Welcome to the Investigating Julius Drake blog tour!
I’m Daisy, the author, and I’ll be sharing excerpts from the book, as well as extra information about the characters, location and story. Up until recently, Seattle was my home town, and I’ve stolen plenty of locations and institutions as settings for Investigating Julius Drake. Together, we’ll take a tour through the twisty-turny, damp and caffeine-addled world that my protagonist, Henry Walker, finds himself in.
Grab yourself a double, almond, split-shot, extra-foam latte, pull up a chair, and join us!
And don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a $30 Starbucks gift card. Drink like a Seattleite and enjoy.
The Sherlock Connection: Benedict Cumberbatch and Julius Drake
In writing my first young adult novel, investigating Julius Drake, started with a question: What would Sherlock Holmes have been like as a teenager? If you watched the 1980’s movie, Young Sherlock Holmes, you’d believe that the boy genius was gleefully solving crimes along with grown up detectives by middle school. Young Sherlock circa 1985 had no self-doubt, no confusion. He was sassy and confident, a leader among boys. He was also straight—a quality that I saw neither in the original Sherlock Holmes nor in Benedict Cumberbatch’s re-imagining of the character. When I tried to imagine what the famous detective would have been like as a boy, my picture was quite different. After all, Sherlock Holmes, as we know from the books, struggles with drug addiction. He doesn’t know how to make friends and may not even want them. By the time Sherlock is an adult, he’s built a wall around himself and his defenses are impenetrable. But as a teenager, the bricks would not yet have been laid. What would it really have been like for a genius with low social engagement in 9th grade? My guess was it would have been pretty bleak.
When my main character, Henry Walker, meets Julius, the latter has just been through yet another round of assessment and diagnoses at the hands of his parents’ doctors. And it’s not just Julius’ parents who think there’s something wrong with him. Julius is weird. He seems weird, he acts weird, and his parents are always trying to figure out why he is weird. But as Julius points out later, his only failing is being much smarter than everyone around him.
And what sounds like boasting may actually be the truth. Extremely smart people can seem unusual. They see things others don’t, and remember things others can’t. As an adult, a smart person understands that not everyone processes the world as efficiently as they do. But as a toddler, school kid, and teen, this reality would be incredibly frustrating. Imagine a world where you see things others don’t, and ideas are clear to you that others don’t understand? You might think you were a little crazy. Certainly, others might think you were very odd.
Maybe that’s why so many books and movies are about misunderstood geniuses. On a basic level, anyone who’s unusually smart will have trouble finding others who understand them. Julius Drake starts my story having no one who fits the bill. (Even his nanny doesn’t understand him, though she does love him unconditionally.) In Henry Walker, Julius finds a boy who finally wants to figure him out. Even if some aspects of Julius will always be a mystery to Henry, he wants to learn more about this fascinating mystery of a boy. And that’s more than Julius has ever had before.
Though Julius Drake differs from Sherlock Holmes in many ways, I did use Benedict Cumberbatch as inspiration for Julius’ looks. Likewise, I based aspects of Henry’s appearance and demeanor on the impeccable Martin Freeman. But while I started out writing a type of young Sherlock Holmes story, I ended up with more of a love story. Then again, what is Sherlock Holmes, really, but a love letter written by Dr. Watson to the object of his affection?
I hope you all will take the time to read about Henry, Julius and their adventure. And don’t forget to comment below for a chance to win our fabulous prize!
After arriving at Seattle’s prestigious Clinton Academy, fourteen-year-old Henry Walker realizes he won’t fit in. If he’s going to run with the rich and powerful, he’ll have to hide his modest background, his lack of interest in girls, and most importantly, his fascination with his handsome but troubled classmate Julius Drake.
When Julius draws Henry into the investigation of a classmate’s suicide attempt, Henry can’t resist the case—or Julius. Soon, Henry’s not only facing the truth about his feelings for Julius, but also risking his life to unmask a social media imposter. “The Other Woman” is manipulating his classmates, searching out their vulnerabilities, and driving them to desperate actions. Julius himself is at risk, what with his callous parents threatening to send him away, and his mental health taking a beating both at school and at home.
If Henry’s going to save the day and get the boy of his dreams, he’ll have to stop worrying what everyone thinks and stop pretending to be someone he’s not. Most of all, Henry will have to be honest about who he loves.
Available from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/investigating-julius-drake
“It’s not every day you find out you’re a psychopath.”
