Monday, December 28, 2015

The Italian Word for Kisses



1. I write because…
It just happens? I've been making up stories since I could talk -- especially about how I was totally nothing to do with whatever was lost or broken -- and writing them down since I figured out what pens were for. (Hint: not drawing on your siblings, apparently.)
My brain makes up stories all  the time. Writing them down became the natural way of working them out and getting further into the story. And then writing books was the natural extension of that.
2. If I were your favorite cookie, what would I be?
I'm not really much of a biscuit person...
3. Plotter or pantster?
Plotter...at least it starts that way. Then the manuscript wanders off from the plan around chapter four, comes back for a visit in chapter ten, then sods off and stays away until the final four chapters, when it returns and is totally faithful to the original plan. But I can't get started without all the chapters outlined in theory, so I'm still more plotter than pantser.
4. What is your favorite type of character to write about and why?
Northerners, especially blue-collar Yorkshire folk. They're very rough and colourful people, and I like writing them largely because I'm one of them and we get left out of romantic fiction a lot, kids and adults alike. LGBT fiction especially is very geared towards a very middle-class  southern structure, where characters mustn't be too mean to each other, and certain words are banned except to be spoken by the most obviously evil of villains...and that's a bit of an alien concept to the people I grew up with. I like to turn the tables a bit, and say, "Look, love happens in the sink estates and wet British summers too. It's not all Cornish  beaches and country villages." So I write about kids falling in love at boxing gyms (The Suicidal Peanut), people tackling everyday racism with a sense of humour (Thicker Than Bone) and kids solving homophobic bullying by quite literally fighting back (The Italian Word for Kisses). Plus you get to write phonetically with their accents, which is amazing for bringing a character to life.
5. Hamburgers or sushi?
Burgers. I hate sushi.
6. Name three things on your desk.
Right now? Paperwork, paperwork, and my flat keys. I just moved house, so I'm lucky there even is  a desk right now. It's been an expensive couple of months.
7. What books have influenced your writing style?
I'm not much of a reader anymore, but in my teens I read a lot of books with quintessentially British humour -- especially those by Ben Elton, Douglas Adams and the Grant Naylor duo. Doug Naylor and Rob Grant's science fiction in particular, and of course the great Douglas Adams, were huge influences, because they stood out so much as writers bringing something uniquely British to their genres. And it wasn't all this slightly twee, home counties or London approach that dominates the LGBT fiction market -- it was idle-but-well-meaning Scousers, it was  Arthur Dent and his towel.
As I got older, I found less and less books in that kind of irreverent vein, and I stopped bothering with reading fiction at all in the end. But when I came to writing my own books, I found I had the most fun writing those same thoroughly British characters, both main and side, so I'd definitely say those guys left an impression.
8. Tell us a little about your book.
The Italian Word for Kisses is at its core about homophobia. The main characters, Tav and Luca, have been together for a while and it's old news round their way. And then along comes a new kid at school and Luca's swimming club, Jack, who is vehemently disgusted by gay people and wants Luca especially out of the picture.
What made it such fun to write was that none of the characters are shy or retiring in the slightest. My last proper look at homophobia in YA was Vivaldi in the Dark, and the character subjected to it was very timid as a result. Tav and Luca are quite the opposite -- Tav is so prone to fighting at school that he's a step to the left of being expelled, and Luca is the third of five boys in a large half-Yorkshire, half-Italian family. Neither of them take kindly to Jack showing up, and they're both very volatile in the way they respond to it.
And honestly, getting to write kids literally fighting back, and having the confidence to tell this bully that he's a bigot for what he thinks and force him to back off, that was a lot of fun and a pretty unusual way of going at the topic.
9. What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?
Don't be afraid of writing hard things, or stepping outside of the genre's conventions. There's writers and publishers would be horrified by this book, because it features teenagers fighting, swearing, having off-colour in-jokes, having sex -- but that's what some teenagers are really like. This situation, this little world in their corner of Yorkshire, is one that real kids are living with every day. Don't be afraid to show that, even if it makes others uncomfortable sometimes.
10. What is next on your writerly horizon?
I'm hoping to finish up a couple of transgender YA books during 2016: Girls Will Be Boys and Fatso Farrier. Both feature female-to-male transgender boys, though in very different ways. Girls Will Be Boys is really about the transgender experience, and follows a fifteen-year-old trans boy handling his first relationship with absolutely no idea what the rules are for transgender people. Fatso Farrier is actually about a cisgender bisexual lad , Max 'Fatso' Farrier, who's given up on his dreams thanks to his weight, but gets the motivation to turn his life around when he's forced into training in muay thai with a very confident, very self-assured transgender lad, Cian. I'm hoping to get them done and dusted and out there sooner rather than later, as there's a serious lack of transgender YA available, and they show two extremely different FtM people.

