A new book publisher for LGBTQ+ titles has launched in Las Vegas and it comes from a surprising place.
The non-explicit books are aimed at the young adult market based on the coming of age experiences of their models and illuminating pivotal moments in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. 13 Red Media are welcoming applications from writers of LGBTQ+ themed fiction and non fiction for their new titles.
We caught up with Rise Up series author Taylor Saracen to talk about her new books – His Own Way Out and Twink – and asked her what it was like working with the Helix models Kyle Ross and Blake Mitchell to get their real life stories.
Hi Taylor, can you tell us a little about your background and writing?
I’ve been writing for the majority of my life, though it’s only been my career for the past two years. Prior to publishing novels, I was a high school teacher, who dabbled in features writing and several other journalistic endeavours. I’ve always known and been friends with gay men.
What was the experience like of writing the books and researching them with the Helix models Kyle Ross and Blake Mitchell?
It was an incredible experience and a privilege to get to know the guys so intimately. Mentally living their stories intensely enough to write about them was strange and took over my mind for months at a time, but it was worth it. It’s a wild, beautiful, messy, emotional ride that is powerful and fulfilling in ways I never imagined. I’m proud to call them my friends.
Why are these stories of young guys coming out so important for the LGBTQ+ community?
Working in schools, it was painfully apparent how many young people are fearful of being who they are. I love that in these novels our protagonists are unapologetically themselves despite the hardships they faced. I wish every kid had someone he trusted enough to confide in, but that isn’t always the case. I hope these books are a safe space for people who feel different.
What is the biggest surprise you had from researching and writing the books about these young gay lives?
The biggest surprise was how vulnerable the guys were willing to be, especially Blake. He didn’t know me at all when I started writing his novel and he let me in. That was impressive.
What would you hope a younger and older reader would take from the books and who are they aimed at?
They are new adult novels so they’re technically geared toward readers between the ages of 18-30, but feedback I’ve received from many older people is they’re enjoying the novels and wished there were books like the Rise Up series when they were growing up.
How erotic do the books get?
The series is not erotic. The few sex scenes I wrote fade to black instead of being described explicitly.
Why is it important for Helix to be behind the books?
It was imperative to me that these novels feature Helix models. It isn’t that models from other adult studios aren’t amazing and inspiring, it was more the mission Helix works toward and the fact that owner Keith Miller respects the models as individuals and not commodities. We clicked as soon as we met and I’m grateful he took a chance on me.
Are there plans for future books?
Absolutely. The third novel in the Rise Up series will be released in February 2019. It features Joey Mills, which is incredibly exciting for me considering what a huge, effervescent personality he has. I think people will be really interested to read his story.
What do you hope readers will take from the books?
I hope that people struggling with their life path, their identity, or relationships read these novels and realise that they’re not as alone as they may feel.
Extract from Twink by Taylor Saracen
There was only so much a body could endure and Kyle’s had taken enough. Every time his thin frame was pushed against a row of lockers by relentless rednecks, he felt it for days. Black and blue welts blossomed on Texas-tanned skin, a reminder of what an outcast he was in the backwoods of Tennessee. They didn’t want to understand him and he didn’t expect them to try. Instead, he squeezed his eyes shut and braced for impact, never growing used to the pain, only learning to handle it. He’d dealt with worse. So had his car. It reverberated in his bones when the licorice black paint of his Corvette was keyed by jealous jocks who didn’t think a twink like him deserved such a masculine muscle car. They probably expected him to have a flaccid Ford Focus or something equally as impotent. It was unsettling to the hicks that he had more than them, had things they coveted.
Instinctively, Kyle held his breath as a sweaty ham hock hand clenched the nape of his neck and slammed his head into the door of the girls’ bathroom.
“This is where you piss from now on,” the meathead growled, shoving Kyle into the lavatory. The cool tile floor chilled his beet-red cheeks as he lay on the ground, holding his knees close to his chest, hoping to avoid another hit. “Faggot.”
