We are very happy to welcome Will Parkinson to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Will’s most recent book Wet Paint, the sequel to Pitch, is available at Dreamspinner Press, and published by their YA division: Harmony Ink.
Will first started writing when he was fourteen years old: Handwritten stories on loose leaf paper. He wrote of characters like Grant and Rusty who needed each other in order to be a family. When he started writing, Will wasn’t out and could never dare to show his stories to anyone, but says, “these boys became my friends and family.”
On his blog, Will writes: “A few words from someone tore them away from me, causing me to doubt myself. At fourteen, realizing you’re gay, and having no one to talk with…well, it pretty much sucked. I took everything I ever wrote – Free At Last, The Triad, and more – and threw them in a box and stopped writing for many years.
“The voices in my head didn’t stop talking to me, though. They begged to be let out, but I was certain that the person who told me I’d never amount to anything was right and I denied them.
“More years passed. Then one day I found The Telling by Eden Winters. It was my very first male/male story and I was hooked. I wrote to her and explained how much I loved it. From there grew a friendship that we share to this day. One day she asked me if I didn’t have stories to share. I explained why I didn’t write and she told me very plainly that the voices in my head would never stop talking to me and that I needed to let them out.
“From that conversation came Pitch – the story of Taylor, Jackson, Benny, and Addy. My first published work, available in 2013 from Harmony Ink.
“And I could not be prouder.”
You can learn more about him on his blog.
Jodi: Thank you, Will for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. I am a fan of your writing and of Taylor, Jackson, Benny and Addy. Tell us why you decided to write in the young adult fiction genre?
Will: When I was a kid (counts on fingers….needs more fingers) years ago, there wasn’t anything for young adults. Heck, there wasn’t much for gay people at all. When I started to write again, I remembered thinking how my life would have changed had there been characters out there who I could relate to.
Jodi: Are there “rules” you need to think about when writing in this genre? Is that a challenge for you as a writer?
Will: The rules for YA have changed over the years. When I did Pitch, I was reminded of the no sex in YA, for example. Taylor and Jackson did nothing more than kissing. When I did Wet Paint, we were informed by Harmony that the rules had changed. Sex COULD be had, but it had to be in the context of the story. No gratuitous scenes, and they couldn’t be explicit.
Jodi: On your blog you mention that being a 14-year-old gay male with no one to talk to sucked. Was writing cathartic for you?
Will: Yes. I made worlds where young people, like Rusty and Grant, could fall in love, be accepted by their family, and have their happily ever after. They were experiences I wished I could have, but I wasn’t brave enough to find out.
Jodi: Would you share your “coming out” experience with us?
Will: Which one? I think most people have several. You start with your friends. My best friend at the time (and he’s still my best friend) was the first person I told. His reply: “Yeah? So?”
I had several such experiences as I got older and allowed more friends to know who I was. Each was greeted as a specific non-event. I was still Will to them.
Jodi: Are Taylor and Jackson’s experiences at school similar to yours?
Will: Oh god no. When I was in school, the words fag and queer were thrown around like candy. There wasn’t the more accepting attitudes of today (not saying it’s all roses and chocolates for today’s youths). When I was in school, I probed the outer edges. I made a few comments to people to see how it would go over if I came out as gay. The reaction definitely wasn’t that of my friends.
Jodi: In Pitch, Taylor seems to fall in love with Jackson at first sight. He seems to be willing to sacrifice his feelings to be friends with Jackson though. What stops him from approaching Jackson?
Will: In Pitch, Taylor is chubby and has a very low self-esteem. Jackson is everything Taylor isn’t. At least on the outside. And I don’t think that it was really love at first sight. Taylor was definitely in lust, but his feelings deepened the more he found out about Jackson – even when he heard how Jackson felt about him.
Jodi: Jackson is a bit of an enigma. On the surface, he seems self-confident, mature and open-minded. However he is not as independent and self-confident as he appears. How has moving around affected him?
Will: Jackson wanted roots. He needed a feeling of belonging, and that never worked out for him. When his father promised that this year they’d be in one place until graduation, Jackson threw himself into school, trying to make a life for himself. He was mostly happy, at least until he saw Taylor.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for Becca?
Will: Becca wasn’t really inspired by anyone. I got taken to task for the fact that she was the shrewish female in the book, but I never looked at her that way. Her character evolved (at least to me), as she slowly came to understand that being popular wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.
Jodi: Is Camp Care based on an actual place?
Will: No. It was a bit of imagination for me. I volunteer at an animal shelter in Iron River, Michigan, about four hours from Milwaukee (where I live). We drive past the spot where my Camp Care is located, and I love the expanse of open area, and kept thinking how nice it would be.
