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  • Writer's pictureKelli A. Wilkins

Behind the Scenes: A Thousand Summer Secrets (A Gay Contemporary Romance)

This “Behind the Scenes” blog is part of a series examining my romance novels. In each blog, I’ll talk about why I wrote the book, share my thoughts on the plot and/or characters, and sometimes reveal what I loved most (or least) about writing the book. Warning: Blogs may contain spoilers.

If you missed any blog in this series, you can catch up here:


Hi everyone,

I’m kicking off Pride month with a Behind the Scenes look at the making of my fourth gay romance, A Thousand Summer Secrets. I’ll talk about the characters, their troubled relationships, the origin of the story, and the title. Let’s get started with the book blurb:

A Thousand Summer Secrets

You can’t outrun your past…

Ten years after being disowned by his family for being gay, Eric Warren pays a visit to his family’s summer cabin. It’s his last attempt at reconciliation before moving on. But a surprise from the past is waiting for him.

Eric’s intolerant brother, Jamey, has several friends staying at the cabin for the weekend, including Matt, Eric’s boyhood friend and secret crush. The years haven’t faded their mutual attraction, and they quickly reconnect. But Eric is hesitant to get romantically involved. He’s emotionally broken and scarred from his traumatic past.

As Matt tries to help Eric, Jamey goes out of his way to sabotage his brother. And when the weekend events take a disastrous turn, Eric finds himself at a crossroads.

Should he follow his search for love and acceptance with Matt? Or leave the past behind forever?

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Before I talk about the characters, let’s talk about the title. Yes, as you may have guessed, this book is filled with secrets (and lies). Are there “a thousand” secrets? I’m not sure, but I do know the characters are keeping secrets from each other and themselves. Everything isn’t exactly what it seems, and there’s plenty of family and relationship drama to fill a weekend.

As for the title itself… Occasionally I have trouble coming up with titles, but not this time. Many years ago I was mindlessly fooling around with those magnetic squares of different words and strung together “thousand summer secrets”. I thought it would make a good title, so I wrote it down.

Originally I thought I’d use the title for a story about two female best friends reconnecting during a week at the beach. That book never materialized. But when I wrote about two male friends reconnecting over a July Fourth weekend, I decided the title fit the story perfectly!

When I wrote the book, I deliberately set the story in a rural cabin during a long weekend. Why? To build drama and tension. Basically, I threw several characters who don’t get along in a small space and forced them to deal with each other, for good or bad. You never know what they’ll do or say next. (If anyone has ever been “stuck” with people you can’t stand for a long weekend, you know what I’m talking about.)     

Everyone in this story has flaws they’re working through (or should be!). Jamey has anger issues (for starters). His friend Dave is a homophobic jerk. Eric is in AA, harboring a lot of guilt, and has low self-esteem. Matt is the stable one in the group and tries to make peace between everyone. But after a while, he realizes it’s an uphill battle for Eric, and Eric might be better off without his cruel, dysfunctional family.

When I was writing, I wanted the characters (not just Eric) to realize it’s okay to walk away from people and situations that make your life miserable. Just because you’re related to someone (or dating them), it doesn’t give them the right to bully you or treat you like crap. Life is too short to be around uncaring, intolerant people, and it’s within your right to leave them behind, move on, and close the door to them forever.

As Eric tries to come to grips with his past, he needs all the love, support, and help he can get. He was disowned by his parents (literally thrown out of the house forever) when he was 20 years old, and left to fend for himself. Despite his attempts at reconciliation, his family wants nothing to do with him. Why? Because he’s gay.

Unfortunately, this situation is all too common in the LGBTQ+ community. Children and teens are facing bullying, hatred, and worse from their relatives, in their schools, and on social media—all because they don’t “fit in” with the “norm” of society. I based Eric’s backstory on several true stories I heard from gay friends and coworkers. Many times the LGBTQ+ person decides the only way to be happy is to leave their biological family and find a new family in the LGBTQ+ community.

Eric’s rejection by his family wounds him deeply and feeds a lot of his self-esteem issues. Matt’s family supports him, but he’s still not completely comfortable being “out” in public. In the end, they both realize that what other people think doesn’t matter—accept them or not—they’re not going to hide who they are (or who they love) for anyone or any reason.

And that’s how it should be, because love is all that matters.

June is Pride Month. Let’s all celebrate Love this summer.

(In my next blog, I’ll share a character interview with Eric. Don’t miss it!)

Until next time,

Kelli A. Wilkins



Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20+ romance novels, and 6 mystery/horror ebooks. Her romances span many genres and settings, and she likes to scare readers with her horror and mystery stories.

Kelli released her fourth gay romance, A Thousand Summer Secrets, in April 2024. This tender contemporary romance takes place over a summer weekend, where two friends reconnect while seeking love and acceptance.

She published The Route 9 Killer, a mystery/thriller set in Central NJ, in early 2023.

Follow Kelli on her Facebook author page: and visit her website/blog for a full title list and social media links.




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