Exclusive Cover Reveal: Over And Over Again by Cole McCade

Please welcome author Cole McCade to the site today, revealing the cover of his upcoming novel, Over and Over, which releases July 24th!

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A ring of braided grass. A promise. Ten years of separation.

And memories of an innocent love with the power to last through time.

When Luca Ward was five years old, he swore he would love Imre Claybourne forever. Years later, that promise holds true—and when Luca finds himself shipped off to Imre’s North Yorkshire goat farm in disgrace, long-buried feelings flare back to life when he finds, in Imre, the same patiently stoic gentle giant he’d loved as a boy. The lines around Imre’s eyes may be deeper, the once-black night of his hair silvered to steel and stone…but he’s still the same slow-moving mountain of a man whose quiet-spoken warmth, gentle hands, and deep ties to his Roma heritage have always, to Luca, meant home.

The problem?

Imre is more than twice Luca’s age.

And Luca’s father’s best friend.

Yet if Imre is everything Luca remembered, for Imre this hot-eyed, fey young man is nothing of the boy he knew. Gone is the child, replaced by a vivid man whose fettered spirit is spinning, searching for north, his heart a thing of wild sweet pure emotion that draws Imre into the compelling fire of Luca’s frustrated passions. That fragile heart means everything to Imre—and he’ll do anything to protect it.

Even if it means distancing himself, when the years between them are a chasm Imre doesn’t know how to cross.

But can he resist the allure in cat-green eyes when Luca places his trembling heart in Imre’s hands…and begs for his love, over and over again?

And now the cover!

OverandOverAgain6x9

Over and Over Again is available for preorder on Amazon at the discounted price of $3.99! That’s over 40% off the cover price! 

If you’re a blogger who wants to read it sooner in order to review it, sign up for ARCs here; they’ll be distributed on June 10th!

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Guest Recs From Erin Ptah: Webcomics About Magical Gay Guys

Good news, folks: I finally pulled together an all-canon-mlm list of webcomic recs. Even better, it goes with the Magical Lesbians list from back in January.

Today’s theme: Webcomics about magical gay guys!

(As before, some of these characters explicitly identify as gay on-panel, and the rest are shown with exclusively male love interests. Check out other reclists for guys who are confirmed-bi, or could-go-either-way.)


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(1) What Happens in Carpediem… by Piggy Ho Ho

Welcome to Carpediem, the world of the massively popular MMORPG. When Naoto and Chris set out to find a strong attacker for their party, Kurogawa is not quite what they expected…

Fantasy RPG, ongoing (ish). The magical MMO setting is all kinds of cute and fun in general. (They hatch an 8-bit bird from a legacy version of the game! Its name is Mr. Feathersworth. That arc alone is worth the whole read.) And the game mechanics include bonuses if Naoto gets “married” to another player, including mutual HP restoration when they kiss.

So of course his hot new party companion, Kurogawa, marries him in-game for the stat bonuses, and the level-grinding and item-winning gets interspersed with immersive-vertual-reality making-out. But complications in the real world mean that Kurogawa-the-avatar isn’t quite what he seems. It’s going to take some work (and help from crossplaying BFF Chris) to sort out who Naoto’s really falling for.

Reads right-to-left, manga-style. There’s at least one NSFW scene, featuring whiteout censoring (also manga-style). On a long hiatus, but it’s come back from multiple long hiatuses in the past, so I live in hope.


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(2) Gloomverse by CrayonQueen/loverofpiggies

She was just a regular, unwanted kid, until she was lucky enough to get a job under the best magician in the world! Unfortunately for her, her new boss is a self absorbed jerk.

Fantasy comedy-drama, ongoing. The Assistant (she has a name, but hasn’t managed to say it without getting interrupted) is one of the few people in Gloomverse who hasn’t developed magic by age 17. She gets hired by Wallis Gloom — who in spite of the official summary is a sympathetic and caring guy under the surface, and it doesn’t take much at all to bring it out.

Pretty soon Assistant is deep into a mess of international politics, historical mysteries, scholarly clashes over the nature of magic itself, and possibly an honest-to-goodness Dark Lord. Also, an attack from Wallis’s previous assistant, using a giant golem made of cake. It’s the kind of comic that slides effortlessly between “edge-of-your-seat intrigue” and “ridiculous crack.”

