Friday, July 13, 2018

Blog Tour: Pursuing Happiness by Jessie Pinkham

Title: Pursuing Happiness
Author: Jessie Pinkham
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: July 12, 2018
Cover Artist: Katia V Michelet

A repressive childhood casts long shadows.

Growing up in a reactionary religious household left Matt Aldridge socially inept and woefully underprepared for life in the wider world. He’s still trying to figure himself out when he meets his hunky new neighbor, Collin Moravec. Matt likes him at first sight, and miraculously, Collin feels the same.

When his cousin Levi shows up needing a home, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take him in, even as it throws his own world into disarray. He’s determined to save his younger cousin some of the struggles he faced. But taking on this responsibility brings up old anxieties, and in his terror of failing Levi, Matt pushes Collin away. He has to move beyond his fearful upbringing once and for all, or he’s going to end up miserable – and alone.

“Now, about that sexual to-do list. I’m dying to know what’s on it.”

An adorable blush blossomed on Matt’s cheeks. “I think there’s a lot of potential for fun with a can of whipped cream.”

“I’m completely on board with that.”

Finally Matt relaxed. “You’re a very good boyfriend,” he remarked.

Collin figured that meant he’d said the right thing. Good. He took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. “So are you, and if I hadn’t already known that my coworkers made sure to tell me yesterday.”

“How did the grant application turn out?”

“Well, it doesn’t scream ‘thrown together at the last minute,’ so it could be a lot worse.”

“I know nothing about grants,” said Matt, “but I have plenty of personal experience in the red parts of the state, where you said you want to do outreach. Maybe this is weird pillow talk, but…”

Collin interrupted. “Our pillow talk can be whatever we want.”

“Okay. Have you considered how much tougher it will be to go out and talk about LGBT acceptance with people in very conservative areas? I mean really thought about the ruling mindset there?”

They certainly weren’t going in blind. Regardless he wanted to hear Matt’s opinion, if for no other reason than to understand his boyfriend a little better. “We expect to be called a lot more nasty slurs.”

“That’s obvious. It’s not just the insults, though. The thing is that a lot of these people – not all, but a definite majority – are not even going to consider what you have to say. The religiously inclined, which again will be a good percentage, will consider it a given that you’ve been deceived by Satan. So there’s no reason for them to even consider what you have to say, see? Anything they don’t like can easily be written off as inspired by Satan. It’s a very neat system if you don’t like thinking too hard. And it makes us very easy scapegoats for anyone, religious or not, who doesn’t like how the world is changing.”

“There are going to be some people who remain homophobic no matter what we say or do,” acknowledged Collin.

“Some might become more tolerant with personal contact, when the LGBT community isn’t something abstract and instead they know someone who isn’t heterosexual. Then there are the people like my family.”

“Bastards. But we know that. What we want to do, at the very least, is give some hope to LGBT people who feel isolated.”

“They certainly need it. Here’s the thing, though. It’s easy to be anonymous in the city. People can go to Ted’s Place without anyone they know having a clue about their visit to an LGBT center. In rural areas it’s not the same. If somebody stops to talk with you or takes pamphlets or whatever you’re doing for outreach, they’ll be recognized and before long half the town will know. The smaller the community, the worse it gets in that regard.” Matt sighed. “I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m just being realistic. I would never have dared talk with anyone doing LGBT outreach. Far too dangerous.”

“That’s depressing. It’s good to know, though. Obviously this has to factor into our plans.” He lacked ideas on how to work around this very serious roadblock. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Collin would share this perspective with his colleagues and go from there. “Any suggestions for us to get around that?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have any brilliant solutions. The internet is good. My family was unusually restrictive in that area, but it probably helps a lot of other kids. Just keep in mind that in some of these conservative areas, you’ll be entering enemy territory.”

“War metaphors?”

“Not a metaphor. They will literally see you as the enemy. Inspired by Satan, remember? It’s spiritual warfare and you’re the advanced guard. That’s how a lot of people will see you.”

