I’m talking with Jeff Ballam today. Jeff is a lgbt author and a 6th grade teacher. His new book is Out of the Past .
B: Welcome Jeff. Tell us a little about Out of the Past, what’s the story line?
J: Thank you, Brandon. First, I want to thank you for the opportunity to chat here with you. I appreciate the support. The story line is about a young gay man, Paul Vanderwall who is also a schoolteacher. He has been hurt by love, so he doesn’t want to take any risks. He’s summoned to jury duty and meets a tall, dark, handsome defense attorney who is trying the same case Paul is serving on. Their paths continue to cross during the trial, and so do their eyes, so they can’t act on their desires, yet once the trial is over, Paul receives a letter inviting him on a date with the attorney, and there are quite a few surprises along the way.
B: We were talking privately and you said the original idea of the story came to you in a dream, what moved you to take that dream and turn it into a novel?
J: When I woke that morning back in 2008, I realized the dream had all the interesting elements of a great story; a plot, romance, a villain, sex. It seemed it would be a great story. So, I just sat down and began writing. The dam burst, and I couldn’t stop. When I finished, the story had veered so far off the dream there was nothing left of the original dream in it.
B: I can completely relate! You’re a schoolteacher, I was just reading a post from a high school teacher that had gay slurs hurled at him by his students, and I noted from the comments that many gay teachers have left the profession because of that. Have you ever experienced that?
J: I think it is horrible that students would hurl any slur at a teacher, so much so to force a teacher to leave the profession. I would also like to add, I am sure there are other incidents of other slurs being used as well. I have heard of female teachers, regardless of race being called names, to their face. The respect for the profession is at an all time low in many areas, and comes mostly from the students themselves and even some parents. I have been very fortunate, I have never had slurs hurled at me; though I have seen some students snicker or laugh because I know I don’t come off as the most ‘typical’ masculine man. My district, Los Angeles Unified School District, actually encourages us to teach LGBT history in an appropriate setting. And California now has the FAIR Education Act requiring textbooks to include contributions to our society by all minorities, including people with disabilities and LGBT people. So, I am hoping things will change. I did actually come out to a class of fifth graders, and they were unimpressed. They were more interested in their math work. I never heard from a parent, either. I went on to teach that same group in sixth.
B: Does your own background as a gay teacher play into what you want readers to come away with from your new book?
J: Not really. Paul’s sexuality doesn’t play into his life at school. We see some of his life there, but not a great deal. I want my readers to come away with the idea that sometimes when we don’t want something, it happens anyway. Maybe we could call it destiny, or fate? Paul’s fighting love. Yet, he’s drawn to this man and can’t resist, try as he might. And it was a chance encounter, out of the blue, when he least expected it. I also want my readers to see that when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we can find the strength within ourselves. We are stronger than we believe we are.
B: This sounds good. Can you share a small excerpt with us?
J: Of course!
The deputy sheriff came back in about five minutes later and ushered us into the courtroom, where the judge, a Ms. Winebrenner, greeted us, and asked us to sit in the gallery. She then proceeded to give us the facts about of the case. It was a criminal case where this guy was arrested on lewd conduct charges.
Oh, crap, I thought, I have to spend my winter recess listening to a case where this guy is out soliciting sex and claiming to be innocent.
She expected the case to last about a week, if even that. Maybe only four days.
The judge introduced us to the prosecuting attorney, and then the defendant and his attorney. I nearly gasped when I saw him. If I thought the sheriff was a piece of eye candy, this attorney was a five-pound box! He was tall, dark and handsome, to use a cliché. He had a squarish, masculine face with typical Latino features, black hair, and bronze skin tones. But it was his eyes that drew me. They reminded me of a stag’s eyes, large, almond shaped and dark brown. Under his tailored Armani suit, you could tell he worked out. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist. I knew if I were selected for this jury, I would have a very hard time concentrating on the case.
I could put up with four days of looking at this guy. What was his name, again? Quick, pay attention to the judge…
B: Hm, hot Latino lawyer and a sexy schoolteacher. Okay, I’m definitely interested. You can connect with Jeff on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or on his book blog. Out of the Past is available from Seventh Window Publications .
Author photo credit: GJ Spiller Photography
If you are a LGBTQ author, artist or filmmaker and would like to chat, please feel free to contact me.