Category Archives: General

The Sidekicks is coming to America!

Sara Farizan

I’m thrilled to announce that The Sidekicks will be released in the United States on October 17, 2017. It’ll be hardcover (!!!) and the cover is gorgeous (I can’t show anyone yet unfortunately, but the image above is *loudly clears throat* pretty close). It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Here’s the new American blurb:

Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people — the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they’ve ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.

When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.

An intricately woven story told in three parts, award-winning Australian author Will Kostakis makes his American debut with this heartwarming, masterfully written novel about grief, self-discovery and the connections that tie us all together.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since The Sidekicks‘ Australian release, and I just want to thank everyone for embracing it. Travelling the country meeting you all has been an absolute pleasure, and here’s hoping our paths cross again in 2017.

Being political

ryan

I’ve wanted to write something about marriage equality and the election for some time now. Whenever I attempt to write a piece, though, a voice in my head tells me not to be so political. It’s a neat trick. Conservatives politicise the way I live and the way I love, then make me feel as though it’s inappropriately political to speak from my own experiences.

As a result, I’ve written nothing.

And when you write nothing, you relinquish the pen to somebody else. Somebody who says that he, as a heterosexual white male with “very strong religious views”, encounters the same “dreadful hate speech and bigotry” as LGBT Australians.

With the Coalition’s expected return to power will come an expensive plebiscite over whether marriage equality should be granted. Yes, a federally funded opinion poll asking whether two consenting adults should be allowed to marry is ludicrous, but the plebiscite will be so much more. It will be about the validity of homosexual love, the acceptability and quality of homosexual parenting, and a whole load of other homophobic concerns.

It will finally put a numeric value on the disdain some people have for same-sex-attracted people. See, even if it is overwhelmingly successful … Like, let’s say 70% vote in favour of marriage equality, it will still stand as a reminder to every gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, questioning person, adult or child, that 30% of Australians disapprove of them.

I might not ever get married, but I want marriage equality. I do not believe in trickle-down economics, but I believe in trickle-down morality. So long as our politicians debate and bicker over whether LGBT Australians ought to have equal rights under the law, the homophobic fringes of society are vindicated.

Marriage equality will change attitudes, and … Sorry, Fred Nile, but it will also change schools. Male and female teachers will have husbands and wives respectively. More kids with same-sex parents will enrol. Kids who’ve been to gay weddings will know that they can be just as boring. ‘Gay’ will eventually lose its meaning as a slur.

And let’s be honest, schools do need to change. My heart shouldn’t skip a beat when I hear a teacher say something about respecting the LGBT community at an Anglican school assembly (last week). I shouldn’t have a librarian tell me how much she enjoyed The Sidekicks and boast about encouraging teachers to borrow it because it was on their ‘Adults-Only’ shelf.

We’re being left behind by the rest of the world. I feel it now. I felt it last year, when I toured with a gay author from the United States. Having read their bio, a teacher at a secular school approached us and delicately implied that it would not be appropriate for this author to talk about certain things, because “there were square parents at their school”. Having seen this author speak for a few days, I was beginning to feel inspired to come out professionally myself – that incident alone pushed me back into the closet until earlier this year and … we all know what happened then.

My heart breaks just thinking about the students who are affected by those same … “square parents”.

On the other side, Bill Shorten has said that marriage equality will be the first law Labor passes if the party wins the election. It makes me deeply uncomfortable that a party that was in power three short years ago is now dangling equal treatment under the law as some eleventh-hour sweetener in a marathon election campaign.

If the alternative is a divisive plebiscite, on top of the parallel importation of books and the general feeling that our parliament is some unfunny Benny Hill skit, I’m game.

Are We Friends?

Snapchat RevolutionI wonder if I’d be as engrossed in social media, as willing to share, as excited by engagement stats, if I didn’t have something to sell. Or is, “I’m an author using social media to build my personal brand,” really just my way of excusing a need to be followed, favourited, retweeted by as many people as possible?

