In a recent interview, I was asked if I intentionally created Jon Fixx to offer up a new modern-day hero archetype to the literary landscape: a man who is openly fragile, sensitive, emotionally available, willing to shamelessly shed tears over a woman. The simple answer was, “No, that was not my intention.” Then, later, after mulling over the question, and considering who Jon Fixx is and how he behaves, I realized that the more accurate answer would have been “yes.” But not because I wanted to create a new archetype—the initial reason I answered “no,”—but rather because I wanted to pull back the curtain on how the disaffected “male macho” response to heartbreak is generally portrayed in film, television, and literature.
When I was growing up, one of the biggest shocks of my life was how much it hurt to be in love or, rather, to fall out of love. I read voraciously as a child and was allowed to watch as much TV as I wanted, but none of this reading and television prepared me—a young man—for heartbreak. I knew what breakups looked like on TV and how they were portrayed in the novels I read. Women cried. Women called their friends to vent, to discuss, to gain clarity, to feel solidarity. Men, on the other hand, did none of these things. Men were stoic, unaffected, often apparently unfeeling, off to the bar for a drink and a new number.
But the truth is more complicated. In reality, men have feelings as deep and varying as women do, but we are taught that it is taboo, unseemly, to share our feelings openly or force others to witness our breakup machinations. In effect, if we hide the heartbreak, it doesn’t exist.
My first breakup, then, was far more jaggedly painful than I was prepared for, as was every one after that. I figured I was an outlier, more damaged than my buddies, that possibly something was wrong with me. But I got older, matured, and I paid attention. As years passed, I watched my close male friends, how they handled their misanthrope, how they mourned their love lost. And I realized I wasn’t an outlier, that my feelings were neither unusual nor unexpected. My buddies were going through the same things. I witnessed my male friends completely distraught over the lost love of a woman and how that loss manifested itself in their erratic behavior.
So, I took the manifestation of this experienced heartbreak to the extreme, creating a young man who wears his emotions on his sleeve, who finds it almost impossible to withstand the tidal waves of being dumped, who cries openly when his girlfriend tells him she’s fallen in love with another man. In many ways, Jon reacts to his breakups with the manner and characteristics generally attributed to a woman. His emotions drive his decisions, and he feels so intensely that he often goes to extremes that many men would be embarrassed to admit to but may, in fact, take. He so badly wants to be in love that he doesn’t know what to do when he doesn’t have a muse with whom he can share his feelings. He doesn’t hide his tears, he’s not embarrassed by his emotions, and he has no problem telling his partner how he feels. For many women, he’s almost too available.
But does all this mean that Jon is cowardly, weak? Far from it.
Jon Fixx is a complicated man. He writes real life romance stories for a living. When a couple is on the way to the pulpit, or when an anniversary milestone is on the horizon, a couple’s 50th for example, Jon is brought in to memorialize their love in the form of a Hollywood-style romance that shines light on the highs, glosses over the lows, and takes a little fictional liberty to make the story interesting for anyone outside the couple. Jon is very good at what he does, and he is well respected by those who hire him.
When the novel opens, Jon is emotionally incapacitated, having been recently dumped by the love of his life. He is incapable of writing anything even remotely related to successful love affairs. But then the head of the New York Mafia comes calling and gives Jon no choice. Literally. He—at first—hopes just to do the job and be done. But Jon finds compelling reasons to dig deeper and become more involved than he expected. He does not back down from the Vespucci story he unravels and actually—almost knowingly—compels the story forward. He can handle himself. Jon is certainly not your average novice detective.
I invite you to get the book, read Jon’s story, and discover the other characters that make Jon who he is. I think you’ll enjoy all of them.
P.S. I want to give a shout-out to Segun Oduolowu for introducing this topic in our interview.
This post originally appeared on the Vroman’s Bookstore blog, as part of my appearance for Local Author Day.