Thursday, August 17, 2017

Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan Blog Tour

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten college to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

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A Note from the Author

Thanks for having me here today! I wanted to talk to you about my latest release, Antisocial. Antisocial is a new adult gay and asexual romance set in a fictional college in upstate New York between a one-percenter fraternity boy and a highly antisocial artist. One encounter with Xander Fairchild’s artwork is enough to turn Skylar Stone’s carefully orchestrated life upside down, unlacing his secrets and inviting him into a secret anime-soaked world with a new set of friends.

There are a number of pop culture and Japanese culture references in the story, and one of those references are to a Shinto god named Fudō Myōō. Fudō Myōō, often referred to as Fudō-sama in Japan, is the Japanese version of the Buddhist god Acala. He is the god who is the remover of obstacles, the remover of impediments as we travel toward our enlightenment. He’s one of the five wisdom kings, but because of his frightening appearance it’s easy to associate him more with war than wisdom. His expression is always one of extreme wrath, his forehead wrinkled, eyes squinted or looking askance. He always has a sword and a coil of rope, and he’s framed in fire, usually painted red—this is what will burn away impediments.  He can terrify gods and men and destroy demons, ghosts, and evil spirits.

Fudō-sama is still worshipped in Japan today and has several temples and shrines throughout Asia as Fudō-sama and as Acala. Those who wish to dedicate themselves to Fudō-sama go into rigorous training in the outdoors, often in the mountains, usually carrying a small Acala statue or talisman.

In Antisocial, Fudō-sama is a celebrated main character in the school’s literary magazine, in a manga produced within that publication. Xander is also teased by everyone as being their own Fudō Myōō, always present with a scowl, but he’s also a quiet remover of obstacles as well, once he climbs out of his shell.

I love the energy of Fudō-sama. I don’t have an official Acala statue, but I do have an absolutely wonderful Funko figure of him, which, that there is a Funko figure of a Japanese god makes my life so much more complete. If ever there were a religion and a god that would say, “Yes, go ahead, make a chibi version of this,” it would be Fudō and Shinto. Because he’s a tough guy, yes, but he’s not a bastard. He’s a servant to the people at the end of the day. He wants to help humanity, however it works best. And if it takes a Funko to get the job done, sure.

Here’s a little video I found about Fudō Myōō—a little sampling with some more images and further detail. I hope you find it enlightening, and I hope you enjoy reading about Fudō-sama in Antisocial as well!

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a beautiful new adult story about two young men attempting to grow into their adult selves. At the start of this book, Skylar and Xander exist on opposite sides of university student life. While Xander is reclusive, angry, and obsessed with his art, Skylar hides in plain view behind his money, his fraternity and his perfect smile. When Skylar and Xander meet, they are surprised by the interests they share and the friendship that develops.

This is a book about perception and reality, the conflict between passion and duty, and a story about the power of relationships that don’t conform to social expectations. With at least one of the main characters identifying on the ace or grey-ace spectrum, this story sensitively explores romance without typical sexual intimacy. With such heavy themes and ideas, this should have been a dark, difficult book – but it really isn’t. Something about the cast of new adult characters makes this a hopeful, happy book. These kids still have time to change their futures and to grow into the best versions of themselves.

The romance between Skylar and Xander builds very slowly. It takes time for Skylar to even win Xander’s friendship. Xander is a private person who doesn’t trust easily. Interestingly, Skylar ends up having more secrets than Xander does. Instead of the buildup sexual tension we’ve come to expect in romance writing, Xander and Skylar’s relationship builds on their cerebral connection, their shared passions, and their shared confidences. At times, this relationship felt much more intimate than a typical sexual relationship.

The Japanese culture, language, and art in this story had me conflicted. On one hand, the manga in this book is something that brings Xander, Skylar, and their friends together and it provides Xander and Skylar with a shared focus. On the other hand, the obsession with all things Japanese is a little bit odd. The shared interest reinforces the students’ outsider status but I did get lost at times in long passages about gods and characters I didn’t quite understand.

I have read and loved so many different types of books by Heidi Cullinan. She is one of my favourite authors and I love the diversity in her books. This story is probably closest in style and intensity to her very special ‘Roosevelt’ books. More than a new adult romance, this is a coming of age story and Xander, Skylar, and their friends are unique and wonderfully crafted characters.

What an amazing story, major book hangover here. Such depth, such intensity, and such profound issues dealt with in a truly gentle, caring, and genuine way, mainly by the two men, but also by many of those around them. The struggle, the love, the disappointments, all described so effectively and shared with us in such well curated writing. I am not a manga fan, yet found myself writing down names to look up and research, so that I can see whether my imagination conjured up the right types of images.

Whilst this is written about college students, they are somehow so mature due to their experiences, yet so innocent in their sexuality. An incredibly arresting mix of serious and then sometimes playful – much like the description of the wave painting... the message is not what you might first imagine, and the richness comes from the attitude of the fishermen, maybe not the impact of the wave.

Give yourself plenty of time to read this book, because it is a weighty read, but I did not find a word which was unnecessary (and I am picky) in the telling of the story. This is for sure now in my special books to be reread pile, because I know I will find it even more rewarding on a second read, when I am not so desperate to know what happens next, but visiting old friends.

Thank you, Ms. Cullinan, thank you.

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family.
Find out more about Heidi on her website.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan to read and review for this tour.


  1. I definitely enjoyed learning about the things you shared in your posts. It broaden my knowledge about cultures & traditions of other countries which I really enjoy doing. ^_^


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