When I sat down to work on Faux Ho Ho, I’ll admit one of my biggest motivations was to break some of the “rules” I was seeing come up for discussion again in the romance world.
One of these “rules” was to keep politics out of your romance. I’m often nonplussed by that one: any marginalized person is political just by existing, so any marginalized character…? Well. I mean, I understood what was really being said: try to walk the line so you don’t alienate readers, but on that particular day, at that particular time, I had a visceral reaction to the advice and wondered what would happen if I went even a short distance in the opposite direction.
That was how the Waite family happened. Silas Waite, the main character of Faux Ho Ho, comes from a wealthy, politically active (and politically Conservative) family. His father is a former politician. His eldest brother picked up the mantle. Silas himself is gay, however, and so the family has a kind of détente with him: they’ll often “use” him as an example of how far their party has come (in his brother’s campaign ads, for example), and as long as Silas doesn’t rock the boat, things stay borderline tolerable. And since Silas adores his sister and doesn’t want to put her in the position of having to choose, he does his best to maintain the peace.
Another “rule” that came up was to do with bisexual characters, specifically in how certain readers didn’t want to be reminded bisexual characters might have had relationships with people of different genders when reading m/m romance. This one made my eye twitch in frustration, as it also tended to go hand-in-hand with general misogyny and also slut-shaming bisexual characters for daring to be sexually active—an argument that doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as common for a gay character.
Which was how Dino happened. Dino is bisexual, and there are references to his previous girlfriends and boyfriends in Faux Ho Ho, and he’s also sexually active within the novella. He ends up being Silas’s roommate thanks to a series of events related to my previous holiday story, Handmade Holidays, but the end result is roommates becoming friends and then faking a relationship to give Silas back-up during a holiday trip back to Alberta for his sister’s Christmas wedding.
I had a lot of fun writing Faux Ho Ho because I gave myself permission to revisit themes I’ll never get tired of exploring. Chosen family features again in Faux Ho Ho, which is told in a kind of split down alternating chapters. Half is told in the nine-months leading up to Christmas, in the Village, my fictional version of Ottawa where Silas is surrounded by his queer chosen family, and Dino’s large and supportive family also live. The other half is the trip back to Alberta, where Silas and Dino are very much initially on their own (though Silas’s sister, fiancé, and maid of honor offer up some well-needed support).
For a lot of queer people, the holidays divide their lives in a similar way: family on one side (the holidays), and their queerness (and queer friends and support networks) on the other. I wanted to write to that feeling, one I’ve seen play out over and over among friends.
That last piece really set me free writing Faux Ho Ho. The ongoing (and ever-evolving) realization that I can’t possibly write some sort of every-queer character, but I can write individual characters that hold up some truths to my own or known individual experiences.
So Silas is a gay, geeky, nerdy, gaming, tech industry fellow, slight of build and prone to avoid conflict at all costs, with a low-grade anxiety issue that only really flares up around his family, who tend to set him off. He’s also a caregiver by nature—something often paired with conflict-avoidance and anxiety both—and this is both a strength and a weakness of his character.
Silas makes geeky references, considers their fake relationship charade through Dungeons & Dragons terminology, and cares a lot about the queer community as a whole. In short, he’s a particular gay guy with a not-so-great family but a pretty solid support network. Dino is a different man, a problem solver with a tendency to offer up solutions, often without thinking everything completely through (which is what gets them into their “boyfriend” mess in the first place).
But most importantly? Their happy ending has nothing to do with making nice with people who’d happily legislate their rights away. That’s never going to be the kind of story I tell.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was “Heart” in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. This began his long love affair with short fiction, which has seen dozens more short stories published, and his first collection, Of Echoes Born, is now available from Bold Strokes Books. Even though short fiction is his favorite, ‘Nathan stepped into novel writing, and his first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Triad Blood and Triad Soul (urban paranormal) are also available, as is his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks. More novels, novellas, and of course short fiction is always under way.
A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing cat-or-dog détente ended with the rescue of huskies. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.
About Faux Ho Ho
Silas Waite doesn’t want his big-C Conservative Alberta family to know he’s barely making rent. They’d see it as yet another sign that he’s not living up to the Waite family potential and muscle in on his life. When Silas unexpectedly needs a new roommate, he ends up with the gregarious (and gorgeous) personal trainer Constantino “Dino” Papadimitriou.
Silas’s parents try to brow-beat him into visiting for Thanksgiving, where they’ll put him on display as an example of how they’re so “tolerant,” for Silas’s brother’s political campaign, but Dino pretends to be his boyfriend to get him out of it, citing a prior commitment. The ruse works—until they receive an invitation to Silas’s sister’s last-minute wedding.
Silas loves his sister, Dino wouldn’t mind a chalet Christmas, and together, they could turn a family obligation into something fun. But after nine months of being roommates, then friends, and now “boyfriends,” Silas finds being with Dino way too easy, and being the son that his parents barely tolerate too hard. Something has to give, but luckily, it’s the season for giving—and maybe what Silas has to give is worth the biggest risk of all.
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Related Posts and Reviews
- My interview with the author about Saving the Date, a connected book
- My review of Handmade Holidays, a connected book