This week I released my third novel, and fourth book, Just Say Maybe. This novel began (as many of by books do) as a short story concept that evolved when I fell in love with the characters and discovered that they had a much bigger story to tell.
I was initially inspired by a PostSecret entry by a girl named Tasha who was writing a letter of acceptance of the life of her great-uncle Wayne. I was touched by the story she told him, and the world, about how he died alone from AIDS before Tasha was born. The idea of a family casting out one of their own and then ignoring the fact that he met his demise alone and without his family around him really got to me.
If I’m going to be completely honest, I wasn’t sure at first that I should be the one to write this book. First I met some resistance when I displayed my original concept art on a NaNoWriMo writing forum. A group of female writers, and part-time keyboard warriors, attacked my gender claiming that my cover art was inappropriate because I’m a male. Then I was hit for my interest in writing from the first person perspective. My protagonist is a fourteen-year-old girl named Ashley and there was even some disbelief that a man could or should write from that perspective. It was suggested that I use my initial J. Windale to hide my gender. This after generations of female writers having to hide their genders by using their initials rather than their names.
Then of course is the fact that I am not only male, but straight. To boot, I’m also *gasp* a conservative! How could a straight conservative male write a book with two prominent gay characters and a pair of teenage girls? Easy, I just wrote the damn thing.
I’d read something on Tumblr or NaNoWriMo somewhere about the fear some people have of writing about things they don’t directly relate to. There will always be naysayers who try to tell you otherwise, but if you want to tell a story then tell it. I’ve read wonderful testimonials from the LGBT community telling authors, artists, and songwriters to represent them in their art. The best way to build a positive interaction between two groups who are
typically tragically in opposition is opening a dialogue on common grounds. So I set this story in the mid-1990s at the height of the Smashing Pumpkins era and picked the brains of several of my gay and lesbian EMS friends.
Also when I say I’m conservative I mean that I’m a Libertarian with a heavy Constitutional lean. I’m not a Bible-thumper or Trump supporter.
In the end I decided to take a page from Henry Flagler and build my bridge across the ocean even though I was told not to. I wrote the damn thing and then handed it off to a number of my uber-liberal friends who had some incredibly wonderful things to say about it.
My concept art and promotional images have also been a huge hit on Instagram (Psst, you should totally be following me).
Just Say Maybe is actually a prequel to my EMS novel Twenty-Five at the Lip, but you don’t need to be familiar with Twenty-Five to read it. They are stories independent of one another, but Ashley Barnes is a minor character in Twenty-Five and Just Say Maybe gives a great deal of background on her.
Ashley is fourteen in Just Say Maybe and through a number of odd coincidences she stumbles upon a family secret that’s been kept for almost twenty years; an uncle she never knew she had. Peeling back the layers on this tragic fact she is forced to delve deeply into the true nature of her own family, fearful of what she might find, but hopeful that amends can be made before it’s too late.
So check out a little bit of Just Say Maybe below. There’ll be a link at the bottom where you can go to the Amazon page and buy it in paperback or on Kindle.
from Just Say Maybe
In April of 1994 my sister Bonnie spent a week in her room sobbing into her flannel shirt and ripped jeans because her idol, Kurt Cobain, had stuffed enough heroin up his arm to put a rhino down and then blew his face off with a shotgun. She had been something of a prude about Nirvana, slamming her door in my face when I wanted to listen with her and her friends.
“Stay the fuck out of my room, Ashley!” she’d bark, her hair looking ridiculous, dyed red with Kool-Aid.
It didn’t matter that she didn’t want her “baby” sister tagging along with her friends. All I was interested in was the music and she played it loud enough so that I could hear it through her bedroom door. Mom bought me my own CD player for Christmas-1994, a Sony model with detachable speakers and a duel cassette player for transferring music from one tape to another or from CD to tape, for which I bought a stack of blank tapes from Strawberries at the Pheasant Lane Mall. Sneaking into Bonnie’s room I pilfered her Nirvana collection and put them on tape for myself. Meanwhile Bonnie began telling anyone who would listen that her Easter was now going to fall on April 8th, the day Kurt Cobain was found rather than the day he actually died. Like a lot of teenage girls, I suppose myself included, she could be a bit dramatic.
A stack of blank cassette tapes opened up the promise of making mix tapes, sitting with the radio on, the tape advanced to the right position waiting patiently for the DJ to play the song you wanted to record. This was my way of starting my own music collection, the CD player on top only for recording music, or as the later vernacular would call it “ripping”. The radio was an avenue to entertainment I had never been truly exposed to with the exception of my dad’s classic rock station and the vinyl LPs that still graced the turntable stereo in the living room. A year passed and Bonnie moved beyond Nirvana and adopted the Phish, a sound that made me gag just slightly more than the smells that came from her room while she listened to it. As her musical taste declined I was forced to seek out other music on my own and it was while I was waiting for a song by Alanis Morissette that I heard the most amazing thing that any thirteen year old girl in the post-Nirvana world had ever heard. That was the day I fell in love with The Smashing Pumpkins.
I sat in my swivel chair knocking myself back and forth on the rolling wheels, my Airwalks dirty and loosely tied. Billy Corgan’s voice had a quality to it that I had never found in Kurt Cobain or any other musician. The instrumentals in the song spoke to me with a lyrical storytelling was too much for me to bare and I pushed PLAY/RECORD after the first chorus. The song ended and I rewound the tape, playing it back and getting the same chills and goosebumps on my arms and legs that had been there when I heard it. I sat fixated on the dual black speakers, watching as they vibrated with each pulse of D’arcy’s bass. It was all so hypnotizing and I sat with my mouth hung open, the Red Hot Fireball I’d been working on dropping out and rolling across the floor.
Just Say Maybe © 2016 by James Windale