Openly Straight Gets a Sequel!

So here’s the news I’ve been dying to share for the past, oh, four months:

A sequel to OPENLY STRAIGHT is on its way!

It’s called HONESTLY BEN, and it picks up right after where the first book left off. The catch: it’s Ben’s story of second semester at Natick, not Rafe’s.

This novel is really meant as a gift to fans of the first book, some of whom felt that they weren’t ready to leave the world of the book quite yet, and many of whom felt (spoiler alert, careful!) heartbroken by the ending of the book.

Will Ben forgive Rafe?Will Ben and Rafe wind up together? Is Ben even gay? bi? something else entirely? What the hell is Toby doing inside of Ben’s closet during a blizzard? Is it a bad idea for Rafe and Ben to play a game called Let’s Clear the Air without the benefit of a Plastic Screwdriver or two?

These questions and more will be answered in the sequel. I promise.

Here’s what Publisher’s Marketplace had to say about the book:

publisher's marketplace HB

A draft of the book is already written, so I know the answers to those questions. But sorry, you won’t get them from me! You’ll have to wait until the book comes out next year. In the meantime, here’s a song I listened to a lot while writing the sequel’s first draft:

Agape, by Bear’s Den:

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Bill Konigsberg, Trevor Project Champion

bill-at-14

This is me at 14 years old. I was called Billy back then.

Billy was a sad boy. It was right around this time that I began to understand that my attraction was toward males and not females. I didn’t understand much about it. I had no idea that there were millions of people experiencing the same feelings, and that some of them were happy, well-adjusted folks living good lives. All I knew was that the feelings I had made me one of those people. There were names for people like me.

So consequently, I began to hate myself. It didn’t help that for the first time in my life, I felt separated from my family. I had a secret, something that made me different than them. And my self-hatred became a desire to be “elsewhere,” somewhere where there was less pain. And when I realized I couldn’t really go elsewhere, it became, at times, lethal.

In THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH, Carson Smith has some of the same feelings, though his is not about being gay. He thinks about it as he sits with his friend Aisha in a hotel parking lot in Salt Lake City.

Someone’s parked a U-Haul truck that takes up two spaces. Whose truck is that? What does their life feel like? Where are they running off to? I think of sitting on my radiator at home, and all the times in my life I’ve felt like taking off. I want to believe these people are going someplace better, someplace warmer, maybe. Happier. I have to believe that. Because if I don’t believe that, maybe life isn’t worth living.

The truth is that I was severely depressed as a teenager. I cannot express just how many times I felt like I literally couldn’t go another day. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Suicide felt like an option so often that at a certain point the idea was no longer shocking.

I made it, though. I made it to adulthood, and I’m so glad I did, because my life has been full of surprises and gifts and joy, among other things, and I’d never have found out any of that had I ended things.

My teen experience, along with the fact that for all of the advances our society has made, suicide remains a far bigger threat to LGBTQ teens than those who aren’t LGBTQ, has made me take leave of my senses. In September, I am embarking upon a cross-country journey in the hopes of helping teens understand just how important it is during these hard years to stay alive.

As an “champion” for The Trevor Project, I will be stopping at schools and churches and community centers across the country to talk to teens about the amazing services offered by The Trevor Project, and about my own struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. My goal: to help kids make it through the hard years by connecting with them and giving them a little extra dose of hope.

I’m focusing on areas where kids are most in need: the midwest and the south. I already have about 10 stops planned, and I am looking to add another 10 or 20. If you are a person who works with teens as part of a GSA or a community group, and you’d like me to make a stop in your town or city as an champion for The Trevor Project, please email me at bkonigsberg@gmail.com and let me know where you are, and what kind of group you have. These visits are 100% free.

This trip will also be a fundraiser for The Trevor Project. This summer, or as soon as I have a finalized schedule, I will be raising funds online, asking people to pledge their support for my trip by giving to The Trevor Project. Every penny I raise for TTP will go to them. They have long been my charity of choice, and I’m so glad if something I do can help them with their outstanding services for at-risk youth.

So that’s what I’m doing in September. More information as it becomes available right here at billkonigsberg.com.

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First trade reviews for The Porcupine of Truth

porcupine cover

So far,  The Porcupine of Truth has received three reviews. Two of them are starred reviews, from Booklist and School Library Journal, and the third is a very nice review from Kirkus!

