by Michael Bailey
So, much to the chagrin of a lot of people, I am a total pantser. In fact, I have a tendency to “know” one of my MC’s at the beginning and not the other. This is primarily because they are usually the first ones to “talk” (yes, these characters talk. Greg is a perfect example of that, and I’ll get to him in a moment.) I initially see different points of the story through that MC’s eyes, but not the whole thing. Typically, it’s not until after that MC has met the other that I get a good idea who that person is.
Certain scenes will be in my head, but I have absolutely no idea how they are all connected. I rely on the characters to lead me. Sometimes the way in which I envisioned a scene is ultimately not how it ends up written. Part of that is because I originally saw the scene from one perspective and the other MC may have seen it differently.
As I said, I don’t know all of the story when I sit down to write. It usually starts with an idea, a concept, or a question. With “Looking In,” I already knew who David was. I knew some but not all of his backstory. I knew, in broad strokes, why he was the way he was.
So I asked myself a question: to a person like David, what would unconditional love look like? And how would the other person need to show it?
There’s a scene in that book where David and Adam are in a fast food restaurant, eating dinner together. David is wearing his customary long-sleeved shirt, which Adam has always found curious. At one point during the conversation, David’s arm shifts slightly, allowing the shirt sleeve to ride up ever slow slightly. This is pivotal for one reason: this is the first time I actually had to debate with one of my characters. I typed that Adam saw the scars on David’s arm, then deleted it. I vividly remember Adam saying, “no, I see them, because those are so much more. More than physical. It’s a metaphor.”
And then I got it.
To David, someone that would be able to give him that unconditional love was someone that would be able to see the scars, both inside and out, and love and accept him anyway.
Greg was a whole different scenario. He took me completely by surprise. He was originally simply nothing more than a name on a page. No character, nothing. I was on my way to work one morning when out of nowhere, he started talking. Greg, it turns out, had a lot to say. He has an enormous amount of guilt he has to work through because he feels that he didn’t do enough to help his brother, Ben, when their father discovered the latter had been researching questioning one’s sexual identity. A massive, physical confrontation followed, and Ben ran away from home in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. To a very large degree, he has “adopted” David as sort of a surrogate brother because of his inability to protect his real brother.
Owen’s story in “Looking Forward” is one I knew well. In fact, I knew what his story was when he was introduced in the first book, much in the same way I know Greg’s and his brother’s. Owen’s story was a bit trickier to tell, however. It didn’t fit what is considered a traditional romance, but I think his story, his voice, fits the overall narrative of what this series of books is about. Yes, I’m being vague about his story, but for a reason. I think that too much information may spoil the story or mislead readers into believing one thing when the opposite is true. Suffice it to say that Owen’s voice was just as loud in my head, perhaps louder with this book, as any other character.
About Looking Forward
Owen Hannity was nineteen when he lost almost everyone he thought he could trust. Each loss more painful than the last.
With the unwavering support of his best friend, Andy, Owen put the pieces of his life back together. Now, more than two decades later, Owen owns and operates a successful comic shop. Despite his modicum of success, he still feels like a shell of a man, carrying the emotional scars from his past.
Without warning, Owen’s past returns. Secrets come to light. Secrets that could either destroy Owen or finally give him the strength to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about Andy, himself, and the way in which he views the world.
To see that he is truly worthy of loving himself and finally begin…
Available at: Amazon
An Excerpt from Looking Forward
I shook even more as I picked up the handset and dialed the ten digits for his area code and phone number. The call wouldn’t connect. I feared for a moment that he had purposely given me the wrong number. Maybe he didn’t want me calling him after all. Then I remembered, since this was long distance, I had to dial the number one first.
I laid the receiver back into the cradle and scrubbed my hand through my hair, willing myself to calm down. Jack wouldn’t be able to see my fear from over the phone, but there was every likelihood that he would be able to hear it.
I took the receiver out of the cradle and dialed the eleven digits. My heart beat faster as the phone rang, and I almost chickened out and hung up.
The other end was picked up on the fourth ring. A woman answered, clearly out of breath. “Hello.”
I was momentarily confused. In my head, he would answer, and we would spend my break catching up. I had not expected someone else to answer, especially not a woman.
