Welcome Helen (H.B.) Pattskyn! Helen is here to talk about her brand new Dreamspinner Press release, Hanging by the Moment, a beautiful and haunting love story that I had the privilege of beta reading. I fell in love with Pasha and Daniel, and I know you will too.
Hanging by the Moment deals with difficult themes, but it’s a beautiful love story with a positive and uplifting message about hope and learning to live life to the fullest. Ironically it is Daniel, who has every reason to have given up on life, who shows Pasha how to find joy in living. So beautiful!
But enough of my babbling (although this book makes me want to run on and on!). Here’s Helen, to talk about her story and how she came to write it. Be sure to check out the bottom of the post to see how you can win some very cool stuff as part of the Hanging by the Moment Blog Tour! Welcome, Helen! -Shira
First off, a HUGE thank you to Shira for having me here today! I’m a huge fan of her writing—and her as a person. It’s been really awesome getting to visit the blogs of my friends while promoting my new book.
After I finished my second novel, I wanted to write something light, something fun. Instead, I wrote Hanging by the Moment, which isn’t light and isn’t fun, but it is a very special story that is very near and dear to my heart. I really hope you’ll like it as much as I do.
I’d just gotten the first few thousand words on the proverbial page and I laid down to rest my eyes and my brain and I started thinking about the first time Pasha and Daniel would have sex. And the conversation that played out in my head was nothing that I could have planned. The boys were standing in Daniel’s kitchen on their second or third date and things were getting a little steamy—but suddenly Daniel held Pasha back and told him that before they went any further, Pasha needed to know that he was HIV positive.
I blinked a little. “Really, Daniel?” I asked him. (Yes, authors frequently talk to their characters.) “You have HIV and you decided to tell me that NOW?!”
All he could do was shrug at me. So I sat him down (in my head) and asked him to spill it, to tell me how he got it and where and I discovered that in college, Daniel had been a bit of a wild child. He was testing his wings, getting out of a small town, sewing his wild oats. “I’m bisexual,” he added.
“Swell. Do please go on, what else do I need to know before I can write your story?”
“Um. I have a twin. He’s straight.”
I love my characters, I really do.
I finally got up from my “nap” (which was clearly not going to happen) and started making notes and doing research.
By the way, the conversation that Daniel and Pasha had in the kitchen in my head didn’t actually play out on the page. Daniel came out as HIV positive while Pasha was in his sitting…well, maybe I won’t tell you. *G* I will say that Pasha reacts only slightly more—and maybe a little less—gracefully than I did. One of the parts from the original conversation that stayed the same throughout all drafts of Hanging by the Moment is the fact that even though Daniel has been living with HIV for six years, he isn’t taking antiretroviral drugs for it—at least not yet.
While I was talking to Shira about the story she asked me why Daniel wasn’t taking ARVs (antiretroviral drugs). It’s a good question. During the course of my research into HIV, I learned a lot of facts and figures and a lot of numbers. The most important numbers for someone living with HIV (and the people who love them) are viral load (how much HIV is present in the system at any given moment) and CD4 count. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell (please bear in mind that I opted out of biology in college and took astronomy, instead—so very likely, I’m oversimplifying this stuff). A “normal” healthy person has a CD4 count anywhere in the range from 500 to 1200. Most of the websites/health care professionals I talked to (and I talked to quite a few) said that they wouldn’t recommend ARVs until a patient’s CD4 count dropped below 500. A few said 350 and some more conservative sites/professionals said 750. But the all said that it was a decision that the doctor and patient had to come to together.
Which was completely at odds with what I’d always assumed, which was that as soon as someone is diagnosed as HIV positive, he or she should go immediately onto ARVs.
But the reasons not to are good ones. The side effects of ARVs can be horrendous: insomnia, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes… they beat the alternative (AIDS—which is what happens when the CD4 count dips below 200) but all in all it doesn’t sound any fun (and blows the idea that “HIV is nothing, you just have to take a pill” right out of the water.) Additionally, HIV can (and usually does) become resistant to the drugs after a while. Now the good news is that there’s more than one ARV on the market (and they’re getting better and better), so when one ARV becomes ineffective (or if the side effects are too difficult to tolerate), your doctor can switch you over to another ARV.
However despite the fact that there are multiple ARVs on the market, there are only a finite number of them—so especially if someone is as young as Daniel when he contracts HIV, it’s not a bad idea to put off going on the drugs for as long as possible.
The other really huge consideration is that once Daniel (and every other HIV patient) starts taking ARVs, that’s it. He’s on them for the rest of his life. Stopping taking his meds could result in the HIV becoming resistant to the drugs even faster. ARVs have to be taken every single day. Again, it’s better than it used to be, most prescriptions are one pill, once a day (because the former “drug cocktails” have been combined into single pills), but it’s a regimen the patient has to be committed to, no matter how bad the side effects get.
So at the start of Hanging by the Moment, Daniel isn’t taking any drugs, he’s simply doing his best to stay healthy by eating well and taking care of his body. And every single time he goes in for a checkup (once every six months to get his viral load and CD4 count measured), he is terrified that this time will be the time his doc tells him his viral load is up and his CD4 count is down and it’s time to start talking about ARVs.
You can read more about Hanging by the Moment on my website (http://www.helenpattskyn.com/p/hanging-by-moment.html)
Or at the Dreamspinner Press site (http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4161)
And of course since this is a part of a virtual book launch party, there are party favors! Or at least a prize at the end of the blog tour. Between now and October 14, I’m visiting a bunch of my friends’ blogs; if you leave a comment here (and include your contact info) you’ll be entered to win a pretty cool prize: a sighed paperback copy of Hanging by the Moment as well as a goody bag of awesome swag.
Burb: Pasha Batalov has lived his whole life doing what a good son is expected to do. He dropped out of school to help run the failing family restaurant, and ever since he’s put up with his difficult business partner, who also happens to be his father. And, of course, he keeps his sexual orientation a secret from his conservative, Russian family. After being closeted costs him his first serious relationship, Pasha resigns himself to one-night stands and loneliness.
But a chance encounter with lost delivery-truck driver, Daniel Englewood, has Pasha questioning all of his assumptions about life. Daniel is sweet, funny, smart, drop-dead gorgeous—and for the last six years, he’s been living with HIV. Pasha worries that he won’t be strong enough to help Daniel if HIV turns to AIDS, but he can’t walk away from their deepening attraction. He also doesn’t know if he can be strong enough to face the hardest task that a relationship with Daniel demands: coming out to his family and friends, and risking losing everything else he holds dear.