JEREMY JORDAN KING
28 | Writer | New York City, USA
Tell us a bit about the Immortal Testimonies books.
Immortal Testimonies is a new series that traces the history of a group of supernatural beings living in New York City. Every book will uncover the origin of a different Immortal - including gargoyles, vampires, witches, and ghosts. The collection launched in November with In Stone, a novel about a young man who is rescued from a hate crime by a vigilante gargoyle. The second instalment, Night Creatures, is about a guy’s transformation into a vampire to save himself from the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s. That will hit shelves this fall. Obviously, the books traverse time and include issues related to the LGBTQ community. Actually, this series is one of the first wide releases in the Young/New Adult fantasy genre to feature LGBTQ characters as protagonists, not simply as supporting roles or villains. Many books in this genre are about straight teenage girls. In Immortal Testimonies, the gay community finally gets some representation.
What was your inspiration for the series? Did you face any homophobia at school, like the main character in your book 'In Stone'?
I wasn’t bullied to the extent that some kids are, but I was certainly picked on. Sometimes I was made fun of for being effeminate and having more in common with girls than boys. Compared to how badly bullying can be, I was lucky to simply get called names. Even so, embarrassment by and in front of peers can be just as harmful as physical abuse. I mean, I wasn’t trying to be different than other boys, I just was. To be called out on my natural instincts was tough. I found happiness in retreats into my imagination, where I created elaborate fantasy worlds and stories. Those daydreams were sometimes brought to life on the playground or in art class. Later, I started acting and they were expressed on stage. Eventually my talents garnered more attention than my long hair, skinny frame, and affections for The Little Mermaid. I like to think the creativity I immersed myself in to get through some days at school became the seeds of what I write today. In Stone features characters I invented in sixth grade overcoming the adversity I feared then and sometimes fear today.
Tell us a little bit about your own coming out experience.
I came out to friends during my senior year of high school. It was fine. Everyone said they assumed it all along. I came out to my family a year later, after I moved to NYC for theatre school. There, I was surrounded by gay men and women and was living what I considered to be a very authentic life. After experiencing a taste of that, I just had to come out to my parents. If I didn’t, I would have felt like I was living a lie in their presence. They are wonderful people and have always surrounded themselves with diversity. And even though they were ultimately accepting, there was an awkward transitional period right after I told them. I think this was because they had to alter what they expected my life to be. As an out gay man, I will possibly face adversity, hate, or violence. No parent wants to envision their child going through those obstacles.
"I think when parents seem less-than-loving when their
How has being ‘out’ affected your work as a writer?
Being out is the single biggest influence on my writing. My novels feature gay protagonists - that’s what distinguishes them from the onslaught of other fantasy books. And my characters aren’t just gay people placed into every day situations; they deal with issues that directly relate to their sexuality. The inciting incident that brings human and gargoyle together at the beginning of In Stone is a hate crime. Night Creatures is about a gay man trying to save himself and his loved ones from AIDS, which was referred to as a “gay disease” in the early 80’s. If I were writing straight characters, the books would be completely different. The specificity of the characters’ lives makes their stories interesting. I also wouldn’t have found my awesome publisher, Soliloquy, the young adult imprint of Bold Strokes Books. They specialize in LGBTQ work and give many incredible authors a voice…and give many incredible readers the opportunity to discover them.
What kind of books did you read as a child? Did any writers inspire you to write when you were young?
As a child, I was a hardcore Winnie the Pooh fan…you know, the original A.A. Milne stuff. Christopher Robin was a kid completely immersed in his fantasy world, just like I’d been. It’s hard to tell if Pooh and Piglet are just stuffed animals playing an afternoon game or if they really have lives outside the nursery.
The Hundred Acre Wood is so simple and lovely…void of adult concerns and cynicism. To read Milne’s work is to travel to a safe haven of childhood innocence.
What advice would you give anyone who is scared of coming out?
Coming out can be intimidating. No matter how accepting your loved ones are, it takes a lot of bravery to be honest with them. If you are in a situation where coming out can be ostracising or dangerous, the pressure to stay in the closet can be even more intense. But being truthful with yourself and to the people in your life is invaluable. It’s a rebirth. And if you ever feel like crawling backward and hiding, look around. There are current and future friends around to help you through the experience.
"The LGBTQ community is huge and includes people from all walks of life; in all shapes, sizes, colors,
heights, weights, sexes, and forms. But what’s interesting about us, more than any other community, is
that our common thread surpasses those surface things. It runs deeper than hair, than skin, than speech,
than beliefs, than thought, and into the very thing that makes us live: our hearts."
Being true to your heart - knowing who and how and what you want to love - is vital. When your heart is healthy, your life is healthy. I also believe that by being out today, we honour the memories of those who couldn’t be out yesterday. Challenges still exist, but we are so lucky to be living right now. It’s astonishing how quickly hearts and minds are changing in the direction of acceptance. Take advantage of this forward momentum - come out and enjoy this exciting time!
Interview by Wayne Dhesi | Copyright ©2013 RUComingOut