The sound of the lock catching sent a rush of relief through his battered body. It was over – at least for the day.
“What the fuck?” a girl shrieked, falling to her knees next to Kyle.
“Are you okay?”
He cringed when she touched his shoulder, exhausted by uninvited contact.
“Sorry,” she muttered. “You’re bleeding.”
Kyle bristled and pulled himself to his feet. He wasn’t a pussy. He didn’t need to be cared for by some random cheerleader looking to do a good deed. “I’m fine.”
Stumbling toward the sink, he steadied himself and turned on the faucet. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed that he was bleeding. Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as it looked since noses bled a lot, broken or not. Shit, he hoped it wasn’t broken. He was too pretty to risk a fucked-up mug.
Handful after handful of warm water washed away the evidence of the idiot’s hatred as Kyle focused on his own. Faggot. That piece of shit had called him a faggot. Not only was the word reprehensible, but the implication that he was gay was irritating.
“Why are you in the ladies’ room, creep?” a girl from Kyle’s physics class asked as she exited a stall. The scowl on her face was as nasty as the tone of her voice.
“What’s the difference?” he retorted, sweeping his blond locks off his forehead and glaring back at her. “I had to take a shit, and these toilets are way cleaner.”
“You’re disgusting,” she scoffed, gaping at Kyle like he had four heads.
Deciding it wasn’t worth engaging any further, Kyle dried his hands with a wad of paper towels, purposely cutting in front of her as he made his way to the trash can. She was worth irritating and he was eager to push her buttons. He’d been pushed enough; there was no reason not to push back.
How Kyle and Blake told their coming of age stories
What was the process like to have a novel written about you?
Kyle: Taylor made the process virtually painless. We spent a lot of time talking on the phone so she could develop a timeline of significant events during the toughest part of my life. We would talk every day for several weeks. Taylor made it easy because she never forgets anything, a trait I hear her husband loves. The book is technically fiction because situations, names and locations are changed but this project is very close to me because I relive my younger years every time I read it.
What is your favourite part in your book?
Blake: My favourite part was the realism of it all. We left so much stuff in that other people would have cut out. We wanted to really illustrate the Rise Up aspect by keeping it gritty.
Kyle: In the first chapter, Taylor tells the story of an actual dream I’d experienced, and it’s surreal to see it written on paper. A highlight moment in the book is when I’m at a family reunion and was caught on a Grindr hook-up with an older guy. That was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and now it’s etched into the spirit of the time. The book surprisingly has become a source of relaxation for me to reconcile my past.
How was the book tour?
Blake: The book tour was wonderful. It was an amazing experience to meet so many dedicated fans in person. It made me feel really blessed.
Kyle: It’s been an absolute dream to travel to bookstores across the country and meet people who are excited about the books. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many fans of Helix Studios who are proud of the books, and that support has been heartwarming.
What do you hope readers will get out of your books?
Blake: I hope readers learn from some of my mistakes and realise they’re in control of their own destiny.
Kyle: I hope readers can feel a personal connection with me and that it serves a positive influence on their lives. When appearing in the media, I demonstrate the perks of being a gay porn star living in America. I present a positive image and emit good vibes because I am an entertainer, not a sob story. In the book, we didn’t keep anything a secret and the situations aren’t sugar-coated. I opened up my heart to Taylor and she included all the dirty details. The book is a coming of age story about my teenage years and the struggle to find acceptance by my family, community and self. Perhaps some readers can relate to my hardships and feel like what they may be going through is completely normal.
13 Red Media
13 Red Media is dedicated to publishing the best of LGBTQ+ literature. They have three imprints: Cherry is an LGBTQ+-focused romance and erotica imprint. Garnet is the genre fiction imprint. Cardinal is the non-fiction imprint. Writers can submit their manuscripts to queries@13RedMedia.com. All submissions must have a significant LGBTQ+ slant and seek to educate or inspire.