We’re so pleased to welcome first time visitor E. Davies to TNA today on the tour for his new novel, Flaunt. I asked Ed to chat a bit about Flawed vs. Perfect characters, which he’s done, and there’s also a giveaway, so be sure to check out those details below.
When I was asked to write about flawed characters and the idea of perfection, I jumped at the chance. Because here’s the truth, in a nutshell: I don’t think perfection exists. All of us are a jumble of traits, inherited quirks, life experiences… “nearly perfect” is as close as we can ever get to the perfect body, job, life, man, or happily ever after ending!
There’s an interesting concept called hedonic adaptation—basically, we adapt to our surroundings so nothing overjoys us or depresses us for as long as we expect it will. The mind is powerful, and it adapts to our surroundings quickly. Viewed through this lens, chasing perfection is even more futile.
Most of us recognize that it’s impossible to sustain perfection in yourself, let alone a romantic relationship. A few years in the adult dating world will set the most romantic heart straight on that! Nonetheless, a lot of MM romance novels, my own books included, focus on men who are closer to the popularized gay male ideal in terms of their body, their job, and their HEA ending.
That brings me to one of my goals in this book: challenging the notion of perfection itself. For example, what is the perfect job? One that allows you to explore your passion, or one that occupies you but gives you financial freedom to be yourself? Both are shown in this book, and although both jobs have their downsides, I think that’s the closest to perfect you can get.
What about the perfect body? To me, it’s a body you can inhabit fully every day, that embodies your spirit as best as possible, and in which you can more or less happily wake up every morning. Sure, you might want to tweak little things here and there, but you feel like you when you wake up in the morning.
In Flaunt, one of the main characters is a transgender man. For a lot of people, this is a totally unfamiliar subject, and they assume they don’t know anyone who’s trans (though this is beginning to change). Many trans people, especially trans men, are “stealth,” meaning they’ve transitioned and don’t talk about being trans, as it’s part of their history rather than their current reality. You’ve probably met a trans man before but would never know it! But if you don’t know that you know anyone to talk to about the issue in real life, and you haven’t been exposed to a lot of information on what life is like for this particular minority, it’s easy to bring your own expectations to the table and assume that trans people constantly feel imperfect compared to cis, or non-trans, people.
In reality, trans people have feelings about their bodies and lives just as diverse as cis people. Some can find happiness living in their body without any hormonal or surgical interventions, while others need these interventions as quickly and fully as possible. There’s a spectrum of experience, and it took a while before I decided where on this spectrum Nic would be. It’s impossible to represent the numerous potential experiences of a gay trans man in just one character, just like trying to write any character from a particular minority background.
The ideal way to show this struggle for perfection, to me, was to write Nic as a post-op man who has had one of the two common forms of bottom surgery, but is planning on the other. The story isn’t directly about his transness, or his feelings on the matter, but they naturally come up as he seeks to address what it is in his life that he wants to be, and do, and have.
One mistake many cis writers make is directly linking the imperfection—the flaw, or the need to change—of a main character who is trans to their trans status. But in this book, Nic’s greatest insecurity is one that’s common to many of us: the feeling that you’re not quite enough. His trans status plays into that, but so does his socioeconomic history, and his soft-spoken personality, and the many other elements that make him… him!
Kyle’s fear of being too much made complete sense to contrast against Nic’s worries. Some of us have experienced this, too. I found this a very compelling imperfection, because like Nic’s fear, it’s something that isn’t wrong with him. The ways each of them have been treated like they’re not enough and too much feed into this anxiety, and I addressed it by having them recognize that they can be exactly who they are, and that’s enough. To me, that’s the perfect happily ever after ending!
We’re all works in progress, and we’re all looking for something a little bit better than what we had, were, or did yesterday. In the end, I think this perspective gets us much further than trying for one big swoop at a perfect everything.
Perfection might not be out there, but “a little bit better” sure is, and that feels manageable to many of us even in dark times. You don’t have to be everything you know you’re capable of being all at once. That might be the end point, but you can start where you are. We can all make ourselves, our lives, our world a little bit better, one day at a time!
