Book Title: Pursuing Happiness
Author: Jessie Pinkham
Publisher: Jessie Pinkham
Cover Artist: Katia V. Michelet
Release Date: July 12, 2018
Genre/s romance, contemporary, gay
Length: 53,000 words
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jessie Pinkham here today on tour for the new release Pursuing Happiness. Welcome, Jessie.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Absolutely, I wanted to be a writer from a very young age. Even before I was writing, I was telling myself stories. As an only child, I invented an entire imaginary village to keep me company, and the storytelling has never stopped. It’s such a beautiful feeling when you look at a manuscript to see this tale you’ve brought into existence and added to the world.
I spent sixteen years writing before I was published. Many of those works were fanfiction, which was a great help in learning the craft. I know it gets a bad rap because, like anything, there are some awful examples of it. On the other hand, there are also truly excellent works of fanfiction to be found. Lots of authors have started in fanfiction, whether or not they admit it.
My first novel, Survivors, came out in May 2017, so I’m now in year two and having the time of my life as a published author.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I am delighted to be a part-time author. I feel it gives me less pressure and more creative freedom, where I can write the story I want to tell without worrying about it selling enough to pay the rent. Therefore, I want to continue to create compelling stories, and hopefully find some new readers along the way.
Give the readers a brief summary of your latest book or WIP.
Pursuing Happiness is the story of Matt, who was raised in an extremely conservative religious family. Three years after leaving home on the heels of being outed and disowned, he’s still working to catch up with his peers, not least when it comes to dating. Collin is his first boyfriend, and their relationship is off to a great start, notwithstanding Matt’s insecurities. Then Matt’s younger cousin, who was also kicked out for being gay, becomes Matt’s ward, and all of the old fears Matt thought he was past come rushing back, threatening his happiness and his relationship with Collin.
What genre does it fall in?
This is a contemporary MM romance through and through.
Share a few words about your latest book/WIP, other than the usual blurb.
Mr. Pinkham calls this “the semi-autobiographical book,” and for good reason. This is a really personal story for me, one where I took aspects of my own experiences and magnified them in Matt. I grew up in a conservative Christian household, though not as extreme as Matt’s family. I was also homeschooled for three years, and when I went back to regular school I was completely out of my depth when interacting with my peers because I had barely spent any time with people who weren’t family. It took me years to catch up.
Give us a little insight into your main characters. Who are they?
I’ve read stories where leaving an unhealthy family is the end point. Having personal experience with this, I know it’s not as simple as walking off into the sunset. Matt left his toxic and homophobic family three years before the events of Pursuing Happiness and he’s still dealing with the legacy of his childhood. He’s trying to understand social norms and cues, which makes him very self-conscious, and he is also afraid of being judged for his sexual desires.
Collin comes from a much less remarkable background, so he’s in a place where he’s able to support Matt. He has a tendency to make flippant and sarcastic remarks, which can rub people the wrong way if he’s not careful. For example, here’s one of his lines: “When I was a kid Mom always said I was part dolphin, until I got to be a smartass teenager and asked her what exactly she was hinting at about my paternity.”
Will we be seeing these characters again any time soon? Is this book part of a series?
No, Pursuing Happiness is a standalone book. It was always intended to be, and I’m pleased with where it ends as a self-contained story.
Tell us a little bit about your writing style.
I’m most interested in how characters get from one situation in life to another, so my stories are very process-driven, as opposed to drama-driven with wild conflicts. I want to look at how two very different individuals can come to a place where they are sharing their lives and overcoming challenges together. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’m aware, but I love the realism of it.
When/where is your favorite time/place to write?
As for place, I’m not fussy. I can write anywhere I have my laptop and it’s reasonably quiet. Time is another matter. I’m a natural night owl, so it follows that I do most of my best writing in the evening. This can be extremely inconvenient the next morning when I’ve gotten an insufficient night’s sleep. I see other authors who extoll the benefits of writing first thing in the morning, but that’s not me. Nothing I write first thing in the morning is liable to be worth reading. 😉
What genre/s do you enjoy reading in your free time?
I read a fair bit of M/M romance, naturally! I have a fondness for sci-fi romance as well as contemporary, and occasionally I read other pairings (M/F, genderqueer, etc.) Outside of romance, I favor sci-fi, with occasional forays into fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction.
Have you held any interesting jobs while you worked on your books?
Well, I don’t know that the job itself is especially fascinating, but I work at a front desk, and they don’t care if I write when there’s nothing requiring my attention. On slow days I can get some words down, but never, ever sex scenes. It’s not even that I’ve been told not to, it’s just impossible to get in the right headspace for writing steamy encounters when I’m in a building full of kids.
A repressive childhood casts long shadows.
Growing up in a reactionary religious household left Matt Aldridge socially inept and woefully underprepared for life in the wider world. He’s still trying to figure himself out when he meets his hunky new neighbor, Collin Moravec. Matt likes him at first sight, and miraculously, Collin feels the same.
