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Title: The Otto Digmore Difference
Author: Brent Hartinger
Publisher: *Not Listed
Cover Artist: Philip Malaczewski
Genre: New Adult
Release Date: 02/21/2017
Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.
Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.
It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.
There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he might still have romantic feelings for his best friend.
Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?
Author Brent Hartinger first introduced the character of Otto Digmore in 2005, in his Lambda Award-winning books about Russel Middlebrook. Back then, Otto was something pretty unusual for YA literature: a disabled gay character.
Now, more than a decade later, Otto is grown up and finally stepping into the spotlight on his own. The Otto Digmore Difference, the first book in a new stand-alone series for adults, is about much more than the challenges of being “different.” It’s also about the unexpected nature of all of life’s journeys, and the heavy price that must be paid for Hollywood fame.
But more than anything, it’s a different kind of love story, about the frustrating and fantastic power of the love between two friends.
A Good Time for More Gay Diversity
The longer I work as a writer, the more I think that in the arts, timing is everything.
Case in point: in 2005, HarperCollins published The Order of the Poison Oak, a sequel to my 2003 novel Geography Club, which was rapidly becoming a gay YA classic.
I was very excited that my main character’s love interest in The Order of the Poison Oak wasn’t your typical gay teen character: he was a burn survivor with scars on one side of his face from an early childhood accident. This gave me a chance to write about some of the issues that interest me, like the importance of physical appearance in the gay community.
But more than anything, I liked that Otto Digmore felt different. He wasn’t an obvious choice.
My readers got it immediately; they loved Otto, as both a character and a statement about diversity.
But the reaction in the YA community and the greater literary world was much more muted. Some people were even quite offended that I was associating being gay with being a burn survivor because, unlike gay people, disabled folks don’t choose to be disabled.
Back then, it was hard enough to get the book-buying world to accept even white middle class conventionally-gendered gay teen characters . Diversity was something the literary world barely paid lip service to, much less openly championed.
In other words, the timing wasn’t quite right.
Twelve years later, we live in a very different world. Diversity is finally being celebrated, at least in Hollywood and New York publishing, if not in Donald Trump’s Washington D.C. We all have our own explanations as to why this is finally happening now. My theory is that it’s because of the hard work of all the earlier activists, and also the rise of social media, which finally gave marginalized groups a real voice.
Into this world, I’ve released The Otto Digmore Difference, the start of a new series for adults where Otto Digmore, a gay male burn survivor, is now the main character.
It helps that I’ve “aged” all my characters from those earlier books. They’re in the mid-twenties now, living in the present. That gives me a chance to explore the next stage in their lives, beyond their teen years. It also lets me explore contemporary issues — everything from PrEP, to cyberbullying, to, yes, the election of Donald Trump.
But if Otto is a symbol, he’s also an individual. Almost every minority is subject to stereotyping, and I wanted to get beyond that. It’s very easy to fall into a trap where a minority character is defined by his or her minority status: either a negative stereotype or a saintly character that mostly exists to teach the non-minority main character some kind of lesson.
For Otto Digmore, that meant my writing him warts and all. It also meant giving him a sex life, because — let’s face it — with some minorities, that can sometimes be the most subversive thing a writer can do.
In The Otto Digmore Difference, Otto is twenty-six years-old and an actor in Los Angeles, trying to make it as a sitcom star. In other words, he’s trying to bring diversity to Hollywood even as I’m trying to bring it to LGBT fiction.
I first wrote about Otto mostly because I thought he would make a good character, not because I was trying to make a “point.” But I am proud of the fact that I had a sense of where society was heading before a lot of other people did — even on issues that didn’t apply directly to me. I think that’s actually a big part of a writer’s job.
Is the timing finally right for Otto? I hope so, because this was one of the most satisfying books I’ve ever written.
About the Author
BRENT HARTINGER is an author and screenwriter. His 2003 novel Geography Club was adapted as a 2013 feature film co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series. He has won both the Lambda and GLAAD Media Award, and been nominated for the Edgar Award. Visit him at brenthartinger.com.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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