Fave Five: YAs with F/NB Pairings

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde (Contemporary Romance, GQ LI)

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (Contemporary, GQ LI)

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (Contemporary, GF MC)

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (Contemporary, GQ LI)

Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller (Fantasy, GF MC)

Bonus: Much less central but still worth a mention: The Pros of Cons by Lindsay Ribar, Alison Cherry, and Michelle Schusterman (Contemporary, Genderless LI)

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Cover Reveal: Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was ed. by Dave Ring

Let’s just establish straight-up that anthologies are amazing. You get a variety of voices, you get to discover so many new authors at once, and in cases like this one, you can get so many cool takes on a genre we don’t see nearly enough these days. Here are the details on Broken Metropolis, which releases in July 2018 from Mason Jar Press:

Broken Metropolis explores the edges of urban fantasy through queer narratives, following in the traditions of Swords of the Rainbow (Alyson Publications, 1996) and Bending the Landscape (Overlook Books, 1997).  This collection contains ten of those edges, each one bright and gleaming, from Claire Rudy Foster’s story of a scientist learning to accept not only herself but the very real impact of astrology on her love life, to Caspian Gray’s tale of a young man looking for an urban legend in the halls of a hospital ward so that he can save the matriarch of his found family.  Queer communities hold multitudes, and fantasy writing is a place to explore the magic of possibility. Come explore some of those multitudes in a city that never was.

Contains stories by:

  • Jacob Budenz
  • kx carys
  • Meghan Cunningham
  • Claire Rudy Foster
  • Caspian Gray
  • V. Medina
  • H. Pueyo
  • M. Raoulee
  • D.M. Rice
  • Victoria Zelvin

Buy it

And here’s the cover, designed by Akshay Varaham*!

dave ring is the chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ Literary Festival in Washington, DC. His most recent publication credits include Mythic Magazine and Tabletop Tales. He’s the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was and a writer for the Lonesome Pine Podcast. He was a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow and a 2018 Futurescapes resident. Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop. More info at www.dave-ring.com.

*Akshay Varaham is an animation student in Laguna Beach, CA, who enjoys creating illustrative content about South Asian culture and identities, with namely queer, mythological, and folklorical subjects. When he’s not drawing, he likes to walk down by the beach or write up a few short stories. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ab_varaham.

Backlist Book of the Month: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley

I’ve had the joy of recommending this book probably at least once a week since I read it, because fluffy f/f YA can be super hard to come by (as is also a running joke in this delightful rom com) and this is one of the cutest, sweetest, most fun ones you will ever read. Dating Sarah Cooper was written before the MTV show Faking It, but imagine that show had had an HEA for the characters instead and you’d basically have this book. Sound fabulous? It is. Best friends-to-lovers at its finest! (And as a bonus, you definitely want to get to know this author, who’s one of the best YA self-pubbers on the market and has a nice and affordable backlist!)

Katie Hammontree and Sarah Cooper have been best friends since the 2nd grade. Katie’s welcoming, tight-knit family is a convenient substitute for Sarah when her distant parents aren’t around, and Sarah’s abrasive, goal-oriented personality gels well with Katie’s more laid-back approach to life.

But when a misunderstanding leads to the two of them being mistaken for a couple and Sarah uses the situation to her advantage, Katie finds herself on a roller coaster ride of ambiguous sexuality and confusing feelings. How far will Sarah go to keep up the charade, and why does kissing her make Katie feel more alive than kissing her ex-boyfriend Austin ever did? And how will their new circle of gay friends react when the truth comes out?

Buy it: Amazon (ebook and paperback) * B&N (paperback only)

Guest Post: Author Joanne Rocklin on Love, Penelope

There are only a few exceptions to the rule that all books covered on the site have to have main characters who ID under the LGBTQIAP+ umbrella, and one of them is Mother’s Day, when queer parents—even of allocishet characters—get to take center stage.

Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, Joanne Rocklin is here to discuss her new MG, Love, Penelope, in which the main character has two moms. It’s set in 2015, against the backdrop of the marriage equality Supreme Court ruling, and it released on March 20 of this year, so you can already grab a copy via B&N, Amazon, IndieBound, or Book Depository!

Take it away, Joanne!

My middle grade novel, Love, Penelope is a story told in letters to an unborn sibling, by an eleven year old Oakland girl with two mamas. “How did you come up with that idea?” I’m asked, more often than you want to know.
So I often say that the idea began with two huge, wondrous, peaceful, joyous celebrations, days apart.

The first was on June 19, 2015, a parade for the Golden State Warriors who had just won the National Basketball Association championship for the first time in over half a century. Oakland exploded with joy and pride for “their” team.

The second celebration was on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal throughout the land, and the happiness was palpable throughout the world.

And so, along comes Penelope to tell us her story. Penelope, a fervent Warriors fan. Penelope, who loves her city and hates the fact that San Francisco, not Oakland, is called THE CITY (as in, “I went to The City on Saturday.”)  Penelope, who wants her parents to marry because her family is just as good as anyone else’s, so why not?

But often, very often, (again, more often than you want to know) I get this response from my questioner: “Well, how nice, Joanne. How really, really nice that you decided to write a story helpful to kids in that situation!”

