Good morning my lovely readers,
I am super thrilled to have Liz Jacobs here on my blog today. She agreed to a small spotlight and interview and I am sooo excited.
Read further to see her amazing answers about her Abroad duology (beware it’s a pretty long interview. ;)).
Also check this post for my review of book one. The review of book two is coming later this day. 🙂
Stay tuned. 🙂
The Abroad duology is about Nick an Dex, who become a pairing, but who also have a large group of amazing friends. The book is full of revealings, of starting to understand new aspects depending the own sexuality and what it means to be together with someone. It also shows the struggles of living abroad, far away from home – being a stranger in a foreign country – and what it means to becoming an adult.
This two-book series shouldn’t be missing in your collection, with its amazing queer representation and the honest feelings on display.
Happy reading. 🙂
Chronological the interview is taking place after Abroad 2
Be aware of some spoilerish questions and answers. 🙂
Happy reading and I hope you have fun in reading the answers as much as I did. 🙂
Today I am honored & thrilled to announce Liz Jacobs, author of the Abroad duology, who was so nice & agreed for an interview.
Hello Liz, welcome to my blog. 🙂
Hi, thank you so much for having me!
You’ve finished the Abroad duology, Abroad Book One was your debut work. First, congratulations. What are your further plans. What are you currently plotting and/or writing right now?
Thank you so much! I have several plans in the works—a queer historical that I would love to finish sometime soon, as well as a few YA ideas and a few contemporary ones. I’m also taking part in an as-of-yet-unannounced anthology, so a short story, as well. A lot of this sounds vague because I’m not sure what will strike first, if I’m honest, but I’m excited to find out.
Let’s talk about a bit about Abroad again. Even if their journey is over, can we readers expect to see more from them? A novella or a short story perhaps, taking place several years later? Or is their story done and you move on?
You know, at the moment, I am honestly not sure. There is a lot more to be told about all of those guys, and I’ve entertained the idea of writing “Jonny & Lance’s Cornwall Adventures” story, but I will need a bit of distance from them all to really make a decision. ABROAD took up a lot of space in my life, both in terms of time and emotion. I need to start fresh with something different before I can return there, I think.
In Abroad both Nick and Dex are family people but their relationship with their family is pretty different. As the author, can you tell us what are their values and how do you think do they differ from each other? How was it to create two boys with a strong family bond but with different (cultural) background – Nick’s family as immigrants from Russia to the US and Dex’ family from moving into a city with a smaller black neighborhood, full of posh white people?
Hmm. Well, they’re both obviously very much the products of their experiences. In Dex’s case, his experience growing up was vastly different from Nick’s—he has a very solid, open family, who have protected and nurtured him, even as they experienced hardships due to racism. Thus, Dex loves his family and that love is a bit less complicated and fraught than Nick’s for his family. It’s not explicit in the book, but Dex also has cousins and aunts and a sprawling family tree that, for all that his family ended up moving away, has been a huge support.
Nick, on the other hand, has had to endure unbearable loss on top of his childhood of having to hide who he is and living in fear. His family have all had to rely on each other and, as a result, become enmeshed in a way that does not allow for as much as freedom and trust. Because of that, as well as Nick’s overall anxiety, personality, and early experiences, he’s come to believe the love to be conditional, unlike Dex who is secure in his family’s love.
Basically, despite Dex’s family’s difficulties in relocating, it’s Nick who has a more difficult time with his cultural background and family life. He’s been isolated most of his life, either due to ethnicity or country of birth, and that can be hard to shake. They both love and care about their families, but the way that comes through looks quite different.
Let’s stick with the family topic for a moment. Now, after Nick and Dex have both met the family members, what is their opinion about each other’s family? Because, let’s be honest: Nick and Dex have had a lot of problems on both sides. How is it now if we could take a look at their lives right now?
I think Nick is probably quite enamored of the easy way with which Dex’s family are with each other. He’s horribly awkward and worried about not fitting in, but seeing their easy dynamic is interesting to him.
