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Short bio: BRENT HARTINGER is an author and screenwriter. He wrote the YA classic, Geography Club (2003), which was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series. He’s since published twelve more novels and had nine of his screenplays optioned by producers (one currently in production for a 2020 release). He has won both the Lambda and GLAAD Media Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Award. He has no permanent address, but instead continuously travels the world with his husband, writer Michael Jensen. Visit Brent at brenthartinger.com.
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FIVE INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT ME THAT COULD BE MEDIA ANGLES
I thought my 2007 novel, Project Sweet Life, had a lot of potential as a movie — it was part The Goonies, part Stranger Things. But when no producers expressed interest, I adapted it as a screenplay, then pitched it to producers myself. It was soon optioned and produced as a feature film (now retitled Project Pay Day), to be released in 2020. Once production was underway, I rewrote the original novel, to update the story for 2020 and to expand on and explore things I really liked about the movie adaptation. The new novel, now also titled Project Pay Day, will be released soon. Has any author ever done this before — self-adapting his own novel, getting it made as a movie, then rewriting the novel to coincide with the finished film? I’m not sure.
My first novel, 2003’s Geography Club, was a YA novel about a gay teen named Russel Middlebrook and his quirky friends. HarperCollins published it and a couple of sequels, then released the rights back to me. In 2013, I self-published a fourth book, re-releasing all books as a four-book series, The Russel Middlebrook Series. From 2014-2016, I also successfully self-published a new three-book series, Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years, with the teen characters from the original four books now in their 20s, dealing with more adult life issues. I later wrote a two-book spin-off series with one of the characters, The Otto Digmore Series. As far as I know, I’m the first author to take teen YA characters and “age” them into an entirely different genre (“new adult”). The books are set in real time, and I plan to continue aging these characters, with another new series, Russel Middlebrook: The Nomad Years (about Russel’s experience as a digital nomad), coming soon.
To celebrate the release of my 2014 novel, The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, I had my musician-friend Brett Every write a song based on the book, and then I produced a music video for the song/book. For my 2016 novel, The Road to Amazing, I wrote and sang a song myself, and included the lyrics of the song in the book as part of the story. (I did the same thing for my 2004 novel, The Order of the Poison Oak, but I haven’t yet recorded it.) Has any other author ever done this? Again, not sure.
In 1990, co-founded (what I think is) the world’s third gay-straight alliance, in my hometown of Tacoma, Washington. It became the basis for my 2003 novel, Geography Club, which was adapted as a feature film co-starring Scott Bakula in 2013.
(5) I am a working novelist (with thirteen published novels) and screenwriter (with two produced movies, three more in development, and at least ten projects that have been optioned over the years).
Want to know more? Contact me brenthartinger [at] gmail.com or (253) 459-3581 (US).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2018
MARRIED GAY COUPLE TRAVELS THE WORLD WHILE WRITING NOVELS AND SCREENPLAYS
Brent Hartinger and Michael Jensen, a married couple and two longtime writers of fiction, sold their house in Seattle in 2017, and now they continuously travel the world, even as they continue writing their novels and screenplays.
Brent and Michael's destinations so far include Miami, Florida; Barcelona, Spain; the island country of Malta; Matera, Italy; and Bansko, Bulgaria. Their "digital nomad" experience has already been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, and in Forbes nd the New York Times.
"Like a lot of married couples, over the years we've mused: What would it be like if we just up and sold everything and traveled the world?" Michael says. "Plus, I spent three years in my twenties traveling in New Zealand and Australia, and I loved it."
Brent adds: "Our writing incomes are the same no matter where we live, but we'd stupidly chosen to live in Seattle, one of the most expensive cities in the world. I'd always thought, 'We could live anywhere.'"
What turned Brent and Michael's dream in reality?
"The election of Donald Trump," Brent says. "Like many people, we saw the election of this corrupt and ignorant demagogue as a sign that something has gone seriously wrong in America. We've definitely haven't given up the fight against tyranny and bigotry, but we're trying to give ourselves a bit of control at a when the country and world seem decidedly out of control."