There isnt much active romance over the course of the comic, but two of the male main characters are eventually revealed to be exes. (Full disclosure, one of them has some issues with denial that could ultimately mean he’s bi. Or it could just mean he doth protest too much.)


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(3) Tobias and Guy by Daryl Toh Liem Zhan

The misadventures of Tobias the demon and his human boyfriend.

Fantasy comedy, complete. Lonely Guy accidentally summons a hot bara demon, and they start an interspecies relationship with lots of entertaining culture clashes. They also earn the approval of Guy’s sweet elderly godmothers, who get married themselves partway through.

Sometimes it deals with death and depression. Sometimes it gets NSFW (modified with strategic angles and conveniently-placed objects). Sometimes it just deals with pet hellhound antics. The whole thing is short, so it’s a quick read.


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(4) The Young Protectors by Alex Woolfson, Adam Dekraker, and Veronica Gandini

Young heroes. Deadly villains. Guys kissing.

Superhero drama, complete. Has the typical mix of fantasy/supernatural and “this has a high-tech scientific explanation, we swear.” Closeted young hero Kyle finds himself getting hit on by a silver-fox supervillain. Is the man’s interest genuine? Or is it part of a secret evil plot? Or is it part of a secret world-saving scheme disguised as an evil plot?

There are other m/m flirtations on Kyle’s mostly-young-male superhero team, and he does actually end up in a more, uh, age-appropriate relationship in the wake of the final climactic fight sequence. (I won’t spoil you for what happens with the villian.)

Another one with conveniently-censored mature content, and there’s a more explicitly-NSFW short sequel.


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(5) Transformed! by Al Neun

Transformed! is the story of Kay, a young trans man, who finds a strange ring that changes his life forever.

Magical-boy drama, ongoing. Kay is a closeted pre-everything trans boy; he has a thing for his gay best friend, who has him firmly in the friendzone on the belief that he’s a straight girl. Then he picks up a mysterious ring that transforms him into a much-more-visibly-masculine alter ego, just in time to fling around some magic and fight off a monster…and the best friend develops a crush on that form.

So now Kay has to get the hang of his new powers and figure out where these monsters are coming from, while hopefully making some new friends in a trans-teen support group and getting to a point where he can shed one layer of his secret identities.

There’s a whole subgenre of genderbender mahou-shoujo webcomics out there, so you’d think there would be plenty to choose from where the main character is trans! But off the top of my head, this is the only one I could name.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where a magical bi guy is responsible for most of the plot) and Leif & Thorn (where Thorn has a magic sword and Leif is bound by magical compulsions). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

The Courage of a Single Book: a Guest Post by There Goes Sunday School Author Alexander C. Eberhart

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Alexander C. Eberhart, a debut novelist whose gay YA, There Goes Sunday School, releases from 7 Sisters Publishing on June 4th. This is a post about how a single book bolstered him to write the books he wanted to see in the world, and what better topic is there for a queer lit blog than one on the power of existing queer lit? (And what better day to post it than on the release date of Leah on the Offbeat, the companion novel to Simon??)

Before we get to the post, here’s the deal with There Goes Sunday School:

In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere.

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he’s always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

It’s 5:00am. I look at my phone a second time just to verify I’m reading it correctly. How did it get so late? What am I doing here, half twisted in bed sheets and flipping page after page of this YA book I ordered from Amazon. I started reading thirteen hours ago, and now I’m ravenous. I devour each chapter, desperate to reach the culmination of this work of teenage angst. One question sears itself into my mind—Who the hell is Blue?!

The book I was so voraciously enjoying was none other than Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, more popularly known now for it’s movie adaptation, Love, Simon. If you’ve had the immense pleasure to enjoy Becky’s masterpiece, whether on the screen or off the page, then I know you’ll empathize with me when I say that this story changed how I viewed YA books. Not only that, it was everything I had been searching for in fiction since I was an awkward, Harry Potter fan-fic reading, pimple-ridden thirteen-year-old. Finally, a love story for people just like me!

While reading Simon’s tale of Oreos and secret emails, a question occurred. Why aren’t there more books like Simon on the shelves?

