New Boy At The Academy by Sam Hawk ::Exclusive Interview
Title: New Boy At The Academy
Series: Tales from the Academy, book 1
Author: Sam Burns
Publisher: NineStar Press
Published: 25 March 2019
Keywords : YA, LGBT, YA, /1980s, Southern US, high school/academy, bullying, coming-of-age, coming out, homophobia, family drama
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Timmy had no clue that the first day of 10th grade at the Academy would rock his world. He thought it would be just like last year, with its endless bullying and recesses spent reshelving books in the library with his best and only friend Carleen. The sissy boy and the fat girl had bonded over their shared outcast status. But Carleen shows up filled with sassy confidence and declares they’re going to rule the school. By Christmas, the freaks and nerds would be the cool kids, and the mean girls and jocks would be the outcasts. Something had happened to her over the summer, but what?
And then, the two of them lay eyes on the new boy at the Academy. Doug has auburn feathered hair, veiny biceps, and green eyes the color of Sprite bottles. Plus, he’s come all the way from exotic Los Angeles, California. He rocks out to Patti Smith while Timmy loves ABBA. How does someone so cool end up in tiny, conservative Edgewood, South Carolina?
When Carleen immediately declares Doug a fox and her new prospective boyfriend, Timmy is shocked at his jealous reaction. He’s not supposed to like boys in that way, is he? Doug stirs up weird new emotions deep inside him as Timmy embarks on the adventure of his life. He and his hometown will never be the same.
Exclusive Author Interview
- How do you answer the question “Oh, you’re an author…what do you write?”
I write fiction, both short stories and novels. My first published novel, New Boy at the Academy, is YA, but I didn’t start it intending to write a YA novel. I started writing about a shy, deeply closeted gay teen at a private Christian academy and somewhere along the way, realized that I was creating a YA book.
- What does your family think of your writing?
My husband Wes is 100% supportive of my writing. He’s spent countless weekend hours alone while I pounded away on my laptop. My dad and sisters are also excited and I think, a little surprised that I had this in me. I didn’t start writing at all until I was in my late 40s and I’m 58 now.
- Tell us about your current work in process and what you’ve got planned for the future.
I am at the early stages of a sequel to New Boy at the Academy. It takes Timmy and the gang into junior year. While I’m at it, I might as well write a senior year book, too. I’m also playing around with a murder mystery at a beauty pageant. My second published short story, Pageant Girl, is a fun story set at Miss Texas, and I’ve been dreaming of expanding it for a long time. My working title is Death by Crowning.
- Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?
The best advice I can give is to find a writing group. Find a small group of writers whose work you admire and band together for critiques and support. I have two writer friends with whom I meet semi-regularly and text or email all the time. We read each other’s work, offer advice and, most importantly, encouragement. There were many times during the creation of New Boy at the Academy that I put it down, thinking it wasn’t going anywhere, wondering what was the point of continuing. Each time, my writing group asked “What’s up with Timmy (my protagonist)?” “We need more Timmy!” “More Timmy!” They believed in this project when I didn’t and there is no way it would be published without them.
- If you could travel forward or backward in time, where would you go and why?
1980 so I could make sure I got the details right in New Boy at the Academy.
- We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us right? If you could be a fly on the wall during an intimate encounter between two characters, not your own, who would they be?
When Scudder first comes to Maurice in the Russet Room in E.M. Forster’s Maurice.
New Boy at the Academy
Sam Hawk © 2019
All Rights Reserved
Edgewood, South Carolina
God didn’t answer my prayers and bring the Rapture on Labor Day, so I had to start tenth grade after all. I stepped in front of the mirror to assess my new back-to-school outfit. I hated it. I’d begged Momma to buy me the alligator shirt from Belk’s, which really cost her a lot, but did it have to hug my body so much? I tried stretching it out, but it would only stretch so far. I thought I’d look like Tom Selleck with his big veiny arms. Instead, I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I was trying to flex my chest when Momma walked in.
