25 June 2012
Little Boy Lost feature: J.P.Barnaby talks about developing the LBL characters
On July 2nd the concluding story in the Little Boy Lost series will be released and it is cause for celebration. Today I'm happy to have J.P. Barnaby here and she asked what I wanted for a topic. Above anything else in this series I *love* the characters in this series and I wanted to know how she developed them. Where did they come from? She obliged and then some!
Let me give the floor to this incredible woman!
The Little Boy Lost series is a character-driven story. Its appeal stems from how Brian, Jamie, and the other characters interact with each other and their environment along their journey. From Brian’s sexual evolution in the third book to Jamie’s rediscovery of himself in the sixth book, each volume pushes the boys, sometimes painfully, to adulthood. One of the most defining aspects of the characters in the Little Boy Lost series is that they are real, or as real as fictional characters can be. I’ve received dozens of emails from gay men all over the country, and even some internationally who identify so closely with the characters that they wonder if I’m writing about them. One sweet gay man in Texas told me about his own tree house, and how he was sent to a “pray the gay away” camp in his youth. I never meant to get it quite that right, and it’s so horrible that I did. Places like the Sunshine Center, beatings like Brian endured in Abandoned, parents like Patsy Mayfield—none of these things should ever happen to our kids, and yet they do.
The other part of this series that I worked very hard to get right is what it’s like for boys inside the gay porn industry. In the last 18-24 months, through the Little Boy Lost series and my newfound friendships with guys in the industry, my life has changed almost completely. I have the same job and the same home, but with the love, acceptance, and influence of some of these guys—I’m not the same person. Friends like Devon Hunter, Phillip Aubrey, Drake Jaden, and Howard Andrew have taught me so much about myself, and about the person I want to be. I’m stronger and more outgoing, and my phone never stops making its litany of little noises, where two years ago I didn’t even have the need for a smartphone. It’s been an incredible journey, and the boys I’ve been in contact with know that they have my appreciation and admiration not only for what they do, but for what they give back. Just like any other profession, they deserve to be represented accurately and fairly, which sometimes doesn’t happen in fiction. Authors watch the videos and assume that they know what happens behind the scenes, but what they don’t see is that a lot of these boys have formal education or are working toward one. A lot of them are in the medical field helping other people. They weren’t all abused, neglected, or desperate and some of them are even still closeted to their families—so not only do they have to hide their career, but their sexuality.
Specific Character Inspiration
Brian McAllister Schreiber
In a lot of respects, Brian is me. I write a lot of myself into my characters, but Brian McAllister and Ethan Bryant from The Forbidden Room series carry more of me than any others. Writing is therapy for me; it allows me to pour all of my joy, pain, confusion, and existential questions onto paper to dissect. It’s my version of a journal. Ethan helped me deal with my own childhood sexual abuse, submissive side, and bisexuality. Brian is without a doubt my high school self. While I didn’t grow up in foster care, I grew up with relatively no friends in the shadow what few friends I did have. Bullied to point that I nearly didn’t graduate, I was so desperate to be loved that I threw everything of myself into the few relationships I had. While some find Brian’s obsession for Jamie to be romantic, if he were a real boy, others would find his decision to leave Alabama frightening. Brian should have gone to college—but because of his desperate need to be loved, he made a different choice.
Once Brian reached San Diego and found friends of his own, he gave every bit of himself to those friends. He would have done anything for Mike and Em, just because he was so fucking thankful to finally be included. I know exactly how that feels. People who have met J. P. Barnaby either at an author event, or a porn-related even, have been surprised by me. They’re expecting the brash, foul-mouthed porn author who talks to everyone about anything on twitter and when they see this quiet little geek, they’re amazed. People don’t understand that I am Brian—just so fucking thankful to finally be included.
My sweet Jamie—I love this kid. I put him through hell and back through the course of the series, and he blossomed beautifully in the end. Originally, the idea for the Little Boy Lost series came from an essay that I read by Brent Corrigan on his entry into the porn industry coupled with research on homeless youth in San Diego. It honestly shocked me to find out the statistics on homeless GLBT youth in our country, but with the hatred and bigotry running rampant, I guess it shouldn’t have. I grew up with parents who were pretty accepting. Of course, they didn’t like my black friend in high school until they spent time with him. They were shocked when my best friend came out, but loved him anyway. But they brought me up to judge someone by their actions, not by their skin color or sexual orientation.
