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  • Interview and Giveaway: There Goes Sunday School audiobook with Joel Leslie and Alexander C. Eberhart

Today I am so pleased to welcome Joel Leslie and Alexander C. Eberhart to Joyfully Jay. They are here talking about Joel’s new audio release of Alex’s book, There Goes Sunday School. Joel has brought some questions for Alex, along with a great giveaway.  Please join me in giving them a big welcome!

 

Recently I’ve had the great delight to record three of Alex’s incredible LGBT young adult novels back to back for Tantor audio. Lock and West, Ghosting You, and There Goes Sunday School. I’ve instantly become a huge fan of his writing. It’s poignant, hilarious, original, terribly romantic and rooted firmly in his Atlanta home. They are some of the most delicious y/a I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long time.

The first of these, There Goes Sunday School just released on Audible. Here’s the blurb:

In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere.

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he’s always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.

JOEL: LGBT young adult is really finding a wider audience at the moment. It’s really exciting, but I think it’s a very special thing in the market right now to have a young gay male writer crafting gay teen characters. The authenticity of that really shines on the page, particularly the real fear and trials of coming out and coming to terms with one’s identity. How did you end up gravitating toward y/a (vs. romance or adult lgbt fiction).

ALEX: Thank you! I always try and center my stories with a realistic tone. Believable conversations and situations so laughable that they HAVE to be true. I didn’t really know, going into writing, that YA was so dominated by female-identifying authors, so I never stopped to think about what it meant to write as a young, gay man. I just knew that I wants to write stories that I needed as a young adult. 

As far as how I got into YA, it was really just a perfect storm of time meets place. Originally, I was querying a New Adult magical realism book that I’d been writing throughout 2015, but wasn’t having much luck. It was the summer of 2016 and I was unemployed and way too caught up in trying to “make it” as an author. It was around that time that I picked up a little red book titled, SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIEN’S AGENDA. Twelve hours after purchasing it, I flipped the last page, wiped a tear away, and knew that I wanted to write YA. And not just any YA. The Gayest YA. 

JOEL: I can definitely say that if readers loved Simon, they are going to be huge fans of your work. All the feels, all the charm, and even more laughs!

So, I’ve recorded three of your y/a stories pretty much back to back, Sunday School, Lock and West and Ghosting You. Your books deal with a lot of weighty subjects and issues, and yet they never feel, to me, angsty. Each character is facing a struggle, often in addition to the challenge of coming out in a less than welcoming environment. They feel totally grounded in the reality of the characters situations and struggles but always with this great foundation of humor, with a touch of those classic 80’s John Hughes movies about them. There are so many laugh-out-loud lines in these books. Can you talk about that some?

ALEX: Absolutely. I’ve always had a penchant for the dramatic, so my writing tends to reflect that as well. With THERE GOES SUNDAY SCHOOL, the issues of a young man trying to reconcile his faith with his sexuality is an echo of my own journey. His conversations with the “Big Guy” are all things that I grew up saying to myself. I think that it’s important for fiction—especially YA— to have a strong undercurrent of how to deal with the hurdles that life throws at you. My characters grow through my stories, and come out better people on the other side.

As for my sense of humor, I’m glad you like it! I’m not always everyone’s cup-of-tea, but I do joke around just as much in real life as I do in my books. I can’t tell you number of times my Fiancé rolls his eyes at me a day. 

JOEL: Where did the idea for There Goes Sunday School come from?

ALEX: It came from a random thought that popped into my head at the kitchen table. I had been toying with the idea to write a religious-themed YA book, but wasn’t having any luck with a basic premise. Then, it hit me—“what if a boy fell in love with his pastor’s son?”

And the rest is history. 

JOEL: Your books are filled with such colorful, hilarious characters – and they each speak with their own unique voice and point of view. I love that – it’s a narrators dream. Which of the characters in this book do you think speaks the most with your voice?

ALEX: Oh man. As much as I want to say I’m as charismatic and charming as Mike, I’m probably more like Chris in real life. Unless I’m telling a dirty joke, in which case, Jackie is speaking directly through me. LOL

JOEL: What was the journey into audio like for you… This is your first time hearing your work out loud. How traumatic was it.

