Note: the above are all books with LGBTQ MCs in which siblings are central to the plot and theme (and in some cases also have a POV), not books with siblings who are LGBTQ. The latter will be a separate post.
One of the most frequent requests for recommendations I get is for f/f YA fantasy, so I’m thrilled to be bringing you an excerpt from one coming out on May 1! Before we get to it, here’s a little more on The Wishing Heart by J.C. Welker:
With a book in her bag and a switchblade in her pocket, Rebel’s been thieving her way through life while hoping for a cure to fix her ailing heart.
But when the bejeweled vase she just tried to hawk turns out to be a jinni’s vessel, Rebel gets lost to her world and dragged within another. Now every magical being in the city wants the vase for himself.
Thrust into a game of cat and mouse in a world she never knew existed, Rebel must use her uncanny skills to find a way to free Anjeline the Wishmaker.
But wishes have consequences. And contracts. Anjeline’s freedom could unravel a love like Rebel has never known, or it could come at the cost of Rebel’s heart…
And now, the excerpt!
“Hand it over, pigeon.” The officer gestured to her bag.
Rebel sighed. How ironic. Could her life get any worse? “As you can see, I’m poorer than a vagabond.” She gazed down at herself. “There’s nothing in my bag except my hopeless dreams.”
“Is that why it looks so heavy?” His lips curved into a grin, and his teeth gleamed against his beard. He was a beast of man, his vast shoulders pushing the uniform to its absolute limit. “Don’t be foolish. Give it here, girl.”
“Woman. You hobnocker,” she spat, in no mood.
A chuckle vibrated in his throat. “Skinner said you were a spitfire and a slippery grift.”
Rebel stiffened as awareness caught up to her, the satchel heavy at her side. He was no officer. Even worse, this had trap written all over it. But was it Skinner’s trap, or whoever had been on the other end of that phone call— someone even more brutal? Her eyes darted about, scouting an escape. Nothing good ever happened when a girl was snatched off the streets from a henchman twice her size.
The man glanced at her satchel. “I’ll be taking that now.”
When in doubt, distract. “Fancy outfit just to rob me of a vase? You’re not overcompensating for something, are you?”
“Don’t play stupid. The vessel’s not the prize, we want what’s inside it.”
Rebel squinted. “There’s nothing inside it, you tool.”
“Wrong answer.” He growled, sounding more animal than man, and something changed in his features. His eyes glowed amber in an extremely inhuman face.
“What the…” She lurched back, her nose twitched at an odd scent, and dizziness emerged. Now wasn’t the time for her heart to hamper reality. “This has got to be the weirdest panic attack.”
“No attack, unless you refuse.” The man inched closer.
“Touch me and I’ll carve Repent on your chest.” Rebel fumbled at her belt, grasping the bone handle of her switchblade. She never actually used it on anyone, never wanted to.
“All’s we want is the vessel,” he warned. “There’s no need for it to go there.”
“You don’t want it to go there,” said another.
Shadows moved out from behind the man. A young female appeared, followed by a male version of her, both cloaked in animal-hide coats. The twins’ blood- red hair spilled over their shoulders like lions’ manes, the girl’s pelt trimmed in fur of equal shade. As they moved, between one second and the next, they shifted into a wave of rippling fur. Bones snapped out of place, and jet-black muzzles emerged from their faces, until they formed into four-footed shapes. Their backs contorted, and slowly, bone plates elongated down their spines like an armadillo’s shield.
They were not human. Not even close.
“Wolves?” she voiced it aloud.
“Lycanthrope,” the man corrected. His eyes burned like embers as his ears tapered skyward, and his vastness seemed to increase compared to the others. Obviously, the alpha. “A thief knows a thief as a wolf knows a wolf. Didn’t legends ever teach you about the big bad one?”
J.C. Welker is a YA author who’s been, among other things, a fashion designer, a filmmaker and a kickboxer (seriously). Her short documentaries, which focused on homeless Iraq veterans and lgbtq+ issues in the military have been featured on CURRENT TV, and her debut novel won first place in the paranormal category of the 2016 YARWA Rosemary Awards. She continues to work towards giving a voice to stories that are needed, while facing magic and monsters along the way.
When a lesbian romance emerged partway through Keeper of the Dawn I found myself faced with a difficult decision: do I include sex?