When the last page fell, and the early morning sun had started peeking through my curtains, this newly developed question buried itself deeper into my subconscious. You see, at this point in my life, I’d more or less hit a rock bottom. I was in between jobs, my passion for writing had shriveled over the summer as weak plots collapsed under the weight of my own insecurities. I was desperate for a sense of direction. Little did I know, my mind was only collecting these scraps of discarded stories, storing them like kindling until the spark of inspiration could ignite them into a blaze.

It was 6:00am when I grabbed my laptop and started sifting through the rush of ideas rising from the inferno my mind had become. By midmorning, I had mapped out the plot for three new projects, all centering around protagonists that I wish I could have known ten years prior.

One of those projects grew to become There Goes Sunday School, my debut novel, in which I poured everything that I needed to hear as a gay teen growing up in the south. This story became so special to me, that I almost didn’t submit it to be published, fearing it would lose its power if it were watered down. Fortunately, I was not the only person itching to tell these stories, and I found a publisher that not only supported me as an author, but whose mission is to bring diverse stories to light.

Now, I get the privilege to fill the shelves with all the stories I wished for growing up. Now, I strive to create characters that show young adults that they can be proud of who they are. Now, I’m ready to keep progressing the world of YA.

And it all started with a little red book and really late night that changed my life forever.

ALEXANDER grew up in the Metro Atlanta Area his entire
life, moving from suburb to suburb, just on the outskirts of the city. He’s always had a passion for writing, even from a young age. He still lives on the cusp of Atlanta, inching his way ever closer to finally becoming the City Dweller he’s always wanted to be.

In the meantime, he spends his days writing stories with queer characters and drinking an unfathomable amount of coffee. When he isn’t crafting quality queer fiction, you can find Alexander most likely curled up alongside his boyfriend, watching a movie or another equally lazy task.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: No Man Of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

Today on the site, we’re revealing the gorgeous cover for the brilliant Ana Mardoll’s No Man of Woman Born, a collection of fantasy stories featuring transgender and nonbinary characters, releasing on July 10! (See tags for more details on rep!)

No Man of Woman Born Text

Destiny sees what others don’t.

A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father’s death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he’s ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny.

From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.

And now the cover with a note from the author! 

No Man of Woman Born Text
Cover Art by Anna Dittmann 

I’m so excited to reveal the cover for this short story collection, which I feel I’ve been gushing about for actual years now! No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven stories told from the point of view of trans, nonbinary, and gender-questioning characters each going about their epic fantasy lives mostly unaware that they are fated to fulfill seemingly impossible prophecies. If you enjoyed Éowyn’s helmet-pull, hair-tumble, I-am-no-man reveal to the Witch-King, you’ll love these stories as much as I do.

[That, but with 1000% more transness.]

I’ve loved epic fantasy since I was a child, but never felt represented in the old canon despite loving the classic elements–particularly prophecy, which is so often like a riddle you can only appreciate after the answer is in front of you. It’s been amazing and affirming to allow myself to really explore gender in a fantastical setting and build worlds that accept my complex, messy, never neat-and-tidy genderfeels.

So many characters in this collection are transgender, and all of them carry a piece of myself. Wren is an agender fisherperson who uses my pronouns and carries my autism with xer through the story. Caran is a bigender witch with magic that isn’t flashy, but is useful all the same. Nocien is a boy, period. Even when others struggle to accept his gender, the magic surrounding him never falters. Every character is accepted by the rules of magic that govern their lives, which is something I needed: affirmation so deeply interwoven into a world that even the laws of nature recognizes trans and nonbinary genders. We didn’t blink when cis authors gave us feminine moon magic, so why shouldn’t magical forces recognize a genderfluid princess?

At its heart, No Man of Woman Born is a work of love: a combination of my passion for epic fantasy and a deep-seated need to turn characters trans and set them free to shine on the page. For the cover, I wanted something that could capture their vibrancy and I was fortunate to work with the phenomenal Anna Dittmann. She beautifully brought to life the character of Finndís, a trans woman we meet in the story “Daughter of Kings”. Finndís’ rightful legacy has been denied to her, and she must now find and retrieve a magical sword stuck in stone and left in the heart of a dark forest. Anna perfectly captured the look and feel of this setting and produced a cover which I could not love more.

