Friday, July 13, 2018

Pursuing Happiness by Jessie Pinkham - Blog Tour with Excerpt and Author Interview


Book Title: Pursuing Happiness

Author: Jessie Pinkham

Publisher: Jessie Pinkham

Cover Artist: Katia V. Michelet

Release Date: July 12, 2018

Genre/s romance, contemporary, gay

Length: 53,000 words 


A repressive childhood casts long shadows.

Growing up in a reactionary religious household left Matt Aldridge socially inept and woefully underprepared for life in the wider world. He’s still trying to figure himself out when he meets his hunky new neighbor, Collin Moravec. Matt likes him at first sight, and miraculously, Collin feels the same.

When his cousin Levi shows up needing a home, Matt doesn’t hesitate to take him in, even as it throws his own world into disarray. He’s determined to save his younger cousin some of the struggles he faced. But taking on this responsibility brings up old anxieties, and in his terror of failing Levi, Matt pushes Collin away. He has to move beyond his fearful upbringing once and for all, or he’s going to end up miserable – and alone.

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“Now, about that sexual to-do list. I’m dying to know what’s on it.”

An adorable blush blossomed on Matt’s cheeks. “I think there’s a lot of potential for fun with a can of whipped cream.”

“I’m completely on board with that.”

Finally Matt relaxed. “You’re a very good boyfriend,” he remarked.

Collin figured that meant he’d said the right thing. Good. He took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. “So are you, and if I hadn’t already known that my coworkers made sure to tell me yesterday.”

“How did the grant application turn out?”

“Well, it doesn’t scream ‘thrown together at the last minute,’ so it could be a lot worse.”

“I know nothing about grants,” said Matt, “but I have plenty of personal experience in the red parts of the state, where you said you want to do outreach. Maybe this is weird pillow talk, but…”

Collin interrupted. “Our pillow talk can be whatever we want.”

“Okay. Have you considered how much tougher it will be to go out and talk about LGBT acceptance with people in very conservative areas? I mean really thought about the ruling mindset there?”

They certainly weren’t going in blind. Regardless he wanted to hear Matt’s opinion, if for no other reason than to understand his boyfriend a little better. “We expect to be called a lot more nasty slurs.”

“That’s obvious. It’s not just the insults, though. The thing is that a lot of these people – not all, but a definite majority – are not even going to consider what you have to say. The religiously inclined, which again will be a good percentage, will consider it a given that you’ve been deceived by Satan. So there’s no reason for them to even consider what you have to say, see? Anything they don’t like can easily be written off as inspired by Satan. It’s a very neat system if you don’t like thinking too hard. And it makes us very easy scapegoats for anyone, religious or not, who doesn’t like how the world is changing.”

“There are going to be some people who remain homophobic no matter what we say or do,” acknowledged Collin.

“Some might become more tolerant with personal contact, when the LGBT community isn’t something abstract and instead they know someone who isn’t heterosexual. Then there are the people like my family.”

“Bastards. But we know that. What we want to do, at the very least, is give some hope to LGBT people who feel isolated.”

“They certainly need it. Here’s the thing, though. It’s easy to be anonymous in the city. People can go to Ted’s Place without anyone they know having a clue about their visit to an LGBT center. In rural areas it’s not the same. If somebody stops to talk with you or takes pamphlets or whatever you’re doing for outreach, they’ll be recognized and before long half the town will know. The smaller the community, the worse it gets in that regard.” Matt sighed. “I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m just being realistic. I would never have dared talk with anyone doing LGBT outreach. Far too dangerous.”

“That’s depressing. It’s good to know, though. Obviously this has to factor into our plans.” He lacked ideas on how to work around this very serious roadblock. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Collin would share this perspective with his colleagues and go from there. “Any suggestions for us to get around that?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have any brilliant solutions. The internet is good. My family was unusually restrictive in that area, but it probably helps a lot of other kids. Just keep in mind that in some of these conservative areas, you’ll be entering enemy territory.”

“War metaphors?”

“Not a metaphor. They will literally see you as the enemy. Inspired by Satan, remember? It’s spiritual warfare and you’re the advanced guard. That’s how a lot of people will see you.”

“Damn,” said Collin. He imagined an army wearing sparkly rainbow uniforms, armed with lube and condoms, maybe doing something stereotypical like singing show tunes. “Here I thought I just wanted people to live in a way that makes them happy, and now I find out I’m in Satan’s gay army.”

Matt frowned. “I’m serious, Collin.”

Oops. His last comment had clearly been too flippant. “Sorry. I was going for lightening the mood with humor but clearly missed the mark. This is important to know. And honestly, it speaks to how strong you are that you were able to escape that.”

“I’m not sure being kicked out counts as escaping.”

“You could’ve gone to conversion therapy, pretended to be cured, and lived the rest of your life miserable and accepted by your family. You chose the harder option.”

“True,” said Matt. “Totally worth it.”

Collin traced random patterns on his boyfriend’s chest. “I’m glad to hear it. If you didn’t think it was worth it after that blowjob, I’d have done something terribly wrong.”

This time Matt let him lighten the mood. He winked and said, “No worries there.”

“That’s a relief.”

