The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome Chase Potter today. He’s answered a few questions about his new novel The Race for Second, has an excerpt for you, and is also offering the chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of the book, so read on, then enter for a chance to win!
I haven’t made it a secret that this book draws on certain experiences that I had, and that it gets its inspiration from my year abroad as a whole, but the plot is entirely fictional. As for specific characters, I tried not to draw too heavily on any real people, with two exceptions: the supporting Niko was based on someone I know, and yes, he’s really that great of a guy. The other exception would be that a few underlying aspects of Ethan’s personality reflected feelings I experienced during my year abroad, specifically his loneliness.
2.) Why Germany? Do you have a personal connection to the country?
I studied abroad for a year in Germany and fell in love with the language, the culture, and even one or two of the people. In some ways, it was a difficult year, because studying abroad can be a very emotional and trying time. But it was also a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The Race for Second was driven, at least in part, by my desire to relive that year. Writing this story gave me a unique and very personal way to do that – I not only got to revisit Freiburg, but I was able to create a new story of what happened that year.
3.) Did you do a fair amount of research for the story to make sure you got the settings just right, or do you take some creative license?
Having lived in Freiburg, I’d like to think that I know the town very well, so as far as the physical setting, everything is quite accurate. I wanted readers to be able to see pictures of (or visit!) Freiburg and recognize things from the book. In regard to names, dates, and the historical aspects of the book, I did do research, but most of it was just fact checking. While in Germany, I took courses on the history of the city of Freiburg and also post–WW2 Germany as a whole, so I knew quite a bit starting out. Most research was just to make sure I wasn’t remembering anything incorrectly.
4.) What compelled you to write a coming-of-age story for your first novel?
I was reading some reviews of The Race for Second last week, and one reader remarked that coming-of-age stories are like a rite of passage for new authors. I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but it’s something that really resonated with me. As I considered it, I realized that this story was something I had to get out on the first novel. My own experiences during those years were quite eventful, so being able to create a fictional story that wove in elements from my own life was an important beginning for me as a writer.
5.) Can you tell us the significance of the title without giving away any spoilers?
I’ve had some readers tell me the title made no sense, and others have said that it described the entire story. The title reflects the primary struggle in the book – that even though we really want something, it might not actually be achievable.
6.) If you could describe your main characters in just a few sentences, what would you say makes them click?
The journey they take together is a difficult one. The American exchange student Ethan, from whose perspective the story is told, isn’t looking for love – if anything he’s trying hard to avoid it – but that doesn’t stop him from developing deep feelings for his German friend Daniel. Conversely, even though Daniel’s connection to Ethan extends beyond what he ever expected, he struggles throughout The Race for Second to really let Ethan into his life.
Ethan shares a very special relationship with Daniel, but what they need from each other is quite different. There is a great deal of contrast in the places they’re coming from and the connection they seek, which oftentimes puts them at odds, but it also showcases how much they care for each other.
Blurb: For college sophomore Ethan West, the upcoming fall semester will be the start of a year abroad in Germany that he’s always dreamed of. Having broken up with his boyfriend the day before his flight, he’s ready to face Europe with no attachments… and no desire for any.
But as Ethan gets to know Daniel — one of his three German roommates — his resolve starts to soften. Though Daniel is initially standoffish, unpleasant, and sometimes downright hostile, the two are undeniably drawn to one another. Even Ethan’s conviction that Daniel is actually straight begins to erode as they grow closer, gradually revealing a buried part of Daniel’s past that will threaten to tear them apart.
Not to be outdone, the town of Freiburg guards its own secret, a thread of forgotten history unraveling into something far greater than Ethan is prepared for.
The Race for Second is a coming of age story that delves into the depths of the young heart and its search for intimacy and acceptance. Charmingly woven into the German university town of Freiburg, Ethan’s story is one of finding the courage to pursue what we truly desire, even at the risk of losing everything.