I’m told John Green became massive because of YouTube. Not certain I believe it, but the YouTubers with massive book deals for memoirs about overcoming the adversity of not knowing how conventionally attractive they are? Yeah, they’re massive because of YouTube.

We’ve watched, in recent years, the commodification of identity, and more specifically, friendship. People who we feel close to online have turned that feeling into profit.

Coming to social media as a professional first, person second, I am suspicious of oversharing online, of courting the attention and adoration of people I will likely never meet, seemingly for no personal gain. It’s empty celebrity, building a brand with no product to sell.

A friend ramped up his social media game recently, friend in the we-saw-each-other-naked-once kind of way. He started snapping about coupled life more, recipe how-tos, workout tips (yeah, like we all follow personal trainers on social media for the stellar advice). It had nothing to do with his profession, and I wondered what he had to gain. Why he would even bother. Was he pivoting into a career in personal fitness? And then … the why happened.

He shared a story on Snapchat, a photograph with his partner, barely clothed, with a website link. It promised them, “unlocked”.

For “only $2.99 a week” (billed monthly at $12.99, a $0.03 loss over the course of a calendar year), the service promises exclusive Snapchat content. You get “instant and unrestricted access” to “experience life through [their] eyes” and “private message [them] any time”.

At first, it made me laugh. I admire people who can outrun satire. Then I recognised the sadness running through it. It’s friendship as premium content. It’s the gay Sydney equivalent of Tidal nobody asked for (kind of like the music equivalent of Tidal, Tidal). It’s a case of the cool kids clique charging others for the friendship experience, and like Tidal, people will subscribe, because they want to be closer to Beyoncé, to Rihanna.

It’s a tale as old as t… en or so years ago: Build content, attract a following, whack up a paywall. But surely, “What do you want to know about us? Ask us … ANYTHING!” is a bridge too far.

I intended this piece to be a call to arms, a plea to stop this before it takes over, but who am I kidding? I’m paying a premium price for concert tickets tonight so that Brandy poses for a photo with me after the show. I stay with my personal trainer because he asks about my day, and when he calls me buddy, my teenage self thinks, The sporty kid likes meBut it comes with a fee.

And I say this all, neck-deep in hypocrisy, blogging on a website I set up in the hope you’ll like me enough to click the links to the right and buy my books. I’m the problem too.

The Vegetarian and the Meatlover by the BrigoPotatoes

brigo

Today was my final day as Writer In Residence at Brigidine St Ives. I was sad to say goodbye, but as one last hurrah, the Year Sevens united to produce what they believed to be the best worst romance ever written. Selected at random, students contributed a sentence each, while I stood to one side shouting encouragement. I now present you with the fruits of their labour, The Vegetarian and the Meatlover by the BrigoPotatoes:

Victoria walked past the butcher with disgust, how could be so cruel, she would never go in in her life. As she was looking through the window she saw her reflection in the window, no it was gross. The boy in the shop was looking at her through the shop window. Her eyes melted as she gazed into his beautiful eyes. As she was taken back to reality she knew that she could never be with him. She wanted to go in now but knew she couldn’t. he watched as her curly orange hair disappeared into the distance. He would never see that georgeous face again. The reason she left was cause she literally puked on the pavement.She saw him chowing down on a piece of steak as he licked his lips in delight,YUK! As she glanced back at him she pondered ‘ could I ever become a meateater?’ but she pushed that horrid thought away. She started to walk away from the shop until she had a thought, “Do I love him”? She laughed at herself in disgust and ran away, the boy saw her and ran after her luscious locks. The next day, I walked arcross the carb shop and I noticed a familiar face and tall figure. He leans across the counter to grab hid big bread loaf that’s my favouriyte she said. He waved at her and she blushed at the sight of his biceps. “Hello, my name is Wayne!”
‘Wow, that’s an amazing name! My name is Victoria. She sighed dreamily without knowing it.
He pushed his thick blonde hair out of his face showing his tunning crystal eyes, how could anyone be as beautiful as the human infront of her? Maybe?
“why are you following me?”
“you dropped somemthin.”
“IM A VEGETARIAN!!!!! I DON’T EAT MEAT!!”
He thought about this for a minute in his head, now he couldn’t be more attracted to her than ever but suddenly his girlfriend came around and hugged him. Then suddenly, Victorias mum, a nun walked in, and stared at the three.
“whats gping on ere you lovebirds?” she said
“he is a meat eater I do not love him momma” Victoria said with a huff>. The disgust Victoria saw on her mothers face was absolutely hallarious, the thought of eating an animal was atrocious.
“come on darling we have to go home to feed your dog”
“don’t you mean Tiana-Kyle Umpa?”
She stared back in horroer as wayn and his girlfriend kissed. She thought to her self “ I thought I loved him” then she told him that she was ay to pretty to have him as her girlfriend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beautiful. Georgeous, even.

