Blurb: As if being a deeply closeted gay man living in the South isn’t enough, Justice Crawford also suffers from a crippling anxiety disorder. Flying cross country to be the best man in his best friend’s wedding probably isn’t the best idea, right? Forced back into the closet after being rejected by his family, Justice has given up on the idea of finding acceptance and love. He has allowed his disorder and his troubled past to keep him from taking a chance, but love might just find him where he least expects it… in Seattle.
Sailor and charter boat captain Nic Valentine is still reeling from the unexpected death of his father, when the man of his dreams—literally—falls into his lap. He thinks he’ll never see the man again, but fate has other plans. Nic tries to resist the charms of adorably quirky, nervous Justice, because he has no desire to get tangled up with another closet case. But when life keeps throwing them together, will Nic decide that Justice might be a keeper after all?
Hey everyone! Thanks for having me on The Novel Approach today. Though I have several m/f PNRs out, I’ve just released my first m/m contemporary romance: I Survived Seattle from Wilde City Press. The story was loosely based on and inspired by a trip my husband, my son, and I took to Seattle to attend our friends’ wedding. The romance genre is where my heart lies and I’ll probably always write it, but I like to challenge myself to create deeper characters that go through more within the story than just falling in love.
Justice, the main character from I Survived Seattle, apart from being a gay man living in the South, also suffers from a crippling anxiety disorder. One of his triggers is travel, flying in particular, and since the book starts off with him on a cross-country flight to Seattle, you can probably imagine his state of mind. Today I wanted to talk a bit about writing a character with anxiety—and a mild case of OCD in Justice’s case. That part of Justice was semi-autobiographical. I pulled a lot from my own experiences as inspiration for Justice.
I’ve suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember, though back when I was a kid, no one really knew about anxiety and panic attacks and chemical imbalances. I was in my teens before I was ‘unofficially’ diagnosed by a counselor, and I was well into my twenties before I agreed to be seen and treated medically. I was always hesitant to use medication, and I even trained my dog to accompany me on flights as a service animal! But eventually, I realized it was necessary, and that great improvements had been made to the selection of medications out there, so there was the option to be medicated and still function normally.
Even after being treated, I still always struggle with my anxiety triggers, and one of the ways I helped myself deal during my trip to Seattle was to create this character. I wanted to give a voice to the struggles that I go through on a daily basis—ones that I know many in my community share. It was difficult at times, as describing Justice’s panic attacks would sometimes trigger anxiety of my own. I’d never tried to describe what I go through during an attack, or during the aftermath, until writing this book. It was very difficult to write those parts of the book, but also extremely cathartic. Now, when someone who’s read the book asks me about my anxiety, I can just say ‘remember that one scene with Justice?’
It was kind of fun to describe Justice’s mild OCD quirks, like his eating habits and his need to arrange things. It was a bit like poking fun of myself—but I’m always the first one to do that! I know I’m weird, I embrace it. The best thing about writing a character with anxiety has been all of the readers who have reached out to me, saying they also suffer from anxiety so they completely understood Justice’s character. And maybe those who don’t have anxiety who read my book will gain a bit of understanding of the shy folks in the room!
Justice’s counterpart Nic, while having a few skeletons in the closet of his past, is pretty much the epitome of laid back. He’s the calm to Justice’s panic, he’s the cool to Justice’s quirky. I drew a little bit of inspiration from my own husband, and how he’s kind of a saint for dealing with my neuroses on a daily basis. Someone with a tendency for panic really needs to be with someone solid, who takes things in stride. And that’s what Nic is for Justice. They go through their ups and downs to get where they need to be, but they end up being the perfect match!
All of my characters are my babies, but Justice definitely has a special place in my heart. I hope you enjoy reading I Survived Seattle and if you have your own stories of having to deal with anxiety, feel free to reach out and share. It’s always nice to know we’re not alone! Thanks for having me today.
Author Bio: J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?
J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and young son, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.