CLOSE-KNIT communities pride themselves on the fact that everyone knows everyone, but for a young gay man this can be intimidating.

For Oxford-born author Andrew Smith, the experience of coming to terms with his sexuality while growing up in Witney formed the basis of a debut novel.

His fictional tale, 'Doorway 54', features a 16-year-old called Joey Eaton, an outcast at his school who has a failing relationship with his parents.

The story follows the teenager from his last days at school to living in London as he attempts to gain independence from the suffocation of his home town.

Joey goes through this ordeal while coming out as gay, but thankfully for Andrew, whose pen name is James Lyons, his coming out story was a little more straightforward.

The author came out to his brother in his 20s, before gradually telling friends and parents

He admits he was fortunate that he received wholesale support.

"My parents were fantastic but I know a lot of young people have difficulties with their families," he explained.

"Witney's quite a small place and it maybe made it harder back then to come to terms with it.

"These days it's slightly easier to find similar people going through the same experiences."

Andrew moved to East Croydon last December but grew up in Cogges, and many of the book's anecdotes are based on his teenage experiences.

The author attended Wood Green School when he was younger and it does not take a genius to find the connection with his character's secondary school, Greenwood Academy.

While Andrew did not witness any homophobic bullying at Wood Green, he claims the playground language used was not conducive to coming out.

He said: "There was no direct bullying but it's the sort of atmosphere where homophobic language is used a lot.

"I've never been beaten up for it but I know people who have been put in hospital just for being gay.

"The pressure of getting good grades adds to the fear about your sexuality."

Prior to penning the novel, Andrew spent plenty of time researching issues around homosexuality today.

Youth homelessness and mental health are recurring themes throughout the book as Joey faces the challenges of big city life.

This has inspired Andrew to pledge 15 per cent of the profits from sales to LGBTQ, youth mental health and homelessness charities.

He cites statistics from charity the Albert Kennedy Trust that say 77 per cent of young gay homeless people are forced onto the street due to their sexuality.

It is a shocking figure and the novelist believes it highlights a wider failure to fully accept homosexuality within society.

He said: "If a major newspaper puts up a story on gay issues half the comments are homophobic."

"It's the kind of things they wouldn't say in the workplace but they're happy to do so online.

"Within five minutes you want to throw your laptop out the window and for young gay people it's 10 times worse.

"Some people think it's only words without realising the impact it has on people who are going through those difficulties."

Andrew is passionate about the issues affecting gay men in Britain in 2018, which is why he decided to pen the novel alongside his job in a barrister training centre.

In recent months, all his spare time has been spent writing, formatting and proof-reading ahead of the book's paperback release earlier this month.

The author does not have an agent and the book is self-published, with an eBook released later this month.

But through all the toil, Andrew is confident others will take heart from his story.

He said: "I think a lot of people will relate to it as I know I wasn't the only one."

'Doorway 54' can be purchased directly via and the eBook version can be pre-ordered from the site also.