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Inspiration – Kamikaze Boys

Simon Nessman makes a perfect David HenryA long time ago, in a galaxy exactly like this one, I was a big fish in a very small pond. That pond was called Warrensburg, Missouri, and for a twelve-year-old, I thought I was hot shit. Then a job transfer brought my family to The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb just outside of Houston, and the game changed completely. I was still rocking my California Raisins T-shirts (yeah…) while the other kids in my class were sporting designer fashion labels. Painful story short, I went from big shot to big target. In retrospect, I’m glad. I needed a healthy dose of humility and probably would have ended up a royal asshole otherwise. Unfortunately, this lesson came at a price. I was pummeled on the playground regularly by a bully that makes Chuck Bryl look brave. My bully paid other kids to rough me up. I took as much as I could from him and others. Then I started going crazy in the most destructive way possible. These experiences were the inspiration for Kamikaze Boys.

David Henry from Kamikaze Boys by Jay BellThe true story is more complex, drawn out over many years, but the gist of it can be found between the printed sheets. While not truly autobiographical, Kamikaze Boys tells that story of wanting to lash out at the world and finding a partner that is just as willing to join those destructive impulses. An author drawing inspiration from his past is hardly surprising, so let’s check out some of the images and sounds that helped get my creative juices bubbling. When prepping for this book, I sought out photos of models that resembled the characters in my imagination. David was the most successful in this regard. The photo I stared at most can be found above. The model is Simon Nessman, who with his delightfully curly hair, sensitive eyes, and luscious lips, is the perfect combination of nerdy and hot. (Now we’ve clearly stepped away from autobiographical elements!) Simon looks a lot cooler in most of his model shots, but as a bonus, I found a few images of him that look like a more confident David, perhaps after basking in the Florida sun.

Speaking of Florida, I name-drop a song in the book as Connor and David are on their way down. If you haven’t heard Empire of the Sun’s debut album, it’s a wild trip. There’s a lot of weird stuff going down musically in Australia lately. I’m loving that movement and hope it takes the world by storm. Chances are you’ve heard the song I played on a loop while writing this book. If not, check out “We Are the People” and see if it clicks with you at all. I can totally imagine David dancing to this, or him and Connor cruising off into the sunset with this in the background.

It's Connor Williams! Sort of...Creating Connor was a bit different than the process I used for David. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that part of him comes straight from reality television. A well-meaning series called Jamie’s Dream School had troubled teens getting another shot at an education with very mixed results. One of the participants, Henry, caught my eye. His persona had little in common with Connor’s, but I sure liked his appearance. The weird thing is, the more I wrote Connor, the less I imagined him looking like Henry. I’m including a few images anyway, so you can see where I started, but the Connor in my mind is rougher around the edges. And of course he has that awesome scar.

Hey, he's got the angry thing down!Connor’s theme comes straight from the eighties and is sung by Billy Idol of all people. In an odd example of synchronicity, shortly after Connor started calling David “Sweet Sixteen,” I began hearing Billy Idol’s song by that same name on the radio. A lot. To be honest, I don’t know if I’d ever heard it before, even in the eighties. But it’s a pretty cool tune, and at the time, the lyrics matched where I intended the plot to go. Plans and people change, but I still love the vibe of this song. Check out Billy strumming his guitar below.

So those were the biggest influences on my writing this time around. Feel free to apply mind bleach if any of this conflicts with what you imagined while reading. In fact, if there’s anything you associate with Kamikaze Boys, no matter the media, I’d love to hear about it!

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20 Responses

  1. Alan

    He reminds me of my favorite model for a while now Juan Manuel Arancibia. He’s Argentinian and super sexy, and also happens to be gay dating another super sexy Argentinian model Nicolas Ripoll of Prada fame..
    Juan did the Dior spring ’10 campaign. I’m obsessed with him. I love his lips.

  2. Lucas

    Whoa so glad you posted this. Thanks for insight with the pics and the songs. Anyone who hasn’t read your January 25, 2011 blog ‘Inspiration – Something Like Summer’ should check it out including the song ‘Faster Still’ by The Fold.

  3. Wow,
    Newbie that I am, I thought I was the only one that did this, write to music I mean. I’m not sure iId be able to write without music, scenes come to me easier… in full blown detail.
    Anyway loving Empire of the Sun, got to go purchase it.

    Loved this blog post!

    • Do you listen to music with lyrics, or just instrumentals? Usually I’ll listen to a few tunes to get in the mood before sitting down to work. If I write with music on in the background, the lyrics get tangled up with the words in my head and I can’t concentrate.

  4. Hi, Jay!

    I feel like I need to introduce myself since, according to Amazon, your novels are most often bought with mine! I was reading through this post and saw that you lived in The Woodlands, TX, my home since 1983 and a horribly conservative community, something many of us are working hard to change. Small world, huh? Congrats on your nomination for a Lammy! And best of luck. My friend Brent Taylor will be giving the YA award alongside Jacqueline Woodson. I hope you’ll seek him out. I’d love to have a photo of the two of you together. I would also love to exchange a few emails with you if you are so inclined! Congrats on all your success!

    • Who is that man in the photo next to my name? Not me, I assure you!

      • Thanks to magical nature of my blog, the man in the photo by your name is you, but in the far, far future. 😉 Actually, all the avatars on here are pulled randomly from different pieces of art. It’s unusual that someone gets a person, like you did. I’m pretty sure that’s worth extra points!

    • Hey J.H.

