Monday, June 9, 2014

Blog Tour: Caught in the Crossfire by @JuliannRich1 #interview

Young Adult GLBTQ
Date Published: 6/16/2014

Two boys at bible camp. One forbidden love.
That’s the dilemma Jonathan Cooper faces when he goes away to Spirit Lake Bible Camp, situated along Minnesota’s rugged north shore, for a summer of fun. He is expecting mosquito bites, bonfires with S’Mores, and photography classes with Simon, his favorite counselor who always helps him see life in perfect focus.
What he isn’t expecting is Ian McGuire, a new camper who openly argues against phrases like pray the gay away. Ian is certain of many things, including what could happen between them if only Jonathan could surrender to his feelings.
Jonathan, however, tosses in a storm of indecision between his belief in God and his inability to stay away from Ian. When a real storm hits and Ian is lost in it, Jonathan is forced to make a public decision that changes his life.

Chapter Seven, CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE by Juliann Rich
All rights reserved.

“Hey, wait up! I’ll join you,” Ian called to me as I walked along the beach later that evening, occasionally stopping to pick up and examine a flat, thin stone. Looking for just the right one. “Whatcha doing?”

“Not much. Just skipping rocks.” Spirit Lake stretched in front of us. The sound of laughing voices carried over the campground.
“Cool. I’ve never done that before.”

“Really? It’s easy. Like this.” I leaned back, arm extended, and aimed low so the stone would skim the surface and skip across it. Except it didn’t. My first attempt flopped and sank.
“Like that, huh?” Ian mocked.
“Not exactly.” I picked up another stone, wafer thin and flat, and let it fly. One...two...three...yes, four full skips and then it too sank and disappeared, but man, it was beautiful while it flew! “More like that.” Pride crept into my voice.
“Okay, my turn.” Ian crouched and examined the rocks. He took his time. Finally he chose one, elliptical and rounded at the bottom.
“Mmm, I wouldn’t—”

He stopped me with one glance.

“Oh, okay. Whatever you want.” I grinned.

Ian wound his arm back like a baseball player and pitched the rock. The splash was even bigger than I’d hoped.

“Excellent form, McGuire. You might have broken a record...for the shot put!”
“Aren’t you just hilarious? Fine, you show me. How did you hold your arm?”
I picked up the thinnest, flattest rock I could find and reached back with my arm, waist high and parallel to the ground. Ian stepped behind me. He slid his body against mine and stretched his arm out, pressing it against my arm. The breath from his mouth, hot against my neck, stirred my hair. A shiver ran down my back when he whispered, “Like this, Jonathan?”
“Yeah, I, I mean, yeah, like this. For skipping stones.” My heart pounded. I stepped away and looked at Ian.
“For skipping stones, huh?” His eyes searched mine, looking for the place I never showed anyone. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re really cute when you’re showing off?”
The rock I’d been clutching slipped through my fingers and clattered onto the beach. Panicked, I looked around. Aaron, Sean, and Sara were sitting with a bunch of kids by the bonfire. Jake and his group were hanging down by the dock. I looked back at Ian. “Excuse me?”
“I asked if anyone has ever told you that you’re cute before. Especially when you’re showing off.”
Sara looked in our direction. A frown passed across her face.
“Ian, what are you talking about? I’m not, you know...” My voice came out like a cross between a whisper and a hiss.
“Gay?” Though a cool breeze blew off the lake, I felt myself flush with heat.
“Yeah. I’m not gay,” I whispered.
“That’s good to know. Thanks for clearing that up.” Ian turned his attention back to the lake. He wound his arm back again like a baseball pitcher, gripping a small boulder in his hand.
“Is that what you meant earlier? That I’d be a great junior counselor except that I’m...” I couldn’t bring myself to say the word. An image of the locked safe in my bedroom flashed into my mind. For my coin collection, I’d said, when I had asked for it for Christmas. No coins, just a couple of books. Rainbow High, The Boys and The Bees. And of course, the copy of Boy Meets Boy.
Reading’s just a hobby. It didn’t mean anything, right?
“Yeah, but it was just a crazy thought that flew through my head. I mean, of course you’re not gay. You spent a whole minute sucking face with Bethany today. What gay guy does that?” Ian’s voice dripped sarcasm. His arm snapped forward. The stone soared through the air and splashed into the lake. It sank deeper and deeper through the layers of water, cutting through the strong current until it probed the bottom of Spirit Lake.
I stared at the place where the rock had hit, shattering the perfect surface. The ripples expanded and drifted toward me. “Are you gay?” I whispered.
“What do you think?”

“I think you’re terrible at skipping rocks.”

“Yes, I am, Jonathan. I definitely am.” He chuckled.

As the ripples eased into the vast lake, I told myself that he was only talking about his rock-skipping skills, but I knew better.
Nothing about Ian skimmed the surface.