When his cousin Levi shows up needing a home, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take him in, even as it throws his own world into disarray. He’s determined to save his younger cousin some of the struggles he faced. But taking on this responsibility brings up old anxieties, and in his terror of failing Levi, Matt pushes Collin away. He has to move beyond his fearful upbringing once and for all, or he’s going to end up miserable – and alone.
“Now, about that sexual to-do list. I’m dying to know what’s on it.”
An adorable blush blossomed on Matt’s cheeks. “I think there’s a lot of potential for fun with a can of whipped cream.”
“I’m completely on board with that.”
Finally Matt relaxed. “You’re a very good boyfriend,” he remarked.
Collin figured that meant he’d said the right thing. Good. He took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. “So are you, and if I hadn’t already known that my coworkers made sure to tell me yesterday.”
“How did the grant application turn out?”
“Well, it doesn’t scream ‘thrown together at the last minute,’ so it could be a lot worse.”
“I know nothing about grants,” said Matt, “but I have plenty of personal experience in the red parts of the state, where you said you want to do outreach. Maybe this is weird pillow talk, but…”
Collin interrupted. “Our pillow talk can be whatever we want.”
“Okay. Have you considered how much tougher it will be to go out and talk about LGBT acceptance with people in very conservative areas? I mean really thought about the ruling mindset there?”
They certainly weren’t going in blind. Regardless he wanted to hear Matt’s opinion, if for no other reason than to understand his boyfriend a little better. “We expect to be called a lot more nasty slurs.”
“That’s obvious. It’s not just the insults, though. The thing is that a lot of these people – not all, but a definite majority – are not even going to consider what you have to say. The religiously inclined, which again will be a good percentage, will consider it a given that you’ve been deceived by Satan. So there’s no reason for them to even consider what you have to say, see? Anything they don’t like can easily be written off as inspired by Satan. It’s a very neat system if you don’t like thinking too hard. And it makes us very easy scapegoats for anyone, religious or not, who doesn’t like how the world is changing.”
“There are going to be some people who remain homophobic no matter what we say or do,” acknowledged Collin.
“Some might become more tolerant with personal contact, when the LGBT community isn’t something abstract and instead they know someone who isn’t heterosexual. Then there are the people like my family.”
“Bastards. But we know that. What we want to do, at the very least, is give some hope to LGBT people who feel isolated.”
“They certainly need it. Here’s the thing, though. It’s easy to be anonymous in the city. People can go to Ted’s Place without anyone they know having a clue about their visit to an LGBT center. In rural areas it’s not the same. If somebody stops to talk with you or takes pamphlets or whatever you’re doing for outreach, they’ll be recognized and before long half the town will know. The smaller the community, the worse it gets in that regard.” Matt sighed. “I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m just being realistic. I would never have dared talk with anyone doing LGBT outreach. Far too dangerous.”
“That’s depressing. It’s good to know, though. Obviously this has to factor into our plans.” He lacked ideas on how to work around this very serious roadblock. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Collin would share this perspective with his colleagues and go from there. “Any suggestions for us to get around that?”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any brilliant solutions. The internet is good. My family was unusually restrictive in that area, but it probably helps a lot of other kids. Just keep in mind that in some of these conservative areas, you’ll be entering enemy territory.”
“Not a metaphor. They will literally see you as the enemy. Inspired by Satan, remember? It’s spiritual warfare and you’re the advanced guard. That’s how a lot of people will see you.”
“Damn,” said Collin. He imagined an army wearing sparkly rainbow uniforms, armed with lube and condoms, maybe doing something stereotypical like singing show tunes. “Here I thought I just wanted people to live in a way that makes them happy, and now I find out I’m in Satan’s gay army.”
Matt frowned. “I’m serious, Collin.”
Oops. His last comment had clearly been too flippant. “Sorry. I was going for lightening the mood with humor but clearly missed the mark. This is important to know. And honestly, it speaks to how strong you are that you were able to escape that.”
“I’m not sure being kicked out counts as escaping.”
“You could’ve gone to conversion therapy, pretended to be cured, and lived the rest of your life miserable and accepted by your family. You chose the harder option.”
“True,” said Matt. “Totally worth it.”
Collin traced random patterns on his boyfriend’s chest. “I’m glad to hear it. If you didn’t think it was worth it after that blowjob, I’d have done something terribly wrong.”
This time Matt let him lighten the mood. He winked and said, “No worries there.”
“That’s a relief.”
“You know that saying about praise going to your head? They’re talking about the head on top of your neck.”
“How do you know?” countered Collin.
Matt opened his mouth to protest, then paused. A second later he admitted, “That’s actually a good question.”
Score one for being a smartass.
About the Author
Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivors and the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.
She’s usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.
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