A warm welcome to author Leta Blake joining us here today at Love Bytes , to talk about her new release “Pictures of You, book one in the 90’s Coming of Age series.
Leta talks to us about her characters, shares an excerpt and there is a giveaway to participate in!
Author: Leta Blake
Title: Pictures of You
Series Title and Number: ‘90s Coming of Age, #1
Publisher: Leta Blake Books
Release Date: 9/19/2016
Genre: Gay New Adult, Coming of Age, with Romantic themes
Tags: new adult, coming of age, 1990s,
Length: 100,000 words
Growing up gay isn’t easy. Growing up gay in Knoxville, Tennessee is even harder.
Eighteen-year-old Peter Mandel, a private school senior—class of 1990—is passionate about photography. Peter doesn’t have many friends preferring to shoot pictures from behind the scenes to keep his homosexuality secret.
Enter Adam Algedi, a charming, worldly new guy who doesn’t do labels, but does want to do Peter. Hardly able to believe gorgeous Adam would want geeky, skinny him of all people, Peter’s swept away on a journey of first love and sexual discovery. But as their mutual web of lies spins tighter and tighter, can Peter find the confidence he needs to make the right choices?
Join Peter, in the first of a four-part coming of age series, on his search to love and be loved, and, most of all, how to grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.
Sometimes I’m asked whether or not I include people from my actual life in my books. Pictures of You and the entire ‘90s Coming of Age series represents one of the few instances where I can pinpoint actual character inspirations from people within my life:
- Peter, the main character, was inspired by Mark, a guy I went to high school with, though more in circumstance than in personality. Mark was Jewish, gay, and in love with his best friend. The idea for the book, and for Peter, came up when I was pondering what would have happened had Mark’s best friend loved him back?
- Adam, the love interest in Pictures of You, was inspired by a guy I ever-so-briefly dated. In this case, I pretty much co-opted the background/life-story of the guy, and instilled some of his charm, one-liners, and the way he made me feel when we were together. He was a child of a UN employee, half-Iranian, and raised outside of any faith at all. He’d lived all over the world and he’d come to stay in Tennessee because the unrest leading up to Operation Desert Storm was underway. He was not gay, though. He definitely liked ladies.
- Dr. Landry, the odd but encouraging teacher in the book, was absolutely inspired by my favorite high school teacher. He had a nickname for everyone and managed to make most kids feel special. He was a Vietnam vet and obviously suffered from some PTSD. He’d trail off in class, startle easily, and once went on a diatribe about war that culminated in a line I used in the book—“What do you do when they’ve killed all the poetry in your soul and you know you’ll never get it back?”
- Robert/Renee, the documentary film maker by day, drag queen by night character, was inspired by two different men I knew in college: both black, both gay. But only one was a drag queen. They worked at the university library with me and were such fun to be around. I meshed them together and then let the character breathe. Robert/Renee is not exactly like either man, but was inspired by both.
There have been instances in my life where I have desperately wanted to write a person into a book. Usually it’s when their behavior is so appallingly bad that I can’t believe it’s actually happening right in front of me. But, alas, most of those incidents have never made into a book. The one I’m actively searching for a way to write was the utter shunning I received from a friend’s husband. I once spent $600 and traveled a lot of miles to spend a few days with this friend and her husband never talked to me once the entire time I was there. A mutual friend came to have dinner with us all and he spoke to her at length, saying, “Oh, it’s so good to see you,” etc, but the entire visit, he never said a word to me. I’m dying, DYING to find a way to get that into a book. I’ve failed at that so far.
So, yes, sometimes authors do get inspired by actual people! But usually these characters take on a life of their own. Very few are ever point-by-point representations of a person we’ve known in real life. So rest easy! Maybe some of your best or worst traits might be included in a character, but most writers won’t ever write about you specifically.
Thank you for having me on your blog to talk about characters, writing, and Pictures of You!
“Should I apologize for earlier?” Adam asked, turning down the stereo.
“It isn’t your fault she showed up.”
Adam grinned at me. “I meant, should I apologize for the kiss, but I guess the answer is ‘no.’”
I twitched nervously in my seat and took a deep breath “I’m gay.”
I stared. “What?”
“I mean, yeah. You’re gay. I figured that out.”
“So—” I stopped. “Wait. How?”
“I can always tell. I don’t know how.”
“But I thought you said you weren’t gay.”
“I never said that.” Adam frowned. “Honestly, I don’t know what I am.”
