Interview with Gene Gant
The Thunder in His Head is a frighteningly accurate depiction of high school life. How was the experience recreating some of the emotions that teenagers go through at that age?
It was like being a kid again, fun and frightening. It brought back a lot of memories. It also reminded me of just how glad I am to have high school behind me. Pardon me while I thank God.
By all means. Your openness is what is so endearing about your characters, which brings me to my next question. The relationship between Kyle and Dwight is very intricately handled. How did you manage to create the emotional balance required of both of these characters?
Actually, the emotional balance just grew out of who they are. It was one of those elements that developed on its own from putting the two characters together and letting them react to each other.
With the bed scene, in particular, was it difficult to portray the intimate relationship between two teenage boys with raging hormones?
Yes. I had to walk the proverbial fine line between dealing honestly with the sexual attraction between Kyle and Dwight and becoming too graphic. I also had to keep in mind that, as with many teens, both boys were struggling through tremendously complex and emotional family situations. Their intimacy was as much about their need to be comforted and to feel secure, as it was about sex.
How do you find a good balance of sexual tension with fiction for young adults?
Much of that balance can be found in the fact that the characters are teenagers. They’re at that difficult stage where their hormones have caught fire, but society doesn’t want them acting on their desires. Add to that the insecurity a lot of teens have about themselves, and you get sexual tension to spare.
Besides the ability to intelligently infuse sexual innuendo, what’s the hardest part about writing literature centered on gay youth with romantic themes?
For me, that would be portraying gay teen sexuality in a realistic manner without getting the book banned. I firmly believe that writing should be bold and provocative. An author can’t deliver that if he or she is timid in the process, worrying about censorship. But I realize that many parents screen and control what their children read. And in the conservative south, where I live, community libraries are not going to add books that make tax-paying parents uneasy to their collections. So while I want to portray the reality that two gay boys can date and fall in love, I also want the LGBT teens who are the intended audience to have access to the book.