Review & Interview – Justin South – Alex & Drew

Please scroll down following the review to read an interview with the author (both review and interview are by Lily).

 

Alex & Drew (Journeys to Love Collection) by Justin South

Genre:  MM Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult, Abuse

Stars: 3.5-4 stars

 

Justin South - Journeys to Love - Alex & Drew

 

Blurb:
Alex is a lonely, timid and socially backward 18yo country boy who has been sexually abused by his stepfather all his teenage years. 19yo city boy and law student, Drew, happens upon Alex in a distressed state after one such abusive encounter. For Alex, their meeting starts a journey from despair and loneliness through the emotions of his first ever friendship.
Two weeks later Alex calls Drew seeking help from a life-threatening situation. From that moment, Alex and Drew’s lives are forever changed.
This story was originally published under the same title as part of a 2012 Goodreads writing project. The near-1700 direct downloads recorded as at early April, 2014, signify to its popularity. This version contains a variety of content changes and over 10% additional text.

 

Review:
Please note this book contains depictions of parental abuse and neglect, which are fictionalised accounts of actual events experienced by gay youths the author has counselled in Australia in recent years.

Justin South certainly put his heart and soul into this story, each sentence in this book certainly is an evidence of his heartfelt dedication to the plight of children who are abused.

Alex and Drew’s story initially left me feeling totally chocked up and very emotional. This part in the story focused on Alex’s feeling of betrayed by those who were meant to protect him no matter what but instead they abused him in every sense. As I read this part, I felt Alex’s utter despair, pain, and distrust. This part was very painful for me to read, but then Justin changed his story line and focused on Alex’s recovery and stayed that way. It seemed almost like the writer wanted to acknowledge and respect young Alex’s pain and then move onto his healing process with a focus on the power of love and self-determination to move forward.

I felt a little disappointed that there was not much about his family after the event. I think part of my disappointment was coming from my rage over Alex’s pain and I wanted to see his family suffering for what they did to him, and I was denied this! I also wanted to see Alex raging and demanding satisfaction for his pain and suffering, but it seems Alex was emotionally more grounded than I was. After some self-reflecting, I realized where Justin was coming from: This story was not about abuse, but about personal growth. Recovery. The focus was not about rage and anger.

I also would like to add that I find the dialogue between Alex and Drew a little too sweet for my taste, but again I can see what Justin is doing. He wants to bring a balance to his story so that his readers will not be struggling with despair and hurt. I then noticed some issues with syntax but I again understand. He was trying to speak from Alex’s point of view, a youth who never had opportunity to complete his education and had some developmental problems.

This story is set in Australia so be prepared for the Aussie slangs and Aussie-English. I must say, I really like this because I consider myself as an Australian who is also happy that Justin appreciates the healing powers of our Aussie icon yummy “TimTams” and used this tasty treat in the story of Alex & Drew.

 

Publisher and Original Publication Date: Self-published, April 7, 2014
Purchase URL: Amazon
Formats Available: mobi
Length:  85 pages
Reviewed by: Lily

 

Interview with Justin South

Lily: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Justin: Thank you, Lily, for the opportunity to jot a few points down about my recreational writing and stories. Writing is part of my life. I earn a living as a commercial writer. Over the years I’ve written numerous essays, shorts and technical articles on various subjects. Some saw their appearance in magazines while the others ended up through the shredder during a spring clean.

 

Lily:  What inspired you to write?
Justin: The bug to write fiction simmered away until 2006 when I became semi-serious, albeit still treating it as a hobby and in those days not having a clue about the conventions of fiction novel writing.
I write recreationally for pleasure – not money. I write for the enjoyment and relaxation it provides, well away from the pressures of life.
About that time I became voluntarily involved in youth counselling. These activities involved assisting disturbed and abused youth. The experiences many of these youths encountered opened my eyes to the hostile environments always bubbling under society’s eyes that confront segments of both the straight and gay youth populations. Most of my ‘assists’ (I hate referring to the youths as ‘cases’) were in Australia. However, I also assisted some youths and young men in the USA, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK. Most were gay, indicating an abnormal imbalance considering their minute proportion of the population.
Loneliness was (and still is) the main issue with these people, which in any case is a major problem throughout all ages of society. However, the curse of loneliness can be extremely harmful to already bully-victimised and vulnerable gay teens, whether such is gay-hate inspired or for other well-known bully-abuse reasons.
The saddest ‘assists’ I ever encountered were three lonely deaf gays across the US. For each of these guys the possibility of enjoying a loving life with a similar or accepting partner was virtually impossible to occur, rendering them to a lifetime of loneliness. One resorted to occasionally prostituting himself on the net just to gain some body to body comfort. Too often he was abused.
Fortunately, since then, the creation of deaf gay groups on Facebook and other internet sites have thrown lifelines to these under-privileged members of society. Having met them made me realise the worst case loneliness of all – that faced by gay blind people. I guess their fate was on my mind when I wrote my short story, ‘Reflections’, about a guy who succumbs to RT – Retinitis Pigmentosa, commonly known as tunnel vision. I pity for those people and hope friendly minds have ushered them to welcoming arms.
Regrettably, on numerous occasions loneliness palls behind the abusive incidences of savage assault, parental rape and neglect, bigotry and the effects of sheer homophobic heartlessness, etc. I’ve dealt with suicidal intentions, self-harm, sexual abuse (both by fathers and mothers), and homelessness and so on. Through it all I was able to form local friendship groups and act as match maker to a lot of the guys – and some of the single parents and siblings, too! During this time I’ve met many wonderful people, particularly those families who opened their arms, hearts, doors and wallets to assist others not so fortunate. Their generosity amazes me.
As a result of all these years of counselling, I’ve developed an interest in presenting some of the heart rending stories, accessing them from the huge knowledge base I’ve acquired.

