Gene Gant is a fellow YA author whose novel The Thunder In His Head was published by Harmony Ink Press this past May. I asked Gene if I could interview him months ago, but things kept coming up (on my part). I’m thrilled that it finally came together!
Gene Gant lives with his family in a small, rural community in West Tennessee. He has been a ghost writer for many years and is looking forward to publishing more works under his own name.
Is The Thunder In His Head your first YA novel?
No, it is actually the fifth young adult novel I’ve written. It just happened to be the first that, through a couple of revisions, reached a point where I felt comfortable enough to submit it to a publisher. Sometimes, writing a novel can be a long and painful process, especially when you have to admit to yourself that certain parts of it have to be cut because they just don’t work. In the case of The Thunder in His Head, that meant dumping almost the entire first half of the book.
What inspired you to write The Thunder In His Head ?
Several kids I know are experiencing a lot of pain and confusion with parents who are in the midst of very ugly, contentious divorces. I grew up in a stable, two-parent family, as did my neighborhood friends, so it is especially heart-rending to hear these kids talk about the hell their parents are taking them through. That, and my personal experience with the death of a parent, are the two things that inspired the book. The parental death theme was dealt with mostly in the discarded first half of the book, but it is still touched on somewhat in the novel.
You mentioned writing some young adult novels before The Thunder In His Head. Do you think you might go back and polish some of those up for submission now? Or would you rather just move on to new material?
I’ve already polished one of those manuscripts and it is now in the process of being published. Some of the other novels also have potential, and I will be going back to see if I can get them to the point where I feel they can be submitted to a publisher. But there are always story ideas percolating in my head, a character demanding his day in the sun, a relationship or topic that’s begging to be explored. For now, I’m working on a new project that I’m very excited about, that fantasy novel I mentioned. Another new idea I’m anxious to get to involves a team of humans colonizing a planet in another star system. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Is The Thunder In His Head much like your personal experience of High School?
Somewhat. The kids I went to school with floated a lot of gossip and rumors about each other. But there were two openly gay guys at my school, and they never had to fight their way to acceptance the way Kyle did. Not only were they never bullied or ridiculed because of their sexuality, they had many straight friends, male and female.
Apart from the level of explicitness in sex scenes, what in your opinion makes a story YA, as opposed to a novel for adults?
Well, it is certainly not the age of the protagonist, as some of my friends seem to think. There are plenty of novels with teenaged main characters that are clearly intended for adults. The main character in The Talisman, a collaborative effort between Stephen King and Peter Straub, is only twelve, but you certainly won’t find that book in any kids’ section. These days, YA novels cover the same issues addressed in adult novels. The distinction between the two, in my opinion, is that a young adult novel is one specifically written for and marketed to the 14 to 18-year-old age group.
How long does it usually take you to write a novel?
It takes about six months to finish a first draft. Rewrites and revisions take a lot longer. Sometimes, I have to put the manuscript aside for a few months and move on to other projects. When I come back to it, I’m usually better able to see what does and does not work, and I wind up with a better manuscript. So the actual process can take about a year.
Do you have a favorite genre?
Not really. I enjoy all genres pretty much equally. All I want is a good story that draws me into the author’s world and characters. I’ve read books in every genre that have grabbed me in such fashion. I also write in many genres. I am currently writing a fantasy novel and will soon begin plotting a science fiction story.
How would you describe your experiences working as an author with Harmony Ink Press?
It has been great. The editors are very supportive throughout the process of taking a work from manuscript to published novel. They provide invaluable feedback and help polish my writing by reining in my excesses. I enjoy working with them.
Do you plan on making writing a career, or do you have other career plans?
I’ve been writing for a living for almost ten years now. Most of that has been in the form of training manuals and such, which requires more creativity than you might think. It is rewarding work, in its own way, but nothing compares to the sheer fun of the world-building that goes into writing a novel. I look forward to doing more fiction writing.
What advice would you give novice writers looking to break into the YA M/M Romance genre?
Read every book in the genre that you can get your hands on, and make sure that you write something every day. Nothing can help a writer learn the ins and outs of a particular genre better than reading. And writing something every day is great practice. It doesn’t mean that you have to work on a novel every day. The daily writing can be a paragraph describing a character, or a page of dialog between two characters who disagree about what to have for lunch, or the jumbled, frantic thoughts of a character who has accidentally fallen out of a ten story window. Not only does this help develop writing skills, it can spark story ideas.
Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
My next YA novel is The Battle for Jericho, which will be published by Harmony Ink Press, probably in January, 2013. The main character, Jericho, has a girlfriend and strict, highly religious parents. When he realizes he is attracted to both boys and girls, he not only worries about how this will affect his relationships, he begins to question his faith and his identity. Despite the somewhat serious theme, I had a lot of fun writing it.
Kyle Manning is a tall, strong, openly gay sixteen-year-old who makes decent grades and plays on his school’s basketball team. He’s a good kid who cares deeply about his family and friends. But his life has become a mess. His mom, Lela, has finally had enough of her husband Joe’s serial cheating. Kyle’s parents are headed for divorce, and the collapse of their marriage torments him.
Divorcing parents is bad enough, but Kyle also has to deal with new people in his parents’ lives. He likes Stephanie, his father’s girlfriend, but he finds himself increasingly attracted to his mother’s handsome boyfriend, Reece. As Kyle struggles with his fear and frustration, he grows angrier and more erratic.
Then he meets Dwight Varley, a buff, attractive athlete from another school who takes an instant liking to him. Having Dwight around doesn’t solve all Kyle’s problems, but it does make life more bearable. As their relationship develops, Dwight becomes a bright oasis in Kyle’s harried life. But Dwight’s life is more complicated than Kyle ever imagined, and just when things start to get better, Kyle discovers the truth about Dwight—and about his father.