A starred review, according to Publishers Weekly, indicates a book of “outstanding quality.” It appears that perhaps 10 percent of published books receive a starred review, so I’m very pleased at this early reception to The Porcupine.

Some excerpts from the reviews:

“There are no true villains in the well-developed cast of characters, just people trying to do their best and frequently failing. … Konigsberg weaves together a masterful tale of uncovering the past, finding wisdom, and accepting others as well as oneself.” – SLJ

“Konigsberg (Openly Straight, 2013) employs a colorful style (a day is “warm, like bread just out of the oven,” and Carson’s new room is “like a remote bunker where people store their afterthoughts”) and crafts fascinating, multidimensional teen and adult characters. A friendship between a straight boy and a lesbian is relatively rare in YA fiction and is, accordingly, exceedingly welcome. And that’s the truth.” – Booklist (Starred review)

“…the story tackles questions about religion, family, and intimacy with depth and grace. The mystery of Carson’s grandfather is resolved with bittersweet thoroughness, and Aisha’s storyline comes to a hopeful, if also painful, resolution of its own.” -Kirkus

Somewhere out there, a Truth Porcupine is dancing happily down a Wyoming highway. Thanks, reviewers!

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The Prickly Truth

porcupine stamp

The thing about writing a book with a porcupine in the title is that you set yourself up to be the butt of a lot of puns.

“Sounds prickly,” people like to say, when I tell them that my next novel is called THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH.

“The truth can be prickly.”

“What a prick.”

You get the drill.

A friend even made this meme for me yesterday on Facebook:

porcupinism

It’s hard not to take the last part a little personally, no? :-)

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Heroes and Villains

“Your main character is whiny.”

This is a tough one for me, and it’s a comment I’ve received on a few of my books from both editors and readers. It’s tough because my characters are often parts of me, so it hits close to home. In case you’re wondering why I’m whining about it now.

(Half-) Joking aside, I think I can safely say that creating rounded protagonists is not a major issue of mine. By “rounded,” I mean to differentiate from “flat” characters, characters who are two-dimensional types. Most of the time, readers will comment on how “human” my characters are.

There is, however, an exception to that rule.
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The gratitude game

In Openly Straight, Rafe Goldberg’s family plays a game on Thanksgiving called “The Gratitude Game.” In it, they go around in a circle saying things for which they are grateful. The catch: they only have five seconds to come up with something, they can’t repeat anything, and if they fail, they’re out. The winner is the last one standing.

I made this game up, actually, as I was writing the book. Turns out it’s an actual thing. Since the book came out in 2013, I’ve heard from several readers, wondering how I knew about their family’s game. I dunno. Writing is weird. Yesterday I was writing a scene and I just knew I needed a quote from General Macarthur. I barely remember anything beyond that he was a World War II general, but somehow, there was a quote and it was just perfect. “You are remembered for the rules you break,” he said. I have never heard of Macarthur saying this.

How I knew what I needed there, when I really had NO IDEA, is a fascinating topic I’ll have to touch on some other time.

Anyhow, The Gratitude Game.

A friend of mine often says, “If you live a life of gratitude, it’s hard to be unhappy.”

I’ve found that at the times my brain isn’t quite working, it’s pretty darn hard to get to gratitude. But right now, today, my brain is working just fine. So I thought I would look back at 2014 and play with myself.

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Spiritual and Emotional Pushups

I don’t do well with criticism.

There, I said it. Sigh. Load off shoulders. I have all sorts of thoughts and reactions to this, and admitting it to others is hard, because A) it tells toxic people that if they want to get to me, all they need to do is criticize me, and B) I’m an adult. And as such, I’m supposed to be mature, and mature adults are able to process simple things like criticism, and not have it spiral into something insane.

But the truth is that I am not so able to process it, and it does spiral. Insanely. Not always, but often. Some criticism seems to roll off my back, but other things hit someplace deep and core in me and tells me that I’m a screwup, I’ve always been a screwup, I’ll always be a screwup. This is probably the number one core belief I have about me, and no amount of kudos or not screwing up seems to cover that ancient wound.

When it is touched — maybe I should say when it is speared — I tend to find myself in six-year-old mode. I want to take my toys and leave. I want to behave in ways that are passive aggressive, so that the person who has criticized me will be sorry when they see what they’ve driven me to, which is basically like drinking poison and expecting the other person to drop dead.

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