Navigating PC Pride in Queer YA

(Originally posted on powellsbooks.com blog)

As a gay teen growing up in South Carolina, I’d never heard of gay pride. As far as I knew, I was the only queer kid in the entire state, and I planned to stay safely tucked in the closet where I could pray all that gay away. 

Newsflash: That doesn’t work, so stop it!

Back in those days, finding queer representation in books in the school library was challenging, to say the least. I was so excited to get a glimpse of myself in books like A Separate PeaceBrideshead Revisited, and Of Mice and Men. (George Milton sure notices a lot of details about other men’s physiques, right?) So, naturally, I’m thrilled that LGBTQ teens today have a lot to choose from in young adult literature.

But what I find interesting is that many LGBTQ characters in YA, when not relegated to the background of the story or met with some tragic end, are of the straight-acting, chaste, cute, sweet variety. In queer YA lit, kissing, cuddling, and maybe oral sex is okay, but anything else gets you into questionable territory — especially when the author is a gay man... but that’s a whole other tricky subject for another time. 

Newsflash #2: Queer teens are exploring their sexuality and are just as wonderfully messy as non-queer teens. 

So why shy away from portraying them that way? Are we trying to present the most socially acceptable version of a queer teen to the world in the name of political correctness? Where are all the fabulously effeminate, outlandishly queeny gay boys in YA lit? Oh, that’s a stereotype, some say. 

Newsflash #3: Maybe, but those kids exist too, and they have just as much right to be represented. 

When I first started querying Social Intercourse to agents and editors, most of them said they loved the voice and the writing, but they felt it was too much for YA. Too raunchy, too racy, and too edgy. These responses puzzled me because Social Intercourse is far less racy than many YA romances on the market. Like, a lot less. So, is there a double standard for LGBTQ YA?

Was it maybe because the main character, Beck, is a gay boy cruising a city park looking to lose his virginity in the first chapter? Is that too real? Too honest? Not the kind of queer teen we want representing the LGBTQ youth population of queer YA lit? 

Newsflash #2: Queer teens are...just as wonderfully messy as non-queer teens.

Well, I can tell you that as a gay kid growing up in the deep South — and yes, even today — living out, proud, and loud is still a challenging proposition. With Beck, I wanted to show a somewhat underrepresented gay teen character, one who is unapologetically queer, who knows who he is and isn't afraid of letting his freak flag fly. Beck is a self-proclaimed "femmy choir boy" who wears guyliner and is obsessed with The Golden Girls

Newsflash #4: Beck is a total Dorothy on the outside and a closet Blanche on the inside. 

The point is, that kid exists too, so doesn’t he deserve to be represented? The edginess, raciness, and balls to the walls attitude of Social Intercourse might be what made some of those agents and editors uncomfortable. And it might make a lot of readers uncomfortable, too. But hats off to my agent and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, who never asked me to tone it down or take out any of the naughty bits. I told my agent when I first signed with her that it was important to me not to water the book down to make it more palatable to the masses. I wanted to stay true to the characters, and frankly, true to myself and my experience as a gay teen coming of age in the armpit of the American South. And what I found through talking to queer teens is that it’s still hard for them — better than it was for me, maybe, but still hard. Especially if they don’t blend in.

Look, I’m a sucker for a sweet romance, even one about a straight-acting gay boy coming to terms with his sexuality and ending the story with a chaste kiss with another straight-acting gay boy. (I hate the term straight-acting, but you get my point). And yes, that story probably does have more mass appeal than mine. But my hope is that the amazing success of beautiful books like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (and the wonderful movie adaptation, Love, Simon) have helped blow the doors down so that characters like Beck can sashay their way right into mainstream hearts as well. I’d venture to bet that readers who give Beck a chance will end up loving him just as much as they love Simon — even if Beck’s flame burns the house down in the process. #SluttySimon!

(Disclaimer: I have Becky Albertalli’s wholehearted blessing to use that hashtag when describing my book!)

In Social Intercourse, Beck isn’t ashamed of who he is, so why should we be? Just like his real-life counterparts, Beck is out, proud, and living loud. I wish I had understood that kind of pride when I was a teen hiding deep in that closet, watching the world pass me by. I would have told myself: Hey you! Get out there! Throw on some guyliner and let your freak flag fly! And let Blanche out for some air. It’s going to be just fine.