I hope you’ll love this collection as much as I do. All gushing aside, I think it’s an important addition to the fantasy genre: a glimpse into how normal and normalized transness and nonbinary genders can be in a setting. We can have these characters and have them not be unusual or weird. Each of these characters is special and they’re trans, as opposed to being special because they’re trans.

No Man Of Woman Born is available for preorder on Amazon! The book will be released on July 10th (the Tuesday before International Nonbinary Day, July 14!)

 ***
5757381Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Xer favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. Xie is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories. Aside from reading and writing, Ana enjoys games of almost every flavor and frequently posts videos of gaming sessions on YouTube. After coming out as genderqueer in 2015, Ana answers to xie/xer pronouns.

 

Books I’d Recommend to My LGBT Main Character: a Guest Post by Lauren James

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In my novel The Last Beginning, the main character Clove is going through a lot. She gets rejected after kissing her best friend Meg in the same week that she finds out she’s adopted. She relies on a sassy artificial intelligence called Spart for emotional support – and a girl from the future called Ella keeps interfering with her life and telling Clove that she’s her girlfriend. She’s having a pretty hard time of it, so I thought I’d recommend some books to help her chill out a little bit.

 

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

More than anything, Clove just needs to relax. This sweet and cute lesbian rom-com, set in sunny Hollywood, will help her forget all her worries. For a little while, at least!

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Clove’s future girlfriend Ella is a Classics major, and as Clove is more into computer science, she doesn’t know much about Greek myths. This retelling of Achilles and Patroclus’ love story will give her a starter in all things Classical, to help her keep up with Ella.

Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Clove’s adoptive parents, Tom and Jen, are both scientists working on building the world’s first time machine. Clove has been listening to their discussions about time travel since she was a little girl, so she would feel right at home reading this gay love story set in a world where time can stop and start at will.

 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

In this book, Thaniel falls in love with Keita, a Japanese watchmaker with clairvoyant powers. Just like Ella, Keita has knowledge of his future relationship with Thaniel. I think this book would help Clove deal with the crazy frustrations of dating someone who thinks they know more about you than you do.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Clove knits while she’s waiting for code to compile, and to calm her nerves. She also woos Ella by giving her a green scarf she makes – so this lesbian love story about girls meeting over yarn would be perfect for them both!

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

In Radio Silence, British teenagers Frances and Aled are facing a breakdown of everything they thought they knew about themselves and what they wanted from life. Clove goes through something similar in The Last Beginning, so she would definitely relate.

 

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Ella is from the future, so she and Clove face the prospect of a long-distance relationship across several centuries. She would probably like this novel about the internet relationship between two girls, told through their messages and emails, just like the conversations between Clove and Ella.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

When Clove travels back in time to 1745, she feels the need to hide her sexuality, because she knows people will react badly if they found out she liked girls. In her time of 2054, sexuality isn’t an issue, and she proudly wears a rainbow wristband given to her by her dad Tom. She would probably find it comforting to read this historical novel about boys on a grand tour of Europe, which shows that there is a place for LGBT characters throughout history.

Giant Days by John Allison

When Clove kisses her best friend Meg and gets rejected, she feels like her life is over. She doesn’t think their friendship will ever survive Clove’s advances. She would love this graphic novel series about a group of freshman girls at a British university, whose tight knit friendship group constantly faces the strain of fighting over romance, school and sexuality – and survives.

Clove would love all of these books, although she’s probably too busy to read them during The Last Beginning. I would apologise, but giving my characters tough things to deal with is one of the best parts of being a writer.

***

unnamed-3Lauren James is the author of Young Adult science fiction, including The Next Together series and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. The Last Beginning was published by Sky Pony Press in March. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

Cover Reveal: Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi!

It is hands-down one of the most popular rec requests I get on the LGBTQReads Tumblr to provide a queer book based on Greek mythology, especially one centered around women. So when I saw the book deal announcement for this one, I tracked it every step of the way to make sure I’d be able to help its eager audience find it! I’m so thrilled to be able to reveal the beautiful cover here! But first, check out the official blurb for Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi, releasing from Flux/North Star Editions on November 27:

The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.

To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia—where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina.

As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’s second rule. She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.

And now, here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Jake Nordby, and a post by the author!

