YAPC would like to welcome Matthew J. Metzger to the blog today. He is here to answer some of our questions and tell us a little about his book Spy Stuff. If this looks like something you would like to read, please go pick up a copy!
YAPC: How would you describe your book in 20 words or less without using the blurb?
Matthew: Relationships are hard when you’re transgender. First relationships are harder. And when your new boyfriend doesn’t know — that’s hardest of all.
(It’s 22 words, but ssh!)
How would my friends describe me in 20 words or less?
Matthew: My personal favourite replies were:
“That trans guy who swears a lot.”
“You’re kind of like a cat…you come off like you hate everyone, but some people get snuggles.”
And (thanks, Jo…)
“Mental. Stop being busy and take a bloody holiday.”
YAPC: Tell me a little about yourself.
Matthew: My flattering mates aside, I’m a 25-year-old transgender guy living in Yorkshire in the UK, and I work with numbers by day but words by night. I tend towards writing YA more than adult fiction, largely because teenagers and young adults are so much more vivid in the way they see the world, and a lot of adults have lost that and become boring as they’ve grown up. 15-year-old characters will do and say things an adult would never dream of or get away with, so YA is my default setting. And being both asexual and transgender, it comes naturally to write within the LGBT+ world!
YAPC: When did you decide to become a writer?
Matthew: I’ve been writing and making up stories since I was a little kid, but like a lot of people my age, I discovered the internet and fanfiction pretty much at the same time, and was scribbling away in various fandoms for several years. It was actually my fans there that pushed me into working on original fiction — when your fanfic readers are all telling you to go and write ‘real books’, you start listening! I wrote my first real novel in 2011, but it was actually my second novel that I got up the guts to send to a publisher and, well, now I’m eight novels down and counting. I guess you could say it went pretty well.
YAPC: How long did it taken you to write your current book?
Matthew: About a year. I wrote two thirds of it within four months, and then it sat going nowhere for the longest time. Eventually I re-read the pieces I had, wondered why I never finished it, and smashed out the rest. It made the editing process pretty gruelling, but it made it in the end!
YAPC: Who is your favorite character in your new release?
Matthew: Jude Kalinowski. He’s the cisgender love interest — a bit odd, really, that I like the cisgender character more than the trans hero, but honestly, I do relate to Jude more. He’s a very meandering sort of character: he’s not too bothered by anything, he’s happy to let luck carry him, he’s not prone to getting wound up about his future. And it’s something I can relate to, really: I don’t think very far ahead, and I don’t worry about future what ifs very much. So I loved him from the beginning for that ‘eh, it’ll work out’ attitude. I only wish I was as successful at it!
YAPC: Where do you get your inspiration?
Matthew: From being trans myself, I suppose. Being asexual, one of the things I always joke with trans friends about is that I get to ‘skip’ the relationship worries. But that got me thinking about how that would have affected me as a teenager had I a) known I was trans and b) been interested in boys (or girls, for that matter). And so this idea of a kid doing exactly what I would have wanted to do, in his shoes, and changing schools to avoid the awkwardness of coming out, only to run into trouble when being trans by no means excludes you from love, lust and relationships.
YAPC: Which genres do you prefer to read?
Matthew: I’m not much of a reader anymore but I still gravitate towards bloody fantasy (Game of Thrones is a particular favourite) and humorous science fiction (anything by the Grant/Naylor duo has me in a heartbeat). Oddly for a romance author, I don’t read romance.
YAPC: Are there any particular books and/or authors that inspired you and continue to do so?
Matthew: Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. Their grasp of the gritty but not necessarily bad parts of humanity are just perfect, and their ability to create believable, three-dimensional characters by poking at their flaws, mannerisms and speech patterns is something I’m desperately jealous of and wish I could do half as well.
YAPC: Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?
Matthew: Twitter. Less drama, more fun, and quicker. Plus you don’t have this huge friend-and-follow commitment, you can just dip in and out as you like. I’m always on Twitter, whereas Facebook I rarely log in with my phone.
YAPC: Do you ever run into someone who says “You write WHAT?”
Matthew: Haha, yes, it’s happened at work before. I used to play a game at my old job where one of my colleagues was so curious about what I wrote, I deliberately refused to tell him my pseudonym or book titles. It drove him bonkers. I now have a colleague nagging me to bring her a copy of a book to read, and I’m tempted just to print my back-list for her and tell her to buy them and not expect free presents.
YAPC: What projects are you currently working on right now? Would you mind sharing them with us?
Matthew: If all goes according to plan, I will have a transgender adult novel coming out with Riptide Publishing in November of this year, but it’s less about being transgender and more about dealing with your dad and your boyfriend absolutely loathing one another. And hopefully in January next year, I will have another young adult novel about dealing with HIV coming out with Triton Books.
On the writing front, I’m primarily working on getting more incidentally-transgender books written: books with transgender main characters and romances, but without the story being specifically about those aspects. After all, trans people fall in love with the boss, get divorced, and run off with the judge’s daughter too!