This was a tough decision for many reasons, but none of them were fear of censorship. I have always believed my fiction should challenge boundaries and that having your book banned is a great marketing tool (seriously, there are entire banned book reading challenges). I also come from a fairly liberal family who won’t disown me if they find out there are lesbians or sex or even lesbian sex in my book.
I also believe it’s important to have sex in YA fiction, and not just the fumbling first time or the regrettable one night stand induced by underage drinking. As a preteen, I learned almost as much about sex from fanfiction as I have learned from sex in the intervening years. This fanfiction—primarily written by older women, at least on the archives I frequented—taught me about enthusiastic consent, about how to please different lovers, and even about various fetishes. I believe YA fiction is an opportunity for us to teach these same lessons to the people who need them most, because they certainly won’t learn it from mainstream porn.
What bothered me was the idea of writing a sex scene between these two specific characters. At first I thought it was mainly because I personally have no interest in sex with women, and the technicalities of writing a lesbian sex scene are rather daunting from my angle. I prepared myself to go out and read more (probably fanfiction, let’s face it) sex scenes between two women, even started looking at lists—
And then I realized it wasn’t about the technicalities at all. It was about my characters, specifically the main character, Lai. I already knew Lai had never been attracted to anyone but Tara (yes, she is named after a Buffy character), but as I continued writing I realized Lai wasn’t attracted to Tara in a sexual way. In fact, Lai is asexual.
I knew Lai for years before I came to this realization, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise. The only reason it took me so long to discover Lai’s asexuality is that when I originally wrote Keeper of the Dawn, I had no idea what asexuality was. It’s a concept that only came into my awareness about two years ago, which is crazy considering that I’ve been hanging out in queer communities since I was 15.
The world Tara and Lai live in has no word for asexuality, but I have worked hard to make it clear that Lai is asexual. I’ve been lucky enough to have a publisher who insisted I make it even clearer instead of trying to suppress this part of her personality.
With or without the label, I hope Keeper of the Dawnwill show readers that romantic relationships can be powerful without sex.
All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.
From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.
Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.
Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.
Keeper of the Dawn is a tale of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.
Lai practiced until well after dark, ignoring the call for supper. She tore a massive hole into one of the dummies with a training sword in her rage, but it didn’t make her feel better. She had spent most of her life training for this day, and Kaiden ruined it with a few words about their father.
Eventually she gave up and collapsed in a heap on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. She forced herself to breathe deeply, using all her willpower to push the rage into the ground. Bit by bit it drained into the soil around her, dispersing harmlessly.
She sat like that in the clearing until clouds engulfed the stars and rain started pouring, one of the last rains before the dry weeks of summer. Lifting the hood of her robes to cover her head, she rose and hurried towards the temple.
Her left foot caught on something and Lai flew through the air, losing her grip on her sword and landing face first in a puddle. Her nose shattered when it smashed into the tough ground, and when she grabbed it to feel the damage her hand came away covered in equal parts mud and blood. Her stomach churned as she picked herself back up, her whole body aching.
Something sharp pierced her back, tearing into her skin and muscles like sharp fire. She screamed and fell face first to the ground. She caught herself on her forearms, avoiding bashing her head against the rocky path.
Lai’s attacker pulled the knife out of her shoulder. She screamed as warm blood flowed freely down her back, mixing with the rain. Fiery agony filled her body, blurring her vision. She gritted her teeth and flipped over to face her attacker.
She froze at the familiar sight of white robes with golden cuffs. Another initiate. Her hood hid her face completely.
Lai gathered her strength with a deep, ragged breath and reached for her training sword. The initiate kicked Lai in the back then stomped on her wrist, grinding bone under her boot, sending sharp waves of pain up Lai’s arm.
“You understand, it has to be me.”
Lai knew that voice, but she couldn’t focus on it through the pain, couldn’t remember who it was.
The initiate seized a clump of Lai’s hair and yanked her head backwards. She knelt and raised her knife towards Lai’s exposed throat.
Something knocked the initiate into Lai’s back. Black spots appeared at the edges of her vision as agony surged outward from her wound. The other initiate didn’t move, suffocating Lai with her weight. Lai tried to lift herself up with her elbows, but a fresh wave of pain knocked the wind out of her. She collapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes, willing her body to die quickly.