“Honey, get a move on. We have to be out the door in fifteen minutes, and you haven’t even touched your Pop-Tarts.”
“Momma, I think I need to change clothes.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked as she pulled and tugged on my shirt. “This is what you wanted. You look very handsome.”
“But it fits so close.”
“Timmy, I have told you time and again you’re not fat. It’s all in your head. You are absolutely average on the height and weight scale and exactly where you need to be at fifteen.” She patted my tummy, causing me to suck in. “You’ll lose that little bit of pudge in no time in gym class.”
My heart sank at the thought of gym class, and I almost lost my appetite for Pop-Tarts. Almost. Momma smoothed down my cowlick at the kitchen table as I bit into the brown sugar cinnamon pastry.
“Thank goodness you inherited the Ashburn hair,” she said. “Such a beautiful chestnut brown and such a noble hairline. It’s a sign of your aristocratic heritage, you know, on my side of the family. All the Ashburn men had beautiful hairlines. Thank goodness you take after me and don’t have your daddy’s stringy mess.”
I guessed my hairline was okay, but my new haircut was way too short. Daddy had taken me to get it cut only after Momma called him ten times to remind him. He and Momma got divorced when I was two, and it was always weird when he came by, which wasn’t often. Naturally, he took me to the awful old barbershop next to the pool hall instead of the new unisex salon in the Augusta Mall I was secretly hoping for. He told the barber to “buzz it” and then went next door for a beer. I managed to talk the barber into keeping a little length, but not much.
“Now go brush your teeth quick as a bunny rabbit,” said Momma. “Carleen’s mother called this morning and said her car’s not running and could I run by and pick her up for school. So, we have no time.”
Carleen’s house was across the tracks, and I knew Momma didn’t like going over there, but Carleen had been my best friend since kindergarten. Actually, you could say she was my only friend. She was the only one I talked to for hours on the phone at night; the only one I hung out with after school; the only one to ever invite me to a sleepover, which Momma had never allowed me to do since boy-girl sleepovers just weren’t done. I hadn’t seen her all summer because she’d been working at her grandparents’ peach farm. I was glad we’d be going to school together on the first day. I needed my friend with me.
We pulled in front of the house, and Carleen came right out.
“Good Lord, Carleen’s put on even more weight this summer,” said Momma.
Momma was right. Carleen had always been the biggest girl in class, and she wasn’t getting any smaller. I recognized her smock top from last year. A smock top was supposed to fit loose, but hers pulled in all the wrong places.
“Hey, Carleen,” said Momma as Carleen got in the car. “You sure do look pretty for your first day of school.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson,” said Carleen. I waited for an eye roll, but she just smiled at Momma like she really believed it. I looked at her more closely, and there was something different about her. Was it confidence? If so, it was new. Was that lip gloss she was wearing?
“Hey, Timmy, did you hear we’re getting a new boy in our class this year?”
“No,” I said, dreading the addition of another redneck bubba to the roster.
“They say he’s from California and he’s real cute.”
“Really? California?” said Momma. “What’s he doing here?”
“I think his momma’s people are here. He’s related to all those Herlongs.”
“Does that explain the lip gloss?”
“Timmy, don’t be rude,” said Momma.
“I just wanted to look pretty for the first day of school,” replied Carleen.
“And you do,” said Momma.
When Momma pulled up in front of Patriot Christian, Carleen looked me square in the eye and gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up.
“Come on, Timmy. We’re gonna rule the school in tenth grade. Let’s do it.”
Sam Hawk’s fiction is inspired by his experiences at a private Christian Academy in rural South Carolina in the ’70s. He survived his Southern adolescence with his sanity relatively intact and went on to earn degrees from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Law School. He also served in the U.S. Army as a JAG officer for twelve years. He resigned his commission when it became clear he was expected to persecute homosexuals as part of his job.
Sam then moved to Dallas, Texas where he met the man of his dreams and found his LGBT family. Sam and his husband have been married for over ten years and live with their Corgi and Chartreux cat in the requisite charming old house in a historic district where gay couples are legally compelled to live.