My heart trip-hammered for a ton of reasons, but the scariest of them was hope. “What’s the deal then? Uh, with us?”
“Us? We’re friends. Like I said, friends kiss.”
My hope settled into a knot of anxiety.
“Then why hasn’t a friend kissed me before?”
“I don’t know. I mean, who wouldn’t want to kiss you?”
To me, it was definitely more of a question of who would want to kiss me, and, more specifically, just exactly why he had. Especially when I knew how everyone else would view me once we got to school. Maybe living all over the world hadn’t taught him the social skill of self-preservation required to make his way in a small city like Knoxville.
I decided to tell him. He really did deserve to know, and besides, if it was going to be an issue, I wanted to be hurt now, not later.
“I’m a huge loser, you know.”
Adam glanced over at me like I was insane. “What?”
“I’m not popular. In school. In life. In anything.” I turned my head and looked out the window, worrying my lower lip. “I just thought you should know. I mean, you don’t want to start out at a new school being friends with someone who’s just going to drag you down.”
Adam actually laughed. “You’re crazy. Did you know that?”
My throat tightened. It hurt he wasn’t taking me seriously. “I’m telling you why I’ll understand when you decide we can’t be friends anymore.”
“Look, you haven’t even started at this school and you’ve already decided that as a friend you’re not worth being first string? What’s up with that?”
I shrugged. “I’m just being realistic. I mean—look at me.”
In my peripheral vision I saw Adam do just that. He looked at me long enough that I worried about the car staying on the road. “Yeah. I’m looking. I still like what I see.” He lifted his hand to the back of my neck and squeezed. “I’m serious.”
A strange rush of emotion flooded my stomach and chest, and I wanted to tuck my face between my knees. Instead I just crossed my arms and frowned.
Adam brushed his fingers through my hair, catching in my frenzy of curls. It felt intimate and almost more real than the kiss. I shivered when he let go to grip the steering wheel again.
“But enough of that,” he said sternly. “Get my book bag out of the backseat. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Happy to be leaving the uncomfortable topic of my gay dorkitude behind, I reached around and grabbed the blue, nylon book bag.
“Open the front pocket.”
I unzipped it, fished around, and pulled out a driver’s license. It was Mo’s, and I had to stifle a laugh at the typical bad license photo that made him look like a serial killer.
“I’ve got a fake ID that Sean got for me, but I liberated that one for you.”
I tapped the picture. “You think this will get me into the club? I look nothing like your brother!”
“Don’t be such a defeatist! You just hold your thumb over the picture when you show them your ID.”
“Adam, that isn’t going to work.”
“We can always try,” he said, lifting his shoulders dismissively.
“They’ll confiscate the ID. How’s Mo going to feel about having to get a new license made?”
That got through to him. “Oh. So, huh. I guess that won’t work after all.”
I snorted. “Uh, no.”
Adam just smiled. “We’ll figure something out.”
“We could see what’s going on at the under-21 shows on The Strip.”
“No. I want to go to Tilt-a-Whirl. I read it’s the best gay bar in town and has, and I quote, ‘the best drag queens in the area.’”
“If the area is East Tennessee, then yeah, it probably does. And why do you want to go to a gay bar so much? I mean, this is a small city. Word gets around.”
Adam narrowed his eyes. “This last-minute resistance is futile, padawan.”
“Trek and Wars in the same breath. That is very wrong. Very, deeply, truly wrong.”
“It is,” Adam readily agreed.
“You’re a total dork.”
“Shh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell the jocks when school starts. I wouldn’t want my nerdiness to drag us down and all.”
I started to laugh, but stopped, struck by an uncomfortable thought. I picked at my blue jeans a little, toying with a loose thread, before asking quietly, “So the kiss is a secret?”
Adam looked over in obvious surprise. “Of course. I mean, like you said, this is a small city.”
“And it’s the South. And the Bible Belt. And generally homophobic, yeah.”
I bit down on my lip. I didn’t know what I was expecting. It wasn’t like he was wrong. We couldn’t be boyfriends—not here, not now. Not out in the open or anything. It was just that I wanted so much more already. And he’d kissed me.
Adam’s hand clasped the back of my neck again. “Hey, listen. You’re my friend. And you happen to kind of turn me on with your glasses, and your camera, and the way you walk.” He gripped his fingers in my hair again and gave my head a little shake. “That’s enough, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. So—the drag show. How do we get in?” I hoped my voice sounded light because if in Adam’s world friends kissed, I didn’t want to do anything to ruin our friendship before I found out what else he thought friends might do.
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.
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