My guest this week is J.T. Fairfield author of the urban fantasy novella Caged in Myth. She has kindly stopped by to discuss the inspiration behind her Bayou Zoo series and what we can expect from the next installment, as well as share her advice to young people struggling with their sexuality.

Welcome to the Boys on the Brink blog, J. Has it always been a dream of yours to be a writer?

I can’t say becoming a writer has always been my goal. As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian or marine biologist. I’ve worked as a Scuba Diving Tour Guide, Horse Trainer, Zookeeper, Vet Assistant and Elephant Handler. I didn’t consider becoming an author as a plausible option but I’ve been writing stories, books and poems since the second grade. Writing has been the one constant in my life through all its twists and turns.

And what attracts you to the genre of gay young adult fiction?

To be honest, I didn’t set out to write a story in this particular genre. As the plot began to develop and the characters made themselves known to me, the project took on a life of its own. Jay, the main character, is a normal (albeit supernatural) guy who happens to be dealing with the realization he’s gay. When the idea of Caged in Myth was in its infancy, I thought the characters would be in their 20’s and 30’s and the romantic sub-plot would be between a woman and a man.

There are some who argue that, unless you’ve grown up gay yourself, you can’t possibly understand the issues involved and so shouldn’t attempt to write about them. What’s your take on that?

Can you imagine someone saying if an author hasn’t been seduced by a vampire, they should never write a romantic story about a vampire? If a story contains a bank robbery, must the author rob a bank to detail the experience accurately? The most important personality trait of any writer is empathy. With enough sincere empathy, a writer can capture the essence of any person, place or thing without having experienced it directly.

I grew up around both liberal and bigoted relatives, both gay and straight peers. Whenever I heard a judgmental remark or condemnation of a race or sexual orientation, I felt as though the comments wounded my heart. I considered myself to be bi-sexual for quite a few years, though I’m married to a wonderful man and have two children now. I think human sexuality is a fluid concept that should be allowed to grow and change with an individual throughout their lifetime.

Well said! I love the concept in Caged in Myth of having a zoo with a special section for mythological creatures. So original! Where did the idea for this story come from?

After college, I worked as a zookeeper and elephant handler at the Baton Rouge Zoo and my experiences there inspired quite a few scenes in Caged in Myth. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology and would often find my mind wandering while I completed the more mind-numbing tasks a zookeeper must perform. While cleaning pens or stacking hay, my mind would be a swirling storm of “What if…”

I honestly couldn’t believe it when the book ended. You left off on a real cliffhanger! Did you always plan to break the story into shorter parts, or was this a decision you made while you were writing it?

The cliffhanger was a surprise for me as well! I never intended to write a cliffhanger ending but when I got to the point where Caged in Myth ends, it felt right to pause the story there.

Your hero, Jay, goes through a real struggle with his sexuality in this book, being afraid of how his friends and colleagues might react. What advice would you give to all those young people out there who find themselves in a similar situation?

Be cautious but never ashamed. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and it’s wonderful advice. People may react to homosexuality with violence and cruelty or understanding and compassion. As with everything else in your life, take your time while deciding who to reward with your trust. If someone who you thought would understand reacts differently, remember you only have control over your own feelings and reactions.

Without giving too much away, what can we expect from the next book in The Bayou Zoo series? More importantly, when will I be able to get my hands on it?

Jay will have to decide who he can trust as he embarks on a dangerous journey to rescue Colin and Grace. You’ll meet new mythological creatures and get a close-up look at the unsavory dealings of the PETMC (People for the Ethical Treatment of Magical Creatures). I’m anticipating a summer release.

Thanks so much for giving me this interview, J. Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

I write adult contemporary romance for Ellora’s Cave and Urban Fantasy for Eternal Press under the name S.J. Drum and New Adult/Gay YA as J.T. Fairfield. You can find me at my website on Facebook and on Goodreads

Buy Caged in Myth from Amazon

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