Please join me in welcoming author Jessie Pinkham to my blog. Jessie is here today to tell us a little about her new book, Pursuing Happiness, and about her writing process.
Book Title: Pursuing Happiness
Author: Jessie Pinkham
Publisher: Jessie Pinkham
Cover Artist: Katia V. Michelet
Release Date: July 12, 2018
Genre/s: romance, contemporary, gay
Length: 53,000 words
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A repressive childhood casts long shadows.
Growing up in a reactionary religious household left Matt Aldridge socially inept and woefully underprepared for life in the wider world. He’s still trying to figure himself out when he meets his hunky new neighbor, Collin Moravec. Matt likes him at first sight, and miraculously, Collin feels the same.
When his cousin Levi shows up needing a home, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take him in, even as it throws his own world into disarray. He’s determined to save his younger cousin some of the struggles he faced. But taking on this responsibility brings up old anxieties, and in his terror of failing Levi, Matt pushes Collin away. He has to move beyond his fearful upbringing once and for all, or he’s going to end up miserable – and alone.
“Now, about that sexual to-do list. I’m dying to know what’s on it.”
An adorable blush blossomed on Matt’s cheeks. “I think there’s a lot of potential for fun with a can of whipped cream.”
“I’m completely on board with that.”
Finally Matt relaxed. “You’re a very good boyfriend,” he remarked.
Collin figured that meant he’d said the right thing. Good. He took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. “So are you, and if I hadn’t already known that my coworkers made sure to tell me yesterday.”
“How did the grant application turn out?”
“Well, it doesn’t scream ‘thrown together at the last minute,’ so it could be a lot worse.”
“I know nothing about grants,” said Matt, “but I have plenty of personal experience in the red parts of the state, where you said you want to do outreach. Maybe this is weird pillow talk, but…”
Collin interrupted. “Our pillow talk can be whatever we want.”
“Okay. Have you considered how much tougher it will be to go out and talk about LGBT acceptance with people in very conservative areas? I mean really thought about the ruling mindset there?”
They certainly weren’t going in blind. Regardless he wanted to hear Matt’s opinion, if for no other reason than to understand his boyfriend a little better. “We expect to be called a lot more nasty slurs.”
“That’s obvious. It’s not just the insults, though. The thing is that a lot of these people – not all, but a definite majority – are not even going to consider what you have to say. The religiously inclined, which again will be a good percentage, will consider it a given that you’ve been deceived by Satan. So there’s no reason for them to even consider what you have to say, see? Anything they don’t like can easily be written off as inspired by Satan. It’s a very neat system if you don’t like thinking too hard. And it makes us very easy scapegoats for anyone, religious or not, who doesn’t like how the world is changing.”
“There are going to be some people who remain homophobic no matter what we say or do,” acknowledged Collin.
“Some might become more tolerant with personal contact, when the LGBT community isn’t something abstract and instead they know someone who isn’t heterosexual. Then there are the people like my family.”
“Bastards. But we know that. What we want to do, at the very least, is give some hope to LGBT people who feel isolated.”
“They certainly need it. Here’s the thing, though. It’s easy to be anonymous in the city. People can go to Ted’s Place without anyone they know having a clue about their visit to an LGBT center. In rural areas it’s not the same. If somebody stops to talk with you or takes pamphlets or whatever you’re doing for outreach, they’ll be recognized and before long half the town will know. The smaller the community, the worse it gets in that regard.” Matt sighed. “I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m just being realistic. I would never have dared talk with anyone doing LGBT outreach. Far too dangerous.”
“That’s depressing. It’s good to know, though. Obviously this has to factor into our plans.” He lacked ideas on how to work around this very serious roadblock. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Collin would share this perspective with his colleagues and go from there. “Any suggestions for us to get around that?”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any brilliant solutions. The internet is good. My family was unusually restrictive in that area, but it probably helps a lot of other kids. Just keep in mind that in some of these conservative areas, you’ll be entering enemy territory.”
“Not a metaphor. They will literally see you as the enemy. Inspired by Satan, remember? It’s spiritual warfare and you’re the advanced guard. That’s how a lot of people will see you.”
“Damn,” said Collin. He imagined an army wearing sparkly rainbow uniforms, armed with lube and condoms, maybe doing something stereotypical like singing show tunes. “Here I thought I just wanted people to live in a way that makes them happy, and now I find out I’m in Satan’s gay army.”
Matt frowned. “I’m serious, Collin.”
Oops. His last comment had clearly been too flippant. “Sorry. I was going for lightening the mood with humor but clearly missed the mark. This is important to know. And honestly, it speaks to how strong you are that you were able to escape that.”
“I’m not sure being kicked out counts as escaping.”
“You could’ve gone to conversion therapy, pretended to be cured, and lived the rest of your life miserable and accepted by your family. You chose the harder option.”
“True,” said Matt. “Totally worth it.”
Collin traced random patterns on his boyfriend’s chest. “I’m glad to hear it. If you didn’t think it was worth it after that blowjob, I’d have done something terribly wrong.”
This time Matt let him lighten the mood. He winked and said, “No worries there.”
“That’s a relief.”
“You know that saying about praise going to your head? They’re talking about the head on top of your neck.”
“How do you know?” countered Collin.
Matt opened his mouth to protest, then paused. A second later he admitted, “That’s actually a good question.”
