Jeff & Will discuss the thrilling new adult romance This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer. As always, in our book club chat there are spoilers ahead so keep that in mind if you haven’t read the book yet. Make sure you keep listening after our discussion to hear the first chapter of the audiobook, narrated by Blake Lockheart.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Sara Dobie Bauer website
- This is Not a Horror Movie by Sara Dobie Bauer on Amazon
- Episode 340 – Rom-Coms and Horror Movies with Sara Dobie Bauer on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- American Horror Story on Hulu
- Fear Street on Netflix
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Frolic Podcast Network website
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Book Club on Thursday, October 28.
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Welcome to episode 342 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance readers. It’s great to have you here.
Will: This is the Big Gay Fiction Book Club episode for the month of October and this month’s pick is the thrilling new adult romance “This is Not a Horror Movie” by Sara Dobie Bauer.
Jeff: Before we start our deep dive discussion of this month’s book, we’d like to quickly thank members of our Patrion community, including our newest member Ekaterina. It’s because of them that we’re able to bring you podcast episodes every single week, with interviews from your favorite authors and reviews of some of the best books are genre has to offer. On the Big Gay Fiction Podcast Patreon page, members get early access to the book club episodes and author interviews, as well as an exclusive monthly bonus episodes that can’t be heard anywhere else.
Patrons help keep this podcast running and fund the transcription of the author interviews, making sure that this show is accessible to all readers and listeners. If you’re in a position to help the podcast grow and would like more information, simply head on over to patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
And we’ve got a special bonus at the end of this episode for you. We are pleased to bring you the first chapter from the audio book of “This is Not a Horror Movie” with narration from Blake Lockheart. You won’t want to miss that. So make sure you stick around after our discussion.
This is Not a Horror Movie Discussion
Will: So you’re ready to talk about a book?
Jeff: I am; I have been eager to talk about this one. I mean, I loved it so much, and I said that every time cause you pick great books, but this one was a little unexpected for me because I can get a little skittish with horror things. Although I think you’re slowly desensitizing me to that because you’ve had me watching things like, we’ve now done two successive runs of “American Horror Story.” You got me to watch “Fear Street” earlier this year so I don’t know.
I adored this book so, so much. And I’m excited to talk about it. Cause I know we also have areas of discord where this is concerned too, so yeah, let’s get into it.
Will: Yeah. I picked this story specifically because of its horror themes, and I thought that would be great for the month of October, despite the fact that it’s actually a summer romance and takes place over two weeks over a family vacation.
Jeff: Well, that’s okay. Because most teen horror movies take place in the summer cause they’re usually at summer camp.
Will: So for two weeks, every June, for the past six years, that Jones family have summered in Longboat Key on Florida’s Gulf coast. Mom and dad, Emory, and his twin sister, Liz who were both 18. This is essentially going to be the last summer before they both go away to college.
And for years, and Emory has been in love with dreamboat Connor. Who’s a few years older than him and Liz, only this year when the nickels arrive at their summer house. And Connor comes over to say, hi, the usually outgoing object of all of Emory’s affections is awkwardly, um, well awkward around him. Could it be Emory’s long limbs? He had a late-blooming growth spurt, his senior year or his long unruly hair. He is growing it out.
One thing is for sure, this is going to be an interesting summer.
Jeff: I love Emory so much. I mean, I’m a big fan of first-person books anyway, but Emory. His voice comes through. So crystal clear from the very beginning of this book, you knew everything about him before you come out of the first chapter, basically how he feels about himself, how he feels about that late growth spurt that he had and the kind of gangly body that he thinks he’s got now, but even how he feels about Connor and how he views himself.
I made a note of this particular line as Connor is approaching the house for the first time. And Emory knows he’s coming, and Emory says to himself, yes, I know the sound of his feet. Don’t mock me because there’s a thing that he does where Connor goes out on these early morning runs, and Emory has an alarm set to get out of bed to see Connor come back from this run.
That’s how obsessed he is with Connor. And so just that little line and like the things that Emory picks up on and like files away in his brain. I just loved it. I mean, it just started the book for me with such a bang.
Will: The Outpost beach resort is where all the kids that locals and summer tourists hang out. Liz has dragged Emory along, and he watches a party from the sidelines.
And he’s about to leave when a rat, which there are many at the abandoned resort, skitters past Emory.
The rent has a piece of bread in its mouth, or wait, is that a finger that he’s snacking on before he is able to investigate? Connor comes over, and they talk about the usual stuff, horror movies, which they both love, and how Connor’s having problems with his dad and almost didn’t come this year, but he did. And now he gets to hang out with his favorite writer.
Jeff: Okay. Why are we hanging out at places where there are rats? That would be my first question because I would not be going over there. No, thank you. Anyway. Yeah, another super cute scene. We learn a lot more about Emory in that he is one of those sidelined people. He will begrudgingly go to the party and just watch from the corner or watch against the wall somewhere.
But this is also a really nice first interaction again, between Connor and Emory, kind of setting up their summer. And, ahhhh… the swoony things that are yet to come for them.
Will: The next morning, Emory and Liz are both hanging out on the porch when they witness a confrontation between Connor and his dad next door. They are definitely having problems. Emory thinks back to several summers earlier when Connor saved him from a group of bullies on the beach. It was then that he discovered their shared love of horror movies, and Emory fell secretly in love with Connor.
On his way to his pet sitting job, Emory chats with Leland, a homeless guy that everyone knows. He’s kind of a local fixture in Longboat Key, who many would probably describe as a local character?
Jeff: That’s a good description for him. Yes.
Will: Emory then visits Roberta, a retiree with a pension for creating beach art with bound seashells, and then he walks her dog, Ella. As the sun is setting, Emory comes across Connor with his ever-present camera, who takes a picture of him. And incidentally, it’s this particular moment that serves as inspiration for the cover of the book. Connor isn’t in the mood to go home. Can he come over and watch a movie?
