Are your books exclusively for gay readers? What do you think a straight readership could take from the stories?
Not at all! That question seems to suggest that gay people and straight people are somehow different species who could never hope to understand one another! In Hollow Pike, the main character identifies as straight but her three friends are all bi. In Cruel Summer the main character is gay, but why wouldn't straight people want to read about a devious, sexy young chap? For a start, Tumblr is FULL of teenage girls shipping dudes left, right and centre! It's depressing that some publishers assume people just want to read about straight, white men - I don't think that's true at all. Readers love diversity.
Was coming out easy for you like it was for many of the characters in your books?
My coming out was pretty boring - I just told a friend on the way home from school one night and she told me she was queer too. In the books, I've aimed to be similarly undramatic with the character's sexuality. Being LGBT shouldn't be a default melodrama, for most people it's just a reality.
How important is it for younger gay people to have access to books like yours in schools and libraries?
With both Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer, I wanted to tell thrilling stories that just-so-happened to feature some LGBT characters.
How much of your own experiences of being a young gay man do you put into your writing? Are any of the situations in your books written from an autobiographical point of view?
There's certainly an a lot of me in Ryan from Cruel Summer - a lot of my worst attributes! I hope I'm not as ruthless or self-involved as he is. That said, there's an amount of the author in any fictional character I think. The only way we know how to be is ourselves so even if I was writing about a tribal leader in the Amazon, I'd have to bring my experience of humanity to the character to make them real.
How do you keep in tune with what it's like for young gay people nowadays? Do you think it's different for teens who are coming out and being gay in 2013 than it was when you were that age?
I think that young LGBT people are immersed in gay culture a little more these days. When I was young there was no Hollyoaks or Will Young or Rylan for example. Perhaps this makes it a little easier to recognise in oneself, but I don't think that makes it any easier to come out or admit it to yourself. I work for a charity that puts writers in schools so I still have a vital connection to young people, which helps when writing.
Did you have any gay (or straight) role models when you were growing up?
My role model was my best friend - the one I came out to. She was far more certain of herself than I was and wasn't afraid to stand out and be different. I spent way too long trying to blend in and it was a colossal waste of time. If people are gonna talk give 'em something to talk about. I did an event with Dawn O Porter recently and she said that she think it's balls that only minorities are expected to be role models. You see footballers on trial all the time and no-one ever comments that they're bad role models. If Miley Cyrus makes a naked video or if a gay guy does something wrong then somehow we're bad role models. The flip side of that though is my role model, Russell T Davies. I love how he ensured he was a visible as possible as a gay man, again to make it more normal for kids. That's why I refuse to shut up about being gay too!
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