Straight-Faced by Ryan Lynch

Sixteen-year-old Freddie Moore is living the perfect life, or so he thought. He’s popular, part of the school football team and has been dating his girlfriend for the entirety of secondary school. But when he can’t stop noticing the boy who takes photos at his football matches, he starts to question his identity. He can’t be gay. Can he?

Knowing he can’t tell anybody the truth, and surrounded by homophobic football culture, Freddie gets caught up in a hate crime with his teammates, targeting the boy he’s falling for. Not wanting his secret to be uncovered he lets the attack unfold.

 

But when it goes terribly wrong there’s a much bigger secret to keep…and this one’s a matter of life and death.

About the Author

Ryan was born in Suffolk and has always dreamt of being a writer. After completing a BA in English Literature in 2016, and falling more in love with literature, he decided it was time to take the plunge and write his own novel and so he enrolled on Bath Spa University’s Writing for Young People MA. This is where his LGBTQ+ thriller Straight-Faced was born.

Ryan is an avid fan of contemporary crime fiction, a crisp connoisseur, and a self-proclaimed champion of every board game, ever. In his spare time, you’ll often find him participating in pub quizzes, sharing his vast knowledge of X-Factor winners, or sending off multiple applications for TV quiz shows. After ‘having a published book’, being on The Chase is second on his bucket list.

His other hobbies include recommending Netflix crime documentaries to everybody that’ll listen and defending the idea that scrolling through socials is absolutely classed as a hobby. He is living in Suffolk with his Dalmatian, Dottie and is now much more imaginative when naming fictional characters than he was when he named his dog.

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Straight-Faced by Ryan Lynch, introduced by Amara Bennington

Think YA thriller, but after it’s been put on a spin cycle in the genre washing machine with LGBTQ+, romance, contemporary, and dark humour, and all the colours have run. With Straight-Faced, Ryan has subverted the overused stereotype of a gay protagonist falling in love with the popular yet unattainably straight captain of the football team, and has instead given readers an insight into being Mr Popular... but this time he’s closeted, confused and at the centre of a homophobic hate crime. Meet Freddie Moore.

Workshopping this story from the beginning has allowed me to see Freddie’s growth, and has had me growling with frustration, crying with despair (and happiness!), and snorting with laughter, sometimes all within the span of one chapter. Ryan’s characters are realistically complex, as people are, and in a coming-of-age story that explores issues such as homophobia, self-hatred and alcoholism, realism is integral. So too, is the comic relief that punctuates the story, and Ryan’s blended millennial and Gen Z humour shows how involved Ryan is in the ever-changing culture of young people, without excluding new adult readers. Straight-Faced is honest, gritty and representative, and I cannot wait for it to spark joy, inspiration and solidarity in the hands of its young readers.

What was your inspiration for this story?

In 1998, a 21-year-old American college student was brutally beaten and tortured, before being left to die, all because he was gay. His name was Matthew Shepard. A name I have never been able to forget. The impact that Matthew’s story had on me was the spur of inspiration that led me to begin writing Straight-Faced. I wanted to write about an attack, fuelled by prejudice, that was so horrific it gave readers the same lasting feeling that Matthew’s story gave me.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

The first day I walked up the drive into Corsham Court. I couldn’t believe I would be spending a year writing in such a beautiful place. Who else can say they’ve written in such a beautiful building, surrounded by peacocks?

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

SO SO MUCH. I could list every single thing I learned from all the wonderful tutors, but I’d be here all day. I think the most important thing I learned is that I can call myself a writer. There aren’t criteria or check boxes that need ticking to be a ‘writer’. If you’re writing – then you are a writer.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Creating characters that feel like a part of your life. I sometimes find myself thinking in day-to-day life ‘I wonder what X would be doing right now’ – forgetting that they only exist in my head.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

I have a very unhealthy obsession with board-games. I own as many as I do books! I love to go to board-game conventions and flex my skills on anybody that'll play against me. (Can you tell i'm competitive?) Day-to-day you'll find me with a cup of tea watching quiz shows and shouting the often wrong answers at the TV. I'm still not giving up my dream of being on The Chase though!

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Do not compare your writing process to anybody else’s. EVERYBODY does it differently. There is no right or wrong way. There are no shortcuts. It’s a personal process that you have to figure out yourself.

What was your favourite book as a child?

The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. I remember hiding the books under my pillow so I could keep reading when I was supposed to be asleep!

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

The town Little Kilton from Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in a town with badass crime solver Pip?