Brian Centrone: New Writer, New Reader
Author: Michael Graves
May 16, 2013
An Ordinary Boy (Seventh Window Publications), Brian Centrone’s debut novel, is far from ordinary. Blending pop culture with the transitional woes of adulthood, Centrone verges toward a new, genre-crossing niche. This new writer aims for the new reader.
Hi, Brian. Congratulations on An Ordinary Boy. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Thanks, Michael. An Ordinary Boy follows Tom Grove as he navigates the pitfalls of his freshman year of college. First time love, opinionated friends, and a crazy family all play a role in Tom’s attempt at independence, being gay, and finding out who in the hell he is.
Your protagonist, Tom, is fully realized. He could be described as judgmental, flighty, naïve. Was creating a character that is so embedded in truth, a difficult task?
Tom was a challenging character to write for. He wasn’t giving and so I struggled to pull information out of him. By nature, Tom is very quiet, very in himself, but he is so complex. I never knew which Tom I was going to get when sitting down to write. I believe why Tom comes across so realistic, and maybe too realistic, is because he is not one thing. Like real people, there are multiple components that make up his personality, and all of those pieces are at conflict with each other.
Tom falls in love for the first time. It’s speedy and intense. He almost expects a film-like, romantic ideal. In reality, is this typical for young men? Do you find this is common?
Not just young men, but young people in general. I remember friends in college starting their first adult relationships. They were whirlwind romances, but they also deflated as quickly as they had inflated. Also, I think in terms of gay youth, first love can often be speedy and intense. Maybe it’s the idea of being in a minority group and the fear that you’re never going to find another boyfriend/girlfriend, so it becomes all or nothing.
An Ordinary Boy discusses a wide array of topics that include HIV testing and casual sex. Do you consider these matters modern rites of passage?
Not so much rites of passage as an unfortunate reality. HIV is on the rise in young gay men and we have to stop and wonder why. Are we not educating our youth enough? Do they just not care? I’m not sure, but I do know that with sex comes responsibility to ourselves and to others. That means getting tested, knowing your partner, and making smart choices.
Was your first year of college as dramatic as Tom’s?
My first year of college was overshadowed by the events of September 11th. But aside from that life altering event, I recall moments of drama and chaos that seems to follow any freshman around.
One could argue that your novel falls into the new reader genre. Not young adult fiction, but not adult fiction. How do you feel about that? What do you think of this genre?
An Ordinary Boy was written with the intent to be the What Happens Next novel. I read a lot of YA fiction and what intrigued me the most was that everything was wrapped up in a neat little package by the end of high school. What I wanted to give to those readers of YA who were growing up and becoming new adults was the reality of first time independence, the messiness of young love and friendship, and truth about when and how we learn who we are and what our role in this world is going to be. I think New Reader or New Adult as it is sometimes called is an important genre as it bridges the gap that comes between teen fiction and adult literature.
Cellphone culture permeates An Ordinary Boy. What’s the most incriminating piece of evidence on your phone?
Probably the pornography on my camera roll.
What writers have influenced you?
My big influences are Jacqueline Susann, Grace Metalious, and Bret Easton Ellis. But I am very inspired and in awe of Truman Capote, Jeannette Winterson, and Virginia Woolf. I’m also a big fan of Brent Hartinger, K.M. Soehnlein, and Christopher Rice.
What’s coming up next?
I have a collection of my erotic gay fiction coming out through New Lit Salon Press, and my fourth one act play, We, the Jury premiered in Massillon, Ohio as part of the Big Read events. It was inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and deals with teen suicide, gay bullying, and the fractured justice system. I’m looking forward to working on my next novel and finding an agent. Any takers???
What’s the most ordinary thing about you?
The most ordinary thing about me is…well, me.