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.
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.”
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.