That was the first thing Julius Drake said to me. I’d noticed him already—kind of hard not to when he was sitting next to me in Clinton Academy’s reception area. Though I’d seen a few people on my way through the building, he was the only one I’d had a chance to take a good, hard look at.
He was wearing a black button-up shirt with black jeans and his hair was cut into a bob that reached his chin. He’d tucked the left side behind his ear. The curtain of hair on the right fell across his eye and cheek.
“Pretty weird, man.” I put my hand on my knee to stop it from bouncing. “You think this because . . .?” Often I’d wondered if there was something wrong with me too. In my case, it was because my mom had a habit of looking at me sideways when she thought I didn’t notice.
“Life is much simpler if your parents aren’t friends with neurosurgeons,” Julius said in an offhand manner, to nobody in particular. He opened a giant manila folder at his feet and pulled out a grainy picture. “Does this look like the brain of a psychopath to you?”
Blobs of white and gray formed something akin to a brain shape, but it wasn’t like I had any medical training, so I just shrugged. “No?”
“Psychopath is an ill-defined term anyway. Correlations between behavior and brain function are not one-to-one,” he said so quickly I had a hard time keeping up. “They used to believe primarily the amygdala was involved, along with the orbitofrontal cortex. But now—”
“Julius?” A woman came out of an office, clipboard in her arms. She was about two-thirds the height of most women. Pretty, and with a kind face. “The doctor is ready to see you.”
“Dr. Cochow is always five minutes late,” Julius said nervously into the air. “Five to seven minutes, depending on the day. It’s usually longer on Friday.” He might have said this to me, or to the lady with the clipboard. I had no way of knowing.
“Well, bye.” I waved, like an idiot.
Julius walked away.
The woman gave me a quick smile. Maybe she was apologizing for Julius’s awkwardness—if you could call it that. More likely she felt sorry for the poor country hick waiting for his mother to sign him up for the semester.
I checked the knees of my jeans, wishing I could rub out the grass stains. No amount of washing could make them look new. And even if they were fresh from the package from Walmart, I’d seem out of place at Clinton.
It wasn’t like private schools in the movies—no stained glass or spiraling staircases or giant marble sculptures. Like my old school in Killeen, Texas, Clinton’s corridors were wide and flat. But where Killeen Junior High’s walls were dingy and its lockers tagged with graffiti, Clinton shined like it had been built yesterday. The graffiti was confined to little posters advertising after-school activities.
Maybe Clinton Academy was trying to keep it real by allowing these tiny areas of chaos amidst an overwhelming sea of order.
“Sorry, Henry. Took me forever to find the ladies’ room.” Mom bustled through the door, dressed like a homeless person in the same clothes she’d worn to paint our apartment when we first got to town.
My face went hot, and I felt like a traitor. “’S’okay.”
“You have no idea how nice the bathrooms are here. They have these hand-dryer machines that are supposed to be good for the environment. Low-flow toilets and everything.”
The receptionist cracked a smile, and all I could think was, Shoot me now.
“Mom, I’m gonna be late.” Generally, I wasn’t in a rush to get to class, but I didn’t want to be seen with my mother any more than I had to.
“Oh. Yes.” Mom pulled her backpack off her shoulder and dug through it to find my paperwork.
No matter what she was looking for, it would inevitably be at the bottom, under her spare sweatshirt, emergency bag of trail mix, laptop computer, and half ton of assorted stuff. I held my breath, wishing she’d be done sooner.
“Here!” She held up the papers in triumph, and then leaned on the counter with my forms. Her backpack lay open, threatening to drop a tampon or some other humiliating item on the floor.
“Thank you.” The receptionist read the forms. “Henry Walker? Welcome to Clinton Academy.” I wondered if she acted differently around students who paid full tuition. Clinton only offered a few scholarship spots and the military dependents one was the most coveted. My dad had gotten teary over Skype the day Mom and I told him I’d won. I hated making him cry when he was in Afghanistan, even if it was happy crying. I liked it better when we talked about football scores.
“Here’s your class list,” the woman said.
“Thanks.” I read through it, chewing my lip in the hope that the classes wouldn’t be too hard. They had weird names for topics. Instead of “History” like I would have had in Texas, it was “Historical Inquiry.” For my language I had “Spanish Culture, Language, and Interpretation.”
