Eight years ago, I decided to write a book.
It was scary. I didn't know what I was doing. I opened my ancient laptop and started writing. I talked myself out of it about a quarter of the way through, thinking it was crap and no one would ever read it.
For some reason, more than a year later, I went back and opened it up. It wasn't bad. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.
And one day, in the winter of 2010, I finished it.
God, how terrifyingly cathartic that was.
I sent it in to Dreamspinner, the first publisher that came up when I searched for "gay books publishing". (Keep in mind, back then, I wasn't very computer savvy. I didn't have any social media, and the only time I ever really got on the Internet was to get directions or to buy physical copies of books off Amazon.)
Oh man, that draft I sent in put the rough in rough draft. I spell-checked it. Annnnd that's about it.
But for some reason, the good people at DSP saw through the terrible presentation, and decided to accept a book with the unlikely title of Bear, Otter, and the Kid.
(side note--when I first announced it, some people thought it was a threesome book about a bearish man, a less hairy otter-type dude, and a younger man. So. Way to think that one through, Klune.)
On August 12, 2011, it was released.
And for some reason it blew the fuck up.
I dunno, man. I still can't explain it. Luck, maybe. Right story, right time, possibly. Maybe a little talent, but it's not the best told story (and you hush; I am allowed to be critical of my own work). I would change things about it now, but that's probably why I'll never go back and revise it. I don't want to mess with the flaws, because I think it shows how much I've grown as a writer since then.
I've gone over this all before, and in greater detail, both the good and bad that followed. There's no need to rehash that here.
Six years, though. Here we are six years later, and I'm once again writing about this funny little family of mine. But I go into it now knowing full well that I'm approaching the end. Because make no mistake, this is the end. I know that's not what people want to hear, and I get that. I do. But if I went in and tried to write BOATK8 or 9 or hell, even 5, it would lessen the impact these books have. I believe the sign of an adept writer is knowing where to end the story.
And here, finally, is their ending.
On August 11, 2017, just one day shy of the sixth anniversary of Bear, Otter, and the Kid, I'll invite you back to Seafare one last time. I have put as much love and care into The Long and Winding Road as any book I've written before. Because as much as you care about these characters, they are my first, and mean more to me than I could ever say. I needed to know that once I said goodbye, that whatever journey they'd go onto without me, they'd be safe and happy and living the lives I wished for them ever since I wrote that first chapter so many years ago.
Pre-orders will be up soon.
Sean Crisden (Bear, Otter and the Kid, The Art of Breathing) will be narrating the audio, though it won't be out until probably this winter.
I'll have more to say on it in the coming weeks, but I'll end this with the reason you're all here.
Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.
And here, at the end, Bear and Otter will be tested like they’ve never been before.
There’s a knock at the door from a little girl who has nowhere else to go.
There’s a phone ringing, bringing news they do not expect.
There’s a brother returning home after learning how to stand on his own.
As these moments converge, all of their lives will change forever.
Beginning in Bear, Otter, and the Kid, and continuing in Who We Are and The Art of Breathing, TJ Klune has told a saga of family and brotherhood, of love and sacrifice. In this final chapter, the events of the past pave the long and winding road toward a future no one could have imagined.
Cover by Paul Richmond (who also did the redesigns for the first three books):