Category: cars in fiction

Release Day: A Life Filled with Awesome Love; The Importance of Cars in Fiction

Today is the release of “A Life Filled with Awesome Love.” You can find it here at the publisher, or here on It’s going to be in most places where e-books are sold, but I know it’s already up on these two already. The other photo below of the 1959 Lincoln is here for a reason. I wanted to show how I think it’s important sometimes to get into descriptions of cars in more detail in fiction.

In the early 90’s there was a novel published by author Mona Simpson…half sister of Steve Jobs whom he didn’t meet until later in his life…titled, “Anywhere But Here.” They also made the book into a popular film. I loved both book and film. But the thing that drew me to the novel at the time was that there was a photo of a big Lincoln Continental on the book cover. That might sound silly to some, but this was a new novel by a debut author and that cover caught my eye and I bought the book for that reason. At the time, I knew nothing about the author. Since then, they’ve redesigned the cover and the Lincoln is gone….a shame and pure cover fail. In the film they used an older Mercedes instead of a Lincoln and that spoiled the story a little for me.

In a recent book I read by Debbie Macomber, there was a long cross country road trip. And even though I liked the book, in spite of the fact that I wanted to push one character off a cliff, I was disappointed that Macomber didn’t get into any detail at all about the car they would be driving across country. Basically, it was described as a rental car. But no actual details, and I have a feeling I know the reason why. With the exception of Mona Simpson, because the Lincoln was so important to the storyline, I find most women authors (and maybe readers) don’t care all that much about cars. A car is a car. It’s something that provides transportation. And unless there’s something vital about that car to the storyline (Anne Tyler does this well) most never mention much about cars at all. There’s nothing wrong with that on the surface.

But the thing is, men love cars, especially gay men. I know one gay publisher who blogs and writes about his vintage car collection all the time. I have so many gay friends in antique car clubs I can’t even count them. And every year around September there’s a huge parade of gay men driving their vintage cars up and down Commercial Street in Provincetown. And Tony and I are no exception. In the past twenty years we’ve had two Jeeps, four Mercedes, Two Jags, and we’re thinking about a Mini Cooper right now. I’m always on the hunt for the prefect vintage Lincoln. I’ve never had a BMW, and I want one. I could go on, but you get my point. Men love cars.  In fact, because a lot of gay men don’t have kids and all the expenses that go along with kids they can afford to indulge in things like cars. And they do.

And I’m always left so disappointed when I’m reading a novel that doesn’t at least give out the smallest details about a car. Men do think of cars as more than just transportation. In some ways cars define us to a certain degree. Not completely. I’m not that shallow. But there is something to it. The personality of someone who drives a Prius is most likely going to be very different from the personality of someone who drives a big Cadillac Escalade. And I think that’s important in fiction, too.

I’m not saying a car in a novel has to be described down to the last fiber. But at least name the make, year, and model. As I stated earlier, Anne Tyler did this well in one of her books where she gave the MC a vintage Stingray (with the divided rear windshield), and that small detail made the character, and it helped move him forward in the plot of the story, too, at the end of the book.

I’m not saying only women authors ignore cars in fiction (obviously Tyler and Simpson didn’t, so don’t get the wrong idea). I’ve seen male authors do it, too. But in most cases, like with Macomber’s book, it would have added another layer to the story for men…and women…who happen to think little details about cars are important. As a side note, I love the cover for “A Life Filled with Awesome Love.” But if I had self-published this one, and I had been designing the cover on my own with full control, I would have focused more on the 1959 Lincoln that’s mentioned in the story. I don’t know if readers notice this, but the covers I’ve designed for my self-published books are vastly different from the ones designed by the publishers. “A Sign From Heaven Above”is a good example. I designed that, without a cover artist. And I made that pick up truck stand out for a reason. I made that guy look like he was praying for a reason.

In this story, “A Life Filled with Awesome Love,” a 1959 Lincoln is featured. I don’t get into much about the car. But I did think it was important enough to the storyline to add that small detail and to ask the cover artist to work the Lincoln into the cover. I’m sure she did her best, and if you look closely you’ll see the word “Continental” there (under his arm :). You might have to strain a little, though. The one MC is meeting the guy he’s going to live with for the first time and he’s not sure about him. But when he sees the guy drive up in a l959 Lincoln, it eases a lot of his fears. As it turns out, the car does not completely represent this character, but it does give the other character something to hold on to in the beginning of the story.

In any event, I don’t think it was life or death for Macomber to go into more detail about the car in her book. I liked the book anyway…even though that one thing disappointed me. But I do think that when writing about men, and gay men, it is important to take cars into consideration. And if the gay male character is one of those earthy vegan simple boy types who doesn’t care about cars, that’s important to mention, too. It explains something important about the character’s personality. And it’s a detail I often find left out of most novels. Think Jonathan Franzen. He usually mentions a car or two and with that one little detail we get a better image of the character.

Here’s the blurb for ALFWAL. It is a vintage story and it is a cowboy/western. I’ll post more excerpts in the future. This one is longer than most of my short stories. It runs about 12,000 words, which I think is a little too long for a short story. But this time it called for it.

It’s 1959 and young Travis Swanson discovers that living in the same small Montana town where he grew up is suffocating. So he devises a long term plan to get out of his situation and change his circumstances, but there aren’t that many options for men like him and he has to settle for the best thing that comes along. In his case, this comes in the form of an advertisement at the back of a rodeo magazine. He answers an unusual ad for a ranch hand job in Western Montana and finds himself communicating with a cowboy named O’Dell Johnston. After a series of letters pass between them Travis decides to take the job and move into O’Dell’s house. But he soon learns that although some things are better than he expected and O’Dell is an articulate lover, some things just don’t make sense. And Travis is not sure he can live with a man who has so many secrets, won’t install central heat, and rarely ever discusses his past…a past that includes the mysterious deaths of the two young ranch hands before Travis.