I write about things that bug me.
Not small annoyances that leave me wishing the world came with a built-in heavy metal soundtrack, but things that are really disturbing.
Obviously, “A Casual Weekend Thing” is no exception, and since I’ve had a few people contact me to talk about the darker themes of the book, I thought I’d share the inspiration for the story itself.
Years ago, I was sitting in a small lecture hall with thirty law enforcement and corrections officers for a fun (i.e., agonizing) day or workshops and training sessions. Most of the workshops were on communication skills, verbal judo, and defusing big, angry men in bars. The last lecture of the day stuck with me.
The lecturer was a short man in his fifties who was making a valiant effort to keep his comb-over from being obvious. He was heavy set and looked more like a librarian in a sweater vest than someone who should be teaching at a law enforcement academy. He was the assistant director of a women’s shelter, not a law enforcement officer at all, and I wasn’t the only one wondering why a social worker had come to talk to this class about due diligence. (For those who aren’t familiar with the term, due diligence is the duty a law enforcement officer owes to investigate anything and everything, just in case someone might be hurt if they don’t.)
He began by putting four case files up on a projector screen.
The first was a child and family services case about a twelve year old boy whose teachers reported some concerns about his home life. A caseworker and sheriff’s deputy did a home check. They found that the boy had gotten in trouble a lot for fighting with his sister and had run away a few times, but because his father was a respected member of the community, didn’t think the case warranted any additional investigation.
The second was a seventeen year old boy charged with sexual assault. He was apparently dating a younger girl (twelve, I think) and coerced her into fooling around on the school bus in the morning. Because of the age difference, charges were filed and the boy spent a few months in jail.
The third case was a twenty-four year old man charged with statutory rape after engaging in a relationship with a fourteen year old girl. She defended him, telling the court she had lied to him about her age.
The fourth was a forty-seven year old man who had been sentenced to life in prison for raping several children, between the ages of ten and fifteen.
The point of the lecture was that all four case files were about the same man. If the original deputy had investigated fully (performed due diligence), he would have found that the boy and his sister had been forced to perform in pornographic videos, with each other and with their father, for many years. The point was to remind each of us that if we failed to perform due diligence ourselves, and failed to protect this generation of child abuse victims by being thorough in every single investigation, we would inevitably end up protecting the next generation from this one.
That lecture didn’t sit well with me. I had just had a child of my own, and so criminal cases with child victims weren’t just sickening any more, they were emotionally devastating. I hugged my daughter tight when I got home and got over it, but the story stayed with me. I kept wondering what might have happened to that man if things had been different. Eventually, those thoughts grew into Christopher Hayes, the main character from “A Casual Weekend Thing.” The alternative, in which no one noticed or bothered to help, grew into his brother Peter. Christopher and Peter came to life as an exploration of two paths fate might have cast the young man down—one path in which the cycle of violence was stopped, and one in which it continued without notice and the boy grew up to become a monster himself.
“A Casual Weekend Thing” is as much a story about cyclic violence as it is a story about two men falling in love. As some reviewers have commented, it’s a story that some may find difficult to read. I cast Peter as minor villain, but my hope was that readers might come to see some human qualities in Peter, too. I know it’s not fair or easy, reading about a character that leaves you hating him and mourning the man he might have been at the same time. It’s definitely not the emotional roller coaster most readers expect they’re going to be riding when they pick up an m/m romance. But it is what it is.
There are plenty of less creepy things that bug me on the agenda, so who knows… the next story might even be light and fluffy:)