What was the inspiration behind this book?
Mainly, the impetus for Fearless was a desire to write about a boy crippled by fear and self- doubt who meets someone who teaches him that facing your fears makes you stronger. It’s one of the toughest lessons we have to learn in life.What message do you hope readers will take from it?
I also really wanted to write a story that talked about stereotypes and how limiting they are. It’s so easy to assume you know a person’s whole story just by looking at them, but the real truth is always more complicated.
The theme of this book is a phrase I once heard years back, “the only thing worse than fear is regret.” And I really hope that is something that readers will take away from it. It’s so hard to face the things that scare us, the things that can hurt us. But facing those things makes you powerful in ways that are impossible to describe.What is your favorite thing about this book?
For a long time, I have wanted to write a book with a gay character that wasn’t really about them being gay. Which is to say, I wanted the story’s central drama to not be about the character’s orientation. I feel I accomplished that here. I really believe Fearless is a story that will resonate with gay and straight teens alike.The LGBT category is growing in the YA genre. Why is this so important? How do you make yourself stand out?
Representation is so very important. Any minority group will tell you that. Working on TheBacklot.com has made this even more crystal clear to me. So it’s absolutely critical for there to be YA books to begin with—books that talk about the young adult experience without lecturing or patronizing. But for LGBT youth, who are ignored in such vastly popular works like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, it’s important for them to read books where they are seen. It’s great that the YA genre is exploding, but we need a lot more. Even if it’s not as a main character, it’s not so much to ask J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan and other big names to include a gay student. It tells LGBT youth, “you are a part of the world and you are welcome.”Please tell us about your other published works.
Standing out almost seems like a bad thing. I am extremely proud to have had my readers compare me favorably to the likes of Brent Hartinger (Geography Club) and Brian Sloan (Tale of Two Summers).
But if the question is, “how does my work differ?” then that just comes down to the types of stories I want to write. My previous book Exiled to Iowa. Send Help. And Couture. was about a fey gay teen because I feel that effeminate gay teens have sort of been shunted aside or worse, overly feminized for the purposes of a romance trope. In Fearless, I told a love story that was entirely platonic, which really confused my readers. And in my upcoming Hybrids series, I’m hoping to create a Harry Potter type epic adventure that just happens to have a gay teen, a gay alien, a lesbian teen and a straight teen as the heroes.
Exiled to Iowa. Send Help. And Couture. was my first attempt at YA. I was inspired by Geography Club by Brent Hartinger and Getting It by Alex Sanchez, among others. What I noticed in gay YA fiction was a distinct lack of fey gay teens. This has come about because effeminate gay men were used as the sole representation of gay men in TV and movies so when gay writers started publishing books, they rebelled against this stereotype.On what other projects are you currently working?
But effeminate gay men exist and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wanted to write about a gay teen who was far too obvious to hide it finding himself moved to a small town. I had recently moved to much smaller community myself, after living in Southern California my whole life. I thought it would be entertaining to take a hip, fashionable Los Angeles teen and plunk him in the middle of Small Town America.
Collin is the opposite of Justin in Fearless. He has a fighting Irish spirit. I loved taking the stereotype that effeminate gay men aren’t good for anything other than helping you decorate your home and throwing it in the shredder. Collin has to deal with bullies and intolerance, but he refuses to be ashamed of who he is and he won’t back down—even when he should.
His strength comes from his incredibly supportive family. That was another thing I wanted to put into my YA books. My own parents were barely a presence in my life, but they were still there. So I have had problems with YA books where the parents don’t ever make an appearance. Collin’s family was my response.
The story is about him getting over himself and realizing that Los Angeles wasn’t nirvana and his new home is not the eighth circle of Hell. Small town folk can be really good folk if you give them a chance.
The first book of Hybrids is (finally) coming out. I’ve been working on this book for years now.You used to write more fantasy. Would you ever go back to that genre?
