The Best Hardcore Band in PA

About the Book

CYRUS AND JEFF ARE BEST FRIENDS. Like many best friends, Cyrus and Jeff start a garage band to escape their boring lives in their boring small town. With Cyrus on the drums and Jeff singing—or screaming—and playing guitar, they play hardcore music in a part of of central PA so removed from hardcore it has more churches per square mile than anywhere else in the country. At least that’s what Cyrus was told. And the band is a place where Cy can be himself, not the quiet boy whose mother died in a car wreck three years ago. Not the cute boy no one in school knows is gay, the one asked out on a date by his classmate, Mindy. Just Cyrus and Jeff, the best friend he dreams about even though he knows he shouldn’t. Even after a kiss in Cy’s bedroom leaves him hoping for more. For Jeff, it’s a way to channel his rage into music—rage at the father who abandoned him, the mother who has chosen his stepfather over him, and the stepfather who has chosen the righteousness of the backhand and the closed fist when trying to cleanse Jeff of his sins.

About the Author

Bill Elenbark wrote his first novel longhand in the empty pages of engineering class notebooks at Rutgers University, while tuning out professors blithely discussing the Mechanics of Solids (an actual class name!) He went back to school for a writing degree, where he focused on Young Adult stories, particularly those with an indie rock, punk, or hardcore theme. He hosted a music blog called Vague Space for over a decade and has attended several hundred shows in mostly small spaces in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philly, and LA throughout the last two decades. His first novel, I Will Be Okay, was published in June 2020 by Amphorae Publishing. He currently lives in Jersey City, NJ, with his partner and their mini schnauzer Elie.

Qn 1: Can you tell us more about your book What is it about?

THE BEST HARDCORE BAND IN PA is about two teen boys (Cyrus and Jeff) who live in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, outcasts at school and in their conservative town, who form a hardcore band in Jeff’s garage and end up kissing one night in Cyrus’s bedroom. Jeff’s evangelical stepfather finds out and tries to break them up–the band and the friendship–while Cyrus fights for his first true friendship since his mother died and the potential for another kiss with the first true love of his life.

Qn 2: Who do you think would be interested in this book, is it directed at any particular market?

This novel recently won the 2024 Independent Publishers Book Award for the LGBTQ+ category so it would naturally appeal to queer readers, as well as YA fans, teen boys and teen girls into fateful romances, with a punk edge.

Qn 3: Out of all the books in the world, and all the authors, which are your favourite and why?

My favorite novel ever is Mysterious Skin by Scott Helm, which I read when I was a closeted kid, and it was the first novel that ever spoke to me–featuring a couple of gay teen boys in Kansas dealing with their sexuality in the world, and I have cherished it fully ever since. Some other favorites in a similar vein (YA/gay) include I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (which I’ve re-read at least 5 times, her writing is so brilliant), The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Call Me By Your Name by Andre Acimen, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Qn 4: What guidance would you offer to someone new, or trying to enhance their writing?

For someone new, I always give the advice just to write. Don’t try to have it all figured out before you start (the characters, the plot, the details). Just write and keep writing. Get that first draft finished and then take a break (a few weeks or months) and re-read what you wrote. You’ll probably feel that first draft was horrible as you wrote it but as you re-read you will find many moments of joy and you will know the characters and their motivations after spending so much time with them that your next draft will improve considerably. And if a character or plot point can’t quite get right on multiple tries, maybe it means that character or plot point doesn’t belong in this particular story. Save them for another story and move on. But most of all, keep writing.

Qn 5: Where can our readers find out more about you, do you have a website, or a way to be contacted?

My website is and has a blog which I infrequently update as well as my contact info.

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