Vale #PTAChat

first3rd1

Tonight at 7:30pm AEDT, Twitter is hosting the final #PTAChat. While I’m certain there’s amazing bookish stuff just around the corner, this is a bittersweet moment for me. It was the #PTAChat community who embraced me when I resurfaced with The First Third. Their encouragement was inspiring, and the book banter was always top-notch. My TBR pile is five times its usual size because of the recommendations I’ve accumulated over the years, and I just wanted to say thanks, not only to the awesome @PenguinTeenAus but to every author, reader, blogger who made #PTAChat the incredible beast it was.

We’re sad to see you go, Felicity (@FlossAus). You led the way, and made us so. excited. about. everything. Thanks for believing in me, @FlossAus. And for old times’ sake, here’s a collection of my greatest shirtless selfies, ordered by gym pump …

Loving someone is never age-inappropriate

sidekicks1

I thought I’d post a quick hello (Hi!), and thank you to everyone who commented and shared messages of support (Thanks!). Last week was an intense week, both professionally and personally, and I really appreciate your words. While I haven’t heard back from the school regarding last week’s events, I’ve been made aware of the school’s response, copied in below:

FROM THE PRINCIPAL
Dear Parents/Caregivers,
Over the last few days, there has been story in the media that involves [Redacted school name]. I am writing to you to clarify some of the details about that story.
In 2015, author Will Kostakis was invited to the College to speak about writing and, in particular, his first novel, The First Third. The talk to students was well-received and Mr Kostakis was invited back to speak to the Year 7 and Year 8 students at the end of March this year. At that presentation, Mr Kostakis would have the oppor[t]unity to promote his new novel, The Sidekicks, which was about to be released.
Part of the due diligence that teachers undertake in preparation for these visits is to ensure that what is being presented to students is content and age-appropriate. Because The Sidekicks had not been released and therefore read by teachers, a request was made to Mr Kostakis to reference his first book in his presentation to students. Mr Kostakis’ blog had indicated that his new novel includes a same-sex relationship between two young people. Without having had the opportunity to read the novel, and to ensure that the content was appropriate for Year 7 and Year 8, a request was made to Mr Kostakis to reference his first novel rather than his soon-to-be-released one. I want to make clear that Mr Kostakis’ invitation to the school was not withdrawn.
As a Catholic College, we are inclusive and compassionate and tolerant. I am disappointed that there could a perception anywhere that would suggest something different than that. Of course, the teachings and the ethos of our Catholic faith sit at the heart of who we are and what we do. We also take our responsibilities to our students and our parents very seriously. The request to Mr Kostakis was made in this context.
Thank you for your understanding with this matter and for your continued support of the College.

My return visit in March was intended as a book launch for The Sidekicks. While some might argue that you can’t have a book launch for The Sidekicks without the book, The Sidekicks, I have sought to clarify whenever interviewed that I was only told I could not talk about my new book (as evident in the initial Buzzfeed article).