Jeff: If there was going to be a meet-cute in this book, I think this whole chapter right here would have been it with their chat and this taking of the picture. Yes. They know each other, but they’re really this summer discovering each other in, in a new way, especially of how they’re going to relate to each other.
Emory’s always had his crush on Connor, but now this new energy between them. It’s changed from what it’s been in summers before. And you can already start to see that in the conversations they have here. Oh, they were so good. I couldn’t put this book down. I would stay up late reading this at night because it’s like, I just need a few more pages of these two because they’re so sweet. The way that Sara has written this with essentially without a true meet-cute. And it’s even hard to call it a second chance because they’ve never expressed any feelings to each other before. It’s just wonderful.
Will: Yeah. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, especially with these opening chapters, and what the author is able to convey is that while these two characters do have an established relationship, there is something that has deeply changed between them. Before, it was really kind of just general guys hanging out, and they were able to relate to one another through their shared love of horror movies and that kind of thing.
And it’s now Emory is truly trying to figure out what exactly is changed. He can’t put his finger on it. What’s really charming is, is that Emory feels that he is incredibly awkward. But in true YA, new adult terms, he has blossomed, and everyone around him thinks he’s completely hot, but he doesn’t understand that. And Connor is, it’s really funny. He’s flirting his ass off, and Emory has no clue whatsoever.
Jeff: It’s so true. He’s really clueless because he doesn’t perceive himself in any way.
If anything, the sense that I had it, it’s not really put into words, but like, he kind of accepted his body before, but he thinks he’s only gotten worse as opposed to having been, as you said, blossomed. His family can’t convince him of it. Other people can’t convince him of it. He doesn’t see that when people are looking at him. Cause he even talks about when he goes to these parties at the Outpost that, like all eyes are on him. It’s like, why are they looking at me? And it’s because he grew into kind of a hot guy since the last summer. And his obliviousness to that just makes him all the more adorable.
Will: So after their little mini-movie marathon in the middle of the night, while everyone else is asleep, Connor comes through Emory’s window, and they sit on his bed. Connor makes a late-night confession the reason he and his dad had been fighting so much lately is because he’s abandoned all of his dad’s plans for him, and he is enrolled in the film program at CUNY.
Emory and Liz will be going to NYU in the fall. Emory is also going to be studying film, and Emory is slightly conflicted by this news. He’s pictured leaving Ohio behind and starting his big, new gay life in New York City. How is he supposed to start his new life when he’ll be living in the same city as his irresistible old crush.
Jeff: Well, Connor doesn’t have to be the old crush, and eventually, Emory is going to figure that out. This scene was so sweet with Connor, really opening up. I don’t think everyone’s used to that in their relationship. I mean, they kind of had that “hey, we’re here for two weeks relationship. “And even though, as you mentioned, Connor saved Emory from the bully in a previous summer, I feel like they’re starting to talk about deeper things now than they had before, like why Connor is at odds with his father right now. So yet another deepening of the relationship alongside all the flirty that’s going on.
Will: The next day, Emory finds Leland camped out in some beach grass, and they talk about life and love. And Emory takes more than a few swigs of Leland’s offered moonshine. Connor stops him, and he stumbles home and they sit on the beach a while. As the sun goes down, Emory thinks the lighting is perfect for a reenactment of the beginning of “Jaws.”
Jeff: Because of course, it is.
Will: Connor keeps him from flailing about in the surf. So they talk with Emory’s inhibitions, drunkenly tossed away. He admits that he’s gay, he’s outback home, but it’s kept things quieter here in Longboat key. Connor seems surprised, but not in a bad way. They managed to get Emory home without his parents finding out how truly trashed he is.
Jeff: This is another chapter we’re just cuteness runs. I mean, Leland may be a character, but he sees all. There’s this great line that he gives to Emory, as Emory thinks he’s come out to Leland, but Leland knew all along. As he says, “You look at boys and girls differently is all. You look at girls like they’re abstract pieces of art. You look at boys like they’re the Sistine Chapel. I’m not blind.” No, Leland does know pretty much everything. And, then the whole thing at the beach when Connor and Emory are talking, there’s just so many cute after cute, after cute things.
So there’s this moment too, where they’re talking about Emory being gay and he’s just come out and Connor’s mouth kind of hangs open for a second and Emory reaches over to close it. I mean, how ridiculously cute is that it’s like, let’s just close that right now. The characterizations that Sara has given these two are just so perfect. Like I said, I, I could just like say swoony nonsense for the rest of this episode and be just fine.
Will: The next morning, Emory as well and truly, hungover and he finds his sister doing yoga out on the porch with beautiful Connor, trying to follow along beside her. And then it all comes flooding back. He came out to Connor last night.
Jeff: And if that doesn’t make the hangover worse.
Will: Emory and Liz are able to have a private heart to heart. Emory had a hard time being the out gay kid at school. His anxiety about Connor has to do with their obvious jock and nerd personas though he knows Connor would never have been the kind of guy who would give him a hard time about that. Liz also tries to explain that he’s not exactly a nerd anymore. He’s done a lot of growing up in the past year, and he’s kind of hot now though Liz is loathed to admit such a thing.
Jeff: Okay. So here it comes. At the beginning of this discussion, I do not like Liz, this entire thing where she decided that this was the moment to lay on their parents, that Emory was bullied for a while. I thought that was just completely inappropriate. And Liz, to me, is bitchy a lot to Emory. Whereas Emory, I think, truly just wants, he, he loves his sister. He wants to get along with his sister. I don’t feel like he’s ever bitchy to her, but there’s just this that Liz gives to him. And it bothers me through much of this book. And this was the first big scene where it’s like, really? You had to do that. And yeah, she kind of makes up for it towards the end of the whole conversation about the bullies when she actually points out that in his senior year, he wasn’t picked out as much because he got hot, and he did have that late-blooming thing going on.
