1. Tell us about your newest release.
The Italian Word for Kisses is a young adult novel about holding your own against homophobia. Tav and Luca have been in a relationship for a couple of years, and it's old news to pretty much everyone their way. But after an accident at the swimming club, the new kid, Jack, finds out he administered CPR to a gay person, and completely freaks out about it. He escalates from verbal bullying to physical violence rapidly, but Luca's suspicious that Jack's not just the jerk he seems on the surface, and is reluctant to fight back too much, even as Jack's violence starts to get very dangerous. There's a free excerpt here.
It was a lot of fun to write because I was playing with a different character type to usual when dealing with homophobia. Both Tav and Luca are definitely lads through and through, and their response is less shying away and feeling vulnerable and more fists-up, fight-on. And with Jack not quite being the usual mindless idiot villain, the twist of why he was so homophobic was a nasty little surprise that even caught me off guard.
2. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your story?
You have to get a long way down Ecclesall Road between three and five in the afternoon before you could step off the pavement straight into the path of a taxi. (Read the book to make sense of that!) The double parking down that route is terrible.
I lived in the exact area the book is set for several years, and I'm very familiar with it. A few things are made up for non-suing purposes (there's no school at the rise, and the ugly community centre is actually a church) but most of the places round there are perfectly real. I even know in my head exactly which houses on which road Tav and Luca live. When I was fine-tuning the edits, I was again living there, and I simply made a list of checks and wandered out to walk around. Most hands-on research for a book I've done in ages.
3. Do you have any interesting or quirks or rituals?
Once the first draft is done, I'm mentally done with a story. I have very little interest in it after that point. I publish simply because I feel it's not 'finished' until I do, but weirdly, I've no real interest in everything after the first draft. It's kind of like cooking. It's all done once it's in the oven, but you have to clean up then before you're done.
4. What authors or friends influenced you in helping you become a writer?
Well...nobody, really. I keep the writing part of my life very much shelved away. While it's a big part of me, it's also an extremely private part of me. My colleagues don't know I do it, my family have the barest awareness of it...most of my friends don't know either, to be honest. It's just this thing I do when I'm on my own, and I'm not really sure why I do it. My real life and my writing life are definitely separated!
5. What does your family think about your career as a published author?
It's a silly hobby, so I don't really bother to tell them much. My dad is very slowly coming around to the idea, but that's because he doesn't know what I write. LGBT romance, Christ no. And I'm not totally sure my siblings remember I do it.
6. Besides writing, what other interests do you have?
My life's been on hold for a long time thanks to gender dysphoria rearing its ugly head -- I'm usually a big outdoorsman. Travelling, hiking, trekking, it's all amazing. I've just had top surgery though so hopefully this summer I can take a little hiking holiday somewhere and see some proper mountains again. The next big goals are New Zealand, South Africa, and Costa Rica -- but that'll be a lot of saving up before I can hit up those gems!
7. Can you tell us what is coming up next for you?
I'm hoping to get two transgender YA stories completed in 2016: Girls Will Be Boys and Fatso Farrier. They both feature prominent female-to-male transgender characters, but in totally different ways and stages in their transitions. In Girls Will Be Boys, it's really about that trans experience, and navigating dating and firsts. In Fatso Farrier, the book is actually about the cisgender character, but his (pretty sad) life is turned around by meeting a very confident trans boy at a boxing club. There's not nearly enough positive trans stories out there, so I'm hopefully going to get a couple more out there next year.
8. How can readers connect with you online?
The Italian Word for Kisses
Matthew J. Metzger
Length of Book: 80,000 words
Genre: young adult, gay romance
Matthew J. Metzger is a British author currently living, working and writing near Bristol in the south-west of England. He is both asexual and transgender, and seeks out the loud characters, rough stories, and quirky personalities that explore the rich diversity of the QUILTBAG world. He writes both adult and young adult novels, covering topics from mental illness to ill-advised crushes, and particularly enjoys writing about universal issues from the QUILTBAG perspective. Matthew can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tsu, or at his website.
When not writing (which is rare), Matthew is usually found crunching numbers at his day job, working out to inappropriately chirpy pop songs, or being owned by his cat. It is important to note that the man does not, naturally, own the cat.
