’Nathan Burgoine blogs:
When it comes to holiday romantic tropes, the fake relationship has always been a favorite of mine. The idea of people only realizing they have feelings for each other when they’re pretending they have feelings for each other tickles my funny bone, and the romantic in me likes the idea of people not thinking of someone other that way until they’re faced with acting as though they do, in front of friends and family. More, in a holiday-set romance, family—and especially family is everything—often ends up with just as much focus.
When I set out to write Faux Ho Ho with a fake relationship holiday trope, the goal was simple: make it queer! The first part of that was painting a particularly queer reason as to why the fake relationship was in play in the first place, and the second was to take that holiday family is everything narrative and tell something closer to the reality that many queer people face during the holidays: going home isn’t always a joy. I decided to write a family all-too-familiar for many of us in the queer community: a borderline tolerant family, rather than an accepting one.
That’s what’s facing Silas Waite. He comes from a wealthy, politically active, and very conservative Alberta family, and he has very consciously chosen to live in Ottawa, Ontario—a four-hour flight away—where he can have some autonomy, and they can’t interfere as easily. Spending time with his family is more painful than not, with the exception of a younger sister he adores. The rest of his family observe a kind of détente about his queerness: it’s okay that he’s gay, so long as he shows up for family pictures now and then and doesn’t do anything too gay. In fact, when both his brothers got married, the invitations they sent made it perfectly clear he shouldn’t bring a plus-one (not that Silas had one).
So when Silas’s parents call to invite Silas to Thanksgiving in Alberta (a thinly-veiled political event for their eldest son, who has taken up his father’s mantle in the local conservative political landscape), Silas absolutely doesn’t want to go.
Enter Dino. Constantino “Dino” Papadimitriou has been Silas’s roommate since April, and Dino jumps in, pretends to be Silas’s boyfriend, announces they already have plans for Thanksgiving with Dino’s family, and solves two problems with one small fib. Silas doesn’t have to go home, and Dino doesn’t have to hide from view whenever Silas’s family Skype him. After all, if Dino is his boyfriend, he’d be around, right?
(I’ll totally admit flipping he’s my roommate into he’s my (fake) boyfriend was a particularly fun thing to do as a queer writer.)
The other part of making Faux Ho Ho a particularly queer take on the fake relationship trope fed directly into my fictional queer Village, a location I’ve been writing since Of Echoes Born, and have visited many times in many different shorter fictions. Half of Faux Ho Ho takes place with Silas’s biological family, a place where he feels anxiety and not at all free to be himself, even with his sister around and a fake boyfriend on his arm. The other half? The other half is told in flashbacks, month by month, from the moment Dino and Silas become roommates, to Dino’s dive into the role of fake boyfriend. And they’re surrounded by supportive, loving, and wonderful queer chosen family.
Silas has a brilliant, unapologetically queer life full of truly amazing people, and as Faux Ho Ho unfolds, he starts to realize for the first time just what that means, what it’s worth, and how much it’s changed him. That he gets to do all that with a gorgeous personal trainer on his arm, and maybe fall in love, is just an added bonus of holiday magic.