Today I am so pleased to welcome Leta Blake back to Joyfully Jay. Leta has come to talk to us about her latest release, Pictures of You. I reviewed this one last week and totally loved it! She has also brought along a backlist book to give away. Please join me in giving Leta a big welcome!
Writing Flawed Characters in Historical Times
Hello, I’m thrilled to be a guest blogger today, talking about my new book, Pictures of You. This first book in the ‘90s Coming of Age series introduces the reader to Peter Mandel, the main character throughout all four books. He’s only eighteen, gay, and trying to figure out his life.
Peter first showed up in my head fourteen years ago, and he is truly the character of my heart. I could talk about him all day, but for the purposes of this blog post, I wanted to talk about writing flawed characters in historical times.
Now, 1990-1992 doesn’t seem that long ago to us Gen Xers, but the reality is that a child born in those years is a full-on adult now. The changes that have taken place across the board since that time have been staggering. A teenage boy in 1990 had no cell phone, likely no computer, no internet, no easy access to porn, or an online community of ‘others’ for support.
HIV was still considered a death sentence because AIDS was considered an inevitable outcome. Living in the South, even a more educated and liberal city like Knoxville, made being out and proud terrifying.
1990 and 1991 were not easy years to be a gay or bisexual eighteen year old boy.
There is no doubt that Peter is a flawed character, but I’m not sure how different his personality might have been had he been written as a teen in 2016 instead of 1990. I think he would have been much the same, though a lot of the pain he suffers would probably not have happened at all.
Peter’s love interest in Pictures of You, Adam Algedi, however? That’s another matter entirely.
WARNING VAGUE SPOILERS FOR PICTURES OF YOU TO FOLLOW! STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!
Adam Algedi is bisexual and polyamorous. He’s capable of loving two people at once and doing it well.
Unfortunately, in the early 1990s the word polyamorous didn’t even exist. Adam has no idea that’s even what he is, or that there could ever be a world where he could be honest with his partners and discuss the reality of his feelings. In 1990 Adam could not even name himself. Without the words to talk about how he feels and what he wants, he makes choices that he believes are justified, but which, in the end, hurt everyone involved.
All of this is because I set the book sin 1990-1992.
Had I written Adam as a teenage boy in 2016, he’d have so many more resources available to him. Tumblr alone could educate him about his sexuality (bisexual) and his love style (polyamorous). Even if he couldn’t convince his partners to want what he wants, at least he’d know he wasn’t alone in the world. He’d have words to shape his reality with and to explain himself. Words that his partners could google or research for further understanding, too.
But stuck back in 1990, poor Adam is a wreck. He makes mistakes, hurtful ones, and he isn’t a model portrayal of bisexuality or polyamory because he simply doesn’t know how and there’s no one to show him until he’s made a mess of his life and hurt other people. Adam is, at heart, a cautionary tale.
As the author, I have immense empathy for Adam and his choices. I love him dearly and think he’s trying the best he knows how, but that isn’t enough not to make a disaster. I know some readers won’t be able to summon the empathy for him that I have, but I hope this blog post reveals how so many of Adam’s choices are due to the historical time period in which his character is stuck.
Perhaps if we can see the paths open to 2016 Adam and recognize that they simply aren’t there for 1990 Adam we can feel a bit more sympathy for him, and open our hearts to the layers of his pain and love.
But, in the end, the ‘90’s Coming of Age series belongs to Peter. So whatever the future holds for Adam, we’ll have to see if Peter allows us a glimpse.
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the series and the characters! I hope readers take and enjoy the coming of age journey with Peter!
Growing up gay isn’t easy. Growing up gay in Knoxville, Tennessee is even harder.
Eighteen-year-old Peter Mandel, a private school senior—class of 1990—is passionate about photography. Peter doesn’t have many friends preferring to shoot pictures from behind the scenes to keep his homosexuality secret.
Enter Adam Algedi, a charming, worldly new guy who doesn’t do labels, but does want to do Peter. Hardly able to believe gorgeous Adam would want geeky, skinny him of all people, Peter’s swept away on a journey of first love and sexual discovery. But as their mutual web of lies spins tighter and tighter, can Peter find the confidence he needs to make the right choices?
Join Peter, in the first of a four-part coming of age series, on his search to love and be loved, and, most of all, how to grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.
One lucky winner will receive an ebook of their choice from Leta’s backlist
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