Hey, Adam! I’m so delighted to feature you on my blog for Pride month, especially with your 2020 novel, Surrender Your Sons, almost here. The book has already gained a lot of attention for the excellent story and gay representation so this Q&A would be great for all those who are excited for its release and those who are already fans of your work!
Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.
His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”
But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.
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Q/A with Adam Sass
Starting with the introductions, would you like to help our readers know more about your debut novel, yourself, and the weather where you are?
SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a queer version of LOST. Connor Major is a gay teen whose summer break becomes a nightmare when his religious zealot family has him kidnapped and taken to a conversion therapy camp on a forgotten island. There, he teams up with other kidnapped LGBTQ+ teens to uncover the camp’s dark secrets. It’s my debut novel, and it comes out September 15th!
As for me, I actually started my writing career in movies and TV, so I shifted out of screenplays and into novels when I started reading YA and fell in love with the imagination and story possibilities YA presented. I first started writing novels when I was a barista at my local Barnes & Noble. I’d scribble ideas on the backs of pastry bags as I looked out onto the bookshelves, imagining my books there one day.
Surrender Your Sons is largely based in a conversion camp on a deserted island where gay teenagers are changed to what is ‘normative’ for the cruel heads there. You’ve already mentioned on Teen Vogue that you were inspired after watching a documentary called Kidnapped for Christ but we would love to know how much of the underlying horror and mystery was close to reality?
Nightlight, as I wrote it, is an amalgamation of many different types of conversion therapy, so it’s more of a nightmarish version of these tactics taken to their extremes. I wanted to know what these so-called therapists would do if they had unlimited funds and total privacy from the media. How dangerous would things get? The reality of conversion therapy is that it doesn’t have to happen in a camp or a single place. It can be anyone pressuring, leveraging, or threatening you to pretend you’re something you’re not, and it has disastrous consequences for people’s health. Conversion therapy is so dangerous because far too many people underestimate its power. In my book, readers see the full destructive power of conversion therapy and the people who wield it unleashed.
It’s clear that Surrender Your Sons deals with a lot of difficult and unfortunate themes like parental punishments for coming out, homophobia, grievous impact of conversion therapies, etc. How tough was it to write a story set in a ugly reality but still capable of projecting courage, love, friendship, and hope?
Surrender Your Sons depicts several cruel people and puts many innocent people through unimaginable horrors, so that was difficult to put down on the page. However, the light in the dark is that I always gave these characters dignity and agency, and sometimes, they got big victories. My favorite part of Surrender Your Sons is the characters and the bonds between my queer teen campers. Writing them, letting them have laughs and sweet moments and kick-ass scenes where they worked together gave me all the joy I needed to survive writing the dark scenes. Surrender Your Sons shows that love and hope can never be killed, not even when everyone and everything seems to be against you.
Time for a fun question! Of course, we believe the entire book is amazing and every dialogue is a gem but as the author, what is your favourite dialogue from Surrender Your Sons?
“It’s so kind of you to visit me in my loneliness.” is a phrase repeated throughout the book, and each time it reappears it takes on a new meaning. To me, this phrase is like magic words, my good luck charm against the evils inside the pages.
This was such a fun chat but before letting you go, everyone needs to know about the queer books of 2020 you’re most excited for or maybe recommend some you’ve already loved through the first half of this year?
Right now, I’ve got The Summer of Everything, Julian Winters’s latest, at the top of my TBR pile. I loved Lev Rosen’s Camp, which is sort of a spiritual, lighthearted twin to Surrender. Coming up, I’m as excited as everyone else is about Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys, and I’ve got Caleb Roehrig’s The Fell of Dark and Adib Khorram’s Darius the Great Deserves Better to look forward to deeper into the summer!
Adam Sass began writing books in Sharpie on the backs of Starbucks pastry bags. (He’s sorry it distracted him from making your latte.) Raised in an Illinois farm town, his desire for a creative career took him to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and currently, North Carolina, where he lives with his husband and dachshunds.
When he’s not dropping hot takes on Twitter, Adam is a recurring co-host on the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast Slayerfest98, alongside such guests as Pulitzer Prize-winning critic
Emily Nussbaum, producer Drew Z. Greenberg, and drag sensation Trixie Mattel. His debut YA novel Surrender Your Sons (September 2020) is forthcoming from Flux.
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