Top 5 favorite movies:
I really like movies where the characters seem like real people, and their lines come off more natural than scripted, so flashes of really natural comedy totally sell a movie (or a book!) for me.
1.       Hot Fuzz. Easily the best British comedy I've ever seen and will always, without fail, be my favourite movie of all time.
2.       Guardians of the Galaxy. I love the off-beat humour, and how it feels more natural and less artificial  than most action movies. I mean come on, the "I'm distracting you" dance scene was hilarious.
3.       How To Train Your Dragon. All the characters felt real. They pulled faces, they did awkward hand motions, they side-eyed each other and were sarcastic. I fell hard for the movie when Hiccup just gave up on getting Toothless to be obedient and said, "Thanks for nothing, you useless reptile." Just, yes!
4.       Wild Wild West. The entire exchange of lines between Will Smith and Kenneth Branagh whenever their characters came face-to-face had me crying with laughter. I'm a firm believer that nothing is sacred when it comes to humour, and this movie is up there with the best of them. (Plus steampunk spiders, always a win.)
5.       Kind of a cheat, but The Hobbit and LOTR trilogies. Peter Jackson's use of regional accents for both humour and severity was just perfect. Accents are massively underrated for how to portray a character, and I loved both trilogies for a) using them at all and b) using them so beautifully well.

Blurb:

It’s no secret Tav and Luca are going out. After the accident, it’s also no secret that new kid Jack Collins has a raging case of homophobia, and is not best pleased about having given the kiss of life to a gay guy. Either Luca quits swimming, or Jack is going to make him.

Tav favours the tried-and-true method of knocking Jack’s teeth down his neck, only he can’t really afford another school suspension. Luca favours just ignoring him, only ignoring a penknife being held to your throat at New Year’s Eve is downright stupid.

Thing is, Luca suspects Jack is a victim of something himself. And time is running out for Luca to get through to Jack, before Jack gets rid of him.
Pick up a copy at JMS Books or All Romance Cafe today.

Excerpt:
"Alright, Collins."

The bang of the changing room door and the amiable greeting from one of the other boys caught Luca's attention, but the sudden, sharp silence made his blood run cold. All at once, Luca was both afraid, and angry with himself for being afraid. So he squared his shoulders and turned on his heel, folding his arms over his chest and meeting Jack's scowl with a glower of his own.

"What."

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Jack snarled.

"Fuckin' swimming. What about you?"

"I told you not to come."

It was like the rest of the team didn't exist. Luca didn't dare break eye contact, and Jack -- although he tossed his bag onto a bench and unzipped his jacket, was zeroed in on Luca in a way that made the hairs on Luca's arms stand on end.

"Dunno what kinky shit you're into, Collins, but I don't follow your orders." Being both an older and a younger brother had made Luca able to bluff with ease, and despite the impotent anger, the tart tang of shame around the edges of his brain that this moron had somehow gotten one over him and seized some power in this stupid fucking game, his voice sounded -- even to him -- arrogant and bored.

"Go."

"You what?"

"I said go," Jack repeated. The other boys hovered uncertainly, but Aaron and David had both closed ranks to Luca's shoulders, and Luca took a fortified breath. Aaron looked steely. David looked a little more confused, but determinedly hostile all the same.

"Like hell I'm going," Luca said. "You got a problem with a pouf on the team, you need to fuck off and get your head out your arse. I'm here to swim. I'm not going nowhere."

"What the fuck is going on?" David asked.

"Jack, mate, leave it," one of the other boys said. "It's just Jensen, Jensen's sound --"

"He's a fucking faggot, and I won't have his kind here -- I warned you, I fucking told you, and you're still fucking here!"

"What's your problem, mate, he's taken up wi' that Chris in Jan Krawczyk's tutor group ..."

"Yeah, Jack, lay off already, who d'you reckon you are anyway, you're new--"

"I know there's a fucking faggot on this fucking team and I --"

"Don't fucking call him a faggot, twat," one of the other boys -- a lad called Ryan that Luca had never so much as spoken to outside of the club, and was in the year below them anyway -- sneered, and he shot out a hand to shove at Jack's shoulder.

"I told you to stay away!" Jack bellowed, and his hand vanished into his unzipped jacket. "I told you, I fucking told you --"

The changing room erupted; the flick-knife flashed under the sickly halogen lights, and Luca's back slammed into the wall of locker doors as Aaron and David shoved him back as one. Both doors -- one to the foyer and one to the pool -- banged loudly, and the bolshy kid, Ryan, lashed out with a fist, smashing into Jack's jaw from the side. A couple of men came rampaging over from the showers in their wet trunks, all the noise bouncing off the walls until it was dizzying. Coach arrived with a shrill shriek of the whistle, and the knife had gone somewhere but Luca couldn't tell where in the ruckus, and then Aaron's hand was on his shoulder and he was being steered off into one corner of the changing room, and --

A flush of hot, furious shame boiled up Luca's stomach and into his guts, and he twisted away from Aaron's hands and grabbed for his kit bag. He didn't need Aaron to fucking protect him. He didn't need anyone to protect him, he wasn't some pathetic little kid who needed their hand holding. He shouldn't need defending, he was a Jensen! He should be able to defend himself.

He grabbed his bag and bolted. As he fled up the stairs, a burly security guard and Coach were wrestling the knife out of Jack's hands in the corridor, both shouting at him, and Jack shouting back, face red and voice hoarse and shrill with fury.

"You fucking steer clear of me, Jensen!" he bellowed after Luca, who didn't dare look back. "F'you know what's good for you, you'll stay out of here, you fucking queer!"

Luca reached the top of the stairs, and ran.

Author bio:
Matthew J. Metzger is  an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. He writes both adult and young adult LGBT fiction, with a particular fondness for writing about people and places that don't usually make it into romantic fiction: the council  estates, the mentally ill, the people solving problems with their fists, and finding love on the local Arriva bus route.

When not writing, Matthew is  usually asleep or crunching numbers at his day job. He can be found on Facebook and Twitter, or contacted directly at mattmetzger@hotmail.co.uk.


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