 

Lily:  What are the challenges and joys you find in writing?
Justin: I hold a hope that these stories will inform and enlighten public awareness to the plights of the homeless and abused gay youths and to ignite them to offer assistance where obviously needed. Some of these incidents are fictionalised in my books, Paul & Sam, Alex & Drew and earlier in Santa’s Coming. Characters’ experiences are usually based on various events encountered by a combination of the teens and young men I assisted.
These are the desperate victims treated like toxin by the usual bigoted and negative minded fund-protective civic groups, the voter-fearing political parties and the hate-filled yet paedophilic religions and so called ‘army’ charity instrumentalities. In the end, the victims have little in the way of assistance, except from cash-strapped GLBT groups and the odd well intentioned member of the public. That is an appalling indictment on government attitudes and social inhumanity.
I only wish people will follow the lead of Sam’s family, as depicted in Paul & Sam, by offering ‘relax & recharge’ breaks to such victims. Usually those families will be rewarded by heartfelt appreciation, real gratitude, raw emotions and the heartiest of hugs.
Not all my future stories will be themed on issues encountered while counselling. For instance, my next book is inspired by an event I read in Robert Ruark’s novel, Poor No More, some years ago. That story will be a lighter read, yet still belong to The Journeys to Love Collection I’ve just started. As the name implies, the Collection contains stories of the hardships and obstacles one lonely youth or young man walks to find love and the bounties arising therefrom. Many others are in the WIP list, if only I can get time to complete them.

 

Lily: What impact does being a writer have on your personal life?
Justin: I divide my time between my commercial and recreational writing on a ‘need to’ basis. Regardless, time consuming commercial projects combined with hours of writing, editing, re-hashing, polishing, formatting, publishing and endless promotion can sure make a mess of one’s social life, if you let it. I’d like to be disciplined like Ernest Hemingway who, according to one ‘legend’, wrote a few pages early each morning and then spent a good many hours of the day enjoying G&Ts at Sloppy Joes, yarning to his mates. Alas, I’m less dedicated!

 

Lily: What is your schedule like when you start writing a story?
Justin: I don’t set a schedule nor a deadline. I’m not the money-hungry kind to want to finish asap. I try to be a perfectionist, in so doing taking the time necessary and finishing the project when I’m happy with it. I wrote my first novel over a period of three years. Sometimes I’ll put an unfinished manuscript aside for months until new inspiration re-invigorates me to resume.
I’ve written two stories to writing project’s deadlines, needing extensions in both cases. Being a slow, two-finger keyboard puncher doesn’t help. I don’t like that sort of pressure any more. Unfortunately, a heavy commercial load and the recent releases of Paul & Sam and Alex and Drew, have left me with no time to attend to other works in recent months.

 

Lily: What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Justin: I learned to think a lot more laterally than commercial, particularly technical, writing requires of the mind. For instance, when I wrote the short, Reflections, I decided to write it without using the worst two words in a writer’s vocabulary, the words It was. Looking back on that project, I wonder why I bothered for it took me over eight weeks to write 4500 words. It was hard! Lol! But it won a lot of interest, including a nomination for best short story of the year.

 

Lily:  In your opinion, what do you think makes a good story?
Justin: Easy – plot, plot, plot, good mature writing which goes along with good mature use of grammar, a GOOD story – no filling, good pacing, no excessive complications, nicely spiced but not overdone, well edited, well edited, well edited, and finally a worthy ending. Do I make sense? Oh, and an absolute minimum of adverbs and sentences that start with “There was” and “It was”.
I’m an Agatha Christie and Hemingway fan. I look for Christie’s intrigue and Hemingway’s descriptive action in modern books written by many authors I respect, all chocolate coated in desire and who don’t write ‘part A goes into part B and pumps until C occurs. Love is not a mechanical activity. Love involves outpourings of passions and emotions. Stories that snap those moments are the ones I like to read and write.
For writing good non-repetitive sexy scenes is akin to involving oneself in the star bursts of Tinker Bell’s wand and those exquisite adrenalin sexual rushes written in ways other than by an alphabetic recital or rote. One particular section in Paul & Sam has received much reader’s attention:

Nestling into the pillow, I thought back nearly five years ago, remembering those weeks and days before ushering him to the next level. He clearly stated his desires. “I want to feel your hard cock in me, to feel the physical and emotional experiences, to feel the fullness of you and the feeling of movement, of your hot flesh rubbing mine. I want to feel the biological revelations of being touched internally. Above all, I want to experience that opium of romance, the union of love.”

