Writing, Race & Indecision

Okay… While my Goodreads M/M Don’t Read in the Closet story is getting squished through the meat grinder, I mean editing process, I thought I’d write about the plot bunny torturing me with his sharp little teeth and claws. It’s a story I want to write it, but I probably won’t.

The basic set-up goes like this… A gay, black man in his mid/late thirties raising his adopted foster kids (of varying race, ethnicity and disability) with his ex-husband meets his younger, gay, white neighbor with no experience with kids and a romance ensues. Lots of points of conflict… black/white, older/younger, kids/no-kids, divorced/never married…

“Sounds great. Why not write it?” you ask. Because it has to do with race.

I’m a white, middle-class writer living in lily white Maine. The very idea of writing a black main character terrifies me. I’m afraid I’ll get skewered by the internet outrage factory for either ignoring the fact that my character is black or, even worse, for lacking any authenticity in the way I write about it.

Race is complicated. It is a mash-up of culture, ethnicity, language and socio-economics that is unique to each individual and universal at the same time. It affects every part of a persons understanding of the world. I don’t think I have ever met a person of color who doesn’t have this litter kernel of rage at the fundamental unfairness of racism that like a pea under the mattress keeps them from being comfortable in the world. And it operates on every level from the obvious to so subtle it’s almost invisible.

My best friend tells me I’m overthinking. She doesn’t understand how I can write about gay rodeo cowboys without being one and not be able to write about a guy, a lot like the divorced guys we actually know, who happens to be black. I don’t understand either, but it is different. The risk of getting it wrong feels greater than any reward for getting it right.

Usually when I get this scared of a story it means I’m headed in the right direction. That visceral fear makes the writing better. It’s not like race is even the central issue of the story. I dunno maybe that’s enough of a reason to start writing and see where it goes.

In my head, Marcus, the dad in my story, is bugging me about how awesome his kids are and what broke up his marriage. He looks a lot like Boris Kodjoe, but he wants me to point out that he isn’t balding, nor has he completely shaved his head. Apparently Marcus’s a little vain and sensitive about his age. His love interest, Wade, who looks kinda like Ben Elliot, is still kind of amorphous, but he talks to me a lot about his bulldog.

Marcus, aka Boris Kodjoe

Wade, aka Ben Eliiot

Yes, I frequently have entire conversations with imaginary people. Writing is a lot harder when the characters don’t talk to me .

I’m not sure what all this says about me other than I’m a little chickenshit around the edges. I can tackle suicide, domestic violence, and addiction and all sorts of delicate topics, but race pushes me beyond the pale. I know it is a little white, liberal guilt coupled with a deep need not to be eviscerated in public. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

As always, your thoughts are always welcome.

Jae

ALWAYS Looking for Beta Readers

Due to attrition, overwork and new babies, my posse of beta readers has dwindled to a meager few. Sadly, as much as I hoped they were telling the truth when they said ask again next month, they weren’t. Anyway, I am looking for Beta Readers. I don’t care if you’re not a grammar whiz. or a literary god/goddess. If you love books and words and M/M romance and are willing to tell me why you love/hate what I’ve written, let me know. If you even might be interested, take a look at Measuring the Rein (HERE) and see the kind of stuff I write. Well, it’s actually not the best thing I’ve ever written, but I was overambitious on a short deadline. It needed to marinate in a drawer for three months before I edited/rewrote it. I think the bones and language are okay, but it probably needed to be tightened by about 20%. Anyway, I’m still proud of it and I’ll probably revisit it sometime in the future.

In case you stumbled here on accident: I write gay male romance, some of it pretty explicit but not extremely so. It’s romance, not porn. If that’s not something you’re going to be comfortable with, being a beta reader for me is probably not for you.

For more info on being a beta reader:

So if you are interested, drop me an email… jaemoran4@gmail.com

Thanks in advance,

Jae