While waiting for NaNoWriMo to begin in November, I’ve been attempting to finish up a YA novel I put aside last July called “By That Sin Fell the Angels” (a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII). It’s a difficult one for me to write, since it involves teen suicide and young people struggling with the fundamentalist Christian attitudes they’ve been raised with.
I spent some time in this type of environment as a teenager and, frankly, it led to me contemplate suicide, if not actually attempt it. I have journal entries from that time in which I kept analyzing my dreams and reactions to other boys and girls, looking for hints that I was outgrowing my homosexual tendencies. I would celebrate any sign that I might be growing attracted to girls, despair about erotic dreams I was having about boys, and try to rationalize my feelings. I prayed constantly to be cured. But eventually I had to acknowledge that my sexuality was not going to go away. It was part of me and I had to learn to live with it. Unfortunately, I was so deeply ensconced in the literal interpretation of the Bible that it was impossible for me to find acceptance of myself as a gay man in those pages. Eventually, I turned away from Christianity.
It’s hard, delving back into the bigottry of fundamentalist churches such as Assembly of God (which used to be my church). This is why I put the novel aside this summer. It was painful and unpleasant. Every night, after writing, I had to remind myself that this was no longer my life and I could leave it behind on my computer. I had a wonderful fiance and a house and my life was good.
I decided I needed a break from it, even though the writing itself was going well. And that was probably best for my mental state. But at the beginning of this month, I grew curious about what I’d written so far. So I read it. And it was good! Strange, a bit surreal and disturbing, perhaps, but engrossing. And it needed an ending. So I began working on it again.
To my surprise, the relentlessly dismal tone of the novel took a significant turn for the better at the climax of the story. Suddenly, these characters who seemed bent on their own destruction were finding ways to resolve their issues. And I realized that, of course, this is how it has to be, if teens reading it someday are to take away any hope from it. A character stated at one point in the novel, way back in July, “When push comes to shove, love usually trumps belief.” I realized when I wrote that, that it might end up being what the novel was trying to “say.” And now I know that it is. Perhaps that isn’t always the case in real life, but often it is. And it should be. Always.