ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to host Jim Provenzano today, talking about his latest release, Message of Love, the sequel to the Lambda Literary Award winning, Every Time I Think of You.
Giveaway: Jim has brought with him a Kindle ebook copy of Every Time I Think of You to give away today along with a copy of Message of Love to a 2nd winner. To enter to win, leave a comment below as well as your email address so you can be contacted. We would also appreciate it if you left your Amazon email address in the body of the comment to make it easier to send the book to you as it is a Kindle edition. Contest closes 4/19. Thanks.
Getting It Right, the Second Time Around
by Jim Provenzano
When I started writing my fourth novel Every Time I Think of You, the first few chapters came to me in a dream in January 2011. I’d already had a few other novels nearly completed, but the story of Reid and Everett basically took over my life.
After finishing it in early December of that year, I agreed with the almost unanimous suggestion of friends who had read early drafts, and cut an epilogue where Reid and Everett are living ‘happily ever after’ as college roommates in Philadelphia. I realized that the last chapter was actually a draft treatment for a sequel. What happens after the rush of romance concludes with the blossoming of love? Well, a lot happens.
In the sequel, Message of Love, Reid and Everett attend separate universities in Philadelphia. While Everett’s studies focus on politics and world affairs, Reid remains devoted to his Forestry studies. And while the symbolic aspect of the City of Brotherly Love offers new adventures for them, the urban environs tests their relationship, and in particular, Reid’s once heartfelt passion for nature.
I prepared for my new novel, Message of Love, with funds generated from a small yet successful 2012 Kickstarter project. The week before attending the Lambda Literary Awards in New York City, where Every Time I Think of You won the Lammy for Gay Romance, I spent a week in Philadelphia. Combining my journalism experience with a bit of adventurous tourism, I researched the campuses, the city and Fairmont Park, where most scenes are set.
I also spent several days in the archives at both Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Philadelphia Public Library, where I scanned issues of the Philadelphia Gay News, converting page after page into saved PDFs. I even found a house where the fictional version of an apartment would become their home.
Numerous personal interviews with current and former Philadelphia and Greensburg residents, and graduates of Penn and Temple, led to an insightful perspective on the novel’s setting. Sometimes a single detail or correction would lead to an entire chapter revision. But what surprised me were how often real-life events aligned with the story I had already outlined.
I spent months researching the disability issues relating to Everett’s experience, both from the perspective of a paraplegic and someone who loves him. Personal interviews with wheelchair users led to new insights into their daily lives.
As a former professional dancer, one of the most inspirational aspects came from other dancers. Like my first novel, PINS, about high school wrestlers, I took my own physical experience as a sort of muscle memory. By watching and talking with a wonderfully talented dancer and a choreographer from the Oakland, California AXIS Dance Company, I was able to feel and visualize the practicality and athleticism of a young active paraplegic.
But with a specific time frame, thirty years ago, I didn’t have the advantage of relying on contemporary aspects of disability. I bought several books from that era, specific to the limitations of the early 1980s, before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, and before most sidewalks and buildings were made accessible.
As with Every Time I Think of You, the story is written from Reid’s point of view and his attempts to comprehend and understand Everett’s challenges. Despite being a pair of romance novels, I worked within the popular genre while crafting a decidedly new approach. I also read many gay and straight romance books with disabled characters. Some of them were touching and sweet. Some were uninformed and misguided.
But at the same time, while I endeavored to ‘get it right’ about such a relationship, I kept asking myself, ‘Is this a Romance?’ Reid and Everett are already boyfriends. The quest of finding love has been achieved. Their new challenge is to sustain their love through some separation. Veering from the standard romance, they live together for most of the story.
With the advantage of having already established the love between Reid and Everett, I faced new challenges with an historic time and urban setting, placed against the encroaching threat of a plague.
Many contemporary romances quickly dispense with AIDS and other difficult issues, and that’s fine. That is the decision of other authors, to make a fun, sexy escapist story. But having set this sequel after the ‘halcyon’ days of the late 1970s, when being gay wasn’t a big problem in some communities, the sequel would have to deal with realities of the era in which I came of age; infidelity, identity, and the growing, then unnamed, epidemic.
A major symbol, a small evergreen tree, served as an actual gift in Every Time I Think of You. For Message of Love, a single ivy leaf, used on the book’s cover, becomes a significant gift of apology in a crucial moment when Everett and Reid’s relationship is at its most fragile. Yet Everett’s life as a paraplegic is not a mere metaphor, but a realistic aspect of his life that’s given a thorough focus.
In the first book, the two young men’s time together is sporadic and passionate. In the sequel, their extended time together offers a new perspective on moving beyond the initial rush of first love, and growing toward a stronger form based on trust.
This four-year ‘distraction’ has led to creating two of the most endearing characters I’ve created. I really grew to love these guys, and I hope readers will, too.
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Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels PINS, Monkey Suits, Cyclizen, the 2012 Lambda Literary Award-winning Every Time I Think of You, its sequel Message of Love, and the stage adaptation of PINS.
A journalist in LGBT media for two decades, and the guest curator of Sporting Life, the world’s first gay athletics exhibit, he also wrote the syndicated Sports Complex column for ten years. Currently the Assistant Arts Editor at the Bay Area Reporter, he also edits its weekly BARtab nightlife section.
For more information on Jim Provenzano’s books, visit
Watch the book trailer, which features a performance of Dudley Saunders singing “Message of Love,” the title song (by The Pretenders), and enjoy the companion video playlists for Message of Love, Every Time I Think of You and PINS on Jim Provenzano’s YouTube channel: