Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Author: Kathryn Shay

I met Kathy Shay several years ago when I sold my first book to Harlequin Superromance. I have to tell you I was freaked out the first time I went to a Super author gathering at the RWA conference, but Kathy was as welcoming as welcoming can be.

She's branched out from Superromance to write a book that touches her heart and is here today to talk about the release of The Perfect Family.

I'm out of town today without reliable internet, so I won't be able to check back. In any case ... Welcome Kathy!


Dear Riding With the Top Down host and readers,

Thanks so much for inviting me to blog on your site. I’ve been here once before, at Helen Brenna’s invitation then, too, but for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kathryn Shay and have published 37 romance novels for Harlequin and The Berkley Publishing Group. I was asked to tell you about my new book, THE PERFECT FAMILY, from Bold Strokes Books--the genesis of the story and why I wrote it.

First off, this book is not a romance. I wanted to tell a mainstream story and try my hand at something new, so I went in a different direction that worked out, thankfully. And, by the way, this is the book of my heart.

The story follows the Davidsons: they’re an average American family with a good life and they consider themselves lucky to have each other. Then their seventeen year old son tells them he’s gay and their world shifts. They have no idea what they will go through after Jamie’s disclosure: Jamie's father Mike can't reconcile his religious beliefs with his son's sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. The book is full of both conflict and love, ending on a redeeming note.

I think I’ve been preparing to write this book my whole career. I’ve written Harlequins about teenage suicide, date rape, gangs and adultery. I’ve done single titles about growing up in a dysfunctional environment and then helping young kids deal with their issues. I’ve tackled school violence on a large scale.

When my son came out gay, I felt compelled to write about that issue. THE PERFECT FAMILY is fiction but touches on some of the things my own family went through. I wished then I’d had a book like this to help me understand that a family’s struggle when a teen comes out is common, but he deserves love and support from them. I was also a high school teacher for many years and I know teenagers. I know how they react to people who are different from them, how sexual orientation can freak them out and how they can be cruel. But they can also be unbelievably loyal and supportive. I tried to show all this in the book.

Having raised kids of my own, I’m also aware of how a child’s problems can affect the whole family. I originally wrote the book in first person narrative from the mother’s point of view (it was called A MOTHER’S STORY) because I knew what Maggie, the mom, was going through. I’ve also experienced the pain when spouses disagree on what’s best for their children. However, it wasn’t long before I realized this book was more than Maggie’s story; it was each family member’s journey. On the first of many revisions, I put in the viewpoints of Mike, Brian and Jamie. I think this expansion enriched the book and made it more relevant. After several revisions, I added a secondary storyline to mirror the first which gives the book an added dimension.

The character of Jamie is based on my son, Ben. He read the manuscript twice, the beginning draft and the last one. I was amazed at the insights he had into the characters. His comments led me to make some further revisions. And we have a gift for my readers. Ben is a singer/songwriter and made a CD in high school about “loving a boy” and other adolescent issues. We’re offering it free at the publisher’s website when you order a book from them at It will be also be offered on my website, while copies last.

You can visit me at;;; and

Thanks again for having me. I’ll check back for comments.



krisgils33 said...

congrats on the new release, it sounds like a wonderful story. I absolutely LOVED your firefighter books....wish you'd write more of those!! :-)

Cindy Gerard said...

congrats on the new release! And what a wonderful story of collaboration with you son. That's a gift in itself!

Keri Ford said...

congrats on the release! A book of your heart---I'm so glad you were able to find a home for it, and not only that, that your son was so active in helping you! that's really awesome.

KylieBrant said...

Welcome to the 'vert, Kathryn! I know how heart warming and emotional your stories can be...can't wait to read this one!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being brave enough to tackle this subject. Too many gay people are subjected to hatred and even violence and their families suffer right along with them.

I discovered after many years of marriage that my husband is gay, so I know the effect this kind of disclosure has on the family.

I wish you much success with this book because it looks like it's a story that needs to be told again and again.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Kathy!
I can't wait to read this book. What a contribution you're making to our public discourse, for one thing. Here's what I know from the life I've lived: prejudice abounds. Here's what I believe: the nobility of the human spirit eventually rises above all that. What it takes is the kind of truth you've stepped forward to relate. It takes people opening their eyes and ears, and then their hearts and minds.

Frankly, I'm not a fan of "winning the hearts and minds" because it sounds like a contest. We win, you succumb. No, we come to the table with a willingness to share. My mother was opposed to my marriage. You know what it took to open her up? Getting to know my husband and his people. Then came the first grandchild.
It's coming to the table as another human being. That's what it takes.

kathryn shay said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful comments. I'm honored to hear from such great writers and interested readers. As you know, this book is very important to me.

Kathleen--You are so right about prejudice. It can have deadly consequences. Also as a side note, THE PERFECT FAMILY has a significant secondary storyline, very important to the main one, where the mother's sister was disowned because her parents didn't approve of her marriage.

Again, I'm thrilled with the responses.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Another detail from Mama's life--something I think about more all the time--was that her brother was gay. Mama didn't know until she and Daddy were newly married, and Daddy blurted it out thinking she knew. They came from a very small Virginia town, and in those days there was no such thing as coming out. Sadder still, my uncle lived his whole life in the closet. His sisters both knew, but they never said anything because he never said anything.

He was my favorite uncle, but I didn't know he was gay until Mama told me. I was about 27. It was such important moment between Mama and me. Such insight and honesty and seeds of change for our relationship.

Thank God we're growing as a society. It's painful, but it's going to keep getting better.

MaryC said...

Thank you for writing The Perfect Family. I remember the fear of rejection my niece went through before coming out to her father.
Her fears, thankfully, were unfounded and this year while on a family vacation to San Francisco, she and her Dad attended the Gay Pride Parade and other related activities that week.

Hopefully, society will continue to grow in acceptance of alternative lifestyles and the violence will end.

kathrynshay said...

Mary C.--I agree with your last comment, of course. Also, my son (and my church!) marched in the pride parade in my home town. We need more of this.

Nice day here at Riding with the Top Down. Thanks again for having me.

neroli lacey said...

fantastic kathryn. congratulations. i'm sure the book will go far - neroli lacey