This is part 2 of a three part series before the publication of the last Bear, Otter and the Kid book, The Long and Winding Road. If you missed part 1, check the previous blogpost.
As of today, it's been five years since there has been a book from Bear's perspective. Five years. Who We Are, the second book in the series, came out in 2012. We got a little taste of Bear in the epilogue of The Art of Breathing in 2014, but other than that, it's been a long time.
When I decided it was finally time to start writing the final book, I knew that I'd have to get back into Bear's frame of mind. There was the briefest of moments when I considered writing the book from Otter's perspective, but scrapped that almost just as quick. It started with Bear, and I thought it needed to end with him, too.
And while Bear always will be Bear, he's not that same twenty-something he was in the other books. He's older and wiser (ish), and he's settled in his skin (mostly).
But he still had to be Bear, and he's not exactly easy to write. So I went back and reread parts of the entire series, something I don't ever do. I never reread my own work after it's out, and I'm happy to keep it that way. By the time you get the book into your hands, I've read through that story so many times, I practically have it memorized. The last thing I want to do is reread my own words.
I had to get it right, though, so I went back and hit the highlights.
And it got me thinking. A lot. About the impact these books have had on me, especially since the Tj who existed in 2011 is not who I am today.
I wrote Bear, Otter, and the Kid in a tiny apartment in Tucson, Arizona. I sat at a cheap table in a small kitchenette on a laptop that was already by that point six or seven years old. I didn't have the internet. I didn't have cable (remember when you didn't need cable to still see certain channels?). I was a couple years into a job I had a sinking feeling I would be at forever. I wasn't college educated. I had good friends. I had my brother and sisters. My mother was an alcoholic and an addict, though she tried to tell us she wasn't.
And so I would go to work. I would come home. I would open up the laptop and pray that it actually turned on this time, and then would go to a place called Seafare for the next five or six hours. (Seafare, the thinly veiled stand in for Seaside, Oregon where I would spend summers as a kid.)
It was one of the first things I'd ever done that was just for myself. Without input from anyone else, without answering to someone, without being told that I was failing even though I was trying my best. I got that a lot. I put all my anger and sadness and wishes for future into that book. It was cathartic. I've learned since that writing usually is. Then and now, it's an outlet, allowing me to put the chaos in my head in a certain order, something that'd only been done before with medication.
It impacted me because I was creating, and no one could tell me not to.
And for better or worse, it impacted the MM community too.
Look, I'm not going to tell you that I think so highly of myself to think that I'm the best there ever was. I'm not. Hell, I'm not even the best in this genre, not even close. And that's okay. I would hate to have that title, because the expectations would drive me up the frigging walls.
Plenty of people like my books, which hey, that's rad. Plenty of people hate my books, too, which hey, that's cool. No two people are going to read a book the same way. But I don't think anyone, myself, the publisher, the editors, the readers, anyone expected that first book to do what it did. With a weird title and a cover that was extraordinarily divisive (I like it; I have it framed on my wall) from a first time author? Yeah, it should have ended in disaster.
But it didn't.
And even if you hate the sight of my very name, you still can't take that away from me.
That's the impact this book has had on me.
It's opened doors I never even knew existed. I've met people I never would have met otherwise. Some became my best friends. I asked one to marry me. I lost people that, had I never written this book, I wouldn't have known were even alive. BOATK gave me things, and it also allowed some of those things to be taken away.
Six years ago, at this very moment, I was less than a week away from my first book coming out. I was scared shitless, excited, and hopeful.
Now, I am less than a week away from my twentieth (!!!) book from being released. And I am scared shitless, excited, and so very hopeful.
I am not the same person that I was. These characters aren't either. They have loved and lost and fought tooth and nail to hold on to the family they've made for themselves.
And now, it's almost time to to say goodbye. But I've done my best to make sure it's a goodbye that's been worth waiting for.
Next Wednesday, August 9th, will be the third and final part of this blog series.