Tuesday, April 24, 2012

At first, it's just this idea.

Why, hello there, blog! Let's just say my four month silence was me being mysterious, as opposed to just lazy and uninteresting. You'll never know what manner of thrilling adventures went down in that span of time!

(Justine and I finished watching Xena at last. A moment of respectful silence, please. Okay, now you're caught up!)

This isn't my book, but it's a book! GINNY WOOLF 4 LIFE, YO.
I am back because I finally have something to talk about! Namely: books, and the fact that I have written some. This whole ebook publishing phenomenon got its hooks into me at last, because if there's one thing I love more than the idea of being a published author, it is the idea of being a published author without having to agonize over query letters and synopses and just how unfit I am, in my current state, to be endeavoring to publish anything. Oh, technology, thank goodness for you!

About a month ago, I put up some of my short stories, which are all pretty much standard Me fare -- that is to say, magic and corsets and fairytale whimsy are often involved in one way or another. I get the sense that this is probably the sort of thing that people expect to see from me. It is usually what goes on in my brain, in fact!

Yesterday evening, I also put up my first novel, which is about a twenty-two year old guy named Howie who concocts the ingenious scheme to get a job at an arts 'n crafts store so that he will be able to get some action from his lady coworkers, but then winds up falling for his male boss instead. This is a hard one to pitch to people, and is probably why literary agents have not exactly been throwing pebbles at my window beneath my balcony at night, trying to win the hand and heart of this fair tale. I will always so vividly remember giving a plot summary to one of my very dear coworkers, and having her respond with, "Ew!" It's possible my heart wept a few heart tears at that one. So I was wary to share it with anyone I had ever actually met before in my life, because I get the sense that everyone's response is going to be 'UM YEAH OKAY WHY IS SHE WRITING ABOUT THIS' and then maybe backing away slowly.

So here is how it came about in the first place!

Me & Justine. TAKE THIS, HATERSSSS. (We dig us some Kanye.)
My dear, dear, awesome friend Justine (not the Justine previously mentioned; I am drowning in a wealth of freaking awesome best friends named Justine) and I were out at Burger King, like, years ago, having a silly conversation, as we are wont to do. It somehow circled around to the fact that one of her male coworkers had once worked in an arts 'n crafts store, and we were trying to speculate why exactly a guy would want to work there. (This premise is, of course, inherently problematic in terms of being pretty sexist, which you will get to hear more about later. Of course guys can work in arts 'n crafts stores. But what can I say? Our humor is edgy, man. Or possibly just unevolved.) We reached the conclusion that, no doubt, his motive must have been to score with the ladyfolk ... but that, in an unfortunate twist, everyone would no doubt just figure he was gay. And, as I do approximately once a day, I believe I went, "Oh my god, that would make the best romcom, THAT NEEDS TO BE A MOVIE BASED ON A BOOK THAT I WILL WRITE."

Soon after that, I busted out the first chapter as a joke-gift for Justine. I printed it out and she spilled her coffee on it -- that cherished first chapter is still hanging out somewhere, coffee-stained and beloved! By me, if no one else. She and my other glorious roomie Renata read it and laughed a lot, as did my wonderful group of online writing pals. And I was totally enjoying the somewhat rare and entirely giddy experience of hanging out in a character voice that had just appeared, fully formed and ridiculous and completely distinct and NOT TO BE SILENCED, and so I very merrily kept writing.

On, like, the day after I started writing this story, Justine and Renata and I went to see Milk. I still very distinctly remember walking out of the theatre into the frigid, too-early, wintery dark, and just feeling despairing and hopeful and discouraged and shaken to my bones. And this story could never quite be just light and funny, after that.

Know Not Why is, admittedly, many many pages of my protagonist's torment over the idea of being openly gay; in the years of grappling with this manuscript after the first draft's completion, I very often felt guilty about that. Around the time that the A Single Man film was being made, I came across a quote from ... I'm pretty sure it was the director, Tom Ford (but my memory is failing me a bit!), about how Christopher Isherwood's work is distinguished by the fact that, though it's about gay characters, their lives don't revolve around being gay and that struggle. I felt awful about contributing yet another woeful 'Alas! Gayness!' tale to a genre that deserves as much diversity as any other kind of love story. I still don't know quite how to feel about this. But I love this story, and I felt my way through this story every step of the way (like, occasionally there was probably weeping?), and I hope that shines through.

I've also come to realize, upon acquiring a bit of distance and perspective after spending so long in this thing, that it is a lamentably accurate reflection of the world we live in. Things have improved by leaps and bounds and Neil Patrick Harrises, but our culture's inherent tendency to equate male homosexuality with femininity and femininity with The Lowest You Can Get If You're A Man is so ingrained that you don't even think to see it most of the time. I watched a wonderful, soul-wrenching documentary called For The Bible Tells Me So a few months ago, and in it, one of the commentators pointed out that male homosexuality is so reviled because it apparently involves casting one of the men in the relationship in the role of a woman -- and there is nothing worse for a man, culture tells us, than to be like a woman. "You throw like a girl."  "Sissy."  "Pussy."  A certain word that starts with C that I won't bust out because this is a wholesome PG-13 rated blog. (Although the fact that that is like the most offensive on our list of swearwords is fundamentally sort of gross and stupid -- oh heavens, not lady parts!!!! I think we all just need to listen to some Medieval Baebes.)

