Today I am so pleased to welcome E.M. Ben Shaul to Joyfully Jay. E.M. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Flying Without a Net. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Hello, and thanks for hosting a tour stop for Flying Without a Net. This is my Interlude Press debut novel, and it’s very close to my heart, as well as to my home.
Flying Without a Net is a love story about two Jewish men—one a secular Israeli and the other, an Orthodox sign language interpreter, who must find a way to balance their feelings for each other with their respective views of faith. As an Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, Dani and Avi’s story is so important to me. I live in a simultaneously Jewish-friendly and gay-friendly neighborhood just outside of Boston, and I hope to share a better understanding of my faith, as well as the challenges it can present for two men in love.
Here are five of my favorite TV shows (past or present) and what I loved about them:
- “Pushing Daisies”: A very quirky show from Bryan Fuller, “Pushing Daisies tells the story of Ned, who is a pie maker who has the ability to bring things back to life by touching them. The problem is, if he touches them a second time, the person or thing dies again, permanently. His talent is discovered by a private investigator who gets Ned to help solve murder cases in exchange for keeping his ability secret. The show had a wonderful cast, including Lee Pace, Chi McBride, and Kristen Chenowith, with Anna Friel playing Charlotte (“Chuck”), Ned’s childhood best friend who was murdered but brought back to life by Ned. The stories were goofy and improbable, but they were well acted and funny, and the recurring cast was delightful.
- “M*A*S*H”: I first discovered it when I was a kid, while it was still in its original run. At the time, I didn’t understand half the jokes, and I didn’t completely understand the setting of the Korean War. I remember staying up late for the series finale, which ended long after my standard bed time, when the show ended in February 1983 (I was 12 at the time). M*A*S*H was partially a comedy and partially a drama, even though it was classified as a half-hour comedy. And there are scenes and episodes that stay with me to this day.
- “Forever”: Running only one season, in 2014-2015, this show told the story of a man who had been granted immortality and was working as a medical examiner in New York City. Starring Ioan Gryffudd as the immortal Henry Morgan and Judd Hirsch as his adopted son Abe, with Alana de la Garza as a homicide detective who works closely with Henry, the show used flashbacks to tie Henry’s history with whatever the case of the week was. I’ve loved Judd Hirsch for many years, and I really enjoyed him in this show, playing the 70-something-year-old son of this man who was 200 years old but looked no older than 40. In an amusing twist, when they needed to cast someone to play the young Abe in a flashback, they cast David Krumholtz. Krumholtz had previously played Judd Hirsch’s son in “Numbers.”
- “White Collar”: Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffrey, a con artist who becomes an FBI consultant working with Peter Burke, played by Tim DeKay. The chemistry between the two main actors made this show a lot of fun (and the behind-the-scenes clips absolutely delightful). The rest of the cast was just as fun as the lead actors. There were some hiccups in the storytelling, and at times it seemed like the writers were not 100% sure where they were taking the story, but the quality of the characters very frequently made up for the weakness of the show’s plots in later seasons.
- “Star Trek”: The original series, though I watched (and loved) all the subsequent series as well. (Yes, even “Voyager”; yes, all seven seasons of “Voyager.”) The original series ended before I was born, but I grew up with the show in syndication. It was one of the things that solidified my love of science fiction. When I was a kid, I loved “The Trouble With Tribbles” and “A Piece of the Action,” fun episodes that didn’t require much understanding of history or current events to appreciate. As I got older, “City on the Edge of Forever” became one of my favorite episodes, as I began to understand the consequences that would result were the Enterprise crew to change history. Today, some of the episodes seem very heavy handed with their messages, but given the social climate at the time when they were originally broadcast, there were a number of episodes that were truly
“You were talking to your brother about me?” Avi asked, but his tone was more one of pleasure than of confusion.
“He’s the one I go to when I need to talk something out, need to figure out how to approach a situation.”