About the Book
“I’m just one more gay guy here.”
Moving to the suburbs of L.A. was supposed to give Nic Montero a fresh start. After escaping his family, coming out as a gay trans man, and excelling in computer programming out of desperation to get financially stable or die, everything should be easy. But joining gay culture now, post-transition, feels impossible… until he runs into the force of nature that is Kyle. Everything Nic isn’t, Kyle embodies. Green hair, garters and cut-off shorts, sports jerseys, and all, brash Kyle is the most gorgeous man he’s ever laid eyes on, and he pulls Nic headlong into the center of his world. If only Nic felt like enough for a man like Kyle.
“One-night stands are my only option.”
Loud, loving, and too much for most men to handle, Kyle Everett catches eyes and occasionally scorn… even at his job at the local HIV charity, Plus. His days and nights are spent at work, his precious spare moments spent with his son, Kevin, when it’s his turn to co-parent, or his best friend, drag queen River. He only has money or time for cheap flings, but the lanky otter who walks into his life makes Kyle want to hold him for longer than a night. He knows what it’s like for Nic to be without a family, but he isn’t brave enough to let this man into his life… until his charity is targeted by bigots, and Nic’s there for him.
“I’ll stay with you if you’re brave enough to be you.”
Nic spent his twenties avoiding family and even his own femininity, but his yearning is impossible to ignore. Kyle’s used to flying solo, but Nic offers him safety and fills gaps in his life he never realized existed and now can’t stand. Living in close proximity, they can’t run from their attraction, but they’re each used to being rejected, with the emotional scars to prove it. Can two men who feel like they’re not enough and too much find something just right?
Flaunt is a steamy, stand-alone gay romance novel with a HEA ending and no cliffhanger.
“Welcome to our headquarters! Er, not that we have other locations. Not full-time, anyway. Don’t worry about being late. I’m not even ready. I’m so sorry.” This had to be Kyle— the voice on the intercom matched this peppy yet sibilant, rapid-fire speech.
“I— that’s fine,” Nic assured Kyle with a quiet laugh. He was relieved not to be in trouble for showing up late, nor for showing up in formalwear when everyone else was probably going casual. “GPS pointed me the wrong way.”
“Oh, they do that! Right this way, please.” Kyle scanned his card against a reader near the staircase door. When he twirled to hold the staircase door open, his skirt flared out a little.
Kyle was wearing a skirt, over men’s skinny jeans and boots, and a blouse, and chest hair peeked out from the top of the blouse, his biceps unmistakeable. And his suspenders reached under the skirt, presumably to his jeans waistband. It made Nic wonder if he was wearing garters, which was a wholly inappropriate thought for their first meeting.
He awkwardly stepped through the doorway and Kyle brushed past him to trot upstairs at top speed, already talking again.
E. Davies was proficient in real estate ad shorthand (the old-fashioned newspaper kind) by the age of nine. Growing up moving constantly taught him what people have in common, the ways relationships are formed, and the dangers of “miscellaneous” boxes.
As a teen, he tore through a stack of found romance novels, wishing someone had written similar for M/M, though he could never find anything at Chapters or the library. Just after graduating university in 2013, semi-out and clutching his English B.A. for dear life, he stumbled on an Amazon M/M short story. It was a whole new… phrase he dares not repeat for fear of lawyers. It shone and shimmered splendidly, though.
After failing forty times to avoid crafting happily-ever-after endings for steamy short stories, he plunged into romance novels and hasn’t looked back. As a young gay author whose formative gay fictional role models were characters punished for their sexuality, Ed prefers his stories lightly dramatic, full of optimism and hope.
Now out and proud, he writes full-time, goes on long nature walks, tries to fill his passport, drinks piña coladas on the beach, flees from cute guys, coos over fuzzy animals (especially bees), and is liable to tilt his head and click his tongue if you don’t use your turn signal.
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