7 Minutes in Book Heaven with Jeff Billington and Summer’s Second

Hello!

Today, we meet Jeff Billington and his new novel: Summer’s Second.

In this novel, Asher Brock’s last summer of youth is far from ideal. His hopes for the future, including an escape from his constricting Ozark Mountains hometown, seem increasingly fragile as he faces hurdles of poverty and abuse, all while coming to terms with being gay.

Jeff Billington is the author of Chicken Dinner News and Summer’s Second. He has worked as a journalist, Communications Director for a member of Congress, and for environmental and advocacy nonprofits.

Buy Summer’s Second

Visit our Bookshop for new releases, current bestsellers, banned books, critically acclaimed LGBTQ books, or peruse the books featured on our podcasts: bookshop.org/shop/thisqueerbook

Buy directly: https://bookshop.org/a/82376/9781648905926

Connect with Jeff Billington

Website: jeffbillington.com
Instagram: @jdbillington
Twitter: @jeffbillington
Facebook: facebook.com/jeffbillingtonauthor

Credits

Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
Executive Producer: Jim Pounds
Accounting and Creative Support: Gordy Erickson
Theme music: Summer Mood by lesfm

Transcript

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J.P. Der Boghossian
Why hello everyone, my name is J.P. Der Boghossian. I’m an essayist, Lambda Literary Fellow, and founder of the Queer Armenian Library, and this is a podcast for folks who are asking themselves, what’s the next queer book I’m going to read? Welcome to 7 Minutes in Book Heaven, where I interview queer authors about the new books they have coming out for us to love and to cuddle up with. We are a partner podcast of this Queer Book Saved My Life. And today I’m joined by Jeff Billington to discuss his new book, Summer’s Second. Hello Jeff!

Jeff Billington
Hello, thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Absolutely, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation! So how does our podcast work? I have seven questions for Jeff, and we’re gonna spend the next seven minutes in this virtual studio talking about Summer’s Second, while also getting to know more about the amazing writer who is Jeff Billington. So Jeff, are you ready?

Jeff Billington
I am.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Okay, the timer is set. And here we go. Question number one, please describe Summer’s second as if you’re sharing it with your celebrity crush and telling us who that special person is, of course.

Jeff Billington
So I’ll start with who it is. Ronan Farrow is actually the one that I’m thinking of. He’s attractive. He’s the son of Mia Farrow and supposedly Woody Allen, but you know, there’s a rumor out there that Frank Sinatra might actually be his dad, but we’ll go with Woody Allen. Yeah. And he’s just this incredible journalist. He’s the one that really went after Harvey Weinstein a few years ago, so he’s doing great things.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Right?

Jeff Billington
And what I would tell them I would be like, you know, for coming out is difficult. And for someone growing up in a poor area facing a lot of difficulties, single mother, alcoholism around, it’s even more difficult. But I wanted to write a story that showed that even when you’re facing these difficult things, that there are still positives to go after, that there’s still a future waiting for you. And you just kind of have to take hold and have to build yourself up. So that’s what Summer’s Second is about, is, you know, adversity happens, but having strength of character and being able to use what is being offered to you. There are opportunities. And it takes place in the Ozark Mountains, where I’m from. I grew up there, rural area, lots of poverty. A lot of the issues I talk about are things that I’ve seen in my life. And so it’s just trying to tell that story.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Well Ronan, I think you’re gonna enjoy it, so please check it out. And what I also appreciate about these types of books is that, you know, for me, I read so many coming out things because I picked up a little bit, right, from different coming out stories that really helped me along my way. So this is a really important book and I hope folks pick up a copy. So question number two, what is a sentence from a novel, an essay, a poem, or other book that every time you read it, it gives you all the feels?

Jeff Billington
So there were a lot of these. There were a lot of them. So I was trying to narrow it down and I went with James Baldwin and I went specifically with his book Giovanni’s Room. And there’s a line there that says, “You don’t have a home until you leave it. And then when you have left it, you can never go back.”

J.P. Der Boghossian
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jeff Billington
And that resonates with me personally, because where I grew up, you know, I go back and visit now and it’s never the same. It’s not it’s not the same. And, you know, there’s truth in that a lot of truth in that, I think.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Absolutely. Absolutely. Such an amazing novel. And I guess I’m going to do a shameless plug on my own podcast, but season one, episode two, we dove into Giovanni’s room as a novel that saved Gary Nygaard’s life. But anyway, that’s a different podcast. Question number three of this one, what do you feel is the best sentence you’ve ever written?