Avi smiled at that. “It sounds like he serves a similar role for you as the Gang does for me.”
“’The Gang’?” Dani asked.
“Jake, Chava, and Dalia. I’ve called them the Gang of Three since I was in high school.”
“So you and Dalia have been together for, what, fifteen years?” Dani hoped his disappointment didn’t show on his face. If Avi and Dalia had been a thing since high school, there was no way Avi would be interested in anything Dani had to offer.
“Actually, longer. She joined our class in tenth grade, and I was one of the only people who could communicate with her without the interpreter. So she and I ended up becoming friends very quickly… and lab partners, and study partners, and so forth. We spent so much time together, it must have seemed to my parents like Dal had moved in. And she was a good friend to Chava, too, who was going through the awkwardness of puberty compounded with her discomfort with being different because she’s Deaf. Dalia became Chava’s mentor in many ways, showing her how to turn her differences into strengths.”
Dani nodded. “I can see how that would be valuable for both of them. But can I ask you something that’s totally not my business?” Dani figured that if he had no chance, he might as well ask the obvious, if possibly offensive, question.
“Uh… sure. But I reserve the right not to answer.”
“Perfectly reasonable,” Dani said. “So why haven’t the two of you gotten married yet? Two dati people dating for over fifteen years but still single? Haven’t your parents—or hers—pressured you?”
Avi smiled, and when he spoke, it was clear from his tone that he’d answered this more than once. “No, Dalia and I aren’t dating, and we never have dated. Everyone seems to think we are, though, when they first meet her. It’s just that—outside my immediate family—Dalia’s probably the woman I’m most comfortable with, and most people interpret that as us having a romantic relationship. So if you’re interested in her, I’m in no way an impediment.”
Dan smiled back. “It’s not Dalia that I’m interested in.”
Dani took a deep breath and then made his—possibly, no, probably, idiotic—pitch. “I may be completely wrong here, and you have every right to be offended if I am, but I’d like to think that you and I have enough in common to perhaps see where this might go—friendship or something more.”
Staying completely silent, Avi blushed and looked down at the table.
Dani had come up with a list of don’ts for this lunch—don’t blatantly ask Avi if he’s straight; don’t pressure him into anything; don’t jump the gun.
And now he had violated all three of those in one breath.
“Avi? You okay?” Dani asked after a minute of silence. That wasn’t quite the reaction that he had been expecting.
“Yeah, just overwhelmed,” Avi said, not looking up from the table. “I… I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Tell me the truth. That’s all I ever ask. If you’re not interested, let me know. If you decide that you don’t want to even maintain a friendship with me, I’ll understand. Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time I misread someone.”
He sat waiting to see just how quickly Avi would tell him to fuck off.
But Dani was in for a surprise.
“Okay,” Avi said, looking Dani directly in the eye, “here’s the truth. You didn’t read me wrong, but you did.”
At Dani’s confused look, he continued. “Here’s what I mean: yes, for the past year I’ve been beginning try to figure out what I’m really looking for, and it’s looking more and more like what I’m looking for is a relationship with a man rather than with a woman. But, and this is the key, I have no experience, and I have no idea what, if anything, you might expect from me. And I don’t want to be pressured or cajoled or wheedled into anything before I am ready. So if you’re prepared for that, then fine— let’s see where this goes. But if you’re not ready to go at my speed, let’s forget this conversation ever happened and just see if we can be friends.” Almost immediately, Avi looked back down at the table, blushing a deep red.
Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life, but he can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.
Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?
E.M. Ben Shaul lives in many communities. An Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, E.M. lives in the simultaneously gay-friendly and Jewish-friendly Boston area with her husband and twin daughters. A technical writer by day and freelance editor by nights and weekends, E.M. likes to knit, cook and coin neologisms. E.M. seeks to explore the seeming conflict between religious teachings and the heart’s desires.
E.M. has brought a host of great prizes to give out on her tour. Just follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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