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In creating the book it went from:
- Me, some Florida teen wishing she too had an exclusive murder BFF and possibly boyfriend
- Post-college graduate moves to the mythical Chicago to experience seasonal affective disorder firsthand (100% thought that wasn’t a thing until it came for me, I had Sunshine State privilege)
- Grad student in Chicago, learning how to take trains and taxis, going to a scant handful of locations the characters ultimately visited (Ed Debevic’s, the International Museum of Surgical Science, that big ol’ lake out there), and writing the first half of the book
- Whoops, job in South Korea right after MFA graduation, finished the book while teaching children approximately the age of the murder victim (it actually helped me teach better, knowing I wasn’t going to kill any kids but also knowing that one could, and pretty easily too—it lowered teacher's blood pressure)
- Actually writing the last word of the manuscript on the 91st anniversary of the crime (because it’s fun when real life syncs with fiction like that, and I lean into it)
- The Good: “The dialogue is snappy and the writing is enticing [...] Normally in literature, it’s quite a challenge to get a reader to support protagonists who commit crimes, especially as casually as these two do, but Fields woos the reader into the characters’ court quite successfully.” One consistent accolade I’ve gotten across genres and arenas (it was true of my college papers and thesis too) is for excellent dialogue, banter, and voice. This is why I’m trying my hand at scripts these days! Gotta test that mettle.
- The Bad: “The book is intelligent and well-crafted. But it celebrates nothing. It teaches us nothing. I hope Fields’ fascination with the unhappiest aspects of homosexuality does not become the hallmark of her writing career.” This is from a largely unfavorable review (quick summary: writing good, topic bad) that has apparently been scrubbed from the internet so I won’t name who wrote it or where, but it was a shocker for me (I was sitting on a morning bus to a dead-end job in Dallas when it alerted my phone). The review accused the book of being bad for teens (it isn’t for teens, it’s about them), bad for gay people (is the Leopold character a self-hating gay and the Loeb character an opportunistic sociopath? I don’t think so, but like a Rorschach inkblot test, readers may see patterns that writers don’t intend), and bad for the Jewish community (yeah but…that’s just because Leopold and Loeb were bad for their Jewish community—they were terrible press, extremely wayward sons). I’m almost sad the review’s gone now, it was a hell of a curiosity and still called my writing “amusing” and “elegant” so I got over the rest of it and took the compliment in the end.
- The Famous: “As it stands, however, [Fields has] acquitted herself as a modern-day Clarence Darrow, creating as compelling a brief for the defense as Noah Kaplan (or Nathan Leopold) could possibly hope to have. She writes so arrestingly of thwarted desire and social awkwardness that readers may briefly believe themselves to be inside Noah’s own skin. Overall, it’s a thoroughly unsettling book.” I didn’t know what the significance of a starred Kirkus review was before I got one, and I still don’t. I’m a Millennial narcissist and that’s just how it is. But people I respect were very impressed, and only the diehard fans noticed the inaccuracies in it (misattributed quotes and historical wrongs—Leopold and Loeb didn’t “laboriously chisel” their victim’s head apart, they picked a fight with a child who trusted them and suffocated him, as cowards do). That being said, if I’m getting compared to Clarence Darrow, I must be doing something right!
Over the years, this book out of all the 10+ I’ve published (so far) has touched the exact folks I was reaching towards, specifically the kind of person I was before I’d ever written anything of publishable quality, and just wanted to find someone who was on my strange wavelength, and who saw exactly what I saw in the inkblot. From the person who commented on my Tumblr picture of a stack of Advanced Reading Copies and asked how I got the new L/L book so early (I wrote it!), to the first wave of fellow Millennials telling me (at my vain request) their favorite moments, to the new wave of Gen Zers bringing the fanart (I post those gems on my Instagram)…it’s so rewarding. It’s everything I hoped it would be, and no amount of money could ever buy it.
Only the experience of being a fan myself (as problematic as it is with these shitbirds), and knowing what was missing from every book before mine (less courtroom more courtship, amirite?!), and completing half-a-dozen other creative projects over about a decade, prepared me to execute this one just as I imagined it.
For the average reader of gay or crime or gaycrime fiction, the structure may be confusing and the ending will definitely be abrupt, but for the fellow members of my tribe: I’m so glad you like the present I made you! Cheers to the new century.
Kobb the kitty has healed beautifully from her dental surgery (six teeth had to be pulled because she's an older baby) and non-cancerous bump removal. We're finding her new favorite food together, and it is Purina (not other brands), pâté (not other soft foods like shreds or chunks), and poultry (beef is a C- to her and fish is suspect). She turns 11 years old this month!
I tried to read the King James Bible as a teenager with my eyeballs, which I found too overwhelming when I kept hitting long strings of "X begat Y who begat Z," so I quit. The Bible, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Great Expectations are the only books I quit reading because they were taxing me too much in high school (I tried to read the Dante alongside the Bible—too similar, do not recommend). Now that I've discovered the joy of super-speed audiobooks however, I'm finishing all three, starting with the hardest: ye olde Holy Booky. I'll also do the Apocrypha after this, and other religions' texts, because if not now, when, am I right? When else am I going to be on Year Two of this strange sort of house arrest? It's not a faith thing, it's a compulsion thing, and I'm finding fun gems in the rubble like the phrase "uncircumcised lips" which scholars don't seem to understand, and that the lyrics from "Turn! Turn! Turn!" are actually mostly from the Book of Ecclesiastes.
