Today on the blog I am interviewing the awesome JA Rock. JA is the author of two great books, By His Rules and Wacky Wednesday. If you haven’t read them yet, why not? What’s wrong with you?
JA, you live in Alabama. Tell me three things that most people don’t know about Alabama. (Most people, not me, because I know nothing about Alabama except you can go there with a banjo on your knee. Although probably not if you’re walking, because I imagine it would be some sort of tripping hazard.)
The first thing every Alabama child learns is how to walk properly with a banjo on his or her knee. Well, after how to spit tobacco.
Most of what I know from my limited experience with Alabama is what everyone knows: cockroaches, heat, football. But one thing people might not know is that the sales tax—at least in my area—is 9%. I about crap myself every time I go to the grocery store and see my total.
Also, Great Danes are huge here (haha, they’re huge everywhere). Popular, I should say.
And finally, the sale of sex toys is illegal in Alabama. It’s also illegal in Georgia and Mississippi, so you can’t even cross borders and smuggle vibrators back. Once you get to Tennessee, though, you can buy all the edible panties you want. I’ve heard rumours that if you need a dildo for medical reasons in Alabama, you can get permission from your doctor to have one.
Holy crap. That's a doctor's visit I'd love to eavesdrop on. Let’s talk crazy animals and the way they crawl into a novel and won’t go away again. In Wacky Wednesday you introduced us to Allen Ginspurr. In The Island I had the brainless yellow Labrador who eats expensive things. Co-incidence? No. So, is your IRL pet Professor Anne Studebaker the craziest animal you’ve ever had, or are there crazier animals in your mysterious past?
Oh my god, this answer could go on forever. Professor Anne Studebaker is actually far and away the most well behaved, intelligent, and relaxed pet I’ve ever had. I know it doesn’t sound like that when I list the things she’s chewed, but occasional couch-eating is her only vice. The craziest pet I had was Pete, a cross-eyed, snaggle-toothed, bow-legged, completely psychotic Chihuahua I rescued from a shelter when I was sixteen. I also kept rats until recently. They make amazing pets – smarter than most dogs I know and easier to care for. Craybill, Jesse’s rat in my upcoming Calling the Show, is based on my beloved Kate. Can we get a shot of baby Kate?
THAT WAS MY GIRL! Five weeks old in that picture. Best rat ever.
The yellow lab, Molly, in The Island made me smile so much. I love putting pets in novels. I’ve never had a cat, but Allen Ginspurr is loosely based on my kitty niece, Ruth Bader Ginspurr.
By His Rules was the first book I’d read with a theme of Domestic Discipline. It’s not a lifestyle that I know much about, and By His Rules was a fascinating insight. At times I felt as off kilter as Aiden: Wait, Keaton’s spanking him, and it’s not to get off? What sort of feedback did you get from readers regarding the DD relationship of Aiden and Keaton?
One of the best things I can hear is that By His Rules gave someone a better understanding of DD. DD’s a misunderstood, underrepresented, and often maligned lifestyle, so anytime someone says, “I didn’t get DD, but now I sort of do,” or “I didn’t think I could like a book about DD, but this one worked for me,” I feel relieved. But there are still plenty of responses along the lines of “This is just not my thing.” Some people wonder about how the DD relationship is going to work for Aiden and Keaton in the long run, when Aiden seems to need a lot of pain, but Keaton doesn’t appear to have much of a BDSM interest beyond DD. I guess my short answer is that Aiden might not be so much a masochist as someone who uses his high pain threshold as a substitute for true surrender. By the end of the book, he’s learning that he’ll get more out of embracing his submissive role in his relationship than he will out of seeking intense physical pain. Because DD’s not about pain; it’s about the security provided by a loving, mutually respectful partnership with clearly defined roles.
And then there’s Wacky Wednesday, the book that added “fuck weasel” to my vocabulary. What I enjoyed so much about Wacky Wednesday was the energy. It was a fun ride the whole way though. What really impressed me was the alternating First Person POV from Jayk and Amon. I fell in love with Jayk in the first chapter, and thought that I couldn’t possibly like Amon as much. And then I did. Which makes this a really unfair question: Jayk or Amon, who’s your favourite? And who was easier to write?
