Today I am so pleased to welcome J.A. Rock to Joyfully Jay. J.A. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Minotaur. She has also brought along a great giveaway! Please join me in giving J.A. a big welcome!



Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and I’m touring the internet with my new release, MINOTAUR, a queer fantasy/horror reimagining of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. And there’s a giveaway involved! I’m giving one reader a chance to win Lost in a Jigsaw Puzzle, the puzzle that nearly destroyed my sanity a few years ago (but provided hours of fun, I swear), as well as a $15 Riptide voucher.

Thanks so much to the host blogs for having me, and to everyone following the tour.  Here’s today’s look at MINOTAUR.

Minotaur and “Likeable” Characters

One of my favorite essays in recent memory is Roxane Gay’s “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.” You can read it in her essay collection, Bad Feminist. In it, she takes an in-depth look at what seems to be an increasing demand in the literary world for “likeable” characters.

And she asks, in true Roxane Gay fashion, WTF?

I have a similar reaction to the ongoing “likeable characters” conversation: Why? Who cares about likeable when you could have interesting?

I think part of the reason I bump up against this issue is that there is something to be said for character likability in romance, which is the genre I mostly write in now. Romance novels sort of ask readers to fall in love with the characters, and in order for us to fall in love, the characters’ good qualities usually have to outweigh the bad. But Gay points out that the likable characters issue is not limited to romance.

I grew up reading in all kinds of genres, and very seldom did the issue of character likability affect my enjoyment of a book. I only remember one instance where I put down a book because the characters were so repulsive that the entire story became boring and I couldn’t finish. For the most part, I prefer so-called “unlikable” protagonists. Becky Sharp, Eva Katchadourian…not exactly charmers. But their stories are fantastically human and horrifying.

What’s frustrating is that female characters are held to a different standard of likability than male characters. You can be a bad girl—you just have to be quirky, fun, and preferably sexy about it. You can be a daring girl—just make sure you’re plucky and courageous, not rash and uncaring.

I knew when I started Minotaur that Thera, the main character, wasn’t going to be pleasant. That she was going to—as sixteen-year-olds often do—make selfish choices, hurt people, and lash out against the world. And after years of writing romance, I had to check myself a couple of times when my impulse was to soften her.

Look, I like Katniss Everdeen. But the whole “I’m only going to do morally dubious things when I have no other choice?” That’s not what I wanted for Thera. I wanted a woman who does bad things because sometimes it’s easier to do bad things than to admit that you care about trying to do good things. I wanted her to look back on her sixteen-year-old self and simultaneously regret and embrace the choices she made.

Minotaur is not about heroism. It’s about the way the label “hero” erases people’s complexities. Shoehorns them into an idea of what’s good or brave, and ignores the fact that all people, even those who have managed heroic acts, have also done cruel, selfish things.

You don’t have to like Thera. You can think she’s bratty or foolish or nasty—she thinks the same things of herself. But my hope for her is that she has a place—not in the long line of fictional heroes, but in a long line of fictional characters who don’t exist to be loved. Who exist instead to point out that being loved is not enough. That an existence based on earning the admiration of others is a meager existence that ignores the realities of being human.


Minotaur_600x900Know this: I am not a warrior. I am a disease.

When I was six, my parents died.

When I was sixteen, I was locked away in Rock Point Girls’ Home. Nobody wants to deal with a liar. An addict. A thief.

Nobody except Alle. She is pure, and she’s my friend in spite of all the rotten things I am.
There was once another girl like me—long ago. A cast-off daughter. A lying little beast who left a red stain across the land with her terrible magic. She’s imprisoned now in a maze high up on the cliffs. They say she’s half woman, half bull. They say she dines on human tributes and guards a vast treasure. They say she was born wicked.

But I know her better than the history books or stories do. She and I dream together. Our destinies are twisted up like vines.

Except I’m not going to turn out wicked like she is. I can save myself by destroying her. I’m going to break out of this place, and I’m going to enter the labyrinth and take her heart.

And once I’m redeemed, maybe Alle will love me.


J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including By His Rules, Take the Long Way Home, and, with Lisa Henry, The Good Boy and When All the World Sleeps. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.


Thanks for being part of the tour! To celebrate this release, I’m giving one commenter Lost in a Jigsaw, the award winning maze puzzle—all the pieces fit together, so the only way to know if you’ve put it together correctly is to solve the maze. If this sounds too much like torture, rest assured that you also get a $15 Riptide voucher. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you. On October 26th, I’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments. Contest is not limited to US entries. If you’d like, follow the whole tour—the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win!

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win.  The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
  • Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
  • All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest.  Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.
FILED UNDER: Giveaway, Guest Post
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