Can a young man come out, find love, and survive senior year all at the same time?
Zach Denham, the editor of a small town high school newspaper, struggles to act like a “normal” guy by dating a female friend. Key, the school’s newly arrived attractive jock, forces Zach to confront the truth about his sexual identity.
Friends will become enemies when an explosive issue divides the school community. As Mrs. Trevott, Zach’s trusted and sharp-tongued English teacher, advises, some of them will stand up for what they believe in even if they are standing alone.
Matthew’s screenplay version of Zach’s Secret was a finalist in a Script Magazine screenwriting contest.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I first conceived of this story, there were hardly any young adult gay novels out there. (Over the years, that has changed – and thankfully so.) I wanted to create a story that I wish I had been able to read when I was younger – the story of a young man finding his first love while dealing with coming out to his friends and family, who have varying reaction to the news.
Also, there were very few Gay-Straight Alliances in high schools when I wrote the first version of the story. That’s why the novel focuses on that. Even today, that issue still comes up in some school districts. Sadly, that aspect of the story remains relevant no matter how much time passes as do the issues of struggling with sexual identity and coming out.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
In some ways, they are typical high school students, going through all the stuff that involves – finding out who you are, what you want to do with your life, having new experiences that change your perspectives on the world, finding first love, etc.
There are bits and pieces of different people I have known or encountered over the years in various characters.
As soon as I walked out of the building, I sighed and instantly felt a fleeting moment of relief. Somehow, I had managed to survive another day at Wellston High School. It was late November and I was a senior so that meant I only had to go through the whole high school experience about 115 more times, give or take a few sick days here and there.
That’s doable, I told myself, 115 is about one and a half times the top speed a cheetah can run in miles per hour. Who mathematically analyzes the number of school days left compared to a cheetah’s speed? That would be me – Zach Denham, Super Geek.
I finished stuffing my books into my backpack just in time to see a yellow streak of light heading my way. The sun bounced off Meghan Collette’s plain gold cross (worn as always on the outside of her blouse) as Meghan herself bounced across the parking lot towards me.
“Hey, Zach, can I hitch a ride with you?” Meghan had a voice bursting with more enthusiasm than a rock concert groupie.
Amidst all the student cars in the parking lot, there stood an old, rusting bike rack with the sorriest looking ten-speed ever created. I pointed at it, “See the one with the big lock over there?” I thought it would somehow make it seem less pathetic if I mentioned the size of the lock. “That’s it until I get my car back from the shop.”
“Thanks, anyway.” Meghan shoved a paper into my hand.
“You’ll love this one. Really,” she promised.
“I’ll read it, but-“
Meghan was already sprinting towards the bus, which was just starting to close its doors as she yelled back, “Gotta go. Late for Bible study group.”
I waved as she and her boundless energy boarded the bus.
I pedaled home and imagined myself as some famous and cool biker – maybe a race winner like Lance Armstrong – rather than an eighteen year old on his junior high bike. I could just picture myself inches from the finish line with crowds of people cheering me on.
Reality quickly caught up with me in the form of a well-worn convertible carrying four Wellston High students.
It was Carl Grainger and his friends. They pretty much made my life a living hell whenever they felt like it.
Grainger beeped the horn and drove close to me on purpose. I tried to look straight ahead and ignore them, but I noticed that they were all smoking and drinking beer.
Grainger yelled first. “Hey, guys. What do we have here? The Wellston High Record’s star reporter ridin’ his little bicycle around town.”
It was Steve Larsen’s turn next and he thought it was hilarious to use a fake British accent when he said, “He’s no reporter, Sir. He’s the Editor-In-Chief.”
That set them all off laughing and one said, “Come on, Grainger. Don’t be a chicken-shit. Swerve closer to him.”
I felt the breeze from the car. I knew if it came any closer, it would brush against my leg and I would lose my balance. Steve hung over the side of the car offering a lit cigarette. “Go ahead, Clark Kent, take a drag.”
I saw my only chance for escape – the next corner. I pedaled like that champion biker I only wished I was at the moment. Success! I made the corner, but it was too sharp for the convertible. Grainger had driven by it. I stopped and watched them cruise down the hill toward a green traffic light.
Then the light changed to yellow. Grainger didn’t slow down. The engine roared and the guys all whooped and hollered as the car raced towards the intersection.
A truck approached the light from the cross street.
Grainger’s light changed to red!
HONK! HONK! The truck horn blasted, but Grainger’s brake lights still weren’t coming on. I half wanted to cover my eyes, but I didn’t dare.
The truck’s brakes made a terrible grinding noise. Grainger lost control and the convertible swerved.
The truck skidded through the intersection with the tires screeching…
Matthew W. Grant is the author of several screenplays and novels in various genres including the Slaters Falls series and the Northbridge series. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and is available as paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks.
Publisher’s Weekly declared Matthew’s novel, Secrets Of Slaters Falls, “Tragicomic deliciousness!” noting that the “Bawdy, snappy humor catches spark right away.” PW also noted the novel’s balance between “Class-conscious dirty realism and the prurience of nighttime soap operas.”
Secrets Of Slaters Falls achieved semifinalist status in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Matthew’s screenplay adaptation of his novel, Zach’s Secret, was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Script Magazine.
Matthew graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Education and Mass Communications earned after his thesis, Sex On Soap Operas, raised eyebrows and pulse rates on campus. His material has appeared on numerous websites and in two newspapers.
Like most writers, prior to writing full time, Matthew paid his dues in diverse corporate positions. He worked as a producer at an AM talk radio station where he interacted with local media celebrities and politicians.
His career progressed to Corporate Training and Corporate Purchasing. He worked for many years at an international Boston based bank in which his
media skills were utilized in many ways including creating training manuals, writing/producing/directing/performing in corporate videos, and writing corporate-wide communications.
Later, as an Independent Purchasing Consultant, Matthew consulted for a company that was named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies twice during his time working with them.
As a resident of New England and a fan of its spectacular fall foliage, Matthew sets many of his works in small New England towns. While they may look picture-perfect on the surface, you can be sure they are teeming with secrets underneath.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!