Dear Bold Strokes Books readers, Thanks so much for allowing me to blog on this site. I appreciate the opportunity. First, let me introduce myself and my new book. I’m Kathryn Shay and I’ve been published by Harlequin and The Berkley Publishing Group for the last fifteen years. The Perfect Family, released from Bold Strokes Books, is my thirty-seventh book. My work has been characterized by reviewers and readers as highly emotional, poignant and heart wrenching.
The Perfect Family follows the Davidsons, an average American family with a good life and they consider themselves lucky to have each other. Then their seventeen year old son tells them he’s gay and their world shifts. They have no idea what they will go through after Jamie’s disclosure: Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. Their story is full of both conflict and love, ending on a redeeming note.
I’m often asked why I wrote this book. I think I’ve been preparing to write it for a long time. When I first started out with Harlequin, I wrote a story about a suicidal teenager who needed the help of adults to get through a very tough time in her life. I’ve written books about getting girls out of gangs, about adults resolving potentially violent situations in schools by working with the kids, and also one novel about adults who were troubled teens in their youth and now help kids like the ones they used to be.
I like to write about adults helping kids. I think it’s because I know from personal experience how much a troubled youth can benefit from an adult’s interest. From a pretty dysfunctional childhood myself, I had two teachers in my life who showed me I was worth something, I was smart and I was deserving of their attention. They both helped me to become the person I am.
I’ve also seen the other side of it where, as a high school teacher, I was able to help many kids by giving them support, guidance and caring outside of the classroom. I’ve dealt with suicidal students, students who were raped, students who wanted to run away because of problems at home. As a matter of fact, one of those students, one I taught decades ago, recently read about The Perfect Family on a Facebook page and contacted me to say how much I affected her life.
A major reason I wrote this book is because of the personal experience of having my own son come out gay. THE PERFECT FAMILY is fiction, but touches on some of the things my family went through during this process. Truthfully, I’d wished I had a book like this to help me understand what I would be dealing with. Everything hit us at once. Having grown up in a conservative small town, there had been prejudices ingrained in me. How was I to deal with them? How do I tell neighbors, friends, family? Will the school discriminate? There are horror stories about this. And, most of all, is he safe? Eight years later, I’m happy to report that these issues are resolved, except for the last one, which I don’t any parent ever gets over.
Also, I wanted to portray the opposite of something I think is way overdone in coming out literature: a child coming out gay and his parents abandoning him. Instead, I wanted to show not all parents reject gay kids, but even the most loving ones have many difficult things to deal with.
And finally, I wanted to write a book is about acceptance. Most people want to be accepted. We join churches, community groups and partake in common activities to be with people who are like us and who share the same interests. We play on sports teams and become fans of athletes, TV shows and music stars. Participating with others makes us feel included, like our friends and neighbors, in sync. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. It’s how we manage to stay sane in a pretty alienated world.
What is wrong is when we’re not accepted for who we are, when people isolate us because of our religion, skin color, nationality, belief system or a sexual orientation. This happens in The Perfect Family. Jamie faces many rejections for who he is. But his biggest fear is rejection by his family. He has the most problems with his dad, and although they come through this process closer than ever, it’s a tough experience for them. Each learns to be more tolerant and understanding of the other.
Jamie also has to deal with other people who are unable to accept him. His best friend from childhood tells him God doesn’t want her to associate with a gay person; his neighbor un-invites him to a pre-prom party because he’s going with a boy; even his brother has difficulty with Jamie’s sexual orientation.
My wish for this book is that people read it and understand the need for tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love for those who are different from us. Overall, I hope my readers see an interesting family, a different kind of plot and some important messages about life.
P.S. My son Ben and I have a gift for my readers. Ben is a singer/songwriter and made a CD in high school about “loving a boy” and other adolescent issues. We’re offering it free at this very website when you order a book from them at boldstrokesbooks.com.