We are very happy to welcome Wade Kelly to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Wade’s new book Names Can Never Hurt Me is available on Dreamspinner Press.
Wade Kelly lives and writes in conservative, small-town America on the east coast where it is not easy to live free and open in one's beliefs. She writes passionately about the controversial issues witnessed in real life and strives to make a difference by making people think. Wade does not have a background in writing or philosophy, but still draws from personal experience to ponder contentious subjects on paper. When not writing, she is thinking about writing, and more than likely scribbling ideas on sticky notes in the car while playing “taxi driver” for her three children. She likes snakes and has a tegu (lizard) living in her bathroom.
Visit Wade Kelly at www.writerwadekelly.com, writerwadekelly.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter.
I had the pleasure to meet and hang out with Wade when she attended RainbowCon 2014 this past spring. It was great to have the opportunity to meet chat with her.
Jodi: Thank you, Wade, for taking the time to answer some questions. Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to write exclusively in the m/m genre.
Wade: I started writing sci-fi/fan in 2006 and in 2008 I joined an “unpublished authors” website where I met several authors, one of whom I met in person in 2009. As a kind gesture, I told him I could write him a story about how he’d meet his Prince Charming. After all, how hard could writing romance be after I had written a sci-fi trilogy? I gave it a shot. My friend was gay so I wrote gay characters because the story was for him. I wasn’t going to write a M/F romance if it was being written specifically for a gay man. So… ta-da, years later I am still writing that! M/M romance.
Jodi: The first books you wrote for Dreamspinner Press are categorized as Bittersweet Dreams novels because “love doesn't always conquer all.” Tell us about the inspiration for the Unconditional Love books: When Love is not Enough and The Cost of Loving.
Wade: In the above question I talked about writing my first M/M book. That book will be out of print at the end of this month (to be reintroduced in a couple months under the name Wade Kelly), but it is NOT under the name Wade Kelly now. Why? Because in 2010 the church I had attended basically threw me out. The reason being I wrote gay characters. There is also a line in the end of When Love is Not Enough that I actually heard someone I knew say. (Not giving spoilers, but what Joan said to Jimmy, I heard someone actually say.) The treatment I had received, and I was NOT gay, plus the words someone I considered a friend say about their own son, made me consider why kids feel such despair as to take their own lives. AND, last year, another friend died from a drug overdose due to the same despair from hatred and pressure and judgment. It hurts my heart so much that people are treated so hatefully. So, I wrote my pain and produced something that has held deep meaning for many readers. For me, I found a calling from God, if you will, to try to bring hope to people and love people, and show some they are not alone in their despair and that some people still do care. I know I do. I don’t want anyone else I know dying like that. Ever! And the cost of loving is what I went through with that church.
Jodi: Jimmy, Darian and Matt are very intense characters as are the minor characters in the books. Were these books difficult to write in order to show the different perspectives of each character? Yes. They are draining. But I was trying to show different reactions to grief and pain and death. This is why Matt gets angry while Darian feels deep sorrow and depression and even some psychological problems.
Wade: Will there be a third book in this series told from Darian’s perspective? Yes. I have 36k written and I have an amazing cover for it!
Jodi: My Roommate's a Jock? Well, Crap! is a more humorous and light-hearted novel. What was your inspiration for the plot of this book? I went on a camping trip almost exactly like the one in the book. Minus the guys kissing n the tent. I wrote that scene when I got home and the book exploded from there.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for Cole and Ellis? Cole is me. I am cynical and sarcastic and often dour. Ellis is named after a friend’s son who was a soccer player. I thought his look and mannerisms fit the character I wanted to write.
Wade: Religion and homophobia play a major role in your books. You specifically focus on intolerance of Christians. Why is this a prevalent theme in your books? Because of what I personally experienced. If I am NOT gay and went through this kind of hell (hell partially because I lost ALL my friend s I had had for 10 years, fyi) , then what the heck kind of crap are the real homosexuals experiencing, because that can’t be nice. So, I explore my thoughts and write about them.
Jodi: Nick Jones in Names Can Never Hurt Me is an interesting character. He has slept with almost every woman within his group of friends, but he clearly is attracted to Corey. Why does it take Nick so long to admit his attraction to men?
Wade: I think because he’s not real smart. The attraction to Corey has only been a recent thing where the women have been ongoing for years. He has been manipulated easily and used for sex so long, I see him as a person who doesn’t start thinking for himself until he meets RC and starts connecting the dots. Does that make sense?
Jodi: What was your inspiration for Nick’s character? Is he completely fictional or is he based on real people?
Wade: Yes and no. I have known a couple guys who could be seen as “man whores” but he is not one specific person. His comfort in life is my own upbringing, as well as all his jobs. I am also slow on the uptake at times so that part is all me. I think he is pieced together from several people I know and myself included.
Jodi: RC is so opposite Nick’s usual friends. RC is more of a “real person,” and although he seems attracted to Nick, he is extremely wary of becoming friends with him. What was your inspiration for RC?
Wade: RC is completely fictional. I wanted to write a story where the big, hairy guy gets the hottie. (Not that hairy guys aren’t hot, I have one; but they are not typically categorized the same way.) I wanted to write a different tale from others I have written before.
