Guest Blog by Christopher Koehler – “Will Poz Be Controversial? I Certainly Hope So”

Poz_Blog-Tour-Sidebar-GraphicI was aware of the possibly controversial nature of Poz’s content from the moment I started writing it, although some of that possible controversy may not be quite what you’re thinking.

To be perfectly honest, I debated long and hard whether to publish Poz under Dreamspinner’s imprimatur or under its Young Adult label, Harmony Ink. But I wrote Poz with a certain message in mind. I tried to avoid being preachy, but I also wanted to convey that certain message to a young adult audience, and ultimately, my publisher, the Harmony Ink coordinator, and I decided that it suited the Harmony Ink imprimatur. So publish Poz with Harmony Ink I did, and this way the book will have a better chance to be placed in libraries and, I hope, reach its intended audience. Not even I’m so delusional to think it’d ever be used in schools.

The most obvious possible controversy stems from the subject matter: teens and sex, specifically gay and bi teens and sex. Although Remy and Michael are gay, I think it’s safe to include bisexual teens, if only epidemiologically, because part of what inspired Poz were distressing facts about increasing rates of new HIV infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 16-24. That’s roughly the ages covered by the demographics for YA and NA novels.

Any time a book (or movie or any other medium) talks about teens and young adults and sex, people—particularly parents—lose all sense of proportion. The reality is sexuality is set quite early, so trying to keep books involving sex out of the hands of teens? Mom and Dad, you’re closing the barn door after the horses have bolted. It might make you feel better, but it’s too late. Furthermore, Poz will not make your kids gay or bi. They already are.

Given the studies that have shown that abstinence-only sex education programs are an abysmal failure, teens are going to experiment. They want to know about sex, and in the age of the internet, they’re going to find the information. Poz will not put notions in anyone’s head that aren’t already there. All of the sex in Poz is off stage, implied, or the scenes fade to be black before anything interesting happens. Poz will not make your gay children run out and have the gay sex.

Remy, unfortunately for him, does not practice safer sex and that gives me the opportunity as an author to discuss safer sexual practices, as well as what the onset of HIV looks like in this particular case. As an author, gay man, and a parent, it’s my hope that Poz gives me the opportunity to slip some education under the radar, as it were. We’ll see how it’s received, I suppose.

In Poz, there is an age difference across that magic number of eighteen, and the younger man initiates it. This won’t earn me any friends, I suspect, but the reality is young men, gay, bi, or straight, don’t magically turn sexual on their eighteenth birthdays. I accordingly discuss the implications of statutory rape and the murkiness of the laws in the jurisdiction in which the story takes place—implications not just for the two people involved, but the institutions and other people around them. Nothing happens in a vacuum, after all, no matter how oblivious teens can be.

To be honest, I expect this to be the most controversial part of the entire book—a self-aware protagonist knows what he wants—or thinks he does—and goes after it. This isn’t The Rake’s Progress, so Remy doesn’t go to hell or anything, but he does face lifelong consequences. I mean, duh. Look at the title. What’s missing is judgment, and that may be controversial, as well.

All of this said, I won’t turn down a bit of controversy. Controversy inevitably draws attention and drives sales. Is that horribly mercenary of me to say?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Poz faced a certain amount of controversy from within the m/m romance community, as well.

There is a hint at the end that while Remy and his boyfriend Michael are together, they may not always be. Poz has a Happy Enough For Now ending.

I never know if people read all of the blog posts on a blog tour. I’ll assume people do. If you’ve read the other posts on the tour, you know that I torment Remy and Michael over the course of three books, and in fact they’re not together at the end of the second book. It’s a risky strategy and I expect some pushback, if not now, then at the end of the second book, currently titled All That Is Solid (Melts Into Air).

I promise everyone that Remy and Michael will be together forever by the end of book 3, and none of this Romeo + Julio nonsense where they’re forever united in death. The reality—and I realize reality is a controversial subject in Romancelandia—is that high school boyfriends never really stood a chance at a HEA without the chance to grow up first. I hope I can prove myself to you as a writer and that you’ll trust me to make good on the promise of the first two books.

So I expected some beady-eye and some “We’re watching you, Koehler” at the end of All That Is Solid, but I also hope there’s some trust there, too. I’ve fallen in love with Remy and Michael, the way I fall in love with all of my characters, and I want only the best for them. Hopefully you, my readers will, too, and will allow me to make them work for it.

PozFSBlurb:

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

The Lives of Remy and Michael: Book One

Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they’re both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia.

Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naiveté, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most.

Author Bio:

Christopher Koehler learned to read late (or so his teachers thought) but never looked back. It was not, however, until he was nearly done with grad school in the history of science that he realized that he needed to spend his life writing and not on the publish-or-perish treadmill. At risk of being thought frivolous, he found that academic writing sucked all the fun out of putting pen to paper.

Christopher is also something of a hothouse flower. Inside of almost unreal conditions he thrives to set the results of his imagination free, and for most of his life he has been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who encouraged both that tendency and the writing. Chief among them is his long-suffering husband of twenty-two years and counting.

When it comes to writing, Christopher follows Anne Lamott’s advice: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” So while he writes fiction, at times he ruthlessly mines his past for character traits and situations. Reality is far stranger than fiction.

