Blog Tour + Giveaway: The Simplicity of Being Normal by James Stryker

James Stryker and IndiGo Marketing visits the blog today with The Simplicity of Being Normal blog tour! Learn more about his YA book and the author in his interview. Don't miss the NineStar eBook giveaway--winner's choice!

Title:  The Simplicity of Being Normal
Author: James Stryker
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: May 8, 2017
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Length: 87500
Genre: Contemporary, YA, transgender, transvestite, transphobia, bullying, child neglect, PTSD, mental illness, Mormonism

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Sam has his life after graduation figured out. Until then he has to deal with being terrorized for expressing his gender identity. His pleas for help have been ignored by the principal and most of the staff, and his time is spent moving quickly between classrooms and anticipating the freedom that will come with leaving high school behind.

Teacher Todd Keegan, at first, wonders if Amanda is on drugs and if he's underestimated her maturity. Between enabling his traumatized, dependent sister and hiding secrets of his own, Todd has no desire to waste time on a junkie teenager, but this one intrigues him. When Amanda shows up in his classroom, bleeding from a head wound, he decides to investigate further.

In order to survive senior year, Sam must convince Mr. Keegan that he’s not a junkie teenager and decide if, unlike his family and school staff, this teacher can be trusted with the truth and become his only ally.


The Simplicity of Being Normal
James Stryker © 2017
All Rights Reserved

“Amanda Michelle! I won’t tolerate that mouth of yours a second longer! Get out!”

“Or what? You’ll hit me? Repeat performance sixteen years later. Go ahead!”

If there was one positive thing to be said of his mother, it was that she avoided violence. While her own mother had often resorted to physical punishment, Scarlet had never put a hand on Stevie. And she’d only hit Sam once, which was how she learned her lesson.

“Amanda was maybe one. Barely walking. I can’t remember what she did, but I hit her so hard that she flew across the room. That’s when I decided to keep my temper in check. I just send them away when I’m angry now.”

Scarlet told this story often when child discipline surfaced in adult conversation. She was proud of herself. Proud that it only took one incident of hitting a toddler with enough force to knock her across the room to realize that violence wasn’t a good idea. She never understood why she received strange looks when she finished this charming anecdote of her parental prowess.

Because you should be ashamed that you struck an innocent baby. That you hurt your child, Sam would think when Scarlet retold it and people gave him the confused looks he often received when his mother opened her mouth. You should want to bury that secret instead of continuing to get off on it more than a decade later. The last thing you should feel is pride.

But sometimes he’d rather have a slap to the face than the emotional abuse Scarlet dealt. Bruises healed. The damage from seventeen years of being blamed for every negative circumstance? The constant feeling of rejection? The thousands of times when something or someone else was of more importance than him? His father. Stevie. The boyfriends. Work. The fucking Golden Girls.

I’ll never get over it. Even when I’m free of you. Even when I’m free of Amanda. Sam stared Scarlet down and waited for her to respond. You’re a cancer to me. I’ll cut you out. But I’ll always have the scar.

“Get out, Amanda! Get out!”

“Oh, I’m going.” He lowered his voice and took a step into the hall. “But so should you. That’s all I came to tell you. You should check into a hotel for a few days. It’s not sanitary. And that’s not even my opinion—it’s the disaster crew’s recommendation. You could get sick.”

“This is my house, young lady. I won’t be told what to do by you or anyone else.”

It was the most below-the-belt thing he could be called, and his skin was smoldering. Sam didn’t believe he was capable of laying a hand to anyone, especially a woman. But he needed to leave now before he said something he’d regret. Like yelling in her face at the top of his lungs. Like using every profane word he could think of until her ears bled. Like divulging his secret when she had some power over him.

“Well, I’m not staying here.”

“As long as it’s out of my sight, I don’t care where you go.” She’d turned away from him again. “But Stevie and I are staying here. I’m not paying for a hotel room because the basement is dirty.”

“You know what else lives in their own shit? Pigs. It’s too bad Gary’s condo doesn’t allow farm animals, or you could stay with him.”

Scarlet spun around and slammed the door in his face without another word.


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Author Interview

  1. Have you written any books that aren’t published or available?
I’m currently working with my literary agent on editing a contemporary YA novel, The Better Man. This book offer something of a YA twist on Fight Club, and follows a young man with dissociative identity disorder fighting to maintain control of a shared body.
Otherwise I’m currently down to one last completed project yet to release – a dark literary fiction about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s infamous child catcher. When The Child Catcher finds a publishing home I hope it will help those affected by the devastating reality of male infertility.
  1. What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I used to have a huge problem with being too verbose. For example, my first draft of Assimilation was around 150K and I was convinced that every single word needed to be in there. I am again hugely indebted to my wife, Jayme, as she helped me develop an awareness of audience and a more critical eye to editing. It was tough to hear that some of the things that were important to me, or that I felt should be important to a reader, really didn’t matter in the scheme of the entire novel – entire scenes, sections, side lines were neither good or bad. Worse, they were just unnecessary and irrelevant. It took me a while to embrace her advice and whittle the monster down to less than 90K, when it got picked up by Pan Macmillan.

Now, my writing style has evolved to include her criticism in initial drafts – I haven’t had a first draft in excess of 90K since Assim. It was some of the best advice I’ve received; however, it’s also the most difficult criticism I have to pass on to other writers when I beta read. I understand how personal writing is, and it’s hard to hear that pieces of your work are weighing down/clouding the whole.  

  1. How about the best compliment?

A couple of remarks in a review for my second release, Boy: A Journey really struck me. At the end of her review, Remmy Duchene commented about how the book gave her “a few more answers” into the thought process of a person contemplating suicide. It meant a lot to me that my book played a role in helping her continue to work through a personal loss. Her final comments that “it feels like I am a better person for reading” encapsulates the reason I write. Without lecturing or being heavy-handed, I try to create characters and stories that are thought-provoking and put a different lens to tough situations. Knowing that I made a difference to someone validates the hours, effort, and emotion I pour into my books.  

  1. Do you write full-time or part-time?

When I’m working on a new idea or editing, I’ll write more than full-time – upwards of 12-14 hours a day, if possible. But I’m also not a person who must right every day. In-between the creative bursts I can go a week or so without typing more than a Tweet.  

  1. How do you relax?

I have a little boy and four pugs that keep me pretty busy. I also enjoy dinking around with photoshop for my job or website, and crocheting.

  1. Tell us about your future projects!

After finishing Simplicity, I initially thought I’d said all I wanted on the subjects of Mormonism and the transgender experience; however, another idea cropped up once I completed my fifth book. So, sometime in the future I’ll take readers again into an LGBT/LDS story – this time down the YA magical realism route.

Meet the Author

James Stryker is a central-Pennslvannia author who enjoys writing speculative and literary fiction. Themes in his work focus toward diversity in the LGBTQ spectrum and the voice of underrepresented or misunderstood viewpoints. His debut novel, Assimilation, was released in 2016.

James shares a residence with a pack of pugs, who continue to disagree about the ratio of treats to writing. Despite his day job and writing projects, James is never too busy to connect with readers or other writers. He welcomes you to check out his website, follow him on social media, or drop a line to his email.

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