I am interviewing Madison Parker today to learn a little bit about her and her new book, Play My, I'm Yours. It is a young adult contemporary novel available from Harmony Ink and Dreamspinner Press on April 1st.
Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. He feels unloved by everyone, but the one comfort in life is his music. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.
Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.
Tell us a little about yourself and your book.
Tell us a little about yourself and your book.
I grew up in Germany where I feasted on Gummibärchen, wandered through the woods on many a Volksmarch, and dreamed of one day living in a castle on a mountain with a boy who knew how to rock a pair of lederhosen. The Fates had other plans for me, but I’m not complaining. Although I aspired to be an author at an early age and often wrote for fun, I ultimately pursued a career in teaching instead. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and two Master’s Degrees in Mathematics and Education. I’ve taught both middle and high school and enjoy working with young adults.
I have a passion for math and art, and like to dabble a bit with web and graphic design. I also have an affinity for all things geeky (read: Star Trek and TRON). Although I am extremely left-brained (logical, rational, orderly), my artistic, creative side never ceases to flail around in a desperate attempt to be noticed. I spend my days reading, writing, solving math problems, and playing with my feisty German Pinscher. I live in North Carolina with my husband, my pup, and my troop of sock monkeys.
I began writing LGBTQ fiction to help address issues of bullying and low self-esteem among young adults. My short story, SOCK IT TO ME, SANTA!, explores one boy’s struggle to come out in a hostile school environment. My debut novel, PLAY ME, I’M YOURS, takes the reader on an emotional journey in search of love and self-acceptance.
What was the very first story you ever wrote? How old were you?
When I was sixteen, I had a short story published in my school’s literary magazine. The story was called The Girl in the Strawberry Patch and was about a young woman grieving the loss of her mother. Looking back at it now, I’m not too impressed; the metaphors, for example, were cringe-worthingly obvious, but I was proud of it at the time. It wasn’t the first story I ever wrote, but the first I remember by name. I loved writing when I was a kid. One of the best presents I received in my youth was an electric typewriter that my parents bought me when I was twelve. My best friend and I would write stories for each other, just for fun. We mostly wrote about boys, hehe.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer for the longest time. I continued to write throughout high school. I was a journalist and editor for my school’s yearbook, and I took creative writing classes. An unexpected pregnancy kept me from going to college right after high school, and in those years away from school, my priorities changed. I eventually became a math teacher, and although I’ve never regretted the decision, I’m thrilled to be writing again.
What made you want to write this book?
The subject of bullying has always been a sensitive one for me. My son was bullied a lot growing up; it was a painful time for both of us. Not only that, but as a teacher of middle and high school-aged students, I’ve seen my share of kids who were easy targets, and my heart goes out to them.
After reading several books about bullying, including Jeff Erno’s Dumb Jock and Adelhardt H.’s Always Joey, I knew I wanted to write a novel of my own. With each of the stories I was reading at the time, I found myself growing frustrated, either because I wanted the plot to go in a different direction, or I wanted the characters to be different. After reading several Gay-For-You stories that just didn’t seem believable, the (secondary) character of Alex formed in my head, and I decided right then I had to tell his story.
Where is your book set? What made you choose this place?
Play Me, I’m Yours is set in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s where I was living at the time I wrote the novel, and it was a comfortable fit. The title of the book, Play Me, I’m Yours, was taken from an international urban artwork project that began in 2008, wherein street pianos are decorated by local artists and placed in public locations throughout host cities for anyone to play and enjoy. Baltimore has not yet been a host for the “Play Me, I’m Yours” street piano project, but it easily could be. Baltimore has a lot to offer for music and art lovers, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).
Which one of your characters is most like you? How so?
No two characters in this book are alike. Everyone has very distinct personalities, which, for the characters, is at times a blessing and other times a curse. I most closely resemble the main character, Lucas. We don’t necessarily have the same hobbies or interests, but we think alike. We’re both introverts and internalize everything that happens to us in much the same way. One of the biggest differences between us, however, is that Lucas has a very difficult time trusting people due to the constant taunting he endures. I tend to always assume the best of people and take what they say at face value.
