Love Bytes is happy to welcome author Jeff Erno back to the blog. Jeff is here to talk about his new release “Slim Chance”.
Welcome Jeff 🙂
Thanks so much to Love Bytes for having me back. I’m excited to share information about my new release, Slim Chance, the story of a young man named Oliver who has battled serious issues with obesity all of his life. At a starting weight of over 300 pounds, he has difficulty finding clothes that fit, performing any kind of physical activity, or even feeling comfortable in his day-to-day life. Even sitting in a chair is awkward. When Oliver looks in the mirror, he hates what he sees, and worse than this is the fact that he knows the things people say about him. Most people are polite to his face, but all too often the hurtful things they say behind his back make their way back to him somehow.
Benjy is the love interest in this story. He’s Oliver’s friend from the very beginning, before Oliver loses a single ounce. Benjy has seen a side of the protagonist that he regards as heroic. On Benjy’s first week of work (they are computer programmers for an insurance company) Benjy suffers a panic attack when he is overwhelmed by a deadline. Oliver steps in and handles the situation, calms Benjy and gives him the support he needs to make it through the crisis.
I’ve talked a lot about Oliver in the promotional blogs for Slim Chance, but I have yet to speak about Benjy. That’s what I’d like to do here. The story is told entirely from the perspective of Oliver, so I don’t get much opportunity to take the reader into Benjy’s head. I have to rely upon showing Benjy through Oliver’s eyes. There are some scenes where Benjy seems to be a doormat. Oliver is quick to lash out at Benjy, but this doesn’t deter him. He refuses to see anything negative about Oliver and remains the most loyal friend. And even when Oliver does something really shitty to Benjy, he still shoulders the blame, somehow believing he’s the one who has failed.
Why would I create a character like this? Well, it certainly is not because I’m advocating that people allow themselves to be used as doormats. I’m not trying to make any kind of statement advocating this sort of self-loathing and self-deprecation. That being said, Benjy is very real to me. It makes perfect sense to me that a person who has social anxiety issues and self-esteem issues would be the one individual who would accept Oliver exactly as he is. And as we learn about Benjy’s background, how he was disowned by his religious family and subsequently homeless, his fear of abandonment also makes a whole lot of sense.
The other thing about Benjy is that he’s one of those people who sees the good in others. Oliver is kind of the opposite, and I wanted to show Oliver’s perspective, how Benjy’s optimism at times was annoying to Oliver. And I believe this a hundred percent. I honestly think that cynical people tend to be very annoyed by optimists. Much of their annoyance stems from how they feel about themselves. And a part of that cynicism is being skeptical. At times Benjy tries offering words of encouragement to Oliver, and Oliver rebuffs him. Oliver doubts Benjy’s sincerity because he’s never really known someone that kind.
The dynamic between Oliver and Benjy is not a typical, bed of roses, sweep-you-off-your-feet style romance. I do think it is beautiful, nonetheless. But Benjy, as wonderful as he is, doesn’t have the power to magically change Oliver’s personality. He can’t heal all of Oliver’s pain by simply being nice to him. Benjy knows this, and he is also painfully aware of all his own issues. He knows that the social anxiety is his albatross. He desperately wants to feel more confident about his own ability to function in everyday life. On and off we see him making a valiant effort.
I wanted to show a story about two very imperfect people who found each other and learned to love one another within the context of their imperfections. This is different than “settling”. It’s not the same as saying that they loved each other in spite of their flaws. They had to get to a point where they loved all of each other, including the flaws. And both of these characters, Oliver and Benjy, arc during the story. They evolve and mature, learn lessons about themselves and each other along the way.
I hope that explains a bit about Benjy, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that you’ll enjoy the story.
Oliver has always been obese and suffered from a negative body image. He’s tried diets before, failing time after time, but he vows this time will be different. As he begins an exercise program, his confidence increases—and so does his interest in his friend and coworker Benjy. Though they bonded long ago over a love of online gaming, it takes a lot of courage for Oliver to share his new body and be intimate with another man.
A passionate romance blooms, but as Oliver nears his goal, it seems he doesn’t need Benjy—with his chronic anxiety and troubled past—now that he’s made attractive new friends at the gym. But not all relationships are equal, and Oliver realizes that Benjy, who loved and supported him when no one else did, is more than a reminder of his old life.
A pleasing appearance means nothing when it hides a lonely, empty heart, and if Oliver cannot decide what’s truly important, he’ll lose what he cherishes most.