Nick Wilgus joined me on my author blog (www.nicstarr.com) a day or two ago. He provided a Guest Post that I thought was well worth sharing here, in case you missed it. Nick wrote the book Shaking the Sugar Tree which I loved. The sequel, Stones In The Road, has just been released.
After SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE came out, a friend asked why I had written a book about a gay man raising a child. I offered a throwaway line about “writing what you know,” and received a puzzled look. She knew that I was both a gay man and a father, but she had never put the two together.
In the severely conservative state of Mississippi, where we both live, this was not a completely unusual reaction. And neither was her other reaction: She loved the book and couldn’t put it down. Mississippi is a very family-oriented sort of place, and what I had written was an ode to the love between a father and a son. Although the father was gay and the son was deaf, it was a universal story that all could enjoy, even those who had never encountered a gay man raising a child. I was, and continue to be, surprised by the level of support and enthusiasm I’ve received from my friends and neighbors in this severely conservative part of the world.
Many of these folks can’t wait to get their hands on STONES IN THE ROAD, which picks up two years after the events in SUGAR TREE. Jackson Ledbetter’s parents from Boston travel to Tupelo, Mississippi to pay a visit to Wiley and Jackson for a classic North Meets South confrontation that leaves both sides somewhat breathless.
I had great fun writing this book. While SUGAR TREE scratched the surface of many issues, STONES IN THE ROAD digs in and goes much deeper.
I suspect some readers will be mad at me. I do, after all, kill off a very prominent member of the cast of supporting characters (everyone’s doing it, I’ve heard). And while Wiley is usually pretty confident about himself and what he’s doing in the world, the wear and tear of the everyday bigotry he experiences is getting to him and he starts to doubt himself. It’s not easy to hold your head up when all the important people in your life are telling you not to.
This, too, I think, is a universal struggle, especially among LGBT folks who often go their own way without the comfort and support of their loved ones and church families, who are constant recipients of messages that tell them they’re not good enough, that there’s something wrong with them, that they just don’t measure up no matter what they do.
While I admire confident, flawless protagonists, I do so from afar. I’m not quite sure who those folks are, but I’ve been told they exist. The rest of us are rather battle-weary and bear many scars, and I’ve always been attracted to flawed characters, the underdogs who battle the odds and take risks, who sometimes get it wrong but keep at it just the same.
Wiley is deeply flawed, of course, and so is Jackson Ledbetter, and just about everyone else I’ve ever written about. I think it’s in our flaws that we find out who we really are, who other people are, what they’re actually about as opposed to what they pretend to be about. I know some readers are sometimes unhappy about my flawed characters – one reviewer of SUGAR TREE went so far as to say there “wasn’t a single person in this book I cared about” – but I wouldn’t change them for the world. Sometimes I think life is little more than figuring out how to both fix your mistakes and not make them anymore.
Perfection is obviously beyond me!
“Writing what you know” – that’s what I do. I am, of course, a deeply flawed individual. I try to make sure my heart is in the right place, and I try to write about people who work through their flaws to find acceptance, forgiveness, happiness and, eventually, love, and hopefully in that order. And I’ve traveled around the sun enough times to know that ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s love that we’re looking for. It’s the thing that heals us, that gives us courage, that makes it worth the ride.
When his snobbish future in-laws travel all the way from Boston to visit, wise-cracking Southerner Wiley Cantrell learns that gay marriage is not without its disadvantages. Occupied by concerns over the health of his special needs son Noah, a meth baby who was not expected to live and who is now on the cusp of puberty, the antics of Wiley’s outrageous would-be mother-in-law and severely conservative father-in-law strain his relationship with Jackson Ledbetter, a pediatric nurse who poses problems of his own. As their respective families meet and greet, each just as meddlesome and inflexible as the other, North meets South and the fireworks and cultural misunderstandings are plenty.
A tornado blows through the small Mississippi town where Wiley’s mother lives, wrecking his mother’s house and leaving their lives in disarray. Then Jackson’s secret drug addiction comes to light, and Wiley and Noah are devastated. With so many stones in the road, Wiley and Jackson find their dream of becoming a real family falling apart. Though Wiley relies on humor to cope, he’ll need something more to keep his happily ever after from slipping away
About the author
Nick Wilgus is the author of the romantic comedy SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE about a gay single father raising a deaf child in the South.
He is also the author of the Father Ananda murder-mystery series: Mindfulness and Murder, Garden of Hell and Killer Karma. His works have been translated into French, German, Italian and Spanish.
He also wrote the script for the award-winning film Sop mai Ngeap, based on Mindfulness and Murder, produced by DeWarrenne Films in Bangkok, nominated for Best Screenplay by the Thai Film Association.
Under the pen name Sulayman X, he is also the author of several novels, including BILAL’s BREAD, TEARS OF A DRAGON and KING OF STORMS. Under the pen name Jerome Wilde, he is the author of BOY CRUCIFIED: A THOMAS NOEL MYSTERY.
Wilgus sold his first short story, The Boogeyman in the Closet, to The Horror Show when he was 17.
He lives in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Amazon (Check out Nick’s author page for the link to his books)
Barnes and Noble (Check out Nick’s author page for the link to his books)