I respect the school conducting its due diligence. I had, erroneously, assumed that since The First Third was deemed “age-appropriate” (it features a same-sex relationship, consensual casual sex organised through a gay dating app), then a novel that features a similar sub-plot, written with similar language, would be equally appropriate.

I call it a sub-plot because it is “sub” to the actual plot. The Sidekicks is about three different young men navigating grief after the sudden death of a close friend, learning to be more accepting of each other’s difference. There was no mention of the sub-plot on my website beforehand, because I wanted the reader to experience that part of the story unspoiled.

In the school’s email requesting that The Sidekicks launch event go ahead without The Sidekicks (which again, is not technically cancelling the event), it was stated:

We have a concern about promoting your new book at our school as it is a Catholic school. We were reading over your blog and I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy.

The only blog post that touched on same-sex attraction was my own “coming out”, a personal reflection on how a former partner’s cancer diagnosis made clear just how my being in the closet during our time together diminished his significance in my life.

In embracing The First Third, and its representation of diverse sexualities, the school did prove it was inclusive, compassionate and tolerant. The school then rejected The Sidekicks for not being content or age-appropriate without reading it, based on a blog post I wrote about my own personal experiences.

I need to make this clear: I am a male author who is attracted to men. While my experiences inform who I am, and how I write, that is not all I am, that is not all I write. When I visit schools, my main priority is to foster a love of reading, and I cannot do that without promoting my own work.

In the spirit of being inclusive, compassionate and tolerant, I would suggest that the school treat a book that features two boys kissing in the same way it would treat a book that features a boy and a girl kissing.

Loving someone is never age-inappropriate.

In case you want to send me this email

sidekicks1I’m going to try avoid editorialising this as much as possible. This is an email I was sent today, and this is my response to it. And my heart is raging through my shirt.

The email:

Hi Will,
We have a concern about promoting your new book at our school as it is a Catholic school. We were reading over your blog and I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy.
I have nothing personally against you and it sounds like a touching story that would love to read, however I feel it isn’t appropriate. If you want to promote The First Third on March 30, you are more than welcome however I have been advised we can’t promote your new book. I understand this isn’t in your best interest so we can cancel the meet and greet.
I spoke to [your agent], we still absolutely want you in June, but if possible can you please do the same talk as last year with focus on becoming an author and The First Third?
Thanks,
Regards,
[Redacted]

My response:

Hi [redacted],
I appreciate you taking the time to email, and I understand it probably wasn’t the easiest email to write.
I was worried about this happening with The Sidekicks. To be honest, I was worried about this happening with The First Third – which in addition to zany Greek hilarity, features a gay character coming to terms with his sexuality in the context of his disability. That gay character engages in casual sex through an app, fearing rejection, but yearns for something more. In the end of The First Third, he gets it.
That plotline wasn’t for Catholic schools, it wasn’t for parents, it was for students, students like me, who felt less than adequate because they loved someone “they weren’t supposed to”.
I am thankful for the leadership my high school showed in selecting texts that championed diversity. Some people were uncomfortable reading about two boys kissing, but it prompted discussion and working through prejudice. And even though I was not out, I felt like less of an outsider. I felt safe.
Coming out publicly was difficult. I feared I would have to choose between doing what I love/earn a living from – engaging kids to read and be truthful in their writing – and not having to hide my partners from colleagues as “friends”. I had hoped, having spoken at some Catholic schools, those schools would be comfortable with my revelation knowing what I bring to my presentations and workshops. And that my sexuality, while it informs who I am, is not the subject of my presentations.
Professionally, it would probably be wise to still present in June, your students were a lovely audience, but I have to stick up for my 16 year old self, and say this is personal.
The First Third dealt with queerness only slightly less than The Sidekicks, both are written carefully and with respect to students (and their parents) who may find confronting the idea of two people of the same gender kissing. The First Third was acceptable, but now I have a blog post saying I like men, The Sidekicks is not.
And that is not something I will accept for the promise of a pay cheque.
All the very best for the future, and I hope you find the courage my teachers did.
Cheers
William

Reintroducing myself

sidekicks1Before each of my young-adult novels, I’ve had to introduce myself. When Loathing Lola came out, I was William Kostakis, the teenager. When The First Third released, I was Will Kostakis, a little more mature, and a lot more ethnic. With each release, I have grown more confident sharing more of myself. As The Sidekicks hits shelves, I feel like I ought to tell the rest.