But this, this was not my favorite Liz moment in a cavalcade of Liz moments in this book. And yet I know you liked Liz quite a bit.
Will: I love Liz to pieces. I think she’s hilarious, and you are completely, utterly wrong. And it’s in this particular moment that we really get kind of clued into the particular no-nonsense way she and Emory interact with one another, partly because they’re brother and sister, and they’re very, very close, but they’re also twins. Granted, they do give each other shit a lot at the time, but it’s coming from a place of love.
And because they’re incapable of lying to one another, kind of like when you have a best friend who’s been with you through thick and thin. You can’t hide anything from people like that, which I think is an interesting juxtaposition for Emory because of the two close relationships that he has in this book that was to sister, Liz. And then, with Connor, there’s so much uncertainty where he’s navigating this strange new way that he and Connor interact. The polar opposite is the way that he and Liz interact and talk with one another.
I just liked it. I thought it was very real in a funny kind of way.
Jeff: I thought it could have been real in a more nice kind of way.
Will: Emory is spending the day enjoying reading “The Exorcist” in the hammock at his favorite sort of secret spot. When Connor finds him, Emory is ready for the talk and prepares for the worst, but Connor assures him that he is for sure not that guy and gives him a great big hug, which Emory likes a lot.
There’s a rustling in the nearby bushes, though. Were they being watched? They investigate and find Leland’s shopping cart with all of his stuff abandoned on the perimeter of the Outpost.
They go looking for him, wanting to make sure that he’s okay. And even though it’s the middle of the day, the broken-down abandoned resort is giving them seriously creepy vibes. They come across an eerily well-dressed woman, Tabitha, a representative of the real estate company that has just bought the Outpost. And she seems to take a particularly predatory interest in Emory before sauntering away.
They continued their search, and Emory remembers that Leland mentioned a favorite room that he sometimes used as a place to crash. He and Connor go find the decrepit resort building and the specific room that Leland mentioned, but it’s empty, but there is a huge, fresh bloodstain on the bedroom floor.
Jeff: The first time Tabitha came on page, I was like, oh, inappropriate much. One of the first things out of her mouth to the boys is “aren’t you a teaspoon of yum,” like, oh, goodness.
But yeah, her introduction was interesting because you get the weird seductive kind of vibe that she’s got. I kept trying to relate this it’s in the back of my mind somewhere I could see in some movie that I’ve seen who this character is that I haven’t quite been able to bring it out of my brain yet where I’ve seen this kind of character before, but it’s like, oh, I could think of a lot of people who could play her so well in the movie.
But now we’ve got the big mystery it’s like, where is Leland and why is there all this blood in this room? It’s here that first big creepy sting of music that would happen.
Will: Speaking to what you just mentioned about Tabitha, I think what the author is able to do is that she’s able to paint a picture with such specificity. Now the whole book is told from Emory’s point of view, and it’s through his point of view that we’re able to experience these particular things in Emory’s very unique, specific way.
Leland’s not just some generic town drunk. He’s lived a life and has opinions, and he has a relationship with Emory. And then you have sort of a walk-on character, like Tabitha. She’s not just creepy and inappropriate in a generic way. it’s in a very specific way. And it really brings each of the characters, no matter how much time they have on the page, it really brings all of them to life.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s really very nice. And you have to think that a lot of Emory’s point of view is colored through the lens of the horror movies he’s watched and the novels that he’s read.
Will: He knows the tropes. He knows what’s going on.
Jeff: He knows exactly what is in play here and kind of everybody’s role in it. It’s a lot of fun. It really is.
Will: Emory and Connor go to the authorities and the sheriff, who is kind of hot. They constantly refer to him as Magnum PI. Despite his hotness, he’s still sort of the eighties, lazy cop, horror movie cliche.
Jeff: Just like he’s supposed to be.
Will: He’s the kind that ignores the teens while a mass killer massacres half the town. Since he is no help, they decide to go back to the Outpost. Connor quips that if this were a horror movie, Emory would definitely be the lone survivor. And it’s here that Emory amusingly assures him that he is definitely no virgin, and if they’re going to go get killed, they might as well go and do it together.
But when they returned to room 306, the bloodstain has vanished, as if it was never there. And it’s after this confusing turn of events, they decide to go back to Connor’s house. You see, earlier using his ever-present camera, they took photos of the possible crime scene, and they’ll be able to better examine the pics on Connor’s laptop.
Liz joins them as they arrive at the summer rental house and in Connor’s room. Liz takes a peek at Connor’s laptop and starts acting weird. She insists that she needs to talk to Connor alone.
And besides, she tells Emory, shouldn’t he be walking Roberta’s dog right about now. And it’s later as he walks Ella along the beach, he spots Connor and Liz sitting in the sand acting awfully chummy. This, of course, is a total misinterpretation of what is going on. But for Emory, it is a crappy end to a totally messed-up day.
Jeff: I like how his solution at the end of the day, and perhaps to get back at Liz as if it can be eaten alive by a shark. Wouldn’t that just show her?
Yeah. There’s a lot that goes on in this chapter between discovering that the blood is gone, whatever is going on, on Connor’s laptop that has upset Liz and freaked her out a little bit. And then everything that Emory is having to think through during the walk with Ella.
I really like how Sara is able to keep everything in play and everything moving. Even with so many things happening, there’s so much information that gets put out there. And I don’t want to imply that that’s an info dump. We’re getting fed all the information right when we need to, but the pacing that this book has as we lead up to all the stuff that, of course, is going to go down in the final act. But then, boy, there’s the final act. Just like keep coming at you. It’s really a master’s work at pacing in my mind.
Will: The next morning, Emory procrastinates for as long as possible, eventually going next door to look at Connor’s pictures. Connor is freshly showered after his run, and it is, oh, so very irresistible. The pictures themselves don’t tell them very much. Was it even real blood?
