promotion of your book has included "near-naked Flirt
Boys handing out Flirt Cards"; how do you feel about that?
I feel very, very relieved that I wasn't asked to be one
of the near-naked Flirt Boys. I don't think the book would
cross over to as many adults if it was me in my skivvies.
the big thing about BOY
MEETS BOY is how lowkey it is about
gay, so isn't it a little ironic that the book's
publicity and marketing has had to focus on the gay content?
I think there's an important distinction to be made here:
I don't think the book is lowkey about being gay at all
-- I think it's quite a gay book. The thing it's lowkey about
is the notion that being gay is a problem, which it most
certainly is not. The characters embrace being gay, but it's
just a part of who they are, and most of them (with some
notable exceptions) are absolutely fine with it. So I wouldn't
want a publisher to shy away from gay marketing and publicity
-- I'm happy they're embracing it. But really, the near-naked
Flirt Boys are just one part of a really wide and generous
plan. As we've seen here in America, the book has an enormous
number of audiences -- not just gay teens and gay adults,
but also straight teen girls and young women. I think Harper
is really trying to reach out to them all -- you'll see the
book mentioned not just in ATTITUDE and GAY TIMES, but also
in ELLE GIRL. Different approaches are made to different
audiences, but hopefully they will all find something for
themselves in the book.
recent episode of Shameless, a UK TV series set on a northern
housing estate, featured a teenage gay character so
terrified of coming out that he faked a relationship with
a girl. Is the picture painted in Boy Meets Boy an idealised
one, or is it typical of many places in the US?
I don't know if I'd call the picture painted in BMB "typical," but
it does exist in spirit in many places. I think there is a
huge range of gay teen experience -- from total misery to sheer
joy, with a lot in between. The idea for Boy Meets Boy was
to show the happier side, to create a romantic comedy where
sexuality wasn't the issue. Does this reflect all gay teen
reality? I wish it did, but no. But I don't think fiction has
to reflect a majority reality. It can create its own reality,
and it can show sides of life that aren't being shown in other
a kindergarten teacher in the book who openly tells the narrator
he's gay. Is that supposed to be believable? Did it happen
Funny you should ask. Of all the things in the book, this
one (which is often cited as the most outrageous) is actually
one of the most autobiographical. My kindergarten teacher
did make certain observations to my parents about me, which
were much later shared with me. So the judgment was there,
although she certainly didn't say it to my face. That scene
isn't supposed to be believable, but it's supposed to get
the reader used to Paul and his world.
UK publisher, defending the book against criticism in the
press, reportedly said that the company published issue books
on their merit. But isn't the whole raison
d'etre of this novel, notwithstanding what you were aying
earlier, that it's NOT an 'issue' book. It's so NOT an issue
book that I
a reader, I realised, "This is it. There's no more to
it. It's just a boy-boy romance." Is that what you set
out to write - a boy-boy romance? The anthology that you're
putting together with Billy
Merrell suggests that you DO
have an agenda of giving voice to the LGBTQ profile.
At heart, it most certainly is a boy-boy romance. But certainly
there's a grappling with identity as well, in the plot involving
Paul's friend Tony (who comes from a town not quite as idyllic
as Paul). I absolutely want to give voice to LBGTQ youth,
but I can't really say that the book was written out of an
agenda or around an issue. I wrote it because I wanted to
tell a story. Then, after the story was done, I realized
how it could be important.
Realm of Possibility (not yet out in the UK - but available
via Amazon) is told in many different voices, some of them
(how many?) in
obviously a very different book compared with Boy Meets Boy.
If it comes out here, how will we be able to tell it's
by the same author.
It isn't currently scheduled for the UK (we still haven't
figured out which of my books will be next here), but it's
about twenty kids who all go to the same high school and
how their lives intersect
in strange and wonderful and unpredictable ways. It's about
understanding, and connection, and figuring out a place in
the world. Thematically, I think it's very much in line with
Boy Meets Boy, even though the form is completely different.
interview you're asked "Do you consume pop culture
that you wouldn't if you didn't write for teenagers?" and
you respond, "You mean my office subscription to Seventeen?
Yeah, I probably wouldn't have that if I were an accountant."
what other ways do you keep up with teen culture?[
Mostly through music -- I am a complete music addict, and
am lucky enough that my taste intersects a lot with some
of the cooler bands out right now. I'm growing used to being
(at 32) one of the older people in the audience when I go
to shows -- at Bright
Eyes or Death
Cab for Cutie or The
Killers. But so much of adolescence is there. And obviously
I read a lot of writing by teens and for teens. My
website and PUSH's
website are particularly great places to receive
the founding editor of the PUSH imprint in the US, which
has published some of my own favourite YA titles (Born Confused,
Pig, and others). The list has a great website. To what degree
are you personally involved with that, and with your own
I'm the only editor on PUSH, and besides those books that
we reprint from other house's hardcovers (like Kevin Brooks's
novels, which Barry Cunningham so brilliantly edits), I am
the one finding the authors and working with them to make
the books as good as can be. I also do all of the managing
of the editorial side of the PUSH website -- which keeps
me plenty busy.
already publish some UK authors on the PUSH list. Are there
any others that you admire and would like to acquire?
Not to dodge the question, but PUSH is all first-time writers,
so most of the ones I want to work with haven't been published
yet. One of the books I'm most excited about, by a young
Brit named Eddie de Oliveira, started out as a one-act play
he wrote for the Edinburgh Festival. I read about the play
and thought it would make a great teen novel. So I got to
be a part of it as Eddie turned it into a novel about sexual
confusion called Lucky. Now he's working on his
Johnny Hazzard, about a Texan kid in London, and
LUCKY has had some great reviews on Amazon - from UK readers
who must have got hold of the PUSH edition - is any
UK publisher planning on bringing the book out?
I'm hoping a UK publisher will pick it up -- I think it will
reverberate even more on your shores than here.
I know Scholastic is planning to offer both LUCKY and JOHNNY
HAZZARD at the London Book Fair and Bologna. Hopefully someone
will snap them up!
Meets Boy has really started to establish you as a new YA
voice in the UK.
Are there any plans for you to come to the UK, say for the
paperback or the second novel launches?
I'm coming over this time for a day or two to do some interviews.
But for a tour? well, hopefully, I will be back again soon.
do you mix/separate your writing & editing lives?
Five days a week belong to other writers, and two days a week
belong to my own writing. That's the only real designation.
But, honestly, it's the same mind.
© 2005 ACHUKA