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Short bio: BRENT HARTINGER is an author and screenwriter. He wrote the YA classic, Geography Club (2003), which was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series. He’s since published twelve more novels and had eight of his screenplays optioned by producers. He has won both the Lambda and GLAAD Media Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Award. Visit him at brenthartinger.com.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2017

BRENT HARTINGER RELEASES A BOOK THAT IS
“A LOVE STORY BETWEEN TWO FRIENDS”

toddhartingerOtto Digmore, a supporting character in author Brent Hartinger’s landmark seven-book series about a gay character named Russel Middlebrook, is starring in a new stand-alone book series of his own. The series’ first installment, The Otto Digmore Difference, will be released February 21, 2017.

Geography Club, the first book about Russel Middlebrook, was released in 2003. A novel for teens, it eventually became a young adult classic, selling more than 70,000 copies. It was adapted as a feature film in 2013, and is now being developed as a television series.

When Hartinger turned that first book into a series in 2005, he also introduced the character of Otto Digmore. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for young adult literature: a disabled gay character. Otto, a burn survivor, has scars on half his face.

In subsequent books, and in a second series written specifically for adults, Russel and Otto grew up. In this new series, also written for adults, Otto Digmore is now in his mid-twenties, working as an actor in Hollywood, and trying to find mainstream success despite his scars. He and his friend Russel go on a road trip across the United States in order to land Otto an audition for a big movie that just might change everything about his acting career. Along the way, their friendship changes in unexpected ways.

“From the beginning, I thought of this book as a love story between two friends,” Hartinger says. “There are lots of books that explore the relationship between male lovers, but honestly, 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 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.”

The Otto Digmore Difference will be available as an e-book and paperback, and soon an audiobook.

Hartinger is available for media interviews.

THE OTTO DIGMORE DIFFERENCE
By Brent Hartinger
BK Books
New Adult
Paperback, $13.99: 978-1542810333
E-book, $5.99: 978-1370026920
Release: February 21, 2017
230 Pages

Praise for Brent Hartinger

“Hits the narrative sweet spot.”
— NPR’s All Things Considered

“Downright refreshing.”
USA Today

“The most artful and authentic depiction of a gay teen since [1978].”
Horn Book Magazine

AN INTERVIEW WITH
OTTO DIGMORE AUTHOR BRENT HARTINGER

Brent Hartinger’s first novel was Geography Club, published in 2003. It spawned a successful four-book series, the Russel Middlebrook Series, and a second three-book series about Russel in his twenties: Russel Middlebrook: the Futon Years.

Brent-Hartinger-191x300Now Hartinger has launched a stand-alone third series, The Otto Digmore Series, about one of Russel’s best friends, Otto Digmore. The first book, released February 21, 2017, is The Otto Digmore Difference.

Otto is a 26-year-old burn survivor, with scars on half of his face. He’s also a semi-successful actor, with a small part on a struggling TV sitcom. In The Otto Digmore Difference, Otto is up for an amazing new role that could change everything about his career, but 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.

Otto and Russel are also former boyfriends, which brings up all kinds of complicated feelings in Otto.

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 Middlebrook, the star of the earlier books, is a supporting character in this one.

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.

toddhartingerBut 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 successful young adult 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 point of view?

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.

I think all the Russel Middlebrook books have a lot of humor and heart, but I can honestly say that I think this is the most touching book I’ve ever written.

Q: How many books will there be in The Otto Digmore Series? Will you do a series for any 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: Speaking of which, they’ve started developing Geography Club as a television series. Does that mean Otto will be a TV character too?

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.

More questions? Contact Brent Hartinger directly at brenthartinger@gmail.com or (253) 459-3581.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2016

ThreeTruths by Brent Hartinger

A 2017 Edgar Award Nominee!

“In a taut story whose atmosphere is reminiscent of Stephen King, Hartinger presents readers with a psychological thriller and suspenseful mystery. Misdirection and twists continue from the first page to the last … For readers who want more books to have them on the edge of their seats as they read.”
VOYA [Starred Review]

“The story is suspenseful, with excellent pacing, self-aware humor, and a twist that Hartinger pulls off as well as the best slasher films.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Although the plot is a classic horror movie setup, the story does not feel derivative. The gay relationship and the impact of Galen’s insidious bullying are issues not typically dealt with in this genre. Hartinger’s novel is a gripping mystery written in a straightforward way that will appeal to reluctant readers.” –School Library Journal

“Rife with sexual tension . . . Hartinger’s depiction of the complexities of teen relationships, particularly gay ones, is on point.” –Publishers Weekly

THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE
by Brent Hartinger

From Lambda Award–winning author Brent Hartinger comes a smart, sexy, young adult thriller about a weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent party game that goes horribly wrong.

