INTERVIEW: Zack Smedley – Author of “Deposing Nathan”

Cover design by Meg BaskisDeposing Nathan: For sixteen years, Nate was the perfect son—the product of a no-nonsense upbringing and deep spiritual faith. Then he met Cam, who pushed him to break rules, dream, and accept himself. Conflicted, Nate began to push back. With each push, the boys became more entangled in each others’ worlds…but they also spiraled closer to their breaking points. And now all of it has fallen apart after a fistfight-turned-near-fatal-incident—one that’s left Nate with a stab wound and Cam in jail.

Now Nate is being ordered to give a statement, under oath, that will send his best friend to prison. The problem is, the real story of what happened between them isn’t as simple as anyone thinks. With all eyes on him, Nate must make his confessions about what led up to that night with Cam…and in doing so, risk tearing both of their lives apart.

When I first read the premise of “Deposing Nathan” I thought it would be interesting. What I didn’t count on was how long it would stick with me after I read the last few pages through my tears. I review a lot of books, I like a lot of them. This particular book has stuck with me long after that final page. I’ve read it three times already and I plan to read it again when my copy shows up. I will read it again and I will pass it on to someone else who needs to read it.

Sometimes, the right book finds you. “Deposing Nathan” goes on sale today!

I was lucky enough to connect with author, Zack Smedley on Twitter. When I asked if he would answer some questions about his debut novel, “Deposing Nathan” he was pleased to do so. Enjoy!

Charlotte: From the first moment Cam and Nathan meet, there’s a push and pull. Cam is already challenging him moments after they meet, was that intentional? While I was reading, I wondered if Cam and Nathan were like Science and religion…

Zack: Absolutely intentional. One of the fundamental themes of this story is the colliding of opposites. (Adults vs. teenagers; science vs. religion…etc.) I like to say the whole book is “one giant argument.” And yes, I think it’s fair to say Cam starts off as more “science”, whereas Nate starts as more “religion.” But at the same time, one of the first things Cam says is that the two can (and do) coexist, whereas Nate is more absolutist about it. So I’d characterize Cam as being “fiercely moderate.”

Charlotte: It feels like Nathan is struggling with everything. The joint project he works on with Cam has the title, “Adapt, Migrate or Die.” It felt like such a huge message to Nathan even though it was only brought up a couple of times. Do you think that’s what life comes down to?

Zack: That’s so cool that you noticed that! There are a lot of small, similar allusions in there that I doubt will get much attention, but…yes, that mantra is a significant part of not only Nate’s personality, but every character’s. They’re all just trying to handle their own situations, right? No one is out to hurt each other, but they’re all trying to adapt (and, as Nate points out, none of them are good at it). “Adapt, Migrate or Die” appears twice in the text, and—without getting into spoilers—the two instances have very different implications. As for me personally, I do think life can be boiled down to “Adapt, Migrate or Die,” but more importantly, I think the challenge we all face is to decide when to migrate and when to adapt.

Charlotte: Cam’s memory is perfectly detailed, Nathan loses some of his memories at some point. Was it a conscious decision to balance the two characters this way?

Zack: Yep! Memory is a fascinating concept to me, and it functions as a huge symbol here. The irony is that this whole story is told from Nate’s memory, yet Cam is the one who remembers everything. This is also one of the many rifts between them…Cam explains how lonely it feels to be the only one to remember shared experiences. Nate makes several gestures to try to “join” him with this, but this arc doesn’t reach its conclusion until the end, in the form of the very last thing Nate says to Cam.

Charlotte: Cam nudges Nathan towards things that make him happy: dancing, looking at the stars, talking – has Nathan become so caught up in what’s expected of him – that he’s lost sight of what he thinks and feels?

Zack: Hm, that’s a good question. Per the synopsis, Nate is the dutiful son who rarely sets a toe out of line. Growing up, this was me (to a MUCH lesser extent). My parents are two of the kindest people to walk this earth, and they’ve always showered me with love and support. But between my Catholic school upbringing and insular mindset, I WAS that kid who sometimes acted like they were “allergic to fun.” And the thing about being that kid is…you don’t FEEL like you’re that kid. You don’t watch a friend let loose on the dance floor and roll your eyes. Secretly, you ache for the ability to let go so completely. You think, “if only that were in the cards for me.” So that’s what I kept in mind when writing Nate…I didn’t want to write a terse caricature who thumbs his nose at self-expression. He’s a real teenager who’s well aware of what he wants for his own life. Having faith that he can realistically achieve that…there’s the hard part. 

Charlotte: Cam says he doesn’t think it’s possible “to love someone and be afraid of them at the same time.” Many people argue that some organized religion attempts to make people fear the LGBTQ community. Again, it seems as though Cam is the voice of things that Nathan can’t seem to face. Do you think that fear plays into Nathan’s decisions and his inability to acknowledge love?

Zack: God, what a great question. Yes. I think this is the driving theme of the story. It’s interesting, because in the context of that quote, Cam is referring to God…but Nate thinks of his abusive family. Picture any type of relationship, be it a marriage, friendship, whatever. Do we define these as “healthy” when they’re built on one person dutifully obeying the other out of fear? Of course not. A healthy relationship is tested—questioned and equally scrutinized by both people involved, so it can grow. Neither is afraid to call the other on their bs. That’s how Cam sees his relationships with both Nate and God…if there’s bs in the air, let’s dive into that. It’ll only bring us closer. But Nate has been taught to fall back in line. This is why he clings to everyone making him hurt…because he’s being controlled by fear instead of love. And his journey becomes the struggle to let go of the former in order to embrace the latter.

Charlotte: You and I had a brief chat about Easter eggs in your novel. Will you be letting your readers in on all the little secrets in the book?

Zack: I’ll be sharing some but not all. “Easter eggs” is really just my broad term for “literary devices & stylistic elements.” To name a few: this book has several moments (and key sentences) of foreshadowing. It makes use of repetitive structures, such as certain lines being repeated in threes, or a character responding with the same phrase over and over to indicate conviction. There are many instances of an iconic line being introduced once towards the beginning of the story, then again at the end under a much different context (for example, Cam’s first line in the depo). And all of Part 3 is an allegory for a particular story in the Bible. So this book is definitely ripe for dissection. However, I feel a lot of the elements are best left for the reader to discover on their own, so I want to give them the chance to do that.

Charlotte: If you could say one thing to a young person struggling with their religion and their sexual identity… what would it be?

Zack: At the risk of being self-centered, if I had to pick one thing, it’d be a line from my book that’s gotten a lot of response: If you think you need to earn enough points on someone’s rubric for them to accept you, then either you’re wrong to assume they won’t love you for who you are, or they never really loved you in the first place.

Charlotte: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Zack!

Thank you again, so much, for having me!
For more information check out Zack’s website –

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