Brent is an author and screenwriter. He's published fourteen novels, including Three Truths and a Lie (2016), a dark psychological thriller that was nominated for an Edgar Award; and Geography Club (2003), a landmark gay teen novel that was adapted as a feature film in 2013 (co-starring Scott Bakula), and is now being developed as a television series. Brent is also a screenwriter; nine of his screenplays have been optioned for film, and four are currently in various stages of development.
Michael is an author and editor. His novels include Man & Beast and Man & Monster, part of The Savage Land, a series of historical fiction that combines gay romance, supernatural, and horror. For eight years, Michael was the editor of the entertainment website AfterElton.com, which he co-founded with Brent. The site, devoted to covering gay and bisexual men in popular culture, eventually grew to more than a million unique visitors a month, won several GLAAD Media Awards, and was later sold to Viacom/MTV.
"So far, this feels like the smartest thing we've ever done," says Michael. "We're never going home."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2017
BRENT HARTINGER RELEASES A "LOVE STORY" BETWEEN TWO FRIENDS
Otto Digmore, a supporting character in author Brent Hartinger’s landmark seven-book series about a gay character named Russel Middlebrook, is starring in a new stand-alone book series of his own. The series’ first installment, The Otto Digmore Difference, will be released February 21, 2017.
Geography Club, the first book about Russel Middlebrook, was released in 2003. A novel for teens, it eventually became a young adult classic, selling more than 70,000 copies. It was adapted as a feature film in 2013, and is now being developed as a television series.
When Hartinger turned that first book into a series in 2005, he also introduced the character of Otto Digmore. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for young adult literature: a disabled gay character. Otto, a burn survivor, has scars on half his face.
In subsequent books, and in a second series written specifically for adults, Russel and Otto grew up. In this new series, also written for adults, Otto Digmore is now in his mid-twenties, working as an actor in Hollywood, and trying to find mainstream success despite his scars. He and his friend Russel go on a road trip across the United States in order to land Otto an audition for a big movie that just might change everything about his acting career. Along the way, their friendship changes in unexpected ways.
“From the beginning, I thought of this book as a love story between two friends,” Hartinger says. “There are lots of books that explore the relationship between male lovers, but honestly, there aren’t a lot of books about the friendship that can exist between two guys. And in Otto and Russel’s case, they’re former boyfriends. I think that can lead to a really strange and wonderful kind of intimacy, and I wanted to explore it in this book.”
The Otto Digmore Difference is available as an e-book and paperback.
THE OTTO DIGMORE DIFFERENCE
By Brent Hartinger
Paperback, $13.99: 978-1542810333
E-book, $5.99: 978-1370026920
Release: February 21, 2017
Praise for Brent Hartinger
“Hits the narrative sweet spot.”
— NPR’s All Things Considered
— USA Today
“The most artful and authentic depiction of a gay teen since .”
— Horn Book Magazine
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE OTTO DIGMORE DIFFERENCE AUTHOR BRENT HARTINGER
Brent Hartinger’s first novel was Geography Club, published in 2003. It spawned a successful four-book series, the Russel Middlebrook Series, and a second three-book series about Russel in his twenties: Russel Middlebrook: the Futon Years.
Now Hartinger has launched a stand-alone third series, The Otto Digmore Series, about one of Russel’s best friends, Otto Digmore. The first book, released February 21, 2017, is The Otto Digmore Difference.
Otto is a 26-year-old burn survivor, with scars on half of his face. He’s also a semi-successful actor, with a small part on a struggling TV sitcom. In The Otto Digmore Difference, Otto is up for an amazing new role that could change everything about his career, but he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.
Otto and Russel are also former boyfriends, which brings up all kinds of complicated feelings in Otto.
Question: Why Otto, why now?
Brent Hartinger: I’ve always loved the character, and he’s gotten a really strong reader response. I’m proud that he’s not your usual gay character, in young adult literature or any other genre. He’s a burn survivor — and to shake things up even more, he’s a burn survivor who’s also trying to make it as an actor. I think that’s all pretty interesting.
