The UnwantedJeffrey RickerGenre: Gay YA fantasyPublisher: Bold Strokes BooksDate of Publication: March 18, 2014ISBN: 978-1626390485ASIN: 1626390487Number of pages: 264Word Count: 91,556Cover Artist: Sheri
Book Description:Jamie Thomas has enough trouble on his hands trying to get through junior year of high school without being pulverized by Billy Stratton, his bully and tormentor. But the mother he was always told was dead is actually alive—and she’s an Amazon!Sixteen years after she left him on his father’s doorstep, she’s back and needs Jamie’s help. A curse has caused the ancient tribe of warrior women to give birth to nothing but boys, dooming them to extinction—until prophecy reveals that salvation lies with one of the offspring they abandoned.Putting his life on the line, Jamie must find the courage to confront the wrath of an angry god to save a society that rejected him.
Excerpt from Chapter One
The house was empty. No big surprise there: Dad never got home before me. When I checked my nose in the bathroom mirror, it was starting to swell up and look like someone had painted purple under my skin. I didn’t think it was broken, but no one had ever punched me in the face before, so what did I know?
At that moment, I knew three things. I didn’t want to explain my nose to my dad when he eventually got home. I probably needed to put ice on it. And I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow.
In the kitchen, I filled a towel with ice. As I tilted my head back and lifted the towel to my nose, a flash of white darted past the sliding glass door overlooking the backyard. Our yard was fenced, so no one should have been back there. By this point, thanks to the almost-daily antagonism from Billy, it was in my nature to see every unexpected or unexplained thing as a possible threat. It seemed foolish, but I grabbed a knife from the butcher block before I opened the door and peered out.
I was lucky I didn’t stab myself in the foot when I dropped the knife. A white horse, its head lowered to the ground as it searched for bits of grass to its liking, ambled slowly across the yard. When it heard the knife clatter, it looked up and stared right at me, blinked its glossy black eyes—
—and shook its wings.
I was glad no one was around to hear me, because I screamed like a girl. My first thought—well, my second thought, right after Oh my God there’s a horse with wings in our yard—was that Billy must have given me a concussion when he hit me and knocked me down. I looked away, shook my head, and blinked a couple times.
When I looked back, the horse was still there. It had folded up its wings and gone back to browsing the lawn.
“Richard, is that you?”
The voice, a woman’s, came from upstairs. It was followed by a clanking noise, like someone rattling pots and pans. I picked up the knife again and slid the door shut as quietly as possible.
“Richard?” she called again, then, in a more threatening tone, “Is someone down there?”
She started coming down the stairs. Pressing my back to the wall, I inched out of the kitchen and into the dining room. I watched the kitchen doorway, wondering who this woman was and how she knew my father…and what was all the clanking about? When it appeared she hadn’t followed me from the kitchen to the dining room, I turned around and prepared to make a run for the front door.
She was standing right behind me.
I screamed, again. Like a girl, again. (What? She scared the hell out of me.)
She also snatched my wrist and twisted the knife out of my grasp before I remembered I was holding it. Then she put her hands on my shoulders to keep me from running headlong into her chest, which was covered in a bronze piece of armor that made her look like Xena, Warrior Princess.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said—not in a dismissive tone, the way that sort of thing is usually said (at least to me), but more in a sense of wonder, as if I were the last person she expected to see. She put a hand under my chin, gently, which I didn’t expect since she wore a sword at her waist. “You’re so…” Her voice trailed off as she took in all of me. “Short.”
Short? I’d never seen this woman before and she was calling me short? Admittedly, she looked taller than my dad, even, maybe by a couple inches. Before I could protest, she turned my chin left, then right, inspecting my face.
“You’ve been in a fight, haven’t you?” She smiled, and it seemed like a smile of admiration, like being in a fight was a good thing.
I batted her hand aside and backed away. “Who are you?”
She frowned. “Didn’t your father tell you anything about me?”
“Tell me what?”
Before she could answer, the doorbell rang. In an instant, everything about her changed. Her expression hardened as she whipped around toward the door. She’d drawn her sword without my even noticing, and now she crept toward the foyer. Her steps were so light I didn’t even hear her armor clank.
The doorbell rang again, sounding far away to me, like a dream. I started to ask her what she was doing—hadn’t she ever heard a doorbell before? Why was this clearly crazy woman in our house? And why did she know my dad? But she silenced me with a gesture.
This time, instead of the doorbell, there was a knock.
“Jamie?” It was Sarah. “Are you home?”
“Who is she?” the Xena wannabe asked.
“Who is she? Who are you?”
She lowered her sword for a moment and looked at me as if I were asking a stupid question. “He really never told you anything about me, did he?”
“Tell me what?”
Her face softened, neither stony nor angry, but sad.
“I’m your mother.”
If You Were in My Movie
Would I recognize my characters if they walked past me on the street? Sometimes, I wonder.
If Maia, Jamie’s mother in The Unwanted, strolled by in the yellow sundress with her hair in a ponytail like one of the early scenes in the novel, would she register to me as a woman from a near-immortal tribe of warrior women? Would Jamie, her son and my narrator, be more than your average skinny sixteen-year-old?
One of the things I love about my peer (if I can be audacious enough to call her a peer) Rebekah Weatherspoon’s novels is something she does on her Tumblr blog: she casts the characters in her novels using actors and people who look like them. It’s always fascinating to me to see who is her vision of the people who populate her novels, and once I do, it’s not too surprising that those people become the vision I have in my own mind when I read her work.
One of the reasons I love this is because I am so, so bad at it myself.
A friend of mine asked me whom I pictured playing Jamie, the narrator of The Unwanted, and I said, “What did David Tennant look like when he was sixteen? Maybe that. I don’t know.” Similarly, I try not to let Billy transform into the one football player I knew in high school. (Billy’s in better shape and has shorter hair, anyway. And is way more of a jerk.) The images that usually come to mind for my characters as I’m writing them are more like drawings, sketches that might be filled in with pastel colors, but I don’t have a definite face for a particular character, much less a Hollywood cast I can picture in the roles.
Because of course I’m hoping someone reads the book and says, “This would make a great movie.”
(OK, I’m actually not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. No, seriously, I’m not.)
There are two exceptions to this in The Unwanted though: Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and Angela, the principal of Jamie’s high school. I had an immediate visual image for the actresses I’d like to play each of them as I was writing it. I’m reluctant to say who they are, though, because as much as I like my casting choices, I also love the casting agent in my head who does the same thing with every other book I read.
So, if you’ve read The Unwanted already, or after you get into it, let me know: who would you cast if you made a movie of the book?
About the Author:
Jeffrey Ricker’s first novel, Detours, was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books. His second novel, The Unwanted, will be published by Bold Strokes in 2014. His writing has appeared in the anthologies Paws and Reflect, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, Blood Sacraments, Men of the Mean Streets, Speaking Out, Raising Hell, The Dirty Diner, Night Shadows: Queer Horror, and others. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he is pursuing an MFA at the University of British Columbia.