In THE PERFECT FAMILY, seventeen-year old Jamie Davidson doesn’t think being gay should be such a big deal…until he comes out to his parents and friends. Even as Jamie celebrates no longer needing to hide his true self and looks forward to the excitement of openly dating another boy, the entire Davidson family is thrown into turmoil.
Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused.
What happens in their small town community, in the high school, in two churches–one supportive and one not—as well as among friends and relatives is vividly portrayed. Finally, every member of their “perfect family” must search their hearts and souls to reconnect with each other in this honest, heartwarming, and hopeful look at the redemptive power of love and family.
This is the powerful premise of multi-published author Kathryn Shay’s The Perfect Family, a gripping novel to be released on September 14. What happens to a family who has been given life-changing news such as when one of them announces to everyone that they are gay? Is it not such a big deal considering being gay isn’t exactly something new and that being gay is considered perfectly normal?
But…what if it happens to YOUR family. How would you cope? Would you accept it or would you fight it?
We interviewed Kathryn Shay to find out she tackled such a delicate subject. Enjoy!
Thank you for this interview, Kathryn. Can we begin by having you tell us what your new book, The Perfect Family, is all about?
Kathryn: The book follows the story of the Davidsons: they’re an average American family with a good life and they consider themselves lucky to have each other. Then their seventeen year old son tells them he’s gay and their world shifts. They have no idea what they will go through after Jamie’s disclosure: Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. The book is full of both struggle and love, ending on a redeeming note.
Your book touches on such a delicate subject. Can you tell us why you decided to write about a family who is torn because the son tells them he’s gay?
Kathryn: When my own son came out gay, I decided I wanted to tell this kind of story. The book is fiction, but touches on some of the things my own family went through. I wished then I’d had a book like this to help me understand the family’s struggle when a teen comes out is okay, but he deserves love and support from them, too.
Can you tell us more in depth about the character of Jamie Davidson who plays the son?
Kathryn: I love Jamie. He’s a talented actor and singer and enjoys indie music, reading and writing poetry. (I wrote several poems by him in the book.) He’s considerate and friendly, fun loving and interesting. In some ways, I patterned him after my own son, Ben, and we’re giving away copies of a CD Ben did in high school. Many of the songs are about loving a boy. It’s available free when you order from the Bold Strokes website at http://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/products.php?product=Perfect-Family%2C-The-%252d-by-Kathryn-Shay and also from my website, www.kathrynshay.com depending on availability.
How about the mother? Where does she stand on the fact her son is gay? Does she have a hard time accepting it?
Kathryn: Maggie struggles, too. Having come from a dysfunctional family whose oldest child was disowned, she’s vowed to create and sustain a perfect family of her own. Because there’s tension and strife among them all now, she’s devastated by what’s happening to them. But never does she waver in the support she gives her son.
Can you give us an excerpt of one of the most “tender” parts of the story?
When Maggie passed Jamie’s room, she heard sobs coming from inside. Somebody was crying. Hard. She knocked on his door. “Jamie, are you in there?”
“Jamie, it’s Mom. Are you all right?”
A muffled, “Yeah.”
“I need to see for myself. Can I come in?”
She gripped the doorknob. “I’m afraid I have to insist.”
A longer pause. “All right.”
The room was dark for mid-afternoon because Jamie had drawn the blinds, casting the room in shadows. His computer hummed eerily in the half light, flashing a screen saver of one of his favorite rock stars. Some of his treasured pictures, those he’d matted and framed, lay on the floor. The wood was broken. Shards of glass dug into the carpet. Scanning the room, she recalled a time when she’d baby proofed it. She wished she could baby proof the world for him, but she’d come to realize she could no longer protect Jamie.
He was stretched out on the bed, propped up on pillows.
“What’s going on, honey?”
Maggie picked up a shattered frame. The picture had been torn by the glass–one of Jamie and Julianne at the Valentine’s Dance they attended together last winter. She’d thought how masculine Jamie looked in the tux, a compliment to Julianne’s feminine frills.
“Did something happen with Julianne?” He’d mentioned she’d been acting weird and now the destroyed pictures of her.
And Jamie burst into tears.
