Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, Huston.
According to my parents I was left on their doorstep by gypsies. A few years ago I was talking to an elderly Roma and his wife came out and screamed, "Son! You've come back to us!"
Tell us something we'd be surprised to learn about you.
Well, I'm very sinister – left-handed, but I play guitar right-handed. No, I don't really know how to answer that one because I know myself too well to be surprised by anything I do.
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
I've always been a writer in one way or another. The first thing I wrote was called "Thirty Days till Halloween and the Werewolf Strikes." I was in the third grade. It couldn't have been more than two hundred words and it made no sense at all. But I remember letting my best friend read it and at the time he thought it was fantastic. Of course, we were only nine or ten years old at the time! In high school, it was mostly poetry, and I once tried my hand at fanfic. But it's only been in the last three years or so ago that I began to seriously consider it as more than a hobby. "My Life as a Myth" is actually the second book I've written. The first one may see the light of day at some point. I don't know; we'll see. In the meantime, I've got "Joined at the Soul" coming out next year and a couple of other projects I'm working on.
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
For a long time I think I was afraid of writing seriously; it is a lot of work and that first book I mentioned earlier took a long time to percolate to the surface. But when I finally started on it I found I liked doing it so much I couldn't stop. So in the end, yeah, it's a lot of work, hard work, but it's so addictive that I can't imagine doing anything else.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
Actually, I was too stunned to say anything for a while; I mean, Torquere Press! It's such a great publisher with so many great writers. Wow! Then I wandered through the house, found my partner and screamed, "You're not going to believe this!"
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
I love it when the Muses take over. You know, there are moments when you're writing a scene and it takes on a life of its own. Maybe you thought you'd go in a certain direction but suddenly it starts to unfold in a completely surprising way. Those are magic moments.
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
I always take time for reading; you have to. I like poetry, history, biographies, and fantasy. And of course I love young adult fiction.
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
Well, like I said, I've dabbled in fanfic and written a bit of poetry, but I think I'll probably stay in the gay romance/young adult genre. It's a pretty wide field and accessible to everyone.
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
"My Life as a Myth" is about a shy high school freshman trying to come to term with his emerging orientation while also having to deal with his unwanted reputation.
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
"Joined at the Soul" will be coming out in February next year. Randy Clark could be quite happy if his little brother would disappear, his best friend would stop trying to get him in the school musical, and if he could just find a boyfriend. The trouble is Randy's pretty much clueless and he's having a hard time dealing with would be bullies and his growing feelings for a straight friend.
In addition, I'm wrapping up work on a novella called "Light in Endless Darkness" that I hope to have published this fall. Kevin Reeves is out of high school and ready to get out of Chadham, but Dickerson College requires him to take a community college course for admission and while there he finds himself drawn to Dominic Pierce, who carries a dark secret.
Anything you want to say to your readers?
Yes, first, I want to thank everyone who's read "My Life as a Myth" and enjoyed it, especially the young people. And I want to encourage every LGBTQ young person to believe in yourself. You're better than you know, worth more than you think, and more beautiful than you believe.
Huston Piner's recent releases:
My Life as a Myth
1969 high school freshman Nick Horton has problems. He's an easy target for bullies, a social outcast who dreams of being popular, and he doesn't understand why he's not attracted to girls. After a series of misunderstandings label him a troublemaker, he's delighted to have Jesse and his gang befriend him. But while Nick just wants to explore his growing attraction to Bobby, Jesse promises to give him a new image and transforms the shy loser into an anti-establishment student hero. Thanks to his new reputation, Nick soon finds himself besieged by would-be girlfriends and expectations that he live up to his public image. If it wasn't tough pretending to be straight, now he's got to act cool too!
Nick's freshman year is a remarkable journey of ridiculous misadventures, unexpected psychedelic explorations, and heartbreaking tragedy. As he struggles to understand his emerging romance with Bobby he must confront the dangerous goings-on at school and the Vietnam War's destructive impact on his family. Is a world still reeling from the sexual revolution and the illicit pleasures of underage drinking and marijuana ready to accept two boys in love? Can Nick and Bobby's relationship survive a world where acid rock rules, status is everything and being gay is the last taboo?
Excerpt from My Life as a Myth:
"Come on," he said, and led me to the end of the building and around the corner.
Two guys stood there chatting. One was tall and lanky with black hair falling onto his collar. The other stood half a head shorter than me. He had wavy brown hair about the same length as mine -- long enough to irritate a father but not enough to look cool. A third guy had his back to us and squatted near the wall like he was examining the bricks. All I could see of him was the back of his head; he looked to be very lean and had the blondest hair I'd ever seen.
"Hey, Jess," the tall guy said.
"Say, Matt," Jesse replied. "Meet Nick."
"Hi," I said to the raven-headed boy.
Matt took over the introductions. "Nick, this is Gary. Gary, Nick,"
Gary just looked me over skeptically.
The blond guy who had been squatting stood up. He was a full head shorter than me with the leanest, fittest body I'd ever seen. I couldn't help but stare at him; he's got a face you can't help but notice, handsome but childlike. And he may be small, but he looks like he could easily take the giant who sucker-punched me that first day. He had a cigarette in his hand, which he passed to Jesse.
