What he gets, instead, is almost a lifetime’s worth of letters that tell him so much more and cause him to view his father—and his family—in a whole new light.
The truth, about a secret love kept buried for decades, astonishes him. Overwhelmed by grief and confusion, Tate’s unsure if he can bear hearing how the lives of these two men entwined over the years, but he reads on anyway, discovering more to value, more to respect, and most importantly, more to love about the man who raised him.
Though collaborating isn't new to either Vivien or Rick, Family Obligations marks the first time they've worked together on the same side of the editorial page. With the opportunity to post today, they decided writing emails to each other was the best and most fitting way to introduce Mark and Randy to the world. Enjoy!
It was a thrill working with you on Family Obligations, because the story—about love thwarted by time and societal prejudices—is, I think one of the most emotional I’ve ever worked on. I appreciated that we were on the same page with this one.
I have long been haunted by one short story, E. Annie Proulx’s lyrical, powerful, and tragic “Brokeback Mountain.” I remember reading the short story many years ago (in 1997!) just after it was published originally in the New Yorker magazine. It stayed with me through all the years, partly because Proulx’s prose is so spare, yet poetic, but also because the story, at its core, could have been mine, since I too was a closeted, married gay man, filled with secret longings and wearing a mask for the rest of the world.
Our story, “Family Obligations” has a lot in common with Brokeback, even though it’s totally different. It too is a story about two men who fell in love while young and vibrant, and then because of their own and society’s expectations, were kept apart through the years. Yet, their love was so strong that they could never manage to break the hold they had upon each other.
The story itself was an emotional journey, wasn’t it? Both for our characters and ourselves. I remember as I read over passages as we wrote the story back and forth via e-mail and just sobbing; I felt our characters in my gut and in my heart, and my tears just rolled. Call me a big baby. I admit it.
Writing the story with you was a collaboration I will never forget—and will always cherish. I feel as though you and I went on a journey with our characters and that somehow has left a strong bond between the two of us.
Thank you for working with me. I can only hope our readers will be as deeply moved by our story as we were.
Since these emails are getting put out there for our readers to see, the first and probably most important thing I want to say is THANK YOU. Getting to work with you on Family Obligations was not only a privilege, but a gift. I have admired your work for years, and you probably didn't know this but when I got to meet you at EPICon in Las Vegas a few years ago, I was more than a little starstruck. I don't think I managed to get much more than a greeting out to you all weekend, I was so nervous. Not through any fault of yours, of course, because you were so friendly and warm, but because my brain forgets how to work with my mouth in those situations. That has changed, thank goodness, but it was still an incredible honor when you asked me to do this story with you.
While on the surface Mark and Randy's story might seem to reflect more of your experiences than mine, I have always felt connected to it in a way that I think will forever be unique to us. I'm a compulsive letter writer, so the choice to tell the bulk of the story through their correspondence felt like coming home. Reading someone's letter opens a door into his life in ways you don't get with straight prose. Certainly, writing them is a more intimate experience. Combine the two? I was pretty much a goner for these guys from the start.
Every time I opened my email to read another response from you, my heart was in my throat. More often, I'd get teary at how raw the emotions felt. Hell, I even cried when I had to do the final pass through for publication, ages after we'd finished edits. It was that much a part of me.
More than the format, though, is the fact that this is a story about choices, and that's something we can all relate to. We make decisions in our lives every day, some that mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, some that will color every day that comes after until we don't have a tomorrow anymore. Our reasons vary. Sometimes it means making a sacrifice. But always it means moving forward, taking that next step whenever possible.
I treasure this step you allowed me to take with you. Mark and Randy live in a special corner of my heart, but the spot you've created with your artistry and generosity burns just as brightly.
All my best,
Family Obligations by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed is now available at Amber Allure.
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