Welcome to the wide crazy world of TJ Klune

As you can see, this is a blog (a blog, you say? You're like the only person in the world that has one!). Here are my promises to you: I promise to up date this as much as I can. I promise that at some point, you will most likely be offended. I promise you may suffer from the affliction the Klunatics know as Wookie Cry Face. I also promise to make this some place where you can see how my mind works.



You've been warned.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

WWA Pre-Release Thoughts and Why I Was About To Quit


 

Non-spoilery for those concerned.  And this is a long post, so I apologize ahead of time.

So here we are, days away from the release of my third novel out on April 27th.  Exciting times, right?  Of course!  Well, kind of.

Those that have been around for a while know that I never really had any intention of writing a sequel to Bear, Otter, and the Kid.  I was going to let that last bad poem at the end of BOATK be my farewell to Bear and the boys and I was going to allow them to go about their lives as they would.  I’d think fondly of them from time to time, I knew, and would wonder every so often what they were up to.  But I wanted to move onto different things.

The best laid plans, and all that.

If there was to be a sequel, I told myself secretly, it would have to be a full fledge book.  And if I wrote another full fledge book, it would have to be a complete story, not an extended epilogue.  If I wrote another story, I would have to open up the world a bit, popping the bubble Bear, Otter, and the Kid lived in that summer.  If, if, if.

Then BOATK exploded into something I never expected.  It got big.  Ish.  A lot of people read it.  It won awards.  It was criticized. It was lauded.  It was torn to shreds.  People loved it, liked it, disliked it, hated it. I was accused of overwrought sentimentality and repetition.  People wrote to me from all over the world and said it touched them like no other.  I was accused of making the Kid so unrealistic that it detracted from the story.  Parents told me the Kid was exactly like their gifted child.  I was accused of plagiarism.  Amazon.com said it was one of the top 10 best GLBT books published in 2011. 

Do you have whiplash yet? 

Me too.  And yet, you know what? 

I wouldn’t change a goddamn thing.

And even through all of that, somehow, someway, the sequel was written.  And damn, if I’m not fucking proud of it.

Who We Are is a novel of strength and of weakness.  It’s about what it means to think you finally have everything you’ve ever wanted, only to have that entire world threatened.  It’s about just how fickle life can seem, and how unbending it really is.  It’s about family and what it means, regardless of the blood flowing through your veins.  Bear is still going to be Bear, warts and all.  He’ll still hear a voice in his head and will let his emotions get the better of him.  And fuck you if you think real men don’t cry.  I’m a fucking dude and when I finally came out, I was an emotional wreck who didn’t know which way was up.  The Kid is still made of glass and sounds like he’s forty.  Mrs. Paquinn will still be dirty and Anna and Creed will both come to terms with Bear and themselves. And what about Otter? Well, Otter was the one person I wanted to focus on more.  In BOATK, he was the rock, the strong one, the light at the end of the tunnel.  Otter was also the enigma that I hadn’t quite figured out.  How can someone like him be so strong all the time?  Especially after everything he’d gone through?  What if he can’t be strong all the time?  What are his weaknesses?  What is he scared of?  What is the one thing that could tear him down?  He’s the one I wanted to unravel and dig deeper on.  By the end, I think I was finally able to see him for who he was. 

And I cherished him.

Are you going to laugh?  I think so.  I did.  Wait until you hear what Mrs. Paquinn has to say are other words that also mean “sex.”  Will you want to throttle Bear?  Undoubtedly.  He is Bear, after all.  Will the Kid read you a bad poem or two and sound far to mature for his age?  You bet your ass he will.  Will you cry?  I think I’ve said before that I’m not a crier by any stretch of the imagination (unless I’m coming out to my family—good grief), but fuck did I bawl by the end.  There’s one scene in particular that still gets to me now even just thinking about it.  I was a mess when I wrote it and I was a mess going through the repeated edits.  And no, this isn’t meant to scare you away, this isn’t meant for you to be thinking “Oh no, WHAT DID YOU DO!?!?!”  It’s meant for you to understand that life is a beautifully fucked up tragic comedy and should be treated as such.

Who We Are is my love letter to all the fans who have stuck by me through thick and thin, the good times and the bad, over these past eight months (doesn’t it feel like so much longer?).  It’s my way of saying thank you for allowing me to be an author and to tell my stories.  It’s my way of letting you 
know me better.  Make sure you read the dedication and opening quotes in the book because it shows exactly how I feel.

And, as I completed this post initially a few days ago, it was also meant to be my way of saying so long to the publishing world. 

You see, before I was published, I didn’t have Facebook.  I didn’t have a blog.  I didn’t know what Goodreads was.  Never will you hear me complain (how could I, with so many awesome things that have happened in the past year?), but you need to understand I’m a bit tired.  Three novels in eight months.  That’s a lot, at least for me.  I’m a slow writer.  I work on one thing at a time.

The original ending of this post was going to let you all know that I was planning on taking a break from everything after WWA is published : writing, online interactions, blog posts, EVERYTHING, for an undetermined, but most likely indefinite, period of time.  At the very least, I didn’t think I was going to write anymore.  By now, Book II of the Elementally Evolved series should be finished, or close to finished.  But it’s not.  Not even close.  I wanted to take a break to see if it was possible for me to find the story again, to not have it feel like it’s a chore every time I open that word doc.  But I didn’t think that was going to be realistic and I figured I should just be done.

The plagiarism bullshit took a lot out of me, even though I tried to act like it didn’t.  It was extraordinarily damaging to my confidence and caused these crazy waves of doubt to wash over me.  I knew and still know I didn’t plagiarize a damn thing.  But not only was it hurting me, it was hurting my name.  My name is my business, at least in the writing world, and people were attempting to fuck with my business.  I could have had a flame out, as I am sure some were hoping/expecting I would.  I could have ranted and raved and railed against those people who I considered absolutely ridiculous.  But I didn’t, instead choosing to reply with a somewhat bland statement that relied on humor which, as usual, is my defense mechanism, and one that I doubt I’ll ever be rid of.  Which then led, of course, to DSP needing to defend itself and release personal details of my life that were nobody’s business but my own.

I am not saying any of this to garner sympathy in any form, so please don’t bother with comments as such.  Nor am I saying this to incite anger towards any specific individual (seriously, let people comment as they will; everyone is entitled to their opinion and internet wars are stupid as it is. I know people feel the need to respond on my behalf since I typically do not, and while I appreciate it, it’s unnecessary and I am asking you not to). 

So what changed my mind?

I wrote the initial retirement post on Monday with plans to publish it today.  I received this email on Tuesday out of the blue:

TJ: You don't know me and I don't know you, but I felt like I needed to write you to thank you for writing Bear, Otter, and the Kid. I am a 22 year old gay male living in Utah. I was raised in an LDS (Mormon) environment with extremely conservative parents and family members. I was outed in high school by a former friend and was forced to drop out before I could graduate. I have since gotten my GED, will be graduating with a Bachelors degree this summer, and am going to put myself through graduate school. My family has never supported me or wanted a gay child. They tried to put me in a 'change' hospital when I was 18 and I moved to California briefly to get away. I've always wanted to write and have fiddled with the craft here and there throughout my teenage years and into young adulthood, but I never quite had the confidence that anyone would want to hear the story of a young gay mormon boy coming of age and learning to accept himself and his identity. Your story and characters inspired me to write, and they inspired my life. My mother didn't abandon me with a 7 year old to raise, but I was recently excommunicated from my church and kicked out of the house. I currently am living in my car (thank god its summer and warm) with my cat and finishing up school. Your story gave me hope. It have me something to hold onto. I know that it's just fiction and there aren't characters like Otter out there for everyone to come along and just hold you and build a life with you. I know that some people never find their other half, but your story gave me something that I felt I had lost. It gave me hope. It made me laugh. It made me smile and it gave me happiness. You made a difference in my life, even though we have never met. Please don't let discouragement stop you from writing. Your writing has saved my life and given me hope. Something to hold onto. Don't stop writing. We need people like you out there, writing stories for us and giving us hope for a brighter future.

This made every single thing I’ve ever been through in my writing career worth it.  If I had to do it all over again, to go through the bullshit of false plagiarism charges, the highs and lows of the last eight months just to receive this email, I would. In a goddamn heartbeat, without a second thought. 

So, it will take me some time to put myself back together, to clear my head and make sure that I’m still somewhat intact, but anytime I start feeling sorry for myself, anytime I’m being a morose jackass, I’ll remember this email, because dammit, it means I’ve done my fucking job and NO ONE can take that away from me.  So while you may not see a new work from me after WWA for a while, just know that I will be starting up again soon.

But enough with the sentimental dramatics!  Who We Are is almost here!  And you know what? Fuck what I said earlier.  You will laugh.  You will cry.  You’ll want to strangle Bear.  You’ll want to hug the crap out of the Kid.   You’ll sigh over the awesomeness that is Otter.   Mrs. Paquinn, and Anna, and Creed, will do what they can to hold everyone together.  You’ll meet Dominic.  And Isaiah.  And David.  And Alice and Jerry Thompson.  All the questions you had after BOATK will be answered, and by the end, you’ll be able to see that family is not always defined by blood.  It’s defined by those that make us whole—those that make us who we are.