Emory decides that they need to go back to the Outpost. His sprint is missing. Leland might be in trouble. Just as he and Connor arrive at the Outpost, the sky opens up torrential downpours, and sudden apocalyptic summer storms are not uncommon in Florida.
Jeff: No, they certainly are not.
Will: So the two of them decide to wait out the day, luge underneath the overhang of a dilapidated building that is on the property.
And the two of them talk. Connor asks about Emory’s writing. And as they’re talking, Connor is getting close and personal. A little too close. Emory keeps backing up until he falls over and falls through some rotted plywood that is covering a hole. Down, down he falls. Some were dark and dank. The sub-basement of one of the buildings. He’s hit his head. There’s blood everywhere.
And even though Emory is slightly dazed, he can swear that there are glowing red eyes in the dark. Eventually, Connor is able to get to him. He picks him up in his arms and carries him home through the storm.
Jeff: Isn’t that just the cutest thing. Getting carried home with this storm by the big burly jock guy from next door.
Will: Once the bleeding has stopped, and his parents have cleaned them up, a little Emory and Connor have a moment alone. Connor shoves his laptop at Emory, and he sees a file labeled with his name, filled with pictures of him. Connor explains the Emory is an excellent subject. So very good looking and he likes Emory. He likes likes him. And he’s sorry that he tried to kiss him earlier, giving him an almost concussion.
And it’s in this moment that Emory gets very emotive. Realizing that his long-held dreams about his dream man might just be coming true. Connor asks him out on an official date and they almost seal the occasion with a kiss. If it weren’t for Emory’s family, who are not so quietly eavesdropping and offering their loving support from the next room.
Jeff: That was very cute. I appreciated that scene of the eavesdropping. I appreciate it. A lot of what went on in that sequence.
We often talk about on Book Club episodes and in the show itself how much we like nice guys who talk. These two are young, but they’re still nice guys who talk. I mean, they put themselves out there. Sometimes it takes them a little bit to get past some of their own inhibitions and their own internal kind of baggage about themselves to get the talk going.
But then it happens, and you have talk sequences like we have here at the Outpost in the rainstorm back at Emory’s house, post the first aid time where they’re just kind of talking and it becomes clear that yes, Connor is in fact very, very, very interested in Emory and not in Liz. It’s just so sweet.
There’s a sequence that happens at the Outpost as they’re talking about the writing that Emory does, and Emory actually says that “writing is so much safer. It gives me time to think about what I’m saying before I say it, I need more space between my mouth and my brain.” To which Connor so cutely says in a whisper, “I’m very fond of the space between your brain and your mouth.”
Like, aw, that is so sweet. I love these two, a whole bunch.
Will: The next evening, Liz helps Emory get ready for his date and in her annoyingly sisterly way, warns him to be careful with his heart.
Jeff: I did like this bit of advice from Liz. This was appropriate. This was sisterly protecting his heart since really they’re only there on vacation and who knows what happens after that’s done, even though they’re going to end up in New York together for college. She did get good points for me for that bit of a moment.
Will: Also it’s in this moment that what we already know, she clarifies to Emory, she saw that Emory file on Connor’s computer. And later when the two of them were sitting on the beach, she was giving him a dressing down. Like you better not fuck over my brother.
The carnival is in town, so Connor picks Emory up and on the drive Emory tries to be cool while Connor does his effortless flirty thing.
Jeff: He’s so good at it.
Will: He does that. It makes Emory relax and get excited all at the same time.
When they arrive, the carnival is packed with people, and there’s lights, and there’s noise. That of course the two of them, they had to the haunted house. First,
they go inside and they cling to one another as they navigate the foggy dimly lit halls filled with jump scares. After one, particularly jarring fright, Emory seized, glowing red eyes. Again, the same one. He thinks that he saw earlier and who exactly is the Vincent Price look alike who seems to be following them around?
Later, their first kiss doesn’t go quite as planned, but once they managed to make it happen, they can’t get enough of one another. After they drive home in the driveway between their two houses, Connor suggests that they could take things upstairs to his room. Emory’s into it, like truly into it, but maybe waiting at least a little bit would be best is they figure out what it means to go from friends to something much.
Jeff: It’s such a lovely date. Although I questioned the carnival, cause I mean, carnivals in horror movies are not often places you really want to show up to, but it was a really nice date and they got out of it unscathed other than the red eyes and the Vincent Price thing. It was a pretty decent date. Nobody interrupted the date. Nobody died.
Will: Other than those portends of doom. Sure. It went great.
Jeff: They had some nice chat when they got back, about, should we, or shouldn’t we do this thing.
Will: Exactly. Yeah.
Jeff: I love how for Emory everything ties back to a movie, essentially. So there’s this moment here, where Connor actually admits that he’s scared. He says, “Shit, I’m terrified right now. Why am I terrified?” And Emory comes back with “It’s like ‘What Lies Beneath’ all your life Harrison Ford was a hero character. And all of a sudden he’s murdering people.” To which Connor says, “You’re saying your character changed.” And then Emory very perceptively says, “No, your perception of my character changed.” It’s like, just so spot on. And wrapped in those horror movie tropes that they both know so well.
Will: The next morning on the beach, Liz wants to know all the details of Emory’s big night.
Jeff: Of course she does.
Will: As they’re walking, they come across something gruesome, the dismembered bloody body of a young man in the surf, a guy. They both saw just a few nights ago at the party at the Outpost. Connor does his best to comfort Emory as the police deal with onlookers and go over the crime scene. Emory later finds comfort in reruns of “The Golden Girls.”
Jeff: Not only are there horror movie references in here, but everybody’s into eighties television. This book is modern day. But the references to “Magnum PI” and “The Golden Girls” and “The Golden Girls” I get, because they’re kind of on a lot, depending on what channels you look at. But “Magnum PI” classic “Magnum PI” is like, I don’t feel like that’s on all the time. So you really had to go for that Tom Selleck reference. And I loved it as a child of eighties.
And of course, this body just says, shark attack all over it and everybody’s going to go like Jaws, Jaws. Oh my God, Jaws.
Will: So the dead teenager, his name was Duke, and you’re right, the assumption is that he was killed by a shark. But the thing is he didn’t know how to swim and never went near the water. Liz says that some of her friends were with him the night before at the Outpost, he was drunk and didn’t want his parents finding out. So he decided sleep it off in one of the abandoned rooms,
Connor, Emory, and Liz are trying to make sense of the situation. The last time, something like this happened was eight years ago, when the Outpost closed down. They need information, reliable information, and they know just the local to ask. Roberta says the Outpost closed because of Sasquatch or technically since they’re in Florida in the deep south, we’re talking about the legend of the skunk ape, who makes his home in the swamps in the, by you seriously? That’s what she thinks.
Connor and Liz think this is ridiculous. And once they leave, Roberta has a heart to heart with Emory. She’s seen the way that Connor looks at him and wants to know if they need some condoms. As Emory and Connor walk Ella, and prompted by Roberta’s concerned for their sexual safety. They discuss coming out. Emory kissed a boy in the sixth grade. Connor took his dad to “Rocky Horror.”
Jeff: I love that story so much.
Will: And as they’re talking, Ella’s tangled leash sends Emory tumbling into the surf. When they continue their walk, they find themselves at the fence line of the abandoned resort. Ella starts barking like crazy because there is something at the Outpost.
And as they turn back, Connor makes Emory promise he will never go there alone. The next morning, Emory awakes to a severe case of beard burn thanks to the very serious make-out session he had with Connor the night before. He enlists Liz’s makeup expertise to hide it.
Jeff: Just wear it like a badge of pride. Come on.
Will: Liz suggests that he slows down at least a little bit and be careful with his heart.
In the morning paper, the front page story about Duke says that the coroner’s report is inconclusive and they may never know what happened.
Jeff: I feel like I’ve been quoting a lot out of this book more than I normally do, but there are so many little pieces that I kept highlighting between these two. So there’s a moment in that previous evening where they end up with a discussion about Connor having carried Emory, which he does more than once in this book, he’s very chivalrous about picking up his man, and he actually asks, “How much do you weigh?”
And Emory is caught off guard by this, but he says, “I let you pick me up. It wouldn’t have been so easy if I unleash the full power of my gangly limbs” and actually waves one arm and a leg out in the air, like, as he puts it “a coked out marionette.” These two are just so adorable. I could do with a whole book of them just talking with each other.
A lot of people would find that probably completely boring, but the conversations these two have, and the way that they just get along with each other is just beautiful. That whole walk with Ella was great in terms of what they talked about and the various things like taking dad to see “Rocky Horror” as kind of the coming out moment.
I just really loved it. These two characters, just, I adore them so, so much.
Will: Yeah, next. There’s another moment where I think Emory is trying to process all that’s going on. So he’s taking some time away for himself and he’s kind of sitting on the beach, reading his battered old copy of “Salem’s Lot,” but Connor comes along and they end up goofing around and they end up talking again and they both end up professing that this is 100% real for both of them in the scene is kind of goofy, but it’s also very sweet and sincere and really kind of highlights how genuinely kind both of these two characters are.
In the evening there is a slap dash party slash Memorial at the Outpost in Duke’s honor. To Liz’s horror, she’s asked to say a few words in front of everybody because she knew him so well, meaning that she made out with him at the party a couple of nights before.
So while Liz is hemming and hawing and publicly humiliating herself, Emory can hear something or someone calling his name. It’s coming from the rusted grate at the bottom of the stagnant pool. He’s momentarily transfixed. The person, the thing, whatever it is, it wants him to join them.
Connor, thankfully, keeps him face planting in the bottom of the cement pool and rushes him back to his place. In his room. Connor is so distracted by Em’s odd behavior that he has a mild panic attack. Emory is able to talk them down and they’re able to lie in bed until it’s time for Emory to go back to his family’s beach house.
Jeff: I really liked that vulnerability of Connor to have the panic attack because so often he’s the one jumping to the rescue and carrying Emory away from whatever and getting Emory home and making sure he doesn’t go to the Outpost to do something stupid. But we see here that Connor’s got his own vulnerabilities and that he can actually have a little freak out over these things that needs to be talked off the edge.
And it just makes these two all the stronger and that they can be there in the appropriate ways for each other. It was just one more nice little piece of their relationship puzzle coming together that I really liked. And of course, when somebody is calling you from the bottom of the pool, shit’s getting real and it’s about to go down.
Will: The next day, Liz and Emory are hanging out. When Connor comes over, he barges in with his laptop in hand, clearly freaked out and he shows them a picture that he took of Emory from the day before they’re in the background in broad daylight is the maniacal face of Vincent Price. And before they can figure out why this stalker is obsessed with Emory, Vincent shows up on their doorstep.
Jeff: If ever there was a moment for another good horror movie music cue, that would have been it right there.
Will: Yeah. It’s super weird and very creepy. But Vincent, as we eventually learn, is actually Gerald the former owner of the Outpost. And it’s here he explains everything that is going on. It seems to achieve success and fortune Gerald summoned, a demon named Athsaia.
The demon is the resort itself and in exchange for power, it needs human blood. And eventually his hunger grew beyond what Gerald could control.
It’s all so utterly ridiculous, but our heroes, horror loving trio that they are, must know if it’s true. Gerald has got to prove this. So they go to the Outpost and they stand at the property line, Gerald pricks his finger with a Swiss army knife, reaches over the boundary and lets a single drop of blood fall into the sand.
They all watch as the ground opens up, a small jagged mouth consumes the blood and smiles before disappearing.
Jeff: And this is where, you know, it’s not a horror movie.
The reality of the situation has presented itself. And I love how it’s done so matter of factly. There’s references even in the book to “Scream” and it’s very much like “Scream” where it’s like, we all know the horror movie tropes that we’re all trying to make sure that they don’t befall us.
And here, we get presented with the demon for real. And you have to wonder if Gerald’s never, ever seen a horror movie because everybody knows you shouldn’t be summoning a demon because that’s bad news, but it’s a perfect reveal perfectly in keeping with the vibe of the entire book.
Will: Gerald explains that the voice Emory heard the red eyes that he saw that was Athsaia. Years ago, when Gerald realized how bad things were getting, he purposefully bankrupted the resort. No people means no food for a hungry demon. And he spent the last eight years squashing real estate deals. But now all that’s gone out the window because Tabitha has arrived on the scene.
Jeff: Now we find out what her real deal is.
Will: And Gerald was stalking Emory because he’s obviously a virgin and virgin blood has the opposite effect on the demon. It weakens him. The only problem is that Emory is definitely not a virgin
Tabitha, as we know is attracted to Emory though. In her interactions with Gerald. She like any normal person doesn’t believe him. Maybe Emory can talk some sense into her before she builds a brand new resort, essentially ringing the proverbial demon dinner bell with thousands of tasty, new tourists to snack on
Connor and Emory get dressed up for their meeting with Tabitha. I mean, it is a business meeting after all. And with the fate of the world at stake, the two of them head over to the temporary offices where Tabitha has set up business. Now, as we’ve previously established, Emory has no real game, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t spark that certain, predatory gleam in Tabitha’s eye.
The way she talks and the way she acts, it kind of reminds me of all those deadly suburban MILFs and Lifetime movies.
Jeff: That’s kind of brilliant. I wonder if that’s what I was trying to put my exact finger on what I was trying to figure out what she reminded me of, but that, yeah, that kind of does it.
Will: Anyway, when he tells her about the demon, she dismisses them, obviously, though, she still acts like she wants to eat Emory with a spoon.
Jeff: Which makes Connor bristle. So cutely, cause he just comes to life. It’s like…
Will: The jealous, protective instinct that he has.
Jeff: Yeah. It’s kind of fun.
Will: Emory needs some time to think things through by himself. He takes Ella for her walk and ponders, how he found himself in this insane predicament. Dogs definitely don’t like demons. When Ella starts barking like crazy, Emory realizes they’ve wandered close to the Outpost property. And he can faintly hear voices. It’s Tabitha and the sheriff to get a better listen. He sneaks a little bit closer, hiding behind a dilapidated shed.
The sheriff wants the fence line of the Outpost fortified to keep teenagers out. But Tabitha insists kids will be kids and uses her patented feminine wiles to help the sheriff forget all about his demands.
Jeff: Tom Selleck is no match for her.
Will: When they kiss Emory turns away, but trips and scrapes his arm. It’s barely a scratch, but there is blood and with blood in the air, Athsaia has the power to make you do anything.
Emory scrambles to get away. As the demon calls his name, a nearby tree grotesquely transforms into a gaping mouth. Emory thankfully is able to get away fast enough. When he tells Connor about what happened. He’s furious because he promised they’d stick together. And Emory seems hell, bent on throwing himself into dangerous situations. He has no way of dealing with.
Later. Once Connor has some time to cool off, they stand together on the beach and Connor makes him promise no more heroics. Emory means too much to him.
Jeff: So a few things in this last sequence here that really stood out for me. This for one thing was a turning point for my opinions on Liz, which started to pivot a little bit when she had to give that eulogy over Duke. She was flustered, but she had to deal with it and she got some points for getting that done.
But here, when she sees that whole, example of the blood doing its thing in the sand, she legit freaks out and tells Emory in no uncertain terms that he needs to fix this because she does not like horror movies. And now she’s in one. So he needs to make that right. And it just was another click, away from Liz being obnoxious, bitchy sister into becoming a more likable character for me.
And I’m a broken record here, but Emory and Connor talking this whole discussion that they have about how reckless Emory was. And did he understand why Connor was so angry about that? That whole conversation just made my heart go, aw, you two are so cute. It’s just beautiful dialogue, between these two and recalls their history together and the things that they know about each other that they’ve never really talked about in depth before.
It’s a sweet moment. I like how Sara gives us these moments of the horror movie tension and then can pivot us back to this calm, quiet moment between Emory and Connor. I just loved it.
Will: Because of the imminent danger that Emory is and Connor insists that they sleep in the same bed for the foreseeable future.
Will: Connor sneaks into Emory’s bedroom and they very much enjoy making up.
Jeff: I’m enchanted by how he scrambles up the drain pipe. It’s so, as Emory puts it, he’s kind of like a ninja the way that he could just get up there and like arrive inside the window. And I just, I have a little vision in my head on how that works and it’s really cute.
Will: The next morning, the sheriff shows up at the house to investigate Emory’s prank call from the day before. You see, after his brush with Athsaia, Emory came home in a panic and immediately picked up the phone, ready to tell anyone who’s listened. What was going to happen? Connor stops him, but not before the demon call gets recorded at the sheriff’s station.
Everyone, Emory his sister, his parents, and Connor are all there. When he spills the truth about the demon. And he is going to prove it. The whole gang walks over to the resort and using a kitchen knife Emory pricks his finger letting a drop of blood fall into the dirt. But nothing happens Athsaia is playing hard to get.
Jeff: I mean, what did they think would happen? They know horror movies enough that they should know that the demons not going to operate against its own best interests, but good on the parents for being involved enough to want to come along, to see if it’s actually going to work or not. They’re not just parents who are brushing this off so I gave a lot of points to them for being good horror movie parents.
Will: As Liz, Conor and Emory try and regroup and figure out what to do a group of teens pass by and make sure that they all know about the summer solstice party that night. Our heroic trio need to find a way to keep everyone away from the resort. And they decide that Gerald who summoned the demon in the first place might have some additional information that they can use.
So they go to the abandoned seafood shack that Gerald has been calling home, but he is very drunk and of very little help. Athsaia is growing more powerful that is for sure. Gerald gets it in his head that if he sacrifices some yummy teens, Athsaia we’ll spare him. So he comes after our trio attacking them, but Emory does as best defend them using that kitchen knife, but his best isn’t good at.
After a scuffle, Emory is gravely injured and Gerald escapes. Cradled in Connor’s arms and covered in his own blood. Emory is called to the Outpost, the demon’s voice filling his mind.
Jeff: But he’s got Connor right there to protect him, cradling him once again, after an injury.
Let’s talk about sweetness again, cause there’s more of it right here as Connor this time totally keeps his cool and helps Emory keep focus using a trick that previously Emory had used on Connor when Connor was having his panic attack. Emory’s not having a panic attack right now, but he does need to stay focused so that he doesn’t just slip away into, shock and, succumb to this injury completely.
These two are so good for each other and I really love how Sara just keeps binding these two more and more together as they do these really awesome things with each other, even while they’re in the midst of peril.
Will: Emory awakens in the hospital, all patched up, but even his ultra buff protective boyfriend, can’t watch over him 100% of the time. Tabitha sneaks in and gives him an ultimate. She explains she’s a Satanist who serves Athsaia and has been working diligently to make her master whole, to essentially someone up his physical presence.
And the summer solstice is a terrific time to raise a demon. He’s going to make sure that the party at the Outpost will be packed with delicious teens, or she will kill everyone he loves starting with Liz, who is currently her captive.
Wanting to protect Connor, Emory is about to attempt a rescue all by himself, but remembers how going off half-cocked never ends well for the characters in his favorite books and movies. So he quickly gets Connor up to speed. They get Emory changed out of his hospital gown and into a pair of unicorn and rainbow scrubs, which is the only thing they could find, and they sneak out of the hospital.
Lives are at stake and they need a plan fast. Emory has got it. Connor, Mr. Wannabe photographer and director, will text the popular kids saying they’re making a monster movie at the Outpost and they need extras. That way, later, if they need them to run for their lives from a bloodthirsty demon, Connor can tell them to run and they’ll do it because it’s part of the movie. With that as their distraction, Emory can go search for Liz.
Jeff: I was so happy that Emory had the presence of mind not just to go off on his own. Because that is such a horror movie thing to do. If this was a real horror movie, he still would have gone off and Connor would have had to show up to save him, realizing what he’d done. Here, they’re truly doing the, there are power in numbers and there’s power in putting our thoughts together and how to do this. Emory and Connor make the best team.
Will: They go back to their houses to get all the things that they’ll need a change of clothes for Emory.
Jeff: Cause you don’t want to fight a demon in rainbow and unicorn scrubs.
Will: Emory grabs his family’s rosary because better safe than. Connor grabs his dad’s gun. Emory needs some kind of weapon and a kitchen knife ain’t gonna do it. Meanwhile, Tiffany, the queen bee of all the kids in Longboat Key has gathered everyone at the abandoned resort and they gather in what used to be the restaurant where they’re going to shoot the movie.
Connor is busy dealing with her while Emory goes searching for Liz. He tries the sub-basement where the, he fell that rainy day when he and Connor first hung out. But she’s not there. He tries to get a feel for where Liz is using that sort of twin spider sense. And he finds himself navigating the long corridors of the resort, dark empty cavernous conference room, surround him. Sensing imminent doom, he ducks and hides in the blackness as Tabitha skulks past.
He does eventually find Liz tied up in a room alongside Gerald and Leland. Tabitha has kept Leland, barely alive, feeding the demon his blood. Emory, Liz and Leland make a break for it. And while searching for a way out, they are cornered in a ballroom by Athsaia himself, giant, glowing red eyes partially made real by the blood of his victims.
Emory tries to use the gun, but Leland, a Vietnam vet, is able to get a shot off and buys them some time. But the commotion has brought Tabitha wielding a large bowie knife. She attacks our trio who fight back heroically, but Leland is injured and Emory’s stitches have split. His wound reopened, the haunting voice of Athsaia urging him to kill everybody. So it’s up to Liz to save the day using the bowie knife. She uses her virgin blood to protect them long enough to get them out of there.
But what about all the kids at the party?
Jeff: So, yeah, that was a big reveal that Liz turned out to be the virgin, and that her blood could solve a whole bunch of problems.
Of course, this is her big redemption moment in my eyes. Now you didn’t need her to have a redemption moment, but that just completed it for me right there. I love the action in this sequence. There’s so much that goes on so many people in place so much in play. And Sara just does a great job of ratcheting up the suspense, the creepy vibes. And even though Emory has all this horror movie knowledge in him, he’s got the right amount of fear going on that this may not end well. It’s all written so well. I’ve never appreciated horror in a romance as much as I do in this book because it’s just pulled off so well.
Will: Leland, Liz and Emory find Connor and everyone else at the restaurant. It’s time for everyone to get the hell out of there. But outside their path to escape is blocked by a great wall. A demon wall surrounds the resort. And in the book it’s described as this giant mass tall furry and pulsating. And just as an aside, I don’t understand why is it furry?
Jeff: I wasn’t really sure of that myself. It just added the creepy factor though.
Will: Yeah, it sort of confused me. I think it’s sort of like, do you remember in “Stranger Things” season two where the we’re the evil entity sort of turned all of its victims into goo, whether it was people or rats or animals or whatever, and it sort of used that sort of protoplasmic essence to manifest itself in the big finale.
Will: That’s how I kind of pictured this. And it might be furry because there were so many rats at the resort.
Will: I don’t know.
Jeff: That works for me.
Will: I’m making a big leap there, but anyway.
There is a giant wall and none of them can get through. Liz comes up with what I’m going to call her virgin plan.
Jeff: That’s a good word for it. I like it.
Will: So as we know, Athsaia doesn’t like virgin blood. so in order to save everyone she needs to know who in this group is a virgin. And eventually she’s able to round up a couple of them and using their virgin blood are able to give Athsaia enough heartburn that a breach in the wall opens.
Jeff: I love what Emory says, like internal monologue here “Yesterday my little sister would have asked me to kill a bug in her room. Tonight, she’s Rambo. I’m the master of ceremonies perched in Conor’s arms.” Cause Connor, once again, is carrying him because he’s injured so badly because his stitches are open.
Just thought that was hilarious. Describing Liz suddenly is Rambo. Who’s gone from get me out of this horror movie to now being an active participant in ending the problem.
Will: So the plan does seem to work. Everyone is able to get out, but something grabs hold of Connor and Emory. Isn’t going to leave him behind. The wall, closes back in and the two of them are trapped in the resort with Tabitha who appears holding Gerald’s severed head.
She slaughtered him to feed Athsaia so that he can gain enough power to defeat their little virgin blood stunt. And from the depths of the Outpost, a giant clawed hand emerges and it scoops Tabitha up. And at first she’s overjoyed to be in the presence of the physical manifestation of her master, a huge red beast, muscle and horns and glowing red eyes. But that joy doesn’t last long, he chews her head off and tosses away her corpse, reaching for Emory next.
Jeff: It was the most proper comeuppance that she could have had to just be eaten by her own beast.
Will: Connor tries to hold on to Emory, but he is lifted up into the air and he is prepared for the worst when suddenly the demon drops him. It’s then the Emory realizes that it’s his mother’s rosary that he’s wearing that has forced the demon back.
So using the standard anti-demon phraseology from movies like “The Exorcist,” Emory and Connor push the howling shrinking demon back until he falls into the rusty. Great. At the bottom of the. The wall recedes and our heroes are finally safe.
Jeff: Not to mention the rest of the town and all the teens.
I’ll said it again, that Sara just writes this stuff so well. She gave it a very cinematic feel. I had no issues seeing in my mind’s eye, what was happening, how it was happening, with these two crazy teens running around, playing out scenes from “The Exorcist.” It was brilliant
Will: In an epilogue. A few weeks later, we see that Leland has made a full recovery and since life is short, he asked Roberta out on a date.
Jeff: Good for them.
Will: And he explains to her all of the demons goings on at the Outpost. She believes him 100% and she makes some calls to some old friends back in Detroit. She definitely lived a full life before retiring in Florida and it is thanks to her that a small army of holy roller ex-convicts are now standing guard over the pool drain. If Athsaia ever tries anything again, they’ll have it handled.
Jeff: This reminds me of like “Poltergeist” a little bit, and the idea of like coming in to clean up the mess. Hopefully there’ll be more successful than they were in that movie.
Will: While Emory recuperates, he and his family are staying a little longer in Longboat Key. Connor buys the two of them, some friendship bracelets at a tourist shop. And he, and Emory wear them as a symbol of what they’ve gone through, what they mean to each other, and the bright future ahead of them.
Jeff: So appropriately eighties slash nineties, the friendship bracelets right there in line with those movies that they love so much.
I really liked how it all wrapped up. The epilogue was perfect, giving us a little peek into their lives, after everything had gone down. I also liked it too, because it’s a moment that we actually get Connor’s point of view in the story, because suddenly the epilogue is from his take on things, which I liked getting that just a little bit of a hint into what goes on in Conor’s head.
And I was really pleased. At least I think I was pleased, that it didn’t give us some hint that there could be more at the resort. It didn’t have one of those horror movies, like question mark hanging over it that these two could go on and have a wonderful life together in New York. But I would really like more with these two. They need to have more movie style adventures together. Cause I want more of these characters.
Will: Yeah. Just like you I really loved Emory and Connor. Their love story was sweet and fun. And I really love how the two of them sort of essentially rose to the occasion when they found themselves in this. Shall we say unique situation while on a family vacation? Yeah. I loved everything about this book, the characters, the romance, the fun, the thrills. I really enjoyed the world that Sara Dobie Bauer was able to create in this particular story.
And incidentally, I also think the narrator Blake Lockheart did an exceptional job on the audio book, especially when it came to Emory’s specific single POV. He really nails Emory’s charm and awkwardness, but he also does an amazing job with all of the other characters, because as I said earlier, they’re all incredibly distinct. The story is filled with a lot of heart and humor, but also the plot depends on a lot of eerie, creepy set pieces. And Blake Lockheart does a wonderful job of bringing these characters and these situations to life.
Jeff: It might’ve been a good idea that I didn’t do the audio book cause it might’ve freaked me out more having to hear it as opposed to just processing the words through my brain. I’ve often throughout my life, often read horror easier than I’ve actually sat through a horror movie. So it might’ve been good that I was just stuck with the book.
And speaking of the audio book, just a reminder for you to stick around after the closing music for chapter one of “This is Not a Horror Movie.”
Will: Yeah, the supernatural mystery elements don’t really kick into like chapters two and three, but I think at the beginning you get a really good idea of the unique dynamic between Emory and Connor and Liz. I think is a lot of fun.
All right, coming up on Monday in episode 343, we kick off November with a preview of the month’s upcoming books. Plus we’ve got some reviews.
Jeff: It’s also the podcast’s birthday, and we’ll not only celebrate that, but we’ve got a super special announcement to make as well. So make sure you tune in.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.
Now we’re proud to present the first chapter of “This is Not a Horror Movie” by Sara Dobie Bauer, read by Blake Lockheart. A big thanks to Sara for allowing us to bring this to you. This excerpt is copyright 2021 by Sarah Dobie Bauer. Production copyright 2021 by Sarah Dobie Bauer.
Note: A transcript is not available for the audiobook excerpt. You can read chapter one in the “Look Inside” on Amazon.