Dex gets to understand Nick better after having met Nick’s mom—and sister. He and Zoya get along like a house on fire because they’re both equally fond of Nick, in different ways, but he is more reserved with Nick’s mom when they do meet (which is, of course, not a lot.) He doesn’t judge Nick’s mom, but he doesn’t quite understand her, either.
Your book is – with Nick’s Russian background and the coming out – pretty autobiographically and a lot of own voice is there on page in the book. Can you tell us how it felt while writing to be this “open” – especially considering this is your debut work/series? And what was the best and the worst in writing the duology based on personal experiences? What was the (general) reader’s reaction after book One and how was it after book Two? Did they differ?
Oh, it was deeply hard, I won’t lie. There were times when I had to walk away for a while and breathe because it felt so vulnerable to be writing it. I think that’s partly how Izzy ended up evolving—her personality and experiences are vastly different and thus were easier to write. Same with Dex, although he was a challenge in other ways. Nick’s story, however, left me feeling incredibly open and vulnerable and also, absurdly, I worried about getting even the Russian rep wrong. Just because my story went a certain way didn’t make it universally Russian-Jewish, you know? However, the response has been incredibly gratifying—more than one person reached out to me to tell me how seen they felt, and how they never quite understood the importance of representation until they read Abroad. That was the greatest compliment I could have ever received. That people like me read this book and felt known and important.
Otherwise, to be honest, I try not to pay attention to reactions anymore because it sends me into spirals. That whole thing of “reviews are not for authors”? Very, very true. So I try to stay away.
As for the best and worst things, well… Best was having written it in the first place. It has taken me a long time to get up the courage to tell this specific story, and now I have two books to my name. The worst? Probably how utterly laid open it made me once it was out. I hadn’t quite expected that, but it hit me very hard.
Dex and Nick – two characters who couldn’t be more different. When they two first met, Dex seemed to be grumpy & not happy at all, distant and almost cold. Soon we get to know him better and we saw different sides; studying biochemistry and being pretty self-confident – in his attitude as well as sexuality. And then we have Nick, the shy student who came to London to study history, based on his love for historical series (for example Downton Abbey – which is something he shares with his mother). 🙂
Where did these ideas came from? Did you have had role models for both (and maybe visual inspirations you wanna share with us)? Or did you let them be influenced by maybe personal preferences?
This feels sort of impossible to answer, because inspiration always comes from random places. I did base Nick’s love of British history on myself. I’ve always been drawn to it, ever since I was a kid, and have always had a hard time explaining why exactly. I just have. It started early, and never stopped. As for Dex’s, he was based on no one in particular, and popped into my head almost fully formed. I wanted him to be a foil to Nick, and I specifically needed him to be very smart and very driven. And there he was. 🙂
The Abroad duology isn’t shy of presenting a variety of queer couples, of young people who explore their (new) sexuality for the first time, who struggle and make their own experiences – including all ups and downs. How was it to explicit including not only M/M scenes, but F/F and M/F scenes – scenes which are graphic and super sexy, I have to say. 😉
Because let’s be honest: there are a lot of M/M readers who don’t like or are particularly fond of explicit non M/M scenes (no judgment here). What reactions came after people have read book one? And were they different from those you got from book two?
Well, to be honest, I love writing sex scenes because they allow you to explore characters at some of their most vulnerable moments—and they’re also a lot of fun. I loved that I got to write very different scenes, and was maybe sneakily happy to be able to have written a f/f scene before any other. I always, always want more rep in books, and it felt very organic to write it into my own work.
As far as I can tell, the reactions have been mixed, but mostly positive? A few real life straight friends told me that I made them doubt their own sexuality after the Izzy/Ruby scene, which was a delightful thing to hear. That scene, actually, more than any other, has been mentioned to be as being, uh, influential. Which makes me ridiculously happy.
Speaking of different POVs, the book is several times switching from Dex to Nick, but we have also scenes with Izzy, a great & close friend of Dex. Izzy, who is also the one who included Nick to the “circle“.
