We’re so pleased to have author TJ Klune dropping by today on the tour for his new novel, Withered + Sere. He’s popping in to chat about the May/December relationship as it exists in the book, so here’s the man himself. Enjoy!
Older Man/Younger Man
As Withered + Sere opens, the main character of Cavalo has just turned forty.
Part way through the book, we learn that the other lead, Lucas, is twenty-three years old, or thereabouts.
When I started writing W+S and its sequel, Cripsed + Sere, it was always my intent to have the age difference between the two. But the reasons I had for it weren’t necessarily supposed to be for taboo or titillation. I find it strange that in 2016, an age difference can even still be considered taboo. Why do we think that way? As long as long the individuals involved in the relationship are of legal and consenting age, who cares how old they are, or the difference in age that separates them? And why, automatically, is it assumed that there is a specific reason the younger of the two is with the older? Gold digger? Why of course that must be it. Fame? That too. Prestige? Sure, why not.
But in a post-apocalyptic world savaged by the fury of mankind, wealth and fame and prestige have little bearing shaping the way of things.
Cavalo is not a man of means. He could care less about prestige. And he doesn’t want fame. Quite the opposite, actually. Cavalo would like nothing more than to be left alone and never have to deal with another human being ever again. It’s why he’s cut himself off the way he has, for reasons that are slowly revealed over the course of the two books.
He essentially has nothing when he stumbles upon Lucas in the Deadlands. He has nothing to offer. He has been through too much, seen too much, to even be considered completely sane anymore.
But so has Lucas.
And that is why I made the age difference as I did. It was my hope that I could show that old cliché that age doesn’t really matter cast in a whole new light.
Let me be frank: both Cavalo and Lucas have seen some shit.
Worse, they’ve done some shit that no normal person would even think about doing.
It might almost sound apologist to say that I’m trying to explain away the age difference by saying that it’s not about the number, but about the life experience. However, I don’t see it as a thing to apologize for, because that’s what I really believe. Cavalo is seventeen years older than Lucas, but there is no one else that could ever understand Cavalo like Lucas can. While their paths were completely different before they diverged, it still shaped them into similar men who view the world through a cynical (and clinical) lens that has been cracked over and over again.
Cavalo is not technically sane.
Neither is Lucas.
(Most of the people in these books aren’t; I don’t think you could live in a post-apocalyptic world and be completely sane. The end of the world tends to throw sanity right out the window, or so I would assume.)
So, are we on the same page?
Age is but a number, and blah blah blah.
There is a power dynamic between the two of them.
That was something I did not intend when I first started writing this book. I intended them to be seen as equals, that the playing field was level for the both of them. But, as sometimes happens, the story took on a life of its own, and while I tried to wrestle it back to the strict path I laid out for it, I failed spectacularly.
But what arose from that failure was something I did not expect.
There is a power dynamic between Cavalo and Lucas. But, while you might be thinking that it’s Cavalo lording over Lucas because of the age difference, you would only be partially right.
You would only be partially right because the dynamic shifts from one to the other, depending upon what situation Cavalo and Lucas find themselves in. It was odd, truly, to have it switch back and forth while I was writing it. Nothing about this book came easy to me, so of course this would also crop up too, and right in the middle of the goddamn story. I gave a lot of thought to writing it out, or making the ages between the two closer together, but in the end, I figured I owed it to myself and my readers to not take the easy way out.
Cavalo is in charge. Until he isn’t.
Full disclosure: there is no sex in Withered + Sere. The relationship is a slow burn, and is just getting started in that direction by the time W+S ends. Both Cavalo and Lucas have been damaged by events in their paths, and pushing a sex scene too soon into the full story would ring false, at least to me. However, by the time sex does happen partway through Crisped + Sere, it’s because the dynamic between the two characters is finally starting to shift, and they are actually seeing themselves as equals, even if one holds power over the other. It’s fluid, and ever changing, but they recognize it for what it is, while also recognizing what they have in each other. They may have almost two decades separating their ages, and they maybe have taken different paths to get where they are now, but when Lucas and Cavalo finally come together, it’s because the time is right. It’s because they see themselves reflected back in the eyes of the other.
And while that reflection might not be entirely sane, in the end, it doesn’t matter. They’ve already ensnared each other, the trap pulling tight.
About the Book
Series: Immemorial Year: Book One
Publisher: DSP Publications
Category: Science Fiction
Length: 280 Pages
Blurb: Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.
One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.
It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.
The world has died.
This is the story of its remains.
About the Author
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)
Follow the Tour
April 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
April 13- My Fiction Nook
April 18 – Just Love Romance
April 19 – Divine Magazine
April 19 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
April 19 – The Novel Approach
April 20 – Kimi-chan Experience
April 21 – It’s About the Book
April 21 – Love Bytes