Today I’m really excited to have the wonderful Derek Milman on the blog today talking about his sophomore novel, Swipe Right for Murder.
Swipe Right for Murder is a gay, on-the-run, fast paced thriller that doesn’t hold back on the action–and it’s out on August 6th!
If you’re looking for something darkly comedic, compelling, and full of subtext, you’ll want to check this out!
Derek and I chat about twisty thrills, grief, and more! Please be aware of content warnings of suicide, terrorism, sexual abuse of a minor, and discussion of homophobia in this interview.
Plus, stay tuned for an exciting giveaway!
Hi Derek! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about Swipe Right for Murder! I just finished reading a couple weeks ago, and ah! Can you first tell us a little bit about Aidan and how he ended up in this whole situation, on the run from multiple organizations?
Aidan is spending the night at a fancy hotel in NYC. He’s on his spring break from boarding school, having come into town for an echocardiogram, en route to meet his family the next day. They’re supposed to fly to Vegas to meet an injured relative. Aidan has a troubled past, but he’s funny, immensely sensitive, and introspective. Sometimes his thought process just spirals like the tendrils of a firework sparking down from the sky. And he doesn’t always make the best decisions, which I love about him. He uses a hookup app to rendezvous with a much older man in the hotel, and when the man winds up dead, Aidan finds himself smack dab in the middle of a rather dangerous mistaken identity caper.
I was totally absorbed the twisty thrills of Swipe Right for Murder! Sometimes it felt like I didn’t even know what Aidan was going to do sometimes, and I loved how it came together. Was there anything that took a while to click together while you were writing? As in from the first draft to now, was there something that dramatically changed to ultimately make the story better?
Thanks! I didn’t always know what Aidan was going to do, either, to be honest. What was interesting about the process of writing and editing SWIPE was that I never lost or gained any whole scenes. The story might be the tightest I’ve ever written. There was one section I re-structured to make the action flow smoother, and it worked out very well, but I went deeper and deeper in as I edited the book, exploring all the different characterizations and how everyone intertwined. Something I really worked on was fleshing out the cat-and-mouse relationship between Aidan and Scotty, and how dark and tragic it is that Scotty, in a sense, is the only one in the story who is willing to accept, and even see, the broken parts of Aidan, and in a sense, all of him. Developing Scotty, and making him into a sympathetic, multi-layered individual (to the extent that I succeeded, and it’s up to the reader to decide if I even did) rather than just a cartoonish villain spouting vitriol, was something that made the story better.
One of the things I wasn’t expecting were all the strong themes of grief–specifically centered around Aidan’s former relationship with his best friend’s father and later the father’s suicide. This is a really heavy topic that Swipe Right for Murder addresses amidst the thrills of the story and ultimately reinforces the idea that Aidan was not at fault and that this was predatory of the father. What made you choose to include this in this story?
I think a lot of SWIPE is me working through my own sadness regarding friends who have taken their own lives, been rejected by their families, or been a victim of predators. As I get older, I realize just how prevalent some of these things are, and it just…always rattles me. Particularly some of the things that go on behind the well-tended lawns of American suburbia, where I myself grew up. I wanted to bring that into the light, and did so with Aidan. Privilege does not always shield you. I’ve had a number of friends who were rejected by their families, for various reasons, sometimes for being gay. And you just cannot take your eyes off of a kid who is going through something major like that at that age — because the wolves will come. The wolves will come for someone who is weak or wounded, and predators don’t always have dripping fangs and yellow eyes. Sometimes it is, quite literally, the guy next door.
I happen to think Gillian Flynn is a bit of genius, and all the books she’s written that have led to the mini-onslaught of books with similar DNA (let’s say, for instance, Girl on aTrain, by Paula Hawkins), have done something interesting: they have troubled main characters. They’re usually hetero though. I wanted to create a flawed gay kid, someone who is a bit self-destructive, sometimes dangerously so, because I’ve read so many books where the gay MC is saintly, and I wanted people to empathize with someone who has wounds and scars, who is a little more real, more beaten up by life, even at his young age. Someone you want to yell at sometimes. So that’s where all that came from.
Aidan is desperately trying to continue to romanticize what happened between him and Tom, when people who have even the slightest bit of objectivity are telling him it was abuse and he was a victim. And we know Aidan knows it, in the back of his mind HE KNOWS HE WAS A VICTIM, but he’s probably still years away from admitting Tom was a predator, from admitting the truth of that, which is in itself tragic. I started out as an actor. I studied the Greeks in college. I learned all about tragedy, and while I didn’t want the book to get too bogged down with it, I will always lean towards a bit of tragedy in a character’s backstory. It’s more interesting to me to have those layers.