What is a typical working day like for you? Where do you write? Do you wait for inspiration? Do you set certain writing goals? Are there any specific tools you use to help you write?
I use a laptop, so I bounce back and forth between sitting in my comfy chair in my home office or the not-so-comfy chair near the back door, where I can let my highly energetic dog in and out. He gets bored when I’m on my computer and constantly interrupts me by laying his head in my lap and giving me sad puppy eyes.
I use Scrivener for all of my writing projects. I love it! I tend to write slowly, and yes, I do wait for inspiration to hit, so setting short-term word count goals is futile. I do attempt to write at least 2,000 words a day when I’m committed to a project.
Is there anything you do while writing that other people may find strange?
Haha, I really want to make something up so I seem quirky, but no, nothing strange. I like to start with a detailed outline and go from there. I have a deplorable habit of leaving my web browser open at all times, so I tend to get distracted easily by email and other Internet-related time sinks. But that’s not strange—just counterproductive! And I rationalize this by saying I have to do research when a new idea pops into my head.
What do you find the most difficult part of the writing process?
I write slowly and am easily distracted (see above). I don’t think I’ve ever written more than 3,000 words in a day, and that’s a full day of writing for me. When I hear people talking about hitting 5K or more in one day, it completely boggles my mind.
What has your experience been with traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?
I have done both. The biggest advantage of self-publishing is that it can be done quickly and with complete control over all aspects of production (editing, cover art, promo, etc.). My self-pubbed short story, Sock it to Me, Santa!, was published within a few weeks of finishing the final draft of the manuscript, whereas my novel, Play Me, I’m Yours, is being released six months after the submission date. With the self-pub, I’ve been able to host as many giveaways as I please, at no additional cost to me.
What I’ve enjoyed most about working with a traditional publisher is the feeling of belonging to a family. Dreamspinner is very supportive of its authors, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the other authors who publish under their press. It’s also very exciting to be a part of Harmony Ink, their young adult imprint. My dream is to have my books be made available to young adult readers in schools and libraries, and that’s more likely to happen by publishing with a traditional press.
What can we expect to see from you in the coming year?
Play Me, I’m Yours will be released April 1, 2013 from Harmony Ink Press.
I’ve recently started a new writing project, but it’s too soon to reveal much about it yet. I’d love to have it released prior to the GayRomLit retreat in October, where I’ll be attending as a Supporting Author.
“OH, LOOK! There it is!” Lucas fumbled with the camera, then shoved it in Mason’s hands and darted off. If not for the throng of tourists milling about the city’s Inner Harbor, pointing and smiling, Mason wouldn’t have believed he was witnessing his seventeen-year-old brother skipping down the sidewalk.“Daaaaaaad! He’s doing it again,” Mason said as he passed the camera off to his father. No way was he taking pictures of his older brother acting like a schoolgirl.“I know, son. Let him have his fun. He’s been looking forward to this for days.”“What’s the big deal? It’s just some dumb piano.”Mason pursed his lips as his brother plopped down on the whimsically painted piano bench.***AS LUCAS took a seat on the empty bench, he stared at the work of art before him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so excited. He’d have to remember to thank Mrs. Davidson for advertising the “Play Me, I’m Yours” street piano project in class. He was probably the only one listening as she explained that the project involved more than 500 pianos placed in public locations throughout the world.Maybe it wasn’t worth getting that excited about, but when he saw the flyer, his eyebrows shot up. “Cyndi Lauper!” he squealed and then immediately wished he hadn’t. He heard the snickers in the room and abruptly felt the rush of heat to his cheeks.Mrs. Davidson had given him her kindest smile and said, “I hope you all have an opportunity to visit one of the pianos while they’re here. I’m sure you’ll find it rewarding to share the gift of music with your community.”Teachers always