February 28, 2013

Paul Alan Fahey on Your Mother Should Know

Guest post by Paul Alan Fahey

Your Mother Should Know is intended to be part of a trilogy that includes my two previous semi-autobiographical novellas: Boys Will Be Boys and When the Right One Comes Along.

The main character in the trilogy, Philip Noland, shares many of my own personality quirks, obsessions and experiences from the early 1950's through the early decades of the AIDS epidemic and up to the present time. If one had to fit Your Mother Should Know into a timeline with the other two books, it would slide quite nicely into the first act of When the Right One Comes Along, before Philip meets his true soul mate and eventually settles down in a relationship.

The Facts
In the early 1990's, I accompanied my ailing mother to Los Angeles and to The Norris Cancer Center at USC for six months of experimental chemotherapy. Mother had been ill for several years, off and on, and when her oncologist offered her the opportunity that would hopefully buy her more time, we both jumped at the chance. Mother and I were in L.A. the weekend of the Rodney King riots-late April, early May as I remember. The hospital was located near the center of the chaos. Television coverage of the looting and violence was nonstop and the major topic of conversation at the hospital.

The Story
Is Your Mother Should Know a true story? Yes and no. True is nice but it doesn't necessarily make for a thrilling and compelling read. Often writers have to fictionalize events and imagine characters to enrich a story, add excitement and keep the reader reading. So in structuring the plot and characters, I did the same.

The Idea
The story idea came to me some years after my mother passed away and began with the following WHAT IF: What if an elderly mother and her middle-aged gay son took a wrong turn on an L.A. freeway and ended up in the middle of the Rodney King riots? How would he shepherd his ailing mother through the madness raging around them? Who would they meet? Who would be helpful and what roadblocks would occur along the way to provide obstacles in their path?

In writing Your Mother Should Know, my main concern was to be truthful to the emotions of the time and to the relationship I shared with a woman who raised me alone at a time when it wasn't socially acceptable to be a single mother. When things got rough, she'd help me forget the unpaid bills in a darkened movie theater or use laughter as an escape valve. "There's always something funny in every tragedy, honey," she'd say. And you know I haven't proved her wrong yet.

I hope you enjoy Your Mother Should Know.

Paul Alan Fahey

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