I chose to start the novel back when Jones was a kid. Lost in San Francisco without protection, he finds shelter with other street kids looking for safety. Soon, he finds that sex work will be his best chance for a livelihood. All the while, he’s looking for love and security, in a violent, unforgiving, and divided world.
From the onset, I knew writing in the opposite sex was considered tough. But I thought Jones’ same-sex attraction would make it somewhat easier for me. I believed I only had to look back at myself at fourteen to learn what made his heart leap, and what hopes and dreams for a relationship with a boy he might desire.
On the surface, it seemed it would be a breeze. I’d just imagine my younger self -falling for a man inappropriate for my age, which wasn’t hard, and there we go. But as a writer, I had to get deep inside Jones' head. Really nestle in there. And not surprisingly, he started acting like a teenage boy, rather than a girl in a boy’s body, which I suppose was how I was imagining him. Jones started railing against being ‘a girl in a boy’s body’ from page one. He completely refused to play ball.
Then there was the whole problem of how to write about the subject matter - particularly Jones’ youth sex work, as well as his relationship with an adult who has issues with his own masculinity.
To help with the writing, I drew from several sources: historical research relating to youth male sex work from the late 19th century and early 20th century (the time authorities began making records). I researched contemporary sex workers (via blogs from male escorts, for example) and also explored the terrible legacy of child sex abuse in our culture.
For historical accuracy, amongst other research, I read newspaper articles written in California during the civil war and found political and social opinions divided. Some of what was written was shockingly racist and xenophobic. There was talk of separatism from the State amidst moral decline. I was influenced by some of this when writing dialogue for the novel’s villains and had to consider, all the time, how my main character would be affected. I also researched Native American people of the Bay area and the long time settlement history of people from Mexico and China.
In addition to this, I needed Jones’ voice to be authentic and give the illusion of historical place. Huckleberry Finn became the main resource for me to try and make Jones’ 19th-century voice sound as authentic as possible when reading it. I wanted to emulate this in the novel, without making Jones sound like Finn. But, like Finn, I had him talk about the violence, cruelty and passions in a gruff, matter of fact, sometimes darkly humorous way. I also looked at John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy for some of the writing style, dialogue particularly, and at the same time had a mind toward folklore and oral storytelling. In my head, Jones tells me the story, at other times I watch it play out and write it down.
About Goldsmith Jones
|Image: Sam Taylor Pye / Authoright PR|
Goldsmith Jones is available to buy now.
About Sam Taylor-Pye
|Image: Sam Taylor-Pye / Authoright PR|
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