by Lisa Moraleda, Associate Director of Publicity at Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Growing up gay in a fundamentalist evangelical family, Aaron Hartzler was taught from an early age that at any moment the Rapture could happen...that Jesus might come down and scoop him and his family up to heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by this idea. But at fifteen, the Rapture becomes a race against the clock, as Aaron fights to experience a life that is strictly forbidden by his parents. Deciding to break their biggest rule, Aaron purchases a movie ticket, which eventually leads him down a path of rebellion. From watching television to listening to rock music, making out and drinking alcohol, Aaron’s thoughts and actions carry him further and further away from fundamentalist Christian teachings and from his own family. In RAPTURE PRACTICE Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey to find the person he is without losing the family that loves him. Ultimately this story is about finding your own truth while accepting your family for who they are, RAPTURE PRACTICE will speak to anyone who has ever questioned religion, sexuality, or one’s path in life.
PINK: What is your message for this book?
Aaron Hartzler: I think that growing up means learning to really like who you are—not try to be something somebody else wants you to be. If you’re a teenager who feels like your decisions are being made for you, or in spite of you: hang on. You do have a voice, and what you have to say matters.
PINK: Who is this book is intended for?
A: This book is first and foremost for teenagers in religious schools—especially those who might be questioning their faith, or their sexuality, or both. It’s also for teenagers who feel that their decisions are being made for them. Beyond that, I think the book will appeal to anyone who has ever had questions about religion, sexuality, or felt a conflict between the path they feel called to in life, versus the path someone else wants them to follow.
PINK: When did you start writing this book?
A: After grad school I move to L.A. to be an actor. This book grew out of my one-man shows and standup. Some of the writing I did for the stage wound up in this book, so I guess you could say I’ve been writing this off and on for thirteen years, though I didn’t start trying to write it as a book until about seven years ago.
PINK: What do your parents think about the book?
A: I don’t know. I’ve told them about it, but they haven’t asked to read it as of yet, and we haven’t discussed it. I really wanted this book to be a love note to my childhood. I am unflinchingly honest in the writing, but I love them very much. I’ve said since the day I started writing it that I want this book to be a parade, not a baseball bat.
PINK: What are you doing with your life today?
A: My boyfriend and I live in Palm Springs, about an hour and a half away from Los Angeles, and we own two rescue dogs. I mainly write books and screenplays—but I still act from time to time. I’m up for a part in a movie this summer. I have so many creative opportunities now, and all of them are a direct result of telling my story as authentic and honest as I did. I have discovered that if I don’t like something about my life, I have the power to change it, and when I remember to do that, things get better and better.
PINK: Do you ever go back home to Kansas City?
A: I have a tight-knit group of friends from high school that I still see every year or two in Kansas City. It’s always fun to be back and reminisce. Kansas City was a great place to grow up. It’s a beautiful city full of tree-lined boulevards and beautiful neighborhoods with fountains and plazas developed by a man named J.C. Nichols. He also helped develop Beverly Hills. There’s an excellent Equity theatre (Kansas City Rep), and lots of great support for the arts.
PINK: Do you affiliate yourself with any religion?
A: I don’t affiliate myself with any religious group. I grew up with all of the pat answers to the world’s unanswerable questions: Why are we here? Is there a God? What happens when we die? The older I’ve gotten, the less I know for sure, and the happier I’ve become. I’m just one of those people who is okay with not knowing. There are so many beautiful colors on the spectrum between black and white, and for me, the “mysteries” that organized religion claim to represent—virgin birth, atonement, resurrection—seem to pale in comparison to the true mystery of our natural universe. I love the idea of God. There’s just unfortunately a lot of baggage that comes with believing in God in the Christian fundamentalist sense.
PINK: If you could give your 15-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Be easy on yourself. You have all of the answers inside you. It’s okay to follow your inner GPS. It will be hard, but you are stronger than you know. By finding your voice and telling your story, you’ll be able to help other people, which will make you feel better than anything else ever will.
Aaron Hartzler • Rapture Practic • To be Released April, 2013 • www.aaronhartzler.com