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Author Talk: Aaron Hartzler, Author of RAPTURE PRACTICE

In this author talk, author Aaron Hartzler discusses his debut novel RAPTURE PRACTICE, his memoir about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family and when he became to question his identity in high school. Learn how he began writing his memoir, what advice he would give his teenaged self and little hints about what his life has become after high school.

Q: What are you trying to say with this book?

A: 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.

Q: Who is this book 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.

Q: When did you start writing this book?

This book grew out of writing I did as an actor. When I got to L.A. from grad school, I started doing 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 23 years, though I didn't start trying to write it as a book until about seven years ago.
I have so many friends and creative opportunities that I could never have imagined for myself. All of them are a direct result of telling my story as honestly as I could and being as authentic as possible. The things I went through as a kid and a teenager might have seemed hard at the time, but I can see now how they made me who I am --- and I really like the man that I grew up to be. 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.

Q: What do your parents think about this book?

A: I don't know what my parents think about the book. 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 to be a parade, not a baseball bat.

Q: What are you doing with your life today?

A: Professionally, I mainly write --- currently books and screenplays --- but I still act from time to time. I did a friend's play in New York the summer before last, and I'm up for a part in a movie this summer.
Personally, I have a found the kind of love that makes your stomach do handsprings! 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 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 arts.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.