Hi everyone! I’m so thrilled to share the cover of OUTRUN THE WIND with you. This is my debut novel, and as a first-time author, I wasn’t sure what to expect during the cover design process. Luckily, the team at Flux has been great every step of the way, and presented me with three potential cover concepts. Right off the bat, we all seemed to be in agreement that this was the winner. I adore the moonlit Greek forest framing my two main characters. There’s Atalanta up front, fierce and beautiful as always. We can see Kahina emerging from the shadows, about to make a decision that will change both of their lives forever.

Kahina and Atalanta’s story was an adventure to write. In fact, OUTRUN THE WIND was conceived almost entirely out of spite—I was struggling to make sense of the stories of Atalanta from Greek mythology. I was angry that she often ended up with Hippomenes, a man that used trickery and divine influence to marry her. I was confused by Atalanta’s decision to kill the men she raced. I had other questions about Greek mythology that bubbled to the surface, and eventually, I dragged this book out of me. I certainly altered many aspects of Atalanta’s original legends, but hopefully readers will understand my choices and consider this new perspective.

Some of my absolute favorite novels—like THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller and THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee—are phenomenal stories that give a voice to narratives in history and mythology that have too long been silenced. In writing Kahina and Atalanta’s relationship, especially in an ancient Greek setting, I hoped to emphasize and normalize the fact that queer people have always existed. Queer stories are important in any case, but I especially love seeing them in historical contexts. Even though these stories were often erased or shoved aside, now we can attempt to rewrite them and restore them to their rightful place in history. In addition, like many other readers my age, I grew up transfixed by mythology and books like Percy Jackson. I hope that incorporating this story into a Greek myth is something others will find engaging and exciting.

Thank you so much for checking out my cover reveal of OUTRUN THE WIND! Please consider pre-ordering a copy or request it at your local library. The book hits shelves November 27th. Atalanta and Kahina can’t wait to meet you!

Buy it: Amazon * IndieBound * North Star Editions
Add it on Goodreads

Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but she is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at rehearsal for one of her vocal ensembles, or at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology. Outrun the Wind is her debut novel. You can find Elizabeth online on Tumblr at annabethisterrified, Twitter at @ElizabethTammi, Instagram at elizabeth_tammi, and at elizabethtammi.com.

Fave Five: LGBTQA MCs with Eating Disorders

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (bi YA)

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller (gay YA)

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves (queer YA)

Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown (f/f)

Empty Net by Avon Gale (m/m)

Bonus: For a romance that reads demisexual but isn’t officially so on the page, try Second Position by Katherine Locke.

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Authors in Conversation: Jaye Robin Brown and Amber Smith

Excited to welcome two wonderful authors to the site today, Jaye Robin Brown, author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, and Amber Smith, author of The Last to Let Go, both of which are contemporary YAs with lesbian protagonists! Come learn more about their books and thoughts!

*****

Jaye Robin Brown: I’m so excited to get a chance to interview you! I vividly remember that Madcap Retreat in Gatlinburg, where you shared a room with me and Robin Constantine. I was so sick that first day, barely knew you, but you graciously let me put my germy hands all over an arc of your first book, The Way I Used to Be. Reading the opening pages, I knew immediately you were going to be a force in contemporary YA fiction and I wasn’t wrong. Now, your second book, The Last to Let Go, has hit the shelves and wow, talk about a sophomore book with a bow and a flourish. My heart hurt in so many ways reading it. You took a girl who’d grown up with domestic violence and really showed us how having that model of relationship can seriously mess up one’s own relationships. I loved how as a reader I got so frustrated with Brooke’s interactions and then at some point I got it, like, OH, OF COURSE, it’s the only way she could be. Was this unspooling intentional?

Amber Smith: I know, I’m so excited to get to have the chance to chat with you too! Yes, I remember that retreat! I remember how sick you were. And I remember being so honored for my little arc to be in your germy hands because I had just finished reading your debut, NO PLACE TO FALL and I totally fell (no pun intended) in love with it. Seriously, I became an instant fan of your writing, so when Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit came out I couldn’t wait to get my copy! I had such high expectations and I was not disappointed. Which is why I’m so touched by your kind words about The Last to Let Go.)

I really love creating complex, flawed characters who don’t always make the best decisions. And one of the things I wanted to show in TLTLG was how being raised in an environment rife with violence can often lead to the cycle of abuse being perpetuated in the lives those who witness it. But I wanted to show not only how this happens, but how it is stopped. I think the cycle of abuse phenomenon can be hard to understand, both from the perspective of an outsider, as well as someone stuck right in the thick of things, and so I wanted this “unspooling” (perfect word, by the way) to happen gradually, once we’re in the main character’s head-space, and hopefully seeing things from her perspective.

And while we’re on the topic of characters who don’t always make the best choices… one of the things I loved so much about Peaches is how you showed the main character, Jo, who was always out and proud, make the decision to go back in the closet for the sake of her evangelist father. It was such a fascinating journey because often we read stories about the opposite process—coming out, rather than going back in. Yet the whole time the one thing that remains constant is Jo’s faith. You struck such an amazing balance, and that’s not something I’ve seen before. So, I’m interested to know, what inspired this story?

JRB: It’s funny, some readers got a bit frustrated with Jo and her retreat to the closet, which I totally get, but I think the reality is very real for most LGBTQ people. We’re still in a world where we’re constantly checking in on our “safety” in any given situation. Jo’s decision was based both on her desire for her father’s happiness and maybe a bit of her own fear in a new situation so she got to use her dad as the out. As to the inspiration, it was a combination of things. I heard an NPR segment on the wealth of radio pastors and thought “What if one of those guys had a lesbian daughter?” But I didn’t want to pursue the wealth angle, and it was too easy to write the stereotypical “you’re going to hell” pastor. I was also teaching high school at the time and had seen, first-hand, the devastation a judgmental church family could have on a queer young person. I knew that in larger cities, LGBTQ affirming churches were (and are) a thing. So out of this came Jo, very gay, very Christian, and unabashed about either.

Like you, my first book, No Place to Fall, featured a straight protagonist. I wrote straight characters for many of my early manuscripts (ironically, my first manuscript to land me an agent was a f/f story—but the agent didn’t want to go out with that one—he and I parted ways and that manuscript is shelved). Now that Peaches has been so well-received and my third book releasing in 2019, The Meaning of Birds, also features an already out lesbian teen, I sometimes wonder if I could do straight romance again. I’ll be honest, I think about it from a financial standpoint, would it be a better career move for me? But then I shudder and think, no way, I don’t want to do that, I’m finally OUT in my writing and unlike Jo, I don’t want to go back in. What are your thoughts on making that switch with The Last to Let Go? Were you nervous about the romance between Dani and Brooke being out in the world or did it feel like a big sigh of relief?

AS: It’s strange, I feel like so often people think of coming out as this one definitive event, but the reality is you have to come out a million times; it’s a decision you have to make over and over again. So, it’s been an interesting process to sort of “come out” in many ways with this second book where my main character, Brooke, is so gay. I think because there was really nothing remotely queer at all in The Way I Used to Be, people haven’t necessarily thought of me as a queer writer (despite all my rainbow emojis). So here’s a fun, little-known fact about The Way I Used to Be: in a VERY early draft of that book I played around with writing the main character as bi, but I ultimately edited that out because, much to my dismay, it just didn’t serve the story. But with The Last to Let Go, I knew Brooke was a lesbian from the start—I could see and feel her so vividly in my mind that it wasn’t even a conscious choice. And in this case it really did serve the story, because Brooke’s journey to embrace her identity and her struggle with coming to terms with her dysfunctional family were completely intertwined from the very beginning.

On the one hand it felt so great to write Brooke as a lesbian, but on the other, part of me was nervous about representation. The #ownvoices movement in yalit is so incredibly important, yet it still feels super intimidating to actually call myself an #ownvoices writer. It’s such a big responsibility, and I really wanted to get not only the story right, but the LGBTQ rep part right, as well (because I think we all know firsthand how it feels to see representation mishandled). My third book, which I’m currently working on, is a first love story that features a trans character, so it’s definitely queer, but not the same setup as the f/f love story thread in TLTLG. Beyond book 3, I really don’t know what’s going to be next for me (which is both liberating and terrifying!). I do often wonder, though, if the sequence of my two books were reversed (if The Last to Let Go was my debut rather than The Way I Used to Be) how that might have affected the reception of both books…I’m still not sure.