We didn’t say much on the way here, and now sitting next to one another, the minutes tick past in silence. We’ve been friends for a couple months, but it’s still so hard to read him, to know what he’s after.
I pull my hoodie closer to ward off the cold. Everything about him draws me in, as much as I try to resist. Something has been kindled inside me that can’t be ignored. Yet despite all my reluctance and hesitation, and the silent fears that he isn’t into guys and it could never work, this moment feels right. I can see the progression of our interactions and the development of our friendship, all leading up to this point.
Has he just been too shy to share that part of himself? A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have let myself think that, but here we are, alone in the woods with mere inches separating us.
Daniel speaks first, staring ahead into the forest. “I come up here sometimes, to think.”
A humming energy permeates the air, connecting us, binding us. I glance up, but he doesn’t turn. “What are you thinking now?”
“I…” He hesitates, as though unable to find the right words. “I need to tell you something.”
Can it really be? My fingertips tingle with anticipation of his confession, for the moment still unspoken. But now that the question is almost laid to rest, what should I do? Haven’t I been preparing myself to turn him down if it actually came to this moment? He has too much power over me because of what I feel for him. I can’t just surrender myself. What if he’s just looking for a single night, and then he’s done? Or worse, what if it lasts a whole month before he leaves? Can I risk that?
Another thought flares into existence. Can I risk not finding out? I’ve never felt about anyone the way I do about him. And I’ve never even touched him. Not like that, anyway.
As the battle is waged inside, a warm pressure rises in my throat, building like a wave. I never anticipated it all happening like this. It’s so unexpected, so natural.
“You can tell me anything,” I whisper.
His gaze drops to his lap, and his voice is reluctant, almost sad. “It’s… hard to say. I…”
It’s no longer a question in my mind what he’s struggling with. He’s dragging it out, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It could be so much easier, spontaneous. The moment stretches on until I can’t stand it any longer.
Before he can say another word, I reach out and touch his chin, turning his head toward me. Gazing into his eyes, I’m mesmerized by the shadow of longing buried in their whirlpool depths. I want him so bad, it’s impossible to think clearly.
“I know,” I breathe. Without pausing to reconsider, I advance with my other hand and draw him toward me. Against my own lips I feel the softness of his, his warm wetness, the rough texture of his facial stubble, the firmness of his jaw under my hands.
A second passes, and then another. Something is wrong. He hasn’t moved his lips. The thrill in my fingers is replaced by adrenaline fear, paralyzing me with its iron grip. Another instant and his hands are pushing me away. The force of his movement catches me first in the chest and then on the underside of my chin. Against his strength, my head twists away to the side, the edge of my tongue getting clamped between my teeth as he shoves me back.
I leap away from the bench to put space between us, the metallic taste of blood spreading in my mouth. He’s still on the bench, his eyes wide and his face screwed up like he’s downed a bag of sour candy. His expression is frozen, and no words escape him. God, what have I done?
His eyebrows knit together, his shock fading to an emotion I can’t bear to decipher. When I can’t look at him any longer, I run. The adrenaline previously locking me in indecision now fuels my flight as I push my legs as hard as they will go.
“Ethan, wait!” he calls after me.
Wind whips around my face as I rocket away from the clearing. If he says anything else, I don’t hear it. My heart thunders, but I can’t think about anything except being as far from him as possible. Pounding footfalls and labored breathing are the only sounds as I push myself further. I sprint along the path deeper into the forest until my lungs are about to burst.
Finally dropping to my knees, I let myself collapse onto my back at the edge of the path, dead leaves crunching under my weight. The mixture of blood and saliva in my mouth tastes hot and sticky. I turn my head and spit, but it doesn’t make it far enough and a gooey trail lands on my cheek.
My breathing is a frantic panting, but the pain crushing my chest isn’t from the exertion. Shame pours through me, filling me so completely I’m afraid I’ll drown in it. Then it overflows, and one by one, tears drip from my eyes and sink into the earth.
The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED