Thanks for letting me ramble a bit on how Cop Out came to be. As the title suggests, it’s about a cop (Kurt) and his coming out, prompted by an unexpected friendship with a gay man (Davy) as they both work through their grief after Ben, Kurt’s partner on the force and Davy’s life partner, dies.
This book was a departure for me in many ways. First off, it’s a contemporary. Not only is this the first contemporary I’ve sold, it’s also the first one I’ve written. Although I enjoy contemporaries, I’m generally happier if there’s something else going on as well – mystery, paranormal, aliens – and that’s true of my writing as well.
Secondly, it’s rather angsty and emotional. Although I write relationship-focused books with appealing characters – or so I hope – high emotions are not characteristic of my writing (I don’t think).
Also, no part of this novel was inspired by a dream. Not that all of mine are, but there a number of scenes in my books that have been.
And finally, I usually like to write about guys who, whether they’d closeted or not, have no doubts that they’re gay.
So… where did this idea come from? Unlike all my other stories, I have NO CLUE. I was procrastinating on another project (one with girlie bits) and the scene at the funeral smacked me in the face. I took a break from the project I was working on to write that scene, although Kurt and Davy hadn’t told me their names yet. That scene set the whole tone of the book because not only does Kurt meet Davy for the first time, but this is where Kurt realizes Ben was gay. This was such a radical departure from my other stories that I sat on that scene for months before I wrote the book, even though Kurt begged me for his happy ending almost daily.
But he was telling me to write an angsty, gay for you/out for you contemporary that I’d have to make up entirely without any dreamtime inspiration. Uh-huh. No problem. I never thought I’d enjoy putting my characters through that self-doubt, the potential recriminations, the agonizing. But I loved putting Kurt through his paces, ripping him out of the closet he hadn’t even realized he was in.
The other reason for my delay in writing the book was that I’d originally intended to give both Davy’s and Kurt’s perspectives, but it just didn’t work. Once I realized that the story was Kurt’s (however much I adore Davy) it all went much smoother. I love all my stories, but this one has a special place in my heart, for sure. Writing this story made me realize maybe contemporaries weren’t so scary after all, so I wrote another one, which will be coming out in spring.
KC’s website: www.kcburn.com
His growing attraction to Davy complicates matters, leaving Kurt struggling to reevaluate his sexuality. Then a sensual encounter neither man is ready for confuses them further. To be with Davy, Kurt must face the prospect of coming out, but his job and his relationship with his Catholic family are on the line. Can he risk destroying his life for the uncertain possibility of a relationship with a newly widowed man?
“Hi, I’m Kurt O’Donnell. Ben’s partner, remember?” Davy inhaled sharply, a near-gasp, like he’d done at the funeral. Was it hearing Ben’s name that distressed him? “May I come in? My leg is starting to hurt.” It wasn’t, but it was a good excuse. He sensed Davy wanted to slam the door in his face, but he was determined to prevent that. There were questions that he needed answered, but more important was his sense of obligation as Ben’s partner.
“Oh, sure.” Politeness overrode Davy’s first inclination, and Kurt didn’t give him a chance to change his mind as he pushed his way into the house.
“Where’s the kitchen?”
“Why?” Davy pointed to the back of the house—mechanically, instead of a true willingness to have Kurt in his kitchen.
“Because I brought food.”
Kurt shook his head. As he walked to the back of the house, he couldn’t see anything but generic décor applied with military precision. Nothing personal, vibrant, or alive, except for the jumble of shoes and newspapers by the front door.
The kitchen was the whitest room he’d seen in his life, and that included the hospital room he’d recently spent three days in. The only speck of non-white came from the black burners on the stove and the chrome taps at the sink. After heaving the Crock-Pot onto the counter, he grimaced slightly. It was his mother’s old one, with a dark green ceramic liner and a garish line drawing of a red rooster on the front. And it looked almost obscene sitting on the white counter in the whiteout conditions of the kitchen. Was this what Davy liked? This… nothingness? Even Kurt’s shitty apartment had a blue sofa and colored dishtowels, for God’s sake.