A close friend was diagnosed with cancer last month.

That was how I told most people. “A close friend”. When we dated, I would never admit he was close to that. “Oh, him? Oh I know him through a friend,” I would say. He was always just an acquaintance, to throw anyone off the scent that maybe, I liked kissing boys. I was scared people would look at me differently if they knew.

It was an act of self-preservation, hiding him for the eight-or-so months we dated. And when he told his friends about me, I was angry he had the nerve. They could tell someone, who could tell someone who knew me, and they might look at me differently.

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s hard to preserve yourself by making someone else invisible, so we faded, from more to close friends.

And after a phone call, last month, he went from invisible to almost gone.

I’ve always been comfortable gently implying where I sit on the Kinsey scale, hoping I say just enough, or write just enough that surely, people realise without me having to say.

But I have to say. Time tricks us into thinking we have a lot of it, we don’t. One minute, all is fine, the next, you’re driving your close friend to a sperm bank before he undergoes chemotherapy.

We stopped at McDonalds on the way. I filled the space with awkward jokes. I asked if he thought the nurses made pornography recommendations. Kind of like David and Margaret at the Sperm Bank.

“Production values leave a bit to be desired, but it’s Australian. 5 stars!” I joked.

We laughed and I worried. I didn’t want it to end. And I regretted everything. Romantically, we had failed, but he had never denied me. He had never diminished my significance or value in his life, and I, like some horrible cliché, was only recognising that when he was almost gone.

Almost. Turns out, his surgery was successful and he doesn’t need chemotherapy. There will be two years’ worth of tests and anxieties, but it appears, my dark-hour fears were just that.

He isn’t going anywhere, and I get another chance:

He is my close friend, and we used to date. He was my first relationship, the confirmation this wasn’t a phase, and that it could be just as wild, messy, lovely, perfect as hetero love. He was significant.

He is significant.

Cover reveals (and messing with my publisher)

2015

After a brief hiatus (in whichever bizarro world fifteen months can be considered ‘brief’), I’m back. It’s been an incredible year-and-a-bit. I won the Gold Inky (thanks to everyone who voted), and it’s taken me so long to post about it, they’ve gone and given the award to someone else (Gabrielle Tozer. She is excellent. Her novel The Intern is also excellent.).

2014 was an incredible year, and 2015 matched it. I toured a lot, mostly alone, but for three short days, with international author Sara Farizan. I got to wrestle Marama Whyte over an ARC of Illuminae. I lost, but it’s out now and I bought one so I’ll deal. I also took Mum to a really terrible Robbie Williams cabaret show, which was a life low-light, but a Twitter highlight:

Most importantly though, I’ve been writing a book. It’s called The Sidekicks, and it’ll be out in early 2016.

Now, whenever an author’s new book is announced, you can know a title and read a blurb, but you don’t really get a sense of what it will be like until you see the cover. For that reason, the cover announcement is kind of a big deal. The lovely folks at Penguin Teen Australia had a strategy and everything. They were going to announce the cover after their regular #PTAChats (guided discussions about YA).

I saw an opportunity for mischief.

Armed with Photoshop and all of my Instagram selfies, I whipped up a fake book cover:

There was a longer-than-intended dramatic pause between my threat and the upload though. I was on a train, using my phone’s internet…

Where there’s mischief, karma soon follows. I give you my submission for Most Awkward Life Experience 2015:

The actual cover features 100% less shirtless Will.

Pretty awesome, don’t you think? I’ll share more soon :-)

EDIT: Okay, so I may have purposefully omitted their revenge prank: