The following article originally appeared in the June 2000 issue of XY Magazine, a publication for young gay men, in conjunction with my second novel, Bridge Across the Ocean.
A Straight-Boy Adventure
Randy Boyd sets teen novel in Mexico
by Benjie Nycum
Derek Mayfield is having the best year of his life and the hardest year of his life. He’s just found out he’s HIV positive, and is transforming from an overweight, closeted, sexual compulsive into a lean, self-loving, out, proud black gay man.
But the journey to healthy living has been very draining.
To take a break from it all, Derek takes off to Cancun, Mexico, for one week of peace and solitude.
In Cancun, Derek meets Rob, a 16-year-old, straight-identified white boy who reminds Derek of the “godly” athletic jocks he worshiped in his youth. But Rob is also naïve beyond belief. He worships Derek as a hip, athletic, “cool black guy” who knows so much about life, while Derek is drawn to Rob’s innocence and unspoiled beauty.
“How could I fit him into my life?”
Keeping his sexual orientation to himself, Derek befriends Rob, Rob’s 13-year-old brother, Skeeter, who also looks up to Derek, and Roberta, their portly, single mother who thinks of Derek as a good role model for her boys.
Derek, Rob and Skeeter embark on a week of friendship and youthful adventure, hanging out at the beach, wading in the ocean, sailing, playing sports, looking for aliens in the tropical night sky, faking shark attacks and basking in the hot summer sun. The week is like something out of the adventure fantasies of Derek’s boyhood, three boys in search of innocent fun in one magical summer place.
The more time Derek, Rob and Skeeter spend together, the more inseparable they become, and the more intense Derek’s feelings grow, so intense that Derek knows he must tell the family he is gay, and tell Rob that he is attracted to him.
When the truth is revealed, the true adventure begins. And none of their lives will ever be the same.
That was the official promo text for Randy Boyd’s new book, Bridge Across the Ocean.
Randy Boyd is 6’4”, 200+ pounds and black, which is why people always come up to him and ask him what team he plays for. But while he does love sports, he says, “usually the only assumption they have right is that I’m black. When people see me they make assumptions based on what I look like and they’re usually pretty surprised that I’m a writer, and more surprised I am gay. I guess that’s the way society works, with all its stereotypes.”
But Randy draws from this experience, claiming his life of polar opposites inspires the conflict and tension in his writing.
Bridge Across the Ocean is semi-autobiographical. “I was in love with this kid,” Randy says. “He captured my heart and soul and I was trying to think how I could fit him into my life. The image of a bridge kept coming to mind.”
In Cancun, of course, water is central to anything that happens really, so bridges make a nice reference, but the book is more about bridging divides like black/white, gay/straight, mentor/apprentice, hope/despair, and worldly/naive.
Bridge represents a departure from the genre Randy enjoys most–thrillers. His first book, Uprising, was a thriller and his next book will be too, although Uprising fans will have to wait–he’s going to write other things before any possible sequel.
Not only is Randy a star writer, he started West Beach Books because he was tired of publishing companies telling him what to write–they would always tell him to make gay roles smaller or even turn them straight! But, he says, West Beach’s next book won’t be written by him. That’s because he’s trying to launch and encourage new writers.
I ask Randy if, like Derek Mayfield, the lead character of Bridge, he has a thing for young white straight boys. His answer: “I don’t care what age some is, or what beautiful shade of skin they have.”
He adds with a chuckle: “but I definitely like a guy with a great ass.”