Guest Author: Kathryn Shay

I met Kathy Shay several years ago when I sold my first book to Harlequin Superromance. I have to tell you I was freaked out the first time I went to a Super author gathering at the RWA conference, but Kathy was as welcoming as welcoming can be.

She’s branched out from Superromance to write a book that touches her heart and is here today to talk about the release of The Perfect Family.

I’m out of town today without reliable internet, so I won’t be able to check back. In any case … Welcome Kathy!

Dear Riding With the Top Down host and readers,

Thanks so much for inviting me to blog on your site. I’ve been here once before, at Helen Brenna’s invitation then, too, but for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Kathryn Shay and have published 37 romance novels for Harlequin and The Berkley Publishing Group. I was asked to tell you about my new book, THE PERFECT FAMILY, from Bold Strokes Books–the genesis of the story and why I wrote it.

First off, this book is not a romance. I wanted to tell a mainstream story and try my hand at something new, so I went in a different direction that worked out, thankfully. And, by the way, this is the book of my heart.

The story follows the Davidsons: they’re an average American family with a good life and they consider themselves lucky to have each other. Then their seventeen year old son tells them he’s gay and their world shifts. They have no idea what they will go through after Jamie’s disclosure: Jamie’s father Mike can’t reconcile his religious beliefs with his son’s sexuality. His brother Brian is harassed by his jock buddies and angry at Jamie for complicating all their lives. Maggie, his mother, fears being able to protect her son while struggling to save her crumbling marriage. And Jamie feels guilty for the unhappiness his disclosure has caused. The book is full of both conflict and love, ending on a redeeming note.

I think I’ve been preparing to write this book my whole career. I’ve written Harlequins about teenage suicide, date rape, gangs and adultery. I’ve done single titles about growing up in a dysfunctional environment and then helping young kids deal with their issues. I’ve tackled school violence on a large scale.

When my son came out gay, I felt compelled to write about that issue. THE PERFECT FAMILY is fiction but touches on some of the things my own family went through. I wished then I’d had a book like this to help me understand that a family’s struggle when a teen comes out is common, but he deserves love and support from them. I was also a high school teacher for many years and I know teenagers. I know how they react to people who are different from them, how sexual orientation can freak them out and how they can be cruel. But they can also be unbelievably loyal and supportive. I tried to show all this in the book.

Having raised kids of my own, I’m also aware of how a child’s problems can affect the whole family. I originally wrote the book in first person narrative from the mother’s point of view (it was called A MOTHER’S STORY) because I knew what Maggie, the mom, was going through. I’ve also experienced the pain when spouses disagree on what’s best for their children. However, it wasn’t long before I realized this book was more than Maggie’s story; it was each family member’s journey. On the first of many revisions, I put in the viewpoints of Mike, Brian and Jamie. I think this expansion enriched the book and made it more relevant. After several revisions, I added a secondary storyline to mirror the first which gives the book an added dimension.

The character of Jamie is based on my son, Ben. He read the manuscript twice, the beginning draft and the last one. I was amazed at the insights he had into the characters. His comments led me to make some further revisions. And we have a gift for my readers. Ben is a singer/songwriter and made a CD in high school about “loving a boy” and other adolescent issues. We’re offering it free at the publisher’s website when you order a book from them at It will be also be offered on my website, while copies last.

You can visit me at;;; and

Thanks again for having me. I’ll check back for comments.



About Helen Brenna

Helen Brenna is the RITA award winning author of romances for Harlequin's Superromance line. Three more books in her popular Mirabelle Island series will be release in July, August and September of 2011. For more information, check out her website at
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