Side-stepping the mess, she sat on the bed and dragged him up. For longer than she thought possible, he cried in her arms. Not sniffles. Not a burst of emotion. But deep, wrenching sobs from his gut. She wondered how much more of this he could take. For a stark moment, she thought again about the statistics on suicide among gay teens.
“Shh, shh,” she said, rubbing a hand over his back. “It can’t be that bad.”
“All right, then, we’ll work through it together.” When he drew back again, she nodded to the floor. “Julianne let you down?”
He slouched onto the bed. “Uh-huh.”
She took his hands. “What happened?”
Her son didn’t look at her when he spoke. Instead he stared at the Van Gogh poster on the wall across the room. “Before it got around I was gay, I told her about me. She seemed okay with it. Said she’d pray for me.” His hand tightened on hers. “It sucked but she’s entitled to her beliefs.”
Maggie waited when he paused.
“She belongs to that fundamentalist church on Parson Road. They’re really conservative. They believe all that stuff about women being subservient to men. Their service is a practically a gospel rally.”
“Yes, I know.”
He closed his eyes. Finally, he asked, “Can you rub my back?”
“Sure. Scoot over.”
He yanked off a shirt that said Carpe Diem and lay down on his stomach. She stretched out beside him and began the ritual that he always asked for when he was upset. “Tell me the rest, Jame.”
When she began to knead his shoulders, he continued. “Luke and I went to get our tickets to the prom. It was like he wanted to thumb his nose at the school, or…I don’t know. Anyway, we’re going to the Junior Prom together so I thought, Why hide it? What can they do?”
Maggie panicked. They were going to the prom together? Oh, dear Lord. Would they be safe? As far as Maggie knew, no one had openly taken a person of the same sex to a Sherwood High prom. Though kids often went in groups of girls or guys, an honest-to-goodness boy/boy date hadn’t yet happened. Jamie’s foray into that uncharted territory would be trailblazing and possibly dangerous. Her mother’s heart beat faster at what he might endure. On the heels of that, though, she felt pride in his courage to be who he was, especially after the knocks he’d taken lately.
“How does Julianne fit into this?”
“She was selling the tickets. She looked like she was gonna barf when we told her we were going as a couple.”
“She sounded worse than Dad.”
Maggie rubbed his neck, where the muscles were knotted. “About the Bible and homosexuality?”
“Yeah.” He buried his face in the pillow. She had to strain to hear what he said. “She doesn’t think we can be friends anymore, which I knew she might do, but still…” He trailed off.
Turning slightly on his side, he raised his head to see her. His young face was ravaged. “What did I do to deserve this, Mom? I’m just trying to be honest about who I am.”
“There is nothing wrong with being yourself. I told you that when you first came out. Julianne and anyone else who makes you feel bad about being gay are the ones who are wrong.”
“Even Dad and Bri?”
“I’m so mad at all of them.”
“That’s okay, too.”
He lay back down. “Thanks for not saying this will all work out.”
“It might not, honey.”
Neither of them voiced who it might not work out with–Julianne or Mike and Brian. Maggie couldn’t bring herself to entertain the thought that it might be her other son and husband.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen, Jame. But you can count on this. I’ll be here no matter what happens.”
This is such a powerful book and can be used as a tool for change. What do you hope readers will take from the book?
Kathryn: I hope readers will understand that a child being himself is vital to his growth and development and he has a right to be who he is. I hope they’ll see that even when a family is loving and giving and supportive, they’ll struggle over issues and come out on the other side.
Finally, I like to ask authors this question…what is your passion? What is it that you’re more passionate about than anything else?
Kathryn: My own family—a husband and two wonderful kids. They mean more to me than anything else in the world. Second, I believe we were meant to help those less fortunate than we are, through a service profession, volunteer work, or just random acts of kindness and compassion.
Thanks for coming, Kathryn! Do you have any final words?
Kathryn: Just one note about my work: I’m putting my entire single title romance backlist up on Kindle and Smashwords at the beginning of September, so if anyone wants to read more of my work, they’ll be available.
Finally, thank you so much to those for inviting me here. Feel free to post questions and comments. I’ll come back and check.
If you would like to leave comments for Kathryn, please do so below and she will be more than happy to answer them. If you’d like to pick up your copy of The Perfect Family, visit Amazon. If you’d like to visit Kathryn’s website, click here.