I love how everything to do with Solitude sounds very dramatic. Even the title of this post.
It’s been a few weeks now since Solitude was released and I’ve had chance to sit back, look at what people have been saying about it, and generally just reflect on what is a very non-standard romance novel.
I think when we were writing it, Tia and I knew that we’d possibly ruffle some feathers with this book. Liam and Gael are potentially controversial characters with unusual jobs and fairly progressive attitudes. We didn’t hold back with the plot and threw everything at those boys.
The main problems people seem to have are around the HIV storyline and Liam’s hooking, which is pretty much exactly what I expected! I wanted to address these points, if I may.
I don’t think either of the boys’ attitude towards HIV infection is blasé. Liam is very aware of the implications of a positive test result – it would impact his life, his career, his main source of income. It was this fear, for his livelihood, that provoked Liam into running away from LA and his life there. So he knows the risks.
There’s a scene in the book where the boys engage in ‘docking’ – a sexual practice where an uncircumcised man slides his foreskin over the head of a circumcised man’s cock. There’s a brief discussion around this as to whether Gael is at any risk of HIV infection from this activity, since Liam’s status is technically unknown at this time, and they decide to do it anyway.
I did a lot of research into HIV for this novel, including whether there was any chance Gael could contract the disease from this. (This article has more, if you’re interested http://www.thebody.com/h/
But I can’t help but think that the boys put themselves at far greater risk by their day jobs than by this one act.
Which leads me neatly on to Liam hooking.
One of the main things that changes for Liam over the course of the novel is he realizes that sex and making love are two different things. Though he has had a lot of sex in his life – a LOT – he’s never been with a partner and made love. Gael changes that for him.
By the end of the novel Liam knows he can fuck and be fucked by other guys, and still go home to his partner and make love. The physical act might be the same, but the intention behind it is completely different. Sex isn’t just sex any more.
I’m proud that I can say I was part of a novel that opens up these kinds of discussions. HIV isn’t a death sentence for people in the western world today, and we need to start breaking down some of the stigma around people who are positive, who can and do live full and happy lives regardless of their status. Of course porn studios and prostitutes need to ensure sex workers are protected against the risk of infection – it’s still a serious disease – but the only way we can start to address the issue of HIV is to talk about it.
If I could go back and change anything about the novel, would I? No. Not at all. I know there are things people don’t like about it and I’m okay with that. But Solitude has a message, and watering it down for the sake of popularity just isn’t the Anna Martin way.