Okay y’all, first things first: WordPress has apparently updated how we write posts, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make that cover image (above) smaller, even though I’ve tried a few times! And I can’t figure out a lot of things, frankly, and WordPress is the least of them.
But what I can figure out is that my friend and fellow Seattle author Molly Ringle has a new book out! Molly is a fantastic writer with a mind like the TARDIS: that is, it’s bigger on the inside. What do I mean by that? I mean, it seems to have endless corridors and mazes and you could get lost exploring in there and never get tired of it. Her books tackle a wide variety of topics from controversial to spooky to romantic to fun. She clearly just enjoys the process of writing. I think of her as a “writer’s writer.” Writing seems so easy to her. She just knows how to get it done.
Anyway, when she told me she’s got a new book coming out, All the Better Part of Me, I asked her to do a Q&A so we can all take some time exploring her mind together! Read on, and see the end of this post for a ton of links. There is no excuse for not finding out more about Molly!
Pam Stucky: Hi, Molly! Thanks for joining us today!
Molly Ringle: Thank you for hosting me! I’m delighted to get to talk about this book today.
PS: Tell us about the plot and/or themes of this book. What’s it about?
MR: It’s a contemporary love story about a 25-year-old actor named Sinter who comes to terms with his bisexuality when he realizes he’s falling for his gay best friend Andy. Given Sinter has conservative parents and is an only child, along with the other complications that land in his lap, he finds himself in quite a tangle.
PS: What sparked the idea for this book? What made you want to write this particular book?
MR: This book started long ago, over twenty years ago. Sinter was a side character in an early novel I wrote, and he intrigued me – his goth fashion sense, his love for theatre, his ambiguous sexuality. At the time, I was in college in the 1990s, and was just getting introduced to LGBTQ literature and was meeting the first “out” people I ever knew. The whole topic fascinated me, as a student of anthropology and as a lover of romance. So, wanting to explore that side of Sinter’s personality, I tried writing a spinoff novel from his point of view. That early draft had too many structural problems, so I shelved it for a long time, and came back to it occasionally to try rewriting it. In 2016 I took it up again, since I’d been pondering how society had improved for LGBTQ people in many ways – e.g., national legalization of same-sex marriage – but still had a long way to go in others. I wrote this story to say, “I see you and love you” to all the people who still, in the twenty-first century, have homophobic parents (or friends or coworkers) and have to agonize over coming out. But I also had fun with the story. I wanted to write a humorous, sweet, sincere romance, and that’s how it basically turned out.
PS: What were some of the challenging parts of writing this book?
MR: It’s from the point of view of a 25-year-old bi man working in theatre and film, and I am none of those things, so there was certainly research to be done and beta readers to consult to make sure I wasn’t getting anything offensively wrong. Luckily my LGBTQ friends, friends of younger age, and friends with theatre and film experience were all fabulously generous with feedback and were patient with my blind spots, and they improved the story immeasurably. Even so, there’s no one single correct way to tell the story of someone’s coming-out or the thoughts they might have in questioning their identity, so I know Sinter’s notions (and Andy’s) are going to bother some people, since it isn’t what those people experienced themselves or the way they think it “should” go. There’s no getting around that problem, though I wish there were. On the flip side, I’ve been very relieved and cheered to hear from people who tell me that Sinter’s experiences do closely resemble their own!
PS: Talk to me about the title, All the Better Part of Me. How did you come to that title?
MR: The book was called Dramatically Inclined before this (and it had a couple of other titles before that), but my editor at Central Avenue Publishing wasn’t completely sold on the title and asked me for other ideas. Given Sinter’s an actor, and Shakespeare is accordingly mentioned many times in the book, I combed through the early sonnets in search of a good phrase and found sonnet 39, which begins:
O! how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
The first 126 sonnets (including that one) were dedicated to the “fair youth,” a mysterious young nobleman Shakespeare was clearly attached to, to judge from his poetry. This has led to much speculation that Shakespeare was bi, a possibility that’s mentioned in my novel. To call a romantic interest his “better part,” especially when that romantic interest is another man, was thus a good fit. Aside from that interpretation, Sinter, like most protagonists, has to identify and bring forth all the better parts of himself in order to find happiness by the end of the book, so the title is fitting in that sense too.
PS: What do you think are the better parts of you?
MR: I’ll start with the answer all parents probably have to include: my kids, who of course are their own beings and not exactly part of me, but who I did bring into the world and who do share my DNA. They are both like me in many ways, but also braver and more confident than I was at their ages, and I don’t know where they got those qualities, but I’m grateful and proud. As for my other better parts, I suppose I’d say stubbornness. It sounds strange, but it serves me well! This world wants to discourage people all the time, make them feel there’s no point to anything they do, they have no talents, they’re part of the problem. I listen to those voices sometimes, but only to the degree that I can learn something useful from them. Then I suffer a little, then my stubbornness always kicks in again and I plow ahead with the projects I know will make me happier. And they usually end up making other people happier too.
