Thursday, December 6, 2012

King Biscuit by Michael Loyd Gray - Virtual Tour and Giveaway

Today we're welcoming author Michael Loyd Gray  to the blog on his tour with Goddess Fish Promotions for the 1960s historical, "King Biscuit".  We had the privilege of reviewing this novel and you can read our review here.

Michael is giving away a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, so comment today AND follow his tour (if you click on the banner above, it'll take you to a list of his tour stops)! The more you read and comment, the better your odds of winning. You could be introduced to a great new author AND win a GC!

Michael has a question for our readers that I hope you can answer.

Thanks for the opportunity to appear here and to promote my novel King Biscuit. I would love to hear from readers as to what they think makes a novel Young Adult. Or why we need a YA classification. I do understand that YA is a thriving genre, but I didn’t write King Biscuit as a YA novel, for example. I had a story to tell and didn’t worry much about how it might be classified. The publisher classified it that way—indeed, Tempest Books is their new YA imprint.

The novel’s protagonist, Billy Ray Fleener, is seventeen and that’s what made it YA, I guess. But the book has sex, drugs, and rock and roll and takes place in a world of adults – Elvis Presley and President Lyndon Johnson are in it, for goodness sake. So, readers, why do we make a distinction? How old would Billy Ray have to be for it to not be YA? I write novels in part to have people think and so I write this post to have people think about this issue, too. I’m not complaining about the genre classification – just trying to better understand it.

It’s 1966. The Beatles have taken over the airways, Star Trek is in its first season on NBC, and 389,000 American troops are stationed in Vietnam.

A war is going on Argus, Illinois as well, between sixteen-year-old Billy Ray Fleener and his father. While his father dreams of Billy Ray joining the family business, Billy Ray dreams of moving to California, becoming a surfer, and getting into Margie Heinrich’s pants—not necessarily in that order. Instead, he gets a summer laying pipe and the dubious distinction of town hero after saving Purdy Boy, the mayor’s wife’s dachshund.

When his beloved uncle and role model Mitch is killed in combat, Billy Ray feels like he must leave Argus or be stuck there forever. With little more than the clothes on his back, he hops a bus for Helena, Arkansas to visit Mitch’s grave. Along the way he meets up with a cast of characters as varied and polarized as America itself, from a marine captain home on leave to a band of hippies bound for Graceland. Each teaches him something about love, loyalty, and the true meaning of freedom, but what Billy Ray really learns is that everyone has the power to define who they are. He may have left Argus a boy, but he returns a man.

Billy Ray had never heard of Moby Grape or Jefferson Airplane or Buffalo Springfield. And soon his thoughts had drifted back to Argus, back to Moss. There wasn’t anything he could do about that. He didn’t understand it and there wasn’t anything to do about it. Casualties, Milt had said. Life piles up casualties. Part of the deal. You move on as best you can and avoid becoming a casualty yourself. But Billy Ray understood it was still new to him and so he still was hurting inside for Moss, but accepted it was out of his hands. Life, that great maker of rules and decider of consequences, would sort it out. Or so Billy Ray figured. He’d said his goodbye to Moss and even prayed for him. Moss was the only one Billy Ray had told other than his parents about hitting the road to see the world beyond Argus; and Moss seemed relieved to talk about something other than his own problems. He understood that Billy Ray needed to escape, joking that he’d like to escape, too. When Wino pulled over for burgers in Cape Girardeau, the nearly-twins ate lustily, said hello to Billy Ray, then crawled back into their comas.

“Saving their voices, I suppose,” Billy Ray told Wino.

“Something like that.”

Michael Loyd Gray was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but grew up in Champaign, Illinois. He earned a MFA in English from Western Michigan University and has taught at colleges and universities in upstate New York, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Texas. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a Journalism degree and was a newspaper staff writer in Arizona and Illinois for ten years, conducting the last interview with novelist Erskine Caldwell.

He is the winner of the 2005 Alligator Juniper Fiction Prize and the 2005 The Writers Place Award for Fiction. Gray’s novel Well Deserved won the 2008 Sol Books Prose Series Prize. His novel Not Famous Anymore was awarded a grant by the Elizabeth George Foundation and was released by Three Towers Press, an imprint of HenschelHaus in 2011. His novel December's Children was a finalist for the 2006 Sol Books Prose Series Prize and was released in 2012 by Tempest Books as the young adult novel King Biscuit. He has written a sequel to Well Deserved called The Last Stop, and another two novels called Blue Sparta and Fast Eddie. Recently he finished a novel entitled The Salt Meadows. A lifelong Chicago Bears and Rolling Stones fan, he lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and teaches as full-time online English faculty for South University, where he is one of the founding editors of the student literary journal Asynchronous and sponsor of an online readings series featuring fiction and poetry.




  1. I love the title. I have been to more King Biscuit Blues Festivals in Arkansas than I can count!

    I have thought about what separates YA from adult fiction for some time, and here is what I have noticed: Because YA is geared toward a younger audience with a shorter attention span, the author is more direct in the narrative, the dialogue, everything. No long-winded, descriptive passages about the setting, no flowery language between the characters. It cuts the B.S. And of course, a young protagonist. The fun of YA is that the protagonist has to work within adult rules (or work on breaking adult rules.) A novel where a 16 year old drinks a beer is much more titillating (Will he get caught? Will he have his first hangover?) than reading about a 30 year old drinking a beer. YA is exciting for the same reason our own youth was exciting- sneaking around and experiencing things for the first time. Cut off age is twenty, in my opinion. Once you are 21 and a legal adult, the thrill is gone.

  2. I agree with much of what Henry says, but as a librarian, it's a bit more complicated for us. If we shelve items in our YA area, it will get attention from a different group or students than if we shelve it in our regular collection. We struggled with where to shelve the Harry Potter and Twilight books, for example. They appealed to readers of all ages and where they were shelved didn't really deter or otherwise impact readers of all ages from picking them up. BUT, sometimes when we put something in YA, it limits the potential market for a book.

  3. I think younger readers are more likely to read a book when the main character is close to their own age.


  4. Recent historicals are very appealing to me!


  5. I would say what makes a book YA is more to do with the novel detailing with the issues and situations that young people today do rather than a issue of purely age. This novel seems like more of a general fiction work since it would appeal to an older audience who can relate to similiar experiences and emotions during their youth in this time period. Then again, not yet having read the book, maybe the themes still are relatable to today's YA audience

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  6. I think the book can be for both adults and YA's. I really think it will be important to each to see how life really is.

  7. I really think this book will win the hearts of many! Or is just because I love the genre?
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. I think it's the fact that he is seventeen, still a young adult, that puts it in the YA genre. But the great thing about these days is, so many adults are reading YA! It's not just for children anymore. The books are so intriguing, that I'd be just as likely to sit down with a YA as fiction.


  9. I'm a grown up & I read YA. It's just the age of the main characters & the violence, sex level in a book I guess.



So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?