Deep in the Washington Peninsula forest, four friends gather for one last hurrah before graduation. Rob is thrilled to spend some remote, quality time with his boyfriend, Liam, his best friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen. Slightly shaken by unfriendly townspeople on the way to the cabin, the group decides to blow off some steam with a playful skinny-dip in the lake. While three splash around, Rob’s insecurities begin to show as he hesitates to jump in the water, desperately trying not to ogle Golden Boy Galen.

Back at the cabin, the teens’ only means of communication, a satellite phone, goes missing and Rob suspects a disgruntled townsperson. Isolated and vulnerable, the teens settle in for a game of three truths and a lie. Upon learning a secret from Mia’s past, paranoia sets in and leaves Rob questioning his cabin mates. As the weekend continues, (sexual) tension is high, as the pranks become increasingly dangerous. Rob believes that something or someone is terrorizing them.

Hartinger effortlessly blends horror and teen insecurity in a genre not often lent to a seventeen-year-old gay protagonist. Filled with romantic suspense, this high-octane psychological thriller reads like a fast-paced movie and is perfect for reluctant readers.

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger
Simon Pulse
Publication date: August 2, 2016
ISBN 9781481449601
$17.99 | 14 & Up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2016

RUSSEL MIDDLEBROOK IS GETTING MARRIED!

Russel Middlebrook, the star of Brent Hartinger’s landmark seven-book series (and a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula), is marrying his longtime boyfriend in The Road to Amazing, the author’s latest book, due March 15, 2016.

TRTA336491“It was definitely time!” Hartinger says. “After everything that’s happened to them, it seems like the natural progression for them. But I also love that the issue of gay weddings has been so much in the news lately. One of my very favorite things about these books has been that I’ve been able to explore all the real-world issues that interest me, by seeing them through the eyes of my characters.”

In 2003, Hartinger made a big splash documenting the lives of gay teens with his humorous young adult novel Geography Club, starring the character of Russel Middlebook. Geography Club has now spawned a feature film and six sequels, one of which won the Lambda Award.

Since 2003, the character has continued to grow up, becoming one of the first literary character to jump genres, from young adult books to adult ones. In The Road to Amazing, Russel is now 25, and he and his boyfriend have gathered their close friends in a remote lodge on an island in Puget Sound, to spend the weekend together before the actual wedding ceremony on Sunday. And for the first time in his life, Russel is determined to not be neurotic, and not over-think things!

But that’s before things start going wrong. Who expected a dead killer whale to wash up on the beach below the inn? And what’s this about a windstorm approaching? Then there’s the problem of Russel’s anxious fiancé, who is increasingly convinced the whole thing is going to be a disaster.

Meanwhile, the wedding is taking place near the ruins of a small town, Amazing, where, a hundred years earlier, the people supposedly all disappeared overnight. Why does it feel like the secret at the end of the road to Amazing has something to do with Russel’s own future? Can Russel’s old friends Min, Gunnar, Vernie, and Otto somehow help him make it all make sense?

The Road to Amazing, the final book in the Russel Middlebrook Futon Years trilogy, is a story about endings and beginnings, and also about growing up and growing older. But mostly it’s a story about love and friendship—about how it’s not the destination that makes a life amazing, but the people you meet along the way.

THE ROAD TO AMAZING By Brent Hartinger
New Adult
Paperback, $13.99: 978-1523418046
E-book, $5.99: 978-1310704239
Audible Audio, $19.95
March 15, 2016

Brent Hartinger is available for podcast, blog, newspaper, and other media interviews. Contact him directly at brentsbrain@gmail.com, or (253) 459-3581 (U.S.).

AN INTERVIEW WITH
THE ROAD TO AMAZING AUTHOR BRENT HARTINGER

 

Brent Hartinger first wrote about the character of Russel Middlebrook in his 2003 novel, Geography Club. The story of a gay teenager, Geography Club was subsequently adapted for both stage and screen (co-starring Scott Bakula and Ana Gasteyer) and spawned a successful four-book series, the Russel Middlebrook Series.

