My novel EASY RYDER takes place over that weekend, back in a time when a lot of changes were happening in the world, but a lot slower than they do nowadays, especially within the gay community. I bet Snake and Michael never thought same sex marriage would be legal in 18 states—well, maybe Michael would have. 🙂 He is the optimist of the two of them.
Now, some consider EASY RYDER historical, but the common understanding is that a historical novel usually is fifty years minus the current year, (2014-50=1964) so my book while “historical” also takes place in a time that many still remember. Personally, I was born in 1976, so I had to do my research, but it was easy to find friends willing to share stories of that memorable summer when patriotism swept the nation.
I also needed to know the not so pretty side, asking people how they viewed the LGBT community before it had its own alphabet. Books, theses, and essays have been written on this topic, and I am NOT claiming to be an expert (I write romance novels not encyclopedias), but I hope my version of the time rings true for readers.
In interviewing a broad scope of people in preparation for writing EASY RYDER, both gay and straight, men and women, it was fascinating to watch them be amazed by how close-minded the world had been and to even see their embarrassment as they told me the way they had been raised to think about gay people. It made me a tad proud to hear people say things like, “We just didn’t know how ignorant we were being.” While the fight for equal rights is not over, writing EASY RYDER did show me how far our country has come in accepting our fellow Americans as equals.
Real life participants on my “historical” time period are still walking around and might take a different take on what life was like in the 70s. I endeavored to be as accurate as possible while still weaving a tale of suspense, sexual awakenings, and a coming of age story for my lead hero, Michael. I hope you take the time to check out EASY RYDER and enjoy the flashback to a different America where things might be politically incorrect, but they also help define how far we have come as a country and how far we still need to go so that every American has equal rights.
BLURB: It’s July 3, 1976, the beginning of America’s bicentennial weekend, and everyone seems to be celebrating their freedoms except eighteen-year-old runaway Michael Ryder. Fresh from rural Pennsylvania, Michael is doing whatever and whoever it takes to get to San Francisco, where he hopes to find a new life with the freedom to love without fear.
While hitchhiking, a mysterious, tattooed biker named Snake offers him a ride west—on the back of his customized Harley chopper. During their journey across Route 66, Snake introduces Michael to new and steamy pleasures, leaving Michael aching for more than just a physical relationship. But a violent encounter with a cruel biker gang and a harrowing secret from Snake’s military past might destroy their unlikely relationship long before they reach the end of the road.
Excerpt: Snake rolled off me, and we lay on our sides beside one another. He placed a small kiss on my cheek. “So what’s in San Francisco, kid?”
“Loads of queers.”
His hand halted in the caress of my arm, and he scowled. “What?”
“There is,” I insisted, relieved to be able to tell Snake the truth. “I saw them on TV having a protest, the way the blacks used to. This guy named Harvey Milk was running for a political office, and they showed a clip of him. He said he was a homosexual, right there on TV. All his supporters were cheering, and I couldn’t believe they were living out in the open. I knew I had to go there and find them. Find people who understand that we are who we are and nothing will change it. Not the Church, violence, or even our families. Nothing. I need to be with them. We need to stand together if we ever want to have a chance at a normal life, ya know?”
Regarding me seriously, he asked, “You know anyone in California?”
“Nope. But like I said, I saw them on the news. It’s where I belong.”
His eyebrow quirked. “So you’re pinning your whole future on a TV segment?”
My defenses rose as he voiced the doubts I’d refused to acknowledge. Feeling embarrassed because I sounded so naïve, I pulled out of his reach to sit on the grass, hugging my knees to my chest. “Not all my hopes,” I lied.
He resituated himself beside me. “What are you gonna do when you get there?”
There was no judgment in his tone, just plain curiosity, so I lowered my hackles and softened my response. “I’m good with engines, so I’ll try to find a job doing that. Maybe I’ll get a boyfriend.” I almost giggled when I said it. I had never voiced these dreams to anyone. I hadn’t even told Tommy, and he was sort of my boyfriend in high school.
A hint of a smile tugged at his lips but did not travel to his rich brown eyes. “Sounds nice.”
