spent six books teaching me about commas and how they’re used in real life. I’m sure she still thinks of me as the comma nightmare. I’ve grown since those first few books way back when—as a person and as an author. But my heart will always be with Brian and Jamie—those first two boys who fought tooth and nail for their happily ever after, and found it.

~JP Barnaby


Title: Enlightened
Author: JP Barnaby
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 06/23/2013
Cover Artist: AngstyG
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance


Little Boy Lost: Book One

Little Boy Lost is the story of Brian McAllister, the boy next door.

Brian goes to school, does his homework, and helps his foster parents around the house. Brian also has a secret: he is in love with his best friend, Jamie. But in Crayford, Alabama, being in love with another boy is the worst kind of sin.

Brian and Jamie will discover just how deep their emotional bond runs, and at what cost. What will they do if their secret is discovered? From fumbling through their first sexual experiences to hiding all aspects of their relationship from everyone in their lives, Brian and Jamie battle for the one thing that is truly theirs—love.

First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, March 2011


Enlightened on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

About JP Barnaby

JP Barnaby, an award-winning gay romance novelist, is the author of over two dozen books, including Aaron and the Little Boy Lost Series. She recently moved from Chicago to Atlanta to appease her Camaro who didn’t like the blustery winters. JP specializes in recovery romance, but slips in a few erotic or comedic stories to spice things up. When she’s not hanging out with hot guys in leather, she binge watches superheroes and crime dramas on Netflix. A physics geek, she likes the science side of Sci-Fi, and wants to grow up to be Reed Richards.


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Farewell Giveaway
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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4 thoughts on “Five Things I Learned from Writing the Little Boy Lost Series ~ Outside the Margins with JP Barnaby

  1. I often have wondered how much the pressure of readers’ anticipation of “the next book in the series” affects the author. Thank you, Ms. Barnaby, for your insights on that. Also appreciated is your description of some of the things that an author needs to do to make a publication a good read. It certainly is more than (just) writing it down!

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