I 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.