Darren Charlton | 'I was inspired to offer LGBTQ+ teenagers something my generation never had'

Darren Charlton | 'I was inspired to offer LGBTQ+ teenagers something my generation never had'

Darren Charlton answers our questions about his debut novel Wranglestone (Little Tiger), which is shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021

1. Can you sum up your book in one sentence?

A love story between two boys set in an American national park 15 years after a zombie apocalypse.

2. What inspired the book?

Hiking and camping in America’s National Parks inspired everything. The book and the need to write. But as Wranglestone took shape, I was inspired to offer LGBTQ+ teenagers something my generation never had, their own heroes and a mirror to love that’s joyful.

3. Which character in the book is your favourite, and why?

Cooper. He’s one of those '90s cool indie kids like River Phoenix or Kurt Cobain I grew up with, but was nothing like. So, when he finally came to life, it really was a gift. 

4. What does being on this year’s YA Book Prize shortlist mean to you?

Oh, being remembered as a debut and a debut in the year of Covid, is everything. I did my best to make something new and progressive, but the truth is there’s just so much product out there vying for attention and bookshops have been closed for eight months out of the last 12 since publication. So, this is huge.    

5. What's the best thing about writing for young adults?

Teenage feelings and convictions are big. Life is all ahead of you. You’re beginning to question things you may have held certain. And that’s a magical and transgressive space to play in.  

6. What was your favourite book as a teenager?

Fahrenheit 451 by Raymond Bradbury, about a future American society where books are forbidden and burned was my favourite dystopian novel. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. But actually, the play Bent by Martin Sherman about two gay men in a Nazi concentration camp, had a huge impact on me.  

7. What is your top writing tip?

Be vulnerable. Act on trusted criticism. Oh, and redraft, redraft, redraft!

8. What songs would be on a playlist for your book?

Film scores all the way! Wranglestone’s soundtrack has had "Legends of the Fall" (James Horner) "Snow Falling on Cedars" (James Newton Howard) and because it’s everything, "E.T" (John Williams). But for intrigue and mystery? Christophe Beck’s end title for "WandaVision" right now, is so good. 

9. Who would you cast in a film version of your book?

Back in the day, River Phoenix circa "The Mosquito Coast", would’ve been Cooper, for sure.  

10. Which book, film or TV show would you recommend to someone who enjoyed your book?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx. (Dystopia + Zombies + Gay Cowboys! Lol.) 

You can find out more about Wranglestone and Darren Charlton, and read the first chapter of the book for free, on the YA Book Prize website.