Tag Archives: abuse

“Billy’s Bones” is touching a lot of readers

BillysBones_FessendenI almost titled this post, “Billy’s Bones could be my breakout novel,” because it very well may be.  A breakout novel is a novel that finally draws enough attention to put an author’s name on the radar.  Generally, subsequent novels sell much better as a result, because now readers have heard of the author.

That may be what Billy’s Bones is for me.  It spent over a week in the top ten of the Gay Romance list on Amazon, peaking at #7, and remained in the top 20 for almost two weeks.  The reader reviews and professional reviews have been amazing!  Sales have been astronomical, in comparison to any of my previous novels (and sales picked up for them over the past weeks, too).  And I’m still on the Dreamspinner bestsellers list!

What this will mean in the future, I don’t know.  If I’m lucky, my next novel will be successful as well.  Though it will be a little while before I attempt to tackle anything this dark again.  My next novel is a romance between two roommates in college.

But really, what’s more important than sales (yes, really) is that I’ve received numerous reviews and emails in which people have told me how much the book touched them.  Many have survived abuse themselves and the novel helped them — or at least didn’t disturb them — by dealing with the issue sensitively.  I couldn’t ask for greater praise.  My fear as I worked on the novel and all the way up until the day of its release was that it would be traumatic for some readers and come across as insensitive and  wildly inaccurate in its depiction of PTSD.

There have been, in fact, some readers who marked the book as something they know they can’t read.  After reading other reviews, they’ve concluded that the subject matter is too unpleasant for them to deal with in the context of their own pasts.  I understand that and sympathize.  I would never want somebody to be further traumatized by something I’ve written.

There have been a number of comments in reviews about the level of research that went into the novel.  Certainly I did read up on the subject of PTSD and watch videos of survivors discussing flashbacks and other experiences, but I was also lucky enough to know a number of therapists, including my mother, who specialized in treating clients with PTSD.  She and others read over the therapy scenes in the novel to make sure I wasn’t doing anything too horrendous.  She did point out that pushing someone to recall repressed memories wasn’t always a good idea.  In some cases, it’s better to leave it alone.  But of course, in the novel, it becomes necessary for Kevin to remember what happened, since he is the only witness.

As a final note, I would like to point out that, although I did have some experiences in my childhood which came into play while writing this novel, no one in my family was ever abusive to me or my brother.

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Getting Depressed For Fun and Profit

Well, not very depressed.  More like the kind of delicious depression we settle into when we watch a movie like Brokeback Mountain or read a book like A Separate Peace.

With the first edits done on Saturn in Retrograde, I’ve begun another project, tentatively called Billy’s Bones.  (Not a great title, so I’ll probably change it.)   Like By That Sin Fell the Angels, which I can’t wait to begin editing, this is a contemporary, and I’m going for a stark, realistic feel.  Unlike By That Sin…, it’s a romance, so I’m hoping it will appeal to a wider audience.

Billy’s Bones is about a psychologist (Tom) and the suicidal patient (Kevin) he treats at the beginning of the novel.  Kevin bails on the counseling, when things get too intense for him, but Tom meets up with him again years later, after buying a house in the country and discovering that Kevin is one of his neighbors.  The two begin to fall in love (of course), but Kevin is haunted by repressed memories of a tragic series of events in his childhood and he can never be happy until the secret he’s buried is uncovered.

I won’t give specifics about the Deep Dark Secret, but really there aren’t a lot of childhood traumas to choose from in a story like this.  We’re pretty much stuck with sexual abuse, physical violence in various forms, or traumatic events such as car accidents or fires.

As much as I love fantasy and science fiction, there’s something immensely satisfying about delving deep into the psyches of ordinary people who just happen to be screwed up.  Not screwed up to the point of being serial killers (I went through a phase of loving serial killer books and films in college, and I’m pretty much done with that), but screwed up in a way that a lot of people are.  Just magnify it a bit.

 

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