I stopped and started several times before I finally got a draft done. I put it on a shelf and went on to other things because I wanted to have a second book finished before I released it and I wanted to give it time to simmer. I often find a book improves if I give it a cooling off period. Only once I went back to it, I realized it needed a massive rewrite. And that merry-go-round lasted way too long.
Arrival was meant to be a super-hero type book, but it tricked me and turned into a Sci Fi story when my back was turned. The main character, Joaquin, encounters an alien named Thrace who is on Earth for completely innocent reasons. However, it’s not long before Joaquin and Thrace realize that Earth is actually in danger from Thrace’s own people.
I have high hopes for this series. It’s very different from other YA action stories. I think readers will really enjoy the twists and turns I have planned.
Someday…. I have an extremely ambitious Fantasy series that I tinker with when I have the time. I sort of feel at this point I want to wait until I have the time to give it my full attention before I get down to writing it. But it’s always there in the back of my mind.What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m not actually gay, but bisexual. It’s not too hard to figure out and I certainly don’t hide it, but given the topics I write about, it would be easy to assume I’m gay. I do really want to write a bisexual character, but I haven’t really come up with an idea I like yet.Is there anything else you would like to add?
Really, just a heartfelt, sincere thank you to all my readers out there. So many people have taken a gamble on me and read my work and then made such wonderful comments on it. As an independent author, it’s hard to get people to push that “buy” button and it’s even harder to get feedback, so I am grateful for every review, every comment, every email.Thank you so much for your time!
And thank you!
by Chris O'Guinn
At fifteen, Justin is already a cynic. He’s experienced too many betrayals, too many disappointments. He doesn’t want to be involved in anything. He doesn’t want to be popular. He doesn’t even want friends anymore, since they only ever let you down. He just wants to get through high school and the best way he can come up with to accomplish that goal is to simply be invisible.
His self-imposed exile from high school life is threatened when Liam, the scary stoner, reaches out to him. What starts out as a strange and unsettling encounter with the unnerving, pot-smoking teenager evolves into the sort of friendship that changes the course of a person’s life.
But as Liam drags the reluctant Justin out of his shell, Liam’s own secret is revealed. Fearless is the story of the myriad shades of love, how to find one’s courage and the transformative power of friendship.
Read an excerpt:
“Man, I can’t believe we’re stuck at home instead of at the Homecoming Dance.”
“Trust me, this is better,” I told him. “At least for me. My dance moves are outlawed in twelve states.” Liam cracked a smile. “I got to see that.”
I frowned at him. “No.”
Liam’s eyes lit up with mischief. “Uh uh, you can’t keep claiming to be bad at everything without proof. You have to show me.”
“I really don’t.”
He went over to my laptop and called up the music player. “Hmm, let’s see, what do we have for playlists? ‘Life sux?’ ‘Love sux?’ I’m sensing a theme here.”
“At least I’m consistent.”
“True. Hey, ‘OMG the 80’s’ I think we have a winner.”
“I’m not dancing,” I told him.
I thought my tone was pretty firm. That didn’t prevent him from yanking me to my feet, though, with a strength I didn’t think he had. As the familiar beat of one of my favorite classics warbled out of my laptop’s crappy speakers, I folded my arms and backed away from the crazy guy with the infectious smile.
“Come on, feel the beat,” Liam coaxed.
I just couldn’t hang onto my glower, not with him gyrating and flailing like a fish out of water. It didn’t seem possible, but somehow he was actually as bad or worse than me.
“Oh girls just want to have fun,” he sang—badly—and danced (if one could call it that) over to me. “You really don’t get the whole ‘no’ concept, do you?”
I’ve been writing since I was fifteen, not that those stories will ever be allowed out of the dark hole I buried them in. I focused primarily on the Fantasy genre for the first two decades, occasionally diverting into modern fiction. In 2010, I embarked in a self-publishing career, focusing on the young adult novel genre. When I’m not writing, I am contributing to TheBacklot.com, a gay entertainment website. You can follow me on Facebook and you can keep up to date with my works via Lightbane.com.