Having written books for adults and children previously, L. C. Rosen, also known as Lev Rosen, makes his Young Adult debut with his new release Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts). The LGBTQ+ book has had rave reviews from a number of personalities including Julian Clary and Courtney Act. Wanting to find out more about Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts), Lev answers our questions and tells us more about the lead character, visiting the UK for the release and why he wanted to tell Jack’s story.
What can you tell us about your new release, Jack of Hearts?
Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is about Jack, a seventeen-year-old teenager who goes to a private school in NYC. He’s out, happily non-committed, and having a lot of sex with a lot of different guys. So much so that rumours fly about his escapades at school, and his best friend, Jenna, asks him to take advantage of his reputation to write a sex advice column for her blog. He agrees, but soon starts getting love notes which become more possessive and threatening, demanding he curb his behaviour and become a “good gay” or else he, his friends and family will all suffer. Meanwhile, the actual sex advice column is throughout the book, with questions about sex and pleasure which Jack answers with (I hope) some aplomb.
How would you describe the book in five words?
Sexy Angry Gay Gay Gay.
How long did it take to write?
Not too long. I wrote the first 99 pages in a frenzy, but I have a rule that when I hit 100 pages, I have to finish the book, and it felt like possibly this was a terrible idea. So I asked a friend who’s an editor if I should just drop it, and she read it and said no, I should submit it to her officially so she could buy it. So I did, and then they said I had two months to finish it. So the first draft took three months, about. Revising took another several months, though.
Why did you want to tell this story?
I feel like when it comes to queer YA, I see one of three things: coming out stories, sweet gay romances (often those two are combined) or what I call “incidentally gay” books – where if you switched a character’s gender and another’s sexuality, it wouldn’t actually impact the story. And those are important: it’s important to show young queer people falling in love and doing things that have nothing to do with their sexuality. But we have a lot of coming out stories, and there’s more to queerness than that – there’s STAYING out, which is a big, daily process. This is a staying out book. It’s about queerness. That’s what I wanted.
Is there anything you can say about Jack’s character?
Jack is great. Unapologetically himself, loyal to his friends, great with makeup. But, much like myself, he tends to minimise it when bad things happen to him – especially if those things are predicated on his queerness. I think a lot of us, when someone shouts “fag” at us from the corner (and they’re not asking for a cigarette in the UK), tend to try to brush it off. But that’s not cool, and allowing that behaviour is what allows other people to try to shoot up queer clubs.
How does it feel getting great reviews on the book so far from people such as Julian Clary and Courtney Act?
How different do you feel sex education is in the UK opposed to the US?
Well, not having spent too much time in the UK, and never having been educated in sex there, I’m not sure I can really spell out the differences. But if the UK is anything like the US, queer people generally don’t come up in kids sex-ed classes. That’s part of the reason I wrote Jack – I wanted queer teens to have a resource that wasn’t porn.
What plans do you have when visiting the UK for book release?
I’ll be reading at the Waterstones in Piccadilly, the Waterstones in Manchester, and I’ll be doing a few radio shows! Aside from that, my husband and I are going to see All About Eve with Gillian Anderson, whom I adore (and met once at a book party!).
What would you like to see happen from telling Jack’s story?
Fame, fortune and a parade in my honour. No, I’d really just love it if a lot of teens – queer and straight – felt more comfortable with their desires after reading the book, and come away with a better understanding of consent and safe sex and not being judgey about other people’s sexuality. I’d also love it if straight kids especially realised that the way straight culture polices queer people, and tells them how to behave, it problematic, and started calling out people who enforce it.
Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L. C. Rosen is published today by Penguin.
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