Jodi: Tell us a little about Corey. He and Nick have an intermittent affair, even though, Nick does not admit to being gay. What motivates Corey to keep coming back for Nick, especially when he knows Nick is dating Tara?
Wade: I see Corey as someone who has had to be on his own for so long that he yearns for the close relationship that he has in Nick. He feels something deeper and stronger than a sexual relationship, and over time they find a friendship akin to brothers, not lovers.
Jodi: Why is Nick so hung up on appearances and other people’s perceptions about him? He’s conceited and superficial.
Wade: I know people like this. I know people who have run with the same crowd since high school and MY high school is WAY over!
Jodi: Mary-Louise is a good sounding board for Nick. These two characters are the same age, but Mary-Louise seems more mature and stable. What was the inspiration for her character?
Wade: Without sounding sexist, I think women mature faster than men. She is intelligent and driven, where Nick is lazy and spoiled.
Jodi: Nick is very focused, one might say obsessed with labels (gay, straight, attractive), Why do you think names and labels are so important to him and in society in general?
Wade: Because people have the need to define things and stick them in a box. The biggest obstacle in society is fear of the unknown, so if you can label it then things and people are easier to understand. But what about the person who is figuring themselves out and can’t find a specific label that fits? I explore some of those thoughts through Nick.
Jodi: Is there a moral or lesson you want people to take away from your books?
Wade: For one, stand up for those who are being bullied. Just because you aren’t doing the “kicking” you are contributing to the problem by ignoring the situation. Step in and help!
Second, Don’t be afraid if you DON’T fit a specific category. We are all made differently, and sometimes understanding your sexuality is not so easily defined. Be assured you are not alone.
Jodi: What projects do you have coming up next?
Wade: I am working on an angsty novel called Misplaced Affection. This also deals with some definitions and labels, but not as a theme. I am writing about grief, loss, closure, and unrequited love. As well as abuse and, once again, religious tension. … But with a happy ending! ;)
Names Can Never Hurt Me
What if sexuality wasn’t a definable thing and labels merely got in the way?
Nick Jones can’t remember a time when he wasn’t part of the in crowd. Everywhere he goes, he stands out as the best looking guy in the room, and women practically fall into bed with him. Then, after kissing Corey on a dare led much more and on many occasions, Nick’s “screw anything” reputation escalated, but he didn’t care.
When Nick meets RC at the restaurant where he works, it throws his whole life out of whack. Overweight, always sweaty, gay, and hairy like a bear, RC lives up to his dubbed nickname “Scruffy Dude.” He seems Nick’s complete opposite, but Nick can’t get him out of his head.
Because of peer-pressure and his fears about defining his sexuality, Nick struggles with stepping out of his comfort zone and caring about someone different than himself. If he’s lucky, somewhere between arrogance and ignorance, Nick might find out what it means to be an adult, but if he’s wrong, he could lose everything.
Julie walked over and placed it on a tray. She called RC’s number and looked over at Marcy. “Hey, what’s up, buttercup? Why the frowny face?”
Marcy folded her arms over her chest and leaned back against the counter. “Nick’s being a jerk,” she huffed. “He thinks some fat guy likes me. I know he’s only saying that to get me off his case about dating Tara instead of me.”
I fucking could not believe my ears. She did not just say that! And to make matters worse, RC happened to walk up to get his pizza at the exact same time. He hesitated picking up the tray and looked at her. The look on RC’s face made my stomach turn over. Poor guy.
Marcy must have felt his presence behind her, because she turned in his direction. “Oh, I didn’t mean you.”
“Marcy!” I hissed from the other side of the heat lamps. I looked at RC, hoping to convey some regret for having such an insensitive friend, but RC wasn’t engaging me. He lifted the tray and walked away without saying a word. He retrieved his cup from the table he’d been sitting at, and moved to the far corner of the dining room. I rushed around the pizza-station table and got right in Marcy’s face. “I can’t believe you just said that! How fucking rude can you be?”
“Well… you… he… I don’t know!” She threw her hands in the air and stormed to the back.
“What’s her dealio?” Julie asked innocently. Her unusual way of talking normally made me grin, but I wasn’t in the mood.
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. I looked through the shop to where Marcy stood in back, talking to the boss. He was a good one to talk to; she’d be fine. Then I looked out into the dining room. Scruf—RC—was facing the window instead of the counter as he normally did. “I need to stop calling him that,” I mumbled to myself.
“Will you watch my station for me, Julie? I’ll be right back.” I knew nothing was coming out of the oven in the next few minutes, so she should be fine.
“Sure thing, ding-a-ling,” Julie peeped.
I grinned and shook my head. “You’re a trip.”
She walked over to the pizza counter and poked around the toppings as if it made her look busy. Silly girl. She was an odd one, but sweet as peach pie.
I took a deep breath and straightened my apron. I needed to apologize for Marcy’s words, if she wasn’t going to do it herself. My mom always told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” I felt it was only fair to apologize, but I’d never done that kind of thing before. And I admit I was a little scared. Pulse racing, nerves unraveling, I walked over to RC thinking, This is the right thing to do.
