Writing the controversial
Okay, maybe “controversial” is overegging the pudding in this case, but when authors touch on subjects like politics or disability or religion in their books, they can find themselves losing readers who may not agree with the views they – or their characters – espouse. In the case of my latest novella, I’m being contentious by having a gay priest who (gasp!) has sex and enjoys it.
Now, I guess that the readership for books self selects, so people who are fervent in their belief that a man of the cloth (or any other Christian for that matter) can’t possibly be gay aren’t likely to read the book except to knock it, but that’s their look out. I’m happy to stand up and trade them blow for blow on theological points. And on real life examples such as Harry Williams, who was one of the priests at Prince Charles’s wedding and a well respected authority on faith.
While Dan, the vicar in the story, doesn’t move in quite such elite circles he faces the same sort of dilemmas, and I confess that I put many of my own views on faith and what it means to be Christian into his mouth (and mind) and into those of some other characters. I also confess to having put some of the views I don’t approve of into the mouths of the less sympathetic people in the story.
It’s a delicate balance. Sometimes an author has to put words into the mouths of their characters which they find offensive, or give their characters views the author would find untenable. Yet that has to be done, because these viewpoints exist and plenty of people sound them off regularly. However, an author has to avoid being preachy when they attack these opinions via what their protagonists say and do. I can think of few easier ways of putting a reader off than delivering a sermon to them!
Link: Bold Strokes Books
Vicar Dan Miller is firmly in the closet in his new parish. Could the inhabitants of a sedate Hampshire village ever accept a gay priest? Trickier than that, how can he hide his attraction for one of his flock, Steve Dexter?
Encouraged by his ex-partner to seize the day, Dan determines to tell Steve how he feels, only to discover that Steve’s been getting poison pen letters and suspicion falls on his fellow parishioners. When compassion leads to passion, they have to conceal their budding relationship, but the arrival of more letters sends Dan scuttling back into the closet.
Can they run the letter writer to ground? More importantly, can they patch up their romance and will Steve ever get to kiss the vicar again?
“Vicar!” The shout, the almost friendly wave meant the decision to veer off was taken too late.
“Steve!” A cordial wave back as the distance between them narrowed. “Didn’t think you frequented this place.”
“Is that why you come here, then? To get away from the parishioners you like least?”
Dan tried to find an answer, but somehow the connection between his brain and mouth had become severed. Helpless, he could feel the flush rushing up his neck, and could see—without looking at the bloke—that Steve was less than amused. What the hell else was he going to think other than that he’d hit the nail on the head, and Dan was too dumb to cover the fact up?
“Rex!” A high pitched, agitated female voice broke the awkward moment, as did a huge Great Dane, about the size of a rhinoceros, which came haring out of the woods, onto the path and straight into Steve’s leg.
“Shit!” Steve staggered, arms flailing in a futile effort to keep himself upright. Dan’s attempt to reach out and catch him before he hit the stony path was equally ineffective, but at least he could keep the nasty, snarling brute at bay with the aid of the stick he habitually took when he walked. Jimmy had said it gave him gravitas, now it provided the ideal weapon.
“You should keep that thing under control,” he said, as the woman came up and made a lunge for the Great Dane. “What if it had gone for a child?”
“He’s just nervous,” she said, flustered. “Here, Rex. Here boy.” The dog stood off. “He’s a rescue dog. Doesn’t like men.”
“Then take him somewhere he won’t have to see them. Are you all right?” Dan tried to focus his anger into something useful, rummaging in his pocket for a clean hankie. “You need something on that hand.”
“I’m fine,” Steve said, trying to hide the bleeding while keeping a nervous eye on the dog. “Can somebody not take that bloody thing away?”
“There’s no need for that sort of language,” the woman said, at last managing to get a lead onto the dog’s collar.
“I think there’s every need for it. And worse,” Dan said. “You’d better take him off if you don’t want the air turning blue.”
“Well, really! Come on boy.” She hauled the dog away at last.
“Right. Show me that hand.”
“I’m fine.” Steve got to his feet, brushing the dirt off his trousers and managing to get blood on them.
“That hand’s a mess.” Dan grabbed it, none too gently, which made Steve wince, but it served him right for faffing. “This cut’s full of crap. You need to have it cleaned out and a steri-strip put on. Might even need a stitch or two.”
“I’ve had worse,” Steve said, trying to free his paw.
Yes, you have. There’s that intriguing scar on the back of your hand and the one above your left eyebrow. Don’t think I haven’t noticed. Don’t think I don’t imagine tasting them.
Dan became aware of the strange look he was getting and ploughed on. “So have I. Come on, the vicarage is closer than your house. We can dress this there.”
“Oh, for fu…goodness sake. I can sort it out myself. I’m not a child.” Steve tugged his hand away, clearly avoiding Dan’s gaze.
“Will you not let somebody help you? Must you always be so bloody stubborn?”
Bio and links:
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries.
She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, MLR, and Riptide.
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