A Rom-Com for All Generations
Marshall Thornton discusses his second-chance romance 'Fathers of the Bride.'In Marshall Thornton’s lighthearted gay rom-com Fathers of the Bride, recent ex-husbands Miles and Andy are thrown together after their 24-year-old daughter asks them to plan her wedding—to a man they both have just met and who comes from a filthy rich family to boot. In a review, PW said: “Thornton’s madcap slapstick sensibilities and wacky cast balance nicely with the genuine sweetness of the men’s second-chance romance.” Thornton mostly writes mystery series (including Boystown and Pinx Video), for which he has won three Lambda Awards in the gay mystery category. Thornton takes a detour with Fathers of the Bride, imagining the present-day world that would have been without the pandemic. Refreshingly, the punch line is not anti-millennial—and Thornton demonstrates that inclusive comedy can be funny.
Three of your series are set in the 1980 and 1990s. How was writing a present-day novel?
You’re right, I’m largely a “nostalgia” writer; I’ve written only a few contemporary novels. Fathers of the Bride ended up becoming something of a nostalgia book, too. Since I wrote most of it in 2020, I had to decide whether to include the pandemic or any of the other things that made that year truly horrible. In choosing not to, I entered into a kind of alternate reality. So, in a way, it’s nostalgia for the world that would have been.
Your portrayal of the boomer-millennial generational dynamic was the nicest I’ve seen. Was this something you specifically wanted to focus on?
Well, I remember very well the friction between my own and my parents’ generations. When friends my age (in their 60s) say unkind things about kids today, it always irks me. I don’t think they’re very different than we were, and life is much harder for young people today. So, I really didn’t want to make fun of the kids in a negative way. I also think that there’s something wonderfully hopeful about being in your 20s, something that is common to all generations. I wanted to show that and encourage it. I do hope that the next generation is able to solve the problems we’re leaving unfixed.
What (or who) inspired the Lincoln-Collinses? Raj?
In the early 1990s, I worked for a catering company in Pasadena. That put me in the kitchens of many, many wealthy people. Many wealthy people are wonderful, and many are not. Most, I think, are kind but out of touch with the rest of the world. Hence the Lincoln-Collinses. Raj is certainly a response to the things I see on social media. He just wants to be liked—by as many people as possible.
It is the dream of many writers to make writing their main source of income. So how did you become a self-sufficient author? Any tips for other writers trying to get there?
For many years, I was lucky enough to get high-paying gig work in Hollywood. Unfortunately, that dried up and I was left unemployed in my late 50s—not a good age to go job hunting. Quickly, I figured out that I was going to have to turn my small royalties into much larger yearly royalties. I lived in a friend’s guest house for several years and toiled away until I was making an actual living from my royalties. The tips I’d give after that: live inexpensively and define success on your terms, no one else’s.
You put out a significant amount of work every year. How do you find a work-life balance?
Honestly, I don’t work as much as it seems. I was very fortunate in that I went to film school at UCLA, where I studied screenwriting. We wrote a film script every 10 weeks. That taught me to write quickly. I work a few hours every day, even on the weekends. Somehow it manages to all come together.
What’s your target audience? Who do you want reading your books?
I was at a book event seven or eight years ago, and a young woman in a hijab bought two of my books. That was a surprise, and it taught me not to think too much about who my target audience was, because I’d be excluding people. That said, I’ve told other writers to write books they want to read—since you’re going to have to read it a lot. I suppose that makes me my own target audience.
What’s next for you? Any more romantic comedies?
My next book is part of the Wyandot County Mystery series. It’s called A Fabulously Unfabulous Summer and should be out in February. I don’t have a romantic comedy planned for 2022, but I’m not that great at following my own plan, so who knows?
Tiff Scott is a queer freelance writer, book reviewer for BookLife and PW, barista, and cat lover.