This is going in my book: quote from my eldest

I don’t know how, and I don’t know when or which book or what it’ll be about, but when somebody says something poignant or ridiculous sometimes I know it just has to go in a book someday.  Today, our contributor is my eldest son.  We were driving on a toll road over a lake known to contain thousands of alligators.  We had just passed a toll booth.  In the two hours or so since we’d left the house, he had been talking non. stop.

Me: Please can I have a minute of quiet?

Kid: Okay, but one thing.  Mommy, one thing.  What if the toll booth guy died, like croaked over like eghh.  And then the guy driving through barfed and then-

Me: ALLIGATORS!  Look over there!  Alligators.  I need you to look for alligators.

Kid: but-

Me: It is VERY important you look for alligators right now.

(maybe thirty glorious seconds of silence)

Kid: Okay, two things.  Mommy, two things.  One: you just made me look at nothing.  Two:  What if the toll booth guy died, like croaked over like eghh.  And then the guy driving through barfed when he saw him and then he took all the money and spent it all but there was barf all over it?

 

I want it to go in almost verbatim, but I think the kid in the story I eventually write will come down with sudden acute laryngitis.

Author Interview: Bridgett Kay Specht

Bridgett Kay SpechtBridgett was kind enough to tear herself away from some really fascinating bad weather and meet me last night on a google hangout so I could ask her some questions about her book and what it was like to write it.  We were on camera, but I’m omitting screenshots in favor of her profile picture as her poor unsuspecting significant other was fiddling with wires under a desk right behind her and also I didn’t give her very much warning.  Also I was super greasy cause it was my day off.  She was very kind and had some interesting insights into the book, which of course you’re all going to read.  Enjoy!

me (surreptitiously wiping some of the face grease from my brow)

Okay first question: Is this the first book you’ve ever written?
Bridgett Specht
It is the first book I’ve written, not counting a 60 page novella that I wrote, and quickly erased, when I was 14.

me 
So you sat down to write a novel and got all the way through it first time? Okay well I won’t hold it against you.

Bridgett, not one to be as super smug about it as I would be, giggles innocently, as though finishing a book on the first try were, like, nothing.
Bridgett Specht 
Actually, Mephisto Waltz evolved into a novel. When I was 19, I wrote a short story, called “Claire de Lune,” which was pretty much the first half of Mephisto, but with a different ending.
After a few years, I started to read about the sorts of things that go on in gay reparative therapy camps, and I changed the ending to the short story, and took Miranda to one. She grew a lot more as a character in the meantime.

me 
That’s awesome. Thanks for explaining that. Is writing what you want to do as a career or is it just a hobby?

Bridgett Specht 
I would love to be able to write as a career, but getting into it is difficult. I write now as a hobby, and I hope it will grow into something more.

me 
Don’t we all!
What sorts of challenges did you face while writing Mephisto Waltz? For instance: was there a chapter or a character you found yourself stumbling over? And how did you get past it?
Bridgett Specht
I had to battle insecurity, first of all. I had a friend who acted as beta-reader and cheerleader, though. I’d send her a couple of chapters at a time, and she’d reassure me that I wasn’t a horrible writer who should just give up.
The two most difficult characters for me to write were Amber and Jason. I wasn’t sure how to develop Jason beyond his being someone to force Miranda to accept her sexuality, so I just didn’t. Amber was the character who represented me the most, so showing her struggle was a bit raw.

me 
I identified with Amber a bit myself, minus the (trying not to spoil anything here) heavily religious influence. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about identity. It can be hard to get the right messages.

Bridgett Specht 
It can be- Amber was someone whose sensitivity led her to being easy to lead around, and her strong emotional nature made her vulnerable to fear. I think that what I have most in common with Amber is the need to be liked by everyone, and I’ve silenced myself often to that end.

me 
There was a significant and very well-done contrast between Amber and Miranda. It was good writing.
So, who do you want to read your book and what do you want them to take away from it?

Bridgett Specht 
I want everyone to read my book, but most of all, I want people who disagree with me to read my book. I want people who are homophobic or quick to judge to see the other side in a way that isn’t just a well reasoned argument, but shows you how it really feels. That’s why I chose the genre I did. Getting people to read it is the real challenge.

me
Well, hopefully that won’t be the challenge for long. There’s a place for LGBT literature, particularly in YA. It didn’t used to be there. Now’s the time.
Okay final question
What do you have against food

Bridgett laughs.  Note: she is not eating during the interview and there isn’t so much as an empty soda can or coffee cup in the entire room.  Just saying.

Bridgett Specht 
I love food. I eat way too much of it, myself. I love to cook, and I love to eat. I got wrapped up in a lot of gothic conventions, though, and a sickly heroine turning away food is too picturesque for me to resist
me 
LOL fair enough.  Thank you so much for letting me interview you. You were perfectly lovely.

Bridgett and her stuffed cat wave goodbye.

 

You can find Bridgett Kay Specht’s website here

She has written one novel, called Mephisto Waltz which can be purchased on Amazon here.

Here is my review of the novel.

