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Inside Scoop: Tom Dolby Dishes About His New Book, The Sixth Form

GuestbloggerThis week Towleroad correspondents Josh and Josh caught up with noted author Tom Dolby as he began the book tour for his second novel, The Sixth Form. Already a successful author after his debut novel, 2005’s The Trouble Boy, which focused on the coming of age of a twenty-something gay man in Manhattan, Dolby’s second book follows the story of two friends, Ethan and Todd—one straight and the other discovering he may be gay—as the duo navigates the halls and traditions of their final year of boarding school. But all bets are off when Hannah, an alluring and mysterious teacher, is thrown into the mix.

Tom_dolby_author_photoTodd and Ethan have quite a few adventures while at Berkley School. Were your years at Hotchkiss as adventurous as theirs?

Some of the stuff that happens in the book is inspired by [my years at boarding school], in terms of rituals and rhythms of what happens in the course of a school year, like the carnations at Valentine’s Day, dances, and the importance of long winter weekends. I definitely had intense crushes, too, but I never acted on any of them.

And, of course, the student-teacher relationship is fictional, but that kind of thing does happen. It’s pretty rare, but it happens. You have these schools out in the middle of nowhere and sometimes there’s not a big age difference between a teacher and the kids, who are sometimes sexually precocious. A good teacher will set boundaries—but Hannah is an example of a teacher who is not setting boundaries.

Sixth_form_tom_dolbyThe Sixth Form has a darker tone and plot than The Trouble Boy. Are we going to be seeing a darker Tom Dolby in the future?

After I finished The Sixth Form I realized, “Wow, I’ve written a pretty dark book” and I wanted to write something that was maybe dark, but funny dark. There’s unexpected humor in The Sixth Form, but it does have its dark and serious moments.

The book I’m working on now is much lighter and funnier. It’s set in California and focuses on a family. There has been this tangential theme in my past books with characters going home to visit their families and I realized I really liked writing those scenes. There is a lot of humor to be mined from those situations. I’m still very much in the beginning stages of that project—maybe on page 100 at this point.

We noted that The Sixth Form is dedicated to Drew. Who’s Drew?

Drew is my boyfriend. This summer, as the deadline was approaching to submit the final draft [of The Sixth Form], I made some drastic revisions and he was just amazing—I think he read four different drafts in a week. And of course that’s not the only reason it’s dedicated to him, but it absolutely would not have been the same book without his help. When doing book tours you’re surrounded by people, but they’re strangers, and so it’s nice to have someone at the end of the evening to ask how it went. It’s really nice to do [a book tour] with a boyfriend or partner.

See Tom Dolby read from The Sixth Form at 7 p.m. on Monday, February 11, at Barnes & Noble Chelsea, 675 Sixth Avenue, New York.

Want to win an autographed copy of The Sixth Form? Correctly answer the trivia question after the jump and it could be yours!


Tom Dolby’s first book, The Trouble Boy, featured a scene after a party in which an up-and-coming public relations girl hits a pedestrian with her SUV. Some media outlets have speculated that this character was based on publicist Lizzie Grubman, whom authors Candace Bushnell and Melissa de la Cruz have also renamed and cast in their novels. What is the name of Tom Dolby’s public relations character, the girl with the “straightened hair and obvious nose job” who has problems with running over unsuspecting passersby?

Be the first to answer the question correctly in this post’s comments section and the book is yours! Be sure to include your e-mail address when you submit your answer so Towleroad can get in touch with you if you win.

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  1. Ariana Richards

    Posted by: Wolfi | Jan 31, 2008 3:26:51 PM

  2. Love trouble boy, think the character was ariana richards...maybe.

    Posted by: Peter | Jan 31, 2008 3:35:50 PM

  3. I always wondered what happened to the guy who sang "She Blinded Me With Science."

    Posted by: crispy | Jan 31, 2008 3:49:22 PM

  4. Ariana Richards is the publicist!

    Posted by: B. | Jan 31, 2008 4:05:44 PM

  5. Ariana Richards.

    Posted by: Lito S | Jan 31, 2008 4:07:31 PM

  6. Thanks for getting the word out there about the latest in gay lit. More please.

    Posted by: 70x7book | Jan 31, 2008 4:31:03 PM

  7. Tom is very handsome and I'm sure he's a talent, but this isn't this gay-at-boarding-school genre a little tired already?

    Posted by: rascal | Jan 31, 2008 5:13:16 PM

  8. Actually the whole author-as-pretty-boy thing is getting pretty tired. Let's get some ugly guys in here who can REALLY write!

    Posted by: Jeff NYC | Jan 31, 2008 11:04:53 PM

  9. Yes, Jeff NYC, because God knows you can't be handsome AND talented, right? So let's just discount him all together because he's "pretty."

    Although I was about to call out Andy for the same thing, not for the author he features, but for the bloggers he chose for this piece. Andy, I just checked Josh and Josh's blog - they sometimes list what book they're reading at the moment or just finished. Not a description or essay or opinion, just a list.

    Then, for the "Best Books of 2007" post, they used descriptions from! These bloggers who can't even write a one-paragraph description about the books they loved so much (much less a thoughtful, insightful opinion about them), these guys are the ones you get for your lit posts? What, because they're nice and cute and whatever? Sorry, but they have some seriously shaky lit credibility.

    I mean, I LOVE that you feature anything on gay authors (although your choices tend to run to the pretty obvious and mainstream), but if you're going to profile or interview them, at least pick correspondents who actually, you know, write about literature.

    Posted by: Anon | Jan 31, 2008 11:56:00 PM

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