In the earlier parts of the story, Aidan turns to some of his friends for help with being framed and on the run from the police. Even though this is a relatively small portion of the story, I found the relationship between Aidan and his friends developed a lot throughout the novel. If you could, what advice would you have given Aidan about his friendships and his struggles with them?
As a rational adult, I would tell a 17-year-old kid to bite the bullet and confide in his parents, and immediately involve the authorities. But in the world of SWIPE, the adults aren’t necessarily the ones who have Aidan’s best interests at heart, they aren’t necessarily the ones who have themselves pulled together, and Aidan knows that, and he has good instincts in that regard.
I love Aidan’s friends! I love Jacks, Tats, and Leo, as well as Aidan’s sister. What’s interesting, to me, about Aidan and his friendships, is that they’re all very emotional. The thing about having deep friendships with people is that they care about you. That can create sub-stratums of conflict, because sometimes they want to help you in ways you don’t want them to, take the tough decisions out of your hands, take away the trouble, they don’t want to see you in pain. Aidan has good, strong friendships but they’re not able to necessarily see his situation objectively — only he is. I liked the complexity of that, and that every decision Aidan made for himself was a tough one, and one he himself had to make.
Finally, I thought it was really interesting how you included two very different ideas of combating homophobia in Swipe Right for Murder and how Aidan was tempted by the radical terrorist idea. In a fantasy novel, the radical terrorist group might be regarded as “morally gray” by readers, but it is generally condemned in Swipe Right for Murder. Do you have any thoughts on why this contrast occurs in fiction & how Aidan’s vulnerability affected his reactions to this group?
I think Aidan does view the Swans as morally gray, and I think he is tempted by aspects of who they are, and their endgame, hence the chess game they all wind up playing. And while the book might condemn extremism and murder, I don’t think it strictly condemns the philosophy behind the Swans, I think it condemns their methodology. Scotty is right in that LGBTQ people deserve equal rights, and pointing out (and mocking) the hypocrisy of the religious right. But what happened to Aidan in his past puts him in a different, and unique light: he’s a guilt-ridden kid, he’s unfairly blamed himself for so much, he doesn’t want to feel like he’s responsible for any more blood on his hands, so to speak. None of what’s happened is his fault, but he feels that way all the same.
And he thinks of his brother, who was kind and empathetic, and he knows Neil wouldn’t have wanted him to become a Swan. Also, I’m not sure the book only touches on two strict ideas. Aidan argues to Scotty that they could keep playing dirty, but use their resources in different ways “without carnage.” He argues for some kind of middle ground. And he references ACT UP, whose members chained themselves to the NY Stock Exchange to protest the soaring prices of HIV meds in the late 80’s. They physically shut down the FDA! They staged a “die-in” at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. That was pure outrage without killing — demonstrations, protests, they really got in people’s faces. Scotty knows, sadly, nothing like that could ever happen today. Plus, I should add, those protests turned much of the public against the LGBTQ community. What would outright terrorism do? I think Aidan worries about that a lot more clearly than the Swans, who just see that kind of thing as collateral damage.
I loved hearing about this! Especially after finishing the book, this interview provided a lot more perspective which I enjoyed.
I especially liked hearing more about the background into Aidan’s relationship with his brother and other people in his life. It was lovely to hear from Derek, and if you enjoyed this interview, please let him know on his social channels!
Check out the trailer here!
Keep reading for more information on Swipe Right for Murder and a giveaway!
ALso, please be aware of the book’s content warnings: Suicide, terrorism, murder, some drinking and drug use, sexual abuse of a minor, explosions, guns, blood, brief animal abuse, discussion of homophobia
More About the Book
Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman
Hardcover, 336 pages
August 6th 2019 by Jimmy Patterson
On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.
Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.
He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.
Content Warnings: Suicide, terrorism, murder, some drinking and drug use, sexual abuse of a minor, explosions, guns, blood, brief animal abuse, discussion of homophobia
More About the Author
Derek Milman has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, film school teacher, DJ, and underground humor magazine publisher. A classically trained actor, he has performed on stages across the country and appeared in numerous TV shows, commercials, and films. Derek currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, where he writes full time. Swipe Right for Murder is his second novel for young adults.
It’s your lucky day! (You might just be in the right place at the right time . . . )
One lucky winner will receive a signed hardcover of Swipe Right for Murder by entering through the Rafflecopter below and/or on my Twitter!
This giveaway ends next Tuesday at 11:59 PM EST and is only open to the United States. Good luck!