Today I am so pleased to welcome Jude Sierra to Joyfully Jay. Jude has come to talk to us about her latest release, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater (which we reviewed here). She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Setting the Scene: Falling in Love With and In Key Largo
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in Key Largo and although we lived in Brazil, my family had a condo in the Keys that we would go to every summer. They Keys are a unique and beautiful place. The people, the scenery, the atmosphere in the Keys is like no other place I’ve ever been.
When I first conceptualized A Tiny Piece of Something Greater, I knew that a large part of the story would be focused on Reid’s mental illness and recovery, as well as Reid and Joaquim learning to navigate falling in love and communicating despite and through challenges. I desperately wanted to write a sweet love story too. I wanted them to enjoy their youth, to have room for play and for sexiness and all of the trappings that come with being a young adult falling for someone.
Key Largo was a perfect setting for this. The thing about the Keys is that it contains obvious beauty—coral reefs and gorgeous sunsets—and more unexpected beauty. There’s a scene in particular when Joaquim takes Reid to Anne’s Beach on Islamorada for their first date. Anne’s Beach is subtly beautiful. I can tell you from firsthand experience that mangrove swamps do not smell amazing, despite looking cool. The beach itself has seaweed that washes ashore and the tides often take a lot of the land. You have to walk a ways into the water to get to sand, because near the shore is muck due to the mangroves.
But somehow it works. It’s unexpectedly romantic. It’s a place of possibility, where if you look past those details, it is truly beautiful. The water stretches before you, dappled with light. The mangroves are a beautiful, verdant backdrop and as the sun sets, the sky puts on a spectacular show. And in the privacy, little pockets of beach along a boardwalk, two boys can make a space for romance, for a first kiss that’s both tender and laden with the promise of more.
In the summer of 2017, the Keys took a hard hit from Hurricane Irma; watching the news unfold as Irma approached and made landfall was heartbreaking and telling (go watch some interviews with people who live in the Keys and stubbornly chose not to evacuate). I remember messaging my editor and asking “is now the right time for this story?” because I didn’t want to ignore what was and did happen in the Keys. Her advice, as always (Annie Harper is the most amazing editor), was spot on. This book is a tribute to a place I loved, from a place of love. The Keys are a place of incredibly strong spirit, one that’s beautiful, with kitschy and glamorous sides, that is rich in atmosphere and potential. The perfect place to fall in love, and a spectacular setting for telling a story about the ups and downs of this ride. Joaquim and Reid struggle in a way that, to me, exemplifies falling in love. It’s almost quiet. Their struggles aren’t about dramatic highs and lows, about separation and reconciliation. They are about learning to communicate, trying to figure out what the other needs. About small fights, about making up. Their relationship unfolds with a quiet brilliance, flip sides of joy and difficulty, in a place that is a study in slight contradictions, in many sides, in a therenessthat’s like no other.
Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.
About Jude Sierra: Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.
Jude has brought copies of A Tiny Piece of Something Greater, as well as a $25 IP web store credit, to give away along her tour. Just follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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