I was never good with rules. You can see that in my SUGAR TREE series of books about a gay single father raising a deaf child in the Deep South. I rather casually ignored most of the rules of the genre. Am I not supposed to talk about religion and politics? Oh well. A book that features an MC who’s poor, who scrapes by, who isn’t even mildly successful? Done. Characters who spout rude, offensive and very politically incorrect statements? Of course. A MM romance set in the buckle of the Bible Belt? And why not? Are there no gay boys in Tupelo, Mississippi?
Rules are your friends, of course, and they have been enormously helpful over the course of my writing career. If you don’t color inside the lines, you leave readers disappointed or uncertain about your skills. Yet I reached a point in my writing where I decided the rules weren’t working for me. They were too confining. Gay romance stories are wonderful, but I wanted to do something a little different. I was not very good at writing steamy sex scenes, but I did have an ear for dysfunctional family dynamics. As a big fan of flawed characters, I wanted mine to be chock full of them. I wanted to write something that rang true – a family arguing over a dinner table about abortion, fist fights, disappointments, kids with special needs, adults with dreams slipping away, all of it steeped in the enormous and heart-breaking comedy that is life.
I came of age in the late 70s, early 80s. At that time, the “gay community” was a collection of lost souls at a bar, and the “gay lifestyle” was endless drinking, drugging and sex. I was one of those very uncool people who wanted to have a “relationship,” who didn’t much care for alcohol or drugs, and who not a big fan of one night stands. I wanted something a little more traditional. Kids were not entirely beyond the realms of possibility. As you can imagine, this made me wildly unpopular.
Here I am now, in my early fifties, and all my gay friends are getting married and adopting children.
My books seem to be an extension of my inability to fit in. While they do have a romantic element, they are basically books about family — very messy families in all their messy but wondrous glory. They’re about fathers and sons, mothers who meddle, the knight in shining armor hiding a dark secret, the crazy grandfather who sits on the porch spitting and chewing and saying the most wildly inappropriate things. Because I think life is funny (much of it to the point of absurdity), I throw in a generous heaping of comedy. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t learned how to laugh in the face of disaster. Love covers a multitude of sins, but so does laughter.
If reader reactions are anything to go by, I have struck a nerve. I was not sure my publisher would like SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, but it quickly became a best-seller and wound up on several “best of” lists here and there. STONES IN THE ROAD picks up two years later in the lives of Wiley, Jackson and Noah, and most every review so far has been a solid 5 stars. My readers have been very kind to me.
Up next for me is a book called GET YOUR SHINE ON, scheduled for release in September/October 2015, also coming from Dreamspinner Press. SHINE is about a young gay couple who take in an abandoned boy. Like the SUGAR TREE books, it is a set in rural Mississippi, and you’ll find lots of laughs, meddlesome neighbors, crazy in-laws and a little boy who finds himself smack dab in the middle of it all.
At the moment, I am working on another SUGAR TREE book called GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS, which should be out sometime next year. This book will feature the story of what happens when Wiley and Jackson decide they want to adopt …
Title: Stones in the Road
Series: The Sugar Tree Series, Sequel to
Shaking the Sugar Tree
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
ISBN: 9781632167309 [ebook]
ISBN: 9781632167293 [paperback]
Length: 350 Pages
Release Date: Jan 30th, 2015
When his snobbish future in-laws travel all the way from Boston to visit, wise-cracking Southerner Wiley Cantrell learns that gay marriage is not without its disadvantages. Occupied by concerns over the health of his special needs son Noah, a meth baby who was not expected to live and who is now on the cusp of puberty, the antics of Wiley’s outrageous would-be mother-in-law and severely conservative father-in-law strain his relationship with Jackson Ledbetter, a pediatric nurse who poses problems of his own. As their respective families meet and greet, each just as meddlesome and inflexible as the other, North meets South and the fireworks and cultural misunderstandings are plenty.
A tornado blows through the small Mississippi town where Wiley’s mother lives, wrecking his mother’s house and leaving their lives in disarray. Then Jackson’s secret drug addiction comes to light, and Wiley and Noah are devastated. With so many stones in the road, Wiley and Jackson find their dream of becoming a real family falling apart. Though Wiley relies on humor to cope, he’ll need something more to keep his happily ever after from slipping away.
From Chapter 51: There’s No Good in Goodbye
Jackson heard the crinkling of the plastic as I filled a bag with shorts, tanks, socks, and underwear.
He rolled over, opened his eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
He sat, wiped his face.
“You’re leaving?” he said at last.
“They must have been lying when they said your IQ test came back negative.”
