I never planned to write a book about religion. I’m a tried and true atheist myself, and so writing a book about somebody reclaiming their faith was never on my to-do list, but for better or worse, my muse had other plans.
When I started Between Sinners and Saints, I knew Levi’s family was religious, and I knew he had several siblings. Beyond that, I didn’t have anything particular in mind, but somehow, he kept straying toward Mormonism. I resisted for a while, but I finally accepted the fact that the book was going to be about faith. In fact, Sarah at Dear Author called it a m/m inspirational. I scratched my head over that for a while, wondering how an atheist could have written an inspirational. I’m still not sure about the label, especially given the amount of sex, but however you categorize it, religion is undeniably a major theme in the book.
Religion in gay romance isn’t anything new, but I think it’s often dealt with in a very superficial manner. Nearly every religious character in m/m is some kind of raving homophobe, but really, how many religious folks do you know who fit that mold? As I wrote Saints, I kept thinking about my own family, many of whom are devout Mormons. These people are warm and loving. They’re happy and forgiving. They value family above all else. They also happen to believe that “homosexual acts” are sins. Does that make them homophobes? By some definitions, yes. But here’s what I know: if I took one of my gay friends to their home, they would welcome him in. They’d be as kind to him as they are to everybody else. They wouldn’t lecture. They wouldn’t even bring it up, because as far as they’re concerned, all humans are sinners, but the sin lies between the sinner and God. It is not for others to judge. After all, I’m as much a sinner in their eyes as any gay man. I drink, I (occasionally) smoke, I swear, I lived with my husband for several years before we got married. And let’s not forget the fact that I don’t actually believe in God and haven’t been to church in twenty years. Yet not once has my family judged me for it. As far as they’re concerned, my personal life is my business, and God’s business, and nobody else’s.
Of course, I’m not their child, and that’s where the true conflict lies. As parents, we want to protect our children. We want them to live by our own moral code. So while my relatives may turn a blind eye to the sins of their niece, they might not be so quick to ignore those same sins in their own children, but it’s not because they hate their children. On the contrary, it’s because they love them.
THIS is what I wanted to write about. People who are truly Christian, who believe not in judging, but in loving, and yet who can’t come to terms with their son’s homosexuality. In doing so, I also ended up writing about a man who has turned his back on religion not because he no longer believes in God, but because it’s the best way he knows to strike back at his parents.
Now, before this turns into some kind of Mormon debate, let me set the record straight. Are there Mormons out there who are hateful, homophobic people? I’m sure there are, but in my experience, they are not the norm. Yes, I know the Mormon church had a great deal to do with Proposition 8, but judging all Mormons on that alone is like judging all Catholics based on the actions of a few perverted priests, or like judging all Baptists based on the actions of that hate-spewing redneck from Kansas who pickets funerals. Christians, like any other group, are a varied lot. Casting them all as clichéd hatemongers doesn’t do justice to anybody.
It’s definitely true that some people don’t like the way I dealt with religion in my book. A lot of readers would prefer having religion vilified. A lot of readers would rather see those with faith somehow knocked down and put in their place, but for me, that wasn’t what the book was about and in the end, I’m glad I handled it the way I did. Over the last year and a half, I’ve received a great many letters from readers who were raised in conservative, dogmatic religions (often Mormonism, but Catholics aren’t far behind) who have thanked me for treating religion fairly, and for recognizing that not all those who call themselves Christian fit the same mold. They’ve thanked me for recognizing that it’s possible to be both gay and devoutly Christian.
And for that alone, I call the book a success.
Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.
Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.
Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.
Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.