After publishing a few stories a couple of years ago the torrent of story telling abruptly stopped. Maybe it was a reality check. My private hobby was no longer private. I had met my public to a mixed response. There were many positives, including 5 star reviews and compliments from readers and fellow writers. But I also encountered a back lash on Amazon and Goodreads forums and on blogs. The charge lead by a disgruntled author of gay m/m romances whom I can only suppose took offence at questions I had raised about the implicit sexism in the genre. Although her attacks questioned my literary abilities, she also asserted that on principle she would not read me. Her attack literally unleashed the trolls. She champions the group known as the Goodreads bullies and I suspect that at least a few of them were her sock puppets.
But there were deeper more personal reasons too. Apart from insecurities, I knew my work was less than perfect. My words don’t always flow, my thinking can be confused, I am susceptible to mistakes.
The work in itself was quite controversial. On the surface it lampooned the m/m romantic genre. Many of the sentences were lifted directly from other works with only slight tweaking. But also, from a gay mans perspective, I attempted to make the fantasy real. To show that in practice some of the erotic wonders were actually gross and physically impossible.
There was also a deeper current, the subject of sexual abuse. I was attempting to describe, from a victims perspective how abuse can be both exciting and disgusting at the same time. Rather than confront my own childhood abuse directly I had put the feelings into Joe, an inexperienced but adult man straight out of college. The abuser was not a conventional monster, but a charismatic do gooder. While writing the story he became more sympathetic and attractive and indeed very few readers have noticed that he is indeed the villain of the story.
So when the trolls attacked my sanity and morality, they hit where I was vulnerable. I was writing about issues that disturbed me and I wanted to convey my very mixed emotions. I had used a metaphor, raw food, it was the modus operandi of the abuse, but it also described Joe. He was the Raw Food to be devoured in lust.
In retrospect, the most significant event in Raw Food, was the spontaneous appearance of Button, a young looking rent boy and junkie, who apparently randomly was waiting for Joe at the top of the stairs. I had not planned him, he walked in to my story of his own accord but he soon became essential to the mechanism of the plot. His near death from a heroin overdose, forced the formulaic ending which doomed them all to a unsatisfactory and ironic happy ever after.
To me Button was the least plausible or rounded character in the story. Unlike the other characters, he was not drawn from real life. But after receiving letters from readers, I soon discovered that he was the most loved character in the story.
I attempted a few other stories all unfinished. I managed a biographical account of my own history as a child sex abuse victim and its after effects. But the thought of hostile eyes reading it and dissecting it for proof of my evil means it will probably remain unpublished.
But I was motivated to write again. Quite a few readers had asked for a sequel to Raw Food. I even had requests for where the story should go next. I had however lost faith.
Yet recently, a small Epiphany about who Button was caused me to revisit Raw Food. I discovered that Button was indeed what new agers describe as the “inner child”. His appearance was not as random as I had imagined but was part of a deeper plan.
I had encountered him before in creative visualization exercises. Without knowing our destination, my inner (i.e. imaginary) guide had taken me deep down into the earth through caves where I had found him imprisoned in a dungeon – in my own private hell. I set him free and we shared euphoria and tears, but I was warned by my guide that this was only the start of a process. He would, of his own accord, return to incarceration and would need freeing many times before permanent healing could ever be achieved.
Thus I discovered that the story Raw Food was not only unfinished, it had scarcely even begun. It seemed that all my frustrated attempts to write other stories were because I was defying my muse and attempting the wrong stories. I had to free my inner child yet again, this time by rewriting my own personal mythology.
The words again came in torrents. Often too fast to properly fix on the page, with notes and scraps of poetry bridging scenes. These were to be expanded on when the whole story was down. To my surprise this story has proved the most crafted plot I have yet written. Though the planning was all from a deeper level, naturally growing from the seeds sown in raw food and my personal mythology.
Button and Joe are the two poles of my own self seeking harmonic unity. Although I freely fictionalised, basing Buttons history of abuse more on a friends than my own and had Joe as a successful film director, their dreams, feelings and experiences were all out of my life.
Now near completion, the work is far from perfect. It makes the uneasy transformation from sex comedy to druggy fantasy before the pattern of healing is apparent. It is a potential minefield of misunderstandings. Button’s morality was warped just to survive, he accepts as normal what most right minded people would find abhorrent. As with me, it took a large dose of an hallucinogenic drug before he recognized his own inherent goodness and accepted a willingness to heal.
Too me it is very important and significant, probably much more than it could ever be to any one else. But as I neared completion of the first draft my insecurities returned and I found excuses to postpone finishing it. I soon realized I was terrified of publishing and seeing my baby trashed by those hostile to my very existence. So, with great regret, I decided not to publish. This, at least, rekindled my enthusiasm for the project and now the first draft is finished.
Maybe it is my crowning achievement. Or maybe it is rubbish. I can’t honestly say, I am too close to it. My joy and tears are on every page as are my blood, toil and suffering. Probably, unless you are me, its subtleties and deeper meanings are irrelevant.
So I finish this blog as I started, in a state of confusion. Frustrated, but still unwilling to throw my pearls before trolls.