What if she was his girlfriend? How would I explain myself?
“Hello?” she repeated.
He wouldn’t have given me his number if he didn’t think it would be safe for me to call. Or at least, that’s what I reasoned.
“Is Jack in?”
“Yeah. Hold on a sec.”
Then I heard her muffle the mouthpiece, but I was still able to hear her call his name.
Soon enough, I heard a voice that I recognized coming from the other end. “Hello?”
“Jack?” I said, still slightly confused, and hoping that I hadn’t just caused some problem for him by calling.
“Jack, it’s Owen.”
I heard his breath catch on the other end of the phone line, and there was a second or two of delay. Panic started to bloom. This was a mistake. He wouldn’t remember me. Why would he? I was just some kid from Toledo that he’d met in a bar weeks ago. I’d allowed too much time to pass and had lost any chance I had, if I’d had any at all. “Owen?”
I twisted the phone cord around my finger, an old habit I’d developed when I was nervous on the phone. That panic came full force at his question. He didn’t remember me. This call was pointless. “From Toledo,” I reminded him.
Jack chuckled. “I remember. I don’t meet too many Owens.”
Some of that panic eased off but didn’t dissipate entirely. This could still go horribly wrong very quickly. I still didn’t know what I was doing calling him. What if that connection I had felt the night before Thanksgiving was all in my head? I’d be the fool that had placed the call. He’d talk about me to all his friends, tell them about this little homo that was stalking him from the other side of the state. They’d all laugh at my expense, and I’d never know. Or he could tell Andy, and he’d never let me forget how I’d basically come on to his straight cousin.
Yet, he had given me his number. And those words. I reread the napkin. Can you feel it?
I paused, pulling in a deep breath and slowly exhaling. I could do this. This wasn’t a big deal if I didn’t make it one. “No, I can’t imagine you do. It’s not a very common name.”
“No, it’s not. It’s very memorable.”
“I was actually named after my grandfather, if you can believe that.”
“Yeah. Sort of a family tradition. My father is named after his grandfather, and my grandfather after his. It’s weird.”
“No, not really. It’s actually kind of cool. Like, legacy. You have a connection to your family that will never go away.”
“I never thought of it like that. I’ve honestly always hated the name.” And wasn’t that a total bitch. If my father ever found out that his only son was gay, he would totally disown me, and I’d still have this name.
“You shouldn’t. It’s unique. It sets you apart. How many people have you known named Jack?”
I laughed. “That’s true. A lot.”
“Exactly my point. In a world full of Jacks, be an Owen.”
Why did that warm my heart so much?
About Michael Bailey
I’m the oldest of three, from the Glass Capital of the world, Toledo Ohio.
Don’t laugh too hard.
I’ve dreamed of writing since I was eleven years old when I wrote a truly awful Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. It sold exactly zero copies. I think my mother may have a copy lying around somewhere. Mothers keep that kind of thing.
Through junior high and high school, I wrote a number of short stories, one actually published in the first (and only) issue of his high school’s literary magazine.
Life took control shortly thereafter, as it often does, and the dream of writing was put on hold. Then, in November of 2016, I took a leap of faith, and began writing my first novel as part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) competition. The goal of the competition is to write a 50,000-word novel in a thirty-day period.
However, on the advice of a friend, I “pushed through”. And so, in September of 2017, my first novel was published.
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Dangerous Dance so far but looking forward to reading looking forward
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of A Ferry of Bones & Gold by Hailey Turner, book 1 in her new Soulbound series and absolutely loved it.
Wow. Thanks for the opportunity.
My favourite book(s) in 2018 is/are the series by Jaclyn Quinn: Hard to let go,hard to get, Hard to hold. 💓
That’s a hard question to answer. Usually it’s the one I’m engrossed in at the time, but I have to say I’m really enjoying Pandora Pine’s psychic detective series with Tennyson and Ronan
Any mystery books
Thank you for the excerpt! At the moment I don’t have a favorite book for 2018
Balefire (Whyborne & Griffin, #10) by Jordan L. Hawk is my favorite book so far this year.
Congrats and thanks for the post. I just finished and loved “A Faithful Son” by Michael Scot Greer.