Lovely readers, good afternoon or evening (depending where you are, reading this)!
I’m so excited I could burst! ❤ Why? Well…
Today I have the amazing and super talented Jude Sierra as a guest here todayon my blog. She agreed for an interview and I can’t wait to share her answers with you. :3
We’re celebrating the 6 month release of A Tiny Piece of Something Greater with having a great visual tour I’m part of with lots of other amazing hosts.
See the graphic below who else is participating and be sure to stop by to read amazing posts! 🙂
I have also – for those who haven’t read the book yet (honestly, you should change this asap! 😉 a nice excerpt – super romantic I dare to say 😉
Check all this out! Happy reading! ❤
Happy to have you here today, my lovely follower. I am thrilled to announce a very special guest on my blog today. I beyond excited that I can introduce you Jude Sierra, author of Idlewild, Hush or the amazing dive-to-deep-in story A Tiny Piece of Something Greater. Please give her a warm and nice welcome. It’s a special occasion because we celebrate the 6 months release of A Tiny Piece of Something Greater (published May 17 2018)!
Welcome Jude, I’m super happy to have you here. 🙂
Thank you! I’m thrilled to be here, talking to other bloggers and celebrating Tiny’s 6 month anniversary 😀
A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is your 4th book and in ways more personal than the other books, right? It’s full of own voice – having a Latino main character like Joaquim, the display of mental illness – which are major topics. How was the journey so far; as an established author but sending out such an emotional book in the wild? What were the people’s reactions?
Tiny is by far the most personal book I’ve written, with What it Takes being a close second. It’s hard to quantify what the journey has been like. When I wrote this book in 2016 during NaNo at the same time as I was applying to a PhD program.
I remember hitting 50k, turning in that application and on December 1st, Idlewild came out. The journey between that rough draft and Tiny’s release in May of 2018 was wild. I wanted to write a story about navigating love and about what it is like to live with mental illness so much, which means I poured a lot of myself into it. There were a lot of big and complicated and heavy feelings tied up in making this book, but also a lot of…excitement?
I couldn’t wait to share it, because I knew that even if it might not be the right read for everyone, there would be readers who needed this story, who wanted this story. I have been that person – really hungry for a book that would represent mental illness in a way that reflected my experience of it. To get there meant going some difficult places, internally. But it’s been so worth it.
When you go through the things I have, the things Reid has, and you send a message of hope out and it reaches even one other person, it’s the best feeling. I don’t think I could have written this story the way I did when I first started writing. Each book is a learning experience and I needed lessons from What it Takes and Idlewild to make this one work.
Speaking of reactions: how did your family and (close) friends react to your book? Did they read it? Are you open that you write or is it a well kept secret? 😀
My friends and family are all proud of me—but other than my close circle, I write under a pen name. It’s a funny thing, how when I first started writing I was mired in this, “oh gosh will they be scandalized because I write sexy books?” The truth is, very few people I know read my books. They’re super supportive and that’s all the boost I need.
The only person who consistently read my books was my mother. I’ve actually spent a lot of time regretting that she didn’t get to read Tiny before she passed away. I had the ARC and she wanted to read it, but I was under deadline for some edits and I told her I’d let her read it when I was done. Unfortunately—oh this is one of those cheesy life lessons that are so true—sometimes you just miss an opportunity you can’t take back. Like me, my mother lived with mental illness, and her experiences were very different. I wish she could have read it, although I don’t know if it would have been painful or positive and hopeful for her. But it’s a part of a story we shared in some way that maybe we could have connected more?
You have quite achieved so far as an author; your book Idlewild was listed as one of the Best Book 2016 at Kirkus; your first two books, Hush and What It Takes, received amazing high rated reviews and you’ve written already a collaboration with the equally talented author Taylor Brooke, (author of The Camellia Clock Cycle books Fortitude Smashed and Curved Horizon, published also with Interlude Press). Title of this book is Shadows You Left, coming out Spring 2019 with Entangled and it’s safe to say it’s different from your other works – it has a cage fighter who falls for a tattoo artist – but in ways not so much. Tell us how it was to go into this process. 🙂 To have a second author with you. 🙂
Oh wow it was a ride! A really unexpected and strange and amazing ride. I’d always kind of thought I wasn’t meant to co-write with others, and couldn’t imagine how it would work on a big project like a book. But Taylor and I kind of fell into it as a one-off. It started with a weird line I thought up one night when I was trying to sleep. Taylor created Erik in two paragraphs when I sent her that line. We hit it off in DM’s with brainstorming what then still felt kind of like a not-serious idea. It was a lot of “what-if” that turned into some google docs and then within a month, a manuscript. Taylor and I have some similarities in what we write and style, which helped.