The door at the side of the room opened, and Julius walked out, eyes straight ahead. In the light slanting through the window, he was pale. Not oh-my-God-he’s-a-vampire pale, but maybe too-many-video-games pale. A mirror ran along the room, reflecting the late-summer sunshine outside the window. It picked up highlights in Julius’s hair. God, was I staring? Or worse—doing something weird with my hands?
I guess Julius didn’t register my attention, because he kept walking, head upright and shoulders thrown back. “First period starts at eight fifteen.” He announced it to the room in general.
“Yeah. Uh. Maybe I’ll see you in class?”
He ignored me as he left.
* * * * * * *
By far the most surprising thing about Clinton was that the teachers wanted to be called by their first names. I’d lived in a couple of places before Killeen: Japan when I was little, though I didn’t remember it. Also Kentucky, which I remembered, but wish I didn’t. So I knew people did things differently depending on where they lived. Still, asking Steve whether he wanted our Shakespeare essays double-spaced made me squirm.
“If you have any questions, feel free to email me,” Steve called out at the end of class. He wore hiking pants, hippie sandals, and an honest-to-God polar fleece vest. Teacher or not, he appeared more ready to go camping than to hand out reading lists. I’d heard about the outdoorsy style of Seattle before I moved here, but it was beyond strange to see it up close.
I didn’t get tripped in the hall between first and second period, which was nice. No taunts about being the new kid, either. Nor teasing about the accent I was doing my best to hide. The people might have been wearing clothes that could have come off a particularly granola fashion runway, but they ignored my generic T-shirt and Wranglers, which for the first day was probably the best I could expect.
One girl took pity on me, looking my way at the end of second period. She had kinky brown hair and a skin tone that pegged her as not quite white, but not necessarily anything else. Her glasses were the kind with thick, hipster frames that always made me regret having 20/20 vision, though I couldn’t have pulled them off as well as she did.
“Hey,” she leaned across the space between desks to whisper. “Welcome to Clinton.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” I glanced around, wondering if she had a boyfriend she was trying to make jealous. Sometimes girls did that, used me to rile some other guy. No one was staring, though.
“I’m Bethany. Let me know if you need help finding anything.”
“Thanks.” I kept my head down, not making eye contact. See, Bethany was being nice, but she was also . . . Well, she was one of those girls who looked older than she was. I couldn’t tell all the details because she was sitting down, but she seemed to have the proportions of a grown woman even though we were only fourteen. Girls like that could go one of two ways, in my experience. They either treated me like their kid or their boyfriend. I didn’t mind the first, but the second always freaked me out.
When our Historical Inquiry teacher Marjory told us we could leave, Bethany hung out by my desk. “So, how are you liking school so far?”
Other people were packing their book bags and furtively checking their cell phones. Those were supposed to be in lockers, per Clinton Academy’s handbook, but Marjory was clearly pretending not to notice.
“Only been here a couple hours.”
“True, I guess.” She followed me to the door. “Marjory said you came from Texas. This must be a change.”
We headed into the hallway, which was painted a faded-moss color.
“Yeah. A bit.” There were too many differences to count. First off, everything in Seattle was green. Wherever Mom drove me, there was a park or a gully full of trees. Even the water was a greenish-gray. Then there was the fact that there was water literally everywhere. Mom and I must have driven over a dozen bridges.
I wasn’t going to list all that for Bethany, though. “So it rains a lot here, huh?”
She cocked her eyebrows. “Yeah. But it’s a dry rain.”
Most likely, she expected me to laugh. So I snorted, hoping to sound cool instead of dorky.
Classes were a lot closer together in this building than they had been in my junior high. We got to the next classroom before I came up with anything else to say. Down the hall, I spotted Julius. Lame as it was, I hung around with Bethany outside the classroom door.
I didn’t know why I cared if he talked to me. He was only one kid, and there were two hundred in the freshman class alone. But there was something about Julius that set him apart. Or maybe it was just that other than Bethany, he was the only person who’d paid attention to me so far.
“Ah. Julius Drake,” Bethany sighed. “He’s hot, huh?”
I cleared my throat, because that was not what I’d been thinking, and I certainly hadn’t been looking. And I really wished Bethany hadn’t noticed. “That guy?” I tried to play it cool. “I guess.”
“Too bad he’s a little . . . off.” Clearing her throat, she touched my arm. “We should get into class.”
