People have said that I really got into my character’s head when I wrote “Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe,” the truth is that my main character, a bisexual man named Jim, got into my head and wouldn't leave me alone until I told his story.
I originally set out to write a short story about a love relationship involving more than two people. I jotted down the first four pages in 1989 just before I moved away from San Francisco where I had been living for 8 years, and where the majority of the book takes place.
A year later, when I was living once again in the Virgin Islands where I had grown up, I was on a beach with an old note pad and found the words I had written back in California. Rereading them, I decided that the story should be about the friendship between the main character and his best friend.
After working a good bit on the story, I moved to the Ozarks, had a child, and built and opened a restaurant. It was three years later when I tried to once again finish the story of Jim coming out as bisexual to his best friend, Derek. Eventually I realized it could only work as a novel because we needed to hear Jim’s backstory to understand how this man, who was comfortable with his bisexuality, ended up being closeted with a homophobic best friend.
I had never written a novel, had no intention of writing one, and reluctantly decided to give up on what at the time I had entitled “Over Coffee.”
My fictional character however had taken on a life of his own, and Jim refused to leave me alone. He kept telling me more and more details of his story, not only what led him to becoming a proud yet closeted bisexual, but also how his life changed after he came out. When I realized I had the whole story in my head, I gave in and started writing the novel.
It wasn’t until after I had completed several drafts of the book that I realized I’d not just written an entertaining novel; I had written a story about bisexual reality, about what bisexuals have to navigate to just be who we are.
But, “Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe,” is ultimately about so much more than bisexuality. It’s through the bisexual experience that universal themes are illuminated. Jim’s story is about overcoming roadblocks in one’s quest to live authentically, about struggling to be true to oneself despite an inhospitable world. Both a coming-of-age story and a coming out story, the novel is — on a larger scale — a human story, a story about love and self-acceptance, about bravery and the choices we make, a story about what happens to us when we deny our realities and what happens when we embrace them.
Through reading about Jim’s life we learn about overcoming prejudice and misunderstandings; readers travel through friendship and heartbreak. We explore not only the sexuality of love and the sexuality of loneliness and desperation, but also the also the love of sexuality, and the ability to love more than one. “Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe” additionally illustrates how religion sometimes destroys families, and how ignorance can keep personal truths hidden from even ourselves.
In the end though, Jim’s story is still unequivocally about bisexuality, a tale in which bisexuality is repeatedly acknowledged, spoken of, and embraced. Refreshingly, this is a bisexual story that — despite the characters trials and tribulations — leaves one with a positive uplifted spirit.