Once upon a time, I was on the internet and was stuck in a Wikipedia spiral (which often happens when I’m reading a Wiki article and click on a link to another page and then somehow, three hours have passed, and I’ve gone from reading about Hamburger Hill to ending up on an article about the mating of flatworms, I don’t even know), when I came across the most magical website in the world.
Did you see them? The articles?
They change daily.
Here are a few that I see today:
How to become a prison warden
How to groom a Yorkshire Terrier
How to choose a good dairy cow breed (OBVIOUSLY SO IMPORTANT)
How to get rid of chocolate stains
I remember being on this page for the first time, looking through some of these articles, and saying to myself, Where have you been all my life?
This website is fucking batshit bonkers, man. And what makes it even better, is how the answers to many of the questions are actually illustrated. Someone took the time to draw the answers to the questions.
This got me thinking. How cool would it be if someone lived their life based upon the advice offered by this website? Because some of it was so fucking wrong, that I couldn’t believe it was supposed to be taken seriously.
I put it aside, though.
I had to finish a book about a wizard and a unicorn, after all.
But it wouldn’t leave me alone.
Once I’d finished with The Lightning-Struck Heart, I was contemplating what to write next. I wasn’t ready for BOATK4. Or the sequel to Tell Me It’s Real. I wanted to do something new again, with characters I hadn’t written about before.
Weird things happened after that.
For some reason, I couldn’t get a specific scene from the The Art of Breathing out of my head. Do you remember Tyson’s graduation? He came out while giving a speech, which led to an epic Bear meltdown:
“You better have another thought coming! You know what could happen to you? Jesus Christ, Kid! It starts that way, sure. Oh, hey! Look! That guy’s giving me the come-fuck-me-eyes! That’s how it starts! He’ll introduce himself as something ridiculous, like Gustavo Tiberius, because everyone has idiotic names these days, and he’ll say it in a generic Bond Villain accent that you’ll swoon over.”
Gustavo Tiberius. I liked that name. It was meant to be ridiculous, of course. But it had such a ring to it.
And then I thought, Okay, so what if Gustavo Tiberius was an actual person? And what if he’s absolutely nothing like what Bear said he was? In fact, what if he was socially awkward, a loner who was the furthest away from my normal rambling characters who say everything that’s in their heads? He’ll be grumpy, and annoyed with everyone, and just wants to be left alone until…until….until something happens, I don’t know what, dammit, lost my train of thought.
I pushed it aside.
And found myself pulling up that damn website again.
I love it. I love clicking on the articles, just to see how absurd they get.
One day in January 2015, I ended up on one specifically. I can’t even remember how I got there, but here I sat, four words staring me straight in the face.
How to be normal
That was my oh shit moment.
Because of course someone named Gustavo Tiberius would need to look up how to be a functioning human being on the internet. Of course he would. His name is Gustavo Tiberius, for fuck’s sake. And this day and age, if we don’t know something, what do we do?
We look it up on the internet.
The fact that this turned into an asexual romance?
Well, that was decided the very next day.
Look, I am going to be frank with you. If you read M/M books for the sexual aspect of the story, you are not going to like this book. There is no sex. There are no sex scenes. There are no fade to black sex scenes. There are very pointed discussions about sex and sexual boundaries, but Casey, the stoner asexual hipster, doesn’t like having sex, and is very up front and honest about that.
That being said, there is no sex-shaming in this book. There is no asexual shaming in this book. The stoner aspect is played for laughs. Gus and Casey’s awkwardness is played for laughs. The fact that one of the two main characters is asexual is not played for laughs.
I am asexual. I end up more on the sex-positive side of things than sex-repulsed. I am hoping that by reading this, you’ll be able to understand not just me a little better, but asexual people as a whole. But this book isn’t meant to preach at you. In fact, while asexuality is discussed in the story, it’s not the main focal point.
Because being asexual doesn’t define Casey.
It’s just part of who he is.
This story is a romance, pure and simple. It is more low-key than say, TMIR or TLSH, because I wanted to do my very best to give a real world example of what a healthy and loving asexual relationship could look like. It’s still a comedy, of course, because I like making people laugh, but I also wanted to make people think.
Many people are going to find the asexuality aspect hard to understand, and that’s okay. We’re taught that sex is part of a loving relationship from a very early age. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I wanted to show here that sex isn’t the only way to show intimacy. That, if the sexual aspect of a relationship was removed, people can still fall in love with each other, and express it in ways that doesn’t involve a dick going in a butt.
And I needed this to be happy, which is why I dialed back the angst until it was practically non-existent. I didn’t want there to be stupid miscommunications, or people acting like idiots. I told myself when I started writing this that I wanted the reader to walk away happy, that when they read the last word, they’d want to go outside and hug random strangers or maybe get involved in a flash mob that dances to an eighties song in the middle of a grocery store.
In fact, by the time you finish this book, I don’t want you to think of this as the “asexual romance.” I just want this to be seen as a romance in general, because that’s what it is: two dudes fumbling on their way to a happily ever after. Their orientations, their labels, shouldn’t matter.
This is my favorite thing I’ve written. That shouldn’t color your perception of the book. You’re allowed not to like it. You’re allowed to like other books I’ve written better. You’re allowed to not like anything I’ve written at all. But for me, this is the highlight of my written works. I love these characters so goddamned much, it’s ridiculous, but especially Gus, because I absolutely needed him to be okay. He is very precious to me, right up there with the Bear, Otter and the Kid.
By the time you read this, How to Be a Normal Person will be only six days away. If I could have you remember one thing before reading it, it would be this: there are so many different kinds of love out there. This story is just one of them, and I hope it makes you as happy as it makes me.
I can’t wait to show you the story of Gus and Casey, of Bertha, Betty and Bernice (the We Three Queens), of Lottie and Harry S. Truman. And of Pastor Tommy, Gus’s dad who will probably be your dealer of Wookie Cry Face this time around. It’ll be worth it, though.