Layla M. Wier: Homespun

on Oct 03, 2013 by

Hi, and thank you to so much to Michael for hosting me today! This is the third week of my blog tour for my novella Homespun, released Sept. 18 from Dreamspinner Press. During my blog tour, which runs ’til Oct. 8, I’m giving away a handmade scarf, knit or crocheted by me specially for you, in a style and yarn color that you get to pick! (This would also be a great holiday gift for someone else!) More details here: http://laylawier.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/scarf-giveaway/ – you just need to comment on any of the posts in the tour to be entered.

I’ve rarely had a story seize me in its teeth and insist on being written the way this one did. The idea came to me fully formed last summer — two long-time lovers, Owen and Kerry, who are forced to make a life-changing decision about their relationship when same-sex marriage becomes legal in their state. And the story itself simply seemed to fall out of my head. I’ve always been a trifle skeptical of writers’ claims that a story “wrote itself” because in my experience, writing is hard work! But this is about as close as I’ve ever come. Yes, writing it was work, but there was also a powerful sense that Owen and Kerry and Laura came to me out of nowhere and wanted their story to be told, and I’ve tried to tell it to the best of my ability.

At the same time, I kept having to tell myself during the rough draft, “This story is for you. If you don’t like it, no one but you will ever read it.” Why? Because if I let myself stop and think about it, I’d become paralyzed by the fact that I was writing about someone who was still working through emotional damage from the AIDS years. The idea of doing justice to something so huge and devastating — and so far outside my experience, as a straight woman in a rural area — left me paralyzed.

But those aren’t first-draft thoughts. Those are second- and third-draft thoughts. The first draft is about getting it out there. The later drafts are when the research kicks in, when you start asking yourself “Did I do this right?” and “How do I do this right?” and, sometimes, “Should I let this one out the door, or sit on it forever?”

I want to make it clear that I’m not afraid of being yelled at or having someone tell me, “You wrote this wrong.” Well, okay, yes, that’d be unpleasant, but it’s more that I just don’t want to hurt somebody. I’m very aware that I’m dealing with someone else’s culture and history here. I want to do it right.

So how do you do that? Let’s say that you are, to pull something out of the air, a straight woman in rural Alaska who wants to write a 42-year-old, politically active, angry gay man who came of age in the early 1990s in New York City.

I read a lot of memoirs. I talked to some older gay male friends. I looked at the world through Kerry’s eyes, as much as I could, and I always tried to leave myself an escape hatch, mentally if nothing else: If this truly doesn’t work, if I think that publishing this would make the world a worse place than it would be without this story in it, I can bail on it.

I don’t think there’s anything at all inherently wrong with someone writing about someone else’s culture or background or experiences (well, as long as you don’t try to present yourself as an authentic voice on that culture). But I also think it’s wise to approach it with a certain humbleness, especially when one is coming from a privileged majority culture writing about a subculture.

And in some cases, that empathic failure — that awareness of one’s own blind spots — can be worked into the story. I wrote an argument between Kerry and Laura in which she’s trying to empathize and he keeps telling her, You CAN’T, you’re a 25-year-old straight woman and I’m a 42-year-old gay man, not one of your girlfriends. There are things I’ve experienced you’ll never understand. And he’s right. But of course my challenge as a writer was to get inside all three of their heads — Owen’s, Laura’s, and Kerry’s — and to be true to their points of view. Kerry’s anger, Owen’s good intentions, Laura’s sympathetic naivete all had to ring true. In the end, Owen and Laura can’t have a sudden epiphany and understand Kerry. That’s not how life works. They’re all still bouncing off each other; there are still ragged edges and uncomfortably clashing places.

I think we writers often experience the urge to write bigotry and the blindness of privilege into our stories as negative traits for antagonists only. Our bigots are bile-spewing gay bashers, and our protagonists, in contrast, see everything with perfect clarity. But that’s not how real life works. We’re all complicated messes of random shit we’ve absorbed from various places.

I expect there are still places I screwed up. I was rewriting scenes right up until the final round of revisions at Dreamspinner Press. I only hope that my trespasses will be forgiven and my mistakes will be pointed out to me where they occur, so that I can avoid making them next time. And so we become better writers (and better people).

HomespunCover200x300

Homespun

by Layla M. Wier

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novella/104 pages

Release Date: Sept. 18, 2013

Blurb:

For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.

Buy at Dreamspinner Press:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4189

Homespun_headerbanner

About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is the romance pen name of artist and writer Layla Lawlor. She was born in a log cabin in rural Alaska and grew up thirty miles from towns, roads, electricity, and cars. These days, she lives in Fox, a gold-rush mining town on the highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, dogs, and the occasional farm animal. Their house is a log cabin in a birch and aspen forest. Wolves, moose, and foxes wander through the front yard. During the short, bright Arctic summer, Layla enjoys gardening and hiking, and in the winter, she writes, paints, and draws.

