For years, I’ve had folks encourage me to write my autobiography. To be honest, that kind of sustained objectivity is too daunting; I have enough trouble writing a bio for the back cover of my books, or for my website. Plus, I know my tendency for stringent introspection and self-recrimination.
I’ve had a good life—an adventure with many (plot) twists and turns—but I fear my story, as told by me, would be depressing.
That’s when I had the idea for a story that’s drawn from my life, but not a retelling of my life.
Essentially I think of it like one those made-for-TV movies with the disclaimer: “based on actual events.”
There’s truth in the setting, the situations, and certainly the struggle.
That truth is wrapped inside a fictional (hopefully compelling) story, involving fictional (hopefully interesting) people.
The operative word is fiction!
It’s January, 1982.
Nate Truett is grieving the loss of his wife, but ready to put his life back together. As a respected Marriage and Family Therapist, he believes he has the necessary skills.
Of course, that plan is disrupted after a random encounter with the incredibly handsome, and openly gay,
They start out playing racquetball, and then working out together. As their friendship grows, it forces to the surface “temptations” Nate has always successfully suppressed.
Suddenly, Trey is showing up in Nate’s dreams.
He thought he’d dealt with this, once and for all, years ago.
Feelings for Trey surface in ways Nate’s not experienced in the past.
Then all those constraints Nate has imposed over the years begin to dissolve.
There’s a connection and intimacy with Trey he’s never known.
But what they’re doing goes against everything Nate’s been taught to believe. Not to mention, if anyone found out about their relationship, it would ruin his career.
The guilt, shame and fear is overwhelming.
He immerses himself in a ministry that promises he can change his sexual orientation.
Change does happen, but it’s not what Nate expected.
As I’ve shared in earlier posts, writing this book came with…challenges.
There’s the initial sex scene between Nate and Trey. I wanted it to be intimate and meaningful, but also awkward. I didn’t want pornography.
(I acknowledge the need for this important scene, but I also admit my dislike for writing those kind of encounters.)
There was also the difficulty of putting myself back into world of Fundamentalism, especially the theology, the nomenclature and the mentality of “ex-gay” ministries.
Nate, my main character, is not me, but some of my past is lived out through him.
He lives in a world I once I inhabited.
I struggled to incorporate my experiences, my pain, my insights...into a character who is NOT me.
Here’s an important point: Not everything that happens to Nate actually happened to me. But I will affirm that when someone in the story is promoting “ex-gay” theology, marketing an “ex-gay” ministry, teaching an “ex-gay” group, using the Bible to condemn homosexuals, or utilizing a practice to bring about change in someone’s sexual orientation, that part is all too real. And very personal!
This is Nate’s story, told from his perspective. Which means, as the author, I had to watch him make mistakes and bad decisions. He does things, says things, believes things that were difficult for me to write.
Mostly because they were things I once believed, did and taught.
There were occasions I cried as I wrote, remembering my own inner warfare.
My heart hurt for him.
There were times Nate made me tired with his indecision, his wavering, his compromises and his justifications. I cringed at his intense loyalty to a rigid belief system that clearly was not working, refusing to address the questions and doubts pounding inside him. (That’s why the book is called A Double-Minded Man.) I had those same questions, and that same loyalty, which is why it took me so long to walk away.
I do think Nate’s journey reflects the reality of many of us who were entrenched in Fundamentalism, yet struggled with these secret desires, attractions and feelings.
We desperately wanted to change.
We were told we must change!
We believed we could change.
(Even as the author, there were times I’d be writing a scene and everything in me wanted to scream at Nate: STOP TRYING! It will not work.)
Is A Double-Minded Man my autobiography?
Yes, the story grew out of my time working in “ex-gay” ministry, but no…it’s not me in the story.
I emphasize that technicality because I don’t want the millions of folks who read this book to think this is a thinly veiled memoir.
That’s not true.
Well, not totally true!
Mark Twain is credited with saying “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.”
I like the way P.D. James, the English mystery writer, said it: “All fiction is largely autobiographical and much autobiography is, of course, fiction.”
For me, this book was an exercise in my author’s imagination and a personal disclosure.
It’s both fiction and autobiography.
(Again, it’s an apt title!)
A Double-Minded Man is scheduled to release on October 4th.