Here's the thing: as both a Canadian and a Libra, conflict is something akin to walking in a rainstorm without an umbrella. Seems unpleasant and completely without merit or reward. Why would you do it? So I avoid it as much as possible, and I think that's mostly okay.
Only sometimes, things come up in life that you can't really pretend don't exist. As far as Big Deals go, trying to come up with promotional ideas for a book is not all that big. When you believe in the book you wrote, it shouldn't be all that hard. When you are excited about it, wanting others to get excited as well should be a no-brainer.
Does that mean I don't believe in my own words or I'm not excited by the book because I can't think of ways to engage others in reading it? No. I like my book and my characters. But I am gun-shy about pushing them out into the world simply because I dared to go outside my known safety net and write something I am unfamiliar with, to some degree. I wrote a love story about a black man who hasn't had the easiest life.
I feel beset by all kinds of paranoia and distress about how this book will be received. I worry it will get trashed as inaccurate, unsympathetic, promoting stereo types and privilege. That people will take one look and say I've got it all wrong because I couldn't possibly know or write authentically about a situation I've never been in and can't possibly understand.
It will be very easy for people to tell me I got it all wrong. That I stereotyped or patronized or a dozen other things I may or may not have done in this book. I have to believe my publisher would not have let this book hit the market with any egregious issues in it. They stood behind me and the book, so I should be confident in that.
To a degree, I am. My publisher is good that way, but ultimately, my words = my responsibility to own them, in the end. I am also confident I wrote two men learning about the world, each other and their own attitudes together in a way lets them be human and fallible without making them into caricatures. I don't pretend that Eric doesn't have ingrained ideas about guys like Dwayne. He does. He grew up in a wealthy, white household with a controlling father. He also grew up with a very close friend who is the exact opposite of him: African American, below the poverty line, and living with his single mother.
Angel was the one who taught Eric that people are people, skin colour, wealth, dreams and desires aside. Angel is also straight, while Eric has been out and unashamed since he was ten. So when Eric meets Angel's cousin Dwayne, who is less than a year out of prison, he's quick to assume all the worst things about the man. Dwayne is happy to let people think whatever they want. He is unashamed of anything he has done in his life. Only the people who deserve to know his truth get to see beneath that armour. The rest of the world can go fuck itself, as far as he is concerned.
Neither man is perfect. But neither of them are irredeemable, either. I hope readers let the characters be human. I don't want them to hate the guys because they aren't perfect. I hope people don't slap labels on the guys before giving them a chance to show how attitudes can be so ingrained as to be invisible to the people who wield them. But that doesn't mean the people are evil. Only that they deserve a chance to look beneath their own surface to discover the greatness within and learn to do better.
Obviously, I hope I have hit the right note with this book, and I think, just as obviously. I am very nervous about it. This isn't the kind of post I would saddle a blog with. I won't invite conflict into someone else's space. But I felt I had to purge this idea, all of these uncertainties, before I could get on with the task of telling folks to come read my latest book.
Be kind, everyone. Be brave, and approach all discussions from a place of love and learning. I think that's how we dig ourselves out of this mess where a person who writes for a living can't find the words to express their fear of censure.