Where to find Layla:

Blog: http://laylawier.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Layla_in_Alaska

Tumblr: http://laylainalaska.tumblr.com

Stops and topics on the Homespun blog tour (Sept. 16-Oct. 8):

Monday, Sept. 16: Zahra Owens (http://zahraowens.com/) – autumn

Tuesday, Sept. 17: Tali Spencer (http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com/) – sharing passions

Wednesday, Sept. 18: RELEASE DAY! Party at the Dreamspinner Press blog!

Thursday, Sept. 19: Charley Descoteaux (http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/) – location scouting in central New York

Friday, Sept. 20: Chris T. Kat (http://christikat.blogspot.com/) – interview

 

Monday, Sept. 23: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House (http://purpleroseteahouse.charliecochet.com/) – doing research

Tuesday, Sept. 24: Helen Pattskyn (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/) – bisexuality in Homespun

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Garrett Leigh (http://garrettleigh.com/) – interview

Thursday, Sept. 26: Skylar Cates (http://skylarmcates.wordpress.com/) – rural life

Friday, Sept. 27: Madison Parker (http://madisonparklove.com/blog/) – interview + review

 

Monday, Sept. 30: Jessica Davies (http://jessicaskyedavies.blogspot.com/) – learning to spin, part 1

Tuesday, Oct. 1: Anne Barwell (http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/) – learning to spin, part 2

Thursday, Oct. 3: Michael Rupured (http://rupured.com/) – writing respectfully from outside a subculture

Friday, Oct. 4: Jana Denardo (http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/) – invading characters’ privacy

 

Monday, Oct. 7: SL Huang (http://slhuang.com/) – interview

Tuesday, Oct. 8: PD Singer (http://pdsinger.com/) – central NY photo tour

Hi, and thank you to so much to Michael for hosting me today! This is the third week of my blog tour for my novella Homespun, released Sept. 18 from Dreamspinner Press. During my blog tour, which runs ’til Oct. 8, I’m giving away a handmade scarf, knit or crocheted by me specially for you, in a style and yarn color that you get to pick! (This would also be a great holiday gift for someone else!) More details here: http://laylawier.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/scarf-giveaway/ – you just need to comment on any of the posts in the tour to be entered.

I’ve rarely had a story seize me in its teeth and insist on being written the way this one did. The idea came to me fully formed last summer — two long-time lovers, Owen and Kerry, who are forced to make a life-changing decision about their relationship when same-sex marriage becomes legal in their state. And the story itself simply seemed to fall out of my head. I’ve always been a trifle skeptical of writers’ claims that a story “wrote itself” because in my experience, writing is hard work! But this is about as close as I’ve ever come. Yes, writing it was work, but there was also a powerful sense that Owen and Kerry and Laura came to me out of nowhere and wanted their story to be told, and I’ve tried to tell it to the best of my ability.

At the same time, I kept having to tell myself during the rough draft, “This story is for you. If you don’t like it, no one but you will ever read it.” Why? Because if I let myself stop and think about it, I’d become paralyzed by the fact that I was writing about someone who was still working through emotional damage from the AIDS years. The idea of doing justice to something so huge and devastating — and so far outside my experience, as a straight woman in a rural area — left me paralyzed.

But those aren’t first-draft thoughts. Those are second- and third-draft thoughts. The first draft is about getting it out there. The later drafts are when the research kicks in, when you start asking yourself “Did I do this right?” and “How do I do this right?” and, sometimes, “Should I let this one out the door, or sit on it forever?”

I want to make it clear that I’m not afraid of being yelled at or having someone tell me, “You wrote this wrong.” Well, okay, yes, that’d be unpleasant, but it’s more that I just don’t want to hurt somebody. I’m very aware that I’m dealing with someone else’s culture and history here. I want to do it right.

So how do you do that? Let’s say that you are, to pull something out of the air, a straight woman in rural Alaska who wants to write a 42-year-old, politically active, angry gay man who came of age in the early 1990s in New York City.

I read a lot of memoirs. I talked to some older gay male friends. I looked at the world through Kerry’s eyes, as much as I could, and I always tried to leave myself an escape hatch, mentally if nothing else: If this truly doesn’t work, if I think that publishing this would make the world a worse place than it would be without this story in it, I can bail on it.

I don’t think there’s anything at all inherently wrong with someone writing about someone else’s culture or background or experiences (well, as long as you don’t try to present yourself as an authentic voice on that culture). But I also think it’s wise to approach it with a certain humbleness, especially when one is coming from a privileged majority culture writing about a subculture.

And in some cases, that empathic failure — that awareness of one’s own blind spots — can be worked into the story. I wrote an argument between Kerry and Laura in which she’s trying to empathize and he keeps telling her, You CAN’T, you’re a 25-year-old straight woman and I’m a 42-year-old gay man, not one of your girlfriends. There are things I’ve experienced you’ll never understand. And he’s right. But of course my challenge as a writer was to get inside all three of their heads — Owen’s, Laura’s, and Kerry’s — and to be true to their points of view. Kerry’s anger, Owen’s good intentions, Laura’s sympathetic naivete all had to ring true. In the end, Owen and Laura can’t have a sudden epiphany and understand Kerry. That’s not how life works. They’re all still bouncing off each other; there are still ragged edges and uncomfortably clashing places.