He shrugged. He was here, he’d have to make the best of it. Hope Davy at least appreciated the sentiment. By rights, he should have been here much sooner, but his lack of mobility affected his decision as much as the fact that Davy didn’t know him any better than Kurt knew Davy.
After he’d fiddled with the pot and got everything set up, he turned around. Davy sat slumped at the kitchen table, chin propped up by a hand, eyelids at half-mast. Bags under his eyes and hollows in his cheeks spoke loudly of how difficult the past couple of weeks had been. Even more startling was how Davy, with his pale-blue pajamas and his dark brown hair, somehow managed to fade away to nothing in this painter’s blank canvas of a room. Kurt expected him to stand out like a rose among the weeds, but the whiteness camouflaged him.
“Are you okay?”
Davy nodded with his eyes, like he was too tired to move his whole head. “Sandra’s not here, you know.”
What? “Um. I know?” A light flickered on in his mind. The conclusion he’d drawn at the funeral, that Sandra was Ben’s wife or girlfriend, had been an intentional misdirection on Davy’s part. Maybe Ben and Davy lied to everyone about their relationship, not just Kurt.
“Why are you here, then?” Davy asked.
“I’m sorry, I should have been here earlier.”
A puzzled look crossed Davy’s face, and he peered at the clock on the wall. “Today? I’m sorry, did we have an appointment?”
Kurt’s cheeks heated. He’d barged in here, without an invitation, and Davy didn’t seem to know what the hell to make of him or the situation. Maybe if the poor guy had slept since Ben’s death—which didn’t look likely—his coping skills would be better.
“I’m here because you’re here, not Sandra.”
The words made Davy’s eyes open fully, and he sat straight in his chair. “What do you mean?” His chest fluttered rapidly like a frightened bird… or a man about to faint from hyperventilation.
Kurt scooted to his knees in front of Davy, pain screaming through his injured joint, which he ignored. “Breathe, man, breathe. Slowly. In. Out. There’s no reason to be afraid of me, I promise.”
He lightly gripped Davy’s knees as he spoke, getting Davy to focus on him, on breathing.
A few minutes later, Davy was no longer in danger of fainting, and Kurt levered himself into another chair. He’d just reacted, but those reactions would have his physiotherapist yelling at him for sure. He might even need to dig out the prescription painkillers he still had half a bottle of, when he got back to his mom’s. But he had more pressing concerns.
Davy nodded, a full nod this time, his eyes full of questions.
“I know this is where Ben lived. I know… or at least, I’ve deduced you lived here with Ben.”
A slightly fearful look returned, and Davy fidgeted with fingers that looked bloodless and cold, he but didn’t reply.
Another light went on his brain. Ben’s partner. He’d introduced himself as Ben’s partner. The term had a much different meaning for Davy. “You were Ben’s partner. Life partner, right?” He didn’t see a ring on Davy’s finger, so he didn’t think they were married.
Pale pink lips compressed, as though Davy were afraid of what would fall out. Kurt had seen the action before, in guilty people who weren’t hardened criminals. The urge to tell the truth warred with fear of the consequences.
Davy’s lips parted, but instead of the confirmation he expected, Davy repeated his previous question. “Why are you here?”
“Because I wanted to apologize. Because I wanted to offer my help, with anything.”
“I don’t understand. Apologize for what?”
Kurt’s eyes began burning again. More memories had returned from that day, but not all. “I should have done more. Maybe if I had, Ben would still be alive.”
Davy cleared his throat. “Inspector Nadar explained it to me. I don’t think you’re to blame. You didn’t need to bring me food.”
Kurt raised a brow as he inspected Davy from forehead to toe. He’d only seen Davy for a few moments at the funeral, but he’d lost ten pounds or more in the intervening days and was as pale as the paint on the wall. His mom would have a fit if he left Davy in this condition. He wasn’t about to let Ben’s partner kill himself through neglect.
“I wasn’t kidding about helping you out. Ben was my friend.” Even if he hadn’t felt the same about Kurt. “Wife, life partner, kids… I would offer help to anyone Ben left behind. Now, it’ll be thirty minutes or so before the stew’s heated through. Is there anything you need me to do?”
Davy’s breath hitched, once. Again. Then he startled them both by bursting into tears.
© 2011 KC Burn