True Colorz is your web source for all things YA in the LGBTQ community! Our blog features new releases, featured authors, interviews, and reviews/recommended reading.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Featured Author: Jeff Erno

Jeff Erno
Jeff Erno began writing LGBT fiction in the late 1990s. Although an avid reader and amateur writer from a very young age, Jeff pursued a career as a retail store manager in Northern Michigan. When his first gay-themed novel was published, he was shocked that anyone would even want to read it. Four years later, he writes full time and has published fifteen novels. Jeff now lives in Southern Michigan, where he resides with his pure-white cat Gandalf. Jeff's writing credits include a variety of themes and sub-genres including male romance, Young Adult, Science Fiction, erotica, and BDSM. He is the winner of a 2012 Rainbow Award and an honorable mention in 2011. His style is unpretentious and focused upon emotionally-driven, character-based stories that touch the heart. Jeff is especially passionate about young adult literature and combating teen bullying and youth suicide.

Connect with Jeff Erno on Twitter @JeffErno or visit his website:

Q&A with Author Jeff Erno:

  1. If you could swap places with one of your fictional characters for 24 hours, who would you choose to be? Why? And what would you do that day?

    In most of my stories, I include a part of myself within the protagonist. I think it’s pretty obvious that the character Jeff Irwin in my first book, Dumb Jock, was based upon me as a teenager. Although I wouldn’t categorize that book, or any of my stories, as autobiographical, the personality and many of the experiences of the main character mirrored the reality of my own life. The same is true of Shawn in Trust Me, Mark in The Landlord, and Petey in the Puppy Love series.

    So with all of that being said, I guess if I could be one of my characters that I’m not already, I’d have to say maybe Josh in We Danced. He’s ambitious, intelligent, and very cute. He loves animals and children and lands himself a really hunky, masculine, country-western boyfriend. If I could body-swap one of my characters, maybe it’d be Josh, and I’d spend the day hanging out with Rex and Ty.

    I also really like Phillip from Second Chances. From an ethical standpoint, he’s everything I wish I could be.

  2. Please tell us what inspired you to begin writing Young Adult?

    Almost every writer I’ve known or read about is as much of an avid reader as they are a writer. People who dream about publishing a novel are the same people who read a lot of novels. And that’s where it all started for me. As a young person, reading provided an escape for me. Occasionally I’d come across books that featured gay protagonists (or even gay secondary characters) and I’d get so excited. There weren’t a lot of movies or TV shows back then that had gay characters, so finding a gay-themed novel was a special treat.

    As I got older, I began imagining great stories that appealed to readers like myself. I started writing for my own enjoyment, and I never expected any of my work would be shared with anyone. A lot of my writings were extremely erotic—some might argue pornographic—and a lot of them contained Dominant-submissive fetish. None of this was suitable for a young adult audience.

    My first book, Dumb Jock, was not intentionally written as young adult. It was a story that happened to be about a teenager, but I didn’t think of it as being targeted toward a specific demographic of readers. The book did well in the YA market, and it was classified by readers and reviewers as YA. As far as I was concerned, you could call it anything you wanted—YA, M/M, Gay Fiction…whatever.

    About the time Dumb Jock was released, there was a lot of media attention given to a rash of teen suicides. These young victims were mostly gay teens who’d been bullied. This broke my heart, and I wanted to in some way be involved in the effort to eradicate this horrible, incessant bullying. I felt powerless, and the only thing I could think to do was write about it. That’s why I wrote a series of short stories which focused upon gay teen bullying and released them as an anthology.

    The success of Dumb Jock translated into a sequel, and then a third book. Add to that the promotional efforts with Bullied, and I was officially a YA author. Along the way in this process, I began to receive a deluge of feedback emails from readers, and many of them were young people. I realized that these kids were exactly like I was when I was a teen. They crave stories with gay characters the same way I used to as a young reader. It wasn’t as if I had an epiphany. There wasn’t a single light-bulb moment where I declared myself a YA author, but it started to feel as if this was my niche.

    I still intend to write stories that are not YA, but I’m very excited about the future of YA literature within the LGBTQ literary community. And I have every intention of continuing to create young adult stories going forward.

