Today’s guest is Jake Wells. It’s really been a pleasure getting to know him over the last few weeks as we worked on this interview. Jake is celebrating the release of his new book tomorrow. It’s his first book, which is special enough, but this one is even more. Jake is donating all the royalties to benefit homeless LGBT youth in Los Angles. As you will read in his interview, he’s done quite a lot to help children and this is just one more good act in life filled with them. I hope everyone who reads this will share the interview and the links and help Jake raise a ton of money for the kids in L.A. who need it.

Guest Author: Jake Wells

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Welcome, Jake. Why don’t you tell readers a bit about yourself to start?

Thanks Andy, I so appreciate having the opportunity to be your guest.  I’m a bit of a newbie to this whole social media gig so if I start to ramble please feel free to cut me off.  I guess because I’m kind of a chameleon, my friends might have a difficult time describing me.  I’m gregarious in a crowd but very much appreciate my quiet time, I’m athletic while at the same time am kind of an academic, and am both an adventurer as well as being a bookworm.

Since I received word that my first book was going to be published, I have been frequently asked how I happened to end up writing “A White Coat is My Closet”.  It’s hard to say exactly how this odyssey began.  Writing a book has always been one of the things on my bucket list.   When I hit fifty and was forced to acknowledge that my life was approaching the downhill slide, I thought why not start?  And so, with a burst of enthusiasm, I began the project despite having no clue what I was going to write about.  The progress was initially sure and steady and then, at about the forth chapter, I suddenly found myself thinking;    “Shit, four chapters down, probably twenty-two more to go.”  I wasn’t sure that I had twenty-two pages left in me much less whole chapters.  Worse, I still hadn’t even begun to work out a storyline.  Things came to a screeching stand still.

What occurred over the subsequent months was surprising.  Despite trying desperately to give up the idea of writing a book, I somehow couldn’t shake it.  Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, the whole story started coming together.   My novel is a work of fiction but it ends up describing issues that are near and dear to my heart.  Because in my real life I’m a pediatrician, I’m extremely passionate about providing health care to children in a compassionate and loving manner.  In addition, I’m a gay man who grew up in a small community and really struggled with accepting who I really was.  Somehow, the combination of those two life experiences found a voice that evolved into a story.

As a pediatrician, where did you get the urge to write MM fiction?

Ironically, I’m not sure I started out intending to write MM fiction.  When I decided to write a book, the only solid piece of advice I was given was to “write what you know.”  As a result, the book was initially a description of some of the experiences I had during my years as a pediatric resident.  But, in the process of beginning to write, I remembered with absolute clarity that two things were actually occurring simultaneously during that period of my life.  Certainly I was working to try to become a competent doctor but I was also falling in love for the first time.  Though the story is indisputably a work of fiction, once I began writing about my early life in medicine, it was impossible not to also include something about my initial foray into a meaningful relationship.  The experience was too momentously important.  What happened was sort of unexpected.  I ended up writing a gay romance novel.  The story continues to contain a strong medical element but I think the human element ultimately ends up taking center stage. As a consequence, the book is probably much better than it otherwise might have been.  At least I hope your readers will think so!

You’ve been named a top pediatrician for two years running. How does that make you feel when people recognize your dedication to children?

The recognition is both humbling and gratifying.  I’ve pretty much devoted my entire professional life to taking care of sick children and am flattered by the fact that both my peers and my patients think I’m relatively good at it.  I have no children of my own so I think I probably bring a little more emotion to the job than is sometimes common.  I’m able to vicariously love my patients as a father while also being their doctor.  It’s a good fit for me.

In a bit you’re going on a journey to help other children, tell us some more about that?

Andy, thanks so much for asking about my upcoming adventure.  I’m travelling with a group of doctors and health care professionals to Tanzania, Africa.  They’re a great bunch and this will represent their sixth trip.  The subspecialties represented include infectious disease, plastic surgery, general surgery, orthopedic surgery and anesthesia.  Because their itinerary includes providing medical care to children in remote orphanages, not having a pediatrician in attendance has historically represented significant challenge.  This year, I’ve decided to accompany them.  I look forward to having the opportunity to “give back” and suspect that my clinical skills will really be put to the test.  We will be carrying all our medical supplies with us and won’t have the luxury of any sophisticated diagnostic equipment.  With little exception, it will only be me, my bare hands and a stethoscope. I have no doubt that it will be a life altering experience and that I will return a changed person with an even greater appreciation for the wonderful life I have.

Shifting gears, your new book, A White Coat Is My Closet, comes out October 25, 2013.  Talk about that a bit.

WhiteCoatIsMyCloset[A]_postcard_front_DSPOops!  I may have been a little premature in already having started to talk about my book.  I told you to cut me off.  Pretend you don’t know anything about it.

