Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank J.A. Rock for stopping by today.
Title: The Grand Ballast
Author: J.A. Rock
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Apocalyptic/dystopian, Fiction, Gay Fiction
In a future where live sex shows abound to keep a jaded population entertained, dancer Bode Martin falls for the brilliant and unstable Kilroy Ballast, who molds Bode into the star attraction of his erotic circus, the Grand Ballast. Drugged beyond any real feeling, Bode trades freedom and his once considerable pride for an illusion of tenderness—until he inadvertently rescues a young man from a rival show, and together they flee to an eccentric town in the west where love still means something.
Valen’s not an easy man to know, and Bode shed his romantic notions under Kilroy’s brutal employ. Yet their growing bond becomes a strange and dangerous salvation as they attempt to overthrow the shadows of their pasts and wade together through a world of regret, uncertainty, beauty, and terror.
But Kilroy won’t let Bode go so easily. Long ago, Bode was responsible for the loss of something Kilroy held dear, and he still owes Kilroy a debt. As the three men battle toward a tangled destiny, Bode must decide if his love for Valen is worth fighting for—or if he was and always will be a pawn in the story Kilroy Ballast will never stop telling.
Hi! I’m J.A. Rock, and I’m so excited to be on tour this week promoting my new release, THE GRAND BALLAST, a m/m speculative novel about a future where the population is so bored with everything from emotions to technology to art that few people create things or fall in love anymore. The only works of “art” that have relevance are the X-shows—live pornographic performances that often incorporate creative violence. Bode, the main character, is a dancer who still believes in love and falls for the brilliant but highly unstable Kilroy Ballast. Kilroy, in turn, manipulates Bode into joining his famously brutal circus-themed X-show, the Grand Ballast.
The story is partly about Kilroy and Bode’s twisted relationship, and partly about the connection Bode forges with a fellow performer, Valen.
Thank you so much to Prism Book Alliance for hosting me today as I talk a little about one of THE GRAND BALLAST’S central characters, Kilroy. And there are giveaway details at the bottom of the post!
“That’s the best thing about a spectacle. It hides something very simple at its core.” –Kilroy Ballast
There’s a screenwriter in Hollywood who says he writes two versions of every script: one from the protagonist’s point of view and one from the antagonist’s, in order to avoid creating black and white heroes and villains.
I didn’t go as far as writing two versions of THE GRAND BALLAST, but this was a book where it felt particularly important to abandon my preconceived notions about moral correctness and good versus evil. I consider TGB a love story—not a romance, but a story about that place where creativity, love, and obsession intersect. Kilroy Ballast is a terrible person, absolutely. But for the story to work, he needed to be a lot more than that. He needed to be someone Bode could conceivably fall in love with.
The book is entirely from Bode’s POV, but Kilroy is, for lack of a more subtle metaphor, the story’s ringmaster. He’s pulling the strings, and his presence is woven through much of Bode’s life. It was a really cool challenge as a writer to spend two years getting to know a character who is manipulative, contradictory, secretive, wildly insecure, and psychologically unsound—and then filter him through Bode’s POV.
Kilroy and I spent a lot of time together. A lot. Washing dishes. Going grocery shopping. Holding hands and skipping through the park. Okay, maybe not that last one. But I feel like I spent as much time in Kilroy’s head as Bode’s, to make sure that Kilroy was an equally layered character. It was fun and gross and weird, and I kind of missed it when it was over.
What worked well for me as an access point to Kilroy was the power of the word “crazy.” There’s that idea that crazy people don’t know they’re crazy—and that’s what makes them crazy. But Kilroy hints throughout that he does know something’s very wrong with his mind. He uses his circus, the Grand Ballast, to create an insanity he can control, thereby covering up a real madness.
Words like “crazy” and “insane” become Bode’s ultimate weapon. Kilroy knows so many of Bode’s weaknesses—his guilt, his desire for connection, his naiveté about love and sex and power—and uses them to manipulate him. But Bode really only learns one weakness of Kilroy’s: that Kilroy can’t stand to hear others say he’s crazy. He’s allowed to present himself as a mad genius, on his own terms. But when Bode calls him insane, he can’t handle it.
Bode and Kilroy’s relationship was a balancing act. In any given scene, it was a question of who has the power and what kind of power and what do they choose to do with it? I’ve never viewed these two as hero and villain. They’re two troubled people who essentially want the same thing—a real human connection—and seek it over and over again, in ways that are often toxic, but sometimes, I hope, poignant.
In the spirit of THE GRAND BALLAST’s nontraditional romancey-ness, I’m giving away an e-copy of any of my backlist titles that exist in that sort of Is-this-a-romance-novel? gray area. Choose from TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME, THE SILVERS, and ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE (co-written with Lisa Henry). More information about each title is available here. Leave a comment and your contact info for a chance to win! A winner will be drawn at random at 11:59 p.m. on July 5th.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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