Greetings Guys Like Romance, Too! followers!
Carson here to introduce to you another blog tour day! Today we have J.P Barnaby stopping by to tell us about her six book series Little Lost Boy. So without further delay...take it away JP!
Little Boy Lost is a coming of age story about two teenage boys—Brian McAllister and Jamie Mayfield—growing up gay in rural Alabama. The six book series chronicles their lives as they navigate through peers, parents, and porn, desperately searching for the perfect combination of circumstances in which they can be together. Through their journey, they find friends, pain, acceptance, loss, and most importantly, themselves.
Creating Characters to Identify With
“As a gay man who was told at 15 by a Baptist preacher that god gave his mother a seizure because he had touched another boys penis and then went to a "Pray away the gay" camp with my boyfriend in our early 20's ran by Focus on The Family because my BF's parents said we’re going to hell if we didn't change our ways, you have no idea how close to home this series hits to my heart. When I read every book, I came to feel like they were kids I know not just characters on a page. Your writing has captivated me and moved me in more ways than you will ever know. Thank you.” – Jason
“I watched a 19 year old boy sit on my couch and cry while reading J.P. Barnaby's Enlightened. On the small island in Micronesia where he's from, there was no one to talk to about his feelings or fears. There were no gay couples to give him hope. Silly romance novels gave him the courage to come out, come to ALSO and not take his own life when the voices in his head said "you're an abomination and you're going to hell".” – Lori
“I just wanted to say that the realism JP mentioned in her reply above is SPOT ON. I find that I cry every 5 minutes or less, because it feels like she is telling my life story. Although the angst may seem contrived or endless… that’s because it is. When I was Brian’s age, there was no end to the drama. And it’s because I had no resources to help me be a well-adjusted sexual person in my little town in Georgia.” - Devon
“Your books give young gay guys hope and strength to be who they are. I know if I would have read your books when I was a 19 year old, pre-out guy, I wouldn’t have tried to kill myself. Your book gave me hope that a regular guy like me from nowhere could find a guy and be happy. Maybe go through shit up to his ears and still come out on top.” - Chris
Thousands of articles have been written about character development, it is one of the most important elements of your story. Most romances are character-driven rather than plot driven because you know what the plot is going to be: person A falls in love with person B, something bad happens and they can’t be together, they resolve the problem and live happily ever after. The difference is in the characters. Characters that stick with people, characters that people remember are the ones they identify with and the ones they care about.
Characters in a book are fictional, but when you can get readers to care so much about them that they believe the characters are real, then you’ve done your job as an author. Jason from Texas once sent me a message telling me that he’d seen an obituary for a Mayfield and wondered if that person was related to Jamie Mayfield from Little Boy Lost. That is a powerful indicator of how deeply Jamie affected him. When your readers start thinking of your characters as real, then the character has left an impression.
One way to imbibe your character with life is to make them human with realistic values, vulnerabilities, and flaws. Perfect protagonists are boring and sometimes go beyond the realm of believability. Superman may always fight for truth, justice, and the American way, but regular men and women have crises of conscious. In the Little Boy Lost series, Brian McAllister grew up in foster care after his parents were killed by a junkie. He has nightmares about sitting with his parents’ bodies until a neighbor found him. His love for Jamie and his fear of being outed also make him a character we care about. We want to help him, and sometimes we want to hug him and tell him that he’s going to be okay.
Micah is also an interesting and popular character from the series. We love watching him find love for the first time with Alex because he’d played loose and fast with guys for so long. Love was something that had never crossed his mind. While Micah and Alex are secondary characters, their feelings and their actions are important. A strong supporting cast of characters can give your protagonists and your novel a solid foundation.
Three dimensional characters are important in fiction. Your readers should be able to imagine them and see them from all sides. Brian wanted to be an architect. Brian loves to read, but can’t afford to buy new releases because he’s trying to save money for college. In later books, Brian knows Karate. All of these little pieces, which are unrelated on the surface, come together to make him the unique character that he is. His voice in the first three books is distinctly different from Jamie’s voice in the last three because they are completely different people.
Give your character distinctions to set him apart from every other gay fiction character, make him inherently good but vulnerable, give him a good heart, but expose his flaws. Know your target audience. Gay romance novels, while they are predominantly read by women, also have a male audience. Representing them accurately and responsibly is important. In this way, you will endear him to your readers and they’ll remember him long after they close the book.
About J. P. Barnaby
As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.