by Julia McBryant
Audie Currell, the only son of one of the richest families in Charleston, runs off from his parent's wine tasting with his father's business associate's son, Calhoun Chatterton, another well-off teenager from Savannah. They start dating in secret.
But Audie's abusive childhood stands in the way of an authentic relationship — as does their family's homophobia. They have to hide their relationship while coping with Audie's trauma. Can two naive teenagers manage such a difficult task?
The Southern Seduction series chronicles the interconnected lives of a group of well-off, high society young adults in Savannah, Georgia, most of whom have known each other since kindergarten. Their complicated relationships (and unconventional sexcapades) form the meat of the series, along with a careful attention to chronology, character, and prose. More than romantic erotica, the Southern Seduction series details a fully realized world of drama, theme, and most of all, memorable characters.
“God, I fucking love your car. You’re super hot and you come with a Porsche Carrerra. Jesus, Audie. Are you seriously real?”
“Are you?” Audie laughs and tucks Calhoun’s hair behind his ears. He still can’t believe the things he says to Calhoun every goddamn day. Audie never imagined using words like these with another person. You don’t hand your heart to someone else. As soon as you do, you know it’s going to shatter one day. It reminds him of a hurricane slamming down the Carolina low country, Hugo or another big one: you can’t stop the storm from coming. You can only close the shutters and pray the seawall holds.
Audie tries to catch Calhoun’s hand when they get to the restaurant, but his boyfriend shakes his head. “We can’t.”
“Not at all?” Audie asks.
“No. But we can go out to Tybee.”
Calhoun seems to relax with the change of scenery. Audie thinks some alcohol helps too. It helps Audie. Always has, since he was fifteen years old. He doesn’t share that with Calhoun. Some things you just don’t tell anyone. Like, my daddy belted me bloody. Or, his business partner’s daughter Easter stood there terrified while it happened. And that’s why I bought bourbon the first time.
You don’t say it. The same way you don’t talk about high school.
The Savannah heat slams them when they come out of the restaurant. “Been hitting like, a hundred this week,” Calhoun says. “At least Tybee has the sea breeze. You really don’t swim at all?”
“No,” Audie says. “But I’ll wade.” Another thing you don’t say: why you don’t swim. My daddy marooned me in a pontoon boat when I was eleven because he said I had to get over my fear of bull sharks. Told me to swim over to his boat and we could go home. It took me four goddamn hours to get the courage to do it and it was the worst thing in the world and I will never get in the ocean again ever. You say: I have this shark phobia. Can’t shake it, sorry. You can tell the truth without telling it. You can come close to a thing without touching it at all.
Calhoun directs him down East Bay Street onto the highway. They leave the windows down and let the wind whip their hair, Audie’s into a curly froth, Calhoun’s into mermaid tangles. Audie blasts the Charleston band Jump, Little Children, who Calhoun’s never heard and Audie’s seen a million times. “They’re really good,” Calhoun yells over the wind and the music, between bites of the black licorice he dug out of his bag. Audie had laughed when he unearthed it. “We should go see them sometime.”
Audie snorts. “Maybe if they play Columbia,” he shouts. “Not seeing you in Charleston again. Stupid. Just have to act like friends.”
“Same in Savannah.”
“Should say we chartered a boat in Pauley’s Island or Georgetown next time with some friends. Maybe the Outer Banks. I could even summon up some friends if we needed.”
“Say we went fishing and picked up girls. Send pictures of fish and girls to our daddies.” Audie laughs even though it’s not funny and he’s not joking and Calhoun nods.
Calhoun’s Tybee house sits on the water, huge and modern, all sleek lines. “I love this house,” Calhoun says as they park underneath it.
“Hate that hurricanes’ll always take a beach house,” Audie says. “Hate it for our Folly house.”
Calhoun looks at him kind of strange. “I guess.”
They walk hand-in-hand, bags slung over their shoulders, up the stairs. Calhoun shuts the door behind them and Audie has him against the wall. “This okay now that we’re at the beach?” he says, intentionally talking right into Calhoun’s ear.
“Yeah,” Calhoun breathes. “Doesn’t matter in this house.”
Audie moves his leg between his boyfriend’s thighs. “Because I want you real bad.” He knows Calhoun likes it when he talks to him.
“Want you too.” Audie feels him stiffening.
Audie kisses him hard, like before, but his time braces himself against the wall and pins Calhoun against it completely. His boyfriend thrusts against him. God, Audie loves this. He loves that Calhoun loves this. He moves slightly so their cocks rub against each other through their thin shorts. Their belts clink and it’s somehow one of the hottest sounds Audie’s ever heard. He breaks off the kiss and moves to Calhoun’s ear again. “Go into the bedroom,” he says, “And get your fucking clothes off. I missed you and I want you.” Audie’s pretty sure Calhoun wants him to talk like this, and he wants to talk to Calhoun like this, and he thinks he can get away with it.
He knows he can when Calhoun sort of sucks in a breath and moves on him. “Okay,” he says. “Okay, Audie.”
Calhoun leads him into a big room with a king-sized bed. He strips. Audie rummages in his bag and takes out what they need, then takes his own clothes off. Calhoun watches. Audie knows his boyfriend’s watching, but when he looks up, Calhoun drops his eyes. Audie hopes he doesn’t fuck this up. They’ve only done it twice, once the afternoon in his beach house and once the next morning, which makes a total of two times Audie’s ever had sex in his entire life. Calhoun doesn’t know that and Audie isn’t telling.
“Get on the bed,” Audie orders. God, he’s wanted to say things like this his whole life. Every time, he gets bossier and bossier and Calhoun loves it more and more. Obediently, his boyfriend pulls down the bedspread and sheets, climbs into bed and waits for Audie. Who takes his goddamn time getting over there. Calhoun looks too good lying on his side, watching Audie with those big eyes and a hard cock. He messes with it a little, which makes everything better.
Interview with the author:
When did you know you wanted to write?
In first grade, my teacher had to make me stop writing. In retrospect, I was probably writing when I should have been doing math or something. But we did an exercise where we slected pictures and wrote about them. The other kids wrote a sentence or two. I wrote pages and pages about each one. I filled up more journals than anyone in fourth grade, and I won the fifth grade creative writing award. So I wanted to write pretty much forever.
Speaking of your early writing, tell us how you got your editor.
In high school, we all wrote these endless novels staring ourselves under fale names and our imaginary boyfriends. Except I wrote the best sex, despite having never had sex, so my friends made me write all the sex scenes (which were, in retrospect, probably anatomically impossible. I was fourteen and went to Catholic school). One of my best friends would sprawl out next to me on the twin beds at our other friend’s house and edit said sex scenes.
Twenty years later, I wanted to dedicate my first novel (which will never see the light of day) to my three novel-writing friends — under those fake names. I couldn’t remember my editing buddy’s, and since it was so damn complicated, I just called her rather than messaging. We hadn’t spoken in nearly two decades. She was quiet for a second after I explained what I was doing. “Um, I’m an editor now,” she said. And she wanted to break into editing romance.
So we still do the same thing we did when we were fourteen, just on google docs 700 miles apart.
What were you goals and intentions for this book, and how well do you think you achieved them?
Audie is my favorite character I’ve ever written, and I wanted to give him a boyfriend and some kind of chance at happiness. He was orginally part of my terrible first novel, a MMF, which I threw out, but I saved him from it, because he was so awesome. He need a chance to have something of his own, so I gave him Calhoun. I think he gets onto some kind of path to reconcile his tragedy by the end, so that makes me happy.
There’s also something about Audie that brings out my best writing. So it was desperately important to me that this be a pretty book. I wanted to bring my best prose to this collection. And I think I did. My editor agreed it was the best thing I ever written until she read the next collection of Audie and Calhoun’s short stories, “Neon Saturday Night.”
Tell us one thing about a character we don’t learn about in the book — a secret from their past.
Calhoun was raised by his paternal grandmother — that’s obliquely mentioned if you’re paying close attention. That happened because at age five, Calhoun caught his mother in a very compromising position with his godfather. They didn’t notice him. He ran and hid under his bed. When neither his nanny nor his mother could find him, they called his father, for whom he crawled out from under his bed and told the story to (it’s the only time he’s ever been able to actually say what he saw his mother doing). A rancorous divorce ensued in which Calhoun was forced onto the stand during the custody battle and given dolls to show what he found his mother doing. His mother called him a “lying little bastard” on the way out of the courtroom. He hasn’t seen her since. He doesn’t tell Audie about this until years later.
What do you like to read in your spare time, and why?
I read a lot of old-school Southern lit: Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor. I also love Fitzgerald; I read a good bit of poetry and some of the more pseudo-popular stuff that comes out. I’m also a sucker for a good dystopia and can see myself writing a dystopian romance at some point.
What are you working on now and when can we expect to see it?
The next thing I’m releasing is Audie and Calhoun’s second collection of short stories, Hurricane Dreams. I’m currently still furiously editing their novel, All the Little Lights, which should be out in November. A lot of Audie’s past trauma sort of comes to a head in that novel, and he’s forced to confront it head on — in the company of Crispin, Wills, Wills’s twin Henry, and some other people that have popped in and out of earlier works.
Julia McBryant is, as the saying goes, Southern born, Southern bred, and when she dies, she’ll be Southern dead. When she’s not riding her horse or writing, Julia likes to play with her German Shepherds and rescued greyhounds, make all the crafts (especially those involving glitter), and hike, especially in the North Carolina mountains. She is grateful her husband tolerates both the dogs and the glitter.
However, she spends most of her time writing like tomorrow won't arrive, like she needs it to survive, every second she's alive, etc. (see Hamilton for details). She also lives to sing in the car, especially David Bowie.
Julia is giving away a $20 Amazon gift certificate with this tour, as well as
eBook copies of It’s Enough, Like Sunshine, and Slow Dance.
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