Last year, Hartinger “rebooted” the character in a new trilogy, Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years, about Russel in his twenties. The first book, The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, featured 23-year-old Russel living in Seattle, trying to make sense out of life and love. In Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams, Russel and his boyfriend moved to Los Angeles. Now in The Road to Amazing, out March 15, 2016, he’s getting married.

This feels like an ending to a character you’ve been writing about for a long time. Is it?

Brent HartingerBrent Hartinger: Yes and no. It’s definitely the end of the Futon Years, the latest series featuring Russel Middle-brook [in his 20s]. I did try to really wrap things up.

But is it the end of the character? Honestly, when I finished the first series [about Russel as a teenager], I never thought I would keep writing him.

This time around, I’m pretty sure I will revisit him in the future, in whatever I decide is the next stage of his life. First, I think it’s a really interesting experiment, following a character as he grows up over the course of his life, especially given all the changes that have happened to gay people over this same period of time.

But it’s also incredibly gratifying to write books that people really seem to enjoy reading. So many people have told me they grew up with Russel!

Why a wedding?

It has something to do with all the attention that same-sex weddings have gotten these past few years. But it mostly had to do with the character. It seemed like a natural progression to the story.

But it goes back to what I said before, about how I’ve been able to explore all the really interesting stuff that’s going on in the world through the eyes of this particular character and his friends.

Is Russel’s wedding anything like you’re own?

Ha! Not surprisingly, yes. My husband and I did exactly what Russel and Kevin do: back in 1997, we rented a big old house on Vashon Island, very much like the Amazing Inn in the book. And we invited all our friends to spend the whole weekend with us, then had the wedding itself on Sunday.

Of course that was only the first of our four weddings. We also got “domestic partnered” in West Hollywood in 1998, then “civil partnershiped” in Washington State in 2009, then finally legally married in 2013.

Talk about living history, right?

But those last three things are just pieces of paper. Michael and I were married on Vashon Island back in 1997, whether the rest of the world wanted to acknowledge it or not.

Is the town of Amazing, Washington, real? Did the dead killer whale happen? Is Vashon Island that funky?

Amazing, and the whole mystery behind it, is entirely from my imagination. And we didn’t have a dead killer whale wash up, but there was a dead seal, which also smelled pretty bad.

As for Vashon Island, it’s all true, especially the part about how they want to become the Napa Valley of legalized marijuana.

Russel’s friends are all back for the book, and most of them have storylines of their own.

That was important to me. I used to say that the most important relationship in the books isn’t between Russel and his fiancé Kevin, it’s between Russel and his friends Min and Gunnar. That’s still true of the earlier books, but these later ones have become a bit more about Russel and Kevin, which I think is true to the character: when you’re in your mid-twenties, you’re looking for potential life-partners.

But that doesn’t mean Min and Gunnar aren’t still really, really important to Russel! I really wanted to bring them back, especially after they didn’t appear in Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams [when Russel moved to Los Angeles]. I wanted to give their storylines a kind of closure too, especially Min, who has had the worst time with relationships.

As for Vernie Rose, she’s always a fun character to write! Plus, I love the idea that Russel, at age 25, considers Vernie one his best friends, even though she’s 74.

Otto is a famous TV star now, but he’s also dealing with some pretty heavy stuff: a negative online reaction to the fact that he’s a burn survivor. What’s that based on?

monicalewinskyWell, I love writing anything about Otto. I first wrote him in 2005, as a love interest for Russel, but even now, there just haven’t been very many disabled gay characters, in really any media. I also like the fact that a lot of gay guys become really good friends with their exes—more than straight people do, I think. So I wanted to explore that too.

Why the online cyber-bullying? Because I think that is literally one of the most important issues facing the country and the world right now. I love the Internet—I really really do!—but it’s opened a Pandora’s Box in a way that simply has to be dealt with in some way. I loved Monica Lewinsky’s Ted Talk on the issue.

But cyber-bullying is only part of the issue. The Internet, as great as it is, has also created a de-personalization that pervades everything, even though a lot of us aren’t really even aware anymore that it’s doing it.

What’s the answer? I think Otto stumbles upon it in the book.

Anyway, I hate to keep harping on this, but this is what’s been so great about writing these books—that I’ve been able to explore the ideas and issues that interest me, the things that are happening in the world today.

Otto writes and sings a song, just like he did back in The Order of the Poison Oak. Is it a real song?

BH: It is! I wrote it, and I’m recording it, singing it myself, and releasing it when I release the book. I’m not nearly as talented as Otto, but I have some very talented friends who will hopefully keep me from embarrassing myself.