But we have vastly different life experiences and perspectives, which really lent to writing a book because we got to inhabit our own characters and work out with each other the “why” and “how” for actions in a completely different way than if I had been doing it on my own.
Shadows is grittier than anything I’ve written before, but also very much me. It’s a story about grieving and healing; facing your past and coming of age. I am a huge fan of Taylor’s work and writing with her was awesome.
Talking about achievements as an author: what is a top goal of yours, you still want to achieve? What do you dream most about or did you already pursue your wishes? 🙂 What are your feelings of a second collaboration? Do you have another author you would love to collaborate with? 😉
This is a hard one because I tend to live by “expect the worst, enjoy the best”. Which doesn’t mean I sit around thinking things are awful, but I tend to over-manage my expectations. When I first published Hush, I think my ultimate goal was to have 9 sales. When that’s your goal, all of the rest kind of seems like gravy 😉 I tend to set short, immediate goals that feel achievable, so that everything feels like a positive success and so I don’t get too ahead of myself.
I’ve gotten to do awesome things on this publishing ride. I never thought I’d write 5 books, that I’d co-write, that I’d get to go to New York and New Orleans and Las Vegas (although ooof Vegas and I are not compatible). That I’d get to meet some incredible authors and work with fantastic publishers like Interlude and Entangled.
Maybe it’s a small thing, but in my life as an author, what I most want is to keep having stories to tell. Every year, I hope to have something to work on, because writing fills up something essential for me. I’m in a place in my life where I have tunnel vision: will I be able to keep writing?
Creating a character is very different and a unique experience for an author: how do you start this process? Do you have spreadsheets, Pinterest boards/mood boards etc. to visualize them better? How is – in general – your way of working on them and your stories? 🙂 Do you participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) – how well does this work for you and your writing?
I do NaNo! I started in 2007 and have won all but 2 years. What it Takes, Idlewild and A Tiny Piece of Something Greater are all NaNo babies. I love NaNo. There’s something about the challenge, that fall feeling (because it is autumn where I live in November) when NaNo is upon us that inspires and pushes me to write in a different kind of way. As far as process goes, I’ll say that in the time between Idlewild and Tiny, I switched from an out-of-order, pantsing style of writing to something more organized and streamlined. In some ways this has changed how I do character creation; mostly in that I spend more time writing down the ideas floating around. My process from story seed to actually writing anything down is usually pretty slow—I do a lot of thinking it through, mulling it over, asking questions and questions and questions so that the characters and their motivations begin to make sense. And now, I try to write it down more! I’ve started doing voice memos because I do so much thinking while I commute. I do make mood boards but mostly to inspire myself once I’ve already gotten an idea for what I want and where it’s going. It’s fun and a nice reminder, but it always comes second for me.
Part of his mental illness means for Reid he’s in need of being alone; in many ways it’s a huge topic in the book for both, Reid and Joaquim. Both are away from their family. Reid because he would feel suffocated by them; Joaquim being on an internship.
Can you explain to people who aren’t dealing with the mental illness what it means to Reid to be alone? What are his coping techniques to get along with it and what is he wishing for the people around him – for those who are close – to do when he is in this state?
I think that with Reid it is complex, because I don’t know that he needs to be alone as much as he needs to not be with his family. That he needs to show himself and them that he can be independent. His family relationship and his relationship with Felix were codependent and toxic to his healing and journey. I think one of the biggest lessons for me when I went through a mental breakdown was really understanding that the only person whose actions I could control were mine. Maybe before everything I “knew” this academically, but knowing and living something are vastly different. Years of intense therapy and working hard to get well and trusting that I was strong enough to do it meant also knowing that the only way I could try to have healthy relationships with people was by creating my own boundaries. I had to get to a certain level of strength; I had to get to a place where I could trust myself to advocate for me before I could go out and practice that in relationships. This is what Reid needs. He needs to take himself out of that dynamic, to get himself on solid ground, believe in himself, so that he can go back and create healthier relationships.
