That’s exactly what happens to 18-year-old Kenneth McIntyre when television guru Prahna Mehta hails his self-published novel as the next bestseller. Little do his new fans know Truth and Other Lies wasn’t written by Kenny at all… and it isn’t fiction. Kenny’s been keeping secrets for years. Sometimes he feels like he’s lying to everybody he loves.
When Kenny gets swept into stardom, how will he hide the secrets he’s kept for years? And, if his lies are exposed, will anyone stay by his side?
Evernight Teen / Amazon
Nobody cried more than Kenny’s mom. Not even Kenny.
He started to understand that saying, “he was beside himself,” because that’s exactly how he felt. At Millie’s funeral, he kept glancing at the empty seat beside him—one of five they’d reserved in the front row for Millie’s family—because he felt like the real Kenny was sitting in the next chair, and his body was just an empty shell.
Millie was right, all those times she’d said her parents wouldn’t come to her funeral. She’d told Kenny and his mom, “You don’t understand, guys. I’m already dead to them. Why would they go to my funeral when I died three years ago? I died when I came out.”
Kenny didn’t believe that, of course. When he and his mom made the funeral arrangements, they even asked to have some of the readings done in Chinese. If her parents did come—and Kenny really and truly believed they would—they’d certainly appreciate the scripture in their mother tongue. They were very religious people, from what Millie said.
He stared at the grey chair beside him while the funeral people played one of Millie’s favorite songs. Any other day, he’d have been fuming that her family hadn’t shown up. But today? Today he didn’t have enough energy to feel anger. He didn’t have enough energy to feel anything, not even sadness. It was like a total absence of emotion. He was an empty shell.
The funeral went by in a haze. As they drove to the cemetery, all he could think about was the look of serenity on Millie’s face as she lay in that coffin. That gleaming white coffin, like Liberace’s piano. She would have laughed at it. She would have thrown her head back, cackled, and said, “You’re gonna bury me in that?”
Kenny could still hear her laughter.
When his mother pulled into the cemetery parking lot, he pressed his head against the cool glass and cried. More than cried. Sobbed. He felt like his heart had been ripped out of his chest. It was an actual, physical pain, and it hurt so badly he worried that, when he opened his jacket, his crisp white shirt would be stained in blood. He almost wished it was. He wished his wounds could be obvious to the world. He wanted everybody to understand. Nobody did.
Except his mom. She squeezed his hand so hard she jammed his knuckles together. That was a good pain, a useful pain. He couldn’t bring himself to look at her, but he gripped her hand, trying to show some support. Because she was hurting too.
“Come on, buddy.” Mom snapped a tissue from the box and blotted her face, wiped her nose. “Let’s get out to the gravesite.”
Millie would have thought all this grief was hilarious.
Plenty of people from school had come to the service. Far fewer had come out for the burial. Kenny’s mom had paid for everything—the funeral, the coffin, the plot—and it didn’t come cheap. In all, she’d spent nearly ten grand, most of it on credit. But Millie was worth the expense. She was the daughter Mom never had.
Kenny felt old before his time, having to deal with all this death stuff. But there he went, thinking about himself again. If Millie were there, she’d tell him to be happy. “Be happy you’re still alive. Be happy the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. Be happy spring is in the air.”
Well the sun wasn’t shining and the birds weren’t chirping, not for Kenny. And spring? Spring was just a pile of mud. Slick mud and stinking dog crap under a mound of melting snow.
That’s all Kenny could think of during the burial: how Millie was going underground, under all the mud and crap and snow. She’d never feel the sunlight on her skin. She’d never hear the birds. She’d died in the springtime of her life.
Thank you so much for sitting down with Toot's for an interview. If you don't mind, I have some questions for you about your new book, Truth or Other Lies and your process for our budding authors as well as fans.
So first off, Truth or Other Lies Questions.......
In your own words, what is Truth or Other Lies about?
Truth and Other Lies is about 18-year-old Kenny, who’s been self-publishing sci-fi stories online long enough for everyone to consider him a professional author. His best friend, Millie, has been living at his house since she came out as queer and her parents kicked her out. Millie’s had a hard life, and it doesn’t get any easier when she’s diagnosed with leukemia. On her deathbed, she writes her memoirs and asks Kenny to edit them, but she dies before he ever opens the document.
That’s a lot… and that’s only the first chapter! When Kenny reads Millie’s book and discovers what a treasure it is, he’s got quite a dilemma on his hands. What should he do with it? What would Millie want?
Meanwhile (at Millie’s funeral, in fact), he meets her cousin Wyn and his girlfriend June. If you think you know love triangles, Truth and Other Lies carves a new path. Kenny falls for them both, and he might not have to choose if he plays his cards right. I could keep describing my book, but I’d go on forever!
How did you come up with the title of the book and can you tell us its significance?
“Truth and Other Lies” is the title Kenny tacks on Millie’s book, but it also reflects that everything Kenny tries to pass off as truth is a pack of lies. Throughout most of the book, he isn’t fully honest with anyone. Some people think he’s straight, other people think he’s gay, but he can’t bring himself to admit that, actually, he’s bisexual. Kenny’s a master at keeping secrets and, as we find out, so are a lot of other characters in the book.
Is Truth or Other Lies a standalone book or will it be part of a series?
It’s a standalone.