Now, I don't even need to go into how this is sucky on, like, all the levels, because it goes without saying; my point is, it is this, I think, that has Howie so paralyzed. He's sort of comfortably miserable as a slacker and wants to be a totally unexceptional human being, someone whose #1 skill is slipping under the radar and being ignored and unremarkable (except for maybe in terms of having mad quipping skillz). If he agrees to openly acknowledge this part of his life, living in the world that we live in now, he will no longer be perceived as "totally ordinary," and there are always going to be people who hate him on principle. And that is why he's so stuck. And that is why, in his head, there is no greater solution to his whole existence than getting a girl. What's more manly than wanting to tap them ladies, right?

I, like my boo Howie, am blessed with so many great humans.
Here are a zany few of 'em!
With all that being said, this wasn't written to be a manifesto about the screwed up notions of gender and sexuality in our culture -- although clearly I could prattle on about that forever. In addition to all the soul-searching and anguish and introspection, this book is basically a love story, a love-your-life-and-all-the-great-humans-in-it story. Sure, there's fellas having crushy feelings at each other (and oh my heart how I love their love!), but it's also about loving your family, loving your friends -- the ones who have known you forever and the ones you meet when you're older, and all the joys and the pitfalls.

It is also (I hope) zany and silly and ridiculous, because zany silly ridiculous humor is kinda my favorite.

Having grown up quite the internet nerd, I've always been ensconced in a world where love stories transcend the canonical tales that birthed them. My first experience with this was deciding, at about 13, that Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were clearly in love with each other, which turned a sad and beautiful story into an even sadder and more beautiful one. A conviction that Buffy and Faith kinda wanted to jump each other's bones followed soon after. Fandom culture follows chemistry whither it wanders, with very little regard for heterocentricism (a word that I sort of suspect I just made up; just roll with it!), and there are not words for how much I love and believe in that. Sometimes canon even follows fandom right back -- see, for example, Xena and Gabrielle, a.k.a. the most beautiful freaking love story of all time. (Finally engaged! It's about time, ladies.)

But oh, for a world where gay love stories get to be text instead of subtext! We're heading in that direction slowly but surely; I hope that it will be my generation of storytellers that really makes it mainstream. Stories are such an important reflection of our culture, and the more we see of Brittany and Santana, or Mitchell and Cam, or the thousand-thousand other couples that will follow them (at least a thousand of them near-inevitably provided by me, even if I am only telling audienceless tales to my hard drive), the more bigotry and fear will fade, because you absolutely can't deny that love stories are love stories.

And love stories are lovely, and y'all just know I am going to bombard you with roughly a million of them.

But here's one, just to start.
 


Know Not Why: A Novel (Buy it here @ Smashwords / Buy it here @ Amazon Kindle Store / Goodreads Page) - Howie gets a job at Artie Kraft's Arts 'N Crafts hoping to score with his lady coworkers. After all, girls love a sensitive guy, and what's more sensitive than dedicating your life to selling yarn and ... stuff? (Okay, so maybe it'd be a good idea to actually learn what one sells at an arts 'n crafts store.) But things don't go exactly according to plan. Coworker #1 is Cora: tiny, much-pierced, and way too fierce to screw with in any sense. Coworker #2 is Kristy: blonde, bubbly, unattainable perfection. And Coworker #3 is, well, Arthur. It goes without saying that he’s not an option. Right?

… Right?

Yeah, Howie’s life just got straight up confusing.

Pun intended.

5 comments:

Vickie said...

Oh my GOD, to have this on my Nook would be the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I don't think I ever finished reading it (shamefully) back in its LJ days. :(

(THIS IS VICKIE.)

justine said...

XEEENNNAAA.

You are awesome. Keep rockin' it, lady.

camertz08 said...

Good Afternoon! I have to say I am jealous with how enthralled I became with your story. I love how subtleties creep in like when we realize that Artie is hot at the grocery store, and how nervous Howie is getting whenever he's around Arthur. The voice alone couldn't have done any better. I love that I found myself literally laughing out loud, and easily following along with Howie's thoughts. I don't usually read e-books, but I am so willing to read this one. Thank you, and I hope you know I will be pushing your book! Everyone should be reading this.
Sincerely,
Caleb A. Mertz

traci said...

I now HAVE it on my Nook, and will read it again. I was so excited to continue reading to see what happens, I read it too fast and wasn't able to really enjoy it!

It's rare that I read a book that causes me to:

a)stay up until all hours of the night/morning because I can't put it down and

b)laugh out loud so that my family is giving me strange looks while I'm reading and finally

c) decide right after finishing it that I'm going to read it again.

Just so you know, I have now tweeted to all of my followers for them to read it, and singing it's praises to my friends. We're always looking for a new book to read.

Thank you for such a great read! I look forward to anything that will give us more glimpses into the lives of these amazing characters.

Katherine Rose said...

I just finished reading Know Not Why and I think it is the cutest love story! I don't normally read romance novels, I'm so glad I decided to read this one. Something about it just seemed so adorable and I couldn't pass it up. I couldn't set it down once I started and even stayed up past my bedtime to keep reading it. I love what you wrote about love stories being love stories and if there ever was one that could put an end to prejudice and bigotry it'd have to be this one! I look forward to rereading it often and sharing it with others :)