Anyway, that specific King James was gay for George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and cited Jesus' extra special love for John for why it was okay, and no one else in his ugly-ass court could say boo about it (that's almost a direct quote). I would have gone with David and Jonathan maybe, or at least cited both, but whatever works to get those favorites in bed, judge not lest ye be judged, etc. Speaking of marathons, I'm also watching The Simpsons from the beginning, and Dallas the show since I live in Dallas the city, and other massive shows with 200+ and 300+ episodes. Time wastes me, I waste time right back, this is how I'm dealing with 2021.
It's Mother's Day weekend, and though she's been gone for over 15 years, I still think of my mother often, and not always fondly. There's a lot of unresolved garbage there that can't be dealt with through the grave. It's a strange balance to miss someone who—should she still be alive—could easily not have liked me at all. For a long time, grief only called up all the good times had and unhad, but after a while that dulls, and the bad memories bubble up too (the failures and cruelties and ignorance and abuse). Gotta stir that in with all the love and pity from previous phases of mourning, so that's also how it's going this year.
As I'm trying to cram every difficult piece of literature into my head before I'm employed again (Infinite Jest, anyone?), I realized that my Riot Son project is becoming a passable attempt at the mythic Next Great American Novel. I'm inserting a lot of historical context for a once-in-a-generation moment that the characters are falling in love during, and while it's not encyclopedic (no Ulysses), they don't have to be (The Great Gatsby). I'm not saying it'll ever be considered curriculum alongside those others, but it could, that's the trick, and academia isn't the sole arbiter anyway. Cleaner than On the Road, and gayer than all of them! Why not? To be submitted for consideration as soon as I finish it (I'm halfway there already, 50%), and secure an agent (which is in the works, process ongoing).
- I've received both doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and will soon be fully immune. The relief is real, I'm already less paranoid when going down to get my mail, and I'm dreaming about visiting my sister in South Korea, possibly as early as this fall (should they relax their quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travelers). Optimism! It's been a while.
- I won a year's worth of coffee from Too Strong Coffee for commenting on an Instagram post (great value for the effort involved). I am looking forward to sharing some with my sister because she loves coffee more than me and is constantly on the lookout for recyclable packaging around clean/organic, fair-trade foodstuffs. I mostly like the progressive funding this coffee company does, plus the cheeky name of the breakfast blend (Uprising—snort), so we're all having fun with this one.
- Coincidentally I'll be drinking this coffee while working on my radical new solo writing project, Riot Son. Basically, I'm spending this summer setting a story during the protests of last summer. It's a summer romance starring legal observer and sideline types (your reporters, lawyers, and medics) interspersed with leftist rants and research so far (at about 20% completion). It's also possibly the easiest book I've ever written. Maybe after writing around fifteen different kinds of projects I'm just really well-practiced at it by now, or maybe it's because for the first time in a long time this one is a whim, a flight of fancy, and not an assignment (the last few books have been commissioned, collaborative, or were on my self-imposed 10-books-by-age-30 schedule). Riot Son I keep contributing to early, and putting aside other fun things to work on. Writing has never felt less like a chore since I first started doing it, and I find it sweet that this love of the game is still in me, I hope I never lose it.
“Whatever a Body Is Not Obliged to Do” queers Mark Twain’s classic characters Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and I dare you to claim that’s an unrealistic portrayal, as it’s well established that Tom Sawyer can talk a body into anything.
Check it out along with stories by Ryan Vance, Will Ludwigsen, and Nick Mamatas: Bachelors, Vol. 1
- Attend an MFA reunion
- Visit family in South Korea
- Health check (in Korea)
- Save money
- Become pescatarian
- Write 1 TV script
- Write 2 novels
Other highlights of the year include:
My plans for 2021 are:
- Write 1 TV script (at least) and 2 more novels (also at least)
- Find a job (???)
- Drink less, weigh less, move more (in moderation)
The bigger picture:
In this last installment of The Disorder Series, these friends are finally forced to grow up.
Marley Kurtz is still looking for love when he discovers he’ll also need to look for a new job. Is college still an option? His best friend Missy survives another health scare, and tells her long-suffering boyfriend he needs to move on to be happy. Can she take her own advice? Marley’s ex-boyfriend Jesse bites off more independence than he can chew. When he comes crawling back, will anyone accept him?
No one is left untouched from the realization that they’ll have to change to move forward. Faces emerge from the past, relationships are tested, and the one thing that’s clear across the board is that complacency is not an option. Join these characters one more time as they grieve their mistakes, alter their behavior, and learn to prosper.
Tyson Kadwell and I have done it again: we're three-time quarterfinalists! If only they added up, we'd be 3/4ths into a win by now. This honor is for a whole new show (our original Specter & Shades) at a whole new contest, the 2018-2019 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition--somebody take us to Hollywood!
Along with being Quarterfinalists for the 2018 ScreenCraft Pilot Launch Competition, Tyson Kadwell and I are now Quarterfinalists for their Cinematic Book Competition as well! Our entry, Back to the Morgue, is an ensemble-cast commercial thriller (think The Big Chill meets Mysteries of Pittsburgh, with sprinkles of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on top). Currently unpublished, we're actively on the hunt for agent representation.
We're pleased, we're proud, we're cross-platform writers and it feels great!
From pirates, politicians, and pornographers to starlets, serial killers, and saints, Gay a Day showcases a multicultural mosaic of real-life stories. Each day features the biography of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or intersex person of note: their accomplishments, their loves, their tragedies, and their times. With every page you turn, you'll find beautiful heroics, chilling horrors, and secret histories that will scandalize you, and by the end of the year you'll be prouder than ever. A great read for people interested in the rich yet often hidden past of queer folk.
Take any year and make it queer, one day at a time!