As a general rule, I attempt to be as unobtrusive as possible on guest posts. An introduction and a welcome often covers it, and then I give this space over to the authors as a platform to speak to readers one-on-one. I’m always happy to do so.
In this case, however, I’m going to break with the norm and insert myself more vocally here, as the subject matter of this book is an important one that strikes at the heart of an abuse I can’t begin to fathom on a personal level. Gay conversion therapy, in no uncertain terms, is a horrific practice which must end, and it is an ending that must begin with each and every one of us. The psychological manipulation and exploitation of those who are vulnerable, who are grappling with self-acceptance, especially teens, along with the perpetuation of the idea that they are fundamentally broken, is a practice we here at The Novel Approach denounce without equivocation.
It is also the monster that must be acknowledged and confronted head-on to be defeated, and it’s our willingness to do so which allows us to see this for the ugliness it is—within ourselves and our society, inhumanity hiding behind a mask of righteousness—so I encourage you to visit The Trevor Project and support their 50 Bills 50 States initiative to protect LGBTQ youth and make conversion therapy illegal across the country.
Its eradication, I believe we can all agree, is the only acceptable outcome.
Thanks very much, and welcome to authors Lisa Henry and JA Rock.
~ Lisa ~
Facing Our Monsters
We knew going into writing The Preacher’s Son that we were dealing with a premise that would put a lot of readers off immediately: Our MC Jason films a sexual encounter with the other MC, Nate, and posts it online without Nate’s knowledge. He does it out of a warped sense of “good”—he wants to try to bring down the conversion therapy camp that Nate’s father runs—but no matter why he does it, it’s reprehensible.
As writers, individually and as a team, we’ve always had a fascination with moral gray areas. Though we create characters whose actions are thoroughly judge-able, we know that, while we’re writing, our job is to see things from each character’s perspective. To believe in their actions, convictions, and desires just as strongly as they do—until we’re out of their heads and back in our own. Our backlist includes a romance that had a murderer MC. A series about a conman. A book about a mob boyfriend. We’re not exactly strangers to characters of dubious morals. Nevertheless, there was something particularly tricky about the MCs in The Preacher’s Son.
Maybe because Jason, in theory, stands for so much of what we ourselves believe. He wants equal rights for all humans. An end to practices like gay conversion therapy. He’s an idealist who chooses the worst possible method to make a point. And Nate is someone who truly values his faith—something we never wanted to mock him for or condescend to him over. His defense of his father’s work and his own role in it in the beginning of the story is, depending on your perspective, pitiable, infuriating, or both.
Jason is not a bad person, even though what he does to Nate is beyond despicable. The idea that an otherwise well-meaning person can do something so, so terrible is one that fascinates us. Does Jason deserve to be miserable for the rest of his life because of something cruel he did when he was younger and selfish? I’m not sure that’s a question that any of us can answer. And in The Preacher’s Son, the question we ended up with wasn’t so much does Jason deserve forgiveness, but is Nate the sort of person who could forgive a wound like that? And even Nate isn’t sure how to answer that. What he ultimately realizes is that forgiveness isn’t an absolute, or a solution. It’s a malleable thing, and it’s deeply personal.
As writers, we like to explore nuance. Not all villains wear black hats, and not all heroes are perfect. And Jason was never written to be a hero. Jason is a deeply flawed man who has to come to terms with the fact that he did a terrible thing to another human being, whatever his motivations were. We weren’t looking to write a redemption arc. We were writing about how it feels, as humans, to face our monsters and realize they’ll always be a part of us.
The Preacher’s Son isn’t a neat romance, because neither of us are interested in writing those. We knew when we wrote the book that opinions would be very much divided on it. We have one MC who did a disgusting thing to the other. And we have the other MC who loves the father whose religious beliefs are deeply harmful to him, and to other LGBT+ people. There are certainly no easy answers in The Preacher’s Son, just like there are often no easy answers in real life. Ultimately, these are the characters that we chose to write about, and we hope that we did it with understanding and with respect.
About the Book
Jason Banning is a wreck. His leg’s been blown to hell in Afghanistan, his boyfriend just left him and took the dog, and now he’s back in his hometown of Pinehurst, Washington, a place that holds nothing but wretched memories…and Nathan Tull. Nathan Tull, whose life Jason ruined. Nathan Tull, who will never believe Jason did what he did for a greater good. Nathan Tull, whose reverend father runs a gay conversion therapy camp that Jason once sought to bring down—at any cost.
Nathan Tull is trying to live a quiet life. Four years ago, when Nate was a prospective student visiting UW Tacoma, his world collapsed when senior Jason Banning slept with him, filmed it, and put the footage online. A painful public outing and a crisis of faith later, Nate has finally begun to heal. Cured of the “phantoms” that plagued him for years, he now has a girlfriend, a counselor job at his dad’s camp, and the constant, loving support of his father.
But when he learns Jason is back in town, his carefully constructed identity begins to crumble. As desperate to reconcile his love for God with his attraction to men as Jason is to make sense of the damage he’s done, Nate finds himself walking a dangerous line. On one side lies the righteous life he committed himself to in the wake of his public humiliation. On the other is the sin he committed with Jason Banning, and the phantoms that won’t let him be. But is there a path that can bridge those two worlds—where his faith and his identity as a gay man aren’t mutually exclusive?
And can he walk that path with the man who betrayed him?
The Preacher’s Son by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry is available from Amazon
About the Authors
Lisa Henry likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.
Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied history and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.
J.A. Rock is the author of over twenty LGBTQ romance and suspense novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A.’s books have received Lambda Literary, INDIE, and EPIC Award nominations, and 24/7 was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.