Today I am so pleased to welcome T.J. Klune to Joyfully Jay. T.J. has come to talk to us about his upcoming release, The Bones Beneath My Skin. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!


It began with a girl.

(That’s probably the first time I’ve ever said that.)

She was loud, which was how I knew there’d be a story to tell. Authors will go on ad nauseum about the art of writing: the craft, the how’s and the why’s of it all. We write, but we also like to explain why we write. Many will focus (and rightfully so) the bits and pieces of their work that stood out, and that this idea was the spark that lit the fire that then turned into the story.

That…doesn’t really happen with me.

Take The Lightning-Heart, for example. It wasn’t me wanting to tell a fractured fairy-tale, or to use modern language in a medieval setting, or to have a sexually aggressive dragon hit on everything in sight. It wasn’t a battle of good and evil or a song about cheesy dicks and candlesticks. Instead, it was a gay hornless unicorn named Gary. I heard his voice as clear as day after randomly thinking about Paul and Sandy from Tell Me It’s Real.

Tyson from Bear, Otter and the Kid is another example. I heard his voice loud and clear, and he was the first. Sometimes, I still hear him, though he’s quieter these days now that his story has ended.

Which brings me back to the girl.

Oh, was she loud. Her name, I knew, was Artemis Darth Vader. This wasn’t something planned, or really had a specific rhyme or reason. It just was. She was, however, very strange. And I thought about what kind of story to fit her into, and I planned one that got scrapped because someone came along and did it better in the form of Stranger Things. I didn’t like her being put aside, and she didn’t either.

But I eventually found her story, and the way she fit into it.

The Bones Beneath My Skin is told from the perspective of a broken man named Nathaniel Cartwright. His love interest is a desperate man named Alex.

And Artemis Darth Vader is there too. In fact, she is the third main character of the book, and there on almost every single page of the story. This is a love story between two men who’ve lost almost everything. But it’s also a love story between them and this strange girl who doesn’t have anything else. What she is capable of, what she can do—which is the crux of the novel—is unlike anything that should be possible.

I’ve written precocious children before. Tyson was one. Joe from Wolfsong is another. I was weary about having another child character at the forefront of the story, worried I would be cribbing off myself. Which is why I took a different route with her. There is a very specific reason she is as she is, that she talks like she does. The reason isn’t one I’ll share here, of course, but it makes sense for who she is. She sees the world differently. We often see things in black and white, with various shades of gray in between. Hers is a world of vibrant color, and it was almost startling for me as the writer of her (their) story.

On October 26, I’ll invite you to meet Artemis and Nate and Alex in my first self-published novel. This is a book that starts quiet and small, but by the end, is filled with some of my biggest ideas, my most desperate of hopes. Artemis will deliver a message, and everything will change.

I can’t wait for you to hear what she has to say.


“What is that?”

He startled slightly.

Standing next to him, yawning quietly, was Artemis Darth Vader. She had pajamas on. They were pink and a little small, the sleeves not quite reaching her wrists. Her hair was a mess.

She was also wearing a pair of oversized neon green sunglasses that slid down her nose.

She looked ridiculous.

“What?” he asked, unsure of what else to say.

“That,” she said, pointing to the bacon sizzling in the pan.

“That’s… bacon.”

“Bacon,” she repeated slowly. She looked over at Alex. “Will I like that?”

Alex shrugged.

“Where does it come from?”

“The store,” Nate said.

She grunted, and the noise sounded so much like Alex that Nate wondered if he’d stolen her or if she was actually his daughter. “No, where did it come from?”

“I don’t—”

“A pig,” Alex growled.

Art cocked her head and stared at the bacon. “I thought sausage came from pigs. I’ve never had it, but I read about it.”

Nate wasn’t sure what was going on. “It does.”

“And pork chops.”

He nodded. “Those too.”

“And hot dogs.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far—”

“And now bacon comes from pigs too?” She shook her head. “What magnificent creatures. I wonder who looked at them for the first time and thought to themselves how many meals they could make out of them. Did you know they can get sunburned? So strange.”


In the spring of 1995, Nate Cartwright has lost everything: his parents are dead, his older brother wants nothing to do with him, and he’s been fired from his job as a journalist in Washington DC. With nothing left to lose, he returns to his family’s summer cabin outside the small mountain town of Roseland, Oregon to try and find some sense of direction.

The cabin should be empty.

It’s not.

Inside is a man named Alex. And with him is an extraordinary little girl who calls herself Artemis Darth Vader.

Artemis, who isn’t exactly as she appears.

Soon it becomes clear that Nate must make a choice: let himself drown in the memories of his past, or fight for a future he never thought possible.

Because the girl is special. And forces are descending upon them who want nothing more than to control her.


Pre-Order Bones, out October 26th:


When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write. Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011. In 2018, he signed a three-book deal worth six-figures for a young adult queer romance series to be published in 2020 by MacMillan/Tor. In a strange turn of events, he signed a second three-book six-figure deal with MacMillan/Tor for three adult queer romances. His plan is to make the literary world as gay as humanly possible.

FILED UNDER: Excerpt, Guest Post
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