RC didn’t acknowledge my presence as I stood beside his table. When I cleared my throat, he finally glanced up. He didn’t look happy. He went right back to eating without saying a word. Shit! Failure. I wasn’t sure what to do. “Um, can I sit?” I asked tentatively.
He responded sarcastically. “I don’t know, can you?”
I was slightly shocked. Sarcasm, really? He didn’t know me. What if I’d been the kind of guy who got all in his face about it? Huh? But I wasn’t. I stood there like a dufus. What should I do now? Was this guy really so angered by what Marcy had said that he was cross with me too? Or did he think I was the one who’d called him fat? Should I sit? Or stand here and wait? Then I started questioning why I’d walked out here to apologize to begin with.
RC broke my awkward pause by demanding, “You gonna sit? Or stand there all day?”
I sat quickly, embarrassed that I looked guilty as charged. “I’m sorry,” I blurted. “That’s all I wanted to say. I’m sorry. Marcy shouldn’t have called you fat. I’m not sure why she did except she’s mad at me for going out with Tara and sometimes words just spew from her lips without her thinking about it. But, for the record, I didn’t say you were fat. She did. I’d never call you fat to your face like that.” My stupid mouth kept moving, and suddenly I was saying things I knew I shouldn’t have said.
RC’s brown eyes looked directly into mine. It was unnerving really. And odd. I could have sworn they were green the other day, but I’d only had that one glimpse. “So you’re saying you think I’m fat, but you won’t say it to my face?” The edge in his voice was sharp.
“No. Oh, heck no!” I scrabbled to explain. “I try not to judge people by their looks, really. People do it to me all the time. It gets annoying.”
“Yeah, I bet.” RC didn’t sound convinced.
“No, they do!” I purposely tried to sound like Chrissy by using my high-pitched girly-voice. “Oh that Nick, he’s such a stud with his long muscled legs and strong back. I bet he’d fuck anything!” Quickly realizing I’d cursed, and remembering how much the boss told us not to, I apologized. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to cuss.”
RC lifted his eyebrow, forcing the opposite one down. The look was even more dramatic than I could accomplish, and I was pretty good with facial expressions. “I don’t give a fuck if you cuss.” He was so terse. I wondered what his voice sounded like when he was happy.
I held up my hand and explained the rule around here. “I’m not really apologizing to you. The boss doesn’t like it. Although I was rude, I’m just saying I shouldn’t cuss at work.”
“Yeah, I guess. I like following rules.” I admitted it, but it sounded lame coming out of my mouth. Made me look like a pussy.
RC nodded and took another bite of his food. Maybe he didn’t care?
I felt like the moment was over, and I should return to work. Sitting here watching him eat was weird. I stood up. My fingers lingered on the table surface as I searched for one last word. “I guess I should get back. Again, I’m sorry. I hope you don’t hold it against her. Marcy is really nice once you get to know her.”
RC’s voice stopped me from walking away. “Is it true?”
My brain was like… whaat? I had to step back and ask, “Is what true?”
“That you’ll fuck anything?”
Okay, now I was really embarrassed. What should I say to that? It’s not like he should have even asked the question, right? He was the rude one now. But I was the one who’d thrown the comment out there in the first place. Shit. It wasn’t like I knew the guy, so it shouldn’t have mattered either way, but I also saw RC every week when he came into the restaurant. Should I tell him personal details, or be vague? Truth, always truth. “Um, I….” I started slowly, looking at the floor, searching for a sentence. Nope, nothing there, only some crumbs I’d missed with the broom. “I guess it’s true.” Never had I felt so ashamed. “I’ve been with a lot of girls.”
“Sucks to be you.”
The way RC said it, I wasn’t sure if it was praise or sarcasm. I decided not to ask. “I’m gonna head…,” I said, motioning toward the counter.
RC nodded. “But hey, Nick,” he said as I stepped away. “Thanks for apologizing. No one’s ever done that.”
I turned. “Called you fat?” I questioned. His countenance fell even further, if that was possible, and I regretted my mouth again.
“No… apologized for it.”
The look on his face made me feel even worse. No one should live through that. Before walking away, as I had tried to do three times now, I lifted my hand and squeezed RC’s shoulder. It was a strong shoulder, solid and muscular, not what I’d expected.
He didn’t say anything.
I went back to work, and the monotony of my life seemed less depressing. No one had ever called me fat or ridiculed my looks except to say they envied them. But still, there had been times I wished I didn’t look this way. If I weren’t so good-looking, I wouldn’t be the center of attention all the time. Girls might leave me alone.
Okay, that was just stupid talking. I banged my head on the wall and went back to forming a pizza. I wasn’t fooling anyone. I liked the way I looked. RC, in contrast….
I wondered what he’d look like if he lost a couple—fifty—pounds? And if he got rid of the acne? And if his hair wasn’t a royal mess all the time? And if he slipped on a dress shirt and pleated slacks? He could be handsome. He sure had nice lips peeking out from under the overhanging facial hair. I sighed. None of it mattered. He’d probably never speak to me again.