Ooh, Sophie’s Choice here. I’ll admit, I had a blast writing Jayk and worried that readers wouldn’t like Amon. I mean, it’s not fair, right? Brats have so much fun, and control-freak tops like Amon get stuck being the party poopers. And Jayk was easier to write—or at least, it didn’t take me as long to get a bead on him as it did on Amon. But I love Amon. I’m working on a sequel now—which may or may not ever see the light of day—and am discovering that Amon has a lot of untapped comic potential. Not just as a foil to Jayk, but in his own right.
Yay! Sequel squee!
I also loved how matter-of-factly Jayk embraced waking up in Amon’s body, and just decided to go about Amon’s daily business. Did you ever have in mind an explanation for the body swap -- you know, wished on a star, crossed your fingers, or stood on a leprechaun or something -- or did you know from the beginning that it was something you wouldn’t try to explain?
Stood on a leprechaun? Is that a thing? I want to try it.
My thinking from the beginning was that I wouldn’t explain the swap, and Jayk’s this-is-freakin’-awesome attitude would let the readers know that the how isn’t so important. But then I got a comment when the book was nearing the end of the editing process that readers were going to wonder how the swap happened. This sent me into a panic. I talked to my editor, who was like, “Relax. Some people may wonder, but it probably won’t bother most of them.” But then she had this awesome idea that maybe Luciana Diamente, the Dom whose dungeon party Jayk and Amon attend, had caused the swap—like she was some kind of badass BDSM fairy godmother. I loved the idea, so my editor and I spent a whole evening e-mailing back and forth, trying to work in a hint that it was Luciana, and the book was already overdue at proofs. We finally got something that kind of worked, but I e-mailed her the next morning and was like, “You’re gonna hate me…but can we just go back to the original no-explanation version?” It was just too big a change to finagle in a short an amount of time, and even though the idea of BDSM fairy godmothers is pretty much the coolest thing ever, it might have raised more questions than it answered.
I think it was probably the right decision as well, but now I wish there were such things as BDSM fairly godmothers. You shall go to the ball...stretcher. Too much?
And speaking of Wacky Wednesday, a while ago on your blog you said, and I
and paste: “I've already been...not arrested, but publicly embarrassed while doing
"research" for Wacky Wednesday. I might have to lay low a while.” You
also promised you’d share all the sordid details. Well, we’re waiting… *taps
Ooh boy. Yeah.
A few weeks ago in a guest post I mentioned that I love writing brats because I’m nothing like them—I’m too cautious, always think things through, etc.
But, uh…maybe Jayk and I have more in common than I thought.
After I wrote the scene in WW where Jayk’s tie gets caught in Amon’s wheelie chair, I started wondering how feasible that was. Like, would the wheels of a chair really gobble up a tie that easily? And I know, there’s plenty that’s unfeasible about the book, LIKE THE WHOLE BODY SWAP PREMISE, but for some reason I fixated on the wheelie chair.
At the time, I was a TA in a room that had a wheelie chair. So one day I dismissed my students ten minutes early, wrapped my backpack strap around my neck to simulate a tie, crouched down and ran the wheels over the dangling strap.
What I didn’t think through was what would happen if it turned out the WW scene was totally feasible.
Sure enough, my backpack strap got caught in the chair wheels, and I couldn’t get it out. It wasn’t tied too tight around my neck, to I was able to slip my head out. But that backpack wasn’t going anywhere. The door opened, and the instructor for the next class came in, saw me on the floor, and stopped. I looked up and smiled and said, “I’ll just be another minute.”
I finally yanked the strap free, but wow…Jayk, I feel you, buddy. Wheelie chairs are a menace to society. And let it never be said that my work is not meticulously researched.
You've clearly suffered for your art. What can you tell me about your upcoming release Calling The Show? Tell me more about Jess and Sim, and hula hoops. Seriously, here’s the place for the blurb…right here:
Available July 17.
Calling the Show is my little weirdo baby—a story about two college boys who bond over Hula hooping and discover that they maybe also kinda like BDSM. It’s part of Loose Id’s July Pick Your Pleasure series, and I’m so glad my “Ooh! Ooh, can I do one about spanking and Hula hooping?” plea was not immediately rejected, because this was a lot of fun to write.
