LC Rosen dishes the dirt on Jack of Hearts (and other parts)
LC. Rosen dishes the dirt on ‘Jack of Hearts (and other parts)’ the sex ed class that you never got in high school. Find out what happened when we sat down with him to find out more about this must-have read.
For those who haven’t heard of Jack of Hearts (and other parts), how would you entice them to pick up a copy?
It depends on who the potential reader is. I’d tell teenagers it’s a fun thriller that’s also about liberal homophobia – the kind of homophobia where someone tells you they have no problem with gay people, they just “wish they didn’t have to be so in your face about it.” I’d tell them it’s not a coming out book, it’s a staying out book, about what happens after you’re out and proud and the ways the straight world tries to make you into their idea of what a “good gay” should be.
For their teachers and parents, I’d tell them it’s a book that covers the sex-ed we never got in high school and helps teens feel okay about their desires, so they don’t feel isolated by them and can express them in healthy, consensual and safe ways.
And if it were some hyper-conservative who’s going to hate it anyway, I’d point out that he’d have to buy several copies to get a good bonfire going (hey, a sale is a sale).
Like Jack, you went to a private school in New York, did you pull many traits from your real life experiences?
I was out in a liberal private high school in NYC, and yes, a lot of Jack’s school is inspired by mine, and his experiences being out are inspired by mine as well. I remember in high school reading some fashion magazine – one of the big ones – and there was a whole article about “how to dress for your gay BFF” – and it talked about pairing the gay friend with shoes like he was just another accessory. I thought about that a lot while writing.
Portraying safe casual sex is so important within YA, but this is often overlooked from a queer narrative, why do you think that is?
I think that the straight world we live in over-sexualizes queerness. Straight is seen as a blank slate, and anything departing from that is “a sexuality” and hence, sexual. Think of the Sesame Street thing, with Bert and Ernie, where, when asked if they were queer, the first response was “no, we don’t have sexuality on our show.” There have been plenty of straight couples on Sesame Street, but they’re not seen as sexual. But Bert and Ernie being queer? That makes them sexual, in the eyes of straight people, even though these are children’s puppets we’re talking about. No one was asking if we’d see Bert and Ernie make out, but that’s how it was interpreted because queerness is seen as inherently sexual. And when you have that as a starting place, actually discussing queer sex – actually having queer teens being as sexual as their straight counterparts is viewed as SO sexual as to be pornographic. So I think people are afraid of that – of showing queer sex. Of making it too sexy. Because everything queer characters do is already interpreted through this lens of over-sexualization.
Jack embraces his feminine side and is so confident in his sexuality, which you don’t see often. What’s one thing that you hope a young, LGBTQ+ reader can take from the story?
That there’s no wrong way to be queer. Jack is himself, and he’s proud of it, but there are many other queer characters in the book, each of them expressing their queerness in their own way. And none of them are being queer “wrong.”
Ben is the total opposite of Jack, he’s not interested in casual sex and is looking for a boyfriend. Is his character, or anyone else in the book based on anyone specific in your life?
I think all characters are parts of the author, even the bad ones. So Ben is based on me, partially. So is Jeremy, so is Jack, and Jenna, and even the less pleasant characters. Certainly people I’ve met have inspired me to think about things in ways that led to my creating these characters, but none of them are specifically based on other people.
Did you get any push back when writing the book due to the graphic nature of it?
So, I have a rule where if I write 100 pages of a book, I have to finish it. I wrote 99 pages of this, and then immediately was like like “wait, this could be a terrible idea, it will never sell.” So I asked an editor friend of mine to look it over – as a friend – and just tell me if I should keep working on it. She liked it so much she asked me to submit it professionally, and then she bought it! I was totally prepared to abandon it, though. And I expected some push back, especially towards the end – one of the letters in the book felt like it was pretty intense. But she never asked me to change anything.
What’s one book you could read over and over again without getting bored?
I don’t know if that exists – I’m not a big re-reader. I think there are so many books out there, I’d rather spend my time with a new one. But ‘The Woman in White’, by Wilkie Collins, is one I go back to now and then. I like epistolary novels, and I like Victorian novels, and I like mysteries, so it hits a lot of buttons.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring authors writing their first novel?
There’s so much advice to give! But the biggest piece I’d give someone working on their first draft of their first novel is to keep writing forward. Don’t spend two days on one sentence making it perfect. Write the whole thing first. First drafts are you just vomiting words onto the page. It’s through revision that a book really takes shape, as you cut and add and re-arrange. And that means that that sentence you spend two days on? It could get cut. It could be wrong by the time you have everything else re-written. For a first draft, write forward. You’ll have time to make it perfect later, but if you don’t finish it, you’ll never get that amazing jolt you get that lets you keep working. Finish first, perfect later.
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