ALEX: I was SO EXCITED when I got the news that TGSS got picked up for audio. Honestly, I was so nervous to hear my writing out loud, and I’m still trying to get used to it. It helps that we scored an amazing narrator like you, Joel. You’re just the champion we needed for these stories.

JOEL:  That means so much to me! TBH, It was scary enough to do alternating first person narrative with characters from Atlanta…and then I realized it’s where you’re actually from and I had a full on freak out. When I heard you had finally listened to a sample, I was so relieved. You went me a note and were so enthusiastic… it meant the world to me.

ALEX: You did great! Atlanta is such a hodgepodge of cultures, you can find just about any dialect if you look hard enough. Funny enough, I actually grew up in a more rural part of Georgia north of the city, but I avoided acquiring a strong accent. It only comes out when I’m talking to someone with that Georgia twang. 

JOEL: All your y/a, including Sunday School, is terribly romantic, but this book is not a romance in the strictest sense. Was that a conscious decision? I’m sure there must be a degree of pressure to wrap every story up with a neat bow. I love that your stories really go where the characters journeys should take them, not necessarily the most ‘traditional’ ending.

ALEX: It was. When I started to write SUNDAY SCHOOL, I knew that I wanted it to be a love story, but that I also wanted it to be realistic to what high school relationships really look like. I also wanted Mike’s journey and acceptance of himself to be the focal point, and the fluffy romance is just a nice bonus. 

JOEL: Your characters in There Goes Sunday School spend a lot of time exploring the gay district in Atlanta. Are the places in the book actual locations? Did you have strong experiences as a young person going there the first time?

ALEX: YES! A pivotal scene in SUNDAY SCHOOL takes place at a teashop named Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party, and while I know it sounds ridiculous, it is absolutely a real place in midtown Atlanta. They’re an amazing not-for-profit cafe that helps support higher education for woman in India. Check them out on Instagram and facebook, and if you’re ever in the Little Five Points Area, you’ve GOT to check them out. The first time I walked in, it was just pure magic. I tired to do it justice in the book, but it’s no substitution for experiencing the real thing.

JOEL: Road trip!!!?? So, what are you working on now?

ALEX: My next novel, currently titled “LEVI HAWKINS AND THE CURIOUS CASE OF ADELINE JONES” is currently in edits and we’re expecting to have a release date soon. This story circles around Levi Hawkins, a Junior who works in his family’s bookstore, and also just-so-happens to be able to speak to books. In fact, he can’t get them to shut up. When the family store is threatened with closure, Levi seeks out the reclusive Atlanta author, Sylvia Rivers, who has past ties to his grandfather. Sylvia agrees to help the store with an event, but only if Levi can solve the mysterious death of Adeline Jones, the heroine in Sylvia’s books. With the help of his best friend, Sky, and Sylvia’s too-cute-to-ignore nephew, Levi has to solve the case before time runs out on his family’s store.

JOEL: Well, that sounds epic. Fingers crossed you’ll need a narrator! LOL.

Alex thanks so much for joining me, and Jay thanks for letting us have this little gab-fest! I hope you enjoy Alex’s writing as much as I do!

https://adbl.co/3ijPK1X

Thank you, Jay for inviting myself and Alexander C Eberghart onto the blog today!


Excerpt


Blurb

In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere.

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he’s always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.


Bios

JOEL LESLIE (FROOMKIN) – is a nine-time Audiofile Earphones Award-winning narrator, as well as the winner of three Independent Audiobook Awards, including Best Male Narrator for 2020. He has recorded nearly 300 titles, almost 200 of them in the m/m romance genre. He is addicted to Disney and dachshunds.

http://www.joelleslienarration.com

 

Alexander C EberhartALEXANDER C EBERHART grew up in the Metro Atlanta Area his entire  </span><span class=””>life, moving from suburb to suburb, just on the outskirts of the city. He’s always had a passion for writing, even from a young age. He still lives on the cusp of Atlanta, inching his way ever closer to finally becoming the City Dweller he’s always wanted to be.

In the meantime, he spends his days writing stories with queer characters and drinking an unfathomable amount of coffee. When he isn’t crafting quality queer fiction, you can find Alexander most likely curled up alongside his Fiancé, watching a movie or another equally lazy task.

https://www.alexanderceberhart.com


Giveaway

Joel has brought a $10 Amazon gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, October 3rd at 11:59 pm ET.


  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Void where prohibited by law.
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