Picture to Burn

Good morning, Constant Reader! It’s my official release day for my latest Todd Gregory tome, Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which I am kind of excited about. For one thing, I love the cover. For another, I am kind of proud of this book. I did something completely different than anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s also an homage to one of my favorite stories of all time: Les Liaisons Dangereuses. (I’ve also discovered that young people will just look at me blankly when I mention that; or even say Dangerous Liaisons, the award winning film with Glenn Close and John Malkovich from the late 1980’s; however, mention Cruel Intentions with Ryan Phillippe and Sara Michelle Gellar, and their eyes will light up.) It’s a wonderful story; after all, to date, there are four film versions thus far, and a stage version. The Glenn Close movie inspired Madonna’s MTV Video Awards performance of “Vogue”–which I absolutely loved. I am a sucker for the costumes of that era; Bourbon France (1589-1792) is one of my favorite periods of history; the French Revolution is endlessly fascinating to me (Les Liaisons Dangereuses was set in the early 1780’s, and there are those who call the at-the-time scandalous novel as one of the flagstones in the pathway to the French Revolution, by pointing out the corruption and evil behavior that boredom amongst the wealthy and spoiled aristocracy in France to a wider audience); and so my personal favorite film version of the story are the Glenn Close with the Annette Bening/Colin Firth Valmont coming in second. But Cruel Intentions is also very well done, and both Phillippe and Gellar inhabit the evil characters absolutely perfectly. I’ve always wanted to do my own version of the story; but I wanted to follow the novel (which I absolutely loved, and have reread several times) more so than the film.

I’ve played with the idea a lot over the years; the trick is that the novel is epistolary. The epistolary novel was very popular in previous centuries (Dracula is also epistolary for the most part; a mix of letters and diary entries), although it has fallen out of favor in modern times. I’ve always thought they were great; it was a way to get inside character heads much more so than just alternating third-person point of views, and it’s even harder to do alternating first person point of views–which I also didn’t know how to do, and was afraid to try (Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is perhaps the best example of this ever published). I thought about doing it in the form of emails years ago, and then. after Bold Strokes agreed to publish it, tried to figure out how to do it with modern technology–a combination of texts messages, emails, Facebook posts, etc. But that would also be a formatting nightmare for the technical side of publishing;  I even asked the formatter how it could be done, and the response wasn’t encouraging.

And then I reread one of my favorite books, The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis, and I saw how it could be done–alternating first person point of view, present tense; in other words, tell the story in the present from the point of view of characters as it is happening to them, so you can also see, as in the letters, how their perspectives change and how the manipulations happen, and how they really feel. Yes, it was similar to how Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying, but at the same time, it was a challenge I wanted to take on: an erotic novel with a strong plot, told in the present tense, in alternating first person point of view.

Instead of using the same Beta Kappa chapter at CSU-Polk, I moved it to another campus; one that is more rich and more elite: the University of California at San Felice (a shout out to Margaret Millar, who used San Felice in some of her novels as a stand-in for Santa Barbara), on the California coast a few hours north of Los Angeles. I had the character of Brandon Benson, from Games Frat Boys Play, transfer and now he’s a senior, friends with Phil Connors, chapter president. Phil and Brandon are the primary characters in the story; the others the chess pieces they move around the board; Ricky Monterro is the nephew of a very wealthy self-made lawyer who is president of the alumni association, and a recent drop out from the seminary at Notre Dame who’s just realized he doesn’t want to be a priest, preferring to live openly and honestly as a gay man; Dylan, an incoming transfer from UCLA who is engaged to a soldier on a tour in the Middle East; and Kenny, a shy young gay virgin with no self-esteem who falls head over heels for Ricky at first sight.

Jordy from Games Frat Boys Play even makes an appearance, having rented a house on Fire Island for the summer, which is where Brandon and Dylan first run into each other.

Damn, this book was fun to write. Hope it’s as fun to read!

Wicked Frat Boy Ways_final

 

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