But it’s more than that. I confess that when I first introduced Otto in 2005 (in The Order of the Poison Oak, the first Geography Club sequel), I was annoyed by the response in some quarters of the literary world. I heard more than once that I shouldn’t be equating being gay with being disabled, because you don’t “choose” to be disabled. Like you choose to be gay?
But the world has changed a lot since then,. The last few years, the topic of “diversity” has finally broken through. It finally seemed like the time to give Otto his own book.
Q: Why a "road trip" story?
BH: Well, who doesn’t love a good road trip story? These are some of the cleanest stories there are: the character literally sets out on a journey, and there’s a very specific goal, and there all kinds of very real obstacles along the way.
The journey itself changes the main character. Just by setting foot outside their door, they become someone new. And they learn that, as with life, it really is all about the journey, not the destination. Which isn’t to say the destination isn’t really important in this story!
I think road trip stories are some of the most satisfying stories to write — and also to experience.
Of course, Russel being a screenwriter now, and Russel also being Russel, he has some fun with all the road trip movie tropes that pop up along the way.
Q: Russel Middlebrook, the star of your earlier books, is a supporting character here.
BH: Yeah, that was important for continuity sake. Plus, Russel has a lot of fans, and let’s face it: I wouldn’t mind selling a few books here.
But it also really fit the story I wanted to tell. From the beginning, I thought of this book as a love story between two best friends. There are lots of books that explore the relationship between male lovers, but there aren’t a lot of books about the friendship that can exist between two guys. And in Otto and Russel’s case, they’re gay and they’re former boyfriends. I think that can lead to a really strange and wonderful kind of intimacy, and I wanted to explore it in this book.
Q: Both Otto and Russel started out as teen characters in successful YA books. Why did you start writing about them as adults?
BH: Technically, these newer books are “new adult,” although I’m already tired of that term.
Honestly, it just felt right. I’d explored their lives as teens, and now I wanted them to grow up. I also wanted to bring them into the present and write about present-day issues.
One pleasant surprise was finding out that plenty of my readers had read Geography Club and the other books as teens, and they were now in their twenties themselves. So they grew up along with the characters, and they could really identify with them. It turned out to be brilliant marketing, so I really wished I’d planned it that way!
And of course the dirty little secret of young adult publishing is that half or more of your readers are adults anyway.
Q: Was it fun to write from Otto's POV?
BH: It was unbelievably satisfying. I’ve written from Russel’s point of view for seven books now, and I love Russel. But I also love how different Otto is. He’s less cerebral than Russel, but even more open-hearted. In the end, I found a kind of duality in him, in that he’s very confident in some ways, a natural performer, but oh-so-vulnerable in other ways. I think a lot of actors are like that.
I was also excited, and a little nervous, to a write from the point of view of a disabled character. I’ve written a number of disabled characters before, but never as the point of view character. And I really, really didn’t want him to be a stereotype, or to be defined solely by his burns. But at the same time, he’s had an incredibly traumatic experience, and I wanted that to inform his character.
I think all the Russel Middlebrook books have a lot of humor and heart, but I can honestly say that I think this is the most touching book I’ve ever written.
Q: How many books will there be in the Otto Digmore series?
BH: Ahhhh, that depends on — ahem — how much people like them. And also how busy I am with other projects.
Q: Speaking of which, is it true they're developing Geography Club as a TV series?
BH: They plan to film the pilot this summer. But it’s more of a TV sequel to the feature film, not an adaptation of my whole book series. And they don’t have the rights to any of the sequels anyway. So unfortunately, Otto won’t be a character there. He’ll have to live on through the books instead.
I’m not really involved in the creation of the series, but they have asked me to write for the show if the series goes to full production. So that could be exciting.
One of the best parts about the Geography Club feature film was how legitimizing it was for the books. Seriously, I have friends where it’s like they didn’t quite believe I made my living as a writer until the feature film happened.
