Title: Best Friends Perfect (Book One)
Author: Liam Livings
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Released: 4th June 2014
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
Kieran, 18, comes out to himself then his family by going to a youth group. There he meets Kev, a cross dressing gay man with awful taste in boyfriends and Jo, a grade A drama student, at college and in his real life. Kieran navigates his way through the maze that is being a gay man in the late nineties, with help from his two new best friends, and his two old best friends; Hannah, just coming out too and trying to work out if Steps are Abba for the nineties; Grace a one woman charity shop bargain hunter with encyclopedic pop knowledge.
You never forget your first love, or at least it always leaves a lasting impression on you that’s for sure and this is the case with Kieran.
Kieran is 18 and has a secret, well at least to himself for the time being, but after seeking out a gay youth group called OUT! His whole world changes forever. I loved the way you get a feeling for Kieran’s sense of trepidation of making the first call to the youth group leader and then plucking up the courage to go that very first time. I mean this is a momentous thing after all.
When Kieran arrives for his first evening, after telling his parents he was out with a friend, he finds that he is made more than welcome and also this incredible feeling he gets when he realizes there are others like me. I just loved the way this came across, Kieran’s fascination with the people at the group, the first shyness of walking in alone to such a closed group, but he finds a friend there, Kev, from his primary school days that he recognizes. But a guy called Jo is the one that fascinates him the most. So not only is Kieran intending to take a year off before going to University in order to travel around Australia, but also he is on his own personal journey of discovery emotionally and sexually. However, before he gets to Australia he has to go through a whole number of firsts.
At the youth group he meets Jo, who is a little older but not much, and decides that he is going to be Jo’s best friend. I loved the way that this is all played out, typical for a teenager, relatively innocent and yet endearing at the same time. At first I wasn’t sure about Jo, is he just using Kieran to drive him around, a good time friend who would drop him in an instance as soon as he served no purpose anymore. But again Jo surprised me with his support and sincerity for Kieran. Kieran manages to persuade Jo to go to Australia with him and everything is set, or so we think, but Kieran has to go through a lot more before he sits on the plane heading for Oz.
Jo and his other friend Kev are out and proud, however Kieran isn’t and is going through the usual agony of having to make up excuses to his parents and brother about where he is going and what he is doing. Oohh, the craftiness of it all. I only remember this myself all too well – lol! He has a best friend, Grace, and they share everything together. I liked this aspect a lot, I think most gay teenagers have a best friend who is a girl, I know I did and was exactly no different to Kieran in this respect. They shared absolutely everything together and even survive the trials and tribulations of jealousy. Yes, I said jealousy. Kieran is discovering a whole new and exciting world that understands exactly how is feeling. However in this excitement Grace is left a little on the side-lines at one stage until they have a good talk and sort it out. Again another typical make or break scenario for teenagers. I think when we’re young the best friend always feels jilted for the new flame, but then I guess were not wise enough to know any other and learn with time. Grace and Kieran manage to sort things out though.
So Kieran gets hooked up on a date with someone after going to Brighton Pride and falls madly in love after getting himself deflowered, well who doesn’t with the first deflowering! Already he is dreaming of a house, matching curtains, puppies and a happy ever after. Bless! We’ve all been there, come on, be truthful. Eighteen and already setting up house with the first great love of our lives. But Ben turns out to be a real twat and dumps him and doesn’t even have the decency to tell him outright. When he does confront him with Jo at his side the upset and heart-break is all consuming. My how that first break up can hurt. I bet we all remember that one too. Yu could feel Kieran’s heartbreak and restrained anger, but what is there to do when you have just be dumped by what turns out to be a complete twat. I just hate people like that and could only too well sympathise with Kieran at that point. Kieran’s mum knows something is up, which mother wouldn’t know, so she wheedles the truth out of Kieran and he comes out to his mum and then his family. This was such a heartfelt scene. His parents now trying to come to terms with Kieran being gay and in their attempts obviously now gone to one extreme to the other; rainbow flag flying parents. I found this a lovely change in turn where Kieran now becomes embarrassed about his parent’s new found cause. Also includes some really funny moments, that made me smile. But I could also understand his parents trying to come to terms with a completely new concept for them too.