Well, who's going to say no to a spanking/hula hooping combo? Intriguing offers like that don't come every day! Not to me, anyway, but I could be hanging out in the wrong places.
So, you’re marooned on a tropical island -- a nice one, not one I’d invent -- with Keaton, Aiden, Amon and Jayk. Who takes charge, you or one of the boys?
HAHA! I am in charge of all the boys. Though I probably take Amon aside every so often, ask him what to do, then shoo him away, clap my hands and yell, “OKAY EVERYONE, LISTEN UP! HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING.” I trust Keaton, too, but I think Keaton might be too relaxedly good-natured about the situation to help us actually get off the island. Amon would be properly horrified and would force us to build a boat or something.
I’m really glad it’s not an island you’d invent—no offense.
Amon and Keaton might seem the most physically capable of roughing it, but Keaton’s a stickler for balanced meals, and Amon loves staying in shape—which is hard to do on just reef fish. I think Keaton snaps first, because he’s not just worried about himself getting the requisite amount of B12, but also about Aiden. Amon goes next—he’s got piles of paperwork back home, and just the thought of not being able to do it gives him an aneurysm. That leaves the brats and me.
Jayk eats something poisonous almost immediately while Amon’s back is turned, but somehow everything turns out okay for him. Still, after that, he’s ready to go home. The only coconut water he wants to drink is that Rihanna stuff.
Aiden’s not much of an eater, so he’s used to running on empty. He probably does all right until he engages in some reckless act of self-sabotage.
I freak out at first because I have to go from being vegan to braining fish, but because I’m the only woman I feel I have something to prove, so I act like a total badass. I sit there dipping my raw reef fish in coconut water and biting off their heads and smirking at the boys.
We’ve all seen Survivor. Alliances are made to be broken, right? You’re the fifth wheel. Who do you get on your side, and how?
I get Jayk. Because no matter how disastrous things get, he’s gonna make it through unscathed. And he’s gonna have fun doing it. I get him on my side my singing Bruce Springsteen with him. His not terribly accurate but charmingly enthusiastic impression of the Boss in WW miiiiight be based on my own. We do the harmonies on “Thunder Road” and suddenly he’s my best friend. We steal the boat Amon’s building, name it The Brat Mobile, and take off—until we realize we have no idea where we’re going. We yell for Amon, but he’s too busy with his new ally, a volleyball that washed onshore.
Who do you vote off the island first and why?
Dude, Keaton, you’re awesome, but you’re too reliant on the food pyramid, and we can’t have more than one top on the island. Plus you’re an artist—what are you gonna do, paint the boat? Make a really good sandcastle? You are the weakest link—goodbye.
I guess by that logic, none of us is particularly useful.
Nobody’s gonna vote me off, right? Boys, you love me too much. Yeah?
When you’re finally rescued several years later and write a screenplay about everything that happened on the island, do you pitch it as a romantic comedy, an inspirational story about friends overcoming adversity together, or something that should be released at Halloween?
I pitch it as a gritty indie film with a soundtrack by a band called something like The Rickety Clouds, whose lyrics all sound like they were taken from magnetic refrigerator poetry. The character based on me has lots of witty one-liners and hides a damaged soul beneath a quirky exterior. There are many lingering, backlit shots of the guys nude and exchanging meaningful glances. Critics call it “Powerful…and incredibly alienating.”
Nice. It'll win awards at Cannes. What’s the title of your movie, and do I have to be over eighteen to see it?
Are you kidding? Me on an island with those four? It’s rated NC-17, baby. The unrated director’s cut comes out eventually on DVD but Netflix refuses to stock it. The only cable channel you can see it on is Cinemax After Dark.
The title is something really obscure and pretentious, like The Moon Sings Last.
And, in a less silly vein, is there anything you’re currently working on that you’d like to talk about?
A long, dark project with AU elements. It’s bizarre after Wacky Wednesday and Calling the Show to go back to the dark stuff. Which is maybe why I keep secretly working on the WW sequel. So much fun.
Thanks so much JA for answering my questions!
Thanks for the best questions ever.
You all saw that date back in the middle of those questions, right? July 17 for Calling the Show!
You can find out more on JA Rock's blog.
You can find out more on JA Rock's blog.