Cover reveals are already one of my favorite things to do on this site, and they’re extra fun when I know they’re drawing eyes to some seriously underrepresented characters in lit. The Traitor’s Tunnel is a novella by Cal Spivey that stands alone but takes place prior to his NA High Fantasy, From Under the Mountain. The Traitor’s Tunnel focuses on estranged siblings Theodor and Bridget, who must reunite after more than a decade apart in order to thwart a corrupt nobleman’s conspiracy. Theodor is a panromantic asexual and Bridget is bisexual, and in this novella, both of them are in same-sex relationships. Sooo, it’s already pretty must-read right there, isn’t it?
Buuut just wait until you check out the cover 😉
First, though, a little more on the novella itself:
Witch-blooded robber Bridget has made a reputation for herself in the capital city, but she’s not interested in the attention of the Thieves’ Guild–and she’s not bothered by the rumors of urchin kidnappings, either. With winter coming, she’s looking out for herself and no one else.
Until she picks the wrong pocket, and recognizes her estranged brother Teddy.
Young craftsman Theodor arrives in the capital ready to take the final step toward his dream career as Lord Engineer of Arido. His apprenticeship with a renowned city engineer comes with new rules and challenges, but it’s worth it for the exposure to the Imperial Council.
While spying on her brother, Bridget overhears a secret meeting that reveals a cruel plot. After more than a decade apart, Theodor and Bridget must reunite to stop a traitor whose plan threatens not only their city, but the whole empire.
Set seven years before the events of From Under the Mountain, The Traitor’s Tunnel is the story of two young people presented with a choice–to protect themselves, or to protect others–the consequences of which will change their lives forever.
Though the lord couldn’t see him, Theodor forced a smile over his clenched teeth. “If it please you, Master Roald, I’d like to begin my work as soon as possible.”
Master Roald ceased writing, turned half toward Theodor, and regarded him silently. After several heartbeats of silence, Theodor felt perspiration on his brow. He had misjudged his new master. He had encountered a type of casual artisan before, of course, one who thought relaxation just as important as work; and how rude it was of Theodor to refuse an opportunity to explore Del, which was after all the most beautiful city in Arido, home to some of the greatest and most innovative constructions ever conceived. A groundbreaking city, and here he was, suggesting that a tour of it would be worthless to him. It was crass, and foolish.
At last, Master Roald set down his pencil and stood. Theodor braced himself for chastisement—but Master Roald said, “Then we shall begin. Come with me.”
Theodor followed him downstairs, almost holding his breath, hesitant to relax. Master Roald’s voice was so low, and mild; it would take time before Theodor came to understand his subtleties, and in the meantime, his stomach would remain knotted up. Ogun intercepted their path to the door and, at a word from Master Roald, retrieved a cap and cloak for him. Fastening the cloak beneath his chin, Master Roald said, “Do you require an outer garment, Warren?”
It was already snowing in Javan. Del was balmy by comparison. “I’m quite comfortable, thank you,” Theodor said.
“As you wish.” Master Roald gave him a small, paternal smile. “Let us see where we stand.”
He gestured for Theodor to exit the house first, and he understood. He was not being chastised or given a lecture; not yet, at least. Master Roald planned to test him, out in the streets of a city to which Theodor had never been. It would mark his knowledge and experience; perhaps it would influence whether he was allowed to remain in Master Roald’s service at all. Theodor took a deep breath. He did not know what kind of man his new master was, but he knew stone and wood and metal. He knew the benefits and failings of common building structures; he had an eye for design. The rules of construction were the only ones of which he was sure—and he would prove it.
Thrice damn the Frost Owl. Bridget had nicked an extra coat off a laundress in the Second Neighborhood, but even that weren’t doing much to keep her warm. She wished she still had that bearskin she’d had last year, but someone had found her hidey-hole in the Vale forest outside of Del, and taken it. She didn’t hold a grudge; damn if she wasn’t jealous though. She stamped her feet a bit. It was early winter yet, and it’d warm up enough during the day. It looked to be sunny, too, a perfect day to climb up on some slate roof and soak it up.
She scowled and sank against the hot wall of the tannery. She hated winter, hated having to make plans. The cold meant less food to steal, which meant less energy for her little trick of going invisible, which meant stealing got more dangerous. Her stashes of supplies were more crucial than ever, but checking them or even using them too frequently made it easier for others to find them. She had money enough stored that she could take a room on the worst days and nights, but that was visibility she wanted to avoid. She had survived by being unknown to all but a few, ever since she was too old to make use of the orphan houses. Otherwise she’d be too involved in other people’s business, which just created too many chances for things to go bad in ways that had nothing to do with her but would ruin her anyway. She’d learned that lesson. Now she had three friends she just couldn’t shake, and she wasn’t about to make nice to anyone else.
