Author: DeeJay Arens
ISBN: 978-1927044346 & 1927044340
Page count: 322 pages
Genre: Coming-of-Age/Gay Fiction
DeeJay Arens resides in north central Minnesota. Besides writing, his creative outlets include theater and filmmaking as part owner of a production company. He also works as a vocational vendor and Member/Owner services manager for a natural food cooperative.
Tell us about your book:
“No one talks about what happens when you fall in love with the boy next door — not when you’re the boy living beside the boy next door.”
Jared didn’t want to do it, but it had to be done. Someone had to sit before the government hearing to explain why a gay man was nothing to be vilified, nothing to be hated or feared… that he was just a man. That is what Jared Montgomery is determined to do. He does so by sharing his story – his and Luke’s story – in the hopes that perhaps even just one more person could understand.
Luke and Jared were battling the odds from the beginning. Growing up beside each other, being best friends, they soon learned that if they wanted to share each other’s company, it had to be done in secret, in the confines of the old train car behind the junkyard. There, they were free of the taunts and jibes, the ridicule and hatred… or were they?
Unable to embrace who he is, unable to deal with the tactics used by his family to ‘cure’ him, Luke forces himself into a traditional marriage that is doomed from the start. His true, self-denied love for Jared, and the hatred surrounding it, is killing him. The question is, can Jared get to him before it is too late?
How long did it take to write the book?
I started this book about six years ago. I had taken a hiatus from theater and needed a creative outlet.
What inspired you to write the book?
I started writing this particular book as a sort of mental health exercise. I needed to sort through things. The way life treated me and others like me. It helped me think through what the issue was really about for both sides. After it was all said and done I realized that main characters (Jared & Luke) we’re the two sides of me. One represented who I was and the choices I made. The other represented the choice I thought I had and showed me what could’ve been.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I don’t have much of a process. When I have a story to tell it consumes me and I have to write. The challenge (as with every writer) is finding the time to do it. I luckily found an amazing team at Writers AMuse Me Publishing who keep me going and have taught me so much about being a writer.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope they come away with questions and rethinking what they believe about gay issues. I may never change anyone’s mind, but I hope I help them start to question.
Where can we go to buy your book?
The book is available from many online retailers and directly from my publisher.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I have an author’s blog at deejayarens.wordpress.com and the book has a fan page at https://www.facebook.com/deejayarensauthor?ref=hl
Excerpt from book:
CHAPTER 1 — I AM WHAT I AM
“No one talks about what happens when you fall in love with the boy next door — not when you’re the boy living beside the boy next door. You just know that you can’t even ask. You can’t talk about it. Even though Mom says to forget about girls and focus on studying, you know she can’t wait for you to bring a girl home. She wants to plan the proms and think about what the grandchildren will look like. Parents don’t plan for their son to bring home the ‘man’ he loves. I don’t understand why people get so angry about it. Why does it bother them? It has nothing to do with them.” Luke caressed Jared’s arm and took a deep breath. “I don’t care what they think. I know what I want.” He ran his fingers through Jared’s hair. “It’s just that simple. I love you!”
Jared pulled away. “But it’s not that simple, is it? None of this has ever been simple. It should be. Everybody else gets to fall in love with who they want and go on double dates with their friends. What do we get? We get to hide in here — a rusty old train car. We steal moments when no one’s looking. We constantly have to look over our shoulders to see if anyone’s watching. God forbid someone should see us or figure us out. What if they do? Then what?” He pointed to his bruised eye. “This. Or worse. We’d be hated by everyone, including our own families.” He grabbed Luke’s hand, looked him in the eyes. “He could have killed me, Luke. And they know we hang out; I’m sure you’re on their list.” Lying back down on the blanket, he put his hands to his head. “I want this so bad, but I don’t know how it will work out. I don’t know if it’s worth getting us killed.”
Luke leaned over him, holding Jared’s face. “I don’t know either. We can try to figure it out, right? Maybe we just do what we can to survive until we can leave here. Leave everything behind us. There are other places… places where it will be easier for us to be together. We’ve only got one more year of school left then we’re free. It’ll go by fast.”
“Maybe. I just don’t want you to have to go through all of this when you’re not sure about it. I couldn’t stand if something happened to you. I’d feel responsible. Maybe you should just try… you know… to find a girl.”
“No! I can take care of myself. I don’t want that. What can I do to prove to you that it’s just you? All I want is you.”
Jared smiled, leaning his head against Luke’s chest. “I just don’t know.”
Luke thought for a moment, his heart racing. Without thinking, the words came out of his mouth. “Let me make love to you.”
Jared jumped away. “What? No! We can’t!”
Luke ran his hand down Jared’s arm. “Why not? I love you. I always have.”
“I just don’t know if it’s…”
Luke held his finger against Jared’s lips. “We’re adults now. I can’t promise when we’ll figure this whole mess out, but I need this. I want this.” Kneeling in front of Jared, he gave a reassuring, but nervous smile and kissed him. He started to unbutton Jared’s shirt.
Jared laid back, his arms around Luke’s neck.
Luke could feel Jared’s body trembling, assuring him that Jared was just as nervous. It felt right. It was the right time.
What the hell am I doing here? Who cares what Jared Montgomery has to say about anything? The phrase repeated in my mind. I tried reaching for a mint from my pants pocket, inadvertently jamming my finger against the skirt of the oak desk in front of me. Hoping no one noticed, I reached in, unwrapped one, and finally got it into my mouth. There was no moisture left.
I looked toward the front of the room. Everything went out of focus so I looked down at the desk and took a deep breath. Making eye contact with the people in front of me was not an option. One would think I’d be used to it, but it was disconcerting not knowing who was friend or foe.
I got the signal to begin. I sat, pulling my chair in, making sure I was close to the microphone. When I opened my mouth, nothing came out so I reached for my glass of water. Taking a drink, I closed my eyes, and forced another deep breath.
“I want to be clear that I’m not here for the pleasure of reliving this story. I suspect many of you are already uncomfortable and I’ve just begun. The fact is I’ve spent a lot of time trying to put these memories to rest, but I can’t. Not to say there weren’t some wonderful memories; there were many incredible memories, but they are quickly overtaken by the sad ones. Thinking back, I know that neither of us was really aware of how prophetic Luke’s words were that evening. We were both eighteen years old. We should’ve been worrying about what movie to see, or whose party we should go to, not thinking about how to survive. Why am I here? I’m here because I need people to understand that their words and their actions have consequences whether they realize it or not. I need people to understand that my love for Luke was not some perversion, nor was it something evil. It was real and true, just like many relationships that are happening every day between two people who love each other who happen to be members of the same sex.” I cleared my throat in an effort to maintain control of my emotions. “Loving him wasn’t difficult. It was trying to create a life together that proved complicated.”