Brent Hartinger Interview

You look at it now and they're still posting a lot on their own, but back then it was all 'You have to turn in stuff by the 15th of the month, so I have time to code it, and it goes up on the first,' and people would be writing me asking for more two days, and it was like, what world is this? None of their parents would ever believe their kids were e-mailing me for deadline extensions?

People often say to both Alex and me that these books are propaganda and that the whole GLBTQ youth movement is about adults imposing their agenda, it's corrupting kids, it's propaganda and all that stuff. And, of all the lies they tell, that is the biggest lie, because this is so obviously, to me, a youth-powered movement and all of the energy of on their part. And I think that's in part because they sort of have the audacity to do these things? Whereas older people, I think we sort of accept 'Oh, it's never gunna change, ya know? It might change a little. We need to compromise.' And these younger people don't see it that way. They say, 'Why can't we have full equality right now?' The burden of proof is on the other side to say 'Prove to me why I should be a second-class citizen.' They are so much more audacious and so much more bold than the older generation, which has learned to settle and compromise. We've learned self-preservation, and that's what's go great about that youth energy. There is just no frickin' stopping them.

I'm not quite sure that it ran, but I should have a piece in an anthology that just came out where it basically says that all we have to do is wait for one generation to die and the whole thing will be over.

It's true!

It's a very cynical piece, but...

Yeah, but I also think, though, that older generation is being impacted, too. I can't tell you how many teachers have said to me, 'You know, I was supportive, but what really did it for me was the kids that were involved in the GSA, the kids that were coming to me and telling me they were gay, they were my favorite kids. They were the smartest kids. They were the most motivated kids. They were the kindest kids. They were the most ethical kids. The most moral kids.' And, obviously, I'm not saying gay people are necessarily better than straight people, but the gay people that are working on this issue. The gay kids that are out in front on this issue are motivated by a sense of justice, and a strong, deep sense of ethics, and they are the best kids. The best this generation has to offer. And the straight kids that support them, they're the best this generation has to offer. They're the people who are going to be somebody in the years to come. And, I'm sorry to say, the kids that are opposing this... they're the forces of regression, for the most part. They're going to screw society up. They're going to keep us from reaching our future. They're going to fight pluralism and tolerance and all the things the 21st century is going to be about, whether they like it or not.

Yeah, whenever I mention a youth site, everyone thinks I'm mentoring them and all that, where the truth is... I'm just trying to keep up. Just staying on top of the vocabulary and the issues is my full-time job, so that I'm not the un-hip old guy running the site.

I spend a lot of time around youth, and fortunately I seem to have, just coincidentally, I have a sensibility that is contemporary. But it's always a challenge, because you want your books to speak to the particular time, but you also want them to be sort of timeless, and you'd like to think that people will be reading you books in 10, 15, 20 years from now, after the slang changes. I mean, it's funny, I really thought long and hard about in Split Screen, they do IMs in the book. And, on one hand, I wanted to use the IM terminology, but IM is changing so quickly and the slang becomes dated so quickly, I was worried that if I ... for ten years, I did not use 'dude' in any of my books, because I thought, OK, that's slang. I don't want to use it because then it will be dated by the time the book comes out. So, for 10 years, I'm saying I'm not going to have someone use the expression, "dude." Finally, I say to myself, 'OK, this is here to stay. They've been doing this for 10 years. It's moved from slang into the vernacular.' And the minute I put it in a book, then it's suddenly un-hip. So, you really can't win when you try to make it sound instantly contemporary by using slang and contemporary issues. Sometimes I'll make up my own slang, but more than anything I'm trying to speak to contemporary issues but in a way that will hopefully be timeless and that these issues will still be around.

I'm trying to remember who said it, but I'll Google it and make myself look smart in the transcript, but it was a modern popular author who said.. because I go out of my way to not include music references or anything in my novel.

Oh my God, yeah.

And it's someone who puts a lot of band names and stuff in their work, and they said there is never been a case of an author read in the future that wasn't popular in their own time, basically saying don't worry about being read in the future if you can't connect with an audience today. It's always a mixed bag how to go with all that stuff.

There are also a lot of authors that were popular in their contemporary days and not read in the future. I deal with all of this by... I make up my own slang that sounds real, and try to steer away from particular issues. Even text messaging. I don't think that's going to be around long, so I steered away from that. IMs, I think that'll probably be around, but no matter what, it's going to be a child of its time, and that's cool. That's OK. It's going to be of a certain moment, and that's OK, too. You know, I read a book set in the 70s and they say 'Groovy' and part of that is about capturing the moment, and if it's not too pervasive, then I can get into the story fine. Mostly, it's a question of pacing. I try to pace my books really, really quickly, because I think that is going to speak to the contemporary generation more than anything. You've just got to get to the point. This is such a multi-tasking, fast-paced society. It really has to move. I find myself getting frustrated with books that don't get to the point and meander all over the place. Again, I hope my personal sensibility is just in sync with the times.