Today I’m grabbing my coffee and sitting down with author Rick Bettencourt to discuss his book Not Sure Boys.
Welcome, Rick! Thanks for stopping by! Let’s get into it!
Me: What books/authors have influenced your writing?
Rick: First off, I’d like to thank you for letting me sit down with you.This is going to be a lot of fun!
Me: Not a problem! I love meeting all kinds of other authors who write other genres than myself! It’s really an eye opener. Plus I’ve been finding some awesome books to fill up my Kindle!
Rick: Augusten Burrough’s Running with Scissors. Love that book! I’d have to say that book is probably the most influential for Not Sure Boys.
I love the tragedy in Augusten’s characters and their ability to triumph under some really unusual circumstances. In the first story of Not Sure Boys, the protagonist (whom I purposely do not name in this short) is surrounded by tons of dysfunction. The environment is not as ruinous as the one Augusten faces in Running with Scissors; however, the time period and the characters’ perseverance are similar.
Another writer who has influenced my work is Armistead Maupin. I love his fun and zany characters, and his ability to really hook his reader in to a series, like in Tales of the City.
I also love Stephen King, Anne Tyler, J.K. Rowling, John Irving and Robert B. Parker.
Me: Who doesn’t love them? I’m a huge King and Rowling fan myself. How did you come up with the title(s)?
Rick: I was originally going to call the book Livin’ on the Not Sure but instead used that as the title of my last story. How did the title come to be? Well, I’m from Boston. And in Boston, we have a bad habit of dropping our R’s when we speak. You know: “Pahk the cah in Hahvid Yahd.” Plus the characters in my book deal with a lot of sexual ambiguity. So, “Not Sure” is both a bastardized way of saying the “North Shore,” the area outside of Boston where I grew up, and a take on the characters “not being sure” about their sexuality. Then I threw in “boys” for fun because, as we know, boys can be fun. So there you have Not Sure Boys.
Me: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Rick: Ah! Well, like any good writer we often base our characters and our writing on some element of truth from our “real” lives. But, ultimately this is a work of fiction. I am an openly gay man and happily married—thanks to the state of Massachusetts. While I never really questioned my sexuality (I knew I was attracted to boys at the early age of five), I know of a lot of people that are either too afraid to admit to themselves, more so than to others, that they are gay or are really “not sure” about their sexuality.
One line from Not Sure Boys that I did take from my life is in the first short, Wacky Packages, in which the protagonist’s mother tells him, “You’re supposed to like girls…not boys.” Someone close to me actually said this to me when I confessed to them, at the age of ten, that I, like the protagonist in Wacky, thought someone at school was handsome. They meant no harm by it and while it didn’t have as devastating of an impact on me as that of the character in Wacky, it did throw me into a stage of pretending, for a bit. Then I discovered Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler and all hell broke loose.
Me: What books have most influenced your life most?
Rick: The really influential books in my life have probably been more in the non-fiction realm. I am a big fan of self-help. Probably the book that has had the biggest influence on my life is Wayne Dyer’s You’ll See It When You Believe It. This is an older book but its title says it all. A lot of us go around in life not believing in things until we “see it.” Dyer takes the opposite point of view. It’s not until you truly believe in something that you’ll see it come to fruition. For instance, one is never going to lose ten pounds (ahem…I’m working on it!) until they believe it can be done. (Now that I’m thinking of it, maybe I need to reread that book!)
Me: What book are you reading now?
Rick: I tend to have a several going at once. I just finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Loved it! I’m also reading Pam Belluck’s Island Practice¸ the adventures of a Nantucket doctor and I just downloaded Nessa L. Warin’s Syrah (All Corked Up), which so far already has me hooked.
Me: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Rick: I’m finding a whole bunch on GoodReads. I’ve recently read B.G. Thomas, SJD Peterson, Mara Altman and N.R. Walker, to name a few. I love to read all sorts of different genres. I find there’s always something to learn from branching out of your comfort zone.
Me: What are your current projects?
Rick: Similar to how I read, I tend to have multiple projects going on at the same time. I have three short stories, or maybe they’re novellas, that I’m working on: Jon Loved Richard to Death, a thriller, Jim on Broadway and an unnamed erotic romance. Jim on Broadway, the working title anyway, is a story about an overweight theatre lover who has moved to New York City to be closer to the excitement of Broadway. But, when he can’t afford to see one of his favorite divas, Carolyn Sohier, he stoops to all sorts of crazy antics to get tickets. The Jim story is really a follow up to my novel Diva Taking Center (formerly Summerwind: Could It Be Magick). That project I had been shopping via the agent route and based on some positive feedback, I will be taking it into a rewrite early next year.
Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Rick: Absolutely! Like my pal Wayne Dyer says, “You’ll see it when you believe it!”
Me: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Rick: I’m happy with it. One thing I have thought about doing was more from a marketing perspective. I recently read The Indie Voice’s The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing and in it they mention, as a new author, it’s best to first launch with three works, all around the same time. So, I’ve contemplated busting each of the shorts in Not Sure Boys into individual books.
Me: How did you get started with the writing venture?
Rick: Well, I’ve always been a bit of a writer. Even as a kid, I would pen out stories about my little neighborhood adventures. But, as an adult I started out, oddly enough, on the other end of a story, by acting. I went to school for acting but then discovered I hated being in front of the camera or on stage. (Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem as a professional actor.) It was then that I decided I was better off behind the scenes. But I still love theatre and film. In fact, my novel, Diva Taking Center (f/k/a/ Summerwind: Could It Be Magick), is the culmination of my passions for the performing arts and for writing fiction.