“Wow, you’ve been studying up.”

“Well,” he continued, his bambi eyes peering at me from my chest, “any good doctor should know these things.”

Yeah, right!

“I want to feel the stimulation,” he continued, “the internal impulses, the bolts of ecstasy and the build-up of excitement. I want to hear the mounting body noises and the blasts of canons and roars of comets and the fanfares of trumpets. I want to see the white lights and flashing stars and feel the uncontrollable shudders, the electric bolts and jolts and spasms. Then I want to experience the afterglow and twilight pleasures, the touches and comments and things we do during the wind down. Afterward, when we’ve recuperated, I want to feel being in you.”<

 

 Lily: When I read Paul & Sam, I thought it was a very heartfelt story and rich in sensuality and suspense, but it touches social issues such as homelessness. What inspired you to write this story?
13482637Justin: The character of Paul is based on the experiences encountered by a number of youths I’d counselled who had been abandoned by their parents. Imagine being sixteen and tossed out of home? Each of the boys was devastated. One was actually being tortured by flatmates who learned of his secret. Three were suicidal when I got involved, keyboarding them all through the night. One happened to be the surf-rider who saved Adam from drowning in Paul & Sam. These are not fairy tales.

So to answer your question, I felt this story had to be told, if nothing more than to enlighten readers of the real impact on the victims of abandonment and homelessness. In Paul & Sam I also cover an aspect never touched – the mental deterioration that occurs to the parents after their deed of expulsion. In all cases I’ve dealt with, other members of the household revolted in protest. The ultimate future left facing the parents is loneliness with no contact with their children and no grandparent pleasures. Interesting effect of their stupidity, isn’t it?

 

Lily: Can you tell us a little about Alex & Drew?
Justin: Alex & Drew’s story is a fictional expose drawing on my counselling involvements. Alex’s character is a combination of the experiences of three abused boys I assisted. Drew is the angel we all wish to know – the lifesaver coming to our aid.
The original free version has proved highly popular with close to 1700 direct downloads at date of writing, April 2014. This new version contains numerous modifications and has been lengthened with over 10% more text here and there. It is also freely available although I understand Amazon won’t accept free publications, instead charging a minimum 99c. When that is the case, the few cents per copy I end up receiving will be donated to a charity assisting homeless youths.
My blurb description on Amazon is:

Alex is a lonely, timid and socially backward 18yo country boy who has been sexually abused by his stepfather all his teenage years. 19yo city boy and law student, Drew, happens upon Alex in a distressed state after one such abusive encounter. For Alex, their meeting starts a journey from despair and loneliness through the emotions of his first ever friendship.
Two weeks later Alex calls Drew seeking help from a life-threatening situation. From that moment, Alex and Drew’s lives are forever changed.

This story was originally published under the same title as part of a 2012 Goodreads writing project. The near-1700 direct downloads recorded as at early April, 2014, signify to its popularity. This version contains a variety of content changes and over 10% additional text.
Some original readers’ comments give opinions and insights into the story:

> Alex & Drew is a tale of a boy’s journey from utter despair to finding his sanctuary in the arms of an equally wonderful supportive partner. It delves into the mind of Alex trying to cope with his abuse and finding his way in the world of recovery and love.
> Very deep and moving story. So much suffering that it makes you hurt for all those who suffer abuse and have no one to help them.
> If I could give this this book more stars I would. Simply it was an amazing rollercoaster of emotions for me. It had me in tears numerous times, for the good and for the bad times suffered by these two wonderful souls.
> A story of two young men in need of the love and support the other offers to heal and recover.
> This is a touching story that transcends the tragedy and darkness at its core. The author did a beautiful job of focusing on the more positive notes of hope, love and healing while still acknowledging the pain, betrayal, fear, hate and anger that you know are present under these circumstances.
> Touching – if sometimes difficult – and beautifully written. I just loved Drew and his family, who could so clearly see the diamond in the rough that was Alex.

 

Lily: What is your next project based around?
Justin: As I answered under Q 3), my next novel in the pipeline is a lighter read, based in Sydney as all my works are. I also have one short story finished and two more to be finalised. Whether the book or the shorts come first, I don’t know at the moment.
The next writing project will be based on another abused and lonely youth.
Again, thank you Lily for this opportunity.
Kind wishes to you and your readers,
Justin South

 

Publisher and Original Publication Date: Self-published, April 7, 2014
Purchase URL: Amazon


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