All Peter Bankston ever wanted to do was paint.
An aspiring painter, Peter scratches out a pauper’s living in San Francisco, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Instead, he finds himself getting involved with not one but two very different men.
Like Peter, getting involved with another man is the last thing on Nick Katsaris’s mind. Smart, handsome, and good-humored, Nick’s done more than just survive—he’s positively thriving in San Francisco. But when he meets Peter, what begins as fun and games quickly turns into a game he can’t control.
Miles Bettencourt’s days are filled with longing. For him, San Francisco is haunted by Stuart, his missing ex-lover. Desperate to win him back, Miles wanders the streets in the hope of running into Stuart again. Instead, he runs into Peter—the one man who might hold the key to what Miles is looking for.
These three gay men soon form one very unlikely love triangle. Sometimes, when people break apart and then come together, they learn that discovering that where you are is the key to knowing who you are.
A Visit to Mansfield Park
Upon reading those words, about midway through Jane Austen’s masterpiece, Mansfield Park, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
The passage is told through the mind of Henry Crawford, the smug young man who toys with the hearts of countless women. He lazily decides to make Fanny Price, the novel’s heroine, fall in love with him, only to fall in love with her himself. And with that passage—the exact point at which Henry Crawford falls in love with Fanny Price—I fell in love with Mansfield Park. Because Fanny Price can see through Henry Crawford’s artifice, and is as determined to reject Henry Crawford as Henry Crawford is determined to win Fanny Price. And, suddenly, Mansfield Park was no longer some book I had to read to pass a college course. The book had become a blood sport—a struggle between two living, breathing characters. And I was a willing spectator, turning the pages to see if Henry Crawford would succeed with Fanny Price.
That story arc stuck with me long after I left college and moved to San Francisco. It would provide the spark that eventually became my own novel, You Are Here. But I noticed a crucial difference between what Austen had achieved and what I wanted to achieve for myself.
In Mansfield Park, the stakes for Fanny Price are sky-high. She is a poor relation whose financial security depends to making an advantageous marriage. For her to turn down the rich Henry Crawford, a propertied man who genuinely loves her, carries serious consequences for her. In You Are Here, the stakes for my own hero, Peter Bankston, the stakes are considerably (and thankfully) lower: he doesn’t ‘have’ to marry anyone. He also doesn’t have to worry about causing a scandal if, say, a handsome rich man decides to pursue him. Which led me to the question: what if Fanny Price could afford to be less virtuous? What if she said yes?
That what if led me to write a very different story arc from the one Jane Austen had captivated me with in Mansfield Park. It led me to write a story that I could confidently call my own. In the end Mansfield Park had inspired me, but not in the way I had intended. Lesson learned.
In 1993, Chris Delyani moved to San Francisco from his native Boston to devote his life to writing fiction—and he’s been at it ever since. His first novel, The Love Thing, was published in 2009. He lives in Oakland, California.