* * * * * * *
I suspected Bethany wouldn’t let me out of her clutches for lunch, and I was right. As soon as Roberto, who was redheaded despite his Spanish-sounding name, told the Spanish class we could go, Bethany was at my side and not-so-subtly steering me out the door. Her shoulder was a couple of inches lower than mine, and she kept jostling me as we walked.
“You have to get to the cafeteria early or the only tables left are by the compost and recycling bins. Where’s your locker? Do you need to get your lunch or are you on the meal plan?”
I sighed with relief, glad to not have to sit alone in the cafeteria. “I’ve got a lunch packed.” I patted my backpack, which weighed a ton since I hadn’t risked leaving anything in my locker. The almond butter and jelly sandwich Mom had made me (because Clinton had a ban on regular peanut butter) was still in the outer pocket.
“Great. You can save us a seat.” She pulled a sleek, white iPhone out of her backpack and texted something. “Me and Thea are on the meal plan. I don’t know about Kevin.”
I hadn’t met those people yet, but I assumed they were Bethany’s friends.
Walking down the hall with my first and only friend at Clinton, I finally dared to make eye contact with other people. The girls sometimes smiled, but the boys who looked up did so with disinterest, like I was a type of sushi they didn’t want passing by on a conveyor belt. I was used to that. I’d always been closer with girls than guys.
“Okay.” Bethany stopped at the doors to the cafeteria. “Let’s see what’s left.”
The lunchroom was smaller than what I was used to, but no quieter. People milled everywhere, but only the ones who’d already found seats were relaxed enough to stand around talking. Between them, those with trays marched, eyes darting from side to side as they searched.
“Want me to nab us spots?” I hitched my backpack higher on my shoulder. I might not be dressed to climb a mountain like some people, but I could speed-walk in my Converse.
“Yeah. But four seats if you can. All together.” Bethany bit at the edge of her fingernail like she didn’t think I was up to the task. Either that, or she was worried some other girl would nab me on my way through the cafeteria and she wouldn’t have anyone to boss around.
“I’ll find something.” I headed into the throng. After all, I’d had enough hand-holding that morning with my mother.
The place was an obstacle course, but I had the advantage, because unlike most people, I didn’t have a tray to balance.
In the corner, I saw an empty table—near the bathrooms, but wide open. The guys in front of it were all standing around their own table, slapping hands and hugging, with girlfriends hanging off their well-developed arms. Upperclassmen, from the look of it, and they had the vibe of a sports team. I swept around them and tossed my backpack onto a chair.
I plopped into a seat, putting my legs up and daring anyone to come and steal my prize. One or two of the sports guys gave me the hairy eyeball—probably annoyed to have to sit next to a freshman.
Not that it mattered. I came, I saw, and I grabbed four seats in a foreign lunchroom. Plus, I’d already spotted Bethany walking in my direction, tray in hand and followed by a couple of people I’d seen in the hallways.
“Hey.” I waved, but I didn’t get up. Why bother when I looked so cool having succeeded in my first independent mission?
“Hi.” Bethany glanced nervously at the sports team but came to sit next to me anyway. “Thanks for getting us a place.”
Bethany’s friends sat across from us, as far from the sports table as the seats would allow.
“This is Thea and Kevin.” Bethany pointed to them.
“Nice to meetcha.” Thea jutted her chin my way, then settled into her plate of brown rice, vegetables, and some blobs I guessed were tofu. Between her no-nonsense blonde braids and her close-fitting soccer jersey, she seemed to be projecting her status as a jock.
Kevin, on the other hand, was mousy. Shorter and skinnier than me, he wore his brown hair slightly longer than Julius. While on Julius, the look was rebellious, Kevin just seemed unkempt.
I pulled my sandwich and Capri Sun out of my backpack. At my old school, bringing your own lunch was a status symbol. Only people who had no choice would want to eat the junk they served in Killeen Junior High’s cafeteria. Clinton clearly didn’t work that way. Very few students carried brown paper bags or lunch bags. The rest must have had parents who could afford the meal plan.
“So, uh, did y’all go to Clinton for junior high?” I asked, my accent kicking up out of nervousness.
“Thea came the last year of elementary.” Bethany managed to get words in around bites of leaves and sprouts. “Kevin came in seventh, but I’ve been here forever. Longer than most of the staff.” Bethany looked past Thea’s shoulder.
I followed her line of sight and noticed Julius walking through the cafeteria. He carried a paper bag on top of a tray.