“Hopefully, I’ll find someone I can stay with until I get a job.”
He didn’t say anything, as we both understood what I meant. I would find another man who wanted to fuck me in exchange for room and board. Though I hated myself for it, what other option did I have?
For a moment, I feared Snake would tell me I was a fool or a slut. He didn’t, of course. It was my own lack of self-worth always reading into his motives and actions. No criticism of me had ever breached his mouth, only praise. He merely nodded in understanding. To have such a nonjudgmental response made me even more at ease in his company.
“What if there aren’t as many guys as you think?” Snake said.
Heart pounding, I met his gaze, unable to disguise the desperate hope in my voice. “If there are two men that don’t want to pretend to be someone they aren’t, then I need to be with them. Anything is an improvement over where I came from.”
Wretchedness washed over me anew, drawing out all the feelings I’d struggled to leave behind in Pennsylvania. I had to get to California and start over. Whether or not God still listened, I prayed there would be a community to accept me, but I had no clue if the people on TV still existed. For all I knew, that Milk guy had been arrested and the rest of the gays had been rounded up and sent away to jail. I’d never seen another news story about it, and it wasn’t like there was anyone I could ask.
It didn’t matter though. I had to take the chance. My family had created a void in my life, and I needed to fill the hollow spot their hate had left behind. I could not keep carrying on alone and in hiding. My brief time on the road had taught me in no uncertain terms I belonged around people I could be myself with, rather than continuing to live under a blanket, scared, and filtering everything I said for fear someone might discover the truth.
“I understand, kid. It would be nice if we weren’t so hard to find. Sure would eliminate a lot of misunderstandings,” he added with a wink.
“No, I don’t think you do understand,” I said seriously. “Because this isn’t about sex for me. That can’t be the only thing in life for guys like us.”
He made a face, which told me he didn’t really believe me.
“Look, my family is fucked up, I won’t pretend it isn’t,” I said. “My father used to beat the shit out of me for spilling a glass of water at dinner. My mother clung to her religion, like a saint suffering for her faith. But I’ve seen real families, ones who love each other. Just because I didn’t have one doesn’t mean they aren’t real. That’s what I’ll find in California. Someone to love me and be my new family. Just because I want it with another man doesn’t make it any less real.”
“I didn’t mean—”
“It’s not fair!” I interrupted him, passion and desperation to voice things I had never been allowed to say spurring me on. “I want what everyone else has. A chance to be happy. Yeah, maybe I don’t know anyone in California, but there are more people there, so mathematically my chances of finding a real boyfriend are better. I want a life, not just guys to fuck.”
Snake sat beside me, leaning back, his torso supported by those muscular arms and his nude body on casual display. He said nothing, his face pensive. I had a feeling he probably thought I was stupid, maybe needed to go around the block a few more times. Even I knew that I was inexperienced. I could hardly believe I’d said all this to him, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.
“I want to be happy. Accepted,” I whispered, sounding pathetic. “It’s so lonely being hated for something I can’t help.”
He offered me the sad tilt of a smile. “I really do understand, kid. That’s why, after my dad’s reaction, I do my damndest to keep this part of my life separate, private. Sure, it’s lonely, but people can’t hate you for what they don’t know. They can’t control you or use it against you.”
Glancing at the lazy creek we had bathed in, chin perched on my knees, I asked, “So you think I should never tell anyone who I am, keep it hidden?”
“Just said that’s what I do,” he countered in the matter-of-fact tone he’d used before. No judgment, only logic and fact. Something in my emotional state I had a hard time showing. “I’m not gonna tell you what’s right for you. Sounds like you already made up your mind anyway. Not every man is destined to walk the same path.”
THE GIVEAWAY: A Copy of Easy Ryder
Author Bio:Deanna Wadsworth might be a bestselling erotica author, but she leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her wonderful husband and a couple adorable cocker spaniels. She has been spinning tales and penning stories since childhood, and her first erotic novella was published in 2010. Her fascination with people and the interworkings of their relationships have always inspired her to write romance with spice and love without boundaries.