I’m excited to have Emory Vargas on my blog today talking about her gay Western, A Hard Ride Home! She’ll be answering questions about researching boy whores, hurt/comfort, and the Wild West. Check out her interview and her book!
It’s hard enough returning to his birthplace to replace a dead man as sheriff. The last thing Emmett needs is to find himself smitten with Jesse, the whore he arrests almost immediately upon arrival. Especially since Jesse works for his half-sister and at her thoroughly disreputable saloon.
But being smitten with a whore is only the beginning of Emmett’s troubles. Silver Creek is a town full of secrets and people too terrified to talk. Why does Emmett’s father, the mayor of Silver Creek, have such a strong hold on the town—and on Jesse?
1) Let’s talk about the setting for A Hard Ride Home. The Wild West is always an exciting place to set a story. Did you do much research into the setting or did you rely on the Westerns of movies and books for your inspiration?
As a young teen, I became obsessed with Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove book series and with the less historically accurate but highly entertaining film Tombstone, about Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp. Both stories feature loving male friendships at the core. Both of those settings served as a foundation for A Hard Ride Home, but I spent a great deal of time researching for this book. I didn’t want to use a realistic setting, but I wanted to capture the language and feel of the Wild West. I barely scratched the surface when it comes to historic Western slang. The language of that time period was absolutely fascinating, and so very descriptive.
2) I noticed that there isn’t any/much homophobia in A Hard Ride Home. Jesse, the town’s boy whore, is universally loved, and no one seems to look askance at his existence. Yet, it doesn’t seem entirely free of homophobia because the other MC, Emmett, seems a little ashamed of his sexual attraction and others also seem a little skeptical of it. Did you purposely walk a line there or did it just come out that way?
I wanted to tell a love story about the Wild West without the conflict of historically-accurate homophobia. (This story has plenty of conflict as it is.) I deliberately strayed from many of the cultural norms of the time while drawing inspiration from true stories of cowboy love and unabashed affection between men in that time period.
3) Let’s talk about Jesse! He’s a boy whore in a predominantly female whorehouse in a small town in the Wild West. Was this a common occurrence historically? Obviously, male prostitution is as old as the ages, but did small town whorehouses regularly provide boys for outlets? Or did you take some liberties with that in terms of history?
I took a lot of liberties — the biggest being the fact that despite the conflict with Warren Grady, the Weeping Willow is a pretty positive place. (All things considered.) Sex work can be a very sobering subject, especially in a historic context. I deliberately created a world where these young sex workers feel somewhat empowered. It’s not a fluffy happy whorehouse, but it isn’t a terrible place either. Along those lines, I slipped Jesse into that world as if gay male prostitutes were just as socially acceptable as female prostitutes. The reality of male prostitution in the Wild West was much more grim.
4) There’s a great deal of hurt/comfort in the book. A historical Wild West story seems the perfect place for that trope and you do it well! What was your favorite part of writing the hurt/comfort? The hurting? Or the comforting?
Thank you! My favorite part of hurt/comfort, as a writer and a reader, is the emotional state of the person who is worrying and comforting. It gets me right in the gut.
Wait, I also like tapping into the raw emotion of a character in distress.
I may be a bit of a hurt/comfort junkie.
Jesse’s pain — emotional and otherwise — is a huge element of this story, and that’s due to me writing what I enjoy reading. I’ve always preferred stories with some action and peril and elements of danger. In the context of a relationship, danger creates a sense of urgency and desperation that I find as satisfying as and sex scenes. I’m attracted to characters who remain resilient and retain a grim sense of humor in the face of intense trials. Jesse embodies that for me. (Sorry, Jesse.)
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