Today I am so pleased to welcome Ralph Josiah Bardsley to Joyfully Jay. He has come to share some questions and answers about his release, Brothers and brought along a giveaway as well! Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
The Role of Family in Gay Fiction, and Why I Wrote Brothers
Hi Jay – Thanks for having me on Joyfully Jay. My name is Ralph Josiah Bardsley and I am the author of Brothers, reviewed here on Joyfully Jay in December.
Why did you write Brothers?
I wrote Brothers because I wanted to tell a slightly different kind of love story – a holistic one that encompasses family, friends and straight allies.
The book follows the story of two sets of Irish-American brothers – the Corks and the Malloys. Family is central to the plot, and while there is a romance that develops between Jamus Cork and Sean Malloy, the story is more about how the family dynamics of the Corks and the Malloys shape that romance.
Why was it important to you to focus so much on family in this story?
Relationships never happen in a vacuum. In real life, they are always shaped by the forces around us – and those forces are primarily work and family… and mostly family. I wanted to tell a positive story about the power of having your family on your side. One of the things I love most about contemporary gay literature is the evolution of family. If you read gay lit from the mid-late 20th century on back, family (if it’s portrayed at all) is often a devastating element of the book. In everything from Mary Renault’s Charioteer to James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, to Gore Vidal’s City and the Pillar, family is overbearing, negative and a source of extreme anxiety for the gay characters and even the reader. With newer gay lit – from Rainbow Boys to Something Like Summer, you start to see positive, accepting portrayals of parents, siblings and other family. It’s one of the most exciting ways the genre has evolved.
Does this story reflect your own life?
Yes and no. It is not autobiographical. The characters are all fictitious, as is the plot. But it does reflect the feeling of acceptance I had from my family and the deep bond my brother and I have.
I was very lucky; my family – my entire, very large, half-Irish family – has always been extremely accepting, loving and supporting of me. I think it makes a big difference when you have that.
The book reflects an Irish-Catholic perspective on family, but not in the way many people might expect. There are a lot of books about Irish Catholics that focus on the restrictive nature of the religion or the rejection of gay people because of Catholic values, but my experience was very different from that and I wanted to show that in Brothers. In Irish-American families, the most important thing in life is the family. You’re raised to understand that taking care of your brothers or sisters is the most important thing you’ll do until you’re married… or whatever alternative you choose to that.
What about the heat? Where is the romance in the book?
Heat is important – that’s for sure. The romance in Brothers happens between Jamus Cork and Sean Malloy. It takes time for those two characters to meet and for the relationship to blossom – both characters are busy dealing with challenges in their own lives. As they resolve those issues and grow as characters themselves, they begin to fall in love. I would describe the intimate scenes between those two characters as tender.
Who should read this book?
Anyone looking for a good story, a family saga or a different sort of coming out tale. It is a combination of all three and hopefully just an entertaining book overall.
At twenty-three, Jamus Cork’s plans are simplegraduate college, stay in New York City, and write. But those plans change when his parents are suddenly killed and he finds himself the guardian of his little brother, Nick. Jamus ends up back in the Boston neighborhood where he grew up, with a crying toddler on his knee and the challenge of building a new life for himself and the boy. Jamus somehow finds a way to navigate the ups and downs of single parenting, but over a decade of raising Nick, Jamus never truly overcomes his struggles with loneliness and the guilt he feels as the sole survivor of the crash that killed his parents. That changes when he meets bookishly handsome Sean Malloy. There’s a spark between the two men, but both must face down their own private demons to find love in the Irish enclave of South Boston.
Photo credit: Sam Bardsley
Born into an Irish American family in a small town outside of Boston, Ralph Josiah grew up as a Coast Guard brat, wandering around helicopter hangers in New Orleans, Cape Cod, coastal North Carolina, and Sitka, Alaska. He currently resides in San Francisco and Boston with his husband and partner of more than fourteen years, Dana Short.
Ralph Josiah holds a bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College and a master’s in communication from Emerson College. He has a passion for good books, exciting travel, and long runs—where he happens to do most of his thinking. He is inspired by things that are different and believes that grace happens when and where we least expect it. His first novel,Brothers, is due out in the fall of 2015.
Ralph Josiah has brought a signed copy of Brothers to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Tuesday, March 8th at 11:59 pm EST.
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