“Hi, Julius!” Bethany smiled. She seemed unbothered when he didn’t respond.
Julius knocked on the door marked Maintenance. “Hello?”
I expected Bethany or one of the other people to snicker. But the only person to call Julius out was a girl at the table next to us.
“What’re you doing, freak?” She was older, either a junior or a senior, with short hair, almost like a boy’s. Her slender body and pixie features gave her the kind of high-end androgyny you normally saw in fashion models.
To my surprise, Julius sent the girl a narrow-eyed sneer.
The door Julius had been knocking on opened, and a man stuck his head outside. “Hello?” He had a heavy Spanish accent and wore a janitor’s uniform.
“Marcos. I need a favor.” His eyes were focused, almost feverish. Whatever was going on with him seemed different and exciting, and I found myself wishing that I could be part of it.
“You’re staring,” Bethany pointed out.
“Oh. Yeah.” I went back to my sandwich, less enthralled by it by the second. Maybe I was losing my appetite or maybe it was just that I couldn’t quite figure out what Julius was saying.
“Did you get Postcolonial Theory as an elective this semester?” Thea leaned across the table to compare schedules with Bethany.
“Yeah. With Fatima. I hear she’s good,” Bethany rattled.
Torn as I was between pretending to listen to Bethany’s conversation and trying to hear Julius’s, I didn’t notice the tall and disturbingly broad guy in a letterman’s jacket until he was right behind me. He cast a shadow over my lunch.
“Hey. You the kid who nabbed the second senior table?”
I walked my gaze up as slowly as I dared, trying to determine if he was friend or foe. Or maybe more accurately, how bad of a foe.
Short-clipped, dirty-blond hair. Wide-set stance. Jaw like a rhino’s. To make matters worse, his friends the next table over were laughing like Christmas had come early.
“Um . . . yeah?” If those guys were his friends, they could have told me the seats were taken. Heck, Bethany could have tipped me off that I’d sat at an upperclassmen table.
I widened my eyes at her. Bethany’s terrified expression said that she hadn’t tricked me or withheld information to get me picked on. Still, I was going to give her a piece of my mind when we got out of there.
“You don’t seem like the type to rock the boat, kid.” The guy crossed his arms and pasted on a smile like a pit bull trying to be friendly. “But I’ll give you a little lesson for free: this is our table. Get out of here and we’ll call it even.”
I wished the other people at my table weren’t studying their lunches like they thought their kale would grow legs and run away. I could have used a hint as to how to answer. “There are a couple free seats. I said, “You could sit on that side.”
My dad always said it was best to negotiate, rather than give in immediately to an enemy’s demands. I suspected his advice worked better when one had the might of the United States Army behind him, instead of a couple girls and a guy who looked like he’d off himself if he could find the right sound track.
“Out. Now.” The guy jerked his thumb.
Kevin scampered from his seat. One by one, the girls excused themselves. I couldn’t roll like that. Not at a brand-new school. If I was going to have any kind of reputation, now was the time to defend it. Teeth gritted, I held my ground.
Born into the psychedelic wonder that was the seventies, Daisy Harris has had an interesting life so far. She’s been to Catholic school and Ramones concerts, danced to MC Hammer and Flo Rida, made the honor roll and Phi Beta Kappa, survived cholera, faced bed bugs, and she’s been a hair’s breadth from shipwreck twice. (Three times, if you count sea kayaks!)
Daisy has been a lifelong reader, devouring romance, young adult, urban fantasy, and nonfiction alike. In her professional life, she’s written medical copy and edited scientific papers. However, since 2012, she’s devoted her energy to writing gay romance full-time. That’s okay, because now on the weekends she reads medical studies for fun.
As far as Daisy’s concerned, the best things in life happen by accident. Though she’s gotten better at planning over the years, she still writes, lives, and plays by the seat of her pants. Her books are a happy mix of mysteries, romantic comedies, and coming-of-age stories, more often than not inspired by the great films of the 1980s.
Daisy lives in Seattle in a house full of dogs and children. When she’s not writing gay fiction, she can be found riding her exercise bike and testing the outer boundaries of her food processor’s potential. Every once in a while, she goes out to pay homage to the party gods of her youth—and maybe to find a little trouble.
To celebrate the release of Investigating Julius Drake, one lucky winner will receive a $30 Starbucks Gift Card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 8, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!