“Hope Echoes” is the novella that rounds out the trio of novellas in Three Left Turns to Nowhere (coming out next month from Bold Strokes Books!) after Jeffrey Ricker’s opening “Roadside Assistance” and J. Marshall Freeman’s “Scavenger Hunt.” The three novellas all take place in Hopewell, Ontario, our fictionalized northern Ontario town where our protagonists all find themselves stuck on their way to an event in Toronto. Hopewell is an odd little town—there’s a kind of magic to the place that some of the locals think helps people find things, or other people, they might need. Of course, other locals think that’s completely ridiculous, but our three queer teens all have a brush with Hopewell’s magic.
When I first started writing “Hope Echoes,” Ontario was under one of the lockdowns, and everything was very much on hold. Staring at the blinking cursor, it struck me how the feeling of everything being on hold could be a place to begin, and some of Fielding Roy’s life started to come into focus.
Fielding is a young man whose life has been put on hold thanks to a trio of events: first, his single mother’s hours at her job got cut way back, putting Fielding in a financially perilous place to start university as planned, so he made the choice to defer; second, his uncle had a major health issue, and Fielding taking over running his uncle’s pet shop and animal rescue was a way to take some of the financial pressure off his family, but meant he didn’t get to leave his hometown along with all the rest of his friends; and third, those friends are now in Toronto, at university, living the life he’d expected himself to be living, and it’s underlining just how much he’s not where he wants to be.
My own path to university got very tangled and delayed thanks to my coming out, but that’s not Fielding’s issue at all. He’s out, and has been for a while, has supportive friends (albeit friends who are now hours and hours away and from whom he’s feeling disconnected) and his mother, his uncle, and his cousin are all supportive, loving people. The reasons it feels like his life ground to halt aren’t anything to do with him being queer.
That was purposeful. When my fellow Three Left Turns to Nowhere authors got together on a Zoom call to discuss our world building, events, and thematic notes, we’d all more-or-less agreed we didn’t want the stories to be “suffering because queer.” Similarly, initially we talked about how our fictional town of Hopewell, Ontario would have “kind of a Schitt’s Creek vibe.” I’d bumped into a story about Pride in Canadian Small Towns, and that helped shape Hopewell, as well—even down to deciding who the mayor would be. Now, Fielding still has a pretty sensible reaction to being trapped there without notice—he wonders how safe he might be—but I wanted “Hope Echoes” to be a queer YA story where Fielding’s queerness wasn’t ever the conflict.
Instead, Fielding has a knack. Sometimes, seemingly at random, Fielding catches glimpses of the past replaying itself. Prior to the events of “Hope Echoes,” it’s happened about once every other month or so for the last couple of years, and he’s kept it very close to the chest because he’s not sure how anyone would react—or, rather, he’s afraid of how people are likely to react. Fielding’s not entirely sure what’s up with these echoes he sometimes sees, but when he gets to Hopewell and is killing time in a second-hand store, he sees one of these moments: a young woman, crying and upset, tucking a letter into the back of a book. When he checks, the letter is still there. He buys the book, finds out the letter is a long-lost queer love letter, and then—with the help of two locals—decides to deliver it, even if it will be decades late.
That’s the set-up of “Hope Echoes.” It’s a story about a queer kid who really just wants his life to start, please. It’s a story about Fielding catching a glimpse of a queer relationship from generations ago and wanting to know what happened—that’s a facet of queerness I tend to explore often; we don’t get to inherit a continuance of queer history or culture from our families, since the vast majority of us queer people don’t have queer parents telling us about our queer grandparents—so finding these pieces of queer history (or queer fiction) are important. It’s often the only way we see people like ourselves. It’s why I write queer stories, to add to that chance that someone might bump into someone like themselves in one of my stories at just the right time.
But mostly? “Hope Echoes” is an adventure about Fielding and two new friends solving the mystery of the letter, about hoping for things to turn out well even when you’re pretty sure they won’t, and about the importance of letting things out when they get to be too much.
If you’re on NetGalley, you can request an ARC of Three Left Turns to Nowhere, in exchange for a review. If you do make a request, please let me know so I can nudge my Publisher to approve the request. Right now, you can also pre-order at the Bold Strokes Books Webstore, which will release the book February 1st, ahead of the February 15th general release date.