I’m hoping it will help readers get more into the book, but even if it doesn’t, I’ve had a blast putting it together:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2015

BRENT HARTINGER RELEASES NEW NOVEL
ABOUT TRYING TO MAKE IT IN HOLLYWOOD

Brent Hartinger’s twelfth novel, Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams, tells the story of a 24-year-old gay guy moving to Los Angeles to try to make it as a screenwriter. The book, a companion to last year’s The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, will be released August 14th, 2015.

BITCOBDHartinger“It’s my most autobiographical book ever,” Hartinger says. “When I was in my twenties, my boyfriend and I moved to Los Angeles. The book is fiction, but it’s the closest thing I’ve ever written to something that really happened to me. It’s basically the story of all the crazy, wonderful, horrible, sexy, screwed up things that happened to me in Hollywood.”

In 2003, Hartinger made a big splash documenting the lives of gay teens with his humorous young adult novel Geography Club, starring the character of Russel Middlebook. Geography Club spawned four sequels, one of which won the Lambda Award. The first book was eventually adapted into a successful feature film, released in 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams sees the return of Russel Middlebrook, but as a twentysomething adult.

In the book, Russel is at first overwhelmed by Los Angeles: the sun is too hot, and the people are too cold. Like the city itself, Russel is lost in a haze.

Then in a forgotten old house off of Sunset Boulevard, Russel meets Isaac Brander, a once-famous film producer who is convinced he can turn Russel’s screenplay into a movie.

Russel knows that success can’t possibly come this easy. In all the movies about Hollywood, there’s always at least a “hard at work” montage. So what’s the catch?

Sure enough, everyone else Russel meets is struggling to make it in Hollywood. His ex-boyfriend, Otto, is desperate to be an actor, and his sexy neighbor doesn’t even need a casting couch to get naked. At one point, Russel even starts imagining that he’s hearing from the ghost of a screenwriter who killed himself in his apartment more than sixty years before.

Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams is a fast-paced, funny story about the price of fame in Hollywood: the hilarious lengths people will go to achieve it, and the touching secret to survival when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

The book is the second in a trilogy, Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years, which began with The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (2014) and will conclude with The Road to Amazing, to be released March 2016.

BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS
By Brent Hartinger
New Adult
Paperback, $13.99: 978-1514382417
E-book, $5.99: 978-1311709646
Audible Audio, $19.95
August 14, 2015

Brent Hartinger is available for podcast, blog, newspaper, and other media interviews. Contact him directly at brentsbrain@gmail.com, or (253) 459-3581 (U.S.).

BRENT HARTINGER BIOGRAPHY

BRENT HARTINGER is the author of many novels, including Geography Club (2003) and seven companion books: The Order of the Poison Oak (2005); Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (2007); The Elephant of Surprise (2013); The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (2014); Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (2015), The Road to Amazing (2016), and The Otto Digmore Difference (2017).

His other books include The Last Chance Texaco (2004); Grand & Humble (2006); Project Sweet Life (2008); and Three Truths and a Lie (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

A feature film version of his first novel, Geography Club, was released in November 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula, Ana Gasteyer, and Nikki Blonsky (and the movie is now being developed as a television series).

Also a screenwriter, eight of Brent’s screenplays have been optioned for film, and four are currently in various stages of development, including The Starfish Scream, a gay teen drama; and Decked, the animated “true” story behind a deck of playing cards.

In addition, Hartinger is the author of many award-winning plays, including a stage adaptation of Geography Club, which has received regional productions in Salt Lake City, Edmonton, and many other places.

Mr. Hartinger’s many writing honors include being named the winner of the Lambda Literary Award; a GLAAD Media Award; the Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award; an Edgar Award nomination, and a Book Sense Pick (four times). Screenwriting awards include the Screenwriting in the Sun Award, a Writers Network Fellowship, and first place in the StoryPros, Fresh Voices, Acclaim, and L.A. Comedy Festival screenwriting contests.

Hartinger is the co-host of the Media Carnivores podcast, a sometime-member of the faculty at Vermont College in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and the co-founder of the entertainment website AfterElton.com, which was sold to MTV/Viacom in 2006. In 1990, he co-founded one of the country’s first gay youth support groups, in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. He also founded and currently runs the Real Story Safe Sex Project.

He lives in Seattle with his husband, writer Michael Jensen.

 


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Author Brent Hartinger (Photo credit: Tim Cathersal)

 

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