TJ

20 comments:

  1. That was a beautiful email. I'm glad that you will not be retiring. I have read BOATK way to many times since it has come out and am waiting for my paperback copy to come in the mail. Really excited for WWA.

    For the Bad Poetry Contest are we going to be able to read the winning poems?

    Jennifer

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    1. Jennifer, I thought it was beautiful too and I hope to be able to help this guy any way I can.

      I can't wait for you to read WWA!!

      And yes, you'll be able to read the winning poems. I'll be making another video announcing the winners and then posting some of my other favorites. I'll post that on the 27th.

      TJ

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  2. TJ, For the last couple of years I've read approximately a book a day. Across all genres. It's very rare for a book or a character to 'stay' with me after the last page and it's a very special feeling when that does happen. Weeks after reading BOATK I'm still thinking of and feeling for those boys. Thats happened for me, maybe 5 times in the two years - it's a feeling I cherish. It makes me feel so privileged. I am very glad that E-mail found its way to you,glad it 'hit' you the way it has, and very, very glad that you are not retiring just yet! xxx

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  3. TJ, I have to say, I'm glad you aren't taking a break although any one of us could understand why you might feel the need to do so. As a reader, your words have definitely touched me, and I thank goodness for having discovered them. As a person, through your posts, and through facebook, you are funny, and quirky and inspiring, with a giant heart. There will always be people in the world that want to extinguish Light and beauty and inspiration like yours and like that young man who wrote you that letter. We can't let that happen. Looking forward to Who We Are, and very much looking forward to anything else you end up publishing... whenever that might be. Many Many blessings to you and yours. ;)

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  4. TJ - I'm another anonymous fan, who tends to lurk more than post. But I have followed everything that has happened over the past couple of months, and have been impressed with the level of both grace and restraint with which you have handled yourself. You have A LOT of us fans out there, and A LOT of us are not only rooting for you, but are truly thankful for the wonderful stories you have given us, with their messages of hope, courage, overcoming adversity, finding inner strength, and ultimately love. So thank you for that.

    And if you need to take a break, that's perfectly understandable. Take as long as you need and know that we will all still be here waiting for you when you write your next eagerly awaited tale.

    Until then, BEST to you and I CAN'T F****** for Friday and WWA to come out.

    **hugs**
    BlueSimplicity

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  5. I love the comments left here and can't say it any better than they did.

    And....we'll be right here waiting for you (OMG a Richard Marx song! before your time, kiddo).

    And that letter...can we help him? I'm so worried about him. :(

    Debbie

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  6. Bear, Otter and the Kid is fab,it made me laugh, cry and even now, I always think of the scene when Bear is lying on the beach having just met Jonah, for me, that scene is life. It's lying on the beach thinking everything is over, and then Tyson comes along and makes Bear see it's alright, and he goes back and he talks...it's an amazingly touching scene. The Kid makes me laugh, his poetry is fantastic, makes me giggle and smile and you know what? I think he is perfectly realistic for a gifted child. The three characters got me through the start of my second year of uni, I read it for the first time September 2011, even if they are fictional characters, they made me cherish the family and friends I do have, I called my Dad up just after reading it, to tell him I love him, and to Thank him. BOATK is about life, love and trials, it's about learning to breathe through the shit and see the sun behind the clouds, that's what it means to me. If I can turn out, to be half as talented as you, in my own work, I'll be happy.

    To the man living out of his car, he's a hero to me. If I was from the USA, I'd go and find him and take him back to my house, but I live in the UK...and there isn't much I can do from here...is there?

    Take a break, you deserve it :) xxx

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  7. I just bought my copy of WWA!!!

    Woo-hoo!! I know what I'm going to be reading (and rereading) over the week-end!

    Blue

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  8. I literally have just finished WWA a moment ago. And loved it. I commend you, both for your work, your humor, and your wonderful story lines. I was never really partial nor interested in informing myself about the intense critiques that I have heard about, but I feel that in cases like these a person should fall back upon one of simple concepts that I believe in the most: a great story is a great story. No two ways about it, no pussyfooting around. What not only goes into the story to create it and what the writer is thinking while working is for the author to know and the readers to enjoy and envy the magic and ability that is employed in the craft. WWA made me laugh so hard I cried and made me so emotional...I cried some more. It was wonderful. I completely agree with the fact that you deserve a break and three novels in eight months is not only a wondrous accomplishment, it is almost a miracle, as seen with the schedules many, if one could call them, "mainstream" authors keep. As for the man that wrote you the email, it truly saddens me every day to see more and more evidence of the closed-mindedness of people, and I hope that we can keep on going strong and fighting against it in every way we can. I wish him the best humanly possible and that he finds people who care and respect him for who he is, not what he is expected to be. For that is a right that everyone has and that no one should have the power to take away. If he's in California, I hope he can find his way to the Bay Area I as well call home, where he will definitely has the possibility of finding many more chances of acceptance. TJ, keep doing what you love. Keep writing. For you do make a difference, and the characters you create truly take life within your readers and stay with us even after the last page has long been turned. I, as a fan, am glad you decided not to quit, and, as a person I am grateful for all you do and all you stand for as a writer in what is, unfortunately, still a niche that holds greatness that is still sadly not as widely known as it should be.
    I wish you all the best.