  3. Can you tell readers a little bit about your new release, You Belong With Me?

    You may recognize that the title You Belong With Me is identical to a popular song by Taylor Swift. It was this song that inspired me to write the story. The song itself is not specifically gay-themed, but a while back another group did a cover of the song and created a gay-themed video. In the video, two teen boys, neighbors, develop a relationship by communicating through their bedroom windows. One of the boys is a jock while the other is kind of geeky. They hold up notebooks to the window, displaying handwritten messages for the other to read. I guess you might call it a type of face-to-face texting.

  4. Can you give readers out there a teaser from the book?

    He glanced up and caught me staring. His smile seemed to light up the room. I waved, mouth still full, and he waved back. I watched as he slipped on the jacket of his tux and checked himself out in the mirror. A few seconds later, he stepped over to the window and held up his notepad.


    I shook my head. Fumbling around, I located my sketchpad and scribbled my reply. NO. STUDYING

    His frown conveyed his disappointment. WISH YOU WERE. I wasn’t sure what to think of his response.

    I looked down at the floor and saw the page I’d discarded there a few days before. I was really turning into a slob. I bent over and picked it up, smoothing it out against the mattress. I LOVE YOU. I wanted him to see it. I wanted him to know my true feelings, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to hold it up for him to see.

    I’LL BE THINKING OF YOU TONIGHT. I stopped chewing the gooey caramel in my mouth as I stared at his message. A wave of powerful emotion washed over me, but all I could do was shrug. A moment later, he pulled the shade down.

  5. What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?

    That is a very specific question about a broad body of material. I have several published novels, and each one of them has a unique theme. In general, I want teens to know, gay or straight, that they’re cool as they are. I hope people of all ages who read my books are touched by the romances and happy endings. And I hope that people just have a good experience with my stories.

  6. True Colorz has been launched officially for one month now. Seeing so much positive feedback come in, what does it mean to you?

    I think the goal of True Colorz hasn’t been to gain popularity. It hasn’t even been to sell books. The initial vision of True Colorz was to provide a needed resource, a place which would feature YA LGBT literature exclusively. There are a lot of fantastic YA lit sites, and there are tons of GLBT sites, but I’m not aware of any that are like True Colorz, where they focus specifically upon YA LGBT.

    So I’m thrilled that the site’s launch has been successful, and I hope it continues to grow and remains a genuine resource for all readers who love YA.

Now Available from Jeff Erno:

Losers by Jeff ErnoLosers Jacob Stevens is a high school freshman facing an onslaught of constant bullying. When the unthinkable happens and he falls victim to a cruel prank, he and a small circle of friends band together to form a Losers’ Club. By embracing the name their tormentors have assigned them, they reclaim their power and try to fight back. With the help of a mysterious stranger, Jacob finds the strength he needs to stand up for himself and his friends, a group of losers like himself.

You Belong With Me by Jeff ErnoYou Belong With Me High school junior Wesley Harris is a stereotypical shy, soft-spoken nerd. He is obsessed with crafts and art and doesn’t even need to come out of the closet to become the target of antigay bullying. Though he has the support of close friends and liberal-minded mother, he finds it hard to believe in himself.

Brad Johnson, Wesley’s new neighbor, is Wesley’s age—and his complete opposite. A popular jock and hero of the school’s baseball team, Brad has an outgoing personality and a reputation as a ladies’ man. When he and Wesley are alone, away from their classmates’ scrutiny, they become friends despite their differences. But when Wesley confesses to wanting more than friendship, Brad walks away, unwilling to risk their romance being exposed.

Though devastated, Wesley resigns himself to accept that they were never meant to be. The next time he runs afoul of bullies, school counseling empowers him to report them. Encouraged by his new confidence, he decides to attend the school dance and face Brad….

