I told you guys we’d have lots of contests this week!
Today I’d like to welcome J. H. Trumble to the blog. (A.K.A. Janet.) Janet’s books are older contemporary YA (possibly even “New Adult” as some of her characters are in college), and they are the kind of contemporary read that I love: all about the characters and their struggles with themselves and with each other. Janet’s book Don’t Let Me Go was one of my favorite reads last year. This was the type of book I’d force into people’s hands and say, “READ THIS BOOK. YOU MUST. IT IS AMAZING.”
And seriously, it is. Actually, Janet sent me these interview answers last night, and it was so interesting that I almost wanted to post it right that very second.
Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, honest, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.
But when Adam graduates and takes an Off-Broadway job in New York—at Nate’s insistence—that certainty begins to flicker. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it is the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.
J.H. Trumble’s debut, DON’T LET ME GO, is a witty, beautifully written novel that is both a sweet story of love and long-distance relationships, and a timely discourse about bullying, bigotry, and hate in high schools.
I’m so excited that Janet was willing to answer a few questions about her books.
In Don’t Let Me Go, Nate is a really dynamic character, and I loved his voice. I remember seeing photos submitted by readers on your website, where people had written on their wrists, “WWND,” for “What Would Nate Do?” I thought that was really powerful, and once I read the book, I totally got it. How did you come up with his character?
I love Nate. He’s an original. While quite a few of my characters evolve from people I actually know, Nate isn’t one of them. When I started DLMG, Nate was simply representative of every young man who found the closet suffocating. I introduced him to Adam, and then things just began to happen. He evolved. It’s clear to me, looking back now, that there’s a good deal of me in his character. I was in one of those long distance relationships, and I still remember the craziness, the insecurity, the little hints that something wasn’t quite right. It was just so much more intense for Nate because of what he’d been through.
Nate suffers a terrible trauma in your book. It seems almost too extreme. Was this inspired by any true events?
That particular incident was inspired by a real event in my community. I didn’t know I was going there with Nate until suddenly, I was there. And then everything just made sense to me.
The real-life crime was far more extreme than what Nate suffered (I just couldn’t do that Nate). The young man was assaulted by two other teenage boys who he’d been hanging out with. He was brutally sodomized, burned with cigarettes, doused in bleach, and left for dead. Like Nate, he eventually recovered enough to return to school. He even testified before Congress about hate crime legislation. And like Nate, he refused counseling. Everyone thought he was doing okay. Great, even. I think it was a little over a year after the assault, right after his high school graduation that he climbed to the top of a cruise ship and jumped. We were all shocked by the crime, but devastated by his suicide.
It’s been a number of years now, but I still think about it. No one knew what that young man was going through. He hid the pain. It was something I needed to write about. And I wanted to give him the hero he didn’t have. I do want to add that the young man was not gay, not to my knowledge. This is a news article about the tragedy if you’d like to read about it: http://www.foxnews.com/story/
One of my favorite things about both Don’t Let Me Go and Where You Are is that your characters are out and comfortable in who they are. Neither book is about coming out of the closet (though this theme is explored a bit through Luke in Don’t Let Me Go). Do you feel that teens today have more of an opportunity to be out? Or do you feel that they have more to lose in this society of Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, where it’s so much easier to be attacked?
I think it really depends on the teenager and the circumstances. When fans write to me about wanting to come out, my first advice to them is be safe. I don’t want to see anyone place themselves in physical or emotional danger. My daughter came out to me at fourteen, but she came out to friends a couple of years earlier. Funny, even though she had to have known I would be supportive, it was still a difficult thing for her. She’s had to put up with her fair share of bullying, but she has a great network of friends, some of whom are gay and some of whom are straight. They really serve as a protective envelope for her.
Being out is always better than being in the closet. But young people who are not yet independent, really do still need to weigh the risks. Not every family, not every community is there yet. And I don’t want to see another kid get hurt.
In Where You Are, your book explores almost a double taboo: you have a teacher getting involved with a student, and both characters happen to be gay. It’s a powerful story, and I was really moved by both Robert’s and Andrew’s journeys to discover who they really were. Did you feel that the subject matter was a risk?
That’s not something I considered when I began writing Where You Are. I just wanted to tell an honest story about a relationship that launched too soon. I have a good friend who is an attorney now. But he began his career as a high school history teacher. He met his wife during his first year of teaching. She was a senior cheerleader. He never crossed that line, though. He waited until she graduated, then asked her out. They welcomed their third grandchild earlier this year.
In Where You Are, I wanted to ask the question, what if . . . what if he had crossed that line. I wasn’t writing about some sleazy pedophile. I was writing about a really good person, a good teacher, a good father and friend. Under what circumstances might he cross that line, and how would he deal with the fallout? Because there had to be a fallout. I would have been crucified if there hadn’t been. And frankly, It wouldn’t have been very realistic. There’s just too much talk in public schools, and there aren’t many secrets.
Tell us about your upcoming projects. What are you working on next?
Thank you for asking! My third novel, Just Between Us, releases on September 24 (also from Kensington Books). I’m so excited about that one. I’ve been working on it for more than three years! Chronologically, it falls between Don’t Let Me Go and Where You Are. Readers will finally find out what happened to Luke during those years, how he met Curtis, and how he became friends with Robert.
It’s a novel about the fear and heartache that comes with a devastating diagnosis (HIV in this case) and the effect that diagnosis has on the various relationships in that character’s life. It’s a novel about walking through the darkness, and coming out on the other side. It’s a love story that raises important questions. I think my fans will really like it. (Edit from Brigid: I strongarmed Janet into sharing Just Between Us with me, and it’s amazing.)
Be sure to check out all of Janet’s books. (Clicking the book cover links to Goodreads.) Keep scrolling for the contest!!
Contest time! I’ll be giving away a copy of both Don’t Let Me Go and Where You Are to one lucky winner! This contest is open internationally. Ready? Here’s your rafflecopter! (And don’t forget to enter to win Kelley York’s book too! All contests are open until the weekend!)
About the author: J.H. Trumble is a Texas native and graduate of Sam Houston State University. You can visit the author online at http://www.jhtrumble.com and on Facebook and Twitter.