It’s no secret that Tav and Luca are going out. After the accident, it’s also no secret that new kid Jack Collins has a raging case of homophobia, and is not best pleased about having given the kiss of life to a gay guy. Either Luca quits swimming, or Jack is going to make him.
Tav favours the tried-and-true method of knocking Jack’s teeth down his neck, only he can’t really afford another school suspension. Luca favours just ignoring him, only ignoring a penknife being held to your throat at New Year’s Eve is downright stupid.
Thing is, Luca suspects that Jack is a victim of something himself. And time is running out for Luca to get through to Jack, before Jack gets rid of him.
The bang of the changing room door and the amiable greeting from one of the other boys caught Luca's attention, but the sudden, sharp silence made his blood run cold. All at once, Luca was both afraid, and angry with himself for being afraid. So he squared his shoulders and turned on his heel, folding his arms over his chest and meeting Jack's scowl with a glower of his own.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Jack snarled.
"Fuckin' swimming. What about you?"
"I told you not to come."
It was like the rest of the team didn't exist. Luca didn't dare break eye contact, and Jack ― although he tossed his bag onto a bench and unzipped his jacket, was zeroed in on Luca in a way that made the hairs on Luca's arms stand on end.
"Dunno what kinky shit you're into, Collins, but I don't follow your orders." Being both an older and a younger brother had made Luca able to bluff with ease, and despite the impotent anger, the tart tang of shame around the edges of his brain that this moron had somehow gotten one over him and seized some power in this stupid fucking game, his voice sounded ― even to him ― arrogant and bored.
"I said go," Jack repeated. The other boys hovered uncertainly, but Aaron and David had both closed ranks to Luca's shoulders, and Luca took a fortified breath. Aaron looked steely. David looked a little more confused, but determinedly hostile all the same.
"Like hell I'm going," Luca said. "You got a problem with a pouf on the team, you need to fuck off and get your head out your arse. I'm here to swim. I'm not going nowhere."
"What the fuck is going on?" David asked.
"Jack, mate, leave it," one of the other boys said. "It's just Jensen, Jensen's sound―"
"He's a fucking faggot, and I won't have his kind here ― I warned you, I fucking told you, and you're still fucking here!"
"What's your problem, mate, he's taken up wi' that Chris in Jan Krawczyk's tutor group..."
"Yeah, Jack, lay off already, who d'you reckon you are anyway, you're new―"
"I know there's a fucking faggot on this fucking team and I―"
"Don't fucking call him a faggot, twat," one of the other boys ― a lad called Ryan that Luca had never so much as spoken to outside of the club, and was in the year below them anyway ― sneered, and he shot out a hand to shove at Jack's shoulder.
"I told you to stay away!" Jack bellowed, and his hand vanished into his unzipped jacket. "I told you, I fucking told you―"
The changing room erupted; the flick-knife flashed under the sickly halogen lights, and Luca's back slammed into the wall of locker doors as Aaron and David shoved him back as one. Both doors ― one to the foyer and one to the pool ― banged loudly, and the bolshy kid, Ryan, lashed out with a fist, smashing into Jack's jaw from the side. A couple of men came rampaging over from the showers in their wet trunks, all the noise bouncing off the walls until it was dizzying. Coach arrived with a shrill shriek of the whistle, and the knife had gone somewhere but Luca couldn't tell where in the ruckus, and then Aaron's hand was on his shoulder and he was being steered off into one corner of the changing room, and―
A flush of hot, furious shame boiled up Luca's stomach and into his guts, and he twisted away from Aaron's hands and grabbed for his kit bag. He didn't need Aaron to fucking protect him. He didn't need anyone to protect him, he wasn't some pathetic little kid who needed their hand holding. He shouldn't need defending, he was a Jensen! He should be able to defend himself.
He grabbed his bag and bolted. As he fled up the stairs, a burly security guard and Coach were wrestling the knife out of Jack's hands in the corridor, both shouting at him, and Jack shouting back, face red and voice hoarse and shrill with fury.
"You fucking steer clear of me, Jensen!" he bellowed after Luca, who didn't dare look back. "F'you know what's good for you, you'll stay out of here, you fucking queer!"
Luca reached the top of the stairs, and ran.