If you’re a local bookworm, odds are good you’ve attended one of the many McNally Robinson book launches, held regularly by Peg-city scribes at the flagship Grant Park location. Novelist Trevin Thomas’s Puppy + Prey began as a Creative Communications project for the current Red River student, but quickly snowballed into something much bigger.
This will mark Thomas’s second foray into self-publication, following his debut novel, The Pariah: Children of Esseth. Raised on a steady diet of Dragon-Ball Z, Thomas says his writing is heavily inspired by anime and Japanese manga comics. Described as a “male romance novel”, Puppy + Prey follows a man who discovers and rescues a genetically modified canine-woman, bred for slavery. Yes, you read that correctly.
Tony Hinds: What is it about anime that inspires you?
Trevin Thomas: “It’s like cartoons for adults. It’s everything I liked about Saturday morning cartoons, except for my demographic. I used to wake up every weekend morning, waiting to watch Power Rangers and now I wait for the new JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. And also, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, which has really strong female characters. That was something I wanted to put into my work as well.”
TH: In a sense, it’s taking that thing you loved from childhood and making it R-rated?
TT: Yeah, it’s just another medium. I find it strange when people say, “You like anime? That’s weird.” For me, it’s like, “What? You don’t like movies?” There are so many different genres out there. There’s bound to be something for everyone.
TH: At what age did you start writing?
TT: Around 14? It sounds crappy to say, but I realized that drawing was too hard. (laughs) I decided I think I’ll just write it, instead of draw it. That was probably the start.
TH: Do you think the content of the book could potentially draw controversy?
TT: It’s that fine line between eroticism and pornography. It’s a very thin line between what’s tasteful, romantic and meaningful, and what’s merely porn on paper. Finding that balance is difficult. Lots of stories end with the first kiss. But if the reader’s going along with this character for so long, it’s like “What am I getting out of this?” I’m of the belief in this kind of novel, there needs to be a payoff for the reader. Sex scenes are just one of many ways to do that.
TH: You mentioned a passion for strong female characters.
TT: Yeah, in a romance novel, you want a romantic interest that’s convenient. You don’t want to cause friction. You don’t want the reader to hate her. But you want them to be strong on their own. Someone you can respect, and feel something for. I wanted there to be an emotional connection, besides lust or sympathy, so the reader grew closer to her along with the main character. I wanted her to be more than just a hot dog-girl, or a sex object, or a shallow fantasy. I tried to make her be her own willful woman, and be a source of conflict and frustration, like a real girlfriend.
TH: Is shaping your characters based on a gender perspective is important to you?
TT: Sure. There’s so much backlash right now about 50 Shades of Grey. It’s actually a perfect example for something where people see this abusive relationship and they’re being vocal about it in ways that aren’t necessarily beneficial to the author.”
TH: So what exactly is your take on the 50 Shades fiasco?
TT: I think it’s important to keep it in perspective and remember why it was written. The audience has made it bigger than it was ever intended to be. If you take it as just a trashy romance novel, then it is what it is.
TH: I think the book’s popularity says much more about our society at large than it does about its author.
TT: Yes, exactly. In the end, it’s all about the audience. However, it’s kind of strange for Japanese content. Everything about trashy romance novels for women in America is also true for trashy romance novels for men in Japan. There’s tons of questionable, inappropriate content in there.
As of press time, an advance copy of Puppy + Prey was not available to the Uniter.
Published in Volume 69, Number 22 of The Uniter (February 25, 2015)