A White Coat is my Closet tells the story of Zack Sheldon who is in his last year of a pediatric residency program.  He’s smart, hardworking, compassionate and well-liked by his colleagues. His life would be perfect were he not to be burdened by feeling forced to keep the fact that he is gay a secret.  He’s out to a few select friends but is adamant that no one in the hospital know the truth.  Having grown up in a small town where he was taught that being gay was shameful, he is shackled by feelings of low self-esteem and is intimidated by the overt homophobia perpetrated by some the physicians who supervise him.  Determined to succeed professionally, his grueling work schedule somewhat compensates for his loneliness and fortunately, he derives tremendous satisfaction from taking care of the children who become his patients.  Regrettably however, he has pretty much resigned himself to being eternally single.

Then, everything begins to change when he one day finds himself sitting next to Sergio, a guy who captivated his attention from the very second  he first saw him at the gym weeks before.  Zack wouldn’t even allow himself to dream that someone as attractive, outgoing and sexy as Sergio would ever even look at him but through some inexplicable twist of fate, they suddenly find themselves immersed in conversation.  A casual afternoon spent laughing by the pool miraculously leads to a first date and before Zack knows it, they seem to be becoming a couple.

Zack finds his world suddenly turned upside down.  Part of him is ecstatic to be building a relationship with someone he finds so incredible but falling in love also means having to confront an abundant number of insecurities that he would have preferred to have just left buried.  He becomes significantly less comfortable leading a double life and he grows weary of feeling suffocated by his own internal shame. Sergio seems to recognize genuine value in him and Zack wants desperately to feel more deserving of that admiration.  But old habits die hard and Zack struggles to learn how to remain true to himself without jeopardizing the professional respect he has worked so hard to obtain.  Then, before Zack can decide on the best course of action, circumstances force him to make a decision. He can either continue to hide behind the walls that have historically been both his sanctuary and his prison, or he can step out from behind his white coat and declare to the world who he really is, who he really loves and damn the consequences.

The book is fiction, but how much did you draw upon your own experiences for the plot, setting, conflicts, etc.?

Funny you ask…..the line between my own experiences and fiction sometimes got a little grey.  I laughingly tell my friends that I’m neither as brilliant as Zack nor am I as emotionally insecure.  I started my career working in pediatric intensive care so have taken care of a lot of really sick kids.  The medicine part of the story was easy given that there is never a shortage of stories about kids.  It was just a matter of melding a bunch of real patients into a fictitious few.  All of my patients invariably made an impression on my heart so it was really more a matter of relating the feelings I had than it was writing about actual experiences.

Writing about Zack’s struggles with his identity was both personal as well as generic.  I think any gay man remembers struggling with issues of self-esteem; the anxiety of what people would think when they discovered “the truth”.   I’m delighted that our societal views are evolving but when I grew up, there were no gay role models.  Being gay was essentially viewed as something to be ashamed of and being called a faggot was the ultimate insult.  So, while the story is fiction, the concept of rising above the oppressive stigma perpetrated by society is something that is not only still relevant today, but is something that I think resonates with every gay man.  Remember that it was just five years ago when you couldn’t turn on the television without being assaulted by pro prop 8 ads essentially saying that it was an abomination to be gay.

The book has many subplots – tells us about some of them.

The majority of the book follows the evolution of Zack’s relationship with Sergio but it also follows Zack’s relationship with some of his patients.  There’s one little boy in particular named Christopher.  Zack develops a special bond with him and as a reader; you’re taken through the highs, lows and challenges of caring for a child with a serious diagnosis.  For some, it may feel like a lot of medicine but the story in its entirety is about a pediatric resident falling in love.  I couldn’t really talk about Zack’s life without talking about his patients.

Tell us something interesting that is not in the blurb for A White Coat Is My Closet.?

Hmm.  Well, something that you might not expect from reading the blurb (or even from having read this interview!) is that some parts of the book are really funny.  (at least they’re intended to be)  Surviving a residency meant having to work some horrific hours.  The only way to endure was to maintain a sense of humor.  As a resident, there were many moments spent trying to maintain solid professional decorum that ultimately deteriorated into hilarity.  I hope some of these are captured in my story.  In addition, as most of your readers well know, you can’t put a group of gay men into the same room and not have it result in a lot of good natured teasing.  Though sometimes, when you try to explain a funny situation to someone they end up saying, “Guess you had to be there”, I none the less hope that readers will find themselves chuckling as they turn some of the pages of my book.  Finally, if you’ve ever been in love, you know what it means to laugh!

Are any of the characters based on someone you know – other than yourself of course?

