Good morning, everyone!
If you follow my blog, you know I don’t usually post on the weekends, but today, I’ve made a special exception! Due to some personal things that were going on around the release, Jude Sierra didn’t get to really promote her book A TINY PIECE OF SOMETHING GREATER, a story of romantic love and learning to love yourself. So! Jude has decided to do a reboot tour, and when she asked me, I simply could not say no as I absolutely adored this book.
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.
Thus, today, she’s dropped by for an interview! I hope you enjoy, because I had a lot of fun with it!
Also, at the end of the post, I will include a graphic and links to the other blogs participating in the tour!
LEAH: Hi, Jude! Welcome to Small Queer, Big Opinions, it’s an honor to have you here! *smiles*
JS: Hi! I am super excited to be here 😀
LEAH: So, we are here today to talk about A TINY PIECE OF SOMETHING GREATER, as you obviously know. *laughs* Reid is temporarily staying in his grandmother’s condo and Joaquim is a scuba dive instructor. Can you talk a bit about where the idea for this story came from?
JS: I had two seeds floating around for a while. I wanted to write a sweet love story, a beach-y kind of romance. I spent a lot of time in the Keys as a kid, and there’s so much unique and beautiful stuff there, from scenery to the general vibe of the people, I knew it would be the right place.
I’d also wanted to write a book about mental illness, to have a character who reflected an honest, accurate portrayal of what it is like to live with and survive and thrive. I also wanted to explore relationship dynamics that need to be navigated when two people are falling in love, or staying in love, with these challenges.
I realized at some point that these two didn’t necessarily go hand in hand in a romance novel (sweet beach love! Mental illness!). Then of course, because I’m me, I was determined to find a way to do both.
LEAH: And you succeed! It’s such a lovely, touching story. *smiles* You’ve mentioned previously that the mental illness (cyclothymia) that Reid copes with is one that you share. Why did you decide to incorporate this specific piece of yourself into his character? Was it difficult for you to write, and essentially, share your experiences with your readership?
JS:I have really strong feelings about ways that mental illness are portrayed in media and the harm that inaccurate portrayal can do. I knew I could write a book about mental illness, but I also knew that I would be able to really write Reid from the most honest, most grounded, most accurate POV if I did it from the mental illness I knew best. Also cyclothemia is rarely diagnosed; it is misdiagnosed in several ways. I wish that I had heard of this MI ages ago, because I know it would have saved me a terrific amount of struggle.
Writing Reid this way, and sharing my experiences was both cathartic and liberating and gut wrenching. Finding ways to articulate my own experiences, ones that are visceral and so feeling bound, helped me understand more about myself. At the same time there were two scenes in particular that I cried the whole time I wrote. I cried every time I re-read them, in edits. I tear up thinking about them. It felt vital that I share those scenes though. That in order to write a novel that felt true, I needed to take myself and readers to those vulnerable, painful spaces.
LEAH: I really appreciate that you made yourself vulnerable in this way. This aspect of the story was something that I felt really deeply and identified with. Now, on a personal level, one of my favorite aspects of the novel was how Joaquim and Reid worked to adapt to the other’s needs, only asking questions in order to make things easier for both of them. Why was it so important for you to depict the relationship this way?
JS: Reid needed agency. There are so many things in this world that strip those of us with mental illness from agency. Misperceptions. Stereotypes. Being discovered or outed.
And yeah, the role of mental illness depiction in movies and books and T.V. has a lot to do with it too. Often, MI becomes a plot device. Characters’ MI are discovered by accident, or they are outed in painful ways. Reid’s whole arc is about taking control of his life, about learning to live his best, healthiest self. Reid needed a partner like Joaquim, who would respect how hard these truths were for Reid. Who would be able to get past his own curiosity because he cared for Reid enough to put Reid’s pain first in this situation. Joaquim was a joy to write. His thoughtfulness, his capability to love, his steadfast respect felt a little like coming home. Writing him was so comforting.
LEAH: And he was a joy to read! They both were. Do you have any plans to revisit the world created within this book and write for any of the other characters you introduced?
