-----------MNtR: It's not too often that we get to have stories that realistically address LGBT in an everyday context. What drew you to writing a story like this?
RJ: I feel like such a fake when I talk about this, but Seth originally wasn't gay. He was just a straight guy who was a major jerk and womanizer. Throughout the story he was supposed to learn "the errors of his ways." In fact, my original outline was entirely from his viewpoint, exploring his growth.
I hate to say this but when I started thinking about male sexuality, I totally copped out. Even though I've written the male perspective in the past, I turned into a coward when faced with raging boyish hormones. The media makes being a hormonal male seem terribly uncomfortable. What in the world goes through a boy's mind? What's happening with his body? :)
Well, I opted for the female perspective. I still kept many of the original plot points, but flipped them to reveal Alex's point of view instead. And of course, Seth pulled me aside and said, "I have something to tell you, Author Lady... I'm gay."
MNtR: Ah, unrequited love. Have you ever had to go through a situation in which your affections for someone else were unreturned? Did that person know it?
RJ: Not exactly, but I've certainly had my heart broken a couple of times. They knew or at least had a pretty good idea. I'm a little on the verbal side. Think Candor from Veronica Roth's Divergent. That's me. I've been trying to temper myself with a few Amity qualities, but it's like telling someone with Tourettes to control the tics. Hold it back too long, and eventually you're going to see an outburst.
MNtR: Do you have a favorite couple from literature or film that was involved with a case of unrequited love?
RJ: Forrest Gump and Jenny. Just thinking about them makes me want to watch the movie again for a good dose of laughter and tears.
MNtR: One awesome thing about this book is the cast of very real, flawed characters, from Alex and Seth to the dorm residents and jocks and campus queens. Were they developed before you began writing I Loved You First, or did they flesh out as you wrote?
RJ: Trinity was the only one I knew as a person before I started I Loved You First. She has her own series I've yet to finish and plays a role in the last book of the Striped Ones series, which is yet to be released. So we've been buddy-buddy for awhile now.
I developed a character sheet for Alex, and Seth had a personality from the original outline. Others said, "Here I am! Love me or hate me." And I said, "Fine" and wrote them the way they presented themselves.
MNtR: Would you consider this book "Young Adult"? Was it written with a specific audience in mind?
RJ: I believe it works in the YA genre. However, I classify it as New Adult. I wrote it with those between the ages of 16 - 24 in mind. I didn't think I was groovy enough (or maybe it's gnarly these days) to write a YA story, but college was an area I thought I could handle since I've been in and out of school all my life.
MNtR: What kinds of stories do you most like to read? to write?
RJ: My tastes are varied. Paranormal romances were my favorite for the past 5 years or so, but I've burnt out on those. Lately I've been itching for some YA dystopia. I've been trying to be patient, but I'd really like to start the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. As far as writing? I haven't really settled into a genre yet. I just write whatever chases me in my dreams.
MNtR: Are there any types of genres, subgenres, or story conventions that you have not yet attempted but would like to write?
RJ: I've been thinking about some light sci-fi. All the talk of steampunk over the last year or so has me interested in gadgets. I'm thinking of a futuristic/alternate world where cybernetics is a part of life. :) I have an inkling of an idea and some scenes playing in my mind but no major plot has presented itself yet. I keep telling myself to wait... finish some of the stories and series I've started.
MNtR: Rock on. Thank you so much for answering my questions, it was a pleasure to have you by.
RJ: Thanks for having me, Alisha.
--------Thanks again to Reena Jacobs for an awesome visit. She's written in a range of genres, but for a contemporary fiction piece--"life as it is"--you should definitely check out her latest piece, I Loved You First. Here's a little blurb from the book:
Alexandria (Alex) Carmichael guards two secrets close to her heart. One—she’s in love with her best friend, Seth. Two—he’s gay.
As a freshman in college, Alex looks forward to fun times with her best friend. When Seth decides cycling through girlfriends is the way to fit in with the straight crowd, Alex must make a choice: watch Seth give his affections to another while her heart breaks or come clean with her feelings and risk losing his friendship forever.
I Loved You First is a new adult love story told through the eyes of an African-American/Caucasian student who takes a journey of self-discovery while watching her best friend come to terms with his sexuality. Turn the pages and find a message of hope, new beginnings, and positive change.
You can find Reena on Ramblings of an Amateur Writer, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobles, and Smashwords.