I’m so excited! (And a little nervous.)
Here’s the blurb for the book:
Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.
Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.
It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.
There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he might still have romantic feelings for his best friend.
Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?
I like to think that all my books have heart and humor, but I think The Otto Digmore Difference is the most touching one I’ve ever written.
Here are the deets:
By Brent Hartinger
Paperback, $13.99: 978-1542810333
E-book, $5.99: 978-1370026920
Release: February 21, 2017
Q&A About the Book!
Question: Why Otto, why now?
Brent Hartinger: I’ve always loved the character, and he’s gotten a really strong reader response. I’m proud that he’s not your usual gay character, in young adult literature or any other genre. He’s a burn survivor — and to shake things up even more, he’s a burn survivor who’s also trying to make it as an actor. I think that’s all pretty interesting.
But it’s more than that. I confess that when I first introduced Otto in 2005 (in The Order of the Poison Oak, the first Geography Club sequel), I was annoyed by the response in some quarters of the literary world. I heard more than once that I shouldn’t be equating being gay with being disabled, because you don’t “choose” to be disabled. Like you choose to be gay?
But the world has changed a lot since then,. The last few years, the topic of “diversity” has finally broken through. It finally seemed like the time to give Otto his own book.
Q: Why a road trip story?
BH: Well, who doesn’t love a good road trip story? These are some of the cleanest stories there are: the character literally sets out on a journey, and there’s a very specific goal, and there all kinds of very real obstacles along the way.
The journey itself changes the main character. Just by setting foot outside their door, they become someone new. And they learn that, as with life, it really is all about the journey, not the destination. Which isn’t to say the destination isn’t really important in this story!
I think road trip stories are some of the most satisfying stories to write — and also to experience.
Of course, Russel being a screenwriter now, and Russel also being Russel, he has some fun with all the road trip movie tropes that pop up along the way.
Q: Russel is a supporting character?
BH: Yeah, that was important for continuity sake. Plus, Russel has a lot of fans, and let’s face it: I wouldn’t mind selling a few books here.
But it also really fit the story I wanted to tell. From the beginning, I thought of this book as a love story between two best friends. There are lots of books that explore the relationship between male lovers, but there aren’t a lot of books about the friendship that can exist between two guys. And in Otto and Russel’s case, they’re gay and they’re former boyfriends. I think that can lead to a really strange and wonderful kind of intimacy, and I wanted to explore it in this book.
Q: Both Otto and Russel started out as teen characters in YA novels. Why did you start writing about them as adults?
BH: Technically, these newer books are “new adult,” although I’m already tired of that term.
Honestly, it just felt right. I’d explored their lives as teens, and now I wanted them to grow up. I also wanted to bring them into the present and write about present-day issues.
One pleasant surprise was finding out that plenty of my readers had read Geography Club and the other books as teens, and they were now in their twenties themselves. So they grew up along with the characters, and they could really identify with them. It turned out to be brilliant marketing, so I really wished I’d planned it that way!
And of course the dirty little secret of young adult publishing is that half or more of your readers are adults anyway.
Q: Was it fun to write from Otto’s POV?
BH: It was unbelievably satisfying. I’ve written from Russel’s point of view for seven books now, and I love Russel. But I also love how different Otto is. He’s less cerebral than Russel, but even more open-hearted. In the end, I found a kind of duality in him, in that he’s very confident in some ways, a natural performer, but oh-so-vulnerable in other ways. I think a lot of actors are like that.
I was also excited, and a little nervous, to a write from the point of view of a disabled character. I’ve written a number of disabled characters before, but never as the point of view character. And I really, really didn’t want him to be a stereotype, or to be defined solely by his burns. But at the same time, he’s had an incredibly traumatic experience, and I wanted that to inform his character.
Q: How many books will there be about Otto? Will you write books from the POV of Russel’s other friends?
BH: At least two books in this series, maybe more depending on — ahem — how much people like them.
Will I do any other characters? That’s doubtful. I love some of those characters — Gunnar and Min, especially — but I’m not sure they quite fit my brand.
I’d love to return to Russel again eventually, for a third series about him. But that depends on my schedule in the years ahead.
Q: What’s up with the Geography Club TV series? Will Otto be a character in that?
BH: They plan to film the pilot this summer. But it’s more of a TV sequel to the feature film, not an adaptation of my whole book series. And they don’t have the rights to any of the sequels anyway. So unfortunately, Otto won’t be a character there. He’ll have to live on through the books instead.
I’m not really involved in the creation of the series, but they have asked me to write for the show if the series goes to full production. So that could be exciting.
One of the best parts about the Geography Club feature film was how legitimizing it was for the books. Seriously, I have friends where it’s like they didn’t quite believe I made my living as a writer until the feature film happened.
And I can’t tell you how many hundreds of people have told me they discovered my work because of that film. Then they go on to read all my books.
P.S. Are you a book critic? Contact me, let me know your credentials, and I’ll send you a review copy!
P.P.S. Incidentally, here are the three books in the last Russel Middlebrook series (click on them for more info about each book).