‘Glitter Boy’ was one of my anticipated reads of 2023 so far! I love Ian’s wonderful inclusive picture books and was extremely excited to hear that a middle grade title was on its way. I was expecting an emotional journey and wow did I get one!
I had the privilege of asking Ian some questions about the creation of the joyous Glitter Boy – scroll down to read what he had to say…
‘James loves dancing, poetry, and Mariah Carey (not in that order, though, because Mariah would obviously be first!).
His teacher, Mr Hamilton, is getting married to his boyfriend and it seems that James will be part of a surprise choir performance at the wedding.
But James’s father seems uncomfortable about the plan, and a lot of other things – like any mention of Mr Hamilton, and James’s dancing, and how James talks about his new friend Joel. Meanwhile, a different boy has been harassing James at school and calling him gay, and it’s getting worse every day.
James can find relief with his beloved Nan, she’s been having worrying falls, and James can’t tell anyone, or she might be sent to a faraway care home. The secrets are building up, and James is starting to lose his characteristic spark.
Can he find the strength to let the truth out?’
As I said, Glitter Boy was an emotional rollercoaster of a read. There were moments of heartbreak, humour, and pure joy! When I had finished, I had lots of questions to ask Ian. Below, are the answers:
– Your previous titles include some wonderful, inclusive picture books but Glitter Boy is your first (and hopefully not last) middle grade book. How different was the process for getting Glitter Boy to publication in comparison?
Glitter Boy actually started off life as a picture book called ‘Mr. Hamilton’ but my editor Linas felt that the story would work as a middle grade and asked me to think about how I could expand upon it. Of course, despite reading lots of middle grade books, I didn’t really know much about their structure, word count or how to even begin writing one. Luckily, Linas believed in me and asked me just to try writing a few chapters. Once he’d fed back to me that I needed to slow down and could take my time setting up the characters and storyline, I felt a bit more confident. I decided not to plan anything and just go for it. I knew that if I stopped to think about it too much, the pressure and nerves would get to me, so I decided to just really enjoy the writing process. I had no idea where the characters were going to take me and was shocked when I wrote Chapter 10 and *that moment*. Overall, it was an exhausting, uplifting, emotional experience and I loved every minute of it!
– Glitter Boy strikes me as a deeply personal novel which draws on some distressing experiences in your life. How did it feel to be revisiting that period and why did you feel it was important to do so?
It was quite traumatic, actually! I didn’t get much sleep over the months that I was writing it and was having a lot of nightmares about being back in secondary school and experiencing homophobic bullying again. Writing Glitter Boy brought back a lot of memories and forced me to really look at my past, how I’d dealt with things, and why I behave and act in certain ways now. A lot of the storylines in Glitter Boy have an element of ‘wish fulfilment’ to them. I never stood up to my bullies, never told anyone, and tried desperately to forget it. I suppose Glitter Boy was my way of dealing with that period in my life and right some wrongs, whilst also offering hope for a new generation of LGBTQ+ youngsters who may be experiencing the same thing.
– I really enjoyed James’ poems scattered throughout the story. Did you write poetry when you were younger? Do you still write now?
I actually used to write song lyrics when I was younger and let me tell you – they were dreadful. They were exactly as embarrassing and cringeworthy as you can imagine! I used to type them all up and keep them in a folder. They were often about other lads I fancied or had a crush on or about trying to make it through tough times. When I’m running workshops with children linked to Nen and the Lonely Fisherman or The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince I often get the children to write poetry in response to the books and love what they come up with! I read an awful lot of children’s poetry and am a big fan of poets like Dom Conlon, Sue Hardy-Dawson, Julie Ann Douglas, Neal Zetter, Joshua Seigal, Brian Moses, Liz Brownlee, Debra Bertulis, Matt Goodfellow, Kate Wakeling, Alex Wharton…the list goes on!
– You’ve recently appeared on the national news talking about LGBTQ+ inclusive education and Glitter Boy. Did you ever imagine that would be happening?
Erm…NO! Definitely not! A gay children’s author on the news talking about an LGBTQ+ inclusive book, Section 28, and homophobic bullying?! What a moment! I was terrified but Harriet Dunlea at Scholastic came along with me and metaphorically held my hand, and the whole team at ITV News were delightful, professional, and welcoming. I’m really proud of myself that, firstly, I made it through without any embarrassing mishaps and that, secondly, I got to talk about issues that are important to me. I feel a responsibility to talk about these things and try to make things better for the next generation of LGBTQ+ youngsters. Who knows, maybe it’ll be Lorraine or This Morning next! I think becoming a dad has made me even more vocal and passionate about showing up for our children. I hate the idea of anyone else going through what I went through and, with homophobia, biphobia and transphobia on the rise in our country, it is vital we step up and speak out.
– What can you tell us about upcoming projects?
Ha! Sadly, everything is very secret squirrel in publishing! I have two more lovely picture books coming out this year and then there’s lots of exciting things planned with more LGBTQ+ fairy tales and perhaps even a new middle grade book being planned…Keep your eyes peeled!
I think you can tell when someone has poured their heart and soul into a book, and you can tell from the above that Ian has certainly done this.
Titles like Glitter Boy are so important for raising awareness and allowing all readers to feel seen and represented in the books they read. I, like Ian, hope that somebody reading Glitter Boy might feel encouraged that things can change for the better and perhaps be galvanised into taking action. I also hope they experience the pure joy of belting out a Mariah Carey tune at full volume and feeling that sense of release!
In this book, we are taken through the highs and lows of James’ life as he deals with homophobic bullying, grief, and a fractured relationship with his father. I will warn you – there were several moments when I had tears in my eyes. But there are also plenty of humorous and truly cheering moments to enjoy such as the playground dance routines and father-son heart-to-hearts.
A fantastic read for anyone aged 10+
*Many thanks to Scholastic for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*
One thought on “Blog tour: ‘Glitter Boy,’ by Ian Eagleton, cover by Melissa Chaib.”
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