We are very happy to welcome Wade Kelly to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Wade’s new book Misplaced Affection is now available.
Wade Kelly lives and writes in conservative, small-town America on the east coast where it’s not easy to live free and open in one's beliefs. Wade writes passionately about controversial issues 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. There is a lot of pain in the world and people need hope. 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, can’t spell, and has a tendency to make people cry.
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 and chat with her.
Wade: Thanks. I hope to get the chance again when I go to Rainbow Con in July J
Jodi: Me, too. Thank you, Wade, for taking the time to answer some questions. Misplaced Affection is an independent publication through Direct2Digital and Create Space. Why did you choose to publish this book independently?
Wade: The first reason is timing. Names Can Never Hurt Me took ten months in production and I really didn’t want to wait that long again. I am a slow writer to begin with. Also, by taking this project and learning about self-pub, I have a broader base to use. I also want to submit to another publisher, possibly this year, so I can have my “eggs” distributed in more than one basket. Does that make sense? I think a variety of publishing tools is good.
Jodi: I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters are intense and there is lots of angst. The novel is broken up into three parts, giving readers three different perspectives of similar incidents. Why did you choose to explore all three men’s perspectives instead of just sharing from one character’s point of view?
Wade: Well, because of the incident that happens to Flynn in section one, having another character’s POV made sense. And although I adore Flynn, I wanted the readers to feel Zach’s anxiety and fear a little bit. Hopefully they do a little. Plus, I love including families in the mix and seeing the families are not always the same through one set of eyes. And if readers are familiar with my books, I DO have the reputation for multiple POVs anyway. It’s part of my style.
Jodi: Flynn is an intense character, who has had to deal with some major challenges in his young life. He has is confused about his sexuality and his relationship with his best friend, Zach. Tell is a little about Flynn.
Wade: Flynn is the classic example (in my mind) of an insecure teenage boy. He’s had to figure out most of life on his own and the one person he fears losing his Zach. A fear he finally realizes was unnecessary. He makes some poor decisions, but I think it lends to his realism. Flynn is also kindhearted and is the glue that holds everyone together.
Jodi: And, of course, this brings us to Zach. Although Zach appears to be a confident, independent young man, but readers learn much of that is a façade. Zach’s family is very religious, and many of his actions and words are the result of his family’s views. Why is Zach so fearful of making waves with his family?
Wade: Zach is the youngest. He’s not ta leader as an “oldest child” tends to be. He is the baby and has had to take the brunt of the abuse. Discipline is all he’s ever known. I think it takes something big, a catalyst, to shatter the pattern. The incident with Flynn is Zach’s moment of change and he sees his need to stand up for himself. Again, he’s scared. Even if he is older than Flynn, I think growing up can be very scary, and more so for some.
Jodi: Religion and homophobia play a major role in this book. Yet, you still try to maintain a balance between different Christian views of religion and God (Zach’s family versus Keith’s family). Is there a message you want your readers to take away from the reading?
Wade: It is okay to think and question for yourself. I believe that God is not afraid of questions. I know some churches (and families like Zach’s) that suppress personal exploration and see it as a bad thing. I don’t. Seeking knowledge, even knowledge about God, is not bad. Giving in and believing in the teaching of man can be bad. Men are the ones that write the books and record the history, but we should always search and know for ourselves what the history teaches. Humans in general need to always want to know more, and strive to bring hope and peace. Remaining is a closed church using the Bible as a weapon is dangerous. I hope that makes sense. I have a hard time explaining what is in my head sometimes.
Jodi: It makes perfect sense, Wade. I have to say that I loved Keith’s character from the beginning. He is lovable and kind, but he also is a bit pushy, strong-willed and not very patient. Tell us a little about why he is constantly pushing Flynn away.
Wade: I don’t see him as pushing Flynn away as demanding he man-up and come out. (Impatiently so.) I think Keith never wanted to break up, ever, but he was so frustrated. He’s a jealous and angry person who is hopelessly in love and is maddened by it. If he was pushing Flynn away perhaps it was to make him open his eyes.
Jodi: This book provides a coming of age story for not only Flynn, Keith and Zach, but it also focuses on their families. Flynn’s father, Vic, is the most dynamic of the parents as he evolves throughout the book. Did you consciously want to show the struggle of good (Keith’s parents) and evil (Zach’s parents) through Vic?
Wade: Maybe not consciously. Sometimes things just happen as I write. I wasn’t settled with Flynn losing his mother and brother and seeing the growth in him to deal with the emotions as he got older, because I knew his dad would need to deal with it all, too. And as I wrote, Vic did come together as the strength for all the boys: A quiet strength who realized his need to be a man and a father, not a drunken ghost full of guilt and shame.
Jodi: I don’t want to give away any plot details, but I do need to ask about Amelia. Why did you include her character in this story, and why does Flynn agree to date her?
Wade: I wanted to give a reason that Keith breaks up with Flynn. Maybe it was a flimsy one, but I do see Flynn as being compassionate enough to take pity on a pathetic girl that lives in the shadow of her older sister. He didn’t plan it, he fell into it because he is young and doesn’t think sometimes.
Jodi: In our last interview, we discussed the concept of labels. You said people need labels “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.” In this book, it is not just the labels of sexual identity that are important, but also the labels for religion (fundamentalism, humanism, Catholicism). As you have mentioned before, you live in a conservative Christian area, why are these religious labels so important to people?
Wade: That’s a good question. As usual you don’t hit lightly. I’m not really sure how to answer it. My area, Westminster, is conservative, but it is also changing. Maryland DID vote in same-sex marriage. My town has many diverse groups, economically, socially, culturally, ethnically, as well as related to sexual orientation. I think progression is slow, but is happening. Religious labels are important because maybe that is what the people know and grew up with. Like in the south being associated with the Southern Baptist Church or something. If you can identify the “label” they use, then it is easier for some to understand their belief system. I think the religious labels can be the same as the sexual identity labels: “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.”
Jodi: Zach’s father uses religion as law that must be upheld at all costs. He also uses physical and mental abuse as his way of enforcing this law. As a result, Zach believes when he does or thinks something outside of this narrow law, he must be punished. Although Zach’s punishment is enforced by his father, it is clear Zach feels he deserves it. It is very reminiscent of the torture Arthur Dimmesdale inflicts on himself in The Scarlet Letter. Do you feel small-town America is still stuck in this “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” mentality, or do you feel this is the exception and not the rule?
Wade: I don’t see it as only a “small town” mentality as much as something that can happen to anyone. Often, abused people feel they deserve the abuse. Children who grow up that way don’t realize it is wrong. There are children whose parents get divorced and they see it as their fault. Jimmy in When Love Is Not Enough holds back from confessing his own abuse from Joan because he “doesn’t want to be the cause of another split family.” Zach is the child who becomes an adult and has to be told it was never his fault. He did nothing wrong and the blame is on his parents. As far as the “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” mentality, I don’t know. Maybe the readers can tell me what they think?
Jodi: Do you have plans for a future book focused on what happens to Zach next?
Wade: I hadn’t thought about that. Perhaps I can keep that in mind. J
Jodi: What projects do you have coming up next?
Wade: I have way too many things in mind. I can only hope to bring a couple to publication this year. With the option of self-pub, I will definitely have at least one more publication. I hope to submit one to Dreamspinner and one to another publisher.
In the works:
~Only Skin Deep - the sequel to NAMES (Corey's book)
~The Honorary Tooth Faryrie - a comedy or sorts, started for NaNoWritMo, but November is a hard month to write in.
~My Lover Sucks! - a vampire horror/comedy I started in 2010.
~Sculpting Clay - a rewrite of the story that is now out of print. (self-pubbing)
Wade: Since we were talking about the fathers in the book, I thought I’d share part of a scene with Flynn’s dad. (below)
Clichés are overrated and loving the boy next door may not be as genuine as the love Flynn sacrifices along the way.
Knowing he’s gay and acting on it were two separate notions to Flynn Brewer until he’d met Keith, his first boyfriend, in high school. Before then, being gay wasn’t as real as the pain of living day-to-day. Flynn’s fear of coming out to his religious best friend Zach in their conservative community destroyed his relationship with Keith, but Flynn rationalized his avoidance and bottled up the truth until it was regrettably too late.
Zachary Mitchell was the perfect son and role model as far as the outside world could tell. Active in his church while attending college, Zach had a personality that could sell anything, do anything, or be anything. Except, he couldn’t sell the truth to himself. Just when he was ready to reveal his internal conflict to Flynn and expose the darkness lurking in his heart, and in his “perfect” family, Zach met a girl and got sucked deeper into his chasm of deception.