Many of the characters in the book are an amalgamation of people I’ve known.  Zack’s best friend is a guy named Declan.  Declan is not any one of my specific friends but instead has the identity of many of my friends combined.  I truly believe that the three biggest blessings in my life have been that I have a supportive family, an amazing partner and incredible friends.  Almost without exception, my friends care for me unconditionally, support me through adversity and make me laugh uproariously.

In addition, I was fortunate to have many great mentors going through residency.  One of the attending physicians in my book was inspired by a woman who made an indelible impression on me.  She was wicked smart and was both compassionate and caring.  I am always exceedingly proud if that’s the way I’m perceived.

Since there is always another story to tell, what are you working on now?

I currently have two projects in the works.  This time, rather than embarking on a journey that has no specific destination, I’m trying to plot out the sequence of the stories.  One involves Rone, a runaway teenager who was turned out by an abusive father but who still has dreams of becoming a doctor….(do you think I’ve beaten the medical theme to death?)  And the other…..wait for it……has nothing to do with medicine….. it’s the story of a ski instructor hoping desperately to find someone to keep him warm of the frigid slopes.  Wish me luck!!

You traveled a bit and some of those trips turned into adventures. What’s the strangest ‘adventure’ you’ve had?

I can tell you one of the adventures that still gives me nightmares.  In my last year of undergrad, I went to Brazil as a Rotary Foundation Scholar.  When one of the local Rotary Club members learned that I had aspirations of applying to medical school when I returned to the states, he asked if I’d consider accompanying him and a team of two doctors into an orphanage in the Amazon basin.  I enthusiastically agreed.  What he may have neglected to tell me was that getting to the orphanage would include a two day canoe trip.  What I may not have fully appreciated was how truly terrified I am of snakes.  Not a good combination. As we navigated our canoes through the tributaries of the river, snakes would either lift themselves out of the water or I could see then hanging from trees.  I blamed my wet underwear on the humidity!! (the brown streaks were more difficult to explain!)

What have you read lately that most people haven’t read but should?

Any books by JF Smith.  I happened upon Latakia when I read one of its 5 star reviews on Amazon.  I was hooked.  All of his books have proven to be heartfelt, suspenseful, and ridiculously funny.  I highly recommend them.

In addition, JF has proven to be one of the nicest guys imaginable.  I read his first book when I was only about four chapters into my own.  As I said before, I had come to a grinding halt and couldn’t imagine succeeding in writing a single additional word.  It just so happened that JF’s e-mail address was at the end of his book.  I wrote him initially with the intention of just telling him how much I had enjoyed the read.  I concluded my note by telling him off handedly that I had always aspired to write a book, had even begun, but had gotten totally bogged down.  Honestly, I didn’t even expect a response.  Well, he not only answered, but he began to correspond with me and ultimately provided me with encouragement enough that I felt motivated to return to the keyboard.  I’m not sure I would ever have finished my book without his encouragement. So, depending on what you think of my story, he either deserves a debt of gratitude of the burden of guilt!

Thanks Jake, now it’s time to plug your book.

A White Coat Is My Closet

Blurb:

WhiteCoatIsMyCloset[A]_postcard_front_DSPZack Sheldon doesn’t have time to be lonely. He’s in his last year as a pediatric resident, almost married to the job, and busy with the joys and sorrows that come with providing medical care to children. Professionally, he’s confident, accomplished, and respected. But personally he’s too insecure to approach a sexy man like Sergio Quartulli, or even to imagine that Sergio might be attracted to him.

Zack spots Sergio from across the gym, and then a chance meeting poolside somehow turns into a date. Before Zack knows it, they’ve become a couple, but Zack’s white coat is his closet at the hospital, and committing to a relationship with Sergio makes it difficult for Zack to continue hiding behind it. On the other hand, he grew up in a small town where being gay was shameful and he works in an environment that can sometimes be homophobic, so it’s hard for him to open up about who he is. Before Zack can make a choice on his own terms, circumstances force him to make a decision. He can continue to hide, or he can step out from behind his white coat and risk everything for love.

Pre-Order Link: Out October 25, 2013

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4276&cPath=55_948

Author Bio:

Jake Wells was born a dreamer. He dreamed of distant lands, of trying to make a difference in people’s lives, of falling in love, of writing a book, and of all things chocolate. Imagine how fortunate he feels to have seen most of his dreams come true. He’s adventured through the far corners of the world, has a successful career practicing medicine, and shares his life with an amazing partner. Though eating chocolate continues to play a prominent role in his dreams, the icing on the cake has been writing about falling in love in a world where equality is only beginning to be embraced.

When he’s not playing doctor, Jake can usually be found traipsing local hiking trails with his dogs near his West Coast home, in the kitchen trying to replicate some sumptuous dish he saw on one of the cooking channels, or sipping a glass of fine red wine with his friends.

