In 2011, a novel concept came to mind: a Christian middle-school student who harbored an attraction to the same gender. Facets of his struggle tugged at my heart: his fears, his faith, his feelings of guilt, the hits to his self-esteem. At that point, though, I wouldn’t have had the courage to write a book about him. So I shelved the idea.
Fast-forward one year. During book work one night, a television news story caught my attention. It revolved around the plight of a high school student, about 15 years old, who was on the verge of suicide. He was gay and had paid for it as the target of endless bullying.
He’d reached his breaking point and posted a video online. Too exhausted and hurt to speak, he’d written his words in black marker on sheets of paper. Page by page, he flipped through each phrase of his plea for help. Tears streamed from his eyes.
My heart broke for that kid. Nobody that age should know what it’s like to feel that kind of pain. Between These Walls went into action.
I wanted as many individuals as possible to find the book accessible. So I took my initial character idea—the Christian middle school student—and doubled his age. That brought my protagonist, Hunter Carlisle, into early adulthood. To capture the struggles and vulnerability of his teenage years, I wove his memories into the story’s fabric.
I’ve long believed more people deal with same-sex attraction than we assume. Therefore, I constructed Hunter as a classic, all-American male in terms of his appearance and behavior. That gave him a place to hide. No one suspects a thing.
I selected the name Hunter to call to mind a hunter-gatherer image. Hunter’s name symbolizes his attributes and interests, yet belies his deepest secret, one rooted in fear that has tormented him since childhood.
Finally, I aimed to tell Hunter’s story in a way that helps readers find points of commonality with him, even if they haven’t shared his experience. I tried to usher readers into Hunter’s psyche, to experience his emotions and inner fire, the truth that lurks beneath his confident exterior. A story behind the story.
About the Book
The latest release by best-selling novelist John Herrick, Between These Walls is an extraordinary tale featuring an unforgettable protagonist, Hunter Carlisle.
About Between These Walls: At 26 years old, Hunter Carlisle has a successful sales career, a devoted girlfriend, and a rock-solid faith. But Hunter also guards a secret torment: an attraction to other men. When a career plunge causes muscle tension, Hunter seeks relief through Gabe Hellman, a handsome massage therapist. What begins as friendship takes a sudden turn and forces the two friends to reconsider the boundaries of attraction. Along the road to self-discovery, Hunter’s secret is exposed to the community. Now Hunter must face the demons of his past and confront his long-held fears about reputation, sexual identity, and matters of soul.
A story about fear and faith, grace and redemption, Between These Walls braves the crossroads of love and religion to question who we are—and who we will become.
A graduate of the University of Missouri—Columbia, John Herrick explores themes of spiritual journey and the human heart in his works. Herrick’s debut novel, From the Dead,which was hailed as “a solid debut novel” by the Akron Beacon Journal, achieved Amazon best-seller status. Herrick’s second novel, The Landing, was named a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Herrick’s nonfiction eBook, 8 Reasons Your Life Matters, received over 100,000 downloads and landed at #1 on Amazon’s Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration best-seller lists. John Herrick is a native of St. Louis.
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