Last week I received this very thoughtful request from the wonderful ‘Reed Kay’:
maybe sometime you will talk about how you see these guys. As an author how attached are you to the personalities. Will you ever be able to walk away from them…stuff from your pov compared to the readers attachment to them. They have become like distant relatives to me.
I found this request fascinating because it occurred to me recently that I think about the guys, ALL the Revolutionary Heart/Fearless Heart men, but particularly Colin and Josh, all the time. As I’m watching movies, reading posts on Instagram, watching TV shows, it often occurs to me to wonder what they would think about these experiences… how they would respond.
I felt Colin’s fury when George Floyd was murdered. I feel Joshua’s anguish anytime a police officer is killed or injured. I feel Colin’s frustrated anger when he can’t protect Joshua from a deadly virus. I see Joshua’s tears anytime a song plays which he has heard Colin sing. I see them gaze into each other’s eyes anytime a TV show talks about undying love. They speak to me through every life experience. I hear their voices as I ride the bus, as I read a book… as I write a post or create a video. They are always with me.
Colin and Josh are very distinct personalities who react to life in very different ways. In a story called ‘Colin vs. Corona’, this is how they respond to the news that Nate has become infected with the Corona virus: (Lawyer on My Case, story Colin vs. Coprona’)
Stunned and grief stricken, Joshua stared straight ahead of him feeling his eyes well with tears. He felt Colin surge to his feet and turned just in time to see him snatch up an empty coffee mug and hurl it against their fireplace with explosive force. “Colin!” Joshua rose and grabbed his husband’s arm. “Honey, that won’t help! And you just broke your favorite mug.”
Colin jerked away and strode toward the kitchen. “Josh, leave me alone for a second. Let me…. just – just give me a minute!”
Joshua fell back onto the couch and after a moment of steady, even breathing he grabbed his phone and called the nurse who had been spelling Nate at night twice a week. David was much better, but he was not fully recovered. And if Nate had contracted COVID-19, they were going to need more help, especially at night. He was discussing various options with her when Colin walked back into the living room.
Colin, predictably enough, reacts with anger, while Joshua, after a moment of tearful grief, quietly steadies himself and looks for ways to help.
I see this as being their default dynamic, barring some unforeseen change. Colin will always right himself and he does rejoin Joshua later in this story and is a huge help to their infected friends. But his initial reaction to uncontrollable events will always be frustrated anger, particularly when a loved one’s welfare is involved. Joshua’s initial reaction will always be to turn within while Colin’s is to explode without.
At the core of both these men is a deep desire to be of service. They’ve both survived childhood trauma which defined their lives. They turned the pain of these experiences into a desire to help and heal others who have suffered. And, to me, the shared pain of those childhood experiences and shared goal of wanting to help others who have suffered is one of the most powerful bonds that unites them.
Colin looks at Joshua and sees a gentle, caring man whose tender heart guides him in his healing work. Joshua looks at Colin and sees a valiant warrior who fights to right the wrongs of the world. Even in their very first get-together he compared Colin to Don Quixote. But what they don’t seem to realize – at least not yet – is that they see in each other qualities which live within themselves.
Colin also has a gentle and caring heart. He keeps it well hidden much of the time, but it remains the enduring core of who he is as a man. He became famous on the University of Virginia campus for his compassionate treatment of assault victims. It’s one of the first qualities Joshua fell in love with. (See the ‘Magic Spells’ story: The Healer).
And Joshua is also a courageous warrior. His psychological toolkit may lean more toward quiet intervention than angry outbursts, but his devoted and courageous support of Colin after he was shot demonstrates the warrior’s heart within him. While Colin hovered between life and death, Joshua refused to surrender to his inner agony and directed every ounce of his energy to reviving the man he loved.
I felt compelled to write a story about how they would respond if their best friends became infected with COVID-19 because such a tale would perfectly illustrate the many ways in which these two men are both polar opposites and at the same time deeply intertwined kindred spirits. I could never see Joshua hurling his coffee mug against the wall, but I can see him adoring Colin’s passionate approach to life’s challenges. And though Colin isn’t much given to quiet introspection, he refers to Joshua as ‘my oak’ for a reason. His abiding love for Joshua’s Jewish ancestry has its roots in his worshipful admiration of Joshua’s steadfast inner strength.