How does it felt writing the scenes from her POV? To include a female voice in a book where the readers mostly expect to hear from one or two male voices? Can we say Izzy is based on you or is she (totally) different? 🙂
Izzy is absolutely, 100000% not based on me. (Okay, I lie—her love of cinema and writing was influenced by my own preferences.) She was a total blast to write. I am very much aware that it made the book more unconventional to include her as much as I did, but she felt very important, and needed a voice of her own. She also told her own story. She gave me a lot of trouble in the second book, but was so gratifying to write, as well. I’m terribly fond of my Izzy.
Let us come to the last questions: Nick and Dex and all the other characters seem to have get their HEA. But let us take a look in the future.
What have the crew to say about children? Fond of them or a nay? 😀 And marriage? Who is most ready for this type of commitment?
We see Dex several times taking really good care of his younger brother Al, comes along as responsible and “mature”, would he be a good dad? Or Izzy – would she ready to be a mother?
Oh. Oof. I don’t know, if I’m honest. I’m guessing that sometime down the line, Nick and Dex will get married, and possibly even have children. Izzy? I’m not sure. She strikes me as someone who would be a terrific aunt and not at all the motherly type. She would be thrilled if Nick and Dex had a kid or two, and spoil them rotten, though.
You know how I see actually having a family in a not-too terribly distant future? Jonny and Lance. Imagine that!
Okay, that’s it. Thank you for agreeing to the interview. It was so much fun. 🙂
Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it! It was a fun interview to do. 🙂
I hope you liked this interview as much as I did. I had a blast in doing this. See below further information about the series. :3
Add to you bookshelf:
(click on the buttonor this link)
Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.
Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .
When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?
Add to you bookshelf:
(click on the button or this link)
Nick Melnikov has finally done it — he’s come out.
To himself. To his sister. And to Dex, who listens, hears him, and understands. To Dex, who kisses him and shows him all that they could be, if Nick could only find the courage. It’s one thing to let yourself be open thousands of miles away from your family, but exchange student Nick is uncomfortably aware that his time with Dex is running out. Who will he be when he goes home again?
Dex Cartwell is as happy with Nick as he’s ever been, but he can’t ignore the shadow of Nick’s inevitable departure from London, back to his life in Michigan. Is it worth it for Dex to expose his heart to another doomed relationship with a predetermined expiration date? What does Dex really want for the beginning of the next chapter in his life, post-graduation?
Dex wants to turn to his best friend in the struggle to find a way forward, but Izzy Jones has her own problems. She’s got one friend in love with her, and when she turns to another for help things get twice as complicated. Izzy never wanted complicated, but life just keeps getting in the way — and sweeping her off her feet.
Then Nick’s mom and sister come for a visit, and he is forced to decide between living his truth and protecting himself from fear and change. It’s going to take a lot of courage and a few leaps in the dark if Nick, Dex, and Izzy are to find a way to live and love on their own terms.
Quote from the author about Abroad Book One
ABROAD is a story of struggle, love, identity, fear, family, and friendship. It’s about finding your people. It’s a story of how our cultures can define, constrict, and, ultimately, free us. It’s a story of immigration and its fallout, of confusion and clashes and how help can come from the most unexpected places. It’s the story I have always wanted to tell, ever since I was a confused, frightened immigrant kid with no recourse but to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings or sink. In many ways, while fictionalized and quite altered, this is my story.
Praise about Abroad
“A nuanced and sexy take on growing up and learning to accept who you are.”
— Teen Vogue
“Written from a beautiful and intimate ‘own voices’ perspective, Liz Jacobs’s Abroad is a delight. Accurate and nuanced writing is becoming the norm with Brain Mill Press, and Abroad continues this trend, and raises the bar higher.”
— All About Romance, “Desert Isle Keeper” review
“Abroad … really spoke to me in a way that a book hasn’t done in a while.”
— Just Love Reviews
“A fresh take on the NA genre with a slower pace that feels both realistic and allows the characters to explore identity, culture, sexuality and self discovery in a way that allows all of life’s complexities to shine through.”
— For What It’s Worth Book Reviews
Author bio – Liz Jacobs
Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee. All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.
She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.
She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.