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  9. TJ, TJ, TJ
    Please don't leave us this way!
    Your writing makes us happy
    I know my prose is sappy
    You bring your characters to life
    To stop writing would cut like a knife!
    Your books save young gays
    Who need hope, and to find their way
    Fuck all those doubters
    You're great without em'
    Keep bringing your magic
    To stop would be tragic
    We love you TJ, we really do.

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  10. I echo the comments above..... i'm so glad you have found your mojo again or hopefully will do soon. If you find a way to help the young man that sent the email (and he's cat) count me in.... i very worried about him to.

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  11. TJ,
    I bought and read WWA this morning. It's been a long time since a book has made laugh out loud so many times. I have read BOATK many times but I think I'll read WWA more. Bear's inner monologues are the best...I have them all the time. I hope that someday down the road I get to read about Kid and Dominic..... I think everyone needs time off to rest, relax, and focus on other things. You do make a difference to people with your stories and I wanted to say Thank You.

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  12. Thank god you didn't quit! And why should you? You didn't do anything wrong. Believe in yourself as we have believed in you. Prove the doubters wrong by keeping on writing. The quality of your works will speak louder than words, and it'll show everyone that you are the real deal. A writer as talented as you don't need to steal anyone else's stupid ideas. I wanna take my Burn copy (and my WWA copy too now that I've read it) and slap all the haters in the face with it while yelling "See?! See what he can do?! Screw you and your slanderous lies!" *ahem* So yeah... good for you, you didn't give up. heh :D

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  13. I am so happy you haven't quit, your writing is beautiful! I love the Kid, Bear and Otter. WWA did make me cry and laugh, it was brilliant. Can I just say as well that E-mail was beautiful and it actually made me cry! Well done to you for staying to writing, that plagiarism was bullshit! And thank you TJ, for BOATK and WWA they're both amazing!(I read WWA in one day, stayed up until 4am, my eyes were burning, but I couldn't not read it!) Brilliant book I didn't actually think it was possible for me to love the characters more but somehow I do lol :)

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  14. (no spoilers)Finished WWA last night, and....I have to tell you, I really, really hope that these characters continue to talk to you. Heck, I hope they nag you, yell in your ear, plague you at night 'til you can't sleep, keep a running dialogue worthy of Bear going in your head! I *need* to read the rest of the story!! We have to know what's happening with the Kid...and, and, oh, I can't stand it!

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  15. O.M.G. I just finished reading WWA and it made me cry and it made me laugh out loud, that it made my son came into my bedroom wanting to know what was so funny. (the courtroom scene. hilarious!) Please don't quit, I'm so attached to these charaters. P.S. I didn't doubt one minute that you plagiarize BOATK.

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  16. Thank u for your books it's really incredible how your books touch my heart. I just finish reading WWA. It made me laugh so hard at bears musings. So thank you for your incredible way with words. Don't ever stop looking forward to kids and Dominic story

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  17. I can not express how profoundly thankful I am that you haven't thrown in the towel completely despite the adversity you've faced.
    I cannot even begin to understand how it feels to have a labour of love such as a novel you've written be accused of being plagiarized.

    Just so you know, I loved both BOATK and WWA, they made me laugh and cry (which I'm not so prone to do) and the characters touched me, which is a big compliment, for the most part charcters are ones you can take em or leave em, but none of the characters that make up the family of BOATK are such, they all spoke to me, and I'm re-rereading BOATK now since it's such a good story.

    And Oh you horrible tease, leaving us where you did in WWA, Now I'm going to be forced to imagine The Kid at college, upsetting the whole campus while running semi-environmental terrorist drives and trying to make the cafeteria vegetarian with well thought out slides and presentation. not to mention cop Dominic in his uniform realising he should have told The Kid his feelings and then moving after them, and Otter finding a new path after photography! Ooh and maybe a little brother for The Kid to join the household! (seriously the image of Otter holding his nephew, slew me on the spot!!) and Bear dealing with teaching. Oh the ups and downs of life.
    yours sincerely,
    Axel

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  18. Dude. You are awesome. Keep up the good work.

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