SOCIAL INTERCOURSE - The Official Playlist

Some of you know that I live in Nashville and have been in the music business for more years than I care to count. Part of my job is compiling music and creating playlists of our catalog. So, it was a natural step for me to create an official Spotify playlist for SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. Think of it as the movie soundtrack of the book. I compiled music I felt would fit the vibe of the book, and also included types of music that Beck and Jax talk about in their narratives. The playlist sort of follows the natural flow of the story and features such artists as Troye Sivan, Disclosure, The Weeknd, ZAYN, Charli XCX, Adam Lambert, Charlie Pluth, Ellie Goulding and many more. I hope this official playlist provides the perfect musical backdrop for reading SOCIAL INTERCOURSE, or just give it a listen after you finish the book to stay in Beck's and Jax's world a little bit longer. And be sure to "follow" the playlist so you will be notified when new songs are added!

Check it out on Spotify!

BLOOD DIVINE CHARACTER TEASER

Meet Rafe, a fierce Divinum warrior and special agent in the Jericho army who delights in killing Anakim Changelings. Roguishly handsome and built like a brick wall, Rafe is an impossible lothario, happily bedding both women or men, and dedicated to the Jericho cause of ridding the world of the Anakim plague. With a sly grin, a sharp tongue, and an even sharper blade, Rafe's cocky swagger gets him into as much trouble as the endless war with the Anakim.(Order on AMAZON: http://bit.ly/BloodDivine or ask for it at your local bookstore!)

(Dream Casting: Jason Momoa)

 

REPOST OF INTERVIEW WITH MELISSA CHAMBERS

Author Interview with Greg Howard

With Halloween just around the corner, who doesn’t want spook themselves out a little with a creepy ghost story? Greg Howard has the perfect one for readers who like action-packed paranormal stories, and who don’t mind a little blood and gore.

Check out the book trailer here!

Welcome, Greg Howard!

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Blood Divine takes place in Georgetown, SC. How much research did you need to do to put the reader properly in the setting?

Honestly, not a whole lot, only because Georgetown is my hometown. It’s where I was born and where most of my family still lives. So I had a deep connection to the setting ingrained in me, and the real-life places I used like The Rice Museum, The Strand Theater, The Ice House, etc. I did do some research on Mansfield Plantation which was the inspiration for Warfield Plantation in the book. We lived just a short bike ride down the road from Mansfield when I was young. Back then it was deserted and widely believed to be haunted. For some reason, whenever we wanted to “run away from home” that’s where we went. Not very smart. The prologue of the book is an account of something that really happened to us at Mansfield when we were kids. Well…up to a certain point.

Cooper and Randy are too cute together! What was your inspiration for their characters?

My first real-life boy crush (meaning not a fictional TV character or an action figure) was my older brother’s best friend. When I was around eight years old, I thought he was about the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Then when I ran into him years later, as an adult, he’d grown into this gorgeous law enforcement professional and traditional family man. I thought it was so interesting that I still felt like a swoony eight year-old around him. I mean, I couldn’t hardly look him in the eye! It was pathetic. He didn’t have a clue he had that effect on me, thank God.

This story seems to thread together good and evil in a unique way. There are some biblical references to your Anakim creatures. Are you a Bible buff, or did you fictionalize those parts?

While I wouldn’t call myself a Bible buff, I do find Biblical mythology fascinating. When I first conceived, BLOOD DIVINE, I was simply trying to put a fresh spin on vampires and witches. That got me to thinking about Lucifer and the fallen angels of Heaven and pondering—what if they were the origin of vampires on Earth. That’s when the Biblical research started—first with the Nephilim, the children of the fallen angels who mated with humans, and then the Anakim, the children of the Nephilim. And, of course, the Biblical passages I used about them in the book are real. The Anakim were described as giants who ruthlessly slaughtered innocent people, so I made them the first vampires. The Divinum (witches), I fictionalized their origin and history. Since I grew up in the church, it was a fun way to tell the story.

Eunice and Eudora were my favorite characters, and there were plenty of quirky characters to choose from! Who would play these two in the motion picture of Blood Divine?

Eunice and Eudora are fan favorites, for sure! Ever since I saw Mireille Enos play twins in the TV show, BIG LOVE, that’s who I’ve always seen in my head when writing Eunice and Eudora.

Georgetown, where this story is based, is known as the Ghost Capital of the South. Any truth to that?

There was a sign when you entered Georgetown that proclaimed it proudly! So, truth that they claim it, yes! Truth that there are ghosts and spirits there, well there are just too many stories and legends not to at least wonder. Several books have been written about the ghosts of Georgetown. Like I said, we had our own haunted experiences at Mansfield Plantation when I was a kid, and now that it’s been restored into a beautiful bed & breakfast, I’m told by the staff of Mansfield that things still go bump in the night there. Without a doubt the most famous Georgetown ghost is the Gray Man.

What are you reading now?
I just started GLORY OVER EVERYTHING by Kathleen Grissom. I loved, loved loved her last book, THE KITCHEN HOUSE, and can’t wait to get swallowed up in that world again. And the writing is just too beautiful.