Then his mum decides it would be a good idea if the whole family went with him and Jo to Australia. Oh my, I could have just imagined Kieran’s face at this point - lol! You know when you’re still at that stage in life where your parents are the one main cause of embarrassment. But they would only come for the first part and then return home, so all is not lost. The family have also accepted Jo and thinks he’s great. The Australian adventure begin. I guess as this story is going to be released in three books, the first part did leave me wondering a little bit about exactly where is this story going? I don’t need cliff-hangers to get me to read the next book, I just had the slight feeling sometimes I was treading water plot wise at times and it wasn’t really going anywhere, expecting something to happen soon, but never really did. It’s a story about one teenager’s discovery of his emotions, coming out, getting his cherry popped and then dealing with the aftermath. So the question is will I be moving on to the second book? Well, the answer is most definitely yes. I have to find out what happens down under for sure.
What I liked about this book a lot were the characters. The characters and their conversations were delightful carried the book nicely, full of camp at times between Kieran and his friends, colourful and always entertaining, but also deeper depths of emotion with the more serious aspects of Kieran’s coming out not being made trivial or superficial. This was the driving force and strength for me in this book. The style for me personally was a little like reading a diary of a teenager writing about his experiences or getting hooked on a really good soap in the positive sense with all it’s emotional ups and downs. We see and experience everything through Kieran’s eyes and his perspective on things which made the read almost like a personal memoir. It’s not an M/M erotic story, but more a story about one young man’s coming out and what he experiences as a result. I feel that everyone experience’s their coming out differently and that the parents, family and friends play a make or break role in this area. Here I’m thankful to say that Kieran’s mum was understanding, so was his dad. His brother, well I guess you can only expect sibling rivalry here and Liam brought this across very well. there were times I could have slapped Kieran’s brother for him – lol!
So I guess in book two we’ll find out how Kieran fairs down under and I’m sure there’ll be more hilarious and embarrassing moments for him with his family.
Can you tell us a little bit what Best Friends Perfect Book One is about please?
It’s about Kieran, who’s eighteen, and since he’s in his gap year before going to Australia, he has a bit more time to think about himself, his feelings. All this time means he’s ready to take the plunge and go to a gay youth group, to really see if these are his people, if he fits in and is gay, as he suspects. While at the gay youth group he meets Jo and Kev, both gay men, who’re a quite a bit older and a bit more experienced at ‘being gay’ than Kieran. Kieran introduces Kev and Jo to his circle of friends, which already included Hannah, who he works with at the hospital in the New Forest, and Grace, who he met while at secondary school. I wanted to explore the concept of ‘best friending’ someone. When you first meet someone and you know you want that person in your life, some people have a tendency to ‘best friend’ that new person, trying to see them at every opportunity. Kieran best friends Kev and Jo and sees how they mix with Hannah and Grace. I also wanted to explore a phenomenon you get with new friends, where they aren’t always what you first believe them to be. Kieran has a set idea of what Jo and Kev are like, and why he wants them to be his new gay best friends. But with time he realises both of them aren’t quite what he first thought. This unexpected difference can be both good and bad, as we get to know new friends, and that contrast and gradual discovery of our new friends is what Best Friends Perfect is about.
Who was your favourite character to write in Best Friends Perfect Book One?
I enjoyed writing all the characters. Kieran is particularly lovely to write as there’s a lot of me in Kieran. I also enjoyed writing Hannah and Grace – both of these friends are based in part on two of my best friends in real life – they both know and are very flattered. But I think the character who I really enjoyed writing the most was Kev – the cross dressing friend Kieran meets at the youth group. In early drafts beta readers said they enjoyed Kev so much, they wanted to know more about him, have more on page time with him, understand why he cross dressed, and lots more about him. So I added more Kev time and all these things to later drafts, and that’s all included in the version which is published. I enjoyed writing Kev so much that I’ve decided to write a Kev spin off series, telling his story, covering the same time period as Best Friends Perfect, but from Kev’s point of view. Writing Kev is always so much fun because he’s not like me at all, it’s great to have a character who’s bold, fearless, and has such a strong sense of fun. Kev is all those things, but he has his sadder side too. Yes, so the most fun character to write, for a whole host of reasons was definitely, Kev.
