Interview With Huston Piner
INTERVIEW WITH HUSTON PINER.
This year Kazza K had the pleasure of reading a very good LGBTQ YA book by a debut author, Huston Piner. It struck such a chord with me for several reasons. The boys in the book were approximately the same age as me in the time period, 1969-1970. Ooh, that is giving my age away. And something similar at the end occurred in my own life. I can’t discuss it because I would give crucial parts of the book away, but it was uncanny. All of that aside, it is a wonderful book full of excellent prose, a great narrative, excellent song choices, most of which I owned, and age and period appropriate dialogue, without going crazy. So, having said all of this, I shall ask a few questions of Huston Piner to see if I can find out a bit more about him as well as My Life as a Myth.
Greedy Bug: Welcome to Greedy Bug, Huston. It’s good to have you join us today.
Huston: Thanks, Kazza! It’s great to be with you. I really love Greedy Bug!
Kazza: First of all, please tell the readers – and us at Greedy Bug – a bit more about Huston Piner. I must say the name is brilliant. I’m gathering it is a pen name? Apart from writing, what does Huston Piner the non-writer do? Major hobbies, passions, obsessions?
Huston: I like reading, listening to music, watching movies, hanging out with family and friends. I’m very boring, really. As for the name, there’s not a lot I can say. (Seriously, they’d be after me!) I originally wanted to go by “JRR Tolkien” but someone told me it had already been done. Same thing with “JK Rowling.” No, Huston Piner — it’s just a name, isn’t it? The truth is, I grew up in a very traditional, socially conservative area, where there were some things (sexual orientation being among them) you just didn’t dare discuss. I still have loved one’s who live there. So it’s out of deference to them that I go by Huston Piner, sort of allowing them to stay in the closet until they’re ready to come out.
Kazza: Where is home for Huston Piner and what do you love about ‘home?’
Huston: Right now I live in the Mid-Atlantic area, which more or less happens to be where I’m originally from. They say home is where the heart it, but I’ve always found that home is wherever I’ve lived long enough to be familiar with it. You know, over time you just become comfortable knowing this is here, that’s over there, etc.
Kazza: If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
Huston: Oh, I’d never stop travelling. I’m fascinated by history and culture, and I’d want to keep exploring until I dropped dead! But if I could have an extended tour through Europe and the Mediterranean, I think I’d be sufficiently satisfied. Maybe. No, probably not. I forgot about Australia and Asia. Oh, and then there’s Africa and the rest of the Americas.
Kazza: So am I right in saying this is your debut novel, Huston? If so, why so long to write your first novel?
No the truth is complicated. I’ve been a writer all my life in one way or the other. I wrote my first ‘story’ when I was a third grader, I started writing poetry in high school — I fell in love with Arthur Rimbaud in eleventh grade, and over the years, I’ve written essays.
Actually, Myth is my second novel. It took me well over ten years to write the first one (yet to be published) though when I finally got moving on it, it clicked. Even so, that one was a learning experience. After that I got the idea for the title of Myth and just started writing.
Kazza: What inspired/motivated you to write in the LGBTQ YA genre?
Huston: The old adage is “write what you know” and the young adult genre offers so many possibilities. Let’s face it, no matter how old you are, everyone was a teenager once. We can all identify with them; anyone who says they can’t just has huge self-esteem issues.
Kazza: I know any age can and does read Young Adult. However, for a lot of YA readers the period you chose as the setting for “My Life as a Myth” is alien, although intriguing. The sixties and the seventies were times of great change. I was there and was involved full-on living life and it was like a trip down memory lane for me. I guess I want to know why you chose this time period for your book.
Huston: Well on the one hand, the year for the story came together initially because I just happened to be listening to music from that era. And on the other hand, the 1960s represent a kind of golden age to a lot of teenagers. But the more I thought about it, setting in 1969 allowed me to reflect on the similarities and differences between that era and today. Some things are a lot better for young gay and lesbian teens now than they were fifty years ago, but in other ways little has changed since then. Society has become both more accepting of LGBTQ people but also much more violent towards them. I wanted the book to highlight that reality. There’s still much work to do!
And see, it’s a funny thing! Before I submitted Myth to Prizm I ran it by a few agents and of the ones who responded at all, the question of the book’s era seemed to be a major concern. Yet Holden Caulfield still speaks to young people despite “Catcher in the Rye” not being as current in regards to its time and setting. And the thing is, if I’d set Myth on the plant Rinky-dink or made the characters shape shifters or the school the Chadham Academy of Magic and Hocus-pocus, adults wouldn’t have batted an eye at it. They just assume young people can’t handle a real world setting.
