Author Spotlight: Adam Sass talks SURRENDER YOUR SONS
I'm thrilled to be hosting Adam Sass on today's blog! Adam 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.
His short story “98% Graves” was nominated by Writer’s Digest for Best Science Fiction Story of 2015.
A gay geek, he is also a recurring co-host on the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast Slayerfest98, alongside such special guests as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. producer Drew Z. Greenberg, and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Trixie Mattel.
Adam is represented by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary, and his debut YA novel SURRENDER YOUR SONS is out now from Flux Books.
Lord of the Flies meets the TV series Lost.
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..
Hi, Adam! Welcome and congrats on the release of Surrender Your Sons. Can you share a little about the story?
Thank you, it’s exciting! SURRENDER YOUR SONS is a queer LOST meets LORD OF THE FLIES. Connor Major’s 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.
I’d love for you to talk about how you constructed the suspense in Surrender Your Sons. Do you have any tips for writers looking to flesh out the tension in their own novels?
Dread is key to tension. We’re in an anxious time, so it shouldn’t be too hard to look around at things in your life that create dread for you. In SURRENDER YOUR SONS, I wanted to create an atmosphere that anything could happen, to anyone, at anytime. For me, that usually means people behaving in unexpected ways. Everyone Connor meets on the island—campers, staff—each of them reveals something to Connor that is against what both he and the reader expect. Even innocuous things. This helps build the sense that anything can happen.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Surrender Your Sons teach you?
That less is more! The central mystery within the final version of SURRENDER YOUR SONS began as one of a dozen smaller subplots to a much more chaotic early version. The story didn’t really sing until I narrowed in on the story I was most passionate about and let that fill up the entires pace. Stories need to breathe.
Surrender Your Sons does not shy away from exposing the abuse and pain that many queer people are forced to endure. Were there times when you found it too emotionally taxing to write? If so, how did you deal with this??
SURRENDER YOUR SONS is intensely emotional, but this story is a thrilling adventure first and foremost. Please go read Boy Erased for a hyper-realistic portrait of what it's like going through this torture. Or Orpheus Girl or The Miseducation of Cameron Post for searing, sensitive dramas. What SURRENDER YOUR SONS provides is the kind of catharsis thats difficult to get with non-fiction or straightforward dramas. It might be wish fulfillment, but I wanted a story that put queer kids front and center in the drivers seat of their own thriller. Conversion therapy is an insidious horror that is almost impossible to pluck out of our society, root and stem, and I made sure to honor the weight of what this does to people. However, as a queer person who has seen so many horrors attacking my community go unavenged, I wanted to write a story where the right people got their asses kicked. Basically, whenever SURRENDER got into the dark-and-difficult stuff, I felt protected with the knowledge that I could have my kids give it back as hard as they were getting it.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing/publishing career??
Rejection is your best friend. I went through 110 combined agent and editor rejections before we finally landed in the right home. When I was starting out, I barely knew a lot about the business, and the early versions of SURRENDER YOUR SONS were a mess. If ANY of them had gotten through, I would’ve languished, the book wouldn’t have been that great, and I wouldn’t have learned many lessons along the way. Take your R’s as an opportunity to refine your work into an even brighter diamond.
So many thanks go out to Adam for taking the time to tell us more about the work that went into SURRENDER YOUR SONS, as well as for sharing writing tips and lessons he's learned along the way in his publishing journey. Be to sure to add SURRENDER YOUR SONS to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,