Would I ever give them up? Not unless forced to do so.
I occasionally question whether or not writing the same couple over a long stretch of books is the best path for an author. I’ve asked other authors and I particularly value the counsel given me by best-selling author Joe Cosentino when I messaged him with this question: Joe, tell me something. Is it wrong to want to stick with one pairing and just write them? Honestly? I feel lost and dissatisfied when I’m not writing Colin and Josh. I just love them and don’t feel their story is done yet.
This was Joe’s response: Hi Janice, I think it’s terrific. They’re great characters and great stories, so why not continue them. Look at daytime TV dramas. In some cases they have characters and storylines lasting for decades. It’s great fun to imagine what will happen next for a character you’ve created. I too miss my characters when I’m not writing them. That’s probably why I wrote 11 Nicky and Noah mysteries (2 not published yet), 5 Cozzi Cove novels, 5 Jana Lane mysteries, 3 Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories, 2 Found At Last stories (not published yet), and 4 Player Piano Mysteries (not published yet). So I think you should keep writing Colin and Josh for as long as the spirit moves. Enjoy!
I probably will always include the other Revolutionary Heart/Fearless Heart men in any Colin and Joshua story I write. Those men – those friendships – are an integral part of my universe and Colin and Joshua’s lives. Colin and Joshua had both kept pretty much to themselves before their relationship blossomed. Their need to protect themselves from further pain isolated both men. Neither of them was able to form lasting relationships with other men, and even family and friends were kept at arm’s length. But as their own relationship grew and deepened into love, their individual walls began to crumble opening both their hearts not only to each other, but to the world around them. The love they share was the pebble in the pool whose circles expanded to include their families and their friends.
I can see myself continuing to write Colin and Joshua as their journey continues. Colin must pass the bar and become an Assistant District Attorney. Joshua will complete his schooling to become a Forensic Psychologist. I can see them working cases together at the University of Virginia, solving crimes, unraveling mysteries, helping each other professionally as their love continues to grow.
I can see the two of them remaining deeply connected to their friends as their stories develop. Jeff and Trent have their own story to tell, and it’s never possible to think of Colin and Josh without David and Nate being close at hand. Those friendships are as much a part of them as they are of each other and I believe their six lives will remain intertwined as they all move forward into new futures.
I love Colin and Josh. I love Colin’s fire and energy. I love his courage, his Irish pride and his cocky charisma. And I love his willingness to lay all those qualities aside in deference to the love he feels for the quiet, Jewish psychologist who walks by his side. Colin refused love for most of his adult live. But when he fell, he fell all the way. He would, without thought or hesitation, lay down his life for Joshua. And Joshua returns his feelings with every fiber of his being. Neither of these men gave much credence to the myth of ‘star-crossed lovers’ or ‘soul-mates’ – until they found each other.
I love Joshua’s quiet strength, his studious introversion, his brilliant mind. And I love his willingness to take the step which he knew would lead to a broken heart and move forward into the whirlwind of a relationship with Colin Campbell. I love Joshua’s willingness to silence his love in deference to Colin’s fear of love. I love his willingness to walk away from the love that was his whole world because he knew it was the only way that love could ever be truly his. And I love his ever-present willingness to forgive his hot-headed, impulsive, prideful partner – take him by the hand, and lead him back to the peace of their home and the love they share.
No, I can’t see myself giving them up. Not anytime soon. I can see myself writing other couples in Colin and Joshua’s universe. But I can’t see those stories being as satisfying to me as writing Colin and Josh. Writing them is like coming home. There is a warmth, an abiding intimacy to their story that I just don’t feel with anyone else, no matter how much I might like and enjoy the pairing.
So as long as I have readers willing to walk with Colin and Josh as they continue down the path they’ve chosen for themselves… I will be willing to walk with them, eavesdrop on all their conversations, peep into their bedroom at night, follow them around taking notes as they grow and evolve.
And I hope all of you will walk with us.
Love to all my readers…
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One dream. One wish. One love.
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