DBC: Jane, Robert writes in his chapter “The Beginning: A fresh start and a new idea” that you were hesitant to write a book about your experiences with your son. He attributes this to your family’s private nature–and, perhaps, a desire to protect Robert himself, too. What was going through your mind as you were presented with the idea for writing a book, and what made you ultimately agree to it? Do you think that it has been a therapeutic exercise for the both of you to share your story?
My first question was, “How many glasses of wine have you had?” The second, “Why would anyone care about what this lady has to say?”
He then made his case to me pretty convincingly. “Our crazy life and stories might help another family who is dealing with the coming out process,” he explained.
I thought about it long and hard before agreeing. There’s a great line I read somewhere that basically says something to the effect that our greatest gift is the gift of serving others and the greater good. As corny as it sounds, something clicked with me when I saw that. If it helped one parent understand their child a little better or if it gave one person from the LGBT community the courage to live as their true self, then sharing our story would be worth it. No matter how embarrassing or sad our experiences were, if it served a purpose to help others than I was in.
It’s definitely been therapeutic for the both of us. I think we both learned a great deal about one another when we really began to dig in with some of these topics. So many times in life we don’t always know the entire story and our emotions are pushed further inward when we try to hide our pain. It was a tough as a mom to relive some of those sad times for my son, and I think he was also surprised to hear some of my own issues. However, we also laughed a great deal while working on this too. The good times and the laughter we felt back then we relived as well!
DBC: Robert, there are certainly a lot of candid, embarrassing, and awkward moments showcased throughout the book at your expense! Though you say in your introduction that “sharing [your] embarrassment is well worth it,” did this unapologetic presentation of your real life take some time to develop during the writing process? Or did it come naturally to just “tell it like it is”?
Robert: I knew before we even sat down to talk about the book that if I was going to write it, I couldn’t really hold back. It wouldn’t feel completely honest–and that’s kind of one of the major points of the book–to be authentic. Plus, my mom called me one day and said, “We need to go deeper. We can’t be like the other books out there.” I knew she wasn’t going to let me get away with glossing over certain areas. I joke all the time that the publishing of this book has put the final nail in the coffin of what once was my dating life.
DBC: As the both of you were jointly writing Conversations and Cosmopolitans, how did the editing process work? Was it difficult to pick and choose anecdotes to include in the book, or did the selection of particular memories happen organically?
Jane: It was sometimes challenging. We both have different points of view on subject matter and how to present it. We had lots of memories and stories to choose from and we cherry-picked these and left the rest on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, we disagreed about what to include. However, just as we encourage other families to talk things through we followed our own advice. The entire process consisted of lots of emails, phone calls, trips across the country. Oh, and lots of cosmopolitans. I’m kidding…sort of.
DBC: How do you see this book helping families with gay children in similar situations? What would you like readers to gain from reading your account?
Jane: I think, or should I say hope, that those with gay family members can begin a dialogue. Parents, talk to your kids. Kids, talk to your parents. Ask questions about each other, share something of yourself, get to know them–as they truly are. It can make a huge difference in both of your lives. Most importantly, don’t judge.