Giveaways, J.A. Rock, Loose Id

Guest Post and Giveaway: Take the Long Way Home by J.A. Rock

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Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and I’m so happy to be visiting The Novel Approach today to talk a little about TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, which is now available from Loose Id. TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME is about growing up. And screwing up. And family. And…farmer’s markets.And low level kidnapping fetishes. It’s about a lot of things, but I think mostly it’s about searching for connections with people. And since it deals so much with family, I wanted to talk a little about the process of mercilessly stealing—er, borrowing—from the people I love most.

I remember being younger and getting nervous when I borrowed things from my loved ones to use in my writing—mannerisms, physicality, mistakes, life goals, verbatim quotes, painful breakups…I was always afraid one day I would get published and my family and friends would see the ways I had fictionalized them.

And kill me.

Then I read that brilliant David Sedaris essay “Repeat After Me,” about that story his sister told him that he absolutely was not allowed to use in an essay—and that he immediately used in an essay. He made the ethical stumbleground of being a writer and writing about people you know sound hilarious and fun.

And then Anne Lamott spoke at my college, and she promised that all you had to do was change one physical feature about the person you were writing about—like hair color—and the person would never know they were the basis for that character.

So I grew more confident in the general okayness of borrowing from my loved ones. (I borrow a lot from people I’m not particularly close to as well, but I don’t feel as bad about that.) I started feeling like a master of disguise, since I rarely borrow in a very direct way—my characters are all amalgamations of lots of people I’ve known. No one will ever recognize themselves, I told myself.

Except they totally do.

My mom reads pretty much everything I write. And she’s very perceptive. Changing a character’s hair color is not going to stop her from being like, “Oh, look, you used that thing I said about my divorce,” or “Still find your brother’s orthodontic headgear from age 14 funny, do you?” But she’s a writer too, and she gets it. She also told me once that I was welcome to use anything from her life in my writing. Except I think maybe she wasn’t counting on me taking her quite so literally, because there have been a couple of borrowings she’s seemed a little dubious about.

Like that essay I published about the time she said she’d chop off our family dog’s head for nine million dollars. Or when I stole some of my favorite of her OCD quirks for Deacon’s mom in MARK COOPER VERSUS AMERICA.

I saw her over Christmas, and she had just read TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME. And she’d recognized bits of herself in a couple of the characters. But what’s funny is that she knows me so well—knows the jobs I’ve held, the places I’ve been, knows the friends I’ve had my whole life and the kind of relationship I’ve had with each of them—that she also recognized a lot of what I’d borrowed from my own life.

Which made me think maybe I’ve been worrying about the wrong thing all these years. Maybe what’s really unnerving isn’t the idea of getting caught borrowing from my family, but that the things I give my characters that come from me, and from my experiences, my relationships, my insecurities—the things I think I’ve cleverly disguised by chopping them up and mixing them into a story at random—are not as disguised as I think.

Maybe the people I’m closest to aren’t seeing themselves when they read my work so much as they’re seeing me. Which makes me feel a lot less like an evil puppet master and a lot more…exposed. But I like that there’s at least one person in my life whoreally can pick apart the threads of my work and see where certain ideas or characters or scenes came from.

So my question for the writers out there—how much do you borrow, and do you ever get caught? And to nonwriters and writers alike, what about yourself would you be most afraid someone would “borrow” for a story? (Please tell me, so I can use it! I’m kidding… Or am I? J)

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JAR_take the long way home_coverinBlurb: Dresden Marich has failed out of high school three months shy of graduation. He’s infatuated with his online friend, Evan, alienated from his family and former classmates, and still trying to recover from his father’s death six years ago. He’s also keeping a troubling secret about his older brother, Gunner, who is away at boot camp.