You mentioned being a teacher, so I’m curious about whether or not your experience working with young people has influenced your writing at all? And what kinds of responses have you gotten from readers about your books—did they differ a lot from NPTF to Peaches, as you moved from writing a straight protagonist to a queer one?

JRB: Oh for sure it was helpful. I miss having that ready access to my target audience, even for simple things like “do you get this reference?” As to reader responses, the response to Peaches has been much stronger than to my first book. I regularly get emails from readers thanking me and telling me how much it meant to read about a lesbian character of faith. And not just from queer youth, but from adults, both straight and gay. It’s heightened my awareness of the opportunity I have as an #ownvoices writer to put meaningful stories into the world and to be out and proud as I do it. It’s very gratifying. And a heady responsibility to do my best.

So here’s a fun (and final) question. What three queer books (currently published and available) would be on Dani and Brooke’s bookshelves and why?

AS: I LOVE this question! Well, since Brooke and Dani’s personalities are so different I feel like their books would reflect that. I think Brooke would have something more classic on her book shelf, like Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. Dani, on the other hand, has a much funkier, more eclectic taste, so I feel like she’d have something like the Batwoman comic book series proudly displayed in her bedroom. But then I could see the two of them reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home together and totally bonding over it!

This has been such fun, thank you so much for chatting with me, Jaye! I’m so grateful that you are out there writing these stories that need to be told. And I cannot wait to read The Meaning of Birds next year!

JRB: It’s been a total blast! And readers, be sure and pick up Amber’s latest book, The Last to Let Go, so you can meet Dani and Brooke for yourself!

And thank you, Dahlia for the invite!

Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to her friends, has been many things in her life–jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher–but is now living the full-time writer life. She currently lives in New England but is taking her partner, dog, and horses back south to a house in the woods where she hopes to live happily ever after. She is the author of NO PLACE TO FALL, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, and the forthcoming THE MEANING OF BIRDS.

Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in painting, she earned her MA in art history. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. She is the author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go. Visit her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.

Guest Recs: Five Queer Rocker Romances from Syncopation Author Anna Zabo

You may recall Anna Zabo as being last month’s featured author. Well, today, they’re back on the site to celebrate their newest release, a rock star romance called Syncopation, by recommending some more queer rock star romances!

First, here’s the dirt on Syncopation:

Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band sodoesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

Rare rep note: Zavier is aromantic pansexual.

And here are Anna’s recs!

To be honest, when writing Syncopation, I didn’t read too many rockstar romances beforehand, but I have read a few over the years, which probably informed some of my writing.

These are in no particular order, and I cheated with one of them.

Running with Scissors by LA Witt (m/m)

One of the things I loved about this book was the nitty gritty of touring, and also how band members can break apart and come together. It’s a redemption book of sorts, too.

Body Rocks by A. M. Arthur (m/m)

A hookup that leads to two members of rival bands falling for each other… heavy on the angst, but that’s rock stars for you!

Rock N’ Soul by Lauren Sattersby (m/m)

Road trips, a sarcastic ghost of a rock star, and love? What more could you ask for? This was a fun book.

Out Of Rhythm by Shona Husk (f/f)

Lovely novella about an Australian rock band back home from their first tour and struggling to develop their next album. Gemma Field is caught between the band, her parents thinking she should get a “real” job, and trying to mend her long-time friendship with Kirsten Vincent, who Gemma’s hopelessly in love with.

Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C. (m/m)

Gentle romance between a very sheltered rock star and a bartender/adventure seeker who ends up playing the part of a fake boyfriend. Road Trip mixed with Out For You mixed with Fake Relationship!

Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. As a child they were heartily disappointed to discover that they couldn’t grow up to be what they wanted (a boy, a cat, a dragon), so they settled on being themself whenever possible, which may be a combination of a boy, a cat, and a dragon. Or perhaps a girl, a knight, and a writer. Depends on whom you ask. They do have a penchant for colorful ties and may be hording a small collection of cufflinks. They can be easily plied with coffee.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Fave Five: LGBTQ Siblings in YA

Happy National Sibling Day!

Note: These are all books with allocishet MCs who have queer siblings. For sibling-centric YAs with queer MCs, go here.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Bonus: Coming up next month, Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon

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