Jodi: Benny is a strong character. He is smart and confident. He doesn’t date because his parents force him to concentrate on his school work. His best friend is gay, but he doesn’t realize he is gay until Addy kisses him. Tell us a bit about Benny and his struggle to understand himself.
Will: Benny has had his life planned out for him by his parents. He’s a genius, certifiably so. They want him to go to a prestigious school, do something amazing with his life, and be loved and well respected. Benny goes along with it because he doesn’t really have any dreams of his own. He’s easily bored and doesn’t focus on one thing to the exclusion of others. With the exception of Taylor. In Taylor, Benny sees himself. The insecurities are the same ones that he has. But Taylor has been braver than Benny in admitting his deepest secret to his friend. Benny learns a lot from Taylor, but it isn’t until the end that it comes out.
Jodi: Benny has a bit of a temper. What motivates him to want to overprotect Taylor and Addy?
Will: Benny’s got a thing for the underdog. He hates bullies with a passion, and he wants to protect and comfort the world. But if you’re in Benny’s inner circle, that protection morphs into something else. He’s not a violent man, but Benny could easily be pushed that way if someone threatened people he cares about. If Taylor hadn’t stopped him, Benny would have hurt Kevin.
Jodi: Addy is such an intriguing character. Readers learn about his past abuse in Pitch, but it is in Wet Paint, that readers learn more of the truth. Tell us a little about Addy’s character.
Will: Addy looked over in the soft light at the giant sleeping nearby. Soft snores, which seemed so out of place with such a bit man, soothed him. His experiences at Camp Care had always been met with indifference. He knew what happened, and talking about it wasn’t going to change anything. Yet for some reason, he really wanted to talk to Benny. Taylor was nice enough. He’d shown Addy the joys that could be found in art. The catharsis. But Benny was different. He made Addy feel safer than he’d ever felt. What was it about the man that drew Addy so?
He lay on his back and stared at the plain white ceiling. He tried to recall a time he ever felt safe. Certainly not with his father. Sure as heck not at his foster home. Maybe with the Deans, though he wasn’t sure why they kept his surly attitude around. Yet they did. And Addy loved them for that. Even if he had a hard time showing it. But Benny was something different. He didn’t seem to care about Addy’s past. During their walks, he kept talking about the future, and what Addy wanted for himself.
Why did that make Addy feel so much better about himself? It made him feel warm and cared for. It made him think that maybe Benny…no, that couldn’t be. Yet deep down, Addy knew what he felt about Benny. And he knew that he had to show him before summer ended.
Jodi: Was it challenging to write about the abuse and violence?
Will: There were complaints when people read Pitch about the ‘graphic’ element of the assault on Addy. Those people definitely will not want to read Wet Paint. I tried, I swear, to tone stuff down, but for some reason Addy insisted that his story be honest and true. That people understand these things happen. I won’t deny crying a couple of times over his story. It was hard to tell.
Jodi: Tell us a little about Larry and your inspiration for his character.
Will: Larry is a Neanderthal. He’s a bully through and through. He likes to make people think they’re weak, and he loves to exploit that weakness. He was all the kids who did the same thing when I was growing up. The ones that it took me years to realize covered up their own insecurities by making themselves feel big.
Jodi: Will there be more books in the Transition series?
Will: Possibly. There are at least two more stories in my head, plus a potential third one. I guess I’ll wait to see what people think of Wet Paint before I decide to press on with it.
Jodi: What is your next project?
Will: The next project for Will is doing his Pride-Promotions stuff. That’s been keeping him hopping. The next project for Parkinson (my non-YA penname) is a shifter story called ‘Protector of the Alpha’, which is at the beta readers now. One of them sent me back my copy and yelled at me about it, so I think I might have done something right. J
A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title
Transitions: Book One
The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor's life. He's had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.
Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.
Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title
Transitions: Book Two
Barnes and Noble
Excerpt From Wet Paint:
ADDY SAT in the car, worry creasing his brow. Not even an hour ago, he’d been so happy. Why was he so nervous now? His thoughts drifted back to his conversation with his dad. Would Benny still want him when he found out what had happened? Would he think Addy was too broken? Addy shivered. He tried to tell himself Benny would never be like that, but how could he know for sure?
“What’s up, little man? I can hear you thinking from over here.” Benny chuckled.
“Nothing, Benny. I’m okay.”
“Addy, c’mon. I can tell you’ve got something on your mind. I need to know what it is. I can’t help if you won’t let me.”
Addy took a deep breath. “I’m afraid,” he admitted. “Of what? Camp?” “No... of losing you.”
“I don’t understand. Why would you think you’d lose me?”
“Benny.” Addy sighed. “I need to tell you some stuff. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s really not going to be nice.”
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