What do you do to market your book?
You name it. Wash your windows? Bake you some cookies?
It’s funny, just about the only thing I don’t do anymore is tour. I’ve done that – I once did a 14-city tour. And it’s fun to meet new people, make new friends. But it’s also expensive and exhausting, especially for an introvert like I am. But the internet has changed all that – bookstores have closed, and it’s much harder to get people to turn out for any author’s event (unless you’re Suzanne Collins). Which is actually fine by me. I’d rather interact via social media anyway.
That said, I still do just enough events that if you really want to meet me in person, you can.
What marketing works best for you?
It’s all about the personal contact — that’s the only thing that’s ever worked for me. Be interested it others – truly interested, not just interested in having them buy your book. If you connect on a personal level, it’s a good bet you’ll connect on a “book” level too. And then they’ll generate that all important word-of-mouth.
Conversely, if you’re a prima dona or a jerk, people will remember that too. And boy, will they tell their friends!
Some writers say to me, “I don’t like people or socialization.” And part of me thinks, “Maybe you should be in a different line of work.” Authors used to be able to get away with that, but unless your name is Harper Lee, I really don’t think you can anymore.
Do you have imaginary friends? I do! I constructed these whole, elaborate fantasy worlds when I was a boy – super-spy, Middle Earth adventurer, member of a rock band. And I’m proud to say, but also a little embarrassed, that I still return to these worlds whenever I’m alone.
How do you name your characters?
That’s such a tough one. You want it to be unique, but not call too much attention to itself, not be too precious. You want it to maybe say something about the character’s personality, but you’re worried about being too literal.
I have a character named Otto Digmore, which is about as far out as I’ve even gotten. But it is my favorite name.
My main character in these books is Russel Middlebrook. I liked the named “Russel” because it seemed to suggest movement (and I spelled it with only one “l” to indicate he was different from other people). And the last name, which I love the sound of, was meant to sort of indicate that he was “mid-stream,” in the process of moving from one place to another – on the border between one place and another. Since the title of the first book was Geography Club, and I sort of play with the metaphor of “geography,” it seemed like the perfect choice.
What would your main character say about you?
“Geez, you’re even more neurotic than I am!”
Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?
Russel is certainly “inspired” by me, and his two best friends Min and Gunnar were “inspired” by two of my friends. All through my life, I’ve also always had a thing for friendship trios. Maybe this has something do my being a gay teenager — life was safer that way.
But it’s interesting how quickly Russel, Min, and Gunnar became their own characters. In my mind, they now seem totally different from myself and my actual friends. Embarrassingly, I think of them as real people. Even now, when people ask me who they’re based on, my first impulse is to think, “What do you mean ‘based on’? They’re real people!” Which I guess is the goal of writing fiction, right?
Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
There are four long scenes where that map out the trajectory of the love affair between the two main characters, two guys, but they’re about as unlikely settings for a love story as you can get (by design!): the first takes place at Dumpster and then a garbage dump; the next takes place in an abandoned building; the next takes place in an abandoned streetcar in the woods; and the last one takes place in the abandoned building again.
If I do say so myself – ahem! – I love everything that happens in all these scenes. I think it’s one of the most unusual gay teen love stories ever I’ve ever heard about, and I think it’s some of my best writing ever.
Thanks for asking!
How do you handle criticism of your work?
That’s the real challenge, isn’t it? Because the job of a writer isn’t to be adored. It’s to be read. And reading fictional is all about an emotional response, some good, some bad. It’s literally a writer’s job to be criticized.
That said, I stay as far away from criticism as I can. I write the book, and my job is pretty much done. While I’m writing the book, I listen to criticism from my editors and early readers.But once I’m done writing it, that means I’m satisfied. It also means it’s out of my hands – it can’t be changed. I let other people have their own reactions, and I don’t want to intrude. I also don’t want it to bum me out! It can be such an emotional roller-coaster if you let it, because obviously everyone reacts to a book differently. Again, that’s the whole point. But I don’t want to be there to watch. I’d never get out of bed if I did.
Book 4 in the Lambda Award-winning Russel Middlebrook Series!
People aren’t always what they seem to be. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves.
So discovers seventeen-year-old Russel Middlebrook in The Elephant of Surprise, a stand-alone sequel to Brent Hartinger’s landmark 2003 gay young adult novel Geography Club (which has now been adapted as a feature film co-starring Scott Bakula and Nikki Blonsky).
In this latest book, Russel and his friends Min and Gunnar are laughing about something they call the Elephant of Surprise – the tendency for life to never turn out as expected. Sure enough, Russel soon happens upon a hot but mysterious homeless activist named Wade, even as he’s drawn back to an old flame named Kevin. Meanwhile, Min is learning surprising things about her girlfriend Leah, and Gunnar just wants to be left alone to pursue his latest technology obsession.
But the elephant is definitely on the move in all three of their lives. Just who is Wade and what are he and his friends planning? What is Leah hiding? And why is Gunnar taking naked pictures of Kevin in the shower?
The Elephant of Surprise includes Hartinger’s trademark combination of humor and romance, angst and optimism. Before the story is over, Russel and his friends will learn that the Elephant of Surprise really does appear when you least expect him—and that when he stomps on you, it really, really hurts.
Genre - Young Adult/Gay Lit
Rating – PG13
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