“Damn,” said Collin. He imagined an army wearing sparkly rainbow uniforms, armed with lube and condoms, maybe doing something stereotypical like singing show tunes. “Here I thought I just wanted people to live in a way that makes them happy, and now I find out I’m in Satan’s gay army.”

Matt frowned. “I’m serious, Collin.”

Oops. His last comment had clearly been too flippant. “Sorry. I was going for lightening the mood with humor but clearly missed the mark. This is important to know. And honestly, it speaks to how strong you are that you were able to escape that.”

“I’m not sure being kicked out counts as escaping.”

“You could’ve gone to conversion therapy, pretended to be cured, and lived the rest of your life miserable and accepted by your family. You chose the harder option.”

“True,” said Matt. “Totally worth it.”

Collin traced random patterns on his boyfriend’s chest. “I’m glad to hear it. If you didn’t think it was worth it after that blowjob, I’d have done something terribly wrong.”

This time Matt let him lighten the mood. He winked and said, “No worries there.”

“That’s a relief.”

“You know that saying about praise going to your head? They’re talking about the head on top of your neck.”

“How do you know?” countered Collin.

Matt opened his mouth to protest, then paused. A second later he admitted, “That’s actually a good question.”

Score one for being a smartass.

What is the biggest influence/interest that brought you to this genre?
I write M/M because I enjoy reading it, first and foremost, and perhaps I'm biased, but I think that's the best reason to write in any fiction genre. I like characters who are a little different, outsiders in some way. There's also something really fascinating about how we can examine and challenge cultural norms such as gender roles through these stories.

I've written more sci-fi romances, but lately I've been drawn to contemporary as a way to engage with, reflect on, and hopefully offer some new perspective on our current world. It's a bit less escapist, I suppose. There are real issues facing all of us today, and fiction is one way to wrestle with these as a society while still enjoying a good story.

When writing a book, what is your favorite part of the creative process(outline, plot, character names, editing, etc)?
Has anyone ever said editing? Seriously, I'm curious, because I've yet to meet such author, and I want to know if this person exists.

I love the initial dreaming-up phase, when I'm cogitating on the characters and premise. Sometimes an idea demands to be written immediately, while other times the elements of a story have been rattling around my head for a while before they all come together. Everything is endless possibility at this point, which is exhilarating. My second favorite part is the very beginning, where I get to introduce the characters and their world.

When reading a book, what genre do you find most interesting/intriguing?
I read in various genres and subgenres depending on my mood. Naturally I read a fair bit of romance. Contemporary and sci-fi, with a smattering of fantasy, make up the majority of my romance titles. Even though I love historical settings, I find historical M/M too depressing because societies were largely homophobic in the past, so I tend not to read much historical romance unless it's a foray into M/F. Outside of romance, I also enjoy historical fiction, sci-fi of all stripes, and the odd mystery or fantasy tale.

Mostly, I'm looking for good characters and realistic processes. I love to read about people working to overcome obstacles, and get somewhat annoyed when serious problems (ie trauma) are solved overnight.

If you could co-author with any author, past or present, who would you choose?
I'm not sure I'm a great candidate for cowriting, because I write as the muse obliges and I have time, plus I'm such a pantser. (Outline? Surely you jest.) However, if we're talking in the purely hypothetical, I'll say J.R.R. Tolkien. Not a romance writer, though I personally think you can read some M/M subtext into Sam's devotion to Frodo... but I digress. I love Tolkien's prose. He had such an incredible way with words, so collaborating with him would be fantastic and also, I'm sure, very instructive.

Have you always wanted to write or did it come to you "later in life"?
I've wanted to write since I was a kid. As an only child, I relied on my imagination a lot to entertain myself with stories and companions, and I never really stopped telling stories, just changed subject matter and started sharing with other people. Through practice, I've also gotten better at actually finishing the stories I start. Of course, practice leads to improvement across the board. My early efforts, in my teen years, contained an embarrassing overuse of exclamation points. 

Author Bio:
Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivorsand the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.

She's usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.



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