“You know that saying about praise going to your head? They’re talking about the head on top of your neck.”

“How do you know?” countered Collin.

Matt opened his mouth to protest, then paused. A second later he admitted, “That’s actually a good question.”

Score one for being a smartass.

About the Author

Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivorsand the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.

She's usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.

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Author name: Jessie Pinkham

The figure from history you would most like to buy a pie and a pint…

So, nerdy history grad alert here. I’m going to say Otto von Bismarck. He was such an accomplished and somewhat enigmatic statesman, and he had a huge influence on late 19th century European history. What he pulled off is truly astounding, and I always love to learn how and why the world got to be the way it is now.

The piece of wisdom you would pass onto a child…

I would say not to worry about what other people think. I wasted a lot of time in middle school trying to get the popular kids to like me, and they weren’t even nice girls. However, this is hardly new advice, and I think everyone has to learn it for themselves, judging by how many of us failed to heed this wisdom coming from our elders.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again…

I’ve never lost something so irreplaceable that I’m still pining for it. However, when I was a kid one of my Little House on the Prairie books vanished, and I could never find a replacement with a cover as nice. (Mary had a bright purple dress which I loved. Odd the details which stick with us.) Years later I’m still perplexed as to where it ended up.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it…

Hmm, this isn’t going to turn into self-incrimination, is it? If I could somehow hack into all databases and erase every last record of student loan debt, that would be amazing. It’s a huge albatross around my neck and the necks of so many others, and it’s draining billions of dollars which could otherwise be entering the economy.

The philosophy that underpins your life…

It’s too short to compromise myself to keep other people happy. I grew up in a family where that was expected, and I’m so over it. I enjoy my life much more now that I’m living it for myself, not conforming to someone else’s expectations.

The character you enjoyed writing the most…

I loved writing Collin in Pursuing Happiness. He’s fond of smartass comments, which are a blast to come up with. Sometimes it took a while to get the remarks perfected, but it was a fun process.

The character you found difficult to write…

Matt was all over the place in terms of how easy he was to write, and parts of his story were difficult because it was like holding up a mirror which magnified my own flaws. I actually took a break from this manuscript for many months and let it sit while I wrote less personal tales.

So, some passages came very naturally because they were me pouring out the challenges of moving on from religious abuse and a toxic family, and other parts were much harder as they required me stepping back and looking more objectively. At some point a story has to become its own entity, distinct from whatever experiences may have inspired it, and that detachment can be tricky when a character is very close to the author’s heart.

The book you enjoyed planning/writing the most…

Planning, hah. I am a pantser through and through; if I had to have a complete outline before I started writing, I’d never have finished a single story in my life.

My short story “$250,000 Love,” part of Evernight Publishing’s Lawless Anthology: Manlove Edition, was a blast to write. I’d never even considered creating an antihero before, so I started writing the story as a challenge to myself and a way to push my boundaries as an author. It was a useful exercise in that regard, because I think it’s always good to take steps out of our comfort zones. Once I came up with the premise, I had a lot of fun with my unrepentant mobster MC, Mal, who thinks laws are for people too weak of will to protect themselves any other way.

And the promo…

Pursuing Happiness is, at its core, about a man wrestling with his demons. Matt was raised in a reactionary religious, homophobic environment, and that kind of upbringing has a lot of lasting impacts. It’s an entirely different mindset, and not easily abandoned. You don’t go right into happily ever after when you have such a childhood, and I wanted to explore the process of moving beyond a repressive childhood to a fulfilling adult life.

My hope, beyond telling a compelling story, is that readers come away with a little more understanding about how a reactionary and isolating childhood can play out, and how fear serves to paralyze people who might otherwise abandon that lifestyle as adults. It’s not just the religious aspect in and of itself which is problematic; it’s also the lack of social interaction. Matt is inept when it comes to interpersonal skills because he didn’t grow up interacting with anyone outside his family. This is a massive disadvantage in life.

From the beginning it was obvious to me that Matt would have a pet, but it took some time and research to decide exactly what animal. I didn’t want him to have the usual cat or dog. His pet needed to be less common than those while still friendly and happy with human contact. Plus, it couldn’t be too exotic and expensive, because Matt is on a limited budget. I decided a bearded dragon fit the bill. They’re sociable and like to interact with humans, even if the care is more than I’d want to take on. This was confirmed not long ago when I took my nephew to the insectarium and we saw a bearded dragon chowing down on live roaches. (Great for a little boy, if something Aunt Jessie could’ve lived without witnessing.) They are fascinating creatures, though, and I think Dex is perfect for Matt.

I love the cover for this book. While Pursuing Happiness isn’t a sweet romance, it’s not all about the sex, either, so I wanted a cover which would convey romance and personal growth, not a half-naked hunk conveying “read this for the sex!” Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a nice half-naked hunk very much, but it’s not this book. I think it helps that the artist read the first draft, so she knew the feel of the story and captured it beautifully. 

About the Author

Jessie writes M/M romance and loves a rich fictional universe as much as a good happy ending. Her published works include the novel Survivors and the Tea and Empathy series, and her work has been included in anthologies by Evernight Publishing and JMS Books.

She's usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.


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