Greg Howard grew up on the coast of South Carolina in a strict, conservative Christian environment. Greg escaped into the arts: singing, playing piano, acting, writing songs, and making up stories. After running away to the bright lights and big city of Nashville, Tennessee after college he eventually got serious about writing books. He writes young adult and middle grade fiction centering on LGBTQ characters and issues.
Greg’s debut young adult novel, SOCIAL INTERCOURSE from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers has been described as provocative and hilarious and his debut middle grade book, THE WHISPERS from Putnam/Penguin was called a masterful exploration into storytelling by the New York Times Book Review.
For those who haven’t heard of Social Intercourse, how would you entice them to pick up a copy?
It you enjoy edgy YA, quick-witted humor, authentic characters making as many bad choices as they are good ones, modern families, and rocky romances, I definitely think you will like SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. Go for the laughs, stay for the feels.
Can you tell us a bit about your initial inspiration for Social Intercourse?
The story is set in Florence, SC where I went to high school. I was very closeted back then and fighting not to be gay. I wanted to look back at my high school experience and rewrite it. Why not, right? The struggles of growing up gay in the American South are still there, but I wanted to also show the joy, hope, and romance that I didn’t get to experience.
During your own teenage years, would you have identified more with Beckett or Jaxon? Why?
Honestly neither. Being very closeted as a teen and not really very popular or very unpopular in school, I was more of an observer. I wasn’t “hot” and athletic like Jaxon, and I didn’t have the self confidence that Beckett has. I like to say that I wrote the character of Beckett the way I wish I would have been in high school—out, loud, and proud.
What was the hardest scene to write in Social Intercourse?
Probably the showdown with the radical-right wing church people. That hit close to home. Not that I ever experienced that level of confrontation, but I grew up in that kind of religious environment, so even the words I wrote for some of those religious extremist characters cut deep.
What do you hope readers take away from this story?
That there are all kinds of queer kids, and that they are just as beautifully messy as non-queer kids. It’s okay to be exactly who you are. You don’t have to dress it up, rein it in, or sugar-coat it. Just be yourself.
What about the books you wish you had when you’re sixteen?
When I was 16, I wish I would have had books like Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by Lev Rosen, Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon, Proxy by Alex London, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – I could go on and on.
What are you working on next?
My second middle grade book is coming out in February 2020. It’s called MIDDLE SCHOOL’S A DRAG: YOU BETTER WERK! It’s about a kid entrepreneur that starts a junior talent agency and his first client is a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen.
And currently I’m working on a new book tentatively titled, THE VISITORS. It’s a ghost story about an eleven-year-old boy who dies mysterious at an abandoned rice plantation in the Lowcountry of South Carolina in the 1970s, whose spirit is stuck there. When a group of present-day kids show up to explore the haunted plantation, they befriend the boy and help him uncover the dark secrets of his past and why he is stuck there.
And my books will always be about queer kids. They deserve their happily-ever-afters, too.
INTERVIEW : YA SH3LF