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, June 9, 2013

Featured Author: Robbie Michaels

Robbie Michaels
Robbie Michaels grew up in rural upstate New York, the same setting as the beginning of The Most Popular Guy books. It was not always easy growing up thinking he was the only gay person in the world. He felt like a stranger in a very strange land for most of those years, always having to act a part, play a role, until he later met other gay folks and found out that he was not alone. He was teased and bullied when others suspected that he might be gay. But he survived those days and found that life does get better, even though at the time it sure didn’t seem possible.

Visit Robbie's website:

Q&A with Author Robbie Michaels:

  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?

    Wow, this is a tough question for me. I’ll tell you a secret: the character Mark in the books is me. Much of Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover is autobiographical. It’s my story. A lot of what you’ll read really happened. Not all of it, of course, but big chunks. There really was a Bill (and he was hot!), there really was a big truck full of chocolate that we had to unload. Bill did sit beside me, we really did talk, and he really did have jeans with all kinds of tears that gave me hints of what was beneath. I still nearly hyperventilate at the memory. So much of the book is elements of my life that I guess what I’ll say is I’ll be me because I like who I am now.

  2. Please tell readers about your Most Popular Guy in the School trilogy.

    The Most Popular Guy in the School started out as just one book, what was published as Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. But when I finished, the two characters just wouldn’t shut up in my head. They kept clamoring for more. I had so many ideas of future adventures for Mark and Bill that I just decided to keep writing and see what stories they had to tell.

    In book one, Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, Mark, the math geek, gets thrown together with Bill, the jock. Bill is beautiful and excels at many things. He is the most popular guy in the school. But Bill harbors many secrets. In public he is admired and adored by those around him, but all is not well at home. When they are thrown together, Mark gets to finally talk with Bill. Since they run in different circles that do not overlap, they had never before had occasion to talk. Their conversation is easy and they work together well.

    When a monster snowstorm hits and Bill’s car decides to die, Mark rescues him and gives him a bed and shelter from the storm. While they wait out the storm, Mark gets glimpses of a Bill that no one ever sees. Bill is an intelligent, caring man, an artist as well as an athlete. Sign after sign point to the impossible: Mark is not the only gay man is his town after all. He confronts Bill, which freaks Bill out totally. They finally talk and then dare to share a first kiss. Life is finally good, but not for long when rumors start to spread that Mark is gay. When both guys are assaulted, life seems really, really bad, but just when things seem their worst, help arrives from the most unexpected people.

    In the second book, the guys head west to California to begin college. They get jobs, they go to school, and they meet some locals and get settled. But an unexpected opportunity presents itself and Bill just cannot say no. Before its over, though, both he and Mark desperately wish he had said no.

    The third book in the trilogy, A Star is Born, deals with some of the problems that arise when Mark and Bill find themselves on different roads. They had both been college students pursuing the same dream. But when Bill got an opportunity to appear in a movie they both thought it was great. But when one led to recognition of his talent and then led to another, and then another, Mark sees the two of them drifting apart and wonders if there is any hope for the two of them. Life throws them several curve balls and gives them challenges they never anticipated.

  3. What inspired you to write the Most Popular Guy in the School trilogy?

    Believe it or not, I didn’t set out to write a book. One day while I was out walking the dog, something triggered a memory of an event in high school. When I got back home I sat down at the computer and quickly wrote out the event I had remembered. I thought that would be it.

    But the two characters just wouldn’t shut up. They kept running through my mind. To satisfy them, I finally returned to my computer and just started typing. I let them have free reign and I just hung on for the ride. I never knew where they were going to take us. I just had to keep typing to find out. That book was a book I had never planned or intended to write, but I am so glad that I did.

    Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover also gave me an opportunity to write about something that has bothered me for years. When she was growing up, my mother was abused by her father. He was a great father – until he drank, and then he became an out-of-control monster. He beat his family in brutal. In the book you’ll read about Mark’s father dating his mother and how he walked into one of those situations without any warning. That all really happened. Everything in that part of the book is nearly word for word what he told me. My mother was embarrassed about the whole thing and would never talk about it. I was afraid that she would be so mad with me when she read what I’d written, but instead she told me that she loved it and that it was perfect. I was very, very happy.

  4. Can we expect any more YA titles from you in the near future?

    Indeed you can. I am just now finishing a book I’ve been co-authoring with J.P. Barnaby writing as Jamie Mayfield. Last fall I was at a conference and heard her speak. I was totally wowed by her presence. She writes so beautifully and has such phenomenal stories to tell. When the moderator asked for questions I asked her about something from her Little Boy Lost series. In that book she has one boy’s parents discover he is gay. They send him to a reparative therapy center to “fix him”, to make him straight.

    Reparative therapy, or conversion therapy, has always been a big issue for me because it does more harm to young gay men and lesbian women than just about anything else. I asked J.P. why she hadn’t developed that story line more. Right there in the room full of people she looked at me and asked if I’d like to write the story with her. I was floored. I thought she was joking but she kept pushing me. She meant what she’d said, so we started writing.

