Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Interview: Hayden Thorne
Interview with author Hayden Thorne
1. Your novels are often set in 19th century England instead of today's time. Why exactly did you decide this? Do you think you'll ever write a story in modern time?
Much of my inspiration comes from literary classics. When I "discovered" them as a high school freshman, I fell hopelessly in love, and I never really recovered. The language, the costumes, the traditions, the conventions - everything worked together to affect me deeply enough to stir my imagination in all sorts of ways, and it spilled over to storytelling. Ignore the fact that Victor Hugo's novels broke my heart in a gazillion different ways and left me traumatized for days afterwards.
I must also add that the allure of a "fairy tale"-like image of, say, the Regency is very strong, and that's very evident in a lot of historical romances for adults (and young readers). Since I've chosen to write about gay teens, though, this "fairy tale" glamour is something I need to limit and to bring down to more realistic levels.
Gay teens endure so much discrimination and fear, and what I try to do is provide them with an alternative mirror through which they can view these issues and, hopefully, learn from them. Contemporary realistic fiction that's set in high school is effective in connecting with gay teens, but I think that genre fiction - historical, fantasy, sci-fi, horror - can be equally effective in reaching out to them. Historical fiction also provides a great opportunity for young gay readers to see how things were in the past for teenagers like them. What were the prejudices? How were they expressed? What were the consequences of indiscreet behavior in school or in public places? What were the expectations for boys and girls when they came of age? How would they cope with the pressure to conform, given 19th century values?
That said, I'm certainly not averse to writing contemporary fiction, but when I do, there's always a mixture of fantasy elements in the stories. I've just completed the third and final installment of my superhero trilogy, Masks, and that series is set in modern times though a lot of historical themes (or things from the recent past, at the very least) are also worked into the setting. That's done both for effect and to make a point about the attitudes and the mindset of the people of Vintage City.
2. Your latest novel is Icarus in Flight. Can you explain what this book is about? Where did the inspiration come from?
Icarus in Flight is a Victorian romance and coming-of-age story. It follows the relationship between James Ellsworth, a wealthy heir, and Daniel Courtney, an orphaned boy, from their late childhood as schoolfriends to their early adulthood. The book's central conflict involves not just the developing romance between the two boys but also the pressure that comes with wealth and privilege and the pressure of family and marriage. It's very much a parlor drama for gay teens, which means a pretty subdued story that highlights relationships and character growth.
My inspiration for this book comes from the classics, and it also comes from gay historical novels written by contemporary authors. With regard to the latter, I always end up wondering, "Hmm - what if we're looking at gay teenagers in a Victorian setting instead? What would they do?" Alternatively, when I see books such as The Luxe, Bewitching Season, or La Petite Four, I also ask, "What about gay kids in period costume?"
Well, why not?
3. Do you ever hope readers' come away with a certain message when reading your work?
I do, yes. Escapism is great, and that's a large part of why I write what I write. At the same time, I'd like to show gay teens that they do have stories to tell beyond contemporary high school fiction - that they can be just as vulnerable and strong, flawed and admirable, in any place and time (while looking absolutely smashing in waistcoats and cravats).
4. Have you ever made a playlist for any of your novels? If you had to pick one song that went along with the themes in any of your novels, what would it be?
I've never made a playlist, but I listen to music whenever I write. I've pretty much associated Icarus in Flight with Chopin's waltzes, so I guess those can be considered a playlist of sorts. Banshee is very rustic in theme, and the songs that most closely capture the folksy, gothic feel of the book is Seth Lakeman's "Lady of the Sea" and "Kitty Jay." As for Masks: Rise of Heroes, it would be Air's "Sexy Boy," whose lyrics quite nicely fit the theme of perfection at a price versus ordinariness. Of course, superheroes can also be pretty hot.
5. What are your thoughts on book bloggers and other online promotion? Do you think it helps?
I think they're fantastic tools for promotion, and word-of-mouth advertising has always been the most effective method of reaching a larger audience. Book bloggers enjoy a wide, complex network, and it's really easy to touch bases with the right people nowadays. Small presses, especially, benefit from online reviews, guest blogging, and online interviews, given their limited resources when it comes to marketing their titles. I've been able to sell my books strictly through online promotional efforts, in fact, and I hope to continue establishing a good relationship with book bloggers for my future releases. Going from Point A to Point B in terms of creating an audience might be slower compared to traditional advertising routes, but the results are just as enduring.
6. What are you currently working on, if anything? If you could write with another author, who would it be?
I'm currently working on a new novel - another historical, and it takes place in 19th century Germany this time. Minstrel is a bit of a departure for me since it focuses on the effects of young same-sex romance on the family, more specifically the fathers of two boys who die together. The tragedy is really a small part of the plot; what I'm focusing on is the aftermath - the struggle for understanding and closure, for hope and redemption. It's also a kind of a Christmas folktale, in a manner of speaking, even though there aren't any fantasy elements in it. I guess it's the effect of the Christmas setting plus the romantic subplot involving a boy who's starting to question his identity.
If I were to write with another author, I'd like it to be Philip Reeve. I'm a huge fan of his Larklight series, and I'd love to be able to mesh a fun, fast-paced, surreal Victorian sci-fi plot with young gay characters.
7. Anything else you want to add?
I'm now craving for tea.