"I'm Bobby, Bobby Warren." He locked eyes with me.
"Hey, Bobby." I tried unsuccessfully to avoid blushing.
Jesse lit the cigarette Bobby had given him and took a relaxed puff.
"Guys," Jesse exhaled a cloud of blue smoke in my face, "you are standing in the presence of royalty. Nick here is the Nick, Nicholas Horton, Napalm Nick."
"Cool." Matt accepted the cigarette from Jesse and took a long slow drag.
Gary took it next and followed suit. As he passed it to Bobby, he cocked his head and blew the smoke out one side of his mouth, which sent it in my direction. I breathed in the spicy cloud that drifted through the open air and watched Bobby take his drag. Gary looked me over again and seemed to regard me with a little more approval.
"So how did you guys hook up?"
"We have History, English, and study hall together," Jesse explained. It embarrassed me to think that I hadn't noticed him in any of my classes, or at all for that matter, before he introduced himself earlier.
"Don't smoke," I said when Bobby offered me the cigarette. He paused for a beat and smiled at me before handing it back to Jesse. The smile was open and made me feel good.
As the minutes passed, I loosened up and got to know my new friends. …
The one who really made an impression on me is Bobby. He's laid back, and he's real nice and showed the most interest in getting to know me. There's something about him that makes me think he could be the leader but just doesn't want to be. I must have embarrassed him at one point, 'cause when I noticed him looking at me he blushed, which triggered that embarrassing nervousness I sometimes get. But the way he smiled at me kinda made it all right. Like I said, he's real nice.
"Napalm," Matt bowed deeply, "I'm one of your greatest admirers. Fuddle's so determined to get you, the rest of us are getting away with murder. Our praise and our thanks!"
The thought of being admired for things I have no control over struck me as so absurd that I laughed out loud.
"Oh, you're so welcome. It's nothing, believe me!"
Jesse choked through a fit of giggling that had us all laughing. He tried to pass the cigarette to Matt but he just laughed and shook his head until Gary took it.
It went on like that for the rest of the lunch break. We chatted and giggled like five-year-olds, and Matt got me to tell them how I got on Fuddle's bad side that first day. When Jesse heard the real story he laughed so hard he had to sit down.
"So the great Napalm Horton is really a great fraud," he spluttered through uncontrollable chuckles.
"Afraid so," I said grinning.
"Are you kidding?" Bobby winked at me and tried to maintain a straight face. "Gentlemen, we are in the presence of genius. Without even trying, Nick managed to begin his high school career with a ready-made reputation that sets him apart. Most guys spend the whole time they're in school trying to reach the top of the mountain, but Nick just flew straight there before he even set foot on campus. It's genius, I'm telling you, true genius."
I started to bow before him, but he must have intended to bow to my genius at the same time because the next thing I knew our heads collided. We both stumbled, rubbed our nearly-fractured skulls and held each other up. The touch of his hand around my waist made me blush but felt good. He squeezed me a little before letting go.
"Bless their pointy little heads," Matt said. We fell about laughing again.
Excerpt from "Joined at the Soul"
As we come off the field, the coach tells us to hit the showers. Kerry and I head inside along with Rick Payton and a couple of the other guys. I'm so spent from the run that I don't even bother invoking my Buddha focus. With every step, what little energy I've got left evaporates from my body like the sweat dripping off me.
But it's a different story when the water first hits me. Maybe it's the fact that four very attractive teenage males are all around me, bending and stretching as the warm spray washes over them. Maybe it's the combined smell of adolescent sweat dripping off slender young chests and running down freshly worked-out thighs. Whatever the reason, energy courses through me and my natural reaction grows stubbornly obvious within seconds.
If I look one way, there's Rick Payton and Jeff Gray in all their glory. If I look the other way, Billy Mason is soaping up his chest. Turning away from him brings me face to face with Kerry. He's washing the shampoo out of his hair with the soapy water streaming down his face and chest. I watch it flowing down and surrender to the arousal coursing through me.
Then suddenly, I'm brought back to reality. Kerry's eyes are open; he's caught me checking him out. And he's just far enough away that he doesn't even have to look down to see what's happening. Talk about embarrassed! Between my face and my hard-on I'm surprised there's enough blood left for the rest of my body. I spin back to the wall and shut off the hot water, but even cold water has a fight on its hands; my lust gland is in full hormonal rebellion and refuses to take this fight lying down.
I rush to the locker room and start dressing as fast as I can. But just when my brain has finally regained some control over my body, Kerry walks in, totally naked and my lust gland goes back on full alert. He stops. Our eyes meet. He's wearing an odd expression.
"Crazy work out today, huh?" he says.
He's looking directly into my eyes. "It really, uh, gets the blood moving, doesn't it?"
I feel my cheeks redden and stumble to get my shoe tied.
He starts to say something but I grab my book bag. "I've got to go. Chemistry test today."
It's a good thing we really don't have a test in Chemistry. The run's effect on my lust gland continues the whole class. Stray images of Kerry in the shower haunt my mind like ghosts on the edge of my field of vision. As soon as I get to study hall, I ask Mister Meleti for a library pass.