Harmony Ink author Madison Parker claims that she is “an artist and a poet trapped in a mathematician’s brain.” Her recent young adult release “Play Me, I’m Yours” takes on effeminate male heroes, and faces the topic of bullying head on. As a math teacher and private tutor she has seen it all.
Drawing From Experience
In “Play Me, I’m Yours” Parker draws her inspiration from actions of her students in the class room and the effects of bullying first hand.
She discusses the premise.
“‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ is about a boy in search of love and acceptance,” she said via an email interview, “When we first meet Lucas, it is clear that he feels unloved by everyone in his life, even his family, and with good reason. He’s not even sure how he feels about himself. There are things about himself that he’s proud of, but others don’t seem to see it, so he’s left feeling confused and insecure. As the story progresses, he opens up—with the help of his music—and people slowly begin to see the beautiful person he is.”
Above it all, Parker had the one truth of the story to share.
“This is a love story, a story about the love of family, the love of friends, romantic love, and most importantly, self-love,” she said.
Parker says through Lucas, the protagonist of “Play Me, I’m Yours” she is able to communicate what she’s seen as a teacher.
“I’ve worked with teenage boys much like Lucas,” she said. “Not gay, necessarily, but sensitive and clearly living outside the realm of social acceptance. I’ve seen the sneers, the staring, the whispering and giggling. I’ve witnessed too many painful ‘nobody wants to be my partner because I’m an outcast’ moments. I’ve had boys—and girls—cry in my class.”
Certain reviews had complained that Lucas was too effeminate, and Parker had this rebuttal.
“Those who complain about Lucas being too weepy, I would ask them to be more compassionate,” she said. “I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of young adults. Sometimes they are emotionally immature. Or just plain oversensitive. It’s a confusing and emotional time in their lives and they don’t have the life experience yet to ground them.”
She says she even had an event in her life hit far closer to home with her son that goes through bullying.
“My son was bullied a lot in school,” she said. “He was constantly called a fag. He even met with a few ‘accidents,’ like the time he was hit in the head with a field hockey stick or the time he was hit with a dodgeball and knocked his head into a vending machine. It’s excruciating to watch your child suffer and feel like there’s nothing you can do to make it better. To have your self-worth stripped away by ignorance and hate is tragic.”
The Frustration of The “Gay For You” Trope
Parker says the core inspiration for “Play Me, I’m Yours” was her frustration with the familiar “Gay for You” trope. The concept is described as a gay man falls for his straight friend and there’s no chance at the straight friend returning his feelings. That is until at some climatic mo
ment, the straight best friend realizes he is suddenly in love with his gay friend.
Parker elaborates on her discomfort with the trope.
“I wanted to write a gay character who faces getting over that kind of crush and moving on, and who ultimately realizing he’s better off for having done so,” she said. “I also wanted to show that just because a guy shows a little affection for another boy, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s gay.”
Parker says this is where her secondary character Alex comes in as the object of Lucas’ crush.
“He was the catalyst for the story, although he remains a secondary character throughout the book,” she said and goes on to discuss a pivotal scene from “Play Me, I’m Yours.” “The ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’ scene was the first one to take shape in my mind,” she said. “In that scene, Alex and Lucas are forced together in an awkward situation in which Lucas is in a highly emotional state. He admits for the first time that he’s gay, and Alex reacts with kindness and compassion.”
Parker and Effeminate Role Models
Parker says she rather enjoys effeminate role models. One such man is the figure skater Johnny Weir, which she talked about on a blog tour here. She is one of the few authors that thrusts such characters into the spotlight and offers her reasons with Weir.
“What I love about Johnny is his tremendous sense of pride,” she said. “Though he has been publicly criticized for being ‘too effeminate,’ he hasn’t let that hold him back. He continues to put his unique flair into his costumes and choreography, despite the risk of displeasing the judges.”
Parker continues on how this affects all society.
“He remains true to himself, and in doing so, sends a positive and very important message to people of all ages,” she said.
Parker and the Emotional Journey
Parker says she strives on portraying emotional journeys in her stories. She confesses she never cries in front of others but books, movies, TV, music, and even the occasional sentimental YouTube video makes her choke up. She says she “welcomes the release.”
Why is this important to storytelling? Parker shares her thoughts.
“The characters come alive for me when I experience their emotions with them,” she says. “I’m able to connect with the characters on a deeper level. I’m an empathetic person; I feel bad when they feel bad and good when they feel good. Not only that, but the highs feel more satisfying when they follow heartache.”
The one thing that hits her the hardest emotionally, Parker says is Natalie Merchant’s song “River.”
