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Family Feuds: The Story Behind The Story

This is the story behind my most recent M/M story "Sorry Charlie" in the "Friction" anthology at Total-E-Bound. I enjoy finding out what inspired a story and how it was created. I thought you might, too.

In it, Charlie is trying to reconcile with his father. They've been estranged for 17 years, since he came out of the closet.

Jonathan, his long time partner has a lot of misgivings about this for many reasons. One, he's still hurt at being rejected. Two, Charlie's ignoring him and their relationship as he's focused on getting along with his father. Primarily, however, he doesn't trust Charlie's father. He's afraid Charlie's father will reject them again and end up doing irreparable damage to the man he loves.

Charlie and Jonathan almost break up because of this stress. Charlie can't understand why Jonathan's so against his reunion with his beloved father. Jonathan should be happy for him or at least supportive. Instead, he's acting like a jealous child. He really can't take this right now. He has enough stress.

Meanwhile, Jonathan feels left out. Charlie barely remembers he's alive. He's always distracted and annoyed. Since Charlie's dad has been back in their lives, Charlie seems to care less about him. It doesn't help that Charlie's family wasn't nice to him, either. His feelings aside, he thinks Charlie's father is just using him. Now that his other children have moved away and Charlie's step mother is deceased and he's alone, he wants Charlie to be with him. Even if the man is genuine, the rest of their family still aren't talking to them.

That's the set up.

Now, for the story behind the story.

Unfortunately, family feuds aren't pretty and unfortunately, many real family's have them. The only place they aren't painful and destructive is in fiction.

My father and I didn't speak for at least two years. After my parents divorced I elected to stay with Dad. We were buddies. I adored him. But he hated my boyfriend. Then he caught me talking to my aunt (I was allowed to have contact with my mom and her family by court decree) and he went ballistic. We fought. I mean really fought. And he kicked me out. Or maybe I got mad and left. After this many years that part of it is blurry. I went to live with my mother. Finally, my grandma (Dad's mom) stepped in and convinced us to reconcile.It wasn't easy at first but I'm so very glad we got through it.

That wasn't my last family feud, however. The next lasted much longer than a couple years. In fact, it's not over. I don't know that it will ever be completely.

This time it was with my in laws. Without going into the gory details, my husband's father and his second family (my husband's mother was his dad's first wife) disowned us. His step-mother swore we were "dead" to them. Only after she died and his half-siblings moved away is his father beginning to reconcile. This "feud" has lasted at least twenty years.

When I was brainstorming for story ideas that would be logical and emotional for a gay couple, this situation was uppermost in my mind and heavy on my heart. Unfortunately, it's not that uncommon. Especially not when step families are involved. A lot of jealousy seems to be involved.

I've lived through both Charlie's and Jonathan's side of this situation. I've felt both sets of emotions. It's quite painful and emotional whichever part is played.

Sometimes writing is cathartic. Occasionally it even makes me cry or chuckle.

This was the inspiration for "Sorry Charlie".

I can't say that writing this story has completely healed me. I haven't told my husband about it. I haven't shared with him my misgivings and distrust about this reconciliation although I think he can tell. I've stayed mum. I said too much years ago.

I hope it works out for us in real life just as Charlie and Jonathan hope it works out for them.

So far so good.

Still, it feels a lot like watching a tropical storm in the Atlantic (when you live in a hurricane zone which I do). You watch and wait as storms start. Sometimes they downgrade to nothing or go in a different directions. But sometimes, they grow strong and even reformulate and come after you.

I hope you never suffer a family feud. If you do, I hope yours won't last long and doesn't leave scars.

Life is too short and too precious.

Sorry Charlie by Ashley Ladd

Charlie's dad wants to make up after a 17-year family feud...

Charlie's overjoyed, excited, and nervous as hell that his father is finally accepting his sexual orientation and speaking to him after a 17-year family feud but he can't understand why his long-term partner Jonathan is acting jealous and clingy, when he should be happy for him or at least supportive.

Jon's afraid Charlie's family will hurt him again and he doesn't know if he can mend Charlie's heart if it shatters a second time or stand by and watch while Charlie sets himself up for more heartbreak.

Excerpt from Sorry Charlie (in the Friction anthology)

Search your feelings. You know I’m your father. The words rang in Charlie Lang’s head. For the past seventeen years, he’d wished anyone but Asa Charles Lang was his dad, even Darth Vader. His father made Vader look like a pussycat. At least, he’d wanted Luke once he’d found out about him.

Asa had been there at the moment of Charlie’s birth. He’d raised him ‘til he was seven when Charlie’s parents split. That’s when Asa had stolen off in the night to escape his debts, and according to Charlie’s mother, Gail, all his responsibilities to them. He’d found a new wife, made new kids, and only saw Charlie every few years for a measly day or two at a time.

Still, it hadn’t been too bad ‘til Charlie had come out of the closet at age twenty-two and announced he was gay. Then Asa, his stepmom, Sharon, and his half-siblings had disowned him. They’d declared him dead to them.

The thought of running into them on the street had his partner, Jonathan, freaking out.

Now Sharon and a half-brother were dead and buried, and his other sibs had moved away, leaving Asa alone. Now, he was ready to forgive Charlie and rebuild their relationship.

Charlie rubbed the half-day’s growth of beard on his chin and shook his head. This was a good thing. Right?

“I can’t do this with you right now,” he told Jonathan. “I have to meet my dad.” Charlie stood tall and didn’t allow himself to flinch—not outwardly anyway. He also didn’t let Jonathan’s pretty-boy looks or his pout sway him from today’s outing.

Jonathan glared and scrunched his nose. He threw down his towel like a gauntlet, leaving him naked. “When will you have time for me? This man abandoned you for seventeen years, trashed you to everyone you knew and made our lives hell. And now, you run every time he calls. I don’t get it. Explain it to me.”

Ashley Ladd


Lisabet Sarai said...

Dear Ashley,

That was a really intense post. It's a good example of how we mine our own experiences, even the tough ones, for story ideas.

Good luck with Friction.


Ashley Ladd said...

It's said we have to live life to have things to write about. Not every part is good and fun. Lots of times they're more fun and entertaining as fiction - in this case "Friction". :)