said corny stuff like that. Like playing music for strangers would make any sort of difference. Sure it might entertain for a few minutes, but that was it. Even so, Lucas couldn’t wait to get home and read more about the project online. Not that he had any deep desire to commune with his fellow citizens. More like he wanted the opportunity to channel his inner Cyndi. Cyndi Lauper was his childhood idol, and there she was on that flyer, perched upon a street piano.She was the reason he sat here now. Lucas brushed his fingers across the piano keys. Even if Cyndi hadn’t played this particular piano, she was with him in spirit. The piano, covered with bold areas of red and yellow paint, reminded him of her. It was adorned with black and white curlicues and ample amounts of glitter. Multicolored layers of tulle and strings of shiny beads trimmed the bench. He worried that he looked like he was wearing a skirt—no, a punk tutu—as he sat. Lucas looked down at the piano, where “Play Me, I’m Yours” had been painted on the keys. What would Cyndi do? She was bold and brazen. She wouldn’t care what other people thought, and even if she did, she wouldn’t let it stop her.“Dad! Get a picture.” Lucas waved to his family, then plastered on his biggest smile and posed for the camera. He planned to upload the picture to the project’s official website later that afternoon. If he were lucky, maybe Cyndi would see it.“Oh my God,” his brother groaned. “He’s such a dork.”Lucas ignored the comment. His brother always called him a dork. He didn’t mind it so much. It was nicer than the names most kids called him.He took a breath, hoping to calm his nerves. A few people gathered nearby, but he didn’t recognize any of them. He wouldn’t have had the courage to go through with the performance if he saw any kids he knew from school.“This one’s for you, Cyndi,” he said as he struck his first note.Lucas never sang when he played. He had a decent voice, but he preferred to let the music speak for itself. Maybe that was his classical training showing. He loved playing classical pieces, but pop songs were more fun.Lucas knew this song well, though he’d never played it for an audience before. It was one of his favorites. It reminded him of happy times spent with his mom.When he was younger, he and his mom had housecleaning “parties.” All that really meant was his mom played loud music, and he helped her clean the house. She’s So Unusual was their favorite “party” album, and he loved to “bop” around the house with a feather duster. Of course, back then he thought bopping meant dancing. He had no idea “She Bop” was a song about masturbation, and the mental image of “bopping” around the house with a feather duster now made him laugh.A larger crowd formed around the piano, but Lucas hardly noticed. Lost in the moment, he pounded the keys as he entered the chorus of the upbeat song. The spectators clapped to the beat and sang what few lyrics they could recall. It was one of those songs everyone knew but no one could sing.As the intensity of the music heightened, so did Lucas’s body movements. It began with biting his lower lip and bobbing his head and progressed to rocking back and forth in his seat. By the second chorus he periodically lifted his butt clear off the bench and scrunched up his nose, oblivious to everything but the music.***IT WAS too much for Mason, who noticed his father also averted his eyes when Lucas went into funny face mode.“Will!”Mason turned to see a man approaching his father.His father reached out and shook the man’s hand. “Hey, Steve. How’re you?”Steve repositioned his Baltimore O’s cap. “Good. Good to see you. Is this your son?”Mason’s father clapped him on the back. “Sure is. This is Mason.”“A fine young man you’ve got there,” Steve said. “What are you guys up to?”His father’s eyes darted to Lucas, and he hesitated.Mason took advantage of the opening. “We were on our way to Sports Tank and got distracted by Jerry Lee Lewis playing the piano over there.”“Yeah,” Steve said. “Liberace’s more like it. That kid looks queer as a three-dollar bill.”“Totally,” Mason said, crossing his arms.His father’s posture stiffened. “It was nice seeing you, Steve. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.”“Yep, you too. Gotta run. Good seeing you.”As soon as Steve turned to leave, Mason’s father gave him a stern look.“What?” Mason asked. “He said it, not me.”The conversation was cut short as the crowd began to clap and cheer for Lucas, who offered a bashful smile in return.“Lucas,” his father said abruptly. “Let’s go.”“Dad, can’t I play one more?”“No. Let’s go.”