Please Welcome Guest Author Cody Wagner!
I’m going to be a guest on a podcast today, a follow-up to Spillers, which is very exciting, but also cuts into blogging time. Fortunately, the totally awesome author Cody Wagner has stepped up to the plate and sent me this great post about his new book, and the inspiration for it. Cody’s a great writer, and it’s been a lot of fun watching this book go from the first few rough chapters to the (excellent) finished product.
Without further ado, author Cody Wagner!
I’ve Got that Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay Down in My Heart
I first wrote “I’m gay” in the seventh grade. The words were so scary, the pen shook in my hand as I scribbled. But I had to write it out. I had a massive crush on my P.E. coach and needed to profess my love.
In my happiest scenario, he gasped in shock upon seeing the note. Then he looked deep into my eyes and said, “Finally.” We both leaned forward in slow motion as the camera faded out just before our lips touched. In my mind, that began a beautiful love affair. I didn’t even think about the fact I was twelve and he was forty. Ew.
I never did give him the note. In fact, I panicked and tore it up the second the words were on paper. But that started my Big Gay Journey™. Over the years, I found that people could be more compassionate and supportive than I ever imagined. Take my mother, for instance, who said, “This must have been so hard. It was like your cross to carry. Oh my goodness, it makes you more like Jesus!!”
I also discovered the hate can be very real. I can’t say how many times I walked down the street in the Dallas “gayborhood” only to have cars drive by and scream “F****ng faggots!” or “Burn in hell, faggots!” or “Kill yourself, faggots!”
All these varied and (sometimes) tumultuous experiences stuck with me. And I swore one day I’d write a book about it, about the excitement and fear that comes with being the perennial underdog.
Of PMS, Bullies, and Pencils
I went to a private elementary school. Talk about bliss! Only 8 kids in our class and we were all best friends. The place was so small, there wasn’t room for bullying. Unfortunately, it didn’t prepare me for the “real world” of public middle school. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of washing my hair or rolling my jeans to be cool.
Everything changed the day I walked into Pampa Middle School.
(FUN SIDE NOTE: The school abbreviation was “PMS” and during pep rallies, we’d all scream, “PMS is the best!”)
That first day, in history, a guy walked by and grabbed my pencil. I was so oblivious I thought he took it by mistake.
Flashing my kindest smile, I said, “This is my desk, silly.”
He ignored me, went straight to the pencil sharpener, and jammed my trusty #2 inside (I mean a #2 pencil, not anything gross). He proceeded to turn the handle. And turn it. And turn it.
A few kids started laughing.
It was at this point my spidey senses should have been tingling. But the concept of bullying was so foreign to me, my brain couldn’t process what was happening. So I did that thing where I started laughing along with everyone. Which made them laugh harder. Which made me laugh harder.
Right as my fake laughter was building to a hyena wail, Jason yanked the pencil out. He blew on the tip and strolled back to his desk. On the way, he dropped the pencil on the floor next to me. It was just a tiny nub.
Laughter burst out and I realized, for the first time, the concept of “at me” versus “with me”. Tears welled in my eyes and I just stared at the stump. That began years of torment that lasted through high school graduation.
After going through all that, I knew my gay book would also deal with bullying. Besides, it’s always fun to root for the underdog.
The Gay Gandalf (a.k.a. Dumbledore)
Yep, I’m a huge Potter fan. Rowling handled the mix between action and emotion so nicely that I was hyper engaged throughout. She also did something I wanted to emulate really badly.
Most YA books out there right now take place in horrible settings. I’d never go to the Divergent world or the Maze Runner world or (definitely) the Hunger Games world. Those are all places that make us thankful for what we have.
Harry Potter is different. Everyone wants to go to Hogwarts and experience the magic (pun intended). In addition to conflict, the book has a lot of fun. That’s what really made me love reading it. And I knew if I wrote my gay underdog book, I’d set it in a place people would long for. In essence, I’d create an escape for the less fortunate.
Mythology Induced by Margaritas
Three years ago, my sister and I lounged on her back patio with margaritas. I don’t know how, but our conversation turned to mythology. After various random musings, I flew up in my chair.
“OK riddle me this.”
She sat up, too. “Shoot.”
“So you know how sirens would sing and brainwash men?”
I turned and gave her my most serious look. “Do you think it worked on gay guys?”
She looked off for a second and shrugged.
I sat, pondering it for awhile then pointed at her. “That’s my book.”
People have all kinds of wacky ideas when they’re drinking. How many of you have had the, “We should totally start a business!” conversation? Everyone, that’s who! And the ideas all fall to the wayside.
Not this one.
The premise stuck with me. FOREVER!
Ingredients for a Delicious Stew
All these things simmered into a big pot of delicious stew and I knew I had to start writing. I shelved another novel I’d begun and, three months later, the first draft of “Camp NO Where – A Healing Home for Gay Kids” was born. It was my fun gay underdog escape story.
Two years later, the title (and virtually everything else) was rewritten and my hideous baby turned into the swan that is now “The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren”. The swan looks like this:
And smells like this:
TGTDTDAS (that’s fun to write) is about a kid named Blaize who gets sent off to a pray-away-the-gay school that turns out to be sooooo different than what it seems. Between surviving bullies, rescuing students from mysterious attacks, and passing algebra, Blaize’s life is going to get crazy. And dangerous.
It’s a passion project inspired by what feels like my entire life. So by reading it, you’re reading me. OK that sounds creepy. I’m going to shut up now. But if you’re interested, the book’s available on Amazon!
And more of me is available on my blog. Feel free to read me, as weird as that sounds.
Big thanks to Cody Wagner on this one, and I hope you’ll take a look at his book! If you’re interested in doing a guest blog for me, get in touch and show me what you’ve got! I’m also considering featuring a few short stories by other authors here on the site, so if you’ve got a good one you’d like to put out there, let me know.