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Always and Forever by David Lee


William King
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Always and Forever

by David Lee

 

Synopsis:
Cast a stone into the still waters of a pond and watch the ripples. As the ripples encounter other objects in the pond, new ripples flow outward. Like life itself, you just never know how those ripples will affect all the others they encounter.

Book link (Read it here): https://castleroland.net/story-synop/?id=1927

 

Reader comments:
David Lee has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I am so excited he is posting here. He has a huge collection of stories and in my opinion all are very well written. 

Loved reading Always and Forever and got to the end wishing there was more.

 

Extract:
“No, let me finish. I cannot wish for you to be what you are not, and I don’t hate you. I only hate to have you guys facing the prejudice and bigotry that you’re going to find in our world at times. Son, I love you more than anything. I have come to care for you too, Alan. And I couldn’t help but notice the looks you give each other. I don’t mean that you’re obvious, but there are subtle looks like spouses use to communicate with each other after they’ve been married for a while, and you guys have them. That tells me you’re more than buddies.”

“Oh, Dad!” was all Brad could get out as he dropped hands and hugged his father fiercely.


INTERVIEW

First, thank you for agreeing to take part, and let’s get straight into the questions.

You are welcome! Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this.

 

From the detailed description of the school year leading up to exams, the Prom night, and end of year, you were either drawing on your own experience or you happen to be in the teaching profession. I’m not sure the latter supposition doesn’t have some truth in it given the musings of the Principal about staff meetings and the reactions to the cancellation of the usual end of year meeting -“Principal Carlson made the final announcements of the year. These included a date change for the girls’ softball game against St. Mary’s and the cancellation of the staff meeting that was to be held the next morning. The latter was met by cheers from the entire faculty, ...”

So, the inevitable question, how much of your personal life is in the book?

Having taught at the high school level for several years, I do draw on experiences I’ve had. I think most of us fall back on the familiar. This was my first attempt at writing fiction, so I depended on what I knew. It is not, however, autobiographical. 

I still tend to use bits and pieces of my experiences as a teacher in stories about teens. In “Zeke” which was written a little over a year after this one, Zeke and Brad were inspired by a couple of guys in a theater workshop who were close buddies. One of them was a wrestler and had the kind of personality which inspired the other guys on the team. To my knowledge, neither of these boys was gay, they just provided a beginning point.

 

When reviewing your book I said, “The inevitable, at least as concerns American society, religious self-examination touches Alan’s thoughts.” Referring, of course, to the continuing debate about what the Bible says about homosexuality. This is a two part question: firstly, as I stated, this very much concerns American society, because America is a country where Christianity and church going have a significant impact on society. That is not to say there are not large Christian, usually Catholic, lobbies in other countries, but church going is still, well going strong in America. How big an influence do you think the church has on how people conduct themselves? You do after all paint a picture of forgiveness, reconciliation, and embracing all.

I think the Church in the US still has an impact on society in general. The push from the religious right to move us back to the 1950’s by ending abortion and getting rid of same-sex marriage shows that at least a percentage of people want to impose their values on everyone. Some have referred to them as the “Christian Taliban” in their zeal to pass legislation to control other people’s lives. 

My personal opinion is that Christians should forgive others and accept people who are different from themselves without passing judgment on them. Homophobia and xenophobia have no place in my world-view.

 

Secondly, is whatever the bible says, or doesn’t say about homosexuality really of any importance? 

It’s not what the scriptures say about same-sex relationships but how the Church at large has traditionally interpreted them. We know that Jesus didn’t say anything either way. In Old Testament times, man on man sex was used as a way of dominating and humiliating your enemies. Conquerors would rape losers as a way of rendering them ineffective, so their followers wouldn’t respect them. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah treated strangers in that fashion. The biblical prohibition on their actions had nothing to do with same-sex affection. 

The story of David and Jonathan is a beautiful love story between two young men. I suspect it was a physical as well as an emotional relationship. 

