Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Avery Cockburn for stopping by today.
Title: Play Dead: A Glasgow Lads Novella
Author: Avery Cockburn
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romance
Avery Cockburn, author of the Glasgow Lads series, joins us to talk about being real online, a lesson learned from some unlikely characters. Plus, Avery shares an exclusive excerpt from upcoming novella Play Dead, featuring Colin and Lord Andrew!
How a fictional character taught me to be real
When I was growing up, my family got a letter every Christmas from the McNultys*, whose youngest daughter was my best friend for about three weeks before they moved away. The McNultys’ Christmas letters detailed the year’s extreme joys and accomplishments, things like:
- Scott was elected mayor and completed three triathlons in one day!
Denise adopted an entire village in Africa!
Erin is well on her way to curing cancer—and she’s barely 12 years old, bless her heart!
You might know a McNulty or two, people whose lives seem perfect from the outside. Perhaps you envy these distant acquaintances. Or maybe you suspect they’re hiding inconvenient truths such as:
- Johnny’s in prison for dealing meth again.
- Sarah’s combination fish ’n’ chips shop/aquarium dealership has gone bankrupt.
Social media is like a year-round McNulty Christmas letter. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram give us windows into one another’s lives, windows with magical curtains revealing only the good stuff. We hear only about successes, we see only pics of the three-layer cakes our friends bake in their spare time, when they’re not homeschooling their six baby geniuses and writing a bestselling novel in a week. We don’t see their failures and frustrations, especially if they’re public figures.
I’ve been pretty quiet online lately. Since early March I’ve struggled with worsening bouts of inexplicable fatigue and depression. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. There were no major stressors in my life. Writing the Glasgow Lads series made me happier than anything I’ve ever done, and readers were loving it too. Life was good, so why was it suddenly so hard?
Because I had trouble focusing, the writing slowed, leading to the heartbreaking conclusion that the next Glasgow Lads book, Play Dead, wouldn’t be released in mid-May as I’d promised. I was scared to admit my failure and weakness in public. I was ashamed to disappoint readers.
But I wasn’t alone. It turns out, the people who could say the things I most needed to hear were already in my own head.
Play Dead is a followup novella featuring the heroes of my most popular romance (Playing to Win), the most unlikely pair I’ve ever written. Colin MacDuff is a poor footballer who grew up in the slums of Glasgow. Lord Andrew Sunderland is an aristocrat and internet celebrity who hobnobs with royalty. The two of them fought on opposite sides of the recent Scottish independence referendum. They seemed more likely to kill each other than fall in love. And yet…
In Playing to Win, Colin and Andrew’s against-all-odds devotion made them change and grow in ways they would’ve thought impossible. They got the happy ending they deserved, but it came at a near-deadly price. The climactic battle against those who would tear them apart left Colin and Andrew scarred—one physically and the other emotionally.
Fast-forward a few months to the time of Play Dead. Fully healed, Colin is ready to take on the world, but Andrew has yet to even admit his own wounds. When Colin discovers how troubled his boyfriend has been, he urges Andrew to seek help:
“No.” Andrew pulled his head away on the pillow, drawing his fists to his chest to create a barrier between them. “I’m a public figure. Everyone would know.”
“So?” Colin stroked Andrew’s face, his pale green eyes soft with concern. “Who could blame you after what you went through?”
“You don’t understand.” Andrew’s words tumbled out with his still-rapid breath. “You’ve been in and out of therapy since you were fifteen. It’s normal for you. But in most of the world, it’s not normal. It’s seen as being weak.”
“Then change the world’s mind,” Colin said. “You’re struggling, and with good reason. So own it. Set an example for your billion social media followers. They’ll thank you for it.”
Andrew closed his eyes, his bare skin growing cold at the thought of going public with his problems. “I seriously doubt that.”
“But even if you reach only one person, isn’t that enough?” Colin reached down and tugged the covers up over their bodies. “I know it’s hard. Every time I stand up in front of a bunch of kids and show them my scars, I have to fight the shame. I’m ashamed I used to cut myself. I’m ashamed I cannae tell them I never want to do it again, because it’d be a lie.” He settled onto the other pillow again, still facing Andrew. “I’m ashamed I’m not a perfect example of someone who’s been through hell and come out undamaged.”
“See, this is what I mean. You’ve been through so much, whilst I’ve had everything good in life. Money, friends, parents who adored me. I grew up in a castle, for God’s sake.”
“You grew up in a boarding school, Andrew. That’s got to fuck a lad up in some dead rotten ways.”
Andrew knew Colin was trying to make him laugh, but it wasn’t working. “I’ve no right to feel this way. With all my power—power I never earned—I should be in tip-top shape. I should be resilient, like I’m wearing a suit of armor.”
Colin sighed. “Firstly, you earn some of your power, by being clever and charming. Secondly, even suits of armor have weak spots, else all those knights would’ve died of old age. Thirdly…” He wrapped his arms around Andrew and pulled him against his broad, bare chest. “You’ve a right to feel any way you feel. You earned that right by existing.”
Andrew closed his eyes again. Such affirmative talk sounded good in the safety of this bedroom, but out in the real world, people didn’t understand. People judged.
Yet Colin wasn’t judging. Perhaps Andrew could peel back this shell he’d thought was so impenetrable. Perhaps he could start with this man here, a man who inexplicably loved him to the bone.
Last week, in describing my recent struggles to my therapist, I summarized Play Dead’s storyline, wondering aloud whether I’d “absorbed” Andrew’s depression.
Her reply: “Can you show yourself the same compassion you show your characters and that they show to each other?” Then she said, “Can you share this with readers, not only to explain why the story is behind schedule, but also to show those with similar struggles that they’re not alone?”
Hmm, apparently I can? I must say, though, this has been the most challenging blog post I’ve ever written. Words aren’t exactly flowing from my fingers these days, and, like Andrew, I fear I’m just embarrassing myself by opening up.
But in light of the above excerpt, it’d be hypocritical to let that fear keep me silent and isolated. Maybe this post can help you feel less alone. If nothing else, it might bring some welcome reality back into the McNulty Christmas Letter of our online lives.
PS: After writing this post’s rough draft, I learned there was a medical cause for my low energy/mood and brain fog. It’s nothing life-threatening, but full recovery could take months. Please be assured I’ll continue my slow but steady progress on Play Dead until it’s finished. Thanks to all my readers for your patience, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt!
*Names have been changed to protect the insufferable.
About the Author
Avery Cockburn (rhymes with Savory Slow Churn) wrote over a dozen novels for major publishers under her real name. Last year she decided to “go indie” to write exactly what she wanted, how she wanted, and publish as fast as readers wanted. Now her days are filled with beautiful men who play the Beautiful Game in the most beautiful place in the world—and who happen to love other beautiful men. It’s pretty much the best job ever.
Avery lives in the United States with one infinitely patient man and two infinitely impatient cats. Join Avery’s readers group to get free short fiction and loads of exclusive Glasgow Lads bonus material.
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
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