My husband would love reading this,” an author friend and navy-wife said. “But as soon as you got to this point, he’d throw it in the trash.”
These words weren’t spoken out of malice but concern.
Let me explain.
Life’s like a pinball machine, you never know where all the bumps take you. As a US navy submariner and a fan of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, I thought it’d be great to set my own vampire novel on a submarine. In order to darken the story more (and avoid concerns that I shared classified information about my naval exploits) I set the story aboard a Cold War era Soviet submarine. And then it hit me. I have always included a romantic element in my novels.
How can the hero ‘get the girl’ among an all-male crew?
Short answer: a homosexual relationship.
Once I’d answered all my questions about how to begin Red Sounding, I started writing like mad. Thankfully my writers’ workshop friends saved me from a big mistake.
The image above comes from a late night cartoon: Archer. In the episode, ‘Honeypot,’ the hero tries to go undercover to entice a gay spy to hand over valuable secrets. Naturally, stereotypes drive him to extremes and his cover is blown.
That’s where my novel was headed.
In an attempt to write a gay romance within my horror novel, I’d tried too hard. The forced scenes made little sense and came across with an uncomfortably plastic feel. And while I debated deleting everything and starting over, a better idea came to mind. I’ll treat my homosexual naval officer like any other character with a secret to hide. Rather than put a sign with blinking lights over Zhora Ivankov’s head, I’ll keep him as real as I can and focus on a character driven story.
Within the following months a theme evolved around Zhora Ivankov. We all have secrets we feel will undo our lives if revealed. Many dance on the razor’s edge between being true to ourselves and fitting in enough to be accepted. Ivankov’s outsiderness became familiar. I wrote from my own heart about that feeling.
As a geek with Asperger’s Syndrome I grew up beyond the golden dome of popular people. When I joined the navy I donned a sailor’s persona as readily as the uniform I wore. Only after the navy did I consider letting the real me out more often and more freely. I am happier for it. Now I crusade for others to likewise embrace their outsiderness. If we all felt so free, the mainstream might drop to a trickle and the outstreams might earn the world’s respect with equal zeal.
When I was a boy, my parents were embarrassed by my geekish interests and as a result I kept them secret when I went to school. Now, through social media, I realize how many friends I could’ve had in those lonely days. So many of my classmates have been fans of my favorites for decades. If I hadn’t kept a lid on my fandom we might’ve been friends all this time.
I’m fifty. And as I go to conventions I realize my concept of hidden passions may be dated. I have Doctor Who décor in my home that wasn’t available when I was twelve. At conventions I see families now who share their love of such things.
So in the end I hope readers, gay and straight alike, can see my story for what it is; a horrific tale of hate’s harvest and love’s power.