It’s one of those things…well, it’s one of those things I never actively think of: winning an award, but I know what The Agony of Joy meant to me. It’s fiction, but it’s also my story in that it is based on real life situations I’ve dealt with (and still do in some ways) and what others close to me have experienced. Being a child abuse survivor, devastatingly losing a beloved to suicide, parental distance and strife.
It took me almost ten years to complete, from beginning to end, because it is a very vividly realized novel, which can have “triggers” for survivors like me. Triggers refers to those phrases, suggestions, scenes or dialogue that “trigger” memories of abuse or some other traumatic episode, but my point wasn’t to force that: it was simply to present the reality we live with every single day.
The moments we have to fight through when others are oblivious, just to keep going: to keep walking, to keep working, to go about daily activities. Sometimes it is excruciating physically, mentally and emotionally, but we go on because that’s what we know to do, and because those ones who hurt us didn’t ultimately break our hope or belief in goodness or in trying to do good for others because that is what helps us keep living.
There’s an anonymous saying: “Always be kinder than necessary. You never know what someone is going through.” That is CANON. Too few people ever consider such a thing, only thinking of themselves, their own needs and wants for even the most minor thing.
Almost ten years. I had to take a hiatus from writing AofJ because my own memories were close to overwhelming me at times. Like the character Adrian Lee also, the family divide because of choices and sexuality, the disrespectful and insulting treatment hurled my way was tearing me down. But I completed the book eventually.
And then you submit your book. And you receive replies like:
“This is ordinary….”
“This didn’t grab me….”
“This is too unreal, unbelievable….”
When it was my life. It was the life of men I’ve known, loved, and some of whom are now dead because the crushing disappointment of being dismissed, disbelieved or disrespected became too much for them. Most of the scenes/locations in the novel are based on actual places, restaurants, places I’ve lived and explored.
I believed in this work. It was a complete labor of love, hard fought and won. I didn’t let the literal couple of hundred of rejections get me down, but I also didn’t go with a couple of acceptances as the understanding of what the novel is was important for the story and for me. I knew it was a story I had to tell because it was important not only for me, but for millions of others who have lived or are living in such situations regardless of social status, religion or belief system, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, etc.
No, awards aren’t everything. There are many great books out there that don’t get the attention they deserve. This award was important for me because I know publishers, especially traditional ones, are very dismissive, often editors only go by their own whims or reading tastes, and what they THINK readers want. I’m glad the judges of this award were more objective and recognized Agony for what I tried my damndest to present just as it had been lived.
My latest interview for this novel was at the AuthorQuiz website, where you can read more details about its writing and background. The book trailer is below. It was first published at Smashwords, and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and other online distributors.
Other of my posts about The Agony of Joy:
- Author Interview & Book Spotlight: Red Haircrow at The “Books and Tales” Blog
- Photos from Berlin & Scenes from “The Agony of Joy”
- After 10 Years in the Works: The Agony of Joy by Red Haircrow
Description: “Former model turned actor Adrian Lee can barely list age range ’23-29′ on his resumé anymore nor stand his life of empty social events and appearances, meaningless roles and casual partners. When he meets Alexander Skizetsky by clever arrangement of his agent, the enigmatic yet infinitely attractive Russian kindles a little light of hope in his aching heart. Yet even the beginnings of a friendship and love beyond his wildest dreams cannot assuage a life spiraling out of control.
The long estrangement from his devout Irish Catholic parents and family and the dark secrets they all share combine to drive him to the brink of despair, though Alexander is determined to stay by his side. After locking away his own memories of betrayal and loss, the Russian had decided never to love again but something in Adrian spurs the noblest intentions in his formerly jaded heart. Returning in pilgrimage to his homeland, he brings Adrian along on a journey of rebirth, revelation and redemption.”