Brian’s story began two and a half years ago when I realized I’d been naming all the cheating exes of my characters “Brian.”
I didn’t know then that Building Forever would become a series. I simply wanted to tell Charlie’s story. But Simon came equipped with a best friend and a dastardly ex, so when one of my first round readers asked for Frank’s story, I began to wonder if Brian might have a story too.
Obviously, he did. Everyone has a story tucked back there somewhere. I wasn’t sure I could do Brian justice, though. Redemption stories are difficult to do well and I wanted not only to give Brian a good story but for my readers to fall in love with him—or at least forgive him. That meant figuring out why. Why he couldn’t commit. Why he was having so much trouble settling down.
One of the most interesting things you can do as a writer is to take a secondary character from one book and give them a book of their own. I put a lot of effort into making my secondary characters feel real and I get a lot of lovely compliments about them! Turning them into a lead requires a fair amount of work, though. You have to retain the personality traits that make them such a good support character in the first book and meld them with who this person turns out to be.
In Frank’s case, this meant that the party boy persona he presents in Building Forever turns out to be something of a cover. I actually loved this, because it gave Frank as a man a much deeper texture. I don’t really talk about his sexual identity in Renewing Forever, other than confirm the fact he is gay. But when I sketched out his life, his love-life in particular, no relationships popped up. And he’d only had a very small number of “affairs,” Simon being the most significant. Surely having his heart broken at nineteen didn’t ruin his life?
It did and it didn’t. Frank never quite got over Tom, but not because Tom is his one and only (even though he is). Frank is demisexual. He loves to flirt and he loves to make others feel good but has to really care for someone before he wants to go there. When you consider his story with this information, a whole lot more about him makes sense.
So when I considered Brian as a lead character, I knew I had to come up with a good reason for his serial non-monogamy. My readers would need to know why he couldn’t commit. I sketched out and rejected a lot of reasons before eventually deciding that like Frank, Brian’s “course” had been diverted at a very young age. But again, I don’t outright state that what happened to Brian when he was fourteen is the root cause of his inability to commit. I hint at it, and his secret is definitely a source of angst and pain for him. It’s also something he’s never shared, which is one good reason why his relationship with Simon failed.
But I also hold Simon up to a little more scrutiny and suggest that maybe he wasn’t able to give Brian what Brian was looking for. This is partly Brian’s fault. He is unable to be “wholly Brian” with Simon—for reasons that may never be clear. But it’s also Simon’s fault for holding on to something that wasn’t a good fit—because it was comfortable enough. For not realizing that he also needed more.
Relationships are hard work, even when they’re good, and one of the themes of this series has been second chances. These stories are about men who have loved and lost and think that’s it, they’re done. So when they do fall for someone else, they have half a lifetime’s worth of experience—and hurt, and joy—to offer, which changes the stakes. Brian’s story is at once the most dramatic of the three in this series, but also in a way the easiest. His happy ever after is mostly a matter of finally finding the right guy—but to keep that guy, he needs to make the right moves. He also needs to finally, at long last, be himself.
I loved writing this book. I loved getting to know Brian and seeing him happy at last. I also enjoyed introducing him to Mal, who gives perhaps the greatest speech I’ve ever written in the epilogue of any book. Mal talks about living out loud, and his message is one that resonates through Chasing Forever, the entire series, and perhaps all of my contemporary novels.
So it’s my hope that readers will not only forgive Brian but rejoice in his happiness—and the happy ever afters I’ve given to all of the characters in this series. ❤
Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.
Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.
But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.
Coming December 10, 2018
Preorder at Riptide Publishing