What is the hardest part of writing your books?

Writing the words, “The End.” By the time I get to that point I’ve fallen in love with all my characters, and I hate saying good-bye to them. I was lucky that I got to write a sequel to CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE so I’ve been able to spend more time with Jonathan and Ian, but I’m already experiencing anticipatory grief for the moment when I write “The End” on the third and last book, TAKING THE STAND. Yeah, gonna need a lot of chocolate to get through that moment!

What songs are most played on your Ipod?

Whatever music the current character I’m writing listens to! This is a technique I use to form close bonds with my characters. When I was developing Jonathan, I listened to contemporary Christian music: Casting Crowns, 4Him, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Newsboys, Mandisa, and Matthew West. For Ian, whose anger is frequently close to the surface, I listened to Mastadon, Insomnium, Septicflesh, Black Label Society, and Trypticon. In my second book, SEARCHING FOR GRACE, I introduce two new characters: Sketch and Mason. For Mason I listened to contemporary jazz. Lots of Chris Botti, Norah Jones, George Benson, Diana Krall, Pat Metheny, and Muddy Waters, for example. And for Sketch I listened to vocalists like Pink, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Paramore.

None of these choices really reflects my personal musical tastes (except Muddy Waters, I guess), but rather the tastes of my characters. Filling my head with the music they would listen to draws me closer into their minds and their worlds. There’s something magical about music. It evokes emotion like no other art form.

And now I want to write a character who loves the Beatles. Because that would be awesome! Thanks for the idea.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

You bet I do! I’m super lucky to benefit from the insights of Aren Sabers (WHEREAFTER and THE DEADLANDS). I met Aren through a course at The Loft Literary Center and we’ve maintained a great critique partnership ever since. I’m also lucky enough to have other beta readers look at my work. Some are teens, who read for authentic voice. Others are within the GLBTQ community, who give me invaluable insight into topic and plot. Others are fellow writers, who counsel me on craft issues.

I can’t imagine tackling a book without the feedback from skilled and expert readers!

What book are you reading now?

I just picked up GUY IN REAL LIFE by Steve Brezenoff and am dying to jump into it. Steve is one of my favorite authors. He hooked me with his first novel THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 and cemented my adoration of him with BROOKLYN BURNING so I can’t wait to enter the world of GUY IN REAL LIFE.

I also recently re-read Judith Blundell’s, WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED. This is one of my all-time favorite books and one I return to time and again.

How did you start your writing career?

Where I think all writers should: as a reader, a lover of books, and a student. My childhood was filled with books—hey, it doesn’t hurt that I lived kitty-corner from the library!—and my best friends were Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and poor Margaret who wasn’t sure God was still there.

My formal education in writing began in college where I majored in Creative Writing. Then, about twenty years later, when I’d experienced enough of life to not fear my voice, I returned to school at the Loft Literary Center and committed myself to pursuing the craft of fiction writing. The teaching artists there were instrumental in guiding me through the querying process where I met my agent, Saritza Hernandez, who sold my first book to Bold Strokes Books.

My second book is the sequel to CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE and is titled SEARCHING FOR GRACE. It will release on September 16th, 2014, from Bold Strokes Books, and I can’t wait because I am SO excited about this book!

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE is set in this bubble environment of a Bible camp where my main character, Jonathan Cooper, has the freedom to explore who he is. But in SEARCHING FOR GRACE he returns to his real life, his real school, and his real home and everything gets very real very quickly. SEARCHING FOR GRACE challenged both Jonathan and me in ways I could never have foreseen, but I’m awfully glad it did.

Here’s the blurb:

First it’s a rumor. Then it’s a fact. And then it’s on.
Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home. To life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say…to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy…to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at bible camp.
All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.
Just when Jonathan feels the most alone, help arrives from the unlikeliest of sources: Frances “Sketch” Mallory, the weird girl from his art class, and her equally eccentric friend, Mason. For a short while, thanks to Sketch and Mason, life is almost survivable. Then Ian McGuire comes to town on the night of the homecoming dance and tensions explode. Fists fly, blood flows, and Jonathan—powerless to stop it—does the only thing he believes might save them all: he prays for God’s grace.

You can watch the book trailer for it at:

Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller the better! Perched on a branch ten to thirty feet off the ground and surrounded by leaves, caterpillars, birds and squirrels was a good place for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.
Juliann is a PFLAG mom who can be found walking Pride parades with her son. She is also the daughter of evangelical Christian parents. As such she has been caught in the crossfire of the most heated topic to challenge our society and our churches today. She is committed to writing stories that shed light on the conflicts that arise when sexual orientation, spirituality, family dynamics and peer relationships collide.
Juliann recently won the Emerging Writer Award at The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans.
Juliann lives with her husband and their two chronically disobedient dachshunds in the beautiful Minnesota River Valley.


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