Characters and interpretations
My latest release, Breaking Cover, got a really nice review yesterday at Reviews by Jessewave; http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/08/11/breaking-cover-2/
The reviewer, LadyM, did what felt like an excellent job of interpreting the book in the way I intended to write it. But what was really fascinating was reading the comments that followed. I do love the fact that readers see my characters, Tony & Mac, almost as real people. And how different the interpretations are.
I love both my guys, and tried to write both as flawed but sympathetic characters. But interestingly, there are a subset of readers who identify much more with one or the other of these men. After the first book I got quite a few comments from people who felt that Mac was being cowardly and unfair by not coming out of the closet for Tony. They thought Tony was nearly perfect and Mac was standing in the way of the HEA for selfish reasons.
Now after Breaking Cover I have a bunch of people who love Mac, and feel that Tony was being unfair and selfish in pressuring him to come out. They consider Tony to be unsympathetic and demanding to the degree of being really irritated by him. Those folks really identify with Mac’s desire to remain closeted and keep his private life hidden.
When I wrote the story, I intended it to be balanced. Both guys have their flaws. To me, Tony’s pressure on Mac to come out does have some basis in Tony’s own needs. He was the one who made almost all the sacrifices and adjustments for their closeted relationship to happen, and gave up a lot to be with Mac. But I also think Tony is doing it for Mac himself.
Mac’s reluctance to be out, to let anyone even suspect he’s gay, has its basis in fear. Fear of losing things that are vitally important to him: the regard of his fellow officers, the only caregiver his daughter has ever had, and, as he realizes later, his daughter’s good opinion. Fear of the consequences to himself and to Tony from a hostile society.
I think Tony sees the toll it takes on Mac to hide who he is, to constantly live in fear, to never have a really relaxed moment out in public because one wrong word, one wrong gesture, could bring his whole world crashing down. There is something draining and at times soul-destroying about living like that forever, like a cop being undercover for years on end, not able to stand up for his beliefs for fear of the reaction around him. And Tony is an idealist, ready to change the world one guy at a time. No doubt he underestimates how much, as one of Amy Lane’s characters says, the blue wall hates finding a pink brick. But his intentions were not meant to look purely selfish.
However I love the idea that people see these guys different ways, that they feel the characters are complex enough to debate. Someone compared Mac to Jake in Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series. Now there’s a complex character, much more so than Mac in my opinion. Jake is confused about what he wants, between men and women, Adrien and a nice home with kids, vanilla sex and the BDSM he has had a taste for. My Mac knows what he wants. He has just been afraid that the world will never let him have it. And he may be justified. Standing up to your fears doesn’t make them unreal. But hopefully taking that stand and facing your fears is better than a life spent hiding from them. Unless you die.
The next book is proving more challenging to write (had a complete draft; cut off the last half because I didn’t like the way the mystery went and I’m working back up from there) but my guys are figuring out what it takes to make it work. I have other projects coming out first, but you will see Tony and Mac again.