    Writing together with someone who is hundreds of miles away is a challenge. But we got over our initial problems and went on to write a book called Anything But Sunshine that tells about a group of guys locked up in a place called the Sunshine Center. They’re all gay but the leaders of the center are working to teach them how to be straight and to overcome the sin of homosexuality. I think it’s a strong book and I hope you will as well. We have one chapter left to write and then it will go to Harmony Ink Press for consideration and hopefully for publication. Harmony Ink Press has accepted a trilogy from J.P. that is a reworking of her Little Boy Lost series for young adults. I cannot wait for them to come out since it is such a powerful story.

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

    What I want readers to take away from my books is very simple. Sometimes life sucks. But that moment is just one moment in a long stream of many, many moments. The sucking part is just one moment in the span of your life. Get through it and look forward because there is a whole world out there just waiting for you. The bad moment you might be in will not be that way forever. You’ll have bad times but there will also be good times. The key thing you have to do is first and foremost hang on. There is hope for a better tomorrow.

    Life is a wonderful, marvelous thing to be embraced and celebrated. Don’t ever give up. You are the only you there is, and we need you, we need your voice. You are not alone. There are many, many, many others like you out there and some day you will meet them and together you will change the world in a wonderful, positive way. I wish I could reach out and give each and every one of you a hug and the reassurance that you are an incredible person because it is true. If others try to tell you that there is something wrong with you, they don’t know what they’re talking about because you are just fine the way you are – you were born to be you. Remember Lady Gaga, “I was born this way.” Dream big and then go forth and live those dreams.

Now Available from Robbie Michaels:

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover (The Most Popular Guy in the School: Book One) High school can be some of the best years of life—and some of the toughest. Mark Mitchell's strategy for surviving is to emulate the mighty turtle: pull back inside his protective shell and keep a low profile to avoid trouble. And it works—nobody bothers him. Of course, nobody really knows him, either, even in a town so small it seems like everybody must know everyone else.

Mark certainly knows Bill Cromwell, whom he meets officially when his father volunteers him for manual labor at the school. Bill is his polar opposite: outgoing, gregarious, athletic. But when a massive snowstorm traps the two boys together for three days, Mark learns that being popular doesn’t mean you can’t be bullied or abused—or gay—and that bullying doesn’t stop at the school doors.

Mark isn’t naïve. He’s seen the news reports of gay teen suicides, and he’s determined not to become a statistic. But it’s not himself he’s worried about.

Go West, Young Man (The Most Popular Guy in the School: Book Two) A few short months ago, Mark Mitchell was a shy nerdy kid who kept his head down and stayed off the radar. He had nothing in common with the in-crowd. But then he got snowed in with Bill Cromwell and learned not to judge a book by its cover. One thing led to another, and now Mark has a boyfriend. A popular boyfriend. A boyfriend who wants to go to prom with him. But Mark worries that Bill is risking too much—his popularity, his friends.

Then there’s graduation: caps, gowns, and a whole new world awaiting Mark and Bill in faraway California. They rent an apartment, join the workforce, start college. It’s the beginning of the journey of their lives, and they should be enjoying it—but amid uncertainty, temporary separations, and bad communication, Mark and Bill have to struggle to hold on to the fledgling relationship that grounds them when the outside world seems to move too fast.

A Star is Born (The Most Popular Guy in the School: Book Three) Having left New York and their old lives behind them, Mark Mitchell and Bill Cromwell are settling into their new home in California, their jobs, and their college courses. At least Mark is, but when Bill’s acting career takes off, Bill leaves college—and Mark—behind to film around the world. Learning to live together was hard—being the boyfriend of a budding superstar is almost inconceivable. Though it’s a struggle to stay relevant to each other when they live in different worlds, Mark is committed to Bill and their relationship.

When Mark gets an unexpected long weekend, he decides to surprise Bill on location in Maui. After all, it’s Mark’s birthday, and he wants to spend it with his lover. But in the end, Mark is the one who’s surprised when he finds Bill in bed with his costar. The combination of fame, fortune, and infidelity seems to spell the end for Bill and Mark—until a personal tragedy drags them back to New York, where it all began, and reminds them what really matters.

1 comment:

  1. Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover was such an excellent book. I haven't had a chance to read the others in the trilogy, though. That's a great story about how the collaboration with J.P. Barnaby started, and I'm glad to hear that's in the works. I just finished Choices, the first in the Jamie Mayfield series, so I haven't gotten to anything about the Sunshine Center. Of course, I've read about those kind of places in real life, and it saddens and disgusts me what goes on. It's difficult to imagine being put in one of those places, but even worse to imagine that the people who get put in would believe even for one second that anything is wrong with them for being who they are.

    Great interview!