December 31, 2015

Tour Day: Matthew J Metzger and Sex in YA Fiction

This week Foreplay and Fangs welcomes back author Matthew J. Metzger, touring with his new release The Italian Word for Kisses. Matthew is a British author currently living, working and writing near Bristol in the south-west of England. He is both asexual and transgender, and seeks out the loud characters, rough stories, and quirky personalities that explore the rich diversity of the QUILTBAG world. He writes both adult and young adult novels, covering topics from mental illness to ill-advised crushes, and particularly enjoys writing about universal issues from the QUILTBAG perspective. Matthew can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tsu, or at his website.
When not writing (which is rare), Matthew is usually found crunching numbers at his day job, working out to inappropriately chirpy pop songs, or being owned by his cat. It is important to note that the man does not, naturally, own the cat.
Social Media Links: Facebook and Twitter

Matthew J. Metzger
"Sex in YA"

When does young adult become adult?

Generally speaking, I don't care. Typically, my young adult is about fifteen-year-olds, and my adult books are about twenty-two-year-olds and older. So it's a pretty big and obvious gap, and ne'er the twain shall meet, except for one trilogy where the characters were growing up and kind of jumped over the line.

But this book?

This book posed the question.

The Italian Word for Kisses is young adult. Technically. By US standards, and given it's published by a US publisher, those standards apply. But when I was sending scenes to beta readers, one of them asked, "Hey, could this book show them having sex? Because that would be fun as fuck to read."

And I paused.

Where's the line, sexually speaking?

The fact is, my beta reader was right. Both main characters are pretty volatile, and it's not clear who's in control most of the time. Luca's one of five boys, has an Italian mother, and inherited her temper. Tav is two steps to the right of being expelled because he reacts to even the smallest slight at school with his fists. Both are born and bred in Yorkshire, not a place known for tact, diplomacy, and gentlemanly hobbies. How these two behaved in bed would make for a pretty interesting scene. Heck, if they were adults, I would probably have given the book a distinct BDSM leaning.

But they're not. They're seventeen years old.

Seventeen is a grey area. The English-speaking world doesn't have universal consent laws: in Britain, where these two characters live, they're perfectly legal. The age of consent is sixteen, for boys and girls alike. But in America? Nope, this is illegal shit right here.

Legally, this is a non-starter, obviously. My publisher's American, American law in their state considers seventeen-year-olds minors, and therefore it's child porn to depict explicit sexual acts. Legally speaking. I knew right from the beginning that on-page sex wasn't going to be allowed.

But is it a no-go area socially and morally speaking too? If I wanted to explore that sexual dynamic, did I have to age them up, or could I effectively write around the problem?

My line is where I, personally, get the 'ick' factor. It's subjective as hell and I'm cool with that. The idea of fourteen-year-olds having sex, no thank you. Fifteen-year-olds? Sure, I'm fine with the idea that they're doing it, but I wouldn't really want to write it. Sixteen? Fair game.

Seventeen is well above my personal threshold. It was well above that particular reader's threshold. But another reader didn't like a scene where it was blatantly obvious they'd been having sex not five minutes earlier, and said it was too explicit. She, too, was British.

The line's less of a line, more of a fuzzy smudge. And I was left with these characters who couldn't get any older or the plot wouldn't work, but had a dynamic that could extend very well into the bedroom and it seemed a shame to miss it out entirely.

Plus, realistically speaking? These were seventeen-year-old sports-mad boys who've been together a good couple of years. Given that neither of them identifies as asexual and neither are from a religious background, there's almost no chance that they're not having sex.

In the end, I resorted to being a sneaky shit. They very clearly, very obviously, have sex twice in the book. Not even blink-and-you'll-miss-it or full-on fade-to-black, but obvious sexual encounters.

You just don't quite get to see it.

The Italian Word for Kisses

It’s no secret Tav and Luca are going out. After the accident, it’s also no secret that new kid Jack Collins has a raging case of homophobia, and is not best pleased about having given the kiss of life to a gay guy. Either Luca quits swimming, or Jack is going to make him.