So what be the plan for this winter? she asked herself. She’d gone south a few times—that was what most of Del’s homeless did when the weather got cold; they went downriver. Bridget didn’t much care for that. She didn’t like to lug all her food about, was shit at fishing, and the city of Neva was too damn far. Two years ago, she’d worked in a brothel for the season; that had been alright, but her thieving had taken a hit and it took months to reestablish her under-market connections. They all thought she’d been jailed, thought the Guild of Guards kept tabs on her—what a laugh.
There was a baker in the Third Neighborhood who swapped room and board for work sometimes; she could disguise herself, pretend to be a child. Wouldn’t work on the orphan houses because she’d already been in most of ’em when she was truly a whelp, but it’d be enough to turn away serious questions.
C.M. Spivey is a speculative fiction writer, author of high fantasy From Under the Mountain and the paranormal series, “The Unliving.” His enduring love of fantasy started young. Now, he explores the rules and ramifications of magic in his own works—and as a trans-masculine panromantic asexual, he’s committed to queering his favorite genres. In his spare time, he plans his next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to his tireless quest to make America read more. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.
When the emperor of Eveinia is murdered alongside his heir, the kingdom’s twelve nations are thrown into chaos. A fortnight later, a young woman wakes up with no memories, having been unwittingly selected for an impossible mission—to track down the chosen successor from each nation and appoint one as the emperor. If she fails, she may never be able to return to her old life.
But a dark order is emerging. Hunted by assassins and escorted by a stableboy, Lia sets out on a journey to uncover the truth about who she is and why she was chosen.
Her first target is Jade, the beautiful but mischievous princess of Sperath. Disguised as her maidservant, Lia must navigate the treacherous waters of the court, her daunting task, and a growing closeness with Jade. When suspicious poisonings begin to plague the castle, it’s up to Lia to find the culprit, or else risk failing her mission—and losing Jade entirely.
Months after saving Jamie and Deanna from crywolf, Kiara and her brother Cole have moved into the city. While clubbing one night, Kiara is stunned to see her ex, Taryn, on stage. But before she can react, Jamie notices a distinctive tattoo in the crowd: an axe rumored to be the mark of the Huntsmen, a group of werewolf-tracking humans. The girls need to leave immediately—and since Taryn is also a werewolf, they need to take her with them.
The Huntsmen are more than a myth, and they’re scouring the city for lone wolves just like Taryn. Until the General North American Assembly of Werewolves lends a plan of action, Kiara’s small pack is on lockdown in Nathan’s apartment building, where she and Taryn must face the differences that drove them apart. Furthermore, the longer the group waits, the more it seems the Huntsmen haven’t been acting entirely on their own.
Can friendship, Star Trek, drama club, and a whole lot of coffee get two nerdy best friends through the beginning of their senior year of high school?
Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.
But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny—and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was. . . .
Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to the ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart.
But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers that Bao is not the only monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against creatures she used to care for and protect?
Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?
Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.
Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.
They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye. But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.
*Having read this since initially posting, I see I was misinformed, and the MC is not in fact biracial; she’s in a mixed-race family. (She and her mother are Black, her stepbrother and stepfather are white.) However, the book does have her dealing with being Black and Jewish, so perhaps bicultural would be a better adjective here.
LESBIAN PIRATES AND SEA MONSTERS. That’s pretty much all anyone really needs to know about this book, other than that it is really damn good, especially if you’re a fan of slow-burn romance and/or an animal lover. I am not at all a sci-fi person, and this was definitely one of my 2016 faves. And the best part? The sequel comes out this month! So get to know Cas and the rest of the badass pirate gang, and make sure you snag The Edge of the Abyss when it releases on April 18!
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.
But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.
Already a fan of McCade’s Crow City series? Totally new-to-you author? Somewhere in between, because you’re a fan of McCade’s work under Xen Sanders? Doesn’t matter what you answered, because though McCade’s first foray into Contemporary m/m Romance is a companion to the Crow City books, this book about a dad with MS discovering his bisexuality later in life can be read as a total standalone.
There are worse things in life than loving a man who hates you.