If you like __________, then you may love Blood Divine.
The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

Name three things about yourself that your readers would never be able to guess. 
I sing in a 140-voice community choir.

I’m a TV junkie.

My age. (wink, wink)

What can we look forward to reading from you next?

I just finished edits on my first YA book that will be published by Simon & Schuster in Spring, 2018. It’s a male/male rom-com (heavy on the comedy), and couldn’t be more different from BLOOD DIVINE. Now that it’s finished, I think I am going to jump back into the sequel for BLOOD DIVINE.

Blood Divine is available now on Amazon!

Follow Greg on TwitterFacebook, or Goodreads.

 

ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY OF BLOOD DIVINE

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood Divine by Greg  Howard

Blood Divine

by Greg Howard

Giveaway ends October 10, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS EXPIRED. CONGRATULATIONS EDUARDO MARTINEZ OF POMONA, CA!

TV JUNKIE

If you know me personally, you know I'm a TV junkie, so I thought I'd share my favs every now and then and make some recommendations. 

The new show I'm really into right now is THIS IS US. It reminds me a little of Parenthood, Brothers and Sisters, and Thirtysomething, but it feels fresh and has an interesting twist that I did NOT see coming. And usually I can spot a twist from a mile away. Check it out!

 

Winding down the winding down...

Today ends my annual 2-week retreat at the beach - Pawleys Island, SC. I come the first week by myself to write and then 8-10 friends come the second week. This year I got through all of the edits from my publisher, Simon & Schuster, on my new young adult book. So while I wasn't working on "new words" so to speak, the week was extremely productive. The second week is always about chilling. That usually consists of standing in the pool most of the day reading. Morning sunrise watching is also a favorite activity on these trips. There's nothing like watching the sun creep up over the horizon of the Atlantic ocean. 

This year I also got married at the beach. It wasn't going to be a big deal, just the friends who were here with us, my sister, and a couple other friends from Nashville. But, of course, our friends made it SO special. They just couldn't help themselves. :)  It was actually the first time I had all three of my best friends in the same place at the same time, a combined 70 years of friendship.

Five years ago when we were here, if you would have told me I would be standing on a beach in South Carolina at sunset getting legally married one day, I might have laughed. It wasn't possible then and it didn't seem like something I would ever get to experience in my lifetime. But - it's done. The same week my debut book came out, I got married after 15 years with my constant and loyal partner in life who I can now call - husband. Can't wait to see what's next.

The reviews are coming in and....

Check out these initial reviews for BLOOD DIVINE! Available now on Amazon. (Print version available soon)

5 stars: "...dark, twisted, and a bit on the scary side...held me captured the complete way through." - Natosha, Gay Book Reviews  (see full review)

5 stars: "Underworld meets Gone With The Wind...kept me completely engrossed from start to finish. A real pro of a job."- Freya, Sinfully MM Book Reviews  (see full review)

5 stars: "I loved this book. I loved the characters, the locale, the backstory, the world building, the pretty much everything about it!" - Dan, Love Bytes Reviews  (see full review)

5 stars: "This book has it all and is written in such a gripping manner that I just could not put it down." - Susan, The Blogger Girls  (see full review)

BLOOD DIVINE AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON

My debut novel, BLOOD DIVINE, is now available for 

pre-order on Amazon!  

Blurb:

Cooper Causey spent a lifetime eluding the demons of his youth and suppressing the destructive power inside him. But a disconcerting voicemail lures Cooper back home to the coast of South Carolina and to Warfield—the deserted plantation where his darkness first awakened.

While searching for his missing grandmother, Cooper uncovers the truth about his peculiar ancestry and becomes a pawn in an ancient war between two supernatural races. In order to protect the only man he’s ever loved, Cooper must embrace the dark power threatening to consume him and choose sides in a deadly war between the righteous and the fallen.

(Perfect for fans of Stephen King, Christopher Rice, and Charlaine Harris.)

Also available at Kobo and for immediate download at Wilde City Press.

 

PATH TO PUBLICATION UPDATE

BLOOD DIVINE WILL BE RELEASED AUGUST 24TH!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Cooper Causey spent a lifetime eluding the demons of his youth and suppressing the destructive power inside him. But a disconcerting voicemail lures Cooper back home to the coast of South Carolina and to Warfield—the deserted plantation where his darkness first awakened. While searching for his missing grandmother, Cooper uncovers the truth about his ancestry and becomes a pawn in an ancient war between two supernatural races. In order to protect the only man he’s ever loved, Cooper must embrace the dark power threatening to consume him and choose sides in a deadly war between the righteous and the fallen.