We are absolutely thrilled to be hosting Carrie Mesrobian’s cover reveal for her new book Cut Both Ways out in September 2015. Carrie was one of mine and Kathleen’s middle school writing teachers, and we’ve been in other classes with her over the following years. She’s a great instructor, a fabulous writer, and has been incredibly supportive of us as we re-launched GayYA. We’ve been hearing little snippets about this unnamed book that had a bisexual guy as the protagonist for months, so when she approached us with the chance to host the cover reveal I was like uuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmm YES.
So so so! EEEEEE! Here’s the newly released blurb, first!
Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.
Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?
Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.
Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.
Now…..(drumroll please!!)……………the cover!!!!!!!!!!!
Gaaaaaaah, isn’t it amazing? I think it’s amazing. I just love the colors and the image of the bed with the clothes strewn around… Aaaah!
We also had the chance to ask Carrie a few questions about the cover and the book itself.
Vee: What can you tell us about Cut Both Ways? What should we expect?
Carrie: Well, it feels similar to my first two books in that there is a lot of sexual content and it is narrated by a male main character in first person. And there is family drama and romance and angst. Lots of duality: urban/rural, rich/poor, visible/invisible.
There is a girl character that I feel so fondly for. I want wrap her in a quilt and put her in my pocket. This is also a book that explores the world of work as far as adolescents encounter it. I like it when characters in YA books have jobs. One of my favorite books, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, explored this so well. I like my characters to have first job experiences as part of their story.
V: Since we are having a cover reveal after all, let’s talk about it. What are your thoughts on it? How does it relate to the book?
C: I really love the cover! I think there are many tiny elements that adhere to themes and motifs in the book. There’s a LOT of sex in this book. (Maybe I should have counted the scenes?) There are a variety of sex scenes, between two boys and between a boy and a girl. Most of them take place in various beds, now that I think about it. Though a few don’t. So really, there’s something for the whole family!
^that last sentence was a joke
V: How much input did you have in the cover making process? What was the process like?
C: I didn’t have anything to do with it. Which is generally the case for authors and which I’m fine with, actually. I don’t think visually and have zero sense of what the cover “ought” to look like in my head while I’m writing the story. And it’s just another area where I have no expertise. My main focus is trying to make the words right.
How it works is, basically, the publisher has their designer read the book and then he or she mocks stuff up and then I imagine that they have some mysterious meeting about which cover they like best and then they pick one and send it to you and say, “ here is your cover – what do you think?”
For all three of my books, my reaction was, “I like it! Thank you for making such a lovely thing!” So I have no idea what happens if you don’t like it. Probably you just feel really bad?
That’s really about all I know about the process of cover art. Which is weird, when you consider that the cover is the first thing a potential reader interfaces with and here I am, the writer, having zero to do with it.
V: Comparing the writing process of your past two books, both which featured straight main characters, how was it different for you writing a queer protagonist?
C: I had to work against my natural tendency to over-parent my characters. I wanted to tell Will that he was okay and he could be anything he wanted to be and it was all okay and relax, honey! I wanted to make everything smooth for him. But I couldn’t do that, because, well, that’s very boring. And I don’t think he’s the kind of person who was raised hearing that kind of reassurance, anyway.
I also didn’t clearly understand what sex between young men looks like, especially first sex experiences. I needed some help from guys who knew what was up. Will, the main character, doesn’t have a lot of words for what he’s doing; he’s never considered himself gay. So having him narrate the experience of being with another boy took a couple of tries to get right. There is him liking the experience and how it feels, but at the same time, there is him holding himself apart from the experience as it happens, because he can’t accept what it might mean about himself.
I often felt quite nervous while writing this book. I’m a straight woman using my imagination and trying to push beyond assumptions and clichés and stereotypes. It’s a risk, unlike writing as a male, because I live in a world where patriarchy is basically the weather. Describing that isn’t that difficult; I live around and among male assumptions and privilege. But entering into a sexual identity that I’ve never experienced, in a genre that’s historically ignored those experiences? That’s a big responsibility. I did read a lot about bisexuality and sexual fluidity, though to be honest, it was hard to find personal accounts from bisexual men. There is a lot out there on the sexual fluidity of women.
V: Can you talk at all about how Will’s bisexuality will affect him in CUT BOTH WAYS? Is it a coming out novel? Is he already out and proud? Or is it more of a side thing for him?
C: It’s not a coming out novel, in terms of a character being open about who he is to the world. It’s more of an internal identity thing, about Will trying to come out to himself, first. Will is sort of ambushed by his attraction to his Angus and doesn’t know how to categorize it. I think the entire novel is about bisexual erasure, actually, but that’s a concept Will doesn’t understand, strangely enough.
Now I feel weird saying that. Because maybe it’s not about that? I’m both nervous and eager for readers to give me their view on that. I’m hoping that readers will clue me in on what I got right and what missed the mark, as uncomfortable as that might be for me personally.
I HAVE ALL OF THE EXCITEMENT FOR THIS BOOK.
Have thoughts on the cover? Share them below!