 

 

Book review: Mephisto Waltz

moonlightmephisto

Mephisto Waltz

By: Bridgett Kay Specht

Genre:  YA, romance, lgbt

Rating:

Very entertaining

 

Mephisto Waltz, named for the waltzes by composer Franz Liszt is about seduction and madness, according to Miranda Rothschild’s piano teacher.  The story begins with the suicide of Miranda’s twin brother, Mark.  The surviving Rothschilds, unable to live any longer in the house where they knew, loved, and lost Mark, decides to move to San Avila, Texas, a warm gulf shore town with apparently almost nonstop stormy weather.  In San Avila, Miranda becomes fast friends with her private school’s preeminent social butterfly, Summer.  Summer introduces her to a pretty openly gay girl named Clara and shamelessly flirty devoted sidekicks Chad and Jason.  Soon we learn that Jason has a crush on Miranda and Clara hates to eat, particularly when her manipulative ex-boyfriend David and his impressionable lackey Amber are about.

Following her brother’s suicide, which Miranda believes to have been the inevitable result of her twin’s inability to control his emotions, Miranda subsists on a strict diet of temperance and, like Clara, not a lot of food.  When her piano instructor assigns her Mephisto Waltz, a tumultuous emotional piece, Miranda bangs gracelessly on the piano.  It is with “temperance” that she struggles to learn the piece, sorts through her feelings for Clara, grieves for her brother, rejects Jason, and copes with her parents’ religious ideas regarding same-sex relationships.

The central focus of the novel is Miranda’s relationship with Clara.  A whole lot of bad weather and not eating occurs while they sort through it, but they don’t take too long to get together.  Unfortunately for the girls, they don’t get much time together before Clara’s meddling ex and Miranda’s religious parents succeed in messing everything up.  We follow Miranda as she is unceremoniously shipped off to  Prodigal Ministries reparative therapy camp up north with a draconian rule system, mostly friendly residents, a mysterious ghost story, and instructions from her parents to “try and get better” (read: not be gay).  Prodigal Ministries, like San Avila, is fraught with bad weather and Miranda struggles to maintain her physical and emotional health as she endures reparative therapy and some more not eating.

I came across this book when one of my Twitter followers alerted me to a one-time-only opportunity: her book was FREE on Amazon for a day.  I almost never pass up a free book.  Now it’s $4.99 unless you have Amazon Prime, in which case you can use Amazon as a library and check it out for free with your kindle.  For now, it’s only available on Kindle, but the good news is, Kindle books can now be read online and apps can be acquired for free on almost all smart phones, so you don’t actually need to buy anything except the book, which is worth every penny.

Mephisto Waltz contains all of the unpolished charms of a first book but it is not lacking in depth.  Specht, according to her blog is classically educated and it shows.  She’s also a huge fan of bad weather.  I mean, I don’t know that because I haven’t asked her yet, but I think it goes without saying.  The characters all have their own well-developed personalities, even if their vernaculars are perhaps a bit too adult and similar to one another.  The romance is written in perfect YA style, with a lot of frustrating waiting for them to be able to get away from parents and friends to have a minute together, a lot of hand-holding, a little kissing, and no sex.  It was well-done and I found myself with a terrible crush on Clara about halfway through. Particularly enjoyable, however, was Miranda’s maddening temperance, which only eventually gets addressed.  While Miranda maintains calm and control, readers will find themselves wishing they could jump into the book and throttle a lot of the characters, or at least grab Miranda by the shoulders and shake her until she realizes it’s time to get angry, dammit.

There’s a bargain we strike as writers when we attempt to write stuff we intend to sell someday: we have to write for ourselves for it to be any good, but we can’t scare away too many of the readers.   As a result, when it comes to things like LGBT issues, most writers pull their punches.  Times are changing, of course, and some YA literature does feature queer characters, but they’re generally gender-conforming and keep a safe distance from the main characters.  After all, readers want to imagine themselves as the main characters and a lot of straight people don’t want to.  As Andrea Askowitz said to Autostraddle about selling her book, My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy:

The challenge queer memoir faces, which I experienced directly, is that not everybody is open to reading queer memoir. I was standing at the Miami Book Fair, one of the biggest fairs in the country, next to a pile of my books for sale. I didn’t say I was the author, just kept pointing to the book and saying, “That book is hilarious.” I can’t tell you how many people picked it up and then said, “Oh, no thanks, I’m not a lesbian.”

The best thing about publishing independently, either with Amazon or otherwise, is that you don’t have to pull your punches, and Specht didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a YA book.  While I found myself wanting to tear through Miranda’s temperance and look at Clara’s boobs (for heaven’s sake at least once!), we never see any of the characters having sex or being overtly sexual.  But the book didn’t have to include sex to be challenging.  There were lesbian, gay, and transgender characters being what they were without apology.  They took center stage and dealt with the very real trials of being LGBT youth, including self-loathing, guilt, fear, and social stigmatization of the rather more serious type that LGBT youth endure compared to, say, Bella Swan dating a guy that everyone thinks is like, totally weird.  So, read this book.  It’s refreshingly different.  Or at least buy it for your little gay cousin.