“It’s a song about River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose outside a Hollywood nightclub at the age of 23,” she said. “I was only a couple years younger than him at the time, and was a fan of his. It was such a tragedy. The song captures the grief well.”
The Question: Can Women Write Men?
It’s been a hot debate from all sides if a female author can accurately portray a male character in prose. Parker herself has come under fire with Lucas from “Play Me, I’m Yours” but she says she refuses to be deterred by the critics.
She explains that to properly write either gender authors simply need to be observant.
“I’m very introverted and I’ve always been a wallflower,” she said. “So I’ve had lots and lots of opportunity to sit back and observe. I’ve lived in foreign countries and have done a lot of traveling. Growing up military, you meet all kinds of people. Being a public school teacher, you meet all kinds of people.”
She talks about how her wallflower tendencies aided her.
“Men don’t always act the way you’d expect them to. Our cultural perceptions of what defines a man and what defines a woman are so skewed anyway; it’s laughable,” she said. “No one can legitimately say, ‘A man would never act that way.’ Don’t be so quick to judge. My ex was a soldier and the outdoorsy type—think backpacking through the wilderness with a gun, looking for bears—and he also wrote pages and pages of romantic poetry—he was far better at it than I am.”
Parker heads to GayRomLit
Parker is one of the many authors heading to GayRomLit held in Atlanta this October where she and one hundred other authors will hobnob with fans and celebrate LGBT romantic fiction.
She talks about her previous experience from last year’s GRL in New Mexico and her plans for this year.
“I attended GRL last year in Albuquerque under the general registration,” she said. “At that time, I didn’t have anything published, and I didn’t know a soul, which was quite scary for someone as introverted as I am. But I was determined to stay out of my hotel room and attend as many events as possible. I was so excited about seeing the authors of books I love, and even happier when I met some other fangurls I’d interacted with on Goodreads. It was an awesome weekend.”
Madison talks about her GRL experience on her blog here.
And of course, everyone has to know the awesome swag all the GRL authors are giving away. Parker shares her goody.
“I’m making DIY bracelet kits in honor of one of the characters in my holiday short, ‘Sock it to Me, Santa!’” she said. “The boys are required to make handmade gifts for their class’s secret gift exchange, and one of the gifts is a friendship bracelet. I plan on recording a how-to tutorial for those who don’t know how to make hemp bracelets. It’s super easy, I promise. I’m generally not very crafty, but I always have fun trying!”
What’s Next for Parker
Parker keeps going with an array of stories that she says indulges everything from her geeky side to her love of fantasy.
“I just finished a novelette titled ‘Deep in the Count,’” she said. “The characters are in college and are both out, so it’s a bit of a departure for me. My inner geek really shines here as Corey shares my love of Battlestar Galactica, math, and cryptology. And ultimately, baseball players.”
And her next projects?
“My next project is a second installment of Ryan and Jamie’s story,” she said. “It will pick up right where “Sock it to Me, Santa!” left off and will be told from Jamie’s point-of-view. The story is tentatively titled “Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em Ryan.”
Following that is a contemporary romance novel called “Francis and the Squire.”
“It will be a contemporary romance in a medieval setting and will star an effeminate young face painter with a very special talent,” she said.
And will Donovan get his own story in “Play Me, I’m Yours?” Parker says all signs point to yes.
“Donovan is the antagonist in ‘Play Me, I’m Yours,’” she said. “Even though he’s a jerk throughout most of the story, I do feel for him. He’s had his share of heartache and is bugging me to tell you all how things eventually turn around for him.”
Parker’s Parting Story of Potty Paralysis
When asked about what is her silliest most bizarre habit, Parker had one that was too good not to share.
“When I was a little kid, I had this irrational fear of the toilet,” she said. “I thought a monster lived down in there and that when I flushed, it would make him angry. So…every time I was done doing my business, I would close the lid, flush, then run at full speed to my room and leap onto my bed. I had to be completely on the bed with no limbs hanging off by the time the toilet stopped flushing, or I thought the monster would come get me. No joke.”
And if it couldn’t get any worse, Parker shares the tragic epilogue.
“A couple months ago I went to use the bathroom at home, and there was a big, black spider inside the toilet bowl. I am now once again afraid of the toilet and its many evils.”
Where to Buy
“Play Me, I’m Yours”
Contemporary Young Adult Romance
$6.99 eBook (mobi, epub, html, pdf)
Purchase Links: http://madisonparklove.com/books-2/pmiy/
“Sock it to Me, Santa!”
Contemporary Young Adult Holiday Romance
$0.99 eBook (mobi, epub, html, pdf)
Purchase Links: http://madisonparklove.com/books-2/sitms/