Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Debut Author Bash with Kenneth Logan

Dear Kim,

As I mentioned on Saturday in our 7th grade-picture-tastic post about Brooks Benjamin, my letters to you will return next week. This week is all about featuring debut authors during the 2016 Debut Authors Bash.

Today we welcome Kenneth Logan to the blog and his debut, True Letters From a Fictional Life. He received our letter (below) and wrote back answering our questions about his book. 

Read on.


Dear Kenneth,

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY! We are thrilled to share True Letters From a Fictional Life on our blog on this momentous day! What better than a letter to you, the super cool creator of the book, to celebrate?

Not only is True Letters From a Fictional Life a brave coming out story, it is also the story of an awesome family and true friends. It is a book about knowing who you are at the core and being confident (and supported) enough to live your true self.

You can get your copy here or enter to win a copy from Kenneth in his #Giveaway.

The book’s main character, James, begins the story stuck in a life that he is “supposed” to live. He has a sort-of girlfriend, he hangs with his teammates, he is a good brother, he tries to please his parents. But on the inside James feels trapped. He wonders if he is doomed to live a fictional life forever? Or if maybe, just maybe, he can be honest with himself and the people that he loves.

James sits at his desk and writes letters that he never intends to send. He writes the truth about his feelings in these letters to everyone he cares about: his mother, to that sort-of girlfriend, to other boys, his coach, and even God.

I am a huge fan of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. In both books there was the added element of email correspondence that I just loved. I hoped that True Letters From a Fictional Life would feed me in the same way the previous titles had. In True Letters, James wrote his hopes, dreams, fears, and wishes. These letters couldn’t provide the write-and-response that I loved in Simon or Will Grayson, but I held on, knowing that there would be a response. SPOILER ALERT: I knew that the letters would get out. James would have to do some face-to-face apologizing and unveiling of his true self. NONFICTION James would finally come to life.

Kenneth, I hope you will tell us more about how you decided on the order of the letters. Why did you start with Mom? I’m dying to know. Why did you include the letters that you did? Was there ever a draft of the book where you started on page one with a letter? I guess you can tell that I want to know everything about the letters and more!

Thank you for the gift of this book. For writing a book with a courageous character like James. Oh, and REX…. Thank you for writing Rex!!

Once again, Happy Book Birthday!
Much love,

P.S. Write Back Soon!

Hi Alison,

I hope other readers share your excitement about my book. Thanks for the kind words. You asked me to write a little bit about James’s letters, so guess which of the following is true:

A. Read backwards, the letters contain messages from Santa.

B. The letters’ supplementary coloring book, My Tears Taste Like Cerulean Blue, will be published later this summer.

C. One of my friends secretly wrote all the letters when we were in high school. I stole them from his desk drawer and have waited years to publish them.

D. There was no particular order to the letters, other than the way they lined up with the plot.

Probably not too hard to figure out which one’s true. So, if you’re reading this post right now, man, I imagine you’re pretty annoyed with me. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve done you a big favor. I’ll take you for ice cream to make up for it. 

Actually, early on, the book was entirely letters. It wasn’t much fun to write, and I’m sure the stilted prose and wandering plot would’ve been even less fun to read. Later, I considered ditching the letters completely, and although I’m glad I scrapped many of them, I do think the remaining ones serve a good purpose: They’re little snapshots of what James really thinks about as a gay kid growing up in a straight world. I hope, anyway, that the letters make two points clear: (1) People don’t choose to be gay, and (2) for some kids, at least in their own heads, the decision to come out means risking the loss of everyone they love. 

I’m 16 or 17 in this photo, hiking (and panting) in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

For some other kids, the decision to come out seems even heavier than that—it feels like they have to annihilate the person they believed themselves to be. Some of those boys choose to kill themselves rather than live with the shame of being someone so many people hate. I hope the book goes a little ways toward helping readers empathize with kids working up the courage to come out. It will be easier for boys to be honest with themselves and everyone in their lives if being honest doesn’t seem so dangerous.

I started with the letter to James’s mom, in which he expresses doubts about ever marrying a woman, because I think it demonstrates the way that “what’s normal” can be established and enforced through completely innocent, casual, even affectionate comments. The book’s not autobiographical—I grew up in suburban New Jersey, not rural Vermont, I didn’t write anguished letters, and my soccer career peaked when I was ten years old—but I do remember people making offhand remarks about my distant wedding day. I would just go quiet. This happened back when the idea of gay marriage sounded about as realistic as time travel. The fear that I was going to disappoint everyone, to put it mildly, and that I could avoid that humiliation if I just tried harder, was part of what kept me silent for so long. I think that experience is still common for a lot of gay kids, especially the ones who don’t tick the boxes on people’s mental checklist of how gay people behave.

Thanks again for hosting me on your blog, Alison! Hope your summer’s long and relaxing.

Take care,

One winner will be selected at random.