Writers, by nature, are lay philosophers mining their own lives looking for some kind of universal truth. The old saying write what you know is exactly what every writer is hoping for no matter what it is they’re trying to accomplish. As a writer I know this: The more truthful I can be, the more honest and emotionally open I am willing to expose myself, the better my writing will be to read and consequently the better I will feel to have purged my subconscious.
It never occurred to me how cathartic writing could be until I stopped trying to write for the entertainment of others and finally began to write for myself. In ‘Joe’s Black T-Shirt’ I first discovered my words could heal me. Six years ago as I struggled with sobriety I realized I had never written a story for myself. I began innocently enough to write a short story called Father’s Day in which a man coincidentally enough called Joe is attending the funeral of his long time absentee father. In it this Joe receives an inheritance in the form of a letter from his deceased father briefly explaining why he left and that he has never forgotten him. After I wrote that letter, which was really to myself, I did something sober that I thought impossible, I cried. That letter, those simple words on a page, healed a pain in me I’d been carrying around since I was eight years old. Truth, I discovered, was the most important and powerful ingredient any author could possess in creating good fiction. It occurred to me immediately that what I had done for myself, maybe I could do for others. That is why I now realize I wrote A SEASON WITHOUT RAIN. Dudes don’t talk. We are taught as boys not to cry. As men we learn to turn off our emotions. This is where women are a thousand times better off than men. If you see two women embrace, you think nothing of it. But if you see one man kiss another man, I promise you one of those men are about to die. It is rare we men can be emotionally honest. We have this tendency to stuff our feelings down using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. It becomes so habitual to the process it eventually comes to the point we no longer realize we’re even doing it. As men we wear our pain as a badge of honor. Scars and tattoos are merely skin deep compared to the pain they represent, reminders of how much we need to keep it to ourselves. As I wrote this novel it occurred to me wouldn’t it be nice, refreshing even, to write something that revealed all that manly bullshit for what it really is? A devil’s mask men wear to protect themselves, men who are scared to death to let anyone see the real fragile person hiding inside.
As a writer, I am fascinated by stories: These simple devices through which we can see society as a whole. A story can simply entertain its reader or be something bigger. The one thing we all occasionally think about but rarely talk in depth about is death. It is like to talk about it is to jinx ourselves; even worse than that is that we never discuss suicide. I have never owned a gun because I believe if I had one, I most likely would kill myself with it. Say something like that in a casual conversation at the next family bar-be-que and I promise you will instantly know the definition of silence. Ten seconds later it will be like you never said it. No one likes to acknowledge mortality or the fact it is truly a choice to live. In lieu of death; that final, permanent, irreversible step men choose self-destruction. If some guy deliberately jumps off a bridge and lives to tell about it, nobody is going to casually dismiss it, but consistently getting blind drunk, fighting with your friends, pissing in public, driving home drunk or high and living to tell about it and your considered a warrior, mildly courageous, likely to be praised by your friends for such asinine exploits. Take a bottle of pills, get rushed to the hospital and have your stomach pumped – pussy. Drink a liter of whiskey, smash your truck into a tree or a fence or your own goddamn house and live to laugh about it – hero. It’s a completely fucked up sense of machismo we dudes have invented to erase the shame we feel no matter how ridiculous or disingenuous the source.
I invented Jacob initially as a key to get to the source of my own bullshit. A device to excommunicate a lifetime of self-loathing for things that were absolutely not my fault like my father and eventually my step-father leaving and no matter how much biochemical crazy glue I poured inside my body that old familiar pain kept returning as senseless and stupidly as someone hitting themselves in the head with a hammer then having the balls to bitch about having a headache. I hope this book, this story, can do for dudes reading it what it did for me writing it, that is explain to them they can change, that there really is a God, that things can get better but it is up to them. If a dude can learn to embrace the possibility of living and quit trying to prove how brave he is by confronting death, exploring self-destruction until it eventually, almost shockingly works, then there is an amazing gift waiting for him called peace which is as immeasurable and precious as life itself.
A SEASON WITHOUT RAIN is that story about a young man, who if you were to know him, be a friend to him, you would think has a good life. As amazing as how false that assumption is in reality, it is more potent when revealed in fiction. As a reader you are allowed to follow Jacob into his darkest depths hoping he will eventually change. If some dude reading this story sees some of his own story inside this one and decides not to get divorced, or put a shotgun in his mouth, or simply give up on himself then I will be deeply satisfied. That is what I hope anyway, that by sharing a story, by reaching out to a fellow dude in pain, he will be able to do likewise and maybe that is the beginning of the end for a million others.