A.J. Truman writes college-set M/M romance, or gay new adult. Whatever you call it, he loves looking back on those awkward, exciting, emotional collegiate years. His debut novel OUT IN THE OPEN is about a shy, awkward guy who begins an enemies-with-benefits relationship with the cocky fratboy who sits next to him in class. They begin fooling around in public, and soon their sexual relationship turns romantic. Filled with humor, heart, and hot guys, OUT IN THE OPEN will make you long for the life of dorms and frats and college tailgates. For more information, go to his website ajtruman.blogspot.com.
What are your Top 5 Reads?
Social Skills, Outliers, Gone Girl, Catcher in the Rye, Boy Meets Boy
What have you learned from your current project?
That no matter how much I prepare and outline, my first draft will always be a mess. The best parts of my books come from unexpected places during the revision process. That’s when my characters take the story in their own hands and run with it.
What do you listen to when you write?
Jazz or classical music on some Pandora pre-set channel. Nothing with lyrics. I’ll listen to songs before writing to get inspired, but not during. It’s too distracting.
What’s your writing process or routine like?
When I get an idea, I spend time freewriting in a notebook, letting myself get to know these characters and their journey. I write pages and pages of rambling nonsense, but it helps make sense of the story in my mind. Once I have a decent grasp of the story, I plot it out using notecards, rearranging them until I have a solid story.
Where do you look for inspiration when you’re having trouble getting started with your writing?
I don’t wait for inspiration. Because of my day job, I have limited time to write everyday, so I can’t waste it. When I get the jitters, it’s usually because I’m afraid what I’m going to write will be crap. Thus, I tell myself that it will be crap, but just write it anyway. The words can be revised later. I’m much more efficient when I set super low expectations for myself.
What was the inspiration behind OUT IN THE OPEN?
I love the romantic combination of uptight boy meets laid-back guy. I’m a huge fan of witty banter! I wanted to explore the friends-with-benefits relationship, which was so connected to my college experience. Nobody was dating the person they were hooking up with, even though they wanted to usually. I thought a fun twist would be friends-with-benefits, but only in public places. I’d loved writing these characters so completely out of their comfort zone, while adding in little quirks I remember from college.
What is the message that you want readers to get while reading your book?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. True friends will like the true you.
Do you have any authors that you look up to?
I really admire indie authors like Kindle Alexander and Alexa Land who’ve crafted fantastic M/M romances and found an audience for their stories. Also Sara Alva, whose book Social Skills is fantastic and inspired me to write gay new adult.
If you had to describe your book in one word, what would it be?
Have you ever gotten frisky with a guy in public?
Umm…maybe…one time I got a little too handsy on the dance floor of a club. And then there was this other time when I got a little too intimate with a guy on someone’s front steps. If it makes it any better, I’d had a crush on him for a really long time.
Describe OUT IN THE OPEN in 5 words.
Guys hook up in public.
Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved to write. As a kid, I’d try to write skits to act out. I’d been interested in writing M/M college-set romances, but for a long time, publishers wouldn’t accept those manuscripts. The setting was too young for adult readers and too mature for teen readers. Then I read Social Skills by Sara Alva and was like “This is what I want to write!” I decided to give the indie route a shot, and I’ve never looked back.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
I’m definitely most like Ethan. I was (or still am, depending on who you talk to) quiet and awkward and very unsure of myself in college. Some of what he experiences happened to me. I latched onto a group of friends that weren’t the right fit for me, and for a while, I was too scared to branch off on my own. I didn’t want to be deemed that loner kid. I met my best friend because she was roommates with someone in that group. I got drunk off one and a half beers my first week of college and made an ass of myself in the dorm.
If OUT IN THE OPEN had a theme song, what would it be?
“Dirty Little Secret” by All-American Rejects
Why did you choose to set your book in college?
College is such fertile ground for storytelling, especially stories about gay men. That’s when a lot of us (like me) come out of the closet, have our first gay experiences, and meet other gay men. I had never met another gay person until I went to college. Those four years are such an emotional roller coaster because it’s when you’re finding yourself and trying to figure out who you are and what you want to be. Plus, people come to college with rich backstories that they’re trying to work past. For a lot of us, high school was hell, and college was a fresh start.
Do you think we’ll ever see Ethan or Greg after OUT IN THE OPEN?
Definitely. I’m working on companion novels set at Browerton, the fictional college, so readers will cross paths with these characters again.
What was your favorite part of writing this book?
The dialogue! I love writing witty banter, and OUT IN THE OPEN is filled with sharp repartee between Greg and Ethan.
Where is your favorite place to write?
My local library. I get inspired being around so many other books. I’m not a fan of writing in Starbucks or the like because they can be noisy, and I’m always tempted to buy one of those oversized chocolate chip cookies. (sidenote: I LOVE CHOCOLATE!)
What was the hardest part of writing OUT IN THE OPEN?
Revising! Revising is so tough, but that’s what separates the men from the boys. I had to pull this book apart and put it back together twice, but that only made the story stronger.
Is cocky fratboy Greg based on anyone?
Lookswise, he’s based on this hot guy I went to high school with, who of course I never spoke to during my time. Personality wise, he’s like a composite of a bunch of different people I’ve met or seen in movies. That funny, obnoxious jerk, but ultimately a good guy.
If you could have sex in public anywhere, where would it be?
Statue of Liberty? It’s both sexy, forbidden, and patriotic
What’s your one tip for writing a good sex scene?
Don’t be afraid to use the right words. By that I mean, you don’t have to rely on euphemisms or finding less-graphic versions of what you’re trying to say. M/M romance appreciate honesty in writing, and they don’t want you to restrain the scene. I had trouble writing sex scenes at first, until I gave myself permission to use any words I wanted, no matter how graphic they seemed. I felt like Ethan, letting his wild side show.
How much of Browerton University is based on a real college?
Most of it. Write what you know, and I knew my alma mater. The divide between North and South Campus, the strong LGBT scene, the overachievers and waterfront campus. All of it was inspired by where I went to school. Using a real background allowed me to concentrate on the story and characters, rather than getting lost in the details.
What’s your one tip for writers?
WRITE. If you want to be a writer, then write. You probably won’t like what you’ve written, but keep at it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Look at writing as a system rather than a goal. Tell yourself you want to write everyday rather than saying your goal is to publish a book. Get yourself in the habit. That’s the hardest part of writing.