It’s all about Stan and Jean. Where the hell did those two come from and how did they so seamlessly take over this story?
I think of Close to Home as the only straight story I’ve published (at the time of this writing, in January 2015, though I’ve got Maizy’s HEA and the Ally book coming up in the next year, which will both be “straight” stories). When in fact, CTH has a hell of a lot of Maizy and Jean for a straight book.
The central romance to CTH is Stan and Jean, and fuck, I love those guys. They are my answer, such as it is, to folks who believe that monogamy is the only way to express true love, that exclusivity is the holy grail. I don’t think everyone should invite third parties into their marriage, but equally I think a great many marriages would be stronger on a number of points if they dared do so, or even to just entertain the idea. Many, many people are inclined to monogamy. I do tend to enjoy telling the stories of the folks who aren’t.
(That’s only partially projection. I’m not inclined toward monogamy, but I’m not inclined toward relationships in general, so the format of relationships is only a very distant hum in my actual life. I’ve never penned an aromantic character, though now that I’ve written that, I probably will soon. That’s the way my muse works: everything I haven’t done becomes a challenge the very moment I say it.)
Here’s the thing. In a linear, series-based fashion, CTH was supposed to be Maizy’s happy ending. We started with Rory and D and Maizy (and Geo and Teddy), and once everyone else got their wedding, their long-term committed relationship, Maizy should have gotten hers.
Except…it wasn’t time yet.
And this is where Writer Kris pulled ahead of Publisher Kris, who generally gets what she wants. (Again: PK goes all-on female pronouns and self-identifies as a bonafide bitch. She wears combat boots and cargo pants, and she does not fuck around when it’s time to make cutthroat decisions. She always spends the money on the better computer or the backup harddrive, and she doesn’t want to hear any lip about it, either.) WK showed up at a story meeting and basically laid it out: Maizy wasn’t ready, at the close of Home Free, for her all-encompassing romance. She wanted to be. But she wasn’t. She was still finding herself, defining herself, so say nothing of working her ass off, and it just wasn’t time.
But–but–WK thought there was a story to be told. Not a romance, exactly, no. But a story nonetheless. A romantic story with a sweetness to it that fit Maizy perfectly, and would allow her to grow into the person she needed to be.
For a long time I wanted to write CTH from a split Maizy/Rory POV. I thought it would be fun to play with Roar over identifying with pregnancy, a little jealous he couldn’t have the experience, a lot relieved that he didn’t have a choice. I knew his parents would be an issue, and playing with the tension of resolving his relationship with them while preparing to become a parent with Geo sounded like good times.
But it wouldn’t work with the Maizy story I wanted to tell. (Maizy’s voyage of discovery, if you will, and yes I do internally refer to things with cheesy taglines like that.) So, instead of doing all that in CTH, I shifted the larger part of it to Home for the Holidays instead, but that left CTH a kind of barren field, so to speak.
I didn’t think I could write a book that took place during a pregnancy. I didn’t particularly enjoy pregnancy, and the personal aftermath of it in my life has been rocky and painful in a number of ways. I doubt you’ll ever see the trans* pregnancy book unless I take up nonfiction, but I wasn’t quite sure I could separate myself from Maizy.
Until I did. Fiction, for me, has always been a strange mix of catharsis and masochism, and CTH was no different. There’s a scene at the end where Maizy collapses into tears for no reason at all, and it was a late addition to the draft. As I was writing it, I wasn’t even sure it would last to see publication. I wrote it out and acknowledged that the next time I read it, I might cut the whole fucking thing. But that scene healed me in the way only fiction writing ever has, and I left it in the book, choosing in some ways to leave pregnancy in Stan and Jean’s guest room with Maizy curled safely under the covers.
As for the HEA, well, Maizy will certainly get her committed relationship. (Though whether it’s sexually exclusive remains to be seen.) And no, I’m not gonna name names. Hush.