PS: Your main character is an actor, and the description of your book says that for him, “choosing the right role to play has never been harder.” Do you think we ever reach a point where we are able to fully be ourselves rather than playing a role? What stands in the way of that?
MR: Sinter’s in his 20s, and for me at least, that was a time when it was very hard to be who I was, or even to know who I was. Growing up often involves a process like that: figuring out whether you’re really pursuing what you want or whether you’re emulating someone else’s ideals, and learning to express who you are without defensiveness or shame. Some people are born with that grace and are openly themselves from day one, but for me, and Sinter, and a lot of us, it takes several years of trial and error before we settle into that type of honesty. Usually it’s fear and shame that stand in the way of being our true selves, because (as Brene Brown likes to tell us) we’re all terrified of being vulnerable and of being judged. Once we accept that it’s good to be vulnerable and that we’re allowed to ignore (and forgive) those who judge, it gets easier to be our natural selves and to be gentler toward others too.
PS: In doing research for your book, what did you find were some of the greatest misunderstandings people have about bisexuality?
MR: I don’t identify as bisexual myself, but I have relatives and friends who do, and in listening to them, as well as to complete strangers online and in books and podcasts and such, I gathered there are common problems in bi representation that particularly bother them. One is the lack of representation, for starters – “bi erasure,” many call it. A fictional character (such as Willow on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) discovers they love someone of the same sex, and converts to gayness (“gay now,” Willow reminds a friend) instead of declaring themselves bi. Or they have a same-sex romantic experience, but they dismiss it as an anomaly and insist they’re still straight (there’s a whole subset of “gay for you” romance with that feature). These types of stories help boost the related misconception that bisexuality doesn’t actually exist, that people are “really” gay or straight but are copping out by claiming they’re bi. Then there’s the stereotype that bi people are greedy and promiscuous, as if the fact that they can be attracted to more than one gender means they’ll sleep with anyone at the drop of a hat. Not true, everyone assures me. 🙂 I therefore made sure in writing about Sinter that none of these stereotypes fit him. He is genuinely bi and applies that label to himself – he has loved and is attracted to women, and learns he can feel exactly the same for men also. Nor is he particularly promiscuous; he chooses his partners rather carefully and thinks about consequences.
PS: In an ideal world, what impact or effect would this book have on our cultural dialogue and narrative?
MR: Ah, an ideal world…well, in that world, everyone who thinks same-sex relationships are just plain wrong would read this story with an open mind, realize that falling in love feels the same for gay or bi people as it does for straight people, and realize also that assuming and insisting your children can choose or change their orientation does terrible damage to them. These former haters’ hearts would expand three sizes and they’d start “thinking and voting differently” (as Sinter says, in irony, at one point). To me it’s totally perplexing that the “it’s just wrong” mindset even still exists when by now it’s clear that LGBTQ people are not doing any more harm than the rest of the population, and that intolerance is what’s doing the serious damage. But clearly we have a way to go before we reach that ideal world. If my story ends up changing even one mind for the better, I’ll be overjoyed. Meanwhile I’ll settle for it providing pleasant entertainment to anyone else for the few hours it takes them to read it!
PS: So there you go, peeps! Go check out All the Better Part of Me, then write a review for Molly because I’m telling you we authors love reviews! Below: Everything you could possibly want to know about the book and Molly. Read on, readers!
All the Better Part of Me synopsis:
It’s an inconvenient time for Sinter Blackwell to realize he’s bisexual. He’s a 25-year-old American actor working in London, living far away from his disapproving parents in the Pacific Northwest, and enjoying a flirtation with his director Fiona. But he can’t deny that his favorite parts of each day are the messages from his gay best friend Andy in Seattle—whom Sinter once kissed when they were 15.
Finally he decides to return to America to visit Andy and discover what’s between them, if anything. He isn’t seeking love, and definitely doesn’t want drama. But both love and drama seem determined to find him. Family complications soon force him into the most consequential decisions of his life, threatening all his most important relationships: with Andy, Fiona, his parents, and everyone else who’s counting on him. Choosing the right role to play has never been harder.
Molly Ringle was one of the quiet, weird kids in school, and is now one of the quiet, weird writers of the world. She likes thinking up innovative romantic obstacles and mixing them with topics like Greek mythology, ghost stories, fairy tales, or regular-world scandalous gossip. With her intense devotion to humor, she was proud to win the grand prize in the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one (intentionally) terrible sentence. She’s into mild rainy climates, gardens, ’80s new wave music, chocolate, tea, and perfume (or really anything that smells good). She has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of her life, aside from grad school in California and one work-abroad season in Edinburgh in the 1990s. (She’s also really into the U.K., though has a love/stress relationship with travel.) She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, kids, corgi, guinea pigs, and a lot of moss.
Molly’s social media links: