Tom Nussbaum is a bit coy about revealing his age because, he says, the current culture is all about youth. But despite the title of his second novel, "The Boy in The Book," he says the work is not aimed at students.
Nussbaum, a special education assistant in a public school, is adamant about not revealing what school, or even what school district, he works in.
"I previously wrote a book, while I was at a different school, that also had gay themes," he explained. That novel, "Completing the Course," was inspired by actual events at the school. Although it did not involve sexual interaction between faculty members and students, it was misunderstood. Nussbaum said homophobic bias caused him considerable notoriety and controversy among the school's administrators.
"Because I was gay it was assumed my book promoted things it did not promote," he said. "While the books have gay themes, they are really about much broader themes such as fate, destiny, spirituality and assumptions. I needed to write another story that explores [an older/younger] relationship more fully."
The first novel was inspired by a real relationship, the new one is entirely fictional.
"This book was inspired just by walking down Broadway," Nussbaum said. He said he saw a homeless, street kid talking with an older, well-dressed person and started thinking about what that interaction might be like:
"Why is this kid sleeping in the doorway of a business? What would be the antithesis of a homeless youth? To get connected with a rich person. On Broadway it's going to be a gay rich person."
He subsequently wrote about a month in the lives of a 30-something, retired, gay, Microsoft millionaire and a homeless street kid exploring his sexuality. The locale is the Broadway business district.
Nussbaum said he has changed business names slightly, and sometimes refers to Seattle College, which he said readers may interpret as either Seattle University or Seattle Central Community College. In that sense, the novel provides a guessing game for readers who are familiar with Broadway.
"The story is full of surprises," Nussbaum said with relish. "Just when you think you've got it I pull the carpet out from under you."
He admits to having a couple of goals for his latest novel's readers.
"First, I want to entertain them," he said. "But more importantly, I want the people who start reading the book, who ultimately think a relationship between an older person and a young person is wrong, to ask themselves what makes it wrong and under what circumstances would it be appropriate?
"Conversely, I want people who are not opposed, who find nothing wrong with it, to ask themselves why it is OK...to ask themselves under what circumstances this would be inappropriate. We are in a post-Mary Kay Letourneau-Michael Jackson era where we are asking these questions. Whereas the characters are examining themselves, I want the readers to examine their own biases and their thoughts. My 88-year-old mother read it, and while she didn't get all the specifics, she understood the general themes."
Nussbaum is a Seattle native who grew up on Queen Anne Hill and graduated from Queen Anne High School. He also attended SCCC, where he was editor of the student newspaper, and went on to graduate with a degree in journalism from the University of Washington. He worked in his family's wholesale business for several years, then in banking and finally, 13 years ago, found his bliss teaching.
"It was not really a mid-life crisis," he said. "It was a mid-life change to what I should have done originally."
Writing is a relatively late undertaking for Nussbaum.
"I've never written short stories, I've never written magazine pieces," he said. "It was always in the back of my mind to do, but I was too busy."
So how does a first-time novelist with no track record get published? Nussbaum said he was rejected repeatedly, perhaps 30 or 50 times ("I lost track"), when he completed his first novel.
As with so many things, the solution was the Internet. A company called iUniverse in Lincoln, Neb., makes it possible to publish your work in a professional way. They provide critical review, assign a designer and can provide professional editing services. The book is available from the iUniverse Web site, www.iuniverse.com\ bookstore, and can be carried in brick-and-mortar stores, but the author has to make those arrangements. The company publishes on demand, which is to say the books are published as orders come in.
"For the author it is a godsend for financing because you don't pay to print 1,000 books and then only sell 500," Nussbaum explained. "The whole time I worked on this I never talked to a human being. It was all done by e-mail."
Books can also be ordered from Nussbaum's Web site, www.the boyinthebook.com. Also, Bailey-Coy Books on Broadway and Out of the Closet on Pike Street carry copies.
The title of the book does have reference to the story, "but that's one of the surprises. If they read the first chapter, they'll get a clue."[[In-content Ad]]