And I can’t tell you how many hundreds of people have told me they discovered my work because of that film. Then they go on to read all my books.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2016
BRENT HARTINGER RELEASES "EDGY GAY TEEN THRILLER"
“In a taut story whose atmosphere is reminiscent of Stephen King, Hartinger presents readers with a psychological thriller and suspenseful mystery. Misdirection and twists continue from the first page to the last … For readers who want more books to have them on the edge of their seats as they read.”
– VOYA [Starred Review]
“The story is suspenseful, with excellent pacing, self-aware humor, and a twist that Hartinger pulls off as well as the best slasher films.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Although the plot is a classic horror movie setup, the story does not feel derivative. The gay relationship and the impact of Galen’s insidious bullying are issues not typically dealt with in this genre. Hartinger’s novel is a gripping mystery written in a straightforward way that will appeal to reluctant readers.” –School Library Journal
“Rife with sexual tension . . . Hartinger’s depiction of the complexities of teen relationships, particularly gay ones, is on point.” –Publishers Weekly
From Lambda Award–winning author Brent Hartinger comes a smart, sexy, young adult thriller about a weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent party game that goes horribly wrong.
Deep in the Washington Peninsula forest, four friends gather for one last hurrah before graduation. Rob is thrilled to spend some remote, quality time with his boyfriend, Liam, his best friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen. Slightly shaken by unfriendly townspeople on the way to the cabin, the group decides to blow off some steam with a playful skinny-dip in the lake. While three splash around, Rob’s insecurities begin to show as he hesitates to jump in the water, desperately trying not to ogle Golden Boy Galen.
Back at the cabin, the teens’ only means of communication, a satellite phone, goes missing and Rob suspects a disgruntled townsperson. Isolated and vulnerable, the teens settle in for a game of three truths and a lie. Upon learning a secret from Mia’s past, paranoia sets in and leaves Rob questioning his cabin mates. As the weekend continues, (sexual) tension is high, as the pranks become increasingly dangerous. Rob believes that something or someone is terrorizing them.
Hartinger effortlessly blends horror and teen insecurity in a genre not often lent to a seventeen-year-old gay protagonist. Filled with romantic suspense, this high-octane psychological thriller reads like a fast-paced movie and is perfect for reluctant readers.
Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger
Publication date: August 2, 2016
$17.99 | 14 & Up
BRENT HARTINGER BIOGRAPHY
BRENT HARTINGER is the author of many novels, including Geography Club (2003) and seven companion books: The Order of the Poison Oak (2005); Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (2007); The Elephant of Surprise (2013); The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know (2014); Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (2015); The Road to Amazing (2016); and The Otto Digmore Difference (2017).
His other books include The Last Chance Texaco (2004); Grand & Humble (2006); Project Sweet Life (2008); and Three Truths and a Lie (Simon & Schuster, 2016).
A feature film version of his first novel, Geography Club, was released in November 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula. The book is now being developed as a television series.
Also a screenwriter, nine of Brent’s screenplays have been optioned for film, and four are currently in various stages of production, including The Starfish Scream, a gay teen drama; Decked, the animated “true” story behind a deck of playing cards; and Project Sweet Life, a teen caper movie now in production for a 2020 release.
Brent currently has no permanent address, and instead continuously travels the world with his husband, writer Michael Jensen. Their "digital nomad" journey, which has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in Forbes, is documented on their website Brent and Michael Are Going Places.
Brent’s many writing honors include being named the winner of the Lambda Literary Award; a GLAAD Media Award; the Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award; and an Edgar Award nomination. Screenwriting awards include the Screenwriting in the Sun Award, a Writers Network Fellowship, and first place in the StoryPros, Fresh Voices, Acclaim, and L.A. Comedy Festival screenwriting contests.
Brent has taught creative writing at Vermont College, and is the co-founder of the entertainment website AfterElton.com, which was sold to MTV/Viacom in 2006. In 1990, he co-founded one of the country’s first gay youth support groups, in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington.
Photo credit for all non-book jacket photos: A.J. Stetson.