Family is for both guys different. How important exactly is family for them? In the book it’s already indicated how much Joaquim loves his family, Reid on the other hand has a strained relationship with his parents. What are Reid’s and Joaquim’s thoughts of planning and having a family of their own?
By necessity, Reid’s story is very much focused on the present—he doesn’t have a lot of room for thinking about an abstract future in a concrete way. I honestly didn’t even think about this aspect much in the development of his characterization because I had to be so focused on the Reid that is. The thing about the end of Tiny is that it’s the start of a new story for him. I think that maybe Reid in the next few years will think about these things.
I think that Joaquim would consider having a family one day. But he’s kind of a free spirit and knows he’s not ready to settle down in this kind of way, and so it’s a vague, “maybe one day” dream. Both of these men are young and so much change is ahead for them!
The trigger warnings in the book mention non-graphic discussion of past self-harm, so in ways Reid is carrying lots of (visible) scars with him, he’s shy to share with others (like he’s hesitant to change clothes in front of others or to drop off his shirt after diving). On the other hand he’s pretty remarkable in his body art; he’s wearing several piercings, has tattoos on his arms and his dark clothes aren’t colorful but stand in contrast to his skin color. How do you explain this ambivalent aesthetic and what is Reid’s impulse to do so?
I wanted Reid to have agency in every tiny aspect of his appearance, story and self. Reid got to hide what he wanted; he got to keep private parts of himself he wasn’t ready to share. Reid was never obligated to show or share his scars because no one should ever be forced to disclose these things against their will. At the same time, Reid still is who he is. His tattoos, his rainbow shoelaces or piercings—those are all positive forms of self-expression. I think it’s important to get to be and have both, to allow people to want to express themselves through appearance while also getting to keep things private they want kept private. One doesn’t have to negate the other. Wanting someone to notice you or wanting to express who you are through aesthetic choices doesn’t mean that you are obligated to share anything else, or that you’ve cancelled out a right to privacy. His tattoos and piercings and eye makeup—they are things that make Reid feel like Reid. Good, maybe some days confident. Grounded at times, sexy or even just comfortable.
We see a few things the boys like or actually love in the book; Reid gets comfort in reading a beloved book, Joaquim is having joy as a dive instructor, both share the love for the deep ocean. What is an ideal, comforting day for the two of them?
I think that they are both going to enjoy an outing on a nice day. Going to the beach, going for a walk, trying a new restaurant etc. Going out and trying something new and then getting to come home and enjoy some quiet, debrief time together sounds pretty lovely.
Okay, phew, there were a few emotional questions in between.
So to wrap up this interview, let’s have 5 short questions as a breather. Let’s get a bit cozy. 😉
Q1: Who loves to cuddle most?
Reid loves to *be* cuddled.
Q2: Who’s the best dancer of them?
Joaquim. They’re both good but Joaquim grew up dancing and it’s a different kind of self-expression for him.
Q3: The two have several talents, but what are their flaws, in which part do they lack individually most?
Well, as Joaquim discovers the night Reid makes him a poolside picnic, baking is not one of Reid’s talents. He wants to be good at it, and he loves baking shows, but something always goes catastrophically wrong.
Joaquim is not remotely creative. He’s tried in the past to do things like make cards for people, and when he was in his late teens, there was an ill-advised attempt at a love poem that still haunts him.
Q4: Halloween was a few days ago, what costumes would they’ve wear (if they attend to a party at all)?
Reid is a very minimal kind of Halloween guy; give him some cat ears and a tail and he’ll rock the kitten look. Joaquim has never been huge on Halloween, honestly, but he’s happy enough to have Reid dress him up. This year, that means he let Reid wrap him in crazy amounts of yarn to turn him into a ball of yarn, promising it would be a cute but unexpected couple’s costume.
Q5: When they were young what dreams did they had and how close are they to achieve them?
I think that Joaquim always just kind of wanted to be happy. He never had a concrete idea. He has phases of being into things (there was the one summer he was obsessed with super-volcanoes, but stopped trying to learn because he became convinced everyone was going to die and it was a bit much for his 10 year old brain). Joaquim is happy, so he’d doing pretty well so far. Happiness isn’t concrete like a job goal with phased steps for achievement. It’s a state of mind and a constantly moving place; Joaquim works to find that and maintain it. He knows it won’t always happen, but he has faith in it.