Anton never thought anyone would ever want to date him. Everyone knows nobody wants a transgender boyfriend, right? So he’s as shocked as anyone when seemingly-straight Jude Kalinowski asks him out, and doesn’t appear to be joking.
The only problem is … well, Jude doesn’t actually know.
Anton can see how this will play out: Jude is a nice guy, and nice guys finish last. And Anton is transgender, and transgender people don’t get happy endings. If he tells Jude, it might destroy everything.
And if Jude tells anyone else … it will.
Buy Spy Stuff:
Anton slowly relaxed as Jude started to brighten up and just … talk. Jude chattering, Anton was starting to realise, was a sign that everything was alright. And Anton desperately wanted it to be, so he simply clung on to Jude’s hand — even though it was raining outside, and really too cold to not be wearing gloves — and let the noise wash over him all the way home.
Which meant, when he let them into the house and the smell of Aunt Kerry’s drunk spag bol invaded their clothes, Anton was … actually in kind of a good mood. Maybe he could do this. Maybe Jude would listen, even if in the end he still decided dating a trans guy wasn’t for him? There was a chance, right?
So when Lily appeared in the doorway, took one look at Jude, and screamed, Anton laughed.
“What the hell!” Jude yelped as she tore back into the kitchen.
“Mummy, Anton’s friend’s on fire in the hall!”
“– kinda weird.”
“No shi — er, hell?”
“Just ignore her,” Anton advised, hanging up their coats. A nervous swoop made itself known when Jude grinned and kissed his ear, but he laughed it off and pushed him in the direction of the kitchen. “Go get us drinks or something.”
“It’s your house,” Jude said, but wandered off obediently. Anton took a moment to simply breathe before following him.
Lily had firmly decided — despite having seen Jude before and not having really clocked his hair — that Jude was on fire, and Anton had to wrestle a cup of water away from her before it ended up on Jude’s head.
“Nooo, give it back!” she wailed, stretching up to grab his belt as he put the cup in the sink and rummaged in the fridge for Cokes.
“Yeah, Anton, give it back. I might start melting the counter,” Jude said, sliding onto one of the stools at the island counters. Aunt Kerry, busy with dinner, simply chuckled at the both of them.
“You’re being mean!” Lily yelled, stamping her foot, then turned on Jude, skidding across the tiles to grab at his trousers. “You need a fireman!”
“It’s always that colour,” Jude said in a serious voice, but he was wearing an ear-splitting grin, and Anton’s heart clenched hard at the sheer beauty of him, despite the battered face.
“No, it’s on fire!”
“No it’s not,” Jude said. “It’s ginger.”
“That’s not ginger, ginger biscuits are ginger!”
“If they’re brown,” Lily said seriously, “then why are they called ginger biscuits, huh?”
“Because they have ginger in them.”
“Which makes them ginger and that’s not ginger and you’re on fire!”
“Lily, leave Jude alone,” Aunt Kerry interjected.
Jude dropped his head onto the counter with a muffled cackle into both hands, and Anton couldn’t help but laugh at sight of him. “Oh God,” he said. “Come on, let’s go into the living room, and –”
“Noooo, you can’t, he’ll put the living room on fire!”
“Lily, seriously, stop it with the fire, he’s not on fire.”
“Jew!” she screeched, and Jude did a full body twitch like he was trying not to curl in on himself. “Jew!”
“Jude!” Anton corrected.
“Jude,” she echoed scornfully, throwing Anton a fabulously dirty look for a kid who wasn’t even six yet. “Jude!”
“What?” Jude managed, coughing and rubbing at his eyes, still grinning.
“Tell Tasha to stop it!”
Anton froze. Like a bucket of ice water being dumped on his head, every muscle seized up, and the Coke in the cans started rattling in his shaking hands. “Lily! Stop it!” Aunt Kerry barked, but Jude — oh God, Jude, totally oblivious Jude —
“Okay,” he said. “Who’s Tasha?”
Lily blinked, then flung her arm out, and pointed right at Anton. “Anton’s Tasha,” she said, like it was so obvious.
“Lily, that’s eno –”
“Anton was Natasha only then she became Anton and Mummy says I have to say he but I forget sometimes,” Lily continued in a loud, inescapable voice. It bounced off the walls and tiles, and one of the cans slipped through Anton’s hands and burst open on the floor. Coke was flung everywhere in long, fizzy bursts, soaking his socks and trousers, and through Lily’s indignant shriek and Aunt Kerry’s yell, all he could see was — was —
The wide-eyed, confused stare that Jude was giving him. And the single word, that word, the word Anton hated.
Anton opened his mouth, found nothing coming up to save him, and did the only thing possible.
About the Author: Matthew J. Metzger is an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles, with a fondness for writing the rougher, working-class British lives amongst which he grew up. Spy Stuff is his eighth.
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