Unfortunately, Walford Gallifrey can’t think of many.
Ever since a ghost from his past kidnapped his niece, Willow (THE FOUND, Crow City #2), Wally’s life has been nothing but grief, turmoil, and loss. With no idea if Willow is dead or alive, Wally’s only comfort is in caring for his grieving brother-in-law and Willow’s father, Joseph Armitage. For the past twenty years, Wally has never hoped to be anything but the backdrop to Joseph’s life; between marrying Wally’s sister and decades of mistakes building walls of enmity and resentment between them, Joseph has been firmly cemented in Wally’s mind as unattainable.
But the pain of Willow’s loss forces them to face the demons sleeping between them, find common ground—and more. Together, they explore mutual grief. Shared memories. Quiet respect. Warmth. Camaraderie. The joy of learning to live again.
And an unspoken attraction, buried beneath the scars of hurtful words and terrible missteps.
Yet even as they work through the thorns and tangles of old wounds, Joseph has his own struggles to face. The struggle to leave his ex-wife in the past. To let his daughter go. And to trust Wally to love him, to see him as more than just his multiple sclerosis, when so many have treated him as less than a man. The only way forward for them both is forgiveness. Trust.
And a second chance to discover what it means, to truly be in love.
I am so excited to have Riley Redgate on the blog this month. If you’re not already familiar with her excellent YAs, rectify that immediately by reading Seven Ways We Lie as you wait for Noteworthy to release on May 2nd! Not only are her books and brain super fun and unique, but she’s got some skills when it comes to getting underrepresented POVs on the page, which is something I think we can alllll appreciate around here. But I’ll let her tell you more about that!
Congrats on the upcoming release of Noteworthy! One of my favorite things in the book is that not only is Jordan figuring out her own sexuality, but she’s also critically examining her actions as they pertain to gender identity. Was that always a planned part of Jordan’s journey, or did that come about as it was unfolding?
Thank you! Yes, I always wanted to address gender identity in Noteworthy. We’ve reached a point where not addressing gender identity in these sorts of narratives feels disingenuous to me (especially in a liberal environment like an arts school). That said, it was critically important to me that I steer clear of using the trans community as a foil or mirror for Jordan (who’s cis), in a way that felt diminishing of the importance of trans kids’ lives, identities, and struggles. I actually did have a draft that omitted examinations of gender for fear of that feeling of exploitation, but it felt off, tonally, so out the door it went. I don’t know. Striking that balance—maintaining a feeling of awareness, but not using the community as, basically, an object for sort of voyeuristic consumption by a cis narrator—was one of the toughest lines to walk in the manuscript.
I also really love that Jordan’s narrative is that of a child of immigrants, which is a glaringly important one in the current political climate, and especially welcome in LGBTQ lit. For those who haven’t gotten to read Noteworthy yet, what would you say about how her background informs her choices and identity?
Jordan’s narrative in many ways is about belonging. There’s no foregrounded struggle where she’s asked to take ownership of her identity as a Chinese girl, but I think the alienation of being a child of immigrants peeks out several times. She acutely feels the distance between her American identity and her parents’ upbringing abroad, but there’s also the usual sense of not being American enough (e.g., to land roles written for white Americans). Those smaller tensions can be unavoidable in the day-to-day.
Your books strongly acknowledge queerness without ever really being “about” it, or about coming out, but as far as I know, you’re the first author to put a pansexual main character on the page in mainstream YA, with your debut, Seven Ways We Lie. Was that a challenge along the way? And what kind of response have you received to that from readers?
The response from the YA community, and more privately from readers, has been wonderful. Writing a pan character in a book with seven perspectives was an interesting experience; I get a lot of “I wish [X character] had their own book,” and the pansexual narrator is at the top of this list. This makes sense to me. Because there’s such a dearth of narratives with pan characters at their centers, I understand why his perspective being limited to 1/7 of the narrative would feel frustrating. That said, I really hoped for him to be a lovable character to readers, because when there’s very little representation of a certain identity, all new representations tend to feel definitive in a way that is sort of overwhelming. Actually, though, the biggest concern for me was that people would take away only the fact that his character is associated with the deadly sin of Greed — the goal was to deconstruct the common tendency to think that pan & bi people are ‘greedy’ and ‘need to choose.’