Jamie’s drug addiction put him on a level playing field with Brian who always thought of himself as broken, as someone who just wasn’t good enough for Jamie. I had to show Brian that Jamie was human too. Jamie had taken care of Brian, emotionally and socially, for so long that he needed to be the one to step up to the plate so that he could grow and see that he was a worthwhile person—something it took me a very long time to realize about myself.
Adam came about because Brian needed a reason to stay in Alabama. He needed a catalyst to make the decision, because his parents, even after the adoption, wouldn’t be enough to make him stay. I made him Ray Andrews’s best friend so that he would have some kind of common ground on which he and Brian could form a friendship. Even though Adam never really had a shot at Brian’s heart, he did have a friend for life. It took Adam a while to come to terms with Brian’s decision to leave for California, even longer than it took Brian to find Jamie. Just like Micah finding Alex, it took Adam finding Sam to understand Brian’s need for Jamie. Once that happened, he found that he could be Brian’s friend again which is how he showed up in Jamie’s hospital room at the end of the fifth book.
In Alabama, completely lost with Jamie and outed in his small community, Brian needed a gay role model. Without that influence in his life, he might not have made it. Brian’s troubled childhood coupled with his isolation at the hands of his peers could have pushed him past his breaking point if he hadn’t found Kyle, Sensei, and Adam in the second book. That sentiment was demonstrated by Brian’s question of why they couldn’t have just killed him instead of beating him within an inch of his life.
Oh, and just a little tid bit of information that wasn’t in the books for those of you who appreciate such things – Kyle is a big fan of gay porn and saw Brian on Raging Hearts. He couldn’t decide if he was turned on or horrified by seeing his former student on the internet having sex.
Micah was the biggest surprise of the series, to be honest. I never expected his character to fill out like he did. Originally, he was just a buddy fuck for Brian in San Diego because I didn’t think a healthy red-blooded eighteen year old gay kid would just choose not to have sex if the guy he searched for wasn’t even on the radar—especially one newly free to explore his sexuality without fear of parents or homophobia. I’ve seen books where the main character waited YEARS for his long lost boyfriend to come back. While I don’t doubt that it could happen, I don’t find that scenario terribly plausible. Micah was the perfect person to teach Brian about the pleasures of casual sex. Open and completely honest with himself about sex and what he wants, Micah believes in sex as part of a relationship, but had never really experienced that for himself. Until he met Alex, it was more of a theoretical concept for him. He got Brian in touch with his own pleasure.
Micah is modeled somewhat from my friend Devon Hunter. Both models in the adult industry, Micah and Devon have quite a bit in common when it comes to their attitudes on sex, love, porn, friendship, and loyalty. One of the best things I got out of writing the Little Boy Lost series was my friendship with Devon Hunter—he’s a an amazing, thoughtful, and loyal friend, just what Brian and I both needed at that point in our lives.
Alex is another character who surprised me with his depth. I’d never intended for Alex to teach Micah about love, or for him to have more than a superficial role within the studio as an outsider than Brian felt bad for. As I started the fourth book, however, Jamie desperately needed a friend. He needed someone good and sweet and kind to balance out the horror of Steven O’Dell and someone to talk to about the heartache caused by Brian showing back up in his life. So, on the surface, Alex was introduced as kind of a whiner and a loner, but you don’t see the complexity of his character and his relationship with Jamie until we switch to Jamie’s POV in the fourth book.
The physical description for Alex is modeled after gay adult model Dakota Shine. Sweet, blond, and a little emo, he needed to be everything Micah wanted in a boy and more. He’s the definition of a pocket gay and I loved him from the moment he started talking to me. I’m so glad that he and Micah got together, because Micah taught Alex that he was someone worth standing up for.
Poor, sweet Em. In the series, we don’t know much about his background except that he grew up in foster care. He’s actually a Venezuelan born immigrant who migrated to the states with his mother. She died of cancer when he was just six. Em didn’t have loving foster parents like the Schreibers. He was shifted from home to home with too many kids and too little affection. Sexually abused by one of his foster “brothers”, he uses sex to get the affection that he needs so badly. If men are taking him to bed, even for a few hours, he can feel loved and needed. Mike, though a casual fuck, became his best friend and lover. When he left Em for Alex, it fucked up Em’s world.
