JACK OF HEARTS (AND OTHER PARTS) is a ground-breaking new book that celebrates the freedom to be oneself, especially in the face of adversity. The book tells the story of an unapologetically queer teen turned sex advice columnist named Jack who’s working to uncover a blackmailer threatening him back into the closet. Think Riverdale meets Love, Simon!
Jack may be a fictional character, but that didn’t stop him from texting with us recently 😉 to talk all about his new book and what it’s like to be an out and proud queer teen. We talked all about Jack’s specialty: SEX! He has a lot of it and he’s not ashamed of it – as long as it’s safe and consensual, of course.
Read our exclusive interview below, and don’t forget to check out the book online or at a bookstore near you!
Hey Jack! Thanks for talking to us today. We absolutely loved the book!
Thank you! I’m so thrilled to be talking with you, too. I think what you guys do is so important. And I loved that you loved my book.
If you could describe yourself in 3 emojis, what would they be and why?
💋🍑🍆 The second two are obvious, I know, but I *do* write a sex advice column. But I went with 💋 for the first one because it represents more about my love of makeup (and by extension, if I’m feeling generous, fashion), and that I like to dispense advice – talk – about stuff. It’s such a mom kind of emoji, right? And I’m like such a cool mom, dispensing sex advice and makeup tips.
As a sex advice columnist, you’re no stranger to sharing your story with the world. That must take a lot of courage. Where do you think that courage comes from?
Honestly, I don’t know if it’s really courage for me. I mean people were talking about my sex life. A lot. Rumors everywhere. The one about me and the coach from the other school, the one about me on the gargoyles on top of the building, the one about me and someone’s dad?! Look, I like daddies, but not dads, y’know? So, writing the column was kind of a way for me to take control. At least, that’s how Jenna, who runs the blog, pitched it, and I did it more cause she’s my best friend at first, but it felt really good to take control of my own sexual narrative – and to help people at the same time. I got a thank you after my first column – last person I expected – and it apparently really helped them to essentially have permission from the school’s biggest slut to go try new things. And hey, if I can use my partially false reputation to help other people feel good about what they’re doing, that’s so worth it. So I don’t know if any of that is courage, exactly. It’s taking control and helping people – stepping up. Because the only person who could actually control my story was me.
You never seem to miss an opportunity to plug-in a message about safe sex in your columns. Why is that so important to you?
Sex is supposed to be fun! The best way to make it fun is to eliminate all unnecessary worries, so you can focus on the job at hand (or wherever). To start, use a condom. Condoms are easy, and if you can get PrEP (or birth control, if you’re a womb-having type), those are great backups. If condoms are really deadening your sensation, try a different brand – there are SO many to choose from these days (colors, types, flavors). There’s going to be one that feels perfect. Sometimes it helps to think of them as shoes. Yes, if you’re going to walk on the sidewalks in NYC, you should wear fucking shoes so you don’t get diseases. But there isn’t like ONE shoe. There are many kinds – platform, stiletto, or sneaker, I guess, if you’re boring. And in different colors and fabrics. Find a good pair you feel comfortable walking in. Same goes for condoms. Take a weekend, buy a variety, lock yourself in your bedroom and find your new favorite.
Living so out, loud, and proud attracts both positive and negative attention. How do you balance those reactions while staying true to who you are in the process?
So yeah, the whole teen-sex-column-writer thing gets me some… unpleasant attention. Not just all the emails calling me fag (ug, so boring, don’t bigots have anything better to do?), but the weirder, more objectifying attention. People who think because I talk about my sex life that they’re somehow involved in my sex life. That’s creepy. Like SUPER creepy. They don’t see me as a person, I think. But what gets me through that – besides being allowed to occasionally tell them off when they write in – is focusing on the people I’ve helped. That and my friends and my mom. You need people around you to remind you of the best parts of you, I think, to really stay true to yourself.
You’re pretty unfiltered when it comes to talking about sex. Given your age, some people might take issue with that. How would you respond to that?
F**k ’em. No, really, who cares? “Oh no, a teenager having sex, and a queer one at that! Clutch those pearl necklaces tightly and scold everyone involved, immediately.” F**K THAT.
Do you think teenagers don’t know about sex? I’m not saying we’re all having it – nor should we be – but I’m willing to bet most of us are curious about it. And it’s not like adults give us more than a sex-ed class, if that. And on TV, we see a LOT of sex. Gyrating bodies, shirtless 20-somethings pretending to be teenagers. Or, I should say, we see a lot of straight sex. And most people are ok with that. The issue people take with me is I’m queer. I’m supposed to show teenagers how to be a “good” queer kid. I should be a cinnamon roll of affection and sweetness, who finds that one special guy and we kiss on a ferris wheel and that’s my entire relationship. F**k that. I’m 17, I’m not looking for a soul mate. I’m looking for fun. Hook-ups, threesomes, one night stands. It’s okay for straight guys to want that, right? And it’s okay for straight girls to want that – provided they’re somewhere liberal.
But when it comes to queer kids, even the most liberal minded, “I love gay people” straight adults (and some gay ones) want queer kids to have sweet, monogamous relationships which seem to consist of little more than snuggling, hand-holding and occasional making out. That’s what you see on TV. That’s why people like me get called “bad examples” of queerness. Like queerness has a morality attached to it that straightness does not. For some reason, queer people – especially queer teens – are put into this “glass closet” once they’re out. “It’s okay to be out, as long as you behave the way straight society says you should behave – basically sexless, sweet, a backup character.” Same as “I love gay people, I just don’t know why they have to be so in your face about it.” So I return to my original answer: f**k em. There’s no wrong way to be queer. And I’m being the kind of queer I want to be. And yeah, that means makeup, fashion, and sex with lots of different boys, and if people think that’s wrong, they should look in a mirror and ask themselves if it’s only wrong because they don’t like queer people being themselves. (Spoiler: the answer is always ‘yes.’)
What’s the single most important thing you’d like readers to take away from your story?
I think I kind of just said it: There’s no wrong way to be queer. You can be that adorable cinnamon roll with your one true love at 15. That’s awesome! But it isn’t more or less awesome than a whore like me. Don’t feel like what you want makes you wrong.
Can we look forward to reading more about Jack (and your sex adventures!) anytime soon?
Well, I did write a sex advice column for Attitude.co.uk you can check out, and if you tweet LC Rosen with a question for me, he’ll be sure to get you my answer. So I’m around. And the paperback of JACK OF HEARTS (AND OTHER PARTS) comes out in the UK this month. As for more stories… you’ll have to wait and see.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
L. C. Rosen, also known as Lev Rosen, has written several books for adults and children, but this novel is his YA debut. His books have been featured on numerous Best of the Year lists and nominated for several awards. He lives in New York City with his husband and a very small cat.