Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Elliot Joyce here today talking about his latest novel In the Desert, a States of Love novel from Dreamspinner Press. Welcome, Elliot.
Hello, I’m Elliot Joyce, the proud author of the upcoming novella In The Desert. The book is about two queer young men who live in Arizona and how they face down their personal fears, whether it be about identity or societal expectations, in order to pursue something — or rather someone — that makes them happy.
Without giving too much away, Wren and Felipe come from opposite situations. While Wren is the oldest of his siblings and has a certain level of pressure to “perform” as the responsible one, Felipe is the darling of the family — and the youngest. Wren also has a very healthy and traditional family, while Felipe was raised by his grandmother ever since his parents lost custody.
That isn’t to say that his family life isn’t healthy. The amount of support Felipe has as he pursues his studies, hoping to go to college unlike his parents, is shown throughout the story. He is loved by his family and loves them back — which is why he’s so concerned as he starts to realize his romantic feelings for Wren.
Wren also comes from a much more liberal, secular family while Felipe is rather Catholic — seriously enough to cross himself when he passes under the cross hanging above his grandmother’s kitchen doorway for example. Religion doesn’t play a huge part directly in the book, but it provides a backdrop and more information as to who these people are.
Felipe also gets along better with his siblings — at least he does now — than Wren, who argues and fights with his two younger sisters and his younger brother. Wren is bitter that his siblings don’t understand him and doesn’t feel like they support him while Felipe relies on his older siblings to have his back. The two have different family lives and different pasts, which makes them meeting even more of an unusual event.
However, both Wren and Felipe are loved and supported in many ways, not only by their family but by their friends, and that’s really the crux of the story. In The Desert takes place in Arizona and it would have been easy to talk about homophobia or transphobia, both of which are unfortunately rampant in the state. But even though Arizona does have its faults — I lived there for over a decade so I feel pretty confident in my ability to assess its qualities — there are good people there.
I wanted In The Desert to look at those people but I also knew I wanted to look at what it is like to not know how you feel. Felipe’s never had romantic feelings towards another young man and his only interaction with queer people is with another Boy Scout, a transgender guy who barely talks to Felipe outside of meetings.
Realizing that you’re gay or bi or trans or whatever can be terrifying, especially when you aren’t sure how your family will react, and I wanted Felipe to capture that. Hopefully audiences can empathize with him regardless of their own personal experiences.
On the flip side — and continuing the contrasts between Felipe and Wren — there’s Wren who has already come out to pretty horrible consequences. We see the aftermath of him coming out as transgender, with him switching schools and practically friendless. He struggles, at points, with mental health which is unfortunately a very realistic and very normal thing for transgender folks.
He also feels like his parents — and by extension his younger siblings — are not as supportive as they could be. Wren in many ways captures that feeling of loss and lack of support, but the reality is that he does have support from his family even if it’s at their own pace. Coming to terms with that is important to Wren’s development outside his relationship with Felipe, where Wren fears that Felipe sees him as a girl.
Like I said above, I won’t spoil anything and there’s plenty in the story itself to be dissected and enjoyed. Thanks for reading this post and check out In The Desert, coming to an e-book shelf near you.
About In The Desert
Can a Navajo trans teen and a nerdy Catholic find the place they belong… and maybe themselves? In the desert, anything is possible….
When Wren came out as transgender before his senior year, it cost him most of his friends. His father hopes joining a Boy Scout troop might help Wren meet other young men his age and be accepted for who he is.
Felipe Nieves wants the new guy in the troop to feel comfortable, and he reaches out to Wren. They become fast friends… with something more beneath the surface. Those feelings confuse Felipe, since his religion considers this a sin—and he’s always assumed he was straight—but he can’t help pining for Wren. Asking him out will take courage, and getting together won’t be easy… but through their friendship, both young men might find their identities… and learn to embrace them in a unique coming-of-age story set against the beauty of the American Southwest.
About the Author
Elliot Joyce is a social-media obsessed, selfie-taking millennial and he’s proud of it. He can usually be found in his room playing D&D or in a theater lurking on the catwalks. Sometimes he even writes.
Other notable facts include the fact that he’s bisexual, he cannot juggle, and he regularly trips over thin air. Catch him on tumblr or really any social media, he spends enough time on it.