Depressed and scared, Em tried to latch on to Jamie, someone just as broken and needy as he was. Brian had left Jamie just as Mike had left Em. They had so much in common. It nearly worked, and Jamie would have been good for Em, had it not been for Brian. After Jamie, Em went through a string of older guys, practically begging for the kind of love that Mike had with Alex or Brian had with Jamie. He never realized that love was there all along until Leo got fed up with watching the revolving door of men in Em’s life. Em was Leo’s definition of a lost boy and he’d loved him almost since he’d moved in as a teenager.
Leo is the father figure in the band of lost boys at the boarding house. An activist, a papa, and a friend, he dedicates his life to taking care of boys that end up on their own in San Diego without friends or family because he knows exactly what it’s like to be thrown away and left with nothing. The character is loosely modeled after Michael Macina who graciously allowed me to use his image on Leo’s bookmark for the series. Michael (@MichaelsThought) puts up some of the most amazing tweets and blog posts letting those in our community know that they are loved and cherished. His beautiful messages are an inspiration to me and many others who need a little love in their lives.
When I close my eyes and think of Brandon, I see Dru from Corbin Fisher. Beautiful, blond, and funny with a little overinflated sense of self, he represents the straight guys in gay porn because they certainly exist. Whether you fall on the side of their inclusion or exclusion, the reality is that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Straight porn is all about the women, and the guys are there to serve a function. In gay porn, a guy can make a name for himself, garner more work, and in Brandon’s case, feed his family and put money back for his kids’ college education. He would do anything for his girls, including his wife. Well, except maybe be faithful. As an adult model, however, he is pretty desensitized to sex – it serves a series of functions: pleasure, profit, release, etc. Since he’s not emotionally attached to any of the girls that he picks up, or the boys that he picks up with his wife, he doesn’t consider it cheating. He loves his wife and his daughters with everything that he has, everything else is just noise.
Steven O’Dell is a pretty sad creature. Yes, everyone hates him because he beat Jamie, got him hooked on drugs, and forced him to do porn. I’m not saying that he’s not a dick. What you don’t see in the book is how he would do anything for his brother and how much he loves his brother’s kids. Most guys wouldn’t give up a Saturday to help their brother put up a tree house for the kids if they didn’t. His addiction and his choice of drugs made him the person that he became. In high school, he played football and even got a scholarship to play college ball before his parents were killed in a car accident and he had to give it up to care for his younger brother who was just two years younger. No way would he let his kid brother end up in foster care.
As a result, he missed his chance at the good life, went to trade school, and became an engineer. Working his way up through the ranks from maintenance man to engineer took a long time, but once he was finally on top, he was as meticulous as he was irresponsible. It took a huge effort to hide his drug use from management, and an even bigger effort to hide his dealing. But throughout it all, he was terribly alone. When he found a boy crying in the restaurant bathroom on his lunch break, he fell in love—just as if he’d found a stray puppy. He wanted to take Jamie home and feed him and take care of him, but like a lot of little kids, he didn’t know how much work it would be and that frustrated him. He took that frustration out on Jamie.
From Jamie to Em to Steven O’Dell, the main characters of Little Boy Lost each have their good and bad points. There are no devils and no angels in the series, though some might view them in that way. I’m sure those who read the series cheered at the death of Steven O’Dell, but listening to his voice in my head, I could hear just how lost he was. All of my boys were lost at some point in their lives—the key to Little Boy Lost was helping some them to find themselves and realize what kind of amazing people they are. They may be fictional characters, but I promise you there are boys out there who look at Brian or Jamie and say “that’s me”. If the books can help them feel less alone, help them feel like there are others out there like them and that if they hold on just a little longer, their lives will get better—then I’ve done what I set out to do because no kid should feel like suicide is their only option.
The Little Boy Lost blog tour continues June 25th – July 24th . Make sure to comment at each stop for more chances to win some really great prizes such as an entire series autographed to you by J. P. Barnaby. For additional entries – tweet about the tour including @JPBarnaby and #LittleBoyLost.
A complete Tour Schedule
The next few stops in the Little Boy Lost tour:
Tam Reads - Meeting Porn Stars – The Grabbys: Day One
Babes in Boyland - Writing About the Gay Porn Industry
Cup of Porn - Writing for Anteros Media
Fallen Angel Reviews - An Interview with J. P. Barnaby
GIVEAWAY @ LBR: The complete series in e-book format of your choice! Enlightened - Abandoned - Vanished - Discovered - Escaped & Sacrificed.
Leave a comment on any of the five LBL feature posts this week and you're entered. Giveaway ends on July 2nd and winner will be picked July 3rd 2012.
Goodreads series info
J.P. Barnaby on the www:
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