Score one for being a smartass.
☆ Author Interview ☆
Congratulations on your new release. Please tell us a little bit about it. What’s your favorite aspect or part of the story? Do you have a favorite character? Who/Why?
Pursuing Happiness is the tale of a man struggling with the aftereffects of an ultra-reactionary and very isolated upbringing. Matt wants to be a happy, well-adjusted gay man with a partner, but he’s not quite sure how to get there, and just when he thinks he has life figured out, it throws him another curveball.
One of my goals for this story was to demonstrate how moving beyond religious abuse and toxic family is a process. Leaving home is only the first step. I believe it’s very important to show this ongoing progression, backward slips and all.
Matt is so incredibly close to my heart, and he was from the beginning because he is drawn from some of my own experiences. He’s honestly trying, but he has to work so hard to make his place in the world, and I just want to give him a hug.
What was the inspiration for your latest story?
My own childhood was not as extreme as Matt’s, but I had a lot of baggage to work through all the same. When you’re raised in an environment of fear, it can be incredibly hard to let go. Some people do it like flipping a switch. I was not one of them, and I started thinking that I hadn’t read a book which reflected anything like my experiences. Leaving a toxic family isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of a new struggle.
And thus, a novel was born out of my desire to see something like my own path portrayed.
Do you schedule a certain amount of time for writing each day/week, or do you just work it in when you can? Would you like to change this, or does your current method work well for you?
I write when I can and the muse obliges, both of which are happily often, though I’m not one of those 5,000 word a day writers. (Cue great awe.) Personally, I like this method. I write because I love it, so I don’t want it to be some scheduled To Do, which sounds awfully chore-like.
Now, Mr. Pinkham and I recently hosted our nephew for a week, and we had a great time with him, but I wrote not one word. I do not know how parents ever finish a manuscript. Maybe that’s where scheduling would come in handy: “You’re entertaining the kiddo(s) from 6:00 to 7:00 while I write. See you in an hour.”
What was the most difficult part of writing this book? Why?
The scenes where Matt reacts badly to a scare and pushes Collin away. I really wanted to convey that while his actions might seem irrational and paranoid from an outside perspective, he’s following a certain internal logic learned from his parents. He’s not a flake; he’s a man who defaults to fear and is trying desperately to do the right thing.
How do you develop a story idea? Do you always use the same method? Specifically, which do you develop first in your story building, the characters or the plot?
My stories are driven by the characters. I usually start with a vision for a character in a situation, which then tends to stay fairly consistent throughout the writing process. Only one of my MCs has surprised me so far in terms of his development.
Once I have the character, I start mentally fitting him into a premise and/or world. Then it’s time to start writing! I’m a complete pantser and I’ve never plotted out a single story. When it all goes well, the plot and conflict unfold organically as the character moves through their world.
This can lead to problems, to be sure. I have a whole graveyard of abandoned files consisting of characters with premises but no conflict. Still, if I had to have all my ducks in a row or, worse still, an outline, I’d never have finished a book.
What do you find to be the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Well, seeing as how I don’t have a penis, it’s tricky to write about a character that does. And there’s only so far an interview will take you. I can ask my husband what a blowjob feels like, but “Awesome!” is not an especially helpful answer, in terms of bringing a sex scene to life.
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
I usually listen to music (and sometimes sing along) when driving. I find this helps keep me more focused on the road. I have missed turns and exits because I was thinking about a story and driving on autopilot, which isn’t a very good idea. Nothing dangerous and I’ve never daydreamed my way into causing an accident, but all the same, I find it best to keep my brain occupied on something other than my WIPs when driving. Basically, if not given anything else to chew on, my brain defaults to writing mode. It’s a blessing and a curse.
If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your family or friends assume you’d done?
They’d undoubtedly assume it was a mistake. I am a rule follower to the core, and in fact I am offended on principle when other people don’t follow the rules.
That being said, one summer in my grad school years when still living at my mother’s house in Maine, I went to a big rally of those who wanted to end the military’s homophobic Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. It was a major event headlined by Lady Gaga, where the mayor of Portland spoke briefly. All very law-abiding (except one or two people selling marijuana on the outskirts). Anyway, we showed our support for the cause, there were ex-servicemembers who spoke passionately, and Lady Gaga gave a heartfelt speech comparing freedom to prime rib (I think she’s a better songwriter than speechwriter). And then I got home and my mother said, “Oh, good, you didn’t get arrested.” Yeah, I was a rebel.
Amazon US | Amazon UK
About the Author
Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivors and the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.
She’s usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.
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4 thoughts on “AUTHOR #INTERVIEW – Pursuing Happiness by Jessie Pinkham – #Excerpt”
I’m putting this on my TBR, it sounds great. I have a thing for MCs with religious backgrounds which is interesting since I’m an atheist myself… 😀
I don’t object to MCs having that background, but if I get any kind of vibe that a story has an agenda pushing religion of the reader, I’m outta there. I don’t mind it existing on the side (heck, many of my favorite JL Merrow books have that), as long as it doesn’t come across as proselytizing.
I don’t get that vibe from this blurb. It looks interesting!
That’s very true. I’m the same. What I meant was that I like a religious background, but no pushing it on the reader, thank you very much 🙂
Agreed. Anything that exists has a legit place in stories. It’s all a question of how it’s handled. 🙂