Me: Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Rick: Yes, making a living from it! Interestingly, my other life is writing technical documentation: The Cancel button shall be to the right of the Save button. If the user clicks the Save button without having entered a value in the…blah…blah…blah then the following error message shall display the blah…blah…blah. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.
Me: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Rick: I’ve always wanted to use this line lifted from my favorite diva, Bette Midler, who took it from Belle Barth, a dead but not forgotten Jewish-American comedienne: “Shut your hole, honey…mine’s making money!” No! That’s too crass! I shouldn’t say that. I’m terrible.
Honestly, the advice I would give anyone working on a stretch goal, is to believe in yourself. Tell yourself, every friggin’ day, that you can do it! And do it! Get yourself into the zone of one that exhibits the qualities that you wish to express and write and act “as if” you’re already there.
Okay, hopefully that makes up for my tasteless joke.
Me: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Rick: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To all three of you. (Mom, I’ll call you tomorrow…promise!) No, I am truly grateful for the reception I’ve received on Not Sure Boys. In the first two days of release, it made the top 100 list on Amazon under both Gay Fiction and Coming of Age. I was so excited I woke up my husband and told him, “You are officially married to a bestselling author!” Hey, it’s not the New York Times but I’ll take what I can get! While we won’t be buying a beach house with the proceeds, I’m grateful nonetheless.
Me: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Rick: Making the time to write! If one didn’t have to sleep, eat, work, shower and could focus 100% of the day on writing I’d have written War and Peace meets To Kill a Mockingbird. (I don’t know why I mashed those two together. I must be completely insane. Or perhaps it’s the lack of sleep from working all day yesterday on Jon Loved Richard to Death.) I’ve written sections on my iPhone while on the train, sketched out vignettes on a sticky pad during dinner and recorded notes into my phone while biking. As a writer, things come to you all the time.
Me: What genre do you like writing the most?
Rick: I love gay fiction. But I also love thrillers, women’s fiction, new adult, mainstream and erotica.
Me: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Rick: Of course. And when I do I either write stream of consciousness crap or I’ll go for a walk, then come back later and get to work.
Me: Do you write an outline before every book you write?
Rick: For Not Sure Boys I did and I did not. I know that sounds crazy but again lack of sleep. For the last story, Livin’ on the Not Sure, I actually wrote about forty pages of backstory, in conjunction with an outline. Probably about two, of those forty pages, made it into the final version. I’ve recently discovered an outline exercise, which I love. It gets you through the whole outline process in 30 minutes. It mashes stream of consciousness writing with a structured questionnaire. Some of the shit that comes out your head while doing it is just that, shit, but a lot of it gives you something to go by. And, of course, you have the creative freedom to change it as you actually write your book. I find a good outline balances the juxtaposition between letting your characters run around like feral dogs to that of “making” them do what you think they should do. As artists we want to gently guide our creations. Outlining can be a very useful tool. I fought against it for many years.
Me: Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Rick: Oh my god yes! I have folders and folders of crap!
What is your favorite color?
A good mix between blue and green. Sort of like the background to the cover of Not Sure Boys, which, by the way, was created by a wonderful graphic artist across the pond. Thank you James!
What’s your favorite food?
I’m a bit of a foodie. It’s probably easier to state what I don’t like! I hate grapefruit and mint-chocolate chip ice cream. Everything else is fair game!
Puppies or bunnies?
Chocolate or vanilla?
If my arm were twisted, chocolate. But, one of my favorite treats is a soft-serve vanilla and chocolate twist with jimmies, which are more commonly referred to as sprinkles outside the North Shore, from Dairy Witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Oh my god! I might need to run out tonight and get one!
This has been so much fun! Once again, thank you. I enjoyed our little sit down.
Me: I’m glad you wanted to stop by!
Not Sure Boys
By: Rick Bettencourt
About the Author
Rick Bettencourt comes from the North Shore of Boston where he lives with his husband and dog Bandit. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys traveling, screaming on rollercoasters, collecting early 20th century postcards (Halloween ones are his favorite), and anything to do with Bette Midler.
How’s he supposed to feel when his mom tells him it’s wrong to think his best friend is so handsome?
NOT SURE BOYS is a collection of three gay coming of age shorts that read as either individual narratives or as one story.
Wacky Packages: It’s the 1970s when summers should just be about trading Wacky Pack cards, playing baseball, and wondering what you’re going to be when you grow up, and not about lusting after your best friend’s older brother.
Where Derek Van Lies: Susan’s life revolves around her idol, Derek Van, but when she tries to seduce him, Susan suspects something is wrong. Could he be a “homosapien”?
Livin’ on the Not Sure: Robby’s gay. Jamie’s straight. Yet during the sultry summer of 1984 they have a young adult romance before Robby moves to the West Coast for college. Decades pass and they meet up again. Despite Jamie’s straight-married life having gone sour, is there still a spark between them? Is it too late for Jamie to change?
Word Count: 13,000 | Pages: 41
Genre: Gay Fiction, Coming of Age
Available from: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
NOT SURE BOYS is a funny yet tender read about coming to terms with love under some not-so accepting circumstances—every reader will find something familiar and relatable.
Top chart positions (Amazon.com):
Gay Fiction #65
Coming of Age #75
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you are looking for a well written book on this topic then you have come to the right place. Some great stories written by a great author who is well on his way to becoming a household name!”
“What a great read this was…good job Rick!”
“I was touched by story one and I laughed my head off in story two, where do you find people like that? And then I thought they are everywhere…”
“This was really a fun read. I like the way everything is tied up with a neat bow at the end.”