Caught in a living Newton’s Cradle of his own design, Flynn must choose between idealistic childhood fantasy, or a tempestuous passion that could ignite the very air he breathes.
And then suddenly, abruptly, my dad was gone. I turned and saw him running down the lane between the headstones. He turned the corner and shot through the gate, bolting toward home. Stunned, it took me a moment to take off after him. As out of shape as I thought my dad was, he still beat me through the front door. He stood in the living room, his back to me, shoulders heaving, holding onto the corner of the wall next to the sofa.
“Dad?” I said, careful not to speak too loudly and startle him out of whatever had possessed him to run all the way home. It might be a short walk, but I was slightly winded. Me, the guy in shape from swimming and tennis. “Dad, are you—”
I stopped mid sentence as he turned and hurled a vase at the wall behind me. I ducked as shattered glass flew everywhere, and he picked up another knickknack. “Dad!” I yelled, diving to the side and taking refuge in the space between the stairs and my mother’s piano. The space was so small, yet I cowered there between the side of the piano and the angled end of the banister where we used to keep umbrellas because nothing else fit in the tiny space. My legs hurt as I yanked them impossibly close to my chest, but I wasn’t about to move into his view.
He picked up a picture frame and threw it at another wall screaming like a madman, “You left me, Tory! Why? How could you leave me? I needed you and Nate to complete this family, and instead you leave me with a gay son!”
His words carved a larger hole in my gut than his tears had earlier. They stole my very breath and cut me deeply, to the marrow of my bones. Was this how he felt? Why hadn’t he told me? He had said he was fine with it last year. Had the past twelve months been a lie?
My dad picked up the end of the chair and flipped it, knocking the coffee table into the TV stand. Our wide-screen TV wobbled, but thankfully didn’t fall. “Gay!” He lifted his face to the ceiling and hollered at the top of his lungs. “What do you think Mr. Godly is going to say about that? Huh? You know he’s watching me Tory! You know he hates everything I do and say. We argue about everything! How I keep my yard, and why I work all day, and why I let my son dye his hair blue, and how come I don’t drive a better car? He blames it all on my lack of faith. Fuck that, Victoria! Fuck Stewart Mitchell and his fucking church! He doesn’t fucking know anything!”
The lamp crashed to the floor. My dad picked up another glass knickknack from a still upright table and hurled it at another wall. Porcelain bits showered the floor, several of which hit my shoe on their way across the hardwood. I pulled my knees tighter to my chest and listened to him screaming at my dead mother. “He’s gay, Tory! What the fucking hell does that mean?”
I sobbed silently, terrified as a three-year-old child walking in on a mass murder. I had no idea what I was watching, but his rage made my whole body tremble in terror. He hated me. My dad hated me for being gay and he had hidden his feelings for a year. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any lonelier or feel any more worthless, my dad yells at my dead mother about my sexuality. If I could have run for the kitchen I would have dashed in and grabbed a knife to end his suffering. He didn’t deserve this. It was my fault. Maybe my dad hadn’t been grieving this whole time, but rather angry at my mother for leaving him stuck with me?
I was his life’s disappointment.
I wanted to run. I wanted to get away. I wanted to rip every mirror off the walls so I would never have to look myself in the face and know I was the putrescent boy my father hated. My body shook, but I couldn’t make a sound for fear he’d notice and throw me at the wall. Or worse, beat me like Zach’s father had done.
He punched the wall and sent drywall to the floor. “How the hell am I supposed to relate to him, Tory? Fuck… Fuck… Fuck!” His cursing crescendoed.
And then, like the eye of a hurricane, when the wind suddenly ceases, my dad dropped his arms and stilled. Head bowed, shoulders slumped, he breathed a deep ragged breath and sobbed like a baby. “What does that mean?” he asked again in the tiniest of voices, weak and broken. “How do I love him, Tori?”
He turned in my direction and I instinctively shielded my face from him in case he had something left to throw. “Flynn,” he said so quietly I could have missed it if I hadn’t been paying so close attention. “Flynn,” he repeated louder when I didn’t respond. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what to do after your mother died, so I didn’t do anything.”
I lowered my protective arms and peered up at him.