Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and I’m touring the internet with my new release, MINOTAUR, a queer fantasy/horror reimagining of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. And there’s a giveaway involved! I’m giving one reader a chance to win Lost in a Jigsaw, the puzzle that nearly destroyed my sanity a few years ago (but provided hours of fun, I swear), as well as a $15 Riptide voucher.
Thanks so much to the host blogs for having me, and to everyone following the tour. Here’s today’s look at MINOTAUR.
Minotaur and Violence
I really like exploring violence in my writing. I’m fascinated by the ways people hurt each other, physically and emotionally, and writing has always seemed like the healthiest way for me to indulge that fascination. But I always end up with questions about how to portray violence. These days, mainstream culture is awash in graphic depictions of bloodshed. Recently, my neighbor took down a disturbingly realistic Halloween decoration of a man disemboweled and sawn in half, because it was upsetting kids. Movies and TV continue to push the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable or tasteful. Even once-wholesome-ish networks like NBC are now home to some of the goriest shows out there.
I love creative, graphic violence. But as a kid, the depictions of violence that terrified me the most tended to be subtle. For me, it’s easier to become desensitized to explicit disembowelings and throat slittings than to what my imagination came up with when it was left to fill in the details. I’m thinking Piggy’s death in Lord of the Flies—the image of his glasses smashed on the rock. Or the killing curse in Harry Potter, which scared the crap out of me as a child, despite being an instant, presumably painless, and non-bloody way to die.
So in Minotaur, which deals with the legend of a deadly monster that terrorized a town, and with an orphaned girl who uses violence both to get what she wants and as an outlet for her fear, I had to make some decisions about how far to go in describing the violence. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to look more deeply into the whys of violence than into the “what does it look like?”
Ultimately, it was about picking moments—often, but not always, the bad things that happen to people Thera cares about are unsettling but not gory, whereas violent acts Thera feels little connection to are described in bloodier detail. At one point, Thera looks at an illustrated book about the Minotaur’s reign and isn’t sure whether to laugh at the over-the-top depictions of the Minotaur’s savagery. Thera is most frightened of the dangers she can’t see—of what she’s forced to imagine. It’s easier for her to view bloodshed as more of a performance, an illusion, part of a story.
I’m not at all opposed to graphic violence—it’s often used to great effect in stories. But I like to think we’re just as capable of terrifying ourselves with what’s in our minds, even in a culture that leaves increasingly little up to the imagination.
Thanks for being part of the tour! To celebrate this release, I’m giving one commenter Lost in a Jigsaw, the award winning maze puzzle—all the pieces fit together, so the only way to know if you’ve put it together correctly is to solve the maze. If this sounds too much like torture, rest assured that you also get a $15 Riptide voucher. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you. On October 26th, I’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments. Contest is not limited to US entries. If you’d like, follow the whole tour—the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win!
When I was six, my parents died.
When I was sixteen, I was locked away in Rock Point Girls’ Home. Nobody wants to deal with a liar. An addict. A thief.
Nobody except Alle. She is pure, and she’s my friend in spite of all the rotten things I am.
There was once another girl like me—long ago. A cast-off daughter. A lying little beast who left a red stain across the land with her terrible magic. She’s imprisoned now in a maze high up on the cliffs. They say she’s half woman, half bull. They say she dines on human tributes and guards a vast treasure. They say she was born wicked.
But I know her better than the history books or stories do. She and I dream together. Our destinies are twisted up like vines.
Except I’m not going to turn out wicked like she is. I can save myself by destroying her. I’m going to break out of this place, and I’m going to enter the labyrinth and take her heart.
And once I’m redeemed, maybe Alle will love me.
J.A. Rock is the author of queer romance and suspense novels, including By His Rules, Take the Long Way Home, and, with Lisa Henry, The Good Boy and When All the World Sleeps. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama and a BA in theater from Case Western Reserve University. J.A. also writes queer fiction and essays under the name Jill Smith. Raised in Ohio and West Virginia, she now lives in Chicago with her dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.