The first thing I knew about one of my characters is that he was gay.
The second thing I knew was that nobody around him had a clue. That this, in fact, would be a major plot event that would make so many things make sense. That it would be my trump card, my big reveal. And why?
Because I like to make marketing really, really difficult.
Alright, I admit, there’s more to it than that. A lot more.
I grew up in a small town on the edge of Appalachia, where we didn’t quite have mountains, but we did have meth labs. When I was fifteen, one of the boys in my English class told me he was gay, and that went well enough that he decided to tell everyone. Six months later, his parents had him seeing a councilor to fix him. No one else at my high school came out of the closet to anyone but close friends.
That was ten years ago. So near, so far.
Not everyone comes out when they want to; not everyone comes out at all. Their decisions are not predicated on want, but on can and cannot. And I wrote a book so I could tell the story of someone who is doing their best under difficult circumstances. To someone who perhaps was going through them themselves.
And the rest of us, of course, because who hasn’t had to make bad choices under worse circumstances? If you haven’t, I hope you never have to.
I didn’t write a coming-out story, but I made one where we can understand why not. I can’t tell you that there’s a romance in this book; there isn’t. I can’t tell you that my gay character is in love—he’s not sure that he is. I can’t even tell you who he is, or where you’ll meet him, or why exactly he keeps his secrets.
You’ll have to find that out for yourself.
In this gritty debut set in a near-future Appalachia, S. Hunter Nisbet presents a stunning story of surviving the choices we make—and those that are made for us.
Simon “Saint” Flaherty is sixteen the day he enters a back-alley mixed martial arts fight in his Appalachian town. The odds are overwhelmingly in his favor, but no one expects him to win by accidentally killing his opponent, least of all Simon. His coach uses the publicity to set Simon up in the fight of his life in scarcely a month’s time, but physically ready doesn’t mean mentally ready.
Erin Livingston has taken care of Simon since he was orphaned at the age of eleven, a replacement son for the one stolen away from her by a war that tore the country apart and left her hometown in isolated ruin and at the hands of despot cartel leader Jeff Petrowski. Not only does Petrowski keep an iron grip on the community, but his grasp is also rapidly closing in on Erin as Simon’s limelight reveals a secret she’s desperate to keep hidden from the world. Now Erin is searching for a way out, any way out.
Nothing can stop Simon’s next fight, barreling toward them at the speed of a shotgun shell. No one dares help Erin, not if it means risking their lives against a man with no mercy. In this tightly woven story of enduring in the face of violence, Simon and Erin must decide whether a chance to escape a life not worth living is worth the danger of losing it altogether.
Read an excerpt from What Boys Are Made Of below.