Trust MeTrust Me Shawn Graham and Bobby Wilder couldn't be more different. Shawn is a devout Christian fundamentalist from northern Michigan; Bobby is a street-smart latchkey kid from southern Ohio. From an early age, they are both confused and troubled by their attraction to the same sex. Shawn believes that homosexuality is sinful, and a traumatic incident of childhood sexual abuse adds to his guilt and shame. Bobby has an image to maintain and flatly denies the possibility that his same-sex attractions even exist. He's just too cool to be gay. When they finally connect, their preconceptions are suddenly dwarfed by what they feel for each other. They become inseparable and fall deeply in love; however, love doesn't make life easy. Plans are in motion that will surely devastate the young couple. Painful experiences of the past overshadow happy memories, and heartbreaking obstacles loom over the possibility of a future. If Shawn and Bobby want to stay together, they will have to fight with everything they have.

Bullied by Jeff ErnoBullied Every day, all over the country, teenagers struggle with the realities of bullying. Tormented, ridiculed, and beaten—simply for being who they are—these teens face alienation, humiliation, and even the explicit assertion that they have somehow brought this upon themselves, that they should just blend in. Bullied is a series of short stories exploring the world of these teens from several different viewpoints: the victim, the bully, the gay bystander, the straight friend, the concerned parent.

Dumb JockDumb Jock Dumb Jock is a touching, coming-of-age story about a reserved, self-conscious, teenage boy growing up in a small northern-Michigan town. Jeff Irwin is short for his age, timid and studious, never yet having dared to take any chances for fear of ultimate rejection or failure. He is a bit of a social outcast and lives quietly in the shadows of the popular kids at his school.

Afforded the opportunity to assist the town's high school football hero Brett Willson, Jeff embarks upon the challenge of educating the world's dumbest jock. The ensuing relationship that develops between the two young men proves far more challenging, however, than any tutoring session. Their budding friendship helps bring Jeff out of his shell and reveals a much deeper side of the dumb jock.

Tragedies befall the ill-suited young couple, and the losses they endure are unthinkable. In the end, however, they must decide whether to be true to their identities or return to the previously held conformity of their comfortable stereotypes.

Another Dumb JockAnother Dumb Jock In Dumb Jock, Jeff and Brett fall in love, but their relationship is not without challenges. Brett’s a football star, and Jeff is the classic nerd. Their coming of age and coming out story is set in the 1980s, and they face many obstacles. Yet their love for each other is strong, and they finally get their happy ending.

Now, almost three decades later, their children are teenagers. Adam, their fifteen year old son, is the star pitcher of his high school baseball team. He has grown up with two dads, in a loving, non-judgmental environment. Yet Adam has challenges of his own. He’s failing two of his classes at school, and he’s been suspended for fighting. He resents being labeled and insists that just because he has two dads, it doesn’t mean that he is himself gay.

When he is forced to accept help from another student in his algebra class, Adam starts to have feelings that cause him to question his very identity. He’s got to decide whether to follow his heart or to maintain the image he’s worked so hard to portray. Will he have the courage to take a stand for what he knows is right, or will he end up being just another dumb jock?

Dumb Jock 3: Appearances MatterDumb Jock 3: Appearances Matter Todd Hoffman, age sixteen, doesn't have an easy life. Not only does he live with his alcoholic mother in a rundown mobile home, but he's also a bit of a social outcast at school. He doesn't have the nice clothing, shoes, and car the other students have. He has only one really close friend, Shannon, but even she doesn't understand him completely. He knows he can never confide in her his deepest secret. He can't tell anyone, not even his favorite teacher.

But Todd finds a way to express his feelings when he learns about fan fiction. Being a gifted writer, Todd begins to write stories--gay stories--about another boy he's secretly crushing on. He posts the stories on a fan fiction website.

When the object of Todd's affection one day notices him and asks him out, Todd feels like he is suddenly living a dream, that his literary fantasy is become real. Soon, however, he realizes that reality and fantasy are two different things, and he has to determine if Galen, the high school soccer team captain, is the boy of his dreams or just another dumb jock.

This is book three of the Dumb Jock series, and the story is linked to the previous books by featuring several common characters. Jeff and Brett are present as are Adam and Trevor. Book three is a continuation of the first two installments, but also serves as a standalone read.


  1. OMG... You Belong With Me sounds like a wonderful story!!!!! Great interview. Hugs, Z.

  2. Thanks Z. Very kind of you to stop by.

  3. What I love most about your stories is that they have so much heart, even when dealing with painful subjects. So hard to choose, but I think Another Dumb Jock might be my favorite. xoxo