JS: This is a hard one. I often know what happens to my characters after their books end. And when I wrote Tiny, there was actually another chapter after what is now the epilogue. When I wrote it, I realized that what it really was, was the start of a new story, a new chapter in their lives. At the time I was turning in PhD applications, finishing NaNo, and Idlewild was coming out (literally: they all happened on December 1st, which coincidentally is my birthday. It was a wild day).
I’d love to follow Reid and Joaquim in the next chapter of their lives. I would really, really love to give Felix a story. Often, however, it is hard for me to go back to past worlds–I’m not sure why. So, maybe? I have three other projects in mind right now though, and with my crazy life, it’s impossible for me to do more than one creative project at a time.
LEAH: *gasps* We’re birthday twins! *grins* I would so love for you to go back a visit Reid and Joaquim, and write for Felix as well! But I’m just ready for whatever you can give us! *smiles* And one question not specifically about TINY, but which may be of interest to your readers! Can you tell us a bit about what you’re currently working on?
JS: Well right now I’m in the edit process for my upcoming novel, Shadows You Left, which I co-wrote with Taylor Brooke. I’ve been toying with an idea for a story which was a re-telling of a classic. It’s been stuck in my head for two and a half years! I think I’ve figured out where I was going wrong, so maybe I’ll be writing that one for NaNo. There’s a small surprise thing I am working on as well that will hopefully see the light of day very, very soon (evil laugh). Taylor and I are also plotting another potential story; you never know with the two of us.
LEAH: Oh, I think you and I briefly talked about the retelling on twitter, so I’m excited to see how that turns out! And I am absolutely dying for SHADOWS! How about a few fun questions? What are a few songs that would be on Joaquim’s and Reid’s playlists?
JS: This is so funny because I have such specific playlists for characters and moments, it’s hard to figure out what they would listen to. I think Reid is a Twenty One Pilots and Bring Me the Horizon kind of guy. Sia, Florence + the Machine. Muse. Wow, look at that I actually know! Reid listens to a lot of music in the book, it calms him, so it makes more sense that I would know. I have no idea for Joaquim! Oh, author fail.
LEAH: Tsk, tsk, letting Joaquim down! *laughs* If Reid and Joaquim could go anywhere, right now, where would each of them choose?
JS: Joaquim is a wandering kind of free spirit in this sense, so wherever opportunity might present himself. I do think he would really love to take Reid home with him, to show him the bits of Brazil that define him.
Reid very resolutely would not go anywhere. He needs stability and systems. He’s still in a really tenuous place with his recovery and change scares him — even small ones. I think Reid would love to stay in Key Largo, but alas, cannot (insert evil laugh because I actually know where they go next, and it’s not thrilling for either of them). One day, when he’s feeling steady and ready for more, he’ll definitely let himself dream of the places Joaquim would take him.
LEAH: *side eyes Jude* You gotta share that information! Where do they goooo? *chuckles* Which of the characters from your other books do you think Joaquim and Reid would get along with best, and why?
JS: Tyler (Idlewild) and Cam (Hush). Partly because they’re all the same age-ish, which means they would relate to each other in a particular way that comes with such a transitional place in life. I love writing New Adult because your late teens and early twenties come with so much growth and change. All four of these characters are at crossroads in their lives. They’re really striving for happiness and stability. Also, I can just see the ways they’d each relate to each other. Cam has a steadfast calm that would pair well with Joaquim. At the same time, they both internally long for adventure. I can see them and Tyler getting up to trouble and Reid laughing along.
LEAH: What are Reid’s and Joaquim’s comfort foods?
JS: Reid is a total sucker for his mom’s beef stroganoff. She has utterly ruined him for it–he refuses to even learn how to do it because then it wouldn’t be hers. He also loves baked goods. Perhaps too much. This is partly why he loves baking reality T.V. (also he just likes the decorating aspect). Give him a fun cupcake and he’s in heaven. Joaquim loves home food. In particular he misses feijoada which is a kind of stew with beans and pork and beef. It’s not something he has found in the States that remotely tastes like home cooking.
LEAH: Mmmm, now I’m hungry! *laughs* Well, Jude, thank you so much for stopping by. As I mentioned, it’s a honor to have you!
JS: Thank you! I loved how thoughtful these questions were. It’s always so nice to get to dig into the stories and characters and share those behind the scenes moments with readers.
Jude is currently 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 queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in y Interlude Press May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.