Jeff Billington
Oh, this, I think this is a cruel question to ask. Oh. And this is from another recent book of mine called Chicken Dinner News. And it goes, and the line that I really like there is, “But then the timber thinned to reveal a stirring vista of a dramatic bend in the creek, where golden rays of the dipping Western sun trickled through the leaves of old growth trees yielding glimmering gilt flecks on the water’s surface.”

And that’s a place for me from my childhood. I am describing some place very specific that every time I went there filled me with joy and happiness. And so, and when I read that, I completely envision that very specific place.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Uh, yeah, just listening to that sentence, I can picture it as well, so well done! Alright question number four, what’s the best romantic scene you’ve ever read?

Jeff Billington
So I love me some Jane Austen, but I’m not gonna go there. I’m going to go with a scene from Ian Forster’s Maurice. It’s his gay love, yeah, to me it’s a gay love story. And you know, he wrote it and then he didn’t publish it for 60 years because everybody told him you’re gonna ruin your career if you publish this. And so finally in the early 70s, after he died, it actually got published. But at the end of this book, Maurice is, he goes to the boat to to to for to say see his lover Alex because he doesn’t want him to leave to go to Argentina, but Alex is not there and so he goes to this boathouse that they had once talked about meeting at.

And he goes there and he finds Alec waiting for him at this boathouse. And Alec had actually sent him a message telling him that he wasn’t going to leave, that he was going to go to the boathouse. But Maurice never actually got that note, but he still instinctively went to that boathouse to find him. And so that’s the scene there when they’re reunited in the boathouse after thinking their lives were going to be diverged so much and they would never see each other again. So to me, that is one of the most romantic scenes that I’ve ever read.

J.P. Der Boghossian
I’m right there with you, absolutely. Okay, question number five. What are your favorite scents or smells to write about?

Jeff Billington
So they don’t have to be good, right?

J.P. Der Boghossian
No, it’s your favorite! Whatever your favorites are to write about.

Jeff Billington
Mustiness. So the musty smell, that mix of dust and dampness, the hints of mold, whenever I think about that, I think people can envision that they’re looking at something that’s old and worn down and not taken care of. There’s a derelict feeling about that word, and so I love, you know, writing about that.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Ooh.

Jeff Billington
And baking. That’s my good one is the smell of baking, the smell of baking bread and such because and to me it reminds me of my great grandmother and that type of thing and I think a lot of people that smell brings them back to someplace very special and very nostalgic. So I like to write about that smell of baking as well.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Both of those are so evocative.

Jeff Billington
Two very different emotions too. You go two very different places with each of those.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Right? Okay, well, question number six. What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever got?

Jeff Billington
So it’s subjective and I know that, but when I hear people say just right, it doesn’t work for me. And you hear that a lot, you’re like, oh, you just need to write, that’s how you become right, you just write. To me, it’s not that. I have to think about it. I have to harness my emotions, get my mind in the right place. I have to pace out the story in my head, even if I’m not outlining it, I’m still pacing it out in my head. Anytime that I’ve just done the just right and just got something out there, I’ve deleted it all later.

It’s never been something that I’ve kept. So I always have to have a lot of thought into it before I actually sat down and start putting words to paper, so to speak.

J.P. Der Boghossian
That is really interesting. Wow, thank you for sharing that. Okay, well, final question, promote yourself. How do we order your book? How do we follow you on social?

Jeff Billington
So I’m kind of everywhere. As far as where you can find it, it’s on all the digital places. It’s Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books. I’ve gotten into some, uh, independent bookstores as well. Um, I’ve reached out to a lot of the LGBT bookstores across the country as well as other small independent ones.
If you go to bookshop.org, if you have an independent bookstore that has it, it’s online ordering through them, you can always find it there. So that’s a way to support independent bookstores that might not have it on their shelves.

On Twitter, I’m @JeffBillington. On Instagram, I’m @JDBillington. And on Facebook, I’m Jeff-Billington-Author.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Perfect. And we will be including it on our own bookshop.org store as well so that you can check out our bookshop page. And that is all the time that we have. Thank you so much, Jeff.

Jeff Billington
Thank you, it’s been a great opportunity. I’ve loved talking to you about it.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Likewise, absolutely likewise. Okay, well, we’ve come to the end of our episode. Our podcast is Executive Produced by Jim Pounds. Accounting and creative support provided by Gordy Erickson.

We’re on social media, you can find us on Facebook, Bluesky, or on Instagram. As always, you can connect with us through our website, thisqueerbook.com, and if you want to be on the show, fill out the form on the home page.

And until our next episode, happy holidays you queers and allies! See you in the bookstores!

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