Then Dresden meets Caleb, a judgmental environmentalist who’s hardly Dresden’s fantasy come true. But Caleb seems to understand Dresden’s desire for rough sex, big feelings, and, ultimately, safety. As Dresden becomes embroiled in a farmers market drama involving Caleb, a couple of bullying tomato enthusiasts, and a gang of vigilante vegans, he discovers he might be willing to trade a fantasy relationship with Evan for a shot at something real with Caleb.
But Dresden fears telling quick-to-judge Caleb his secret, and the news that Gunner is coming home sends him fleeing to California for a chance to meet Evan in person and hopefully fall in love. When the encounter doesn’t go as expected, Dresden faces a choice: stay in California and carve out a new life, or take the long road home to his family, Caleb, and a past he must face if he has any hope for a future.

Buy Link: Loose Id

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Giveaway: One commenter will receive a choice of any backlist title—including co-written titles. The winner will be drawn at 11:59 p.m. on January 23rd

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Author BioBio: J.A. Rock has worked as a dog groomer, knife seller, haunted house zombie, standardized patient, census taker, state fair quilt hanger, and, for one less-than-magical evening, a server—and would much rather be writing about those jobs than doing them. J.A. lives in Chicago but still sees West Virginia behind Illinois’s back.

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38 thoughts on “Guest Post and Giveaway: Take the Long Way Home by J.A. Rock

  1. Waxapplelover says:

    I loved this post! I can imagine the horror of some quirk or embarrasing incident being immortalized in print. Mostly I wouldn’t want my pretty shameful reactions and incidents with bugs to be written about. When I’ve told the stories to people, it always seems like they’re laughing at me and not with me. :)

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  2. Ana says:

    When someone close to me reads what I write I ~always~ worry they’re going to pick up on the parts in my writing that are ME. (And usually not the parts of me that I like having exposed.) Especially when they read multiple works and there’s things that keep coming up…. Your mom sounds like a genuinely cool person though! Thanks for sharing.

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  3. jenf27 says:

    Thanks for the great post! I don’t think I would want any of my quirks or flaws immortalized in print, especially if I had to read about them later.

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    • I have one friend who has fantastic stories about the drama in her life. And before she tells one, she’ll always say, “And if you want to use this in a book, you can.” I LOVE her! I think some people definitely get a kick out of having an influence on a book. For me it would depend on how my quirks were being portrayed… :)

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  4. Ardent Ereader says:

    I definitely would not want to read about my quirks or shortcomings in print :) Congrats on your new book. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  5. Jen CW says:

    Thanks for the great post! There are definitely some things I would never want to see about myself in print. Sometimes it’s hard enough dealing with them myself or with the people who know me best.

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    • Thanks, Antonia! Sometimes I try to be nice and ask before I use something about someone in a book. But mostly I just try to disguise it and see if I get away with it. Never trust a writer! ;)

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  6. I’m pretty private person and I think I would be a bit horrified if I ever pick out pieces of a character or a variation of a personal story with some of my traits (good or bad) in print. I already get a bit anxious when my older sister tells her coworkers and friends (whom I’ve never met or briefly met) stories about me.

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    • Ooh, yes, I think I’m more scared of the stories people tell about me than I would be about seeing myself as a character. At least in fiction there’s an illusion of anonymity!

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  7. Denise Dechene says:

    I know I wouldn’t want any of my quirks in a book to read. I’m private and don’t talk about myself that much. Great post though. Congrats on the new book

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    • Excellent! *gets out notebook* Lee, if you wouldn’t mind describing your quirks for me… ;) Yes, for me it would depend on the quirk and the way it was presented. And I would never base something off a real person in a mean way. Though, as I explained to my mom, if I take a real life quirk and filter it through the opinions of a fictional character, it doesn’t mean that’s how I personally feel about the quirk.

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  8. Lisa says:

    OMG, the material about some of my family members would be priceless…LOL. Just kidding. :) Of course if I was writing a book, I doubt I would have to worry about any of them reading it because I think we have very different tastes. ;)

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  9. You had me at ::: a couple of bullying tomato enthusiasts, and a gang of vigilante vegans…. OMG!!! I LOVE your writing and I can’t wait to read more from you. Hugs, Z.

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  10. Nicole says:

    Great post! Good thing no one in my family is a writer. As a teacher, however, I’m sure all my quirks and traits are fair game for all the students I’ve every had.

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