      Nice to meet you. You’ve lived in The Woodlands a long time! I liked the city, for the most part, but I definitely felt more comfortable coming out after moving away from there. I did use the city as a backdrop to Something Like Summer, which seemed appropriate. I only lived there from 89-94, if I remember right. Any chance we went to school together? Thanks for the well-wishes in regards to the Lammys. That’s going to be one weird experience! Any yeah, feel free to shoot me an email any time you like. It’s up there on the left. :)

  5. Kory Cooper

    Hey, I came to know your works from reading from another author, name kyell gold, before that I had never read anything gay aside from fan fiction and some things like that, but the woork by kyell es more specified to some currents I like, so I was first reluctant to pick up yours, although the cover art of something like summer always caught my sight and I found myself reading the book description in amazon, and one day I had nothing to read so I downloaded the sample for my kindle and I was hooked immediately, I then bought the book and finished it in one day, I cried my eyes out in the end and well I just loved the book and so I ended with this need to read more and bought kamikaze boys the next day and damn, was it fun, I could just picture myself in David’s shoes, When my parents found out I was gay they didn’t send me to a clinic or something like that, but they did make me go to some congress to try and cure me with conferences about love and religion and whatnot so I kinda felt where he was there, and well to put it simply I just really love both books, they are awesome, so I had to research more of your work lol, and well now I know about something like winter, but I would really love to know if there is ever going to be a sequel for kamikaze boys? I really loved the characters and it would be great to read more about them, but I know it’s not always good for a story to write a sequel just for the heck of it, either way I assure you, somehting like summer and kamikaze boys are going to be some of my most read books ever, thank you for creating those to wonderful worlds and I look forward to more from your work, right now I’m going to try cat in the cradle, and oh, sorry for the ridiculously long comment rambling about me lol and the grammas issues and such, English isn’t my first language.

    • Hey Kory!

      Great to hear from you. Your English is great! I never would have guessed that it’s not your first language. Anyway, thank you so much for reading my books. I greatly appreciate it. As for Kamikaze Boys, I’m not currently planning on continuing David and Connor’s story, but maybe some day. I swore I would never write a sequel to Something Like Summer, but now I have. If I think of a good story idea for my Kamikaze Boys, then it’s possible we’ll see them again. Until then, I hope my other books keep you entertained.

      Many thanks!


  6. Patricia G.

    Hello Jay,
    I read your “Hell’s Pawn” a while back and truly loved it — it was different, loopy and funny and serious at the same time. I bought “Kamikaze Boys” and hesitated to open it up, but read it in two days this week — wonderful! Hesitated because I was afraid of disappointment. But it was as good as the first. Those characters will stay in my head a long time. They are vivid and your dialogue is smart. I am older and trying my hand at writing for the first time. Your work teaches me. Keep writing please! I am now eager to begin “The Cat in the Cradle” now.

    • Hi Patricia!

      I’m thrilled you read Hell’s Pawn. A lot of readers skip over that one, I suppose because it’s hard to categorize. Your description of loopy is apt, since Hell’s Pawn is an odd one. I’m very happy you gave it a shot and enjoyed it. That’s great that you’re writing. Story telling is a skill I believe anyone can learn, although older folks have an advantage, since they have more experiences to draw from. I’ll definitely keep writing, and if you enjoy doing so yourself, I hope you keep at it as well.

      Best of luck to you!


  7. Steven


    I remember purchasing the ebook version of Something Like Summer on my nook several months ago and simply fell in love with it. I wasn’t looking for a coming out story.. just a novel that focused on gay themes for a change, that wasn’t too forced and could sit in the same shelf as a heterosexual take on romance in a Barnes and Noble rather than shelved in the “LGBT” section purely for being what it is. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered your books! I’ve recently finished Kamikaze Boys having purchased it the night before, staying up until exhaustion and sleep deprivation forced me to stop and picking it back up the moment I woke up. Having finished the book several minutes ago, and with nothing else to obsess over, I felt compelled to write to you and tell you how much I enjoy your books. They’re simply fascinating and I hope you continue to produce fine works of literature that explore gay themes!

    • Wow, Steven. Thanks so much! I had a similar craving for gay themed books when I first started writing. Since then I’ve discovered there are tons out there, but I’m hooked, and will keep writing more and more and more. :) Thank you for the kind words and encouragement. It’s back to the typewriter for me. … Well, okay, it’s back to work at this very same keyboard. I don’t really own a typewriter. That would be outdated and weird. 😉

  8. Neil


    I read Something Like Summer after watching one of @Shep689 videos. Having read this, I quickly read pretty every other book you have written. Brilliance. Enjoyed every one.

    I have to say, Kamikaze Boys is my favourite. Having said this, I thought you and I were going to have issues when David and Connor were separated, but desperate to contact each other. This soon subsided when they were reunited, however! 😉

    Great work! I look forward to Something Like Winter.


    • Hey Neil!

      Sorry for the pitifully late response to this message. I’ve been busy saving starving orphans from alien invaders. Or working, but the first excuse sounds better. Anyway, thank you very much for reading my books. I love that Kamikaze Boys is your favorite. Most people tend to prefer Something Like Summer, but I have a special place in my heart for David and Connor. I’m glad you do too. I also think it’s awesome that you watch Will and RJ’s YouTube channel. Aren’t they fabulous?

      Thanks for dropping me a line!


  9. Pam B.

    Did Paul wait for Corey?

    • I like to think they found each other again. Maybe not right away, but I could see them getting together when Corey was older and his parents couldn’t mess with him anymore. :)

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