Wendy reviews ‘Disease’ by Hans Hirschi. Published by Beaten Track Publishing October 26, 2017, 199 pages.
Alzheimer’s is a disease affecting the patient’s loved ones as much, if not more, than the patient themselves. In Hunter’s case, that’s his partner Ethan and their five-year-old daughter Amy. How will they react to, and deal with, Hunter’s changing behavior, his memory lapses, and the consequences for their everyday lives?
Disease is a story of Alzheimer’s, seen through the eyes of one affected family.
Where to buy: Amazon
Hello everyone, please welcome HM, Hans Hirschi. Father, husband, advocate for all causes LBGTQIA, author extraordinaire of queer literature and all around nice guy.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us here at RGR.
Nice guy? Why thank you. And thank you for having me! Always a pleasure to drop by RGR!
- There’s a story behind why you wrote Disease. Czan you share that with us?
There is, yes, as always with my stories… I had my own worries about Alzheimer’s which began about eighteen months ago. I had begun to notice that I forgot things, and as I began to worry, I noticed more, and it was two particular events that really stuck with me. I won’t share those here, but they were serious enough that I began to really wonder if I, like my mother before me, suffered from Alzheimer’s. Luckily, turns out I’m as healthy as a horse, and my brain just functions differently, according to my neurologist. But early-on, as I was having those thoughts, I had a dream: what if I’d come home one day with a dementia diagnosis? What then? That’s the start of the novel.
- Every book that I’ve read of yours breaks my heart in the very best ways. Do you set out to write stories that touch on such hard real life issues or does that just develop as the story progresses?
It’s never a plan, no. And I think Ross Deere shows that even I make exceptions… But yes, I am preoccupied with life, and as I grow older, the questions that I tackle with change, from parenting to second chances to life and death. Thing is, these have always been universal questions, asked by authors for eons, but never have these questions been tackled in an open and contemporary way for an LGBT audience, by one of our own. And it’s necessary, as the novel shows, because even something as universal as Alzheimer’s, affecting all humans alike, no matter what our skin color, our gender identity, faith or culture we identify with, the way we have to deal with it is different, because society treats us differently. I had a lot of re-writing to do, to take into account the fact that Hunter and Ethan weren’t allowed to get married, to just take one example.
- Your stories are far away from the romantic tropes that many authors in this genre write. Is there something that compels you to write stories that while still queer and still romantic aren’t what is typically written?
Maybe because I don’t write in “this genre”? There is this assumption that every gay book is “romance” just because ninety-five percent of all books are romance. I never write romance, never set out to, never wanted to. I’m not a romance writer nor do I aspire to be. And when I began, I didn’t even know that “Harlequin” had taken over gay fiction. I’m a gay fiction author. However, because I have this behemoth next to me, people make this default assumption, and maybe my writing has turned darker to more clearly make the distinction? I often wonder about this. However, we also live in a time and era where the LGBT community for the first time ever in modern times (at least in some twenty countries) are allowed to celebrate our love and our relationships openly. We no longer “have to” be single, miserable, mentally unstable and die in every story that depicts us. Needless to say, many of our western novels are therefore more positive in tone. Romance is part of our lives, but that doesn’t make them “romance novels” no more than Romeo & Juliet is a romance novel. Like all things, co-existing with this behemoth called “romance” has its ups and downs. We get more readers, as some romance readers “accidentally” read our books and some like it, but we also have to answer questions about “why is there no HEA?”, or complaints about “lack of sex” etc. Sometimes I wish Shakespeare had been alive. I’m sure he would’ve had a witty sonett to settle this conundrum for all of us…
- Do you have an author that inspired you?
I have many authors that inspire me. I majored in literature many eons ago… Kafka, Mann, Elliott, Isherwood, to just name a few. Some authors I despise others I love, some books I hated to much that I don’t want to even be near them, and certainly not emulate them. I find that my writing to this very day is inspired by what I read, contemporary authors, friends. Which is why I never ready while I write, afraid I might not only be inspired but maybe even copy by mistake.
- What made you decide to take up writing full time?
Like so often in life, an accident, fate if you will. I had a job for a guy who was a complete nut case and I quit, three months before our son was scheduled to be born. Rather than trying to find a new gig, I decided to fulfill a life-long dream, to write “the novel”… I had previously written non-fiction only. After ten days, Family Ties was done, and after another two weeks, I had Jonathan’s Hope done. I even began work on The Opera House before it was time to pack our bags and fly to Bombay for our son’s birth. After that I was home for six months to look after Sascha (our son) and after that I’ve combined my writing with being a home maker and the occasional consulting or training gig.
- I fall hard for your characters. Do you find yourself falling for them too?
Duh, yeah! 🙂 I have absolutely no choice. Some characters I get really close to, others are more aloof and don’t let me in, certainly not as closely. When Jonathan died, I cried more than I have ever cried for any other person in my life before (and after). It was just so hard. And I say this even though I knew it would happen, as I set out to write book two. The very reason I did that was to make sure it wouldn’t turn into one of those series I despise so much. Little did I know… Then there are characters like Willem, who I admire from afar, I almost adore him, he’s the human I wish I were, but I know I’ll never even get close. Some characters I still commune with, every now and then, they visit me in (day-)dreams, and just recently I thought a lot about Haakon, as the hurricanes Irma and Mary ravaged the Caribbean and the BVI where he owns his island refuge. I also thought about Hunter’s dad and his wife Catherine, and how their house in Marathon fared… I’m weird, right?
- Any new projects on the horizon that you can share with us?
I’m just in release mode right now, so writing isn’t really on my mind, plus I have GRL which is always a ton of work. Having said that, I will be releasing a short story this fall, as part of an amazing anthology of broad LGBT stories about people fifty plus that my publisher Beaten Track is releasing. My contribution is a short story called “Clara” and is about an gender-fluid octogenarian. I love this little gem.
I’ve also begun work on a story tentatively dubbed “Martin”, about an old man living in a retirement home, but I have no idea where this is heading, and my brain is not responding to queries at this time. LOL
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
I knew this book was going to be a hard read. How could it not? It deals with a side of life that many of us have had some experience with. One that leaves us with sad memories and difficult choices. That said… PLEASE don’t let that stop you from reading this story! It’s so beautifully written, just what I’ve come to expect from Hans. He’s freaking BRILLIANT! I think that I’ve said that before, but it’s true, he’s a phenomenal writer and he excels at his craft.
I won’t go into a big synopsis with this review. You can see what it’s about from the blurb. What I can tell you is that this book is PROFOUNDLY touching. It is so realistic and it was a lovely tribute to people that love someone who is affected by this disease. It was told through two different perspectives and that really brought home (at least for me), how both points of view not only differ, but mirror the devastating experience to a degree. How life is impacted from the loved ones point of view as well as the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That was very refreshing, a take on the subject that I wasn’t expecting.
I could tell you all that this book, this story was written so well that it wouldn’t even matter that it had an M/M relationship at its center. I would love for there to be a day that this wouldn’t even matter, but today is not that day and some of the daily challenges that people in a same sex relationship face are simply just not things that people in “het” relationships have to deal with. This story was beautiful and written with Hans’ gentle touch so that I was able to read the entire story only breaking down to sob a few times. Hans Hirschi tackles these hard subjects with honor and dignity. I wish I was able to give this more than 10 Pots of Gold!
Rating: 10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars