John Sam Jones has been writing about the lives of gay men in Wales for two decades. Until his first collection of short stories, Welsh Boys Too, published in 2000, gay characters were largely absent from literature in Wales… and without stories, he believes, it is difficult for gay men to make sense of their lives. Another collection of short stories, Fishboys of Vernazza, followed in 2003 and then two novels, With Angels and Furies and Crawling Through Thorns. He lives in Barmouth, where, in semi-retirement, he runs a small B&B with his husband.
ABOUT JOHN SAM JONES
When John Sam Jones’ life reached a crisis point, he faced a choice between change or suicide. His book 'Crawling Through Thorns' describes his journey back from the edge.
"I GREW up during the ’60s and ’70s in a small town nestled between the Irish Sea and the Rhinog mountains in Wales. My family have lived in that community for many generations; hard-working, Welsh-speaking, and solidly Presbyterian. The town was a summer holiday resort that had seen better days, but life still seemed spit into two; the three-month-long season and nine months when nothing much happened. Both my parents were second children.
"When they were growing up education had to be paid for and in poor families it was only the first child who was afforded the opportunity. My father was apprenticed to an electrician at 15 and my mother went “into service”, working as a maid. Realising that I was a homosexual at the age of 11 or 12 wasn’t easy. In the late 1960s in Britain, homosexuality was barely talked about – unless in hushed tones and with distaste. All I knew about homosexuals was what I’d read in newspaper reports – about men being arrested for improper behaviour, and the word 'homosexual' was always accompanied by words like unstable, alcoholic, sinful, sick, criminal. Through my adolescence I yearned to be different, to be 'normal'.
"All this yearning was hidden; homosexuality caused me such feelings of shame and guilt that I became intensely secretive.
The clash of religion, culture and sexuality in my sense of identity became intense by the time I was 18 and I suffered depression and an eventual breakdown. As the only alternative to suicide, a journey of more honest self-discovery began".
Thirty years later, Crawling Through Thorns describes that journey – from Wales to California – in the terrain where the powerful forces of sexuality, faith, religion and culture collide.