Social Media:

You can contact Jake at jakezacharywells@gmail.com

Facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/jake.wells.16568.

Excerpt:

Here is a short excerpt from A White Coat is my Closet.  As I previously described, Zack sees Sergio in the gym weeks before he actually meets him.  In this section, Zack has just finished a long shift in the hospital and despite being exhausted, stumbles into the gym determined to work out.  In the process of trying to convince himself not to succumb to the fatigue he’s feeling and just blow the workout off, he sees Sergio on the bench next to him.

The inner dialogue consumed so much of my attention that I initially didn’t notice the guy working out on the bench next to me. In a split second, however, I was captivated. He was resting between sets. He appeared not to have a care in the world and seemed completely oblivious to anything going on around him. A little white wire wound itself from the iPod attached to his bicep up into his ears, and he seemed totally immersed in the music he was listening to.

Taking my cue from him, I tried to play it cool and pretend I hadn’t noticed him. In truth, however, I was taking in the whole picture, hoping that it would be permanently imprinted in my brain. He was about five foot ten and probably weighed a muscular one hundred and eighty-five pounds. He had perfect hair that, despite being messy, framed his face perfectly. He had an olive complexion and a five o’clock shadow that further accentuated his tall, dark, and handsome looks. As he mouthed the lyrics to the song coming through his earbuds, he parted his lips to reveal perfect teeth. His chest was a sculpted mound of muscle that tapered down to a thin waist. He had narrow hips but his thighs had great definition, and they were capped off by a solid, firm, round butt. Short, curly dark hair covered his legs and also peeked out over the tank top covering his chest. In a word: incredible.

Suddenly, the fatigue I had been feeling just a second before evaporated. Enthusiasm began to course through my body, giving me a renewed surge of energy.

I lay down on the bench and again grabbed the bar above me. Despite having put another ten pounds on each side of the bar, I pumped out another fifteen reps effortlessly. I was winded but felt invigorated. I sat up to rest and tried to inconspicuously divert my gaze over to the bench press next to me. The guy was in the middle of a set. He had two forty-five pound plates on each side of the bar but was pressing two hundred and twenty five pounds with seemingly minimal effort. I heard him whisper “twelve” under his breath, then he flipped the barbell back onto the rack. He took a deep breath and then sat up. In doing so, his gaze briefly caught mine. For a microsecond, he held my gaze. A smile flashed quickly across his face, and then he diverted his attention back to his workout.

I was exhilarated. He had smiled. Was that a sign? Was it an invitation that I could casually say “hi”? Maybe even ask for him to spot me on the next set so I could try to push some impressive weight? If he consented to spot me, I could use the opportunity to initiate a conversation. My mind begin racing through my repertoire of clever one-liners. Had to be something subtle, innocuous. Something clever and engaging but not something that could be interpreted as a come-on. An obvious come-on in the gym was not only uncool but gave the impression of being desperate.

My back was to him as I added another forty-five pound plate to one side of the bar, then, feeling a little self-conscious, I stacked on an additional twenty-five. Now each side of the bar would have one hundred and fifteen pounds. I looked at it a little apprehensively. I knew I was capable of lifting it but also had to concede I was tired and not at my physical peak. I mentally calculated the risk. I didn’t want to embarrass myself and have the bar come crashing down onto my chest, but if I mustered the courage to impose on him to spot me, the weight on the bar had to be enough to warrant asking for help.

At that moment, feeling a surge of self-confidence, I decided: I would ask him for a spot. If he consented, I’d casually say something like, “You look like you’re in pretty good shape. Do you work out here often?” An innocent question, beautifully framing a subtle compliment, which, most importantly, might be the opening to an engaging conversation. I put the lock on the end of the bar, sealed my resolve, and then pasted an appropriate expression of indifference on my face. I didn’t want to appear too eager. Rehearsing the request over in my mind, I began to slowly turn. I aspired that my tone would be inviting and sincere, but not give the impression of being too desperate.

When all systems were a “go,” I turned completely around, expecting to catch him sitting on the edge of the bench, resting between sets. My anticipation fizzled. In the interval that I had spent changing the weights and preparing my perfect line, he had moved on. I searched the gym desperately. He had vanished. For a few seconds I began to wonder if maybe, in my sleep-deprived state, I had just imagined him. Was I losing it? Had I fallen asleep on the bench and was Adonis just a product of my dreams?

I was about to give up when, on the far side of the gym, I saw him doing pull-ups. The stream of relief that swept over me was quickly replaced by a feeling of self-consciousness and anxiety. Striking up a conversation with him sitting next to me would have been easy. It was going to be impossible to walk across the entire gym and try to catch his attention without looking like a stalker.