The truth is young people are a lot more perceptive and open to different cultures and times than adults give them credit for. If a book has characters who feel the same real emotions and have the same concerns they have (because those things never change), teens respond to it no matter what the time or setting is.
Kazza: I could not agree more, teens/young adults are incredibly perceptive. And yes, human nature is a constant.
Kazza: A lot of books in the LGBTQ YA genre are jock/nerd, which is all well and fine, but it is refreshing to get away from it. You certainly did with “My Life as a Myth.” It looks at how just a bit of ‘tweaking’ can be the difference between cool and uncool. Nick is taken under the wing of a rather … enterprising young man Jesse and, after a few incidents here and there, Nick is suddenly the rebellious and cool Napalm Nick, although he is anything but. Everyone wants to be seen with him. Tell us a little about this and why you wrote about it?
Huston: As to the whole jock/nerd thing, Jeff Erno said awhile back that the popularity of it is because we all long for our idealized Prince Charming. But for every nerd who dreams of his ideal jock, there are a hundred guys who just fall in love with another guy. When we meet someone who sweeps us off our feet, he actually becomes that Prince Charming to us; appearance is filtered through attraction, and that’s about emotion and the heart. (By the way, Anthony Paull is beautifully exploring that in his most recent book.)
Now as to the Nick versus his public image motif, I’ve said before that I really believe in the Muses; you have an idea in your mind and suddenly your fingers are typing out something you never expected. Myth evolved as I was writing it; I initially intended just a humorous story. But you know, it’s natural that the whole question of identity plays a part; teenagers often find themselves at odds with how others perceive them. And gay people frequently have to hide who they are due to prejudice and social pressures, so it was just natural for that to become an element of the story. It’s real and I wanted gay teens to realize that who they are is okay.
Kazza: My Life as a Myth tells a love story about two unforgettable characters – Nick and Bobby – Right now Bobby’s sleeping next to me. He’s beautiful when he sleeps. I can’t believe how much I love him. It’s not just the physical stimulation I get from him. It makes me just as happy to do things for him as when he does things to me. It’s even enough just to be with him, like now, and to know that he loves me as much as I love him. Any inspiration by anyone you know/knew for these characters?
Huston: Yes. (Enigmatic smile) To quote Wittgenstein, “What we cannot say we must pass over in silence.”
Kazza: Speaking of quotes, the book uses them throughout. But I think one of the singularly most beautiful quotes by Oscar Wilde was used in this book so effectively – ‘If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.’ Without giving too much away, why did you choose that quote?
Huston: Wilde had a gift for conveying the verities of the human heart. That particular quote expresses true love, a revelation about ourselves as much as the person we love. When we’ve found our true love, we know it from the depths of our being and it marks us eternally.
Kazza: So beautifully said. To feel, know such deep love.
Kazza: I believe “My Life as a Myth” is up for an award or maybe two. Please elaborate on them for us, Huston.
Huston: Myth is a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist in the Young Adult category; winners to be announced in December. I’m up against some very stiff competition. (Why are you giggling at that?) In addition, I was flattered (well flabbergasted, really) to be informed that Myth has been nominated for the 2014 Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. It’s such an honour to even be considered for it that I still can hardly believe it.
Kazza: I also believe you have a giveaway running on Goodreads. I can’t recommend “My Life as a Myth” highly enough. Tell us the details of the giveaway.
Huston: Yes, on November 15th a winner will be chosen for an autographed hardcopy. (Unfortunately, I have to restrict it to US participants.)
The best way to enter is via the “My Life as a Myth” page at Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17343906-my-life-as-a-myth
Kazza: So, are there any books on the near horizon for Huston Piner? If so, can you tell us and our readers about them?
Huston: Yes. Right now, I’ve actually got two projects in the works. The first is “Conjoined at the Soul,” currently in the final draft stages. Clueless sophomore Randy Clark looks in the mirror one morning to ‘discover’ he’s gay, but his search for that ‘special someone’ leads him into both a toxic relationship and a hopeless crush on a new friend. The second project, “The Breath We Take,” will involve the romantic complications of a group of eleventh grader friends (two girls, a straight guy, and a gay guy) when one of them decides to play matchmaker. In addition, I’ve got a few ideas for several other projects down the line.
Greedy Bug: Thank you to today’s guest, Huston Piner. You can buy “My Life as a Myth” here –
I don’t always blog, but when I do it’s at http://huston-piner.livejournal.com/. And of course I’m on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/My-Life-as-a-Myth-Huston-Piner/409082522533786
and twitter @HustonPiner.
Huston: Thanks for having me, Kazza! I love Greedy Bug and I really appreciate the invitation. Keep up the fabulous work!
Kazza: Cheers, Huston. We look forward to you popping back in when one of your latest books is out.