Reid grew up under this specter of “normal”. He always felt like he somehow didn’t fit, that he wasn’t “normal”, which is sadly a narrative a lot of us grow up with, that gets reproduced by other people inadvertently all the time. Everything about what he imagined for the future for himself was measured against this. Rebuilding his life meant that he had to scrap a lot of ways he’d been trying to push himself into things that wouldn’t have been right for him, that were about making himself something he wasn’t. Right now, Reid is getting to reorient himself to what he really likes and wants, which means he’s figuring it out.
Okay, we’re at the end of the interview. That’s it. 🙂 Thank you so much for visiting my blog and being here today. It was so much fun. 🙂
Thank you so much! These were definitely interesting and thought provoking questions, and I hope y’all enjoy reading a little about Tiny, Reid, Joaquim and my little authorly life.
I hope you’re curious about the book? 😉 I definitely had a blast in doing this interview. See below further information about A Tiny Piece of Something Greater.
Title: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater
Author: Jude Sierra
Genre: M/M Romance, Interracial/Multicultural, New Adult
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Publisher: Interlude Press
Length: 258 pages
Cover Artist: CB Messer
Author’s/publisher’s content warnings:
Discussion of mental illness, therapy and recovery
A portrayal of a cyclothymic character who experiences rapid mood cycles and anxiety
Non-graphic discussion of past self-harm and off-page relapse
Non-graphic reference of a past suicide attempt
This is an #ownvoices book
Add to you bookshelf:
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Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.
“All right,” Reid says. “Close your eyes.”
“Oh, is it my turn now?”
“Yep. Please try not to fall; we’re aiming for romantic.” Reid guides him with one hand on his shoulder and the other at the small of his back, trusting Joaquim to keep his eyes closed. “Hand out,” Reid says. He takes Joaquim’s hand, puts it on the back of a chair, and lets Joaquim fumble into it. A whispered kiss to his lips, then two more to his eyelids and Reid’s soft command to open his eyes make him viscerally aware of love, as if Reid’s touch has become a living thing, something curled inside Joaquim, something he can cherish and hold and keep.
The table is set with candles Joaquim recognizes. There’s also a beautiful charcuterie plate, chocolate-dipped strawberries dewing from the humidity, and tall drinks garnished with lime wheels.
“I’m breaking some rules with these. I did some research online and thought I’d try to make something that might remind you of home,” Reid explains. He’s twisting his hands nervously. “Also, we’re eating on the pool deck, although no one really pays attention to that.”
“Reid.” Joaquim turns and presses his cheek against Reid’s belly, closes his eyes into Reid’s fingers ruffling through his hair.
“I had a plan for something else, but I fucked it up. Um, so the drinks don’t match but, yeah. Caipirinhas?” Reid tests the word out slowly, fumbling over the pronunciation.
“Hey, hey,” Joaquim says, catching Reid’s fingers and kissing them. “This is wonderful.” It also explains the cupcakes. “Thank you.”
Reid’s eyes are bright, and his smile is shy, sweet in a way Joaquim never could have expected when they first met. “You are so welcome.” His next kiss is somehow even sweeter. It lingers, it promises, though it’s not about the heat that so often sparks between them. It’s love, is all. It is simple and full.
“Let’s eat.” Reid pulls up a chair. “Tell me what you like.”
“I want to try it all.”
“Well, then, here.” Reid selects an olive, “These are my favorite.” Joaquim allows him to slip it between his lips. He holds Reid’s wrist carefully and nips at his fingers.
“Delicious.” Joaquim doesn’t let go. Reid cups his cheek briefly and smiles again.
They eat slowly, moving to the strawberries eventually. Night begins her sweet slide across the sky, slipping over the light.
What the author says about the book and praise for it
Jude Sierra talks A Tiny Piece of Something Greater:
I want readers to walk away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it is like to thrive with mental illness—or strive toward it—and what it is like for two people to be and fall in love in these situations. I’d love for readers to come away knowing that love doesn’t cure mental illness, nor should it. Reid and Joaquim love each other as they are.
“A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is a beautiful, sun-soaked summer of a romance and I never wanted it to end.” — Roan Parrish, author of the Middle of Somewhere series
“A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is a wonderfully beautiful and hopeful book. It’s real and raw, but so full of light. Jude Seirra’s writing is dream-like, and so calming. Highly recommended.” —Anna Zabo, author of Syncopation and Daily Grind
Author bio – Jude Sierra
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.