I think we writers often experience the urge to write bigotry and the blindness of privilege into our stories as negative traits for antagonists only. Our bigots are bile-spewing gay bashers, and our protagonists, in contrast, see everything with perfect clarity. But that’s not how real life works. We’re all complicated messes of random shit we’ve absorbed from various places.

I expect there are still places I screwed up. I was rewriting scenes right up until the final round of revisions at Dreamspinner Press. I only hope that my trespasses will be forgiven and my mistakes will be pointed out to me where they occur, so that I can avoid making them next time. And so we become better writers (and better people).

HomespunCover200x300

Homespun

by Layla M. Wier

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novella/104 pages

Release Date: Sept. 18, 2013

Blurb:

For twenty years, Owen Fortescue, a down-to-earth farmer in upstate New York, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with volatile New York City artist Kerry Ruehling. Now that same-sex marriage is recognized in New York, Owen wants to tie the knot. But Kerry responds to the proposal with instant, angry withdrawal. Owen resolves to prove to Kerry that, regardless of the way his family of origin has treated him, family ties don’t necessarily tie a man down. With help from his grown daughter, Laura, who loves them both, Owen hopes to convince Kerry that his marriage proposal isn’t a trap, but a chance at real love.

Buy at Dreamspinner Press:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4189

Homespun_headerbanner

About Layla:

Layla M. Wier is the romance pen name of artist and writer Layla Lawlor. She was born in a log cabin in rural Alaska and grew up thirty miles from towns, roads, electricity, and cars. These days, she lives in Fox, a gold-rush mining town on the highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, dogs, and the occasional farm animal. Their house is a log cabin in a birch and aspen forest. Wolves, moose, and foxes wander through the front yard. During the short, bright Arctic summer, Layla enjoys gardening and hiking, and in the winter, she writes, paints, and draws.

Where to find Layla:

Blog: http://laylawier.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Layla_in_Alaska

Tumblr: http://laylainalaska.tumblr.com

Stops and topics on the Homespun blog tour (Sept. 16-Oct. 8):

Monday, Sept. 16: Zahra Owens (http://zahraowens.com/) – autumn

Tuesday, Sept. 17: Tali Spencer (http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com/) – sharing passions

Wednesday, Sept. 18: RELEASE DAY! Party at the Dreamspinner Press blog!

Thursday, Sept. 19: Charley Descoteaux (http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/) – location scouting in central New York

Friday, Sept. 20: Chris T. Kat (http://christikat.blogspot.com/) – interview

 

Monday, Sept. 23: Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Tea House (http://purpleroseteahouse.charliecochet.com/) – doing research

Tuesday, Sept. 24: Helen Pattskyn (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/) – bisexuality in Homespun

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Garrett Leigh (http://garrettleigh.com/) – interview

Thursday, Sept. 26: Skylar Cates (http://skylarmcates.wordpress.com/) – rural life

Friday, Sept. 27: Madison Parker (http://madisonparklove.com/blog/) – interview + review

 

Monday, Sept. 30: Jessica Davies (http://jessicaskyedavies.blogspot.com/) – learning to spin, part 1

Tuesday, Oct. 1: Anne Barwell (http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/) – learning to spin, part 2

Thursday, Oct. 3: Michael Rupured (http://rupured.com/) – writing respectfully from outside a subculture

Friday, Oct. 4: Jana Denardo (http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/) – invading characters’ privacy

 

Monday, Oct. 7: SL Huang (http://slhuang.com/) – interview

Tuesday, Oct. 8: PD Singer (http://pdsinger.com/) – central NY photo tour



7 Comments

  1. crotchetymama says:

    Layla, I liked that!. The sensitivity to other cultures and ways of being in the world, is not just responsible, but so loving. : )

    • Layla Lawlor says:

      Thank you so much! 🙂 I think I was a lot less aware of this sort of thing when I was younger, but as I grow older I’m becoming more aware that I’m a writer second, and a human being first.

  2. Thanks for sharing and the giveaway. I’m the same way with writing. I make revisions up until the last minute before I have to turn the writing in. That’s because I’m a perfectionist. I want my work to be the best I can make it. 🙂

    • Layla Lawlor says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I’m SUCH a perfectionist about my writing. I edit and revise and tweak … the only thing that finally stops me from making changes is when the blasted thing is actually published, although luckily by that time I’m usually so tired of it that I never want to see it again, so that makes it easier. 😀

  3. Gigi says:

    Sounds like a great book. Can’t wait to read it.

  4. […] 2 of the spinning series went up Tuesday at Anne Barwell’s blog. On Thursday, I talked about writing from outside a culture at Michael Rupured’s blog. I rounded off the week with a post about invading […]

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