Sunday, April 7, 2024

The Family that Finds Us by Phoenix Blackwood Virtual Book Tour


There were quite a few obstacles that came up when writing this book – most of which involved calling back to my own childhood experiences. While my mother wasn’t physically abusive, she has a lot of similarities with Phee’s mother. This made some of the scenes very difficult to write, as I went through a lot of the emotions that Phee has throughout the book when I was her age. 

Revisiting this maternal relationship did bring up a lot of memories for me, and at times I had to stop and take a breath while writing. The feeling of your life being completely out of control, your life being dictated by someone dependent on alcohol is one that you don’t forget. Growing up quickly and becoming the parent in a relationship like this is a quality that Phee and I share. She struggles, still holding a space of love for her mother, but wanting out of the situation so badly.

Phee also shares a lot of the emotions that I had in regards to being trans, the cycle of denial and hiding from herself for the majority of her life. She was afraid to let herself know who she was, let alone tell others. These emotions were difficult to revisit, as it was a time in my life where I felt very hopeless and alone. It was somewhat of a relief, writing the support that Phee had through Theo and Alex. That’s a support I didn’t have, and it was somewhat vindicating to show that the trans experience doesn’t have to be a lonely one. 

These types of obstacles weren’t new to me, however. I’ve had to dredge up things from my past for every book in this series, as I share specific experiences with each of my characters in the Surviving Youth Trilogy. They were challenges that sometimes I had to stop and take a breath while writing (especially in Secrets), but I was able to push through and ultimately I think it was an experience that was good for me.

The new challenge that The Family that Finds Us posed, specifically, was the ending. Not only was it an ending to the book, it was an ending to the entire series that I’ve poured everything into for much of my life. I created many of these characters as far back as when I was 12, and I’m now 28 and finally wrapping things up. I chose not to package everything up in a neat little bow, I don’t think it would’ve done the series justice. I hit a major stalling point when I got to the final chapter, unable to write for weeks as the conclusion felt too final for me, I didn’t want to let go of these characters. Finally, I overcame it by settling on a somewhat open ended conclusion – one that lets you believe these characters go on to do great things.

LGBTQIA+ Coming of Age

Phee hides her secrets well, until they become too much to bear. Her biggest secret is one she’s kept even from herself. Her longest-kept secret is one that hurts her every day. Her final secret is one that will set her free.

In a school that doesn’t accept them, Phee, Theo, and Alex fight for a community close to their hearts. The community desperately needs the trio to help the rest of them leave the shadows without fear of violence and discrimination. Through some heroic activism, the three push the school officials to their limits — forcing them to act — for better or worse.

For Phee, the fight for a place where she can be herself doesn’t stop when she gets home. The strain of taking care of her alcoholic and abusive mother threatens to break Phee away from her family bond forever. Her mother can go from a messy drunk to an angry one in an instant, turning Phee’s home life from an obligation to a war zone.

Theo’s house offers respite to Phee. With compassion scarce in her life, Alex and Theo are Phee’s light in the dark. They protect and cherish her. At Theo’s, Phee is free to be herself and explore her identity safely — her chosen family ready to catch her if she falls. That’s what family does, how family finds us when we feel lost and alone.

“Thank you, my preciou-ous-es son.” She slurred her words as she spoke into the table, and I sighed inaudibly. 

At least she wasn’t angry-drunk. This was the drunk I could handle, the drunk I knew how to care for. I’d been doing it half my life, it would be strange if I weren’t good at it by now. I finished the dishes and laid them out on the drying rack after wiping them dry with a kitchen towel, then sat down in the chair next to her at the table.

“Do you need anything, mom? Have you eaten? Drank anything?”

“Mmno.” She rolled her face to look at me, her deep dark eyes glistening but not completely there.

I got a plastic cup from the cupboard and filled it with some ice water and handed it to her. Her hands shook as she tried to lift the cup from mine, so I helped her guide it to her mouth and take a couple sips, then set it back down on the table in front of her. I rummaged through the fridge to pull out some milk and went to the pantry for some cereal. Only, as lifted the milk to pour, I felt objects hit the side of the carton. I opened the cap to take a whiff and gagged; the milk was sour. Sighing, I dropped the carton into the trash and opened the barren fridge to search for another option.

Born and raised in New England, Phoenix has always been a creative – whether it’s painting or writing. From a very young age, Phoenix has envisioned and created characters, writing them into existence and exploring them through visual arts. Having graduated to first-time short story author, Phoenix is embarking on a journey towards novel writing as they finally bring characters they’ve known for years into the world. Phoenix is neurodiverse and intersex and hopes to bring more representation to both topics with their writing. They believe in creating relatable characters that people can find themselves in and empathize with.

Amazon buy link:

Phoenix Blackwood will award a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner.


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