Many authors, once they’ve published their books, never read them again. I understand why. Misspellings and minor discrepancies, especially given the time most writers spend revising and editing before publication, are cringe-worthy. Stumbling across entire paragraphs in need of elaboration–or that should be scrapped entirely–can be downright demoralizing. Better to just focus on the next novel, right?
When that next novel involves the same characters, however, looking back at those previous books becomes a necessity.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve reread both The Crossing and I, too, Have Suffered in the Garden. I started with The Crossing (chronologically speaking, that novel comes first, but was published second), and finished Garden yesterday. As I expected, I found misspellings and minor discrepancies, as well as the inevitable paragraph in need of elaboration or omission. Those errors weren’t what got to me.
Here’s what did.
Joel has balls. Somehow I missed that in the writing of The Crossing, which took a good twenty years.
James has an agenda. He’s also a coward. (For the record, that last sentence was really, really hard for me to write.)
Loving someone and feeling like you shouldn’t be with them sucks. That just might be the most banal statement I’ve ever made, but James’s angst was profound for me with this reading.
Coming out in the nineties, especially in Texas, was arguably more difficult than coming out in 2016. There’s the second most banal statement I’ve ever made, but I keep thinking of Adam’s rant in Garden about the next generation of gay men:
They have no idea what I’ve gone through, what any of us who came of age in the eighties had to endure […] They’re too busy reaping the benefits of the groundwork we were responsible for laying […] I just can’t stand the sense of entitlement I see, the defiance I find undeserved.
Joel’s father has more nuance than I remembered. His mother, while she has her own story, makes me crazy.
Ashley (James’s sister) and Lindsey (Adam’s niece) are little scene-stealers.
The sections that were once my favorite no longer speak to me in the same way. This makes sense, I suppose; I hadn’t read The Crossing since 2013, and I hadn’t read Garden since 2010. My favorite scene overall? The one in The Crossing where Joel picks up the guy who wears too much hair product. I’d entirely forgotten the wording at the end of that scene, and whoa. I felt such a tremendous sense of foreboding.
Parts of each book made me cry. I knew what was going to happen, but I cried anyway. I don’t know if that’s because I love these men so much, or because the scenes in question (I’m thinking specifically of Joel sitting on the floor of the closet in his old bedroom at the end of The Crossing, and Adam talking to his father over Thanksgiving at the end of Garden) are actually that heartbreaking.
The big revelation? My third book might actually be two. I’ll know soon, because next up on my agenda is reading the 171,000 words I have so far. (For reference, The Crossing is 195,000 words, and Garden is 120,000). Either way, I promise you’ll have something to read soon. (That’s writer-speak for within the year.)
In the meantime, I invite you to reread one or both of the novels I’ve already written. I promise your take will be different the second time around.
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