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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Author Interview: James Lecesne (Virgin Territory)


James Lecesne is an author, actor, and activist, whose film Trevor received an Academy Award for best short film. James cofounded the Trevor Helpline, a 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning teens. He lives in New York City.

For more info on James, visit his site(s):

Virgin Territory by James Lecesne
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: Available Now
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 224

Summary: Virgin Territory explores the power of faith and our need to believe in miracles. Sixteen-year-old Dylan Flack is uprooted from his cozy life in New York City by the death of his mother of cancer the night before 9/ll. He finds himself transplanted to Jupiter, Florida, and in the chaos of the move discovers that his father has lost their treasured collection of family photos. Dylan feels that he has begun to lose the memory of his mother's face, and without access to those pictures of their past together, each day stretches darkly into a future without hope. Enter: the Virgin Club, a nomadic group of trailer kids whose mostly single parents drag them all over the country in search of sightings of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although not looking for membership in any club, Dylan falls in love with their leader, Angela, who believes that change occurs in direct proportion to desire and the willingness to take risks. In a series of misadventures and brushes with the law in what Dylan comes to think of as "virgin territory," she teaches Dylan to risk a future without his favorite parent. Miraculously his newfound courage leads to a long overdue confession from his father that brings them closer together and catapults Dylan into a future that holds more promise.

Author Interview:

1) When did you first consider yourself a writer?

JL: I began writing even before I learned the alphabet. I used to sit at the dining room table of my childhood home and fill up whole pages with elaborate curlicues in an effort to imitate real writing. I was so eager to get going, I even made up my own language (understandable only to me) before I was in first grade. Later, I was writing poems, plays, short stories, lyrics, letters. But it wasn't until I was well into my 30's when I actually began to consider myself a writer. That was when I first began to understand the mysterious connection between the stories that I was compelled to tell and the story that I was living.

2) What inspired you to write Virgin Territory?

JL: I wanted to write about faith, how it works, what it's function is in the lives of ordinary people. I was also very interested to examine the reasons why people are drawn to believe in things that are believed in and yet unseen. So often people put their faith in things and people and institutions that are outside themselves. For me, the greatest leap of faith that is required of anyone is the leap that takes us back to our Selves (big S) and lands us smack int he middle of our own truth.

3) If you had to describe your book in one word, what would it be and why?

JL: Again, I'd have to say FAITH. But not the blind faith that organized religion sometimes requires of us, but the faith that comes when we learn to trust in ourselves and in our own lives, pure and simple.

4) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Virgin Territory?

JL: Writing is ALWAYS a process of discovery, and I don't think a story would be meaningful if it wasn't filled with surprises. But perhaps the most surprising thing I learned this time around was that a story doesn't always come right away. In this case I had to keep scratching away until I found the truest form and structure of the story. Fortunately, I have a genius editor in Laura Geringer and one of the most brilliant of agents, Bill Clegg. Their guidance and encouragement was invaluable in finding the story and staying the course until it was told.

5) Out of all the books you've written, which one is your favorite?

JL: I am always partial to whatever it is that I've most recently created. Whether it's a novel, a play or a screenplay, every story I make carries with it the imprint of the my most current dilemma, as well as the solution to that dilemma. For me, writing is about sharing that struggle with others in a way that engages us both thoroughly.

6) Do you have any other projects you're currently working on?

Duncan Sheik (SPRING AWAKENING) is working on a new musical called WHISPER HOUSE. He and his collaborator, Kyle Jarrow, approached me about possibly writing a book based on the show -- sort of the way that Dave Eggers wrote THE WHILD THINGS based on the both the film WHERE THE WILD THINGS and the original Maurice Sendak book. In brief, it's the story of a young boy whose father was killed in World War II, and his mother has kind of gone crazy, so he's sent to live with his aunt on the coast of Maine. She lives in a lighthouse -- which is haunted. The ghosts are the embodiments of all his fears but also all of his desires; having lost his parents and living in this remote place, he turns to them and learns some dark lessons about what it means to be alive. If you click onto the website ( and then onto the light of the LIGHTHOUSE you can hear some of Duncan's original music and see some of the animation that has already been created.

7) Besides being an actor, activist and writer, what else do you like to do in your free time?

JL: Free time? That would be for my friends. And my dog, Sophie.

8) I see you co-founded the Trevor Helpline, can you tell us a little about it?

JL: Back in 1994, I wrote a short film called TREVOR. It's a charming and funny and touching 16 minute film about a 13-year-old boy who realizes that he's gay and then tries to kill himself. When we sold it to HBO for broadcast, we decided to put a telephone number at the end so that if any teen out there recognized him or herself, they would have a place to call. But we soon learned that there was no nationwide 24 hour suicide prevention helpline designed for Gay, lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning youth. And so we created THE TREVOR PROJECT. That was 13 years ago, and we've been growing ever since, providing not only an ear to listen 24/7, but also an online presence with TREVORSPACE and Trevor Chat and various in school programs designed for both teens and educators. It's a miracle.

9) How did it feel when 'Trevor' received an Academy Award for best short film?

JL: Amazed. For me, it was the actual proof that I'd been looking for, proof that a powerful story, if told well and truly, could actually find its way in the world and make a difference. The creation of the TREVOR PROJECT only made it more real to me. Stories matter and they have the ability to change the world.

10) Do you have anything to say to all your present and future readers?

Thank you! I'm so excited to be able to create these stories and send them out into the world. Whenever I get an email from anywhere from someone thanking me for ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS or for TREVOR, or for any of the stories I've created, I am so grateful that I have done something that would inspire another person, a stranger, to reach out. This is what I hope my stories would do -- expand the possibilities and create dialogue.

Visit The Trevor Project HERE

Check out this touching video of Broadway singers coming together to support The Trevor Project by responding to the recent, tragic suicides across the nation.


AtenRa @ Just Another Book Blog said...

Great interview,Eleni!Virgin Territory sure sounds very interesting!

Cynthia said...

Wow, great interview. I hadn't heard about this book but I will be looking for it now. =)

Enbrethiliel said...


I just read Virgin Territory a few weeks ago, so I was especially interested in this interview. Thanks, Eleni. =)

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