A 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.
The 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.
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.
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!