Tom Dolby is an amazing author for LGBTQ fiction, and he was nice enough to answer some questions on Trouble Boy and LGBTQ lit for me! :)
On Trouble Boy
On LGBTQ Writing
On Trouble Boy
Trouble Boy – your debut novel – was all about self discovery through one’s sexuality. How did you come up with that central theme?
It was really about tracing the journey of a 22 year-old who is new to New York City. Sexuality is a big part of that journey, especially when one is gay. While the main character, Toby, is already out of the closet and has had several short relationships, he is still trying to figure out what he wants in a boyfriend. He is also grappling with issues of success and self-esteem and friendship, but certainly sexuality plays an important role in his life.
The book’s protagonist is at many times emotionally distant, and doesn’t like to confront reality. Why is this so important to his character, and how does it change as the book progresses?
Toby is a classic “unreliable narrator” and it was a lot of fun for me to play with that. He can really be very delusional in terms of his desires and his perception of the world! He is only 22 and yet he wants it all – success, sex, fame – right now! In the end, while he achieves some success, he understands that it may take a little longer than he had hoped. And he learns that he doesn’t need to base his self-esteem on who he is dating.
Where did the idea to write this book come from? Was it one that eased out of you, or did you have trouble getting it down in a manuscript?
When I wrote it, I had just moved away from New York after living there for three years after college. I had experienced many similar adventures to Toby’s, and I wanted to express those within a character. The novel came quickly because it was so similar to my own experience. While not everything in the novel happened to me (and I always get asked that!), the fact that I had a group of friends much like Toby’s certainly helped inform the novel.
How does it feel to be so critically acclaimed and compared to famous authors like Candace Bushnell?
It’s very flattering.
What is one thing you wish you could change about the book now that it has been out and published for several years?
That’s a great question – but I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I think that what I learned is that once a book is out, it’s no longer “my book.” Everyone views the book differently – some saw it as a sweet coming-of-age story about love and friendship; others saw it as a fast-paced, sexy book about nightlife and sexual discovery in New York City. Each reader has a different experience, and that’s okay.
On LGBTQ Writing
What was the most influential LGBTQ book that you have read? That you would tell others to read?
I always recommend David Leavitt’s The Lost Language of Cranes. I’ve read it at least four times and counting.
What’s one aspect you think is vital to incorporate while writing an LGBTQ character?
I think it’s important to include some recognition of their sexuality in the sense that they do have needs and desires. While not every LGBTQ character’s story has to be about sex, I think that nearly everyone is a sexual being in some way, and that needs to be acknowledged.
In your opinion, what would you like to see more of in future LGBTQ fiction books – YA and Adult?
Mostly, I just think it’s wonderful that there ARE so many LGBTQ novels out there – and that publishers keep publishing them. Actually, the number one thing I would say (and I almost want to put this in all caps!) is that readers need to demand these kind of books from publishers, booksellers, and librarians. If they can, readers should try to BUY books as much as possible (or demand that their librarians buy them) – in publishing, what counts is sales, and the only way an author can achieve sales is for people to buy their books. And if you do borrow a book from a friend or check it out from the library, do the author a favor by telling your friends that they should read it, too! It all helps in the end, and leads to more books coming out, which is what we all want, right?
How do you think your themes affect LGBTQ readers? Are all of them good?
In THE TROUBLE BOY and THE SIXTH FORM (my novel about two 17 year-old boys at boarding school and their relationship with their female English teacher), there is a lot of frank and honest talk about sex and sexuality. I am incredibly flattered and impressed that teen readers are finding my books, and I am pleased that they are mature enough to handle these themes. Sex doesn’t have to be this big scary thing, but it’s important that readers stay safe. The kinds of things that Toby is experiencing in the book are not the kinds of things you want to be doing in your teens. So, read about it, but don’t do it! I sound like a parent, right?
How do you feel the market for LGBTQ books is changing, and do you think publishers should look into getting more books with LGBTQ characters as protagonists?
Absolutely! What is wonderful about the boom in publishing for LGBTQ books is that there is a new generation – teen readers in particular, who were eight and nine years old (!) when my first novel came out, who are now old enough to read these books, and are demanding more of them. Like I said, you have to be vocal. Demand the books of your librarians, write to the publisher and favorite authors, write on your blog, become a fan on Facebook. Publishers need to know that the most important part of the business is readers. You guys are why we authors do what we do!
Great interview! Thanks so much to Tom for stopping by, and for putting up with my long list of questions! Really loved the advice he gave, and hopefully you readers take that advice to heart. I also must try David Leavitt now *scribbles on pad* Thanks for a great Rainbow Thursday, Tom!! (Or Friday, as the case may be)