The great mistranslation of the Bible is the King James version. Instead of taking up more time standing on my soapbox, I’ll recommend a book by Jack Rogers entitled, “Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality. The author was a man who could read the earliest bits of writings in their original languages. He says it much better than I can. His original intent was to create a curriculum for teaching against homosexuality. In doing his research, he did a complete 180 degree turn. I think his conclusions can be trusted.

 

I think, when reading this story, like quite a few similar gay novels, you can’t help but smile at a world viewed through rose coloured spectacles. Where gay characters abound, good triumphs over evil, and whilst if not totally understood, gay couples are accepted and embraced. Did you adopt this theme for the feel good factor, to give a positive view point on homosexuality, or as a dream of a better world which can be read in fiction, but may not exist quite as portrayed in reality?

Hmm… I suppose it’s a combination of things. I want to promote a world in which gay couples are treated like everyone else. I know that’s not always the case. Some people have it really bad. In those cases, romantic gay fiction is a kind of escape. 

I hear from young readers occasionally who tell me that my stories gave them the courage to come out, and that they were thankful at how their families and friends accepted them. One guy confessed to his crush on his best friend, only to find out that his bud felt the same about him!

 

A number of serious issues are touched upon in the book. These include abuse, bullying, rape, religion, tolerance, teenage pregnancy, suicide, the list goes on. Whilst I don’t think that you in any way did an injustice to any of these topics, it is inevitable that there was not the possibility to give much depth. So for example, Alan's mother forgives her mother for pushing her to have an abortion and wanting nothing more to do with her, not speaking with her for the last eighteen years. It was an element intrinsic to the storyline, but it does in some way leave the complex interwoven plot as the main theme and those other areas somewhat glossed over. In hindsight, what do you feel about the number of important issues raised, and was there any particular reason that there were so many?

I suspect the reason so many topics are covered is that it was my first story. I wanted to do more than I probably should have in such a short space. I’ve dealt with some of those issues more fully in later tales, I think.

 

I’ve already touched upon the church and religion, but I would like to come back to this topic once again. It is an aspect of the story that permeates through virtually all the characters lives. There is a scene in chapter ten where the boys, who are away with their friends on a sort of religious retreat, find a quiet place in the church to pray. Tom enters:  - He picked up the Bible from the rack. There was a marker in the middle and it opened up to Psalm 27. His eyes fell on verse 10: “If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.” As the afternoon light streamed through the stained glass windows, Tom looked up toward the life sized crucifix. - This is almost a scene of redemption, a reflection on how Tom's life has turned around, and somewhere behind all this is the theme of salvation through Christianity. Does Christianity play such a large role in the book because you yourself are a committed and practicing Christian, or is it simply there as a reflection of American society? 

I ask this question because the world portrayed is so alien to me and I am surprised that almost every character is either already a believer or else finds their way back to Jesus. I am aware of just how large the Evangelical, “born again,” Christian movement is in the States, perhaps around a quarter of the population. Add to those numbers the milder version of Christianity shown here, and you must be getting on for nearly half the country following one church or another. The best figures I found put the US at 62% church going Christians and Europe somewhere around 20%, the UK was at 18%. Perhaps you can see how, from a non-American point of view, the religious aspect portrayed is completely alien?

I am a practicing Christian in a main-line church. I am NOT an Evangelical. I was brought up in a more conservative tradition, but not as far right as people like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. lead their followers today. 

In college, I attended a weekend religious retreat at an Episcopal convent similar to the one where Tom had his “encounter” with God. I can still picture the crucifix in the chapel. While I didn’t have his experience, it seemed like a setting in which he could turn his life around.

 

Okay, having more than covered the religious topic, let’s look at the overall composition. For myself, I would best describe this book as light reading, even with all the dramatic parts that get touched upon, the suicide, rape, etc. If I were listing the ingredients, it would be something like, a serious helping of religion with a good deal of sex (both homo and hetro), overlaid into a book sprinkled with story parts and topped with little incidents. The whole is tasty, if maybe just a little too heavy on the sex, but it’s a matter of taste. How would you best sum up this book, and did you follow a similar recipe for later books, improving, as we all hopefully do, with practice and experience gained?

