by James Lecesne
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: May 31st 2016
by James Lecesne
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: May 31st 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, GLBT, Teen, Mystery, Contemporary, Coming of Age
From Academy Award-winning writer, actor, and activist in the LGBTQ community comes a groundbreaking story about love, prejudice, and being yourself.
Phoebe’s life in Neptune, New Jersey, is somewhat unremarkable. She helps her mom out with her hair salon, she goes to school, and she envies her perfect older sister. But everything changes when Leonard arrives.
Leonard is an orphan, a cousin who Phoebe never knew she had. When he comes to live with Phoebe’s family, he upsets the delicate balance of their lives. He’s gay and confident about who he is. He inspires the people around him. He sees people not as they are, but as they hope to be.
One day, Leonard goes missing. Phoebe, her family, and her community fight to understand what happened, and to make sense of why someone might want to extinguish the beautiful absolute brightness that was Leonard Pelkey.
This novel by the cofounder of The Trevor Project inspired the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway show The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.
Hello James! We are super excited to have you in our FFBC tours.
TO KILL A MOICKINGBIRD – I know it’s almost a cliché by now to have YA authors cite Mockingbird as an inspiration, but for me as a gay man growing up in a society that didn’t accept LGBT people, that book was evidence to me that justice was worth fighting for even in a largely unjust world. And the dignity of every human life mattered more than social norms. It got me through my youth and guided me as an adult and inspired me as a writer.
Favorite TV show?
Currently? PLEASE LIKE ME, a charming, funny and quirky half-hour comedy from Australia. I wish I had written it.
OF ALL TIME? Harold & Maude. It was made in the late 1970’s but it still says everything we need to hear about living in the world as an authentic individual.
Your Favorite Song?
Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
The Avocado – the perfect food
Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.
Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire from OUR TOWN
Maycomb, Alabama from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Middlemarch from the novel MIDDLEMARCH
"You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny." - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would it be?
Oscar Wilde – To me he is a hero and a genius, but I bet he’d just be fun to hang out with. And I like to think he and I would have a lot to discuss.
How did you come up with the story? Did you find inspiration in any other story/movie/show and how has this affected your writing?
I had been working for many years as a writer/performer, creating my own solo shows and traveling around the country. At a certain point I challenged myself to create a really long monologue, to tell a story from the first-person point of view. As I was looking around, I was seeing too many stories about LGBT young people who were either being victimized or hurting themselves because of who they were. I didn’t want to sugarcoat the problem, but rather tell a story about the real dangers and the real beauty that comes when we dare to be our true selves. I turned to some books that were important to me as a young adult, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, A MEMEBR OF THE WEDDING, GREAT EXPECTATIONS and CATCHER IN THE RYE and tried to honor them by writing the best book I could possibly write.
Tell us your favorite quote from ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS.
“Once Leonard Pelkey disappeared, he was everywhere.” This is an encapsulation of what the book is about – how the inherent goodness of every person somehow escapes us and yet this invisible goodness is, I believe, the very thing holds the world together.
Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?
There’s a scene towards the beginning of the book in which Phoebe finds Leonard crying in his room, shortly after his arrival in Neptune. I don’t know if it was the most fun to write, but it certainly surprised me, and there’s fun in being surprised by your own writing. Up until then I’d been thinking of Leonard as a pretty happy-go-lucky kid. Despite his misfortunes, he always managed to show the world a bright face and he put a positive spin on everything. But the scene in his room revealed to me the hidden depths of Leonard’s character and showed me how difficult it was for him to always be chipper and up. It took his tears to make him real for me.
If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS – Which one would you pick?
ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS was adapted into a solo show, which I performed Off Broadway in 2016, and I got to work with singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik. He actually wrote a song called PHOTOGRAPAH, which became the theme song for the show. Could it get any better than that?
Imagine that we get to see your book on the big screen (how awesome would that be?). Who would you pick to play your characters?
Mark Ruffalo as Detective Chuck.
Marisa Tomei as Ellen
Jacob Tremblay (ROOM) as Leonard
Elle Fanning as Phoebe
What would you recommend to read to those readers eager for more stories like yours after finishing ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS?
THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER by Tim Federle
ONE MAN GUY by Michael Barakiva
BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo
TWO BOYS KISSING by David Levithan
What’s next for you?
I’m writing a YA novel, which is due to be published in 2017, published by Feiwell & Friends about a gender-neutral 16-year-old who travels to Florida with their mother to take care of their ailing grandmother. And accidently becomes a mermaid.
Something to say to our Book Addicts?
Be who you are. There is no substitute for being your true self. And only you know who that is – and the fun is finding out. You will never know the impact your authenticity has on other people. One of the reasons I wrote the novel, ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS was to remind readers that each of us has a particular brightness that cannot be hidden or disguised; that brightness changes the world we live in – if only we will let it shine.
Thank you so much for everything, James!
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For over 25 years I've been telling stories. Whether I'm writing, acting, producing or trying to create social change, it's usually the story that got me involved. But in the process of getting things done and trying to make the world a better place, I've also been telling the story of my life. This website is my best effort to provide the general gist. But my hope is that you find something here that will inspire you to live your life more fully and continue to tell your story.
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