Seven Ways We Lie also has a narrator working through the process of figuring out he’s aromantic asexual, though he hasn’t quite found those words yet. Or, at least, that’s how I read him. Do you find readers tend to read and respond to him that same way? (I definitely had someone tweet at me that he was the closest she’d ever seen to herself in a book!) Is that an identity you might explore more in future books?
I get a lot of messages about this narrator from people who see themselves in him: asexual readers, aromantic readers, and autistic readers. I think his realization that he’s aromantic asexual is textually explicit enough that acearo readers will recognize that arc, and I’ve seen that response. Still, in retrospect I wish it were on the page, as well as his identity as an autistic boy. I do plan to keep writing characters of all sexualities; I would be very surprised if I didn’t write another acearo character.
You’re not only an author, you’re also a musician. How do you find those two passions intersect, and where can your readers also find your music?
I did music long before writing. I’m a classically trained pianist of 19 years (whose training is quickly atrophying now that I don’t have a piano where I live, alas). I’ve also sung in musical theater, choir, & a cappella since high school. Music certainly informs my sense of rhythm when it comes to writing, and…well, honestly, writing prose makes songwriting feel simple and relaxing, because songwriting doesn’t quite have to make sense. My favorite songs don’t quite cohere, lyrically; they make these intricate soundscapes where the tone and style of the music define how you feel upon listening rather than the words. Bon Iver is really good at this in particular, but I’m also thinking about pop music, which I think – when the formula’s executed to perfection – is unparalleled for conveying the emotion of yearning, whether or not the lyrics are, uh, questionable. This is why I will defend to the death the Chainsmokers’ seminal work, “Closer.”
Obviously you’re not new to the world of a capella, either. What are your favorite covers, and what are you still dying to see done?
Oh Lord how do I pick. Okay. My all-time favorite covers are “We Found Love” by Voices in Your Head at UChicago, “Honeymoon Avenue” and “What Now” by the Nor’Easters, and “Move” by the Sons of Pitches. Runner-ups are “Domino” by the Duke’s Men, “Tightrope” by the SoCal VoCals, and—I don’t care if they’re mainstream, lmao, they’re incredible—Pentatonix’s “Dog Days Are Over.”
I’m still waiting for that perfect arrangement of Taylor Swift’s “Style.” And will someone please do a mashup of CeeLo Green’s “F*ck You” and Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin'” already? Like, good Lord, I’ll do it myself if this doesn’t happen soon. Yes that is a threat.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
In high school, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson. What stuck with me is Tiny Cooper’s embodiment of archetypically gay characteristics in a way that’s uniquely his own. I feel as if there’s a tendency to write, specifically, gay male characters as cleaving away from typically feminine characteristics, ostensibly to steer clear of stereotyping. But this ends up excluding gay men who are more feminine. Tiny was notable to me in that he reminded me that queer people present themselves the way they do for all sorts of reasons, all equally interesting to examine.
My current favorite authorly pastime is mentally creating anthologies, since YA seems to be springing up with great ones everywhere. If you were helming one, what would you love the subject to be, and who would be among your dream contributors?
SCIENCE FANTASY ANTHOLOGY PLEASE. Oh my God. My favorite genre. Just anything science fantasy. Dream contributors would include: Emily Skrutskie, because we’ve talked about this before; Heidi Heilig, because her brain is beautiful; Leigh Bardugo, because I’m a massive Bardugo fangirl please keep this a closely guarded secret; and Zadie Smith, because look, I know she’s not a YA writer, but I think if she wrote a science fantasy story I would just read it and then drop dead on the spot.
Any chance you can share about what you’re working on now?
Yep! Currently working on my 2018 release. It’s about a girl named Laila who’s a creative writer. (Real stretch there.) Near the end of high school, Laila’s kind, supportive creative writing teacher is replaced with a viciously critical, perpetually unimpressed Pulitzer Prize winner who believes one must suffer to make great art. Laila becomes obsessed with gaining this woman’s approval, and begins walking that ever-fascinating line between sanity and the pursuit of perfection.
I’m also working on this massive four-book epic fantasy project, which I occasionally weep about on Twitter, mostly accompanied with prophecies of my own impending stress-related death. Cheers!
Riley Redgate graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Economics. Her seven-deadly-sins-themed first novel, Seven Ways We Lie, was released last year. Her next, Noteworthy, will be released May 2nd. She currently lives in Brooklyn and wears a lot of gray, and drafts theories on why these two things so often coincide, statistically.