Tav favours the tried-and-true method of knocking Jack’s teeth down his neck, only he can’t really afford another school suspension. Luca favours just ignoring him, only ignoring a penknife being held to your throat at New Year’s Eve is downright stupid.

Thing is, Luca suspects Jack is a victim of something himself. And time is running out for Luca to get through to Jack, before Jack gets rid of him.

Pick up a copy at JMS Books or All Romance Cafe today.


"Alright, Collins."

The bang of the changing room door and the amiable greeting from one of the other boys caught Luca's attention, but the sudden, sharp silence made his blood run cold. All at once, Luca was both afraid, and angry with himself for being afraid. So he squared his shoulders and turned on his heel, folding his arms over his chest and meeting Jack's scowl with a glower of his own.


"What the fuck are you doing here?" Jack snarled.

"Fuckin' swimming. What about you?"

"I told you not to come."

It was like the rest of the team didn't exist. Luca didn't dare break eye contact, and Jack -- although he tossed his bag onto a bench and unzipped his jacket, was zeroed in on Luca in a way that made the hairs on Luca's arms stand on end.

"Dunno what kinky shit you're into, Collins, but I don't follow your orders." Being both an older and a younger brother had made Luca able to bluff with ease, and despite the impotent anger, the tart tang of shame around the edges of his brain that this moron had somehow gotten one over him and seized some power in this stupid fucking game, his voice sounded -- even to him -- arrogant and bored.


"You what?"

"I said go," Jack repeated. The other boys hovered uncertainly, but Aaron and David had both closed ranks to Luca's shoulders, and Luca took a fortified breath. Aaron looked steely. David looked a little more confused, but determinedly hostile all the same.

"Like hell I'm going," Luca said. "You got a problem with a pouf on the team, you need to fuck off and get your head out your arse. I'm here to swim. I'm not going nowhere."

"What the fuck is going on?" David asked.

"Jack, mate, leave it," one of the other boys said. "It's just Jensen, Jensen's sound --"

"He's a fucking faggot, and I won't have his kind here -- I warned you, I fucking told you, and you're still fucking here!"

"What's your problem, mate, he's taken up wi' that Chris in Jan Krawczyk's tutor group ..."

"Yeah, Jack, lay off already, who d'you reckon you are anyway, you're new--"

"I know there's a fucking faggot on this fucking team and I --"

"Don't fucking call him a faggot, twat," one of the other boys -- a lad called Ryan that Luca had never so much as spoken to outside of the club, and was in the year below them anyway -- sneered, and he shot out a hand to shove at Jack's shoulder.

"I told you to stay away!" Jack bellowed, and his hand vanished into his unzipped jacket. "I told you, I fucking told you --"

The changing room erupted; the flick-knife flashed under the sickly halogen lights, and Luca's back slammed into the wall of locker doors as Aaron and David shoved him back as one. Both doors -- one to the foyer and one to the pool -- banged loudly, and the bolshy kid, Ryan, lashed out with a fist, smashing into Jack's jaw from the side. A couple of men came rampaging over from the showers in their wet trunks, all the noise bouncing off the walls until it was dizzying. Coach arrived with a shrill shriek of the whistle, and the knife had gone somewhere but Luca couldn't tell where in the ruckus, and then Aaron's hand was on his shoulder and he was being steered off into one corner of the changing room, and --

A flush of hot, furious shame boiled up Luca's stomach and into his guts, and he twisted away from Aaron's hands and grabbed for his kit bag. He didn't need Aaron to fucking protect him. He didn't need anyone to protect him, he wasn't some pathetic little kid who needed their hand holding. He shouldn't need defending, he was a Jensen! He should be able to defend himself.

He grabbed his bag and bolted. As he fled up the stairs, a burly security guard and Coach were wrestling the knife out of Jack's hands in the corridor, both shouting at him, and Jack shouting back, face red and voice hoarse and shrill with fury.

"You fucking steer clear of me, Jensen!" he bellowed after Luca, who didn't dare look back. "F'you know what's good for you, you'll stay out of here, you fucking queer!"

Luca reached the top of the stairs, and ran. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think?