Peyton County High School


I wanted to write a young adult, high school, coming of age story and needed a place to do it. My inspiration for the book which turned into a series was John Green's Looking for Alaska. I have always loved the book and read it about once a year around NaNoWriMo to get me in the mood for writing. It was the soundtrack to both Rural and its sequel Urban as I wrote. In part, because it's a similar style of writing and genre but also because the world-building that John did in the book was something I wanted to try to do in mine as well. John created a fictional boarding school to work in and painted an imaginable world for Miles and Alaska to live and die in (spoiler.) That's what I attempted to do in Peyton county. 

Peyton County was the fictionalized version of my high school years all wrapped into one setting based in rural New Brunswick. It's paired with a fictional university and apartment complex in Edmonton Alberta, though many of the places mentioned in between those to points on the Canadian map.

I created Peyton as a way to fully flesh out the characters and composites of people I knew and could remember from Highschool while writing, being extra careful not to mention too much of the geography and local landmarks to actually give it away. Close friends and former alumni of my alma mater would be able to piece it together with a scant few actually knowing who they are or are part of in the books. 

Only one character is named exactly like the person in mind for that character and the chances of him reading the book are slim to none for the worst reasons, to be frank.

Here is a rough sketch of the county where Rural was set.

For the sequel, Urban, I used a similar approach and changed names and locations of popular Edmonton coffee shops and even of Grant McEwan university to give the setting for the book. While using real-life locations as well as the West Edmonton Mall and the nearby Misericordia Hospital. 

A map of that book would essentially be a map of Edmonton with highlights. I may do a walkabout one summer and get pictures of the inspiration for the locations mentioned in the book. 

Overall I wanted to let the characters tell the story in these books. I could have written the books to be set in rural Saskatchewan or back in the GTA but chose places I had either been or was living in currently to connect better emotions and expressions when having the characters react to the locations. 

Overall this was really fun. I highly recommend doing this write from your home towns perspective thing at least once.

Creating Some Worlds To Play In

 One of the best things about being a fiction author is getting the chance to build a world in which you will write in. These can be anything and are only hemmed in by our imaginations. Which can be pretty rough and frayed at times. Still, world-building is fun.

What I wanted to do with my first novella was to create a steampunk world. I had always loved the pseudo victorian aesthetic of steampunk and to a lesser extent, the not-quite world war one feeling of dieselpunk too. But how to write good fantasy stories without their being a history to back it up. It's one thing for Tolkien to write about Elves in middle earth. Our minds kind of let go of the fact that the races and places he writes about don't actually exist so we can relax and enjoy the show that his words paint for us. But the victorian age was a real-time and place. Tesla was a real guy and much of what is written in steampunk is alternate history. While it's fun to imagine historical figures like Tesla and Lincoln in fantasy settings. we know at the end of the day that Lincoln didn't in fact kill vampires and Tesla was reclusive and died in obscurity.

But what we can get behind is fictional characters in real-ish world settings. the reason we believe that Bella Swan and Edward Cullen had a sparkly vampire romance, is that while the general world setting was a real one. (Earth + Vampires) We didn't know Bella like a historical figure or a celebrity is known, so we could pretend.

That's what fiction is all about, pretending. 

So I set about building some worlds to play in. 

Let's take a look at some of them. 

Guys, this is what I want to write about.

Since starting this pen name I wanted to focus on something that I thought was missing from the literary landscape of 2020 and beyond. 

When I look at the vast majority of young adult literature there is a tilt to one side that poses some questions and leaves room for what I'm hoping is an underappreciated market to write to and something that's sorely needed in today's world of books. It's a big deal to write a book that changes someone's lives and without exception, there have been many that have changed mine that fit this bill but when I look at the wider picture I can't help but notice this theme and its potential importance to the culture at large.

That theme is the unambiguously and morally good, straight, male, character.

I know this is a hot take and a lot of readers and writers would take offence with this thought, but what I'm hoping to do is fix that knee jerk reaction in the long run. 

How many male characters in YA literature are there that aren't special because of something they received that changes their fundamental abilities as a young man for the reader to consider? Let's take this all the way back to some early 2000's YA lit and talk about vampires. Excusing the fact that Edward Cullen is over 100 years old in the books, his portrayal as an angsty teenage boy comes at a cost of him being a superpowered vampire with a super-powered family. One with superhuman strength and speed and everlasting life. His counterpart for the rest of the love triangle Jacob Black is a shape-shifting werewolf with his own set of powers that made him special. Eragon from Chris Paolini's Inheritance Cycle is awash with magical powers and gifts that propel him through his journey a much as he does himself. Percy Jackson is a demigod. Harry potter is rich and magical. While I realize people don't want to read about boring dudes, something else is being overlooked here. 

Throughout the genre, there is a need to make boys something more to make them valuable to the reader. It happens to the girls too and even when we step out of the more fantastical settings of Hogwarts and the Hunger Games. But the idea of a morally good, heterosexual young man seems to grate against the rising popularity of nearly everything else. 

But I don't want to make this a post and more importantly the direction I want to take my books about what I'm against. Instead, I want to be unapologetically for this theme. To write stories that show how young men struggle, how they triumph and how they do so with the realities that confront us all. Not with Chosen one magical powers or circumstance. But a raw and real take on what it's like growing up to be a young man these days. On how to be masculine in ways that aren't toxic, including some ways which get slanderously heralded as such. To capture the emotions and motivations of a demographic that all too often gets relegated to tokenism or worse, moral ambiguity for the sake of being the base of a love triangle plot device.

Somewhere out there, there are stories that don't shrowd themselves in impossibility to tell of how young men can solve problems, fall in love, make and keep friendships, take chances, and suffer mistakes. One that doesn't give them a fantastic power to cope with the world's need for their potential greatness or if it does it shows the toll for such power and the need all the same.

Somewhere out there there are characters, begging to be put into the written word that shows healthy and probably more importantly the transition from unhealthy relationships, sexual ethic, attraction and affection.

I think that world existed at one point. One where Aragorn knew what it was to run from his crown and how to return to it. where Edmond fell for the tricks of the Witch's candy once only to stop Caspian and Peter from doing the same later. Where Sam Gribley finds his mountain, Alfred Brooks throws his first punch and Miles Halter learns that you don't mess with swans.

These things while present in today's literature seem to be partial or missing or even muted. And I don't think this is because of a preference for the views on gender or sexual orientation as if these were a bad thing. What I would never want is fewer stories out there, about any topic, simply because I don't want to or feel capable of writing from a certain perspective. What I want to do is write as clearly I can about the things that are important to me. 

Stories about young men, for young men. But perhaps not exclusively from young men on the page. 

More on that later. But at least you understand the use of commas in the title now, right?

Well Hi!

Hooray, first post.

But seriously, it's been a bit of a slog during this COVID-19 nonsense. If anyone would have told me that starting an author website while working a regular job and writing in my spare time would be this hard, I'd quit my job and just write more. 

I'm glad to finally get things rolling. Expect updates at least monthly if not weekly. For the fans from my other blog, you know who you are. Thanks for coming. 

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Newsletter text, still working on it.