Jayce stopped by to talk about how she approached writing Jeremiah coming out in her new novel, Jeremiah, available now.
I came out as pansexual to a few of my friends over drinks, wings, and mumbo sauce. We were so busy laughing and kiki-ing it up that we didn’t even pause for reflection. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure they’d heard me. The next morning, one of them sent a group text. Jayce, did you come out to us last night, or was that my imagination? That was real, but I’m not sure I could put it in a book and call it realistic.
But when writing characters, the big question for me comes down to “why?” Why haven’t they come out, and why are they doing it now? For all too many, in real life and on the page, they don’t come out because of family reactions, and if they’re financially dependent on them, well, quiet as it’s kept. Others don’t necessarily fear their family’s reactions, but have a hard time dealing with what it means for them. What it means to have been taught all their lives that something is wrong, or abnormal, or not acceptable, or whatever, and…I don’t know which is worse. I don’t think they should be compared, and the end result is functionally the same—keeping secret a part of their life.
So when writing about a closeted character, I start with the why? In this case, why hasn’t Jeremiah, at thirty-six, come out to his mother? Certain parts of his family know, close friends know, and he’s not ashamed to be out in public with the love interest. So why hasn’t he come out to his mother and other specific family members? The answer for him, like I’d imagine a lot of people in real life, is a combination of his fear of his family’s reaction, and his own unresolved issues about what it means about who he is. And as his relationship progresses, Jeremiah really has to confront the underlying issues that have kept him in a place of stasis for so long.
The next question I ask is: why are they coming out now? It’s not just that Jeremiah is dating, it’s that he’s dating this person, and this person makes Jeremiah want to do more. Why? Well, that’s giving away too much, but there’s often a reason why this is the particular season in someone’s life where they’re comfortable coming out. Or feel they have no choice. Or are plain sick and tired of holding that part of themselves in. I tend to prefer actively allowing a character to come out rather than being outed, but that’s in part because this is fiction and I get to make that choice, and I want my characters to affirmatively take that step, which is something that I know happens all too infrequently in real life. And let’s just say, Jeremiah doesn’t take kindly to the idea of being involuntarily outed. Not even a little bit.
Finally, I consider the external reaction from the people the MC cares about. How does Jeremiah’s family react? Why? Were his fears realized, in full or in part? It’s important to note that, even in cases where the family may suspect that the MC is queer, it doesn’t necessarily lessen the anxiety the character may feel. At all. So it’s critical not to dismiss the character’s feelings, even if the family already knew, or if they’re equally welcoming, or whatever. Sometimes the fallout isn’t great, and often, there’s a mix of the extremes.
I’m sure there’s a ton more people can say or contribute to the best ways of authentically allowing a character to come out, so I’d love to hear how readers have tackled this, or their favorite books where authors have handled this situation.
About the book
Jeremiah, High Rise, #1, by Jayce Ellis
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Book Description: Jeremiah Stewart’s sexuality is no one’s business. Not that he’s hiding it. When—if—he finds the right one, he’ll absolutely introduce him to Mom. But a late-night brush with a sexy stranger in too much lip gloss has him rethinking nearly everything…
To Collin Galloway, direction is a four-letter word. Sure, he hates his job, he hates living with his parents and he really hates watching everyone move on without him. But he doesn’t know what he wants to do, long-term, and he won’t figure it out by thirsting over Jeremiah, the superhot, superintense paramedic who is suddenly everywhere Collin looks.
When Jeremiah’s faced with losing all he’s worked so hard to build, he reluctantly accepts Collin’s help. They’re both determined to stay professional…which works about as well as either would imagine. But Collin only does closets with clothes, and Jeremiah has to decide if he’s finally found the one worth bringing home to Mom.
About the Author
Jayce Ellis has three loves: her husband and her two turtles. Hubby loves her back. The turtles she’s not so sure about, but they do love their sports (Bay Area teams FTW!). She still hasn’t figured out why she lives in Northern Virginia, where there’s weather, instead of California, where she’s from, and where it’s just…pretty. Jayce spends her days divorcing happily-married couples (or so she’s been told), and her nights talking maniacally to herself. Thankfully the recorder catches her rumblings and magically turns them into words on a screen. Painting nails is way easier when you don’t actually have to type, and with well over 600 polishes to get through, there’s a lot of painting going on.
Notwithstanding her no-good, very bad, horrible day job, Jayce seriously believes that true love conquers all. Even Maleficent said it. Sure, she was having an epic Mean Girls moment at the time, but she still said it. And she’s right. The only thing Jayce loves more than writing about true love conquering all, is hearing from readers who feel the same way.
Thanks for your post, Jayce, and all good wishes for the success of Jeremiah.