What was it like to write Best Friends Perfect, your first published book?
I’d been talking about wanting to write a novel for a while, and I had an idea and a broad plot of where it would go. Both my boyfriernd and my friend Louise, told me if I want to write a book, I should just write it. I don’t know who from, but I was expecting some sort of a sign to say I could write the book. I’m not sure what the sign or tip off of permission would have come from, but anyway, I just got on and wrote it. I had written quite detailed character biographies as I’d been thinking about the story for a while. I had a chapter by chapter plan of what was going to happen, and then one December I started to write it. I sat at my laptop in front of the fire, in that dead time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and wrote the first chapter. I gave myself a word target of about 6,000 words a week, and stuck to that, gradually adding more and more to the story, until about seven months later, I’d reached the end, at a whopping 200,000 words, which is about three times the length of Best Friends Perfect Book One. I didn’t know that was a very long story for a debut novelist, and after beta reader feedback, and revisions, and my writing Auntie, Clare London, reading the whole thing twice, Wilde City Press agreed to publish it as a trilogy. I was luck with Wilde City Press accepting it as they don’t only publish gay romance, they also publish gay mainstream fiction, which this story is. It has a romantic element in it, Kieran and Jo’s search for love – in all its forms – runs throughout the trilogy, but it is mainly a coming of age story – with plenty of British humour and a good dose of camp too as it’s from me!
What was your favourite part to write of Best Friends Perfect Book One?
The most fun were the scenes at the gay pride festivals and marches. They reminded me so much of when I used to go to every single gay pride march, I once went to Bournemouth Pride, which was so small it was like a little gay village fete! I enjoyed looking through my pictures of my first Brighton Pride parades, and reading my diary from the late nineties to ensure the period details – clothes, music, shoes, cars – were right. I also really enjoy writing scenes with the characters in pubs, clubs and bars as it gives them a chance to really let go and be the strongest version of themselves – good and bad. I used to enjoy going to the clubs and pubs of Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire in my late teenaged years, and writing these scenes gave me the opportunity to re-live that a bit
The characters’ journey continues, and concludes – for the moment – with Best Friends Perfect Book Three which will be published in February 2015.
I hope you enjoy entering these characters’ world and getting to know them as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Liam Livings xxx
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About the Author
He lives, with his partner and cats, where east London ends and becomes nine-carat-gold- highlights-and-fake-tan-west-Essex. He was born in Hampshire with two club feet (look it up, it’s not nice) and problem ears, needing grommets: this meant he was in plaster from toe to groin until he was two, and had to swim with a cap and olive oil soaked lamb’s wool over his ears – olive oil bought from a health food shop, before it was sold by supermarkets. He started writing when he was 14: sat in French lessons during a French exchange trip, for want of anything better to do, he wrote pen portraits about his French exchange’s teachers. He wrote for his school’s creative writing magazine and still writes a diary every day. He grew up on the edge of the New Forest – not in the New Forest mind, but on the edge. Now it’s a national park, it’s so much more glamorous. He went to uni in London and never really left. When not writing, he also enjoys baking. He avoided any sport at secondary school by having an orthodontist appointment between the age of 14 and 16, and when he was old enough to drive, just drove home instead of playing rugby/hockey/whatever. He is a car geek, his particular passion is old French classics, and his every day car is what is popularly referred to as a ‘hairdressers car’ a Mazda MX5 in powder blue – Muriel.
Connect with the Author
Liam will be giving away one ebook copy of Best Friends Perfect to a lucky winner. Good luck!
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