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I’ve never been good with open-ended questions. As a writer, I usually have trouble choosing from the multitude of possible answers swirling around in my head. While I love the challenge of telling a good story — filed with details and colorful descriptions to illuminate and entertain my audience — even so, I find myself uncharacteristically tongue-tied whenever anyone asks me to explain what happened to bring about the dissolution of my first long-term relationship. I know that most people are well intentioned, but the question still cuts to the core. Diagnosing the end requires me to go back to the beginning — a time and place I’ve worked hard to forget.
I was something of a late bloomer. Although I’d fooled around with a couple of guys in high school, I’d worked hard to counterbalance those experiences by dating exceptionally pretty girls. For almost twenty years, I managed to convince everyone (including myself) that my attraction to men was just a phase that would pass once I went away to a coed college. Trying to be straight was like trying to write with my left hand; no matter how hard I practiced, it always felt awkward and unnatural. The absence of any role models, even in the movies or on TV, left me feeling unsure about what kind of life I’d have if I dared to venture off the course my parents had set for me.
I finally came out during my junior year at Boston College and instantly fell for the only other gay guy I knew on campus. I had serious doubts about pursuing a relationship until I discovered that we shared the same birthday. Most guys would have dismissed this as a coincidence, but the fact that I had an identical twin who died shortly after we were born, made it seem more like an omen. What I lacked in experience, I made up for in effort. If I was going to be gay, then I was going to be good at it. Shaking off my fears and apprehensions, I immediate resolved to forget about my past and focus my energy on building a new life with my boyfriend.
While all our friends wasted countless nights cruising the Fens or trolling the gay bars of the Back Bay, we snuggled together in a dorm-sized single bed reading to each other from our favorite books. Back in 1991, the concept of marriage equality was a pipe dream. Even so, my boyfriend and I spoke heartfelt vows to one another and exchanged silver rings to solidify our union. Perpetual students, we struggled with “for richer and for poorer” during the long years it took for him to finish grad school (English Lit) and for me to become a lawyer. Although we were never tested by our promise to stay together “in sickness and in health,” we watching helplessly as friends and classmates withered and died from AIDS. While it would be infinitely easier for me to just say that our end came from the inability to “forsake all others,” it would take a couple hundred pages for me to explain how it was really an issue of “for better and for worse.” Actually, it was more like 204 pages.
I started writing Favorite Son about a month after “the breakup.” I’d moved out of the home we shared and was renting a furnished apartment in the very heart of DuPont Circle. At thirty-three, I was young, handsome, and successful. DC was a veritable playground for single guys, but after a few failed romances and a handful of tragic one-night stands, I decided to take myself out of the game.
I spent most nights and weekends exploring the city — walking through the Capitol Hill district, studying its architecture and processing my grief. The images from that time of my life are as vivid and clear as a digital photograph. A casual encounter with a handsome stranger on the Metro unexpectedly inspired a short story that eventually expanded to become the first chapter of my novel, Favorite Son. I never set out to bare my soul to the world, but in the end, that’s precisely what I did. John Wells, the protagonist of the story, tragically loses everything — his best friend, job, partner, and home — in the course of a single day. Adrift without the people and things that anchor him to the world, he runs away and assumes a new identity. Although John struggles to overcome his sense of guilt and loss, his emotional journey eventually leads him to a place where he’s ready to love again and finally able to answer the dreaded question: What happened?
Sorry, but if you want to know the answer, you’ll have to read the book.
Born into a blue-collar family, John Wells beat the odds and came out a winner. As chief of staff to Patrick Donovan, a US senator and aspiring presidential candidate, he enjoys all the power and privilege of a DC insider. But while riding high on a wave of success, he’s blindsided by a series of betrayals from the people he trusts the most. In the space of a single day, John’s perfect life unexpectedly unravels when his career falters and his marriage implodes. Following a final, devastating blow, John assumes a new identity as “Peter” and flees to Provincetown, where a tight-knit community of eclectic characters slowly transforms him.
Peter finds himself drawn to Danny Cavanaugh, an enigmatic carpenter who is struggling to come to terms with his own troubled past. As they work together to renovate a local landmark, the two men forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into love and becomes the foundation for a new life they hope to build together. But when a reversal of fortune pulls John back to DC, the treacherous world of politics he thought he’d left behind threatens to destroy his chance at true happiness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Will has lived and worked in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Tampa. Although he has spent the better part of the
last twenty years working as a successful corporate attorney, Will can happily confirm that his true vocation is writing. He currently resides in Morristown, New Jersey with his
husband, Stephen, and their golden retriever, Rory. Favorite Son is Will’s debut novel, and he is hard at work on his second novel.
Author Contact Links:
Twitter: @WillFreshwater https://twitter.com/WillFreshwater