What genre would you say Truth or Other Lies is and what sets your book apart for fans of the genre?
I’d call it a YA/NA fusion because the characters are 18 and up, but there’s really no explicit content or anything barring younger readers from enjoying it. I wrote it with teens in mind, but it’s also a book I enjoy as an adult. What sets it apart is the aforementioned love triangle, I’d say. Usually you’ve got two guys fighting over one girl and, while Kenny and Wyn fight a lot in this book, they’re both bisexual and they can see a path to polyamory… if all the rest of Kenny’s secrets don’t screw things up before they get there.
What are some of the elements of the world you created?
Truth and Other Lies is set in the present day, so there isn’t too much that stands out, but readers might be amused by the jolts of recognition. The self-publishing platform Kenny uses is called “Mastodon” but I’m sure readers will understand which mammoth retailer is being hinted at. Likewise, the guru Prahna Mehta (who becomes almost a fairy godmother to Kenny) is kind of a fusion character. She represents a couple different talk show hosts/speakers/moguls, but she is certainly her own person. As I was writing her, I was never quite sure whether she was a good witch or a bad witch.
If you had to pick one thing, what is your favorite thing about the world you’ve created?
This is really random, but it would have to be the boardroom where Kenny meets Prahna Mehta. She’s such a New Age person that her office has no standard office equipment or tables or anything. Instead of a desk, she works on a pile of beach sand. I don’t know why, but I find that really funny. Kenny has to take off his shoes and socks before he meets her.
What was your favorite scene to write for either your hero or heroine in Truth or Other Lies?
I loved writing any scene that featured Kenny and his mother, because they’re keeping secrets from each other and that adds a huge amount of tension to every interaction. There’s a scene where she’s telling him to get a job and they have an argument over the phone, and I can feel the mom’s angst because I know she’s keeping something huge from him. Kenny’s in the same situation. He’s got this constant knot in his stomach.
What was the hardest scene to write?
That would have to be the second chapter, when Millie has just died and Kenny and his mom are dealing with the funeral and all that. Millie is so much based on a friend of mine, who is terminally ill, that I had to think very seriously about how I’d process her death—or, rather, how I will process it. So that was hard. It was even hard to read, after I’d written it.
What's your favorite line or quote from Truth or Other Lies?
“If you can tell a lie, you can write a book.”
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?
I remember making picture books as a child. Honestly, I never thought I’d grow up to become an author, even though my teachers predicted that I would. I wanted to be on Broadway—that was my dream. But when that didn’t work out… you know how they say to go back to what you loved as a child? That’s what I did. I rediscovered writing.
What inspires you to put the pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard?
It’s like any other job: some days you do it because you’re overflowing with passion for the work, other days you do it because you need to pay the rent. Authors, or artists of any kind, aren’t supposed to say things like that, but it’s true.
What are some of the elements in/of your writing process?
I like to write a book from start to finish. I find that if I start jumping around, writing scene one, scene five, scene seven, scene three, I have trouble matching things up when I go to put them all together.
Are you a Plotter or a Panster?
I’ll outline an entire book, start to finish, and then not follow my outline at all. Once the characters take over, the story’s all theirs.
What's next for you?
I haven’t quite decided yet. Too many ideas, too little time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and freeze up, which doesn’t help.
Is there anything you’d like to add or say to your fans?
I received so many “congratulations on your new book” tweets when Truth and Other Lies came out and I just want to thank everyone who’s shown me so much support and encouragement. Sometimes you’re just going along and it feels like nobody sees you or cares. All the congratulations really touched my heart. Thank you!
Now I know this is like asking you to choose between your own children, but out of all your amazing characters, who is your favorite and why?
I think Millie might be my favourite character. Even though she basically dies in the first chapter, her presence is felt through the entire story because of this book she’s written. Kind of an encouraging thought, that we writers are immortal as long as people are still reading our words.
Are there any of your stories or characters that hold a special place in your heart?
My first novel, Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye, will always hold a special place in my heart and I’ll tell you why so this doesn’t come off sounding like shameless self-promotion: when I was a young teen (middle school aged, in particular), I read voraciously. In every book, I was searching for one character—just one!—who was like me: not boy crazy, not really interested in boys at all. I never found that book back then so, twenty years later, I wrote it. I wrote Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye more for myself than for anyone else, although I hope LGBT young people find it on a shelf somewhere and their lives are changed for the better.
If the book had to have a theme song, what would it be?
“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…” Haha, I don’t know. That’s the first one that popped into my head.
Lastly, What 5 things do fans not know about you and 5 they don't know about the book?
- I went to Music Theatre School but I’m a terrible dancer.
- I wash my hair with baking soda. It works really well!
- I love to knit, but nothing too complicated.
- I accidentally stole a lunchbox from my neighbor (it’s a long story).
- I write queer fiction because I identify as queer (but you knew that).
About my book:
- I wrote Truth and Other Lies in a week and a half. (My first novel took me two years to write)
- One of the characters is named after my grandmother (but I’m not telling which character, or which grandmother).
- A love triangle where all three characters fall for each other seems pretty ideal, to me.
- One reason I wanted to write a book about secrets is that I saw a reader on Twitter saying they’d buy any book if the blurb mentioned secrets. (Marketing!)
- Wyn is named after Ontario’s first lesbian premier, Kathleen Wynne. I changed the spelling so it would be quicker to type.
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