In Don’t Let Me Go, debut author Trumble describes a tumultuous romance between Texas teens Nate and Adam, who stand strong in the face of homophobia and violence, but falter when faced with distance and the temptation of infidelity.
What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?
Nate’s assault. I knew it was critical to the story, but everything I wrote seemed to diminish the violence, to cheapen it in some way, to reduce it to a cliché. Ultimately, I left the details unsaid. The most difficult part of writing the story in general was not overwriting it. There’s a great deal of strong emotion in the story—anger, resentment, despair, fear, love—and it was very hard for me to back off and trust the reader to get what was going on. My default setting is to overexplain. But I know that as a reader, I am moved by subtext, by my own understanding of the implication of a character’s actions or words.
One of the book’s strengths is the immersion in Nate’s mind. How did you get that deep inside his head?
I started with a lot of research. I read many essays and even fan fiction written by gay men. And what I discovered is that they are just human beings with the same longings and fears and insecurities—the same internal structure if you will—as anyone else. What seems to define them as a group is their experience in the world.
Getting inside Nate’s head took a lot of time, and it took me allowing him to evolve, to make himself known. I didn’t think too much about it as I wrote. I just brought to the story everything I had, everything I knew, everything I’d ever experienced or felt. And when the first draft was done, I stepped back and tried to understand him. There were many times when Nate would say or do something that seemed exactly right, but I wasn’t sure why. So I left it there on the table just as it was. I think that’s what makes the character so authentic. Human emotions are messy. I just decided to acknowledge that and let it go.
The book talks to teens of all genders and sexualities, noting how much Nate relies on his straight allies and friends. To what extent do you think of your book as providing guidance to teens?
I don’t. I think of it as illustrating a reality that some don’t realize exists. Not everyone is homophobic. Not every adult is afraid gays are going to eat their children. Not every straight guy is afraid the gay guy is looking at his junk. And even if he is, so what?
The novel is being released as adult, but I do think there will be a lot of interest among young adults. I haven’t read every gay YA out there, but I’ve read quite a few, and I wrote what I couldn’t find. In Don’t Let Me Go, the gay guy’s best friend is not a girl; it’s another guy. The gay young men aren’t questioning who they are; they know, and they aren’t ashamed. The first gay relationship is not a stepping stone to self-awareness; it’s a deep connection that lasts. There is less angst and more humor. And the angst that exists is about environment, but not about identity.
If teens find some new way of being in the pages of this novel, then I’ll feel really good about that.