Please join me in welcoming debut author, Winter Sandberg, to my blog. Winter is here to talk about Private Display of Affection, a wonderful story of Kevin and Hugo finding first love and their struggle to deal with love hidden behind friendship, lies, girlfriends, and secret kisses. Happy release day, Winter, it's great to have you here! Take it away!
Abuse comes in several forms. Christy, in Cody's book Omorphi, survives horrific physical and sexual abuse, and when we read about such things, we know right away that abuse is happening. There are forms of abuse that aren't always as easily identified: emotional abuse is one.
In my book Private Display of Affection, Kevin Magnus lives with a father who has emotionally abused Kevin since he was about five years old. I show little bits of what Kevin has endured, but he has been "programmed" by his father to comply from a very young age. Peder Magnus treats Kevin in ways that are often hard to distinguish from a "tough love" parenting philosophy. What makes the difference?
Emotional abuse is often associated with brainwashing, where little bits of individuality are stripped away and replaced with self-doubt, distrust, and a sense that the victim has little value. Emotional abuse is persistent, systemic, and characterized by rejecting, isolating, exploiting, terrorizing, ignoring, and corrupting behaviors. It is also the most damaging form of child abuse.
Kevin knows his father is a prick, but he's not fully aware that he's being emotionally abused. This is how he has grown up his entire life, so he knows no other way. Now that the Magnus family has moved to a new town and Peder is busy at his job, Kevin is able to experience a freedom he's never had before. When he meets Hugo Thorson at his summer job, he not only makes a great friend, but he also realizes he's not as straight as he thought he was. He knows that being bisexual will never fly with his father, so he knows it must remain a secret.
Hugo Thorson knows he’s gay, but coming out during high school is not part of his plan. His parents are open-minded, but Hugo doesn’t want to add more stress for anybody, especially his dad, who is fighting terminal cancer.
At a summer job he meets and befriends Kevin Magnus, and before long, their friendship becomes something more. Kevin knows this will anger his overbearing father, so he decides to protect his secret by dating a girl at school.
Hugo plays along, but it’s still hard to watch the two of them together just to make Kevin’s homophobic father happy. And when Hugo’s father dies, he realizes he can’t go on living the lie. He comes clean to Kevin, who decides Hugo’s true feelings are more important than his father’s expectations.
One fact remains: Kevin and Hugo’s relationship must always be hidden behind friendship, lies, girlfriends, or secret kisses. Will they find a sanctuary big enough to hold their feelings?
Adapted as a Young Adult edition of the novel Spark by Posy Roberts, published by Dreamspinner Press, 2013
Winter Sandberg grew up in a place nicknamed The Magic City, and the view from her house on the hill had her convinced the name fit perfectly for years. Spending time backstage or in music practice rooms took up a lot of Winter’s time, but hanging out with friends was truly preferred. Days after her eighteenth birthday, she headed to college not knowing how to cook.
Nowadays Winter gets paid to help people solve their family problems and then comes home and writes. She happily leaves the cooking to her husband, who is also teaching their daughter that skill so she won’t have to survive on ramen noodles when she moves away from home like Winter did.
Winter writes about transformative moments, exploring how characters manage to work through difficult times. How they respond may not be <span style="line-height: 1.5em;">easy to see and is often not pretty, but they are genuine reactions to having life tipped on its edge. Coming out on the other side is where the good stuff is seen, and Winter likes to write about those moments of true growth rather than simply fading to black.