I agree with you that there is quite a bit of sex in this story. Since it was my first tale, I thought a good sprinkling of sex was necessary to keep my readers interested. Some of my subsequent writing has less emphasis on the physical aspects. However, the details sometimes reflect the, um, horniness of the author at the particular moment…. 

My long-time readers have told me that my writing has improved over the years. Since “Always and Forever” was first written about 14 years ago, I hope that is true. Many of them continue to read my stories because of the plots. Some say that they tend to skip over the sex scenes. 

If you were to read my more recent postings on Castle Roland, like “Family Matters” or “Unexpected Guest,” I think you’ll find plenty of love but fewer graphic details. 

I do recommend reading my longer stories in chronological order because characters from earlier ones tend to have cameo roles in later ones. However, each tale is complete in itself.

 

Thank you once again for taking part and giving up your time to talk to me and the readers. Oh, and just as an amusing aside before we end: I had to look up “shirttail relatives,” I’d never heard the expression! 

I thank you! I’m honored to have the opportunity to do this. “Shirttail” relatives is a common expression in the Midwest and it never crossed my mind that it was regional in nature. I’m sure I do that with a lot of others as well.

 


Review by Mark.

Always and Forever’ follows two young men in their senior year of high school in a Midwest location. It is the author’s first story and later was updated to correct some errors. As the story progresses, more characters with different issues are drawn into the story to help round it out. Alan and Brad are out on the track, being observed by the high school principal as the story opens and as the chapter progresses, it had a good emotional feeling to it, then at the end, wham, a darker element is introduced. I will admit to you all, I did something I have rarely done in the past and read the ending. I was really liking the story and was so drawn to see what happened. And no, will not reveal the ending to you. Read the story to find out. 

For a first story, it is a well written one with characters you come to like and want the best to happen to them. There are very few editing corrections needed, which is always nice. The author does introduce some religion into the story, but at a level which, for those who are not religious, hopefully will not be a turnoff but will satisfy those who look to a higher power. I thought it a nice balance between the two camps. And the religion also helps to illustrate the divide which exists in the country. The dialogue was satisfactorily written and flowed smoothly. Plus the scenes of intimacy, both gay and straight, were authentic and ably handled. Love is the main theme of the story and the author shows us its power. At 16 chapters, it should not intimidate readers looking at a huge number of chapters before they even start. 

I do have one issue with the story however. It should not stop anyone reading this wonderful story and ‘Always and Forever’ is recommended to read. I wonder if readers will also feel the same way when they reach the end as I did. The story was sweet and well written but I liken it to an apple past its prime. The flavor is there but the inside is lacking enough substance when chewed. I wish the author had delved just a bit deeper into each character and situation and the outcomes were always positive, at times a bit too easily achieved. This may be partly due to it being his first story and therefore the issue can be waived off. I have read other works by this author and I do think he has risen to the challenge.

 

Review by William King.

The author has a style which gently introduces each new sequence in the storyline. From the boys first encounter, the run in with Tom, through the sleepover study weekend and Sunday morning church. The inevitable, at least as concerns American society, religious self-examination touches Alan’s thoughts -  ‘was it an abomination for two men to lie down together?’ Thus all the ingredients have been thrown into the pot, a budding relationship, an abused outcast simmering to breaking point, a caring, discrete, gay art teacher. The stage is set for a battle royal of emotions, prejudices, and drama!

This book is written as a series of delicately woven cameos that weave together to unravel an intricate web of interconnections. There are a lot of positive images and actions which serve, rather like a fable, to surmount and overcome the negative. There are no cliff hangers, and any surprises are only there if you weren’t paying attention, because where the plot is going and the twists and turns are never buried very deeply.

For a first novel I believe the author has proved himself to have the ability to create an intricate entanglement of characters and subtle drama. He is able to touch upon serious subjects and recount what amount to life changing events in a subtle, but never superficial manner. Yes, perhaps, there was a lot more that could have been explored within the story. The development might have evolved more slowly and the characters could have gained more depth. But having said all that, the book works perfectly as it is, with a composition of short scenes making it an easy read. All in all very well done, the detail is in the multitude of character interplay. A romantic drama which in its own fashion is rather unique.


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