“Lost in thought, are you? Want me to send a search party? I realize it’s unfamiliar territory for you.”
“What the hell?”
“Don’t talk to me!” I snapped.
He threw on a bathrobe.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“We’re leaving. I suggest you leave me alone, because right now I want to take this cast and bash your fucking teeth in. And if you don’t believe me, I’ll be happy to prove you wrong.”
He paled at these words. I had never been so angry.
“Wiley, please,” he said softly.
“Noah saw you sucking that shit up your nose,” I said. “You’d do that in front of my son? It’s taken me weeks to drag it out of him because he was too afraid to tell me what you’d done. How fucking dare you! In front of my child!”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know what I’m talking about!”
“He saw me?”
“He gave me a little demonstration. Yeah, I’d say he saw you. Maybe next time you could teach him how to use a syringe, you fucking loser!”
Jackson looked horrified.
“And you know, I thought I could live with that, but then your mama told us about the woman in the wheelchair, and I’ve been thinking about that woman all night….”
“I can explain.”
“I’m sure you can. People like you always do. What if Noah had been in the car with you? What if he was the one you left in a fucking wheelchair?”
“I made a mistake!”
“A mistake? A mistake? You paralyze someone for the rest of their life, and it’s just a simple mistake? Jesus! Who the hell are you?”
I tied up one bag, dragged it to the door, grabbed another. It was almost impossible to get my stuff in the bags because of my cast, but I was not going to be put off. I yanked shirts and pants off their hangers and stuffed them inside.
“We can talk about this,” he said.
“No, we can’t talk about this,” I returned.
“Because you have nothing to say that I want to hear. I don’t care if your mommy’s a mean old cunt who didn’t love you. I don’t care if your daddy’s a shrink who made you feel inadequate. I don’t care if you’re some trust fund brat who doesn’t know what to do with all the millions he’s going to inherit. I don’t fucking care! You whine about having three people in this marriage. Well, you’re wrong, because there’s four people in this marriage. There’s me and Noah, and then there’s you and your fucking drugs. And you and your fucking drugs can go straight to fucking hell with all the other losers who don’t give a shit about what they do to the people who love them.”
“We’ll work this out!” he exclaimed.
“That’s what I’m doing right now, Jack. I’m working this out. This is how we do it down here in Dixie.”
“But where are you going to go?”
“What’s it to you? Why don’t you go take some more of your goddamn pills, you selfish prick?”
Jackson looked like I had just smacked him in the chops with a golf club.
I continued to pack, feeling suddenly embarrassed—ashamed— that I didn’t have suitcases, that I was packing my clothes in trash bags. It seemed symbolic of my whole life.
“Wiley, stop,” he said at last, coming over to me, grabbing the bag from me.
“No, you’re not.”
“I’d like to see you stop me!”
“You’re not leaving, because I am. Or I will. I’ll get a place somewhere. If that’s what you want, I’ll go. I’m not going to let you and Noah suffer because of me.”
“I can’t afford this place,” I pointed out.
“I’ll pay for it.”
“I don’t want your fucking money!” I shouted. “Haven’t you figured that out yet? I don’t want anything from you. I wanted you. There’s a difference!”
“You’re being unreasonable.”
“You’re breaking my heart, and you think I’m being unreasonable? I’ll show you how goddamned unreasonable I can be!”
He shrank away from me, as if afraid I was going to attack him. Which I was. Or wanted to. I wanted to put my hands around his neck and choke the miserable life out of him. Instead I sat down on the bed and burst into tears.
Nick Wilgus lives in Tupelo, Mississippi – birthplace of Elvis – and is the author of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, best-selling novel about a single gay man whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend. The sequel, STONES IN THE ROAD, was just released on January 30, 2015. The third book in the series, GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS, is expected in early 2016.
A Lambda Award-nominee, Wilgus is also the author of the Father Ananda murder-mystery series: Mindfulness and Murder, Sister Suicide and Killer Karma (Crime Wave Press). His works have been translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish.
Wilgus also wrote the script for the award-winning film Sop mai Ngeap, based on Mindfulness and Murder, produced by DeWarrenne Films in Bangkok, which was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Thai Film Association.
Wilgus sold his first short story, The Boogeyman in the Closet, to The Horror Show when he was 17.
Under the pen name Sulayman X, he also wrote Bilal’s Bread, Adventures of a Bird-Shit Foreigner, Tears of a Dragon, King of Storms and One Night in Bangkok: The Short Stories. Under the pen name of Jerome Wilde, he is the author of Boy Crucified: A Thomas Noel Mystery, available from DreamSpinner Press.