Matthew Aaron Browning is the author of the forthcoming novels "Welcome to Straightville" and "Blades of Grass." He is represented by Stephen Fraser at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency and resides in Charleston. W.Va.
What's the story behind your latest book?
"One Way In" is a short story I wrote as part of author Brent Hartinger's Real Story Safe Sex Project. The purpose of the project is to shed light on HIV/AIDS and show characters making smart safe sex decisions, particularly gay and bi characters. I decided to use the backstory of one of my characters in my novel, "Welcome to Straightville," and approach the story as a prequel of sorts. Brent's vision for the project is to celebrate the sexual portions of these stories instead of shying away from them, which YA writers sort of have to do. I was a bit nervous about writing so explicitly, because the novel is very different in tone from the story and because I've never been one to write graphic sex scenes. But I gave it my best shot.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I got my start writing poetry at age 13. It took me a while to feel confident writing anything beyond that, but I remember the first story I wrote that I felt had legs. In college, I worked for a few years as a booking clerk at a jail, processing inmates into the facility. We also handled suicide watches in the department, so I certainly saw a lot of interesting characters - and things I didn't want to see! I took those experiences and poured them into a story called "Night Shift." It eventually got published in a local literary journal, which gave me the confidence boost I needed to try my hand at long-form writing.
Teenager Alexander Pratt's first trip to a gay bar leads to a night of new experiences and big decisions that impact his life in ways he can't even imagine. A prequel to the forthcoming novel "Welcome to Straightville," this story is part of the Real Story Safe Sex Project. Warning: Contains adult language and explicit sexual content.