Christopher loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it is in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.

Writing is his passion and his life, but when Christopher is not doing that, he’s an at-home dad and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and other ways people behave badly.

Visit him at http://christopherkoehler.net/blog or follow him on Twitter @christopherink.

Poz_Blog-Tour-Graphic

Poz_Blog-Tour-Schedule-GraphicTour links:

7 Jan – Prism Book Alliance
9 Jan – Cody Kennedy
10 Jan – The Novel Approach
14 Jan – JP Barnaby
15 Jan – Love Bytes
19 Jan – GGR Reviews
21 Jan – Hearts on Fire Reviews
22 Jan – MM Good Book Reviews
26 Jan – James Erich
28 Jan – Joyfully Jay
2 Feb – Rainbow Gold Reviews

Buy links:

Dreamspinner eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5918&cPath=387

Dreamspinner Print: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5919&cPath=387

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Poz-Lives-Remy-Michael-Book-ebook/dp/B00RPUB96W/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poz-Lives-Remy-Michael-Book-ebook/dp/B00RPUB96W/

All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-poz-1591190-149.html?referrer=509531de39c1c

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20 thoughts on “Guest Blog by Christopher Koehler – “Will Poz Be Controversial? I Certainly Hope So”

  1. Unfortunately many teens and young adults don’t practice safer sex they think nothing will happen to them but of course it can. I think it is about time there were more importance placed on getting young people educated in the facts of HIV/Aids.

    • My favorite reason for not worrying about HIV is that if they don’t cross the “age barrier”–ie, don’t boff anyone my age or older–it won’t be an issue. I’m 44. That one gets me every time, and they’ve been saying it since I was 30 or so.

  2. Beautiful post. I think that you are doing a good thing with this book and series, no matter the controversy that will surround it. The message is one that needs to be said.

  3. Great post. I love that you took this approach with your book and that you wrote a character like Remy who may not be bothered with safe sex and just showing some of the repercussions that can occur.

  4. Great post. I like the approach you took with the book and how you have a character like Remy who isn’t bothered/ignorant of safe sex and can just show some of the repercussions that can occur because of lack of knowledge.

    • Remy got plenty of safe-sex talks, he just didn’t see how they applied to him. I should probably resume reading Gawker so I have at least some idea of contemporary slang. I stopped a few years back because the commenting system went to hell, and it was shocking how quickly and easily I slipped back into “high speech.” My mom still uses the slang that was popular when I was in high school and it’s ghastly. The last thing I want is to sound like that, and the entire point of this is that I hope Remy sounds accessible to younger audiences so his message can be taken seriously.

  5. I think you are right, I think your book will push boundaries but with that hopefully it will open eyes. Kids now a days are being sexually active earlier than a lot of people think. I know that there are elementary school kids, 4th graders, giving blow jobs on the playground. We need to arm our kids with the facts so they can be prepared. I’m really looking forward to reading this book.

    • My son’s in 6th grade, so I really didn’t need to know about the playground blowies (and yet I did), but I stumbled across his browser history once and it made my head spin. While I have reasonable suspicions that he was led down that path by a rather disreputable friend of his, a lot of it shocked me and, frankly, turned my stomach. Then, too, he’d downloaded a bunch of samples of books from the one-handed press onto the Kindle he’d borrowed from my husband. The take-home message for me was that he had questions and I was late in answering them. I try to take my cues from Dan Savage when it comes to parenting and sex ed. I wish more people did.

    • My plan this week is to clean up what I’ve written so far of All That Is Solid so I can submit it and the outline to my publisher. I’d like to get it on the publication calendar now while I finish the rest of the novel.

  6. Thanks for the fantastic post! I agree with so many points you made. And, I certainly remember secretly reading books that I “wasn’t allowed to” when I was a teenager. I think it is great that some authors now are writing books for a YA audience but not shying away from difficult topics or including things (like sex) that teenagers are going to get somehow anyway.

    • I think the most risqué things I read when I was in elementary school were Judy Bloom books. When I was in high school, probably Wifey or maybe a Jackie Collins novel. Tame stuff, really, certainly nothing challenging.

  7. The importance of getting this message out there cannot be denied. Parents often question me when I add in HIV awareness to my sex ed’ classes. But I continually point our that this age group is the one most at risk and growing numbers of both men and women are contracting this virus. Once it is made known, to parents, that their daughters are at risk they seem to accept my teaching. Small minded parents are the real threat to our children.
    Thank you Christopher for writing for this age group. I am always looking for good YA fiction to stock my shelves so I can lend it to kids- as not all school libraries are brave enough to stock LGBTQ fiction.

  8. I know some people won’t even start a series if they know there are books to come in the MCs story. What can an author do? You’re never going to make everyone happy. I think given the name of the book, readers already know their in for some tough stuff, so I’m sure only those who can stand the heat will make it to the kitchen. I assume they’ll be fed well when they get there. (Sorry, I just had to carry the analogy that much further!) Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on Poz.

    • You’re soooo right. You can’t make everyone happy, and I learned from reviews not to try. I learned to make myself happy with my writing and hope for the best.

      As for Poz, yes. The title’s a give-away that there are some bumpy times ahead, but what I also hope readers take away is that it’s also a life-affirming book, too.

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