Novelist reads to Simpson Students during Poets and Writers Series lecture

by Kylee Hereid, reporter

Novelist Brian Farrey-Latz spoke to Simpson College students about his debut novel With or Without You during the college’s Poets and Writers Series lecture.

Junior Erica Barz, president of PRIDE – Simpson’s LGBTQIA organization – had the opportunity to introduce Farrey-Latz, and said, “You should read this book if you, like me, enjoy having your heart ripped out, cut into pieces, and served to you on a silver platter.”

Farrey-Latz’s novel, With or Without You, was released in 2011 and has since been named an American Library Association Stonewall honor book and was the 2012 Minnesota Book Award winner for Young Peoples Literature.

He talked to Simpson students about his journey through the publication of his novel and read a few passages from With or Without You.

The novel explores the life challenges of 18-year-old Evan, who has been harassed throughout high school for being gay. He, along with his friend Davis is recruited to join a community called the Chasers; they offer protection and status to the men, but Evan is forced to make life changing decisions.

The book deals topics and issues such as art, AIDS, belonging and teen homosexuality.

“I knew I wanted to write about both art and disease,” Farrey-Latz said during the reading. “The first draft was a book called Chasers, which is what this book is based on.”

According to the author, his biggest challenge in writing the novel was not going insane during the process.

 Farray-Latz has also written a middle grade fantasy series, which was awarded the Junior Library Guild selection, and has another novel being released in 2016, titled Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.

Farray-Latz received a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin and a MFA in Creative Writing at Hamline University, but was an avid writer long before his education.

According to the novelist, he started writing when he was about seven-years-old.

“I started writing what today would be called fan-fiction. We didn’t have that term back then,” Farray-Latz.

Accoding to Farray-Latz, he wrote short stories about movies and television shows such as Star Wars and Doctor Who. He believes that these stories played a role in leading him to his success today.

“I go back and I see myself learning,” he said. “I can see it get better over the course of the stories.”

The Poets and Writers Series, according to Simpson’s website, is sponsored by the English department. It was established in 1985, and invites three too five writers to Simpson every year.

Writers from all over the world have attended in the past, reading their work and meeting with students interested in English and writing.

Farrey-Latz lives with his husband in St. Paul, Minn. At the conclusion of the reading, he offered a bit of advice to all writers in the audience:

“Read. Read widely and diversely,” he said. “The more you can draw from, the more you will be able to find your own voice.”