Before anything else, a moment please to admire this amazing piece of artwork from Micah Draws!
The little details kill me in this. Fielding’s Catadora T-shirt. Joshua’s Softshoe Diner shirt (and a wee Bi-Pride pin). Logan’s seatbelt belt-buckle and eyebrow ring. Gah. I love them, and writing Josh and Logan’s nascent friendship story with Fielding got me through some of the worst of the first year of the pandemic.
Which, I suppose, is all the segue I need for the topic of the blog.
Reviews are coming in for Three Left Turns to Nowhere now, and more than a few have mentioned how my novella, “Hope Echoes,” doesn’t have a romance at the centre of the narrative for the main character, Fielding. That was a conscious choice, and one I was indeed nervous about, but I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the reasons why I chose to leave Fielding flying solo. Now, it shouldn’t need saying that I love romance (I mean, I write romance, and often) but just in case someone sees the title of this blog and reads this entry and somehow makes a leap I’m not making: it wasn’t about not loving romance.
But, as I said, it was a conscious choice for four reasons.
One: I want to be super-clear about this—I was 100% motivated by wanting to write a queer YA without romance because queer fiction—including queer YA—isn’t by definition romance, and there’s a tendency to conflate the two which definitely can definitely wander right into erasing aromantic queerfolk. I mention that quite a bit when I’m talking to writers about queer inclusivity. So, when I sat down to write “Hope Echoes,” it occurred to me the story I wanted to tell (which does, to be clear, also contain two other romantic partnerships, one in the past, and one in the present between Josh and Logan) was an opportunity to walk my talk and craft a story where Fielding’s story is 100% queer, but has nothing to do with his romantic relationship status. He’d like a boyfriend, sure. But that’s not what’s happening right now.
Two: This was the character crux of it—Fielding’s personal arc in this story was about feeling left behind, about facing down his sense of just not being able to start living his life the way he’d intended to, of being on his own, and about coming to grips with a lot of looming uncertainties. YA, to me, is a great place to explore that sense of wanting life to just start already, but also hitting the realizations of how life won’t necessarily align the way you’d like it to. Fielding has a lot of things going on in his life that have taken control and choice away from him, and so this story—his story—is about figuring out a way to feel okay on his own, but also feel okay with opening up to others, and—because this is me, after all—a healthy dash of how wonderful it is when strangers become chosen family.
Three: …which is where Joshua and Logan come in. I’d had Joshua as a character in my head from the bare-bones basic outline of “Hope Echoes,” but I realized pretty quickly that if I had Joshua be a queer guy helping Fielding out, no matter how much I tried to make it clear what was happening was a budding friendship, readers might project (or expect) a romantic resolution. So: Logan. Writing them as the friendly queer couple actually shifted the dynamic of friendship and support in the story into a much better place, which was an added benefit, but the original reason Logan appeared was 100% to make sure readers didn’t get the impression they should ship Fielding and Joshua. Also, if we’re doing honesty, Joshua kept threatening to overtake the story, and I have a feeling I’ve not written the last of him. But what I wanted to show with Joshua and Logan was how central those first queer friendships can be when you’re a queerling. Fielding has friends and a supportive family, yes, but Joshua and Logan are the first queer friends he’s ever really made, and their day together gives him a glimpse of what it might be like once he’s gathered those sorts of people around him. They get him on a few levels in a way he hasn’t had access to before. The oddness of their situation—being somewhere he’s never been before and doesn’t think he’ll ever return to—has a kind of freedom attached to it that Logan points out, and Fielding gets to be 100% himself with these two guys, and is maybe surprised at how good that feels, even when things go bad. Chosen family and queer friends groups are a huge part of my lived experience as a queer guy, and I wanted “Hope Echoes” to give a sense of what those first queer friend groups can feel like.
Four: Finally, narratively, I wanted to put all the romantic eggs into one basket: the love letter Fielding, Joshua, and Logan are trying to decipher and deliver. That story, and what it means to Fielding, who has pinned a lot of his feelings into this letter over the course of this long, strange day, becomes a bit of a lesson to Fielding about how he’s been viewing the world, and especially his odd gift to catch glimpses of the past replaying itself.
So. There you have it. That’s the answer to the question “Why is there no romance for Fielding in this story?”
Three strangers heading to a convention in Toronto are stranded in rural Ontario, where a small town with a subtle kind of magic leads each to discover what he’s been searching for.Three Left Turns to Nowhere, by Jeffrey Ricker, J. Marshall Freeman, and ‘Nathan Burgoine
Ed Sinclair and his friends get stuck in Hopewell after their car breaks down. It’s snark at first sight when he meets local mechanic Lyn, but while they’re getting under each other’s skin, the town might show them a way into one another’s hearts.
Rome Epstein is out and proud and clueless about love. He’s hosting a giant scavenger hunt at the convention, but ends up in Hopewell. When the town starts leaving him clues for its own scavenger hunt, he discovers a boy who could be the prize he’s been searching for.
Fielding Roy has a gift for seeing the past. His trip to reunite with friends hits an unexpected stop in Hopewell, but a long-lost love letter and two local boys give him a chance to do more than watch the past. This time, Fielding might be able to fix the present.