When the idea first struck me to write a romance with a hoarder as the central character, I almost sent it packing. It sounded like a unique hook as I’d never heard of another romance featuring a hoarder as a love interest, but then again, there was probably a good reason for that. After all, isn’t hoarding disgusting? Who would want to read about someone who’d filled their house with random stuff to the point where it had become a health and safety hazard? It ain’t romantic or sexy, that’s for sure.
However, as I have a terminally rebellious urge it was this inadvisability that really attracted me. I’d managed to write a successful erotic romance with a hero who was on dialysis (Ben in Handle with Care), and another with a dole scrounger (Cosmo in Screwing the System). For some reason I’m pulled towards unconventional but ordinary folk, complete with all their myriad physical and mental health issues, along with some juicy character flaws. Perhaps this is because these are the people I know in real life, and I’m resistant to the idea that only dedicated cops, billionaires and ripped firefighters deserve a happy ending 😉
Once I’d decided I was going to welcome the hoarder plot bunny with open arms, I had more difficult decisions to make. What could my hero hoard that wouldn’t revolt readers? I’m utterly fascinated by hoarding television shows where they investigate people’s homes–particularly when there’s a proper therapist working with the hoarders to effect a transformation. That said, it’s one thing to watch it on television where only the visual element is involved, but to write it I’d have to call on all the senses. I decided I needed to investigate further, and delved into a wonderful book called “Stuff, Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” to find out more about the different types of things people collect, and why.
Animals – Just when does a mad cat lady turn into an animal hoarder? The answer seems to be when the number of animals exceeds the owner’s ability to care for them, resulting in ill health and a house full of excrement. Animal hoarders are a distinct group of hoarders and according to the authors of Stuff (two experts in hoarding disorder), they are the most problematic to work with. While it’s obvious to outsiders that conditions are utterly insanitary and the animals need rescuing, their owners often believe that they are the ones saving the animals from a life on the streets or being put down.
Food – People who hoard perishable food are perhaps the next most antisocial group. They are usually located by their neighbours reporting roaches and rats, and this type of hoarding is likely to result in forced clear-outs by an environmental health team–something the hoarders find extremely traumatic.
Bodily waste – this is a really unusual one and definitely a sign of a severe mental health problem. There are people out there who consider everything that was once a part of them–toenail clippings, hair, feces, etc–to be in some way imbued with a magical property, and they cannot bear to let it go for fear that harm will befall them.
I knew Jasper, my hoarder hero, couldn’t collect anything too revolting or have mental health problems that were too severe, so fortunately all of these were out of the question.
Less antisocial hoarding:
When the objects hoarded are things like clothes, toys, furniture and books a hoard is far less antisocial. Yes, it can still be a health hazard for the person who lives in the house–at risk of having their possessions bury them alive–but it’s unlikely to annoy the neighbours unless it spills out into the garden, or the exterior state of the house lowers the value of their own.
I knew Jasper would have to collect something, but I liked the idea of it being a themed collection more than a random mix of objects–which becomes the stuff of nightmares when it’s piled up everywhere. At first Jasper was going to collect old electronics, but then I took a look at my dad and realised what it had to be: books. It was the perfect hoard for readers to be able to relate to. After all, aren’t most of us bookworms just a step or two away from becoming book hoarders ourselves?
That’s why I wrote the dedication for all of you:
For everybody who’s ever bought a book they know they’ll probably never get around to reading
I just hope Junk isn’t one of the ones you buy and don’t read!
Readers, have you ever bought a book you know you’ll never read, and why?
Prize giveaway: In addition to the grand prize of a sexy book tote (entry details on Jo’s website) there will be a $5 ebook gift voucher awarded to one commenter from every post during the tour, up to Monday 9th September, 9am GMT (full details also on Jo’s website, including the blog tour itinerary)
Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.
When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.
Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.
What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.
Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.
Warning: Contains a level-headed counselor with a secret addiction, a bespectacled geek with a sweet tooth, a killer “to-be-read” pile, embarrassing parents, a van called Alice, and deliciously British slang.
Junk is out now, available from the following retailers:
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com
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