Today I am posting an author interview with J.H. Trumble, author of Don't Let Me Go, Just Between Us, and Where You Are, as well as a review of Just Between Us, which releases on September 24, 2013. Let's start with the review:
At the start of the story, Luke is a high school student who has real, relatable problems in his life. For example, his dad is out of the picture...sort of. Luke's Mom, Mrs. Chesser, put aside her love for her husband for the mental and emotional well being of her son, as Luke's dad is homophobic and not open to his sons lifestyle. Though she doesn't know it, this action means a lot to Luke, because on the night he came out to his father, Luke's Dad hit him. Luke never told his mom, but she kicked her husband out nonetheless. I love Luke's family--dad excluded. His mom is one of those people that you can open up to about anything, who is understanding and maternal in the best possible way. And then there is Luke's little brother, Matt. He is everything Luke is not, at least in their father's eyes. He's a boy scout, a camper, an outdoors type of kid. He loves to fish and hunt, and Luke doesn't know how to hold a chainsaw--literally. Matt is allergic to ants, and though that doesn't seem like an important detail, it shows how protective his mom and Luke are of him, and (Spoiler!) it brings Luke and Curtis together. Luke is by no means feminine, but he's by no means a mountain man either. To be honest, it's part of his charm.
Curtis Cameron is a college student; he started at UT and moved to Sam Houston to start over after his freshman year. In the meantime, he's helping out with the marching band at his old high school. Luke doesn't catch his eye at first, except in a negative way. He's the stand out in the band in a bad way, always messing up and agitating everyone. When he and Curtis meet, Curtis is confused by Luke's sulky behavior, until he realizes that he may have been insensitive to the high school kid. In his attempt to make up for it, Curtis actually gets to know Luke. He likes what he gets to know. Before we know it, a romance is blooming, and it is a romance that I LOVED reading about. It was cute, and innocent, and sweet, and all things adorable. Everything is going great with them, and I absolutely loved the friendship--maybe more?--that initially form between these two gents. Everything is going great, that is, until Curtis gets a bad case of the flu. Between that and an angry voice mail from an ex, he gets tested for HIV as a precaution, or a confirmation that he was okay. But Curtis isn't okay--he has HIV, and his life is upside down. His relationships in the past are coming back to haunt him, and that is putting his new relationship on hold. Though I totally get how Curtis reacted, pulling back into a deep, dark, lonely place, I hated that he pushed Luke out of that place as well. When he finally tells Luke and asks him to keep it a secret from his father, twin sister, and band mates, he still struggles with his disease, and it's as if he has given up on life. The only thing that can show him light again is love. Luke brings him that, and it's special to read about. As they battle with little problems and big ones, the thing that anchors them is each other. The end of Just Between Us is humorous and one you won't want to miss. I rated this read with 7/10 stars. Make sure to buy it when it comes out in September!
Now for the interview:
1. At what age did you start writing?
I started my first novel at the age of about 22. I’d been studying novel-writing for awhile, but I hadn’t taken the plunge. The story I started was about a somewhat-forbidden interracial relationship. Now that I think about it, my themes haven’t changed much! Oh, and I only managed about 10 pages before giving up. It took quite awhile before I got my nerve up to try again. Quite awhile!
2. I love the characters of Luke and Curtis so, so much. Do you take inspiration for them from people in reality or did you dream up these awesome guys all on your own?
I do, actually, take inspiration from real people. Luke is loosely based on a young man who was in my son’s marching band. I didn’t know him, nor was my son close friends with him, but after observing him for a few years I started thinking he’d make a really interesting character. Same thing with Robert. Curtis, not so much. But when I picture him, I picture Daniel Tosh from Tosh.O. What can I say? He’s a cutie.
3. If you had to put a celebrity face behind the character of Luke, who would you pick? And Curtis?
I can’t do it! And if actors were ever cast as my characters, it would be a really tough adjustment for me. They existed only in my head for so many years. But I can adjust to anything! (Hollywood, call me!) And maybe Daniel Tosh would like to try his hand at acting.
4. How would you describe your writing in five words?
Honest, raw, and always evolving.
5. How would you describe yourself in five words?
Old enough to know better.
6. I find that I'm curious what it would be like if I had a novelist parent. What were your kids' initial reactions to your books?
My daughter was just 14 when she first read DLMG. She hadn’t read anything in awhile, so I was thrilled when she spent two entire days reading my book. I’d hear her laugh out loud in her room here and there, and then she’d come into the dining room where I was working and say, “Mother! I am shocked.” We had some great laughs over some of the scenes. It was the same with WHERE YOU ARE. She loves the books.
My son? At 18 he’s very proud of me, but he couldn’t care less about reading my books. Few of his friends even know I write.
7. In JUST BETWEEN US, I really enjoyed reading about the characters' flaws, from Luke's homophobic father's refusal to accept him for who he is, to Curtis' fear of letting go and bring loved the way he deserves. If you were in the same shoes as Curtis when he tests HIV positive, do you think you would have exhibited this same fear?
I wrote the characters the way I imagined I would react. So, yes, absolutely, I would have felt the same fear, the same despair. From my research, I think that’s a common reaction to such a devastating diagnosis. Despite advances in treatment of HIV, it’s still a damn scary virus. I don’t imagine that its affect on a young man’s self-image can be overstated.
8. On a less serious note, what is the grossest, most terrible Jelly Belly flavor you could possibly imagine? (Readers, if you don't get it, go start reading)
Oh, that’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up between skunk spray and vomit. My daughter brought home a box of BeanBoozleds one day while I was working on JBU. Much hilarity and gross-outs ensued. I couldn’t help thinking that that was exactly the kind of thing Matt would love. So in the novel it went.
9. Do you have a favorite place to write?
I always write at my dining room table. Anywhere else and I feel too much like I’m missing out on life. There are plenty of distractions and interruptions, but I get all antsy if I try to work in a café or anywhere away from home, really. Frequently, the TV is on as well. I’ll find myself sometimes staring at the TV with no awareness of what I’m watching. I’m just thinking about my characters.
10. I appreciate that even though sexual orientation is a theme in your writing, it doesn't feel like I'm reading a book about sexual orientation. You managed to create a great story while still delivering an even better message. How would you describe that message?
Thank you! I guess if I had to distill a message it would be two-fold:
There are going to be risks in life, but don’t let that keep you from living or from loving.
You are going to screw up in life, but that doesn’t make you a screwup.
Now that I think about it, these two “messages” seem to be themes in all three of my books.
11. What is a question, about your writing or otherwise, that you wish you got asked more often?
Where can I buy your books?
12. What is a question, about your writing or otherwise, that is the most difficult to answer?
Why aren’t your books in my local bookstore? (I hope they are, but when they’re not, it’s a little complicated).
13. Dog person or cat person? Just curious!
I have both! The dog likes me more, though. The cat—pft!
14. Are you currently reading anything?
Yes! I’m reading an amazing book by Jennifer Hritz—I, TOO, SUFFER IN THE GARDEN. It’s a book about a gay man who is struggling in his various relationships. That’s a very simplistic description, but believe me when I say that this is the best book I’ve read in years. It’s beautiful, compelling, heartbreaking. I HIGHLY recommend it. Jennifer wasn’t able to traditionally publish it in 2008 because it was gay lit, so she self-published it. But oh my gosh! What an incredible book. I hope your adult readers will try it too! I doubt it would really appeal to YA readers.
15. What book inspired you as a kid?
I think every book I read inspired me in some way. As a kid I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew. In junior high I first read Gone with the Wind. As a young adult I was all about everything Stephen King. I don’t recall there being a YA category when I was that age so I was reading James Michener, Dean R. Koontz, Harriet Beecher Stowe. Really, anything I could get my hands on.
Thank you so much, Anna! What fun questions.