My latest release from Dreamspinner Press, The Taste of Ink, is a contemporary western M/M/M romance that takes place in Calgary during the Stampede. Trevor Dunn, the MC, has lived in Calgary his entire life, but he doesn’t want to hang around cowboys, horses, or anything like that–until Charlie comes along and makes it his active mission to persuade and seduce Trevor to all the fun things the western genre has to offer. Trevor’s other love interest is Mathieu, his former high school boyfriend who used to be a punk singer but is now a country crooner. Over the ten-day event of the Stampede, Charlie and Mathieu become two large influences in Trevor’s life, tempting him to leave his home and possibly ride out into the sunset like he’s always dreams of doing.
I had a lot of fun writing Mathieu’s character. I like writing about musicians or music fans in general (if you stumble across my back-list, this will be evidently clear). But Mathieu was particular because I wanted him to genre-hop and learn to appreciate something he wasn’t accustomed to before, since that eventually mirrors Trevor’s journey through his experiences with Charlie. For Mathieu, his identity as an indigenous person and growing up on a reserve in Alberta with his father, became another way in which his character stood out to me. Mathieu is Métis, which is a specific class of indigenous people to Canada. They’re of mixed race; the early Métis people often had Cree, Ojibwe, or Algonquin mothers and French fathers from the fur trade. It’s a very rich culture, but also very distinct from much of what we typically associate with indigenous identity in North America. As I learned from my editor’s confusion over certain terms as well, Canada expresses its history with First Nations people in a completely different way. Some of this is small–we have reserves not reservations, Métis is a separate category of identity and not just a descriptor for someone of mixed race–but other differences are large. Canada has a reputation for being the friendly and nice country, but our relationship to First Nations doesn’t have the best history or track record. In Alberta (where this story takes place), some prisons have an indigenous population that keeps increasing (by at least fifty percent) when the indigenous population is only 4%. There is also the wide-spread epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women that is finally receiving attention from our new prime minister.
Not to be a downer, but I think these issues are important to note to understand the context and historical backdrop that these characters exist in. The Taste of Ink doesn’t really go into the difficulty of indigenous or Métis life because that’s not the purpose of the book–the purpose is to have fun, and while there’s some bonding moments between Charlie and Mathieu about crappy childhoods, that’s all there is in terms of explicit reference to these issues. Some of my other stories, though, like The Life & Death of Eli & Jay, which takes place mostly on a Blackfoot reserve in Saskatchewan, does deal with these realities in a little starker detail. The Life & Death of Eli & Jay isn’t a downer of a story, either; more of a way to explain and understand the ways in which some of these characters deal with the conflicting views of history and this ever-present image of what it means to be “Native” in Canada.
There’s this wonderful scene in the movie Smoke Signals where Adam Beach (as Victor) and Evan Adams (as Thomas) are in a bus and talking about how to be a real “Indian.” They’re Spokane, and this is a little outdated now, but I love this scene because it perfectly captures these conflicting images–but they deal with it humorously.
Mathieu, like Thomas and Victor, also uses a lot of humor to diffuse the situation. And it’s that humor that I hope allows him to be relatable while also as “authentic” as I could make him without actually being indigenous myself. If you ever have a chance to watch Smoke Signals–do so. It’s a wonderful film, very funny, and very touching. And if you check out The Taste of Ink or Life and Death of Eli and Jay, then I thank you in advance.
Blurb: Trevor Dunn has never gone to the Calgary Stampede, in spite of living in the city all his life. He would much rather listen to music and draw comics in his basement than hang out with a bunch of cowboys. When his sister drags him to the Stampede’s opening parade anyway, Trevor is drawn to a cowboy sporting a green hat.
Charlie opens Trevor’s mind to the world of country music and country boys. But then an old flame appears in the middle of the festival and Trevor is torn. He adores Charlie, but Mathieu—a punk singer turned acoustic crooner—was Trevor’s first love, but Trevor lost him by being too afraid to chase the dreams they shared.
Except after the Stampede ends, Charlie will go back to Toronto, Mathieu will go back on tour, and Trevor will go back to his basement. Realizing that’s not what he wants, Trevor enters a mechanical bull-riding contest in hopes of winning the heart of his true love—or maybe both of them. This time, fear won’t stop him from going after what he wants.
Author Bio: Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He has appeared in Gay Flash Fiction, Chelsea Station Poetry, and the Martinus Press anthology To Hell With Dante. He lives in Canada with his partner, reads too many comics books, and drinks too much coffee. Feel free to contact him, especially if you want to talk about horror movies, LGBT poetry, or NBC’s Hannibal. Find him at francisgideon.wordpress.com.