Uh, no. That’s not what I decided to do.

First of all, it is not an author’s aim to be “helpful”. In another life, long, long ago, I was a clinical psychologist, but if I wrote a novel as a clinical psychologist it would be a didactic, boring piece of poop.

Second of all, Penelope’s voice simply swept me away, and that’s why I wrote it. She is curious, she is often humorously wrong, but mostly right, about things she observes. She is bursting with mixed-up feelings, true to her age. She tells a lie about her heritage, and is riddled with guilt. But mostly, she is joyful. She, too, is “born” into this complicated world as she figures things out in letters to the baby. It was just absolutely pure FUN for me to write her story.

But most of all, “kids in that situation” don’t need my help. Kids in that situation are doing fine, in my estimation.

Better than fine, actually.

What is “that situation”, exactly?

Here is Penny’s situation, as Penny explains to someone who says her family is “not right”. On the first Monday of every month, the family tries a new flavor of ice cream. Sundae Mondays! Her parents have some nifty, fun ideas, but when they mess up, they listen and learn and grow with their daughter, and apologize. Holidays and sports teams are celebrated noisily with family and friends, and birthdays observed with reverence. There are homemade greeting cards for every occasion and sing-a-longs, and warm stews and cups of tea offered to anyone who needs them. There is lots and lots of giving- including forgiveness.

But mostly there is a piercing awareness on everyone’s part, every second they are together, that they are lucky to have one another. An awareness that love, not DNA, makes a family, and how very, very much Penny and the baby are wanted. I have known and interviewed scores of families like Penny’s. They may not have observed Sundae Mondays, but love is always a common denominator.

So perhaps the book is helpful for anyone wanting a definition of a happy family and good parenting; a description of a family that is “just right.” Penny and her parents already know what that is. All I did was tell their story.

Happy Parents Day!

***

Joanne RocklinJoanne Rocklin is the author of many books for children, including The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, which won the Golden Kite Award and was named to Florida’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award master list.

 

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: Your Heart Will Grow by Chace Verity

Perennial LGBTQReads fave Chace Verity is back with another cover reveal, this one perfectly celebrating the glory that is #MerMay. They need no more introduction, so let’s get right to the book!

YHWG_cover

Kelpana was never supposed to love humans this much.

As a mermaid tasked with keeping peace between land and sea, her job is to be fair. Neutral. Diplomatic. Political. But her carefree spirit is bewitched by the carousing, free-swinging ways of the landfolk…yet one night of careless fun becomes a death sentence when she spurns a bratty prince. Now she’s facing life in prison—but that life won’t be long without the ocean waters that keep her alive.

Yet if Kelpana dreams of better things than this new, grim existence—so, too, does the young man set to guard her in her cell. Morgan Sunilian wants to be more than anyone ever believed he could be. He wants to be an Absolute, decked in gold armor and fighting alongside the kingdom’s most elite guardians. Morgan will do anything to prove he’s strong enough to be more than a prison guard.

To prove he can be an Absolute.

Yet as each day watching over Kelpana passes with him falling under the sweet spell of her soft voice and quiet stories, he realizes the truth of who he wants to be more than even an Absolute.

He wants to be a man of honor. A man of kindness. A man of fairness.

And a man with the strength to defy his orders, risk his life, and save the woman he’s come to love.

Your Heart Will Grow is a complete, standalone 80k novel featuring a pansexual cis woman and a (mostly) heterosexual trans man in The Absolutes series.

And now the cover AND an excerpt! 

YHWG_cover
Featuring Kelpana, as drawn by the amazing Maggie Derrick

EXCERPT:

“You always look so pensive,” Kelpana said. “It’s nice to be with someone who thinks. Some of my favorite people say but a few sentences a year, and those carefully chosen words have more impact than a library of books written by the most respected philosophers and inventors.”

Another smile Morgan couldn’t stifle.

“Tell me. There must be something you want,” she cooed. “I can give you anything and everything. You obviously like me, so don’t you want to help me get out of here?”

“Can you make me an Absolute?”

A light chuckle trailed the end of his question. Kelpana’s nose wrinkled, and she stuck her silvery tongue out at him. It dipped well past her chin, and it made him curious how she managed to reel all of it back into her mouth.

“Why would you want to be one of those? I’ll give you the power, status, and wealth that comes with an Absolute. I’ll give you more than they can. Listen, a dragon dipped her head underwater one day to see my sister and me.”

Morgan’s breathing shallowed as he listened. Kelpana was a gifted storyteller. She could paint images so vividly in his head and make his pulse flutter with apprehension.

Shit.

Your Heart Will Grow comes out June 5, 2018 and is available to order on Amazon

***

chaceverityChace Verity (she/they) is publishing queer as heck stories with a strong romantic focus, although queer friendships and found families are important too. Chace prefers to write fantasy but dabbles in contemporary and historical fiction as well. An American citizen & Canadian permanent resident, Chace will probably never be able to call a gallon of milk a “four-liter.”

If you think Chace Verity and Chasia Lloyd look suspiciously alike, you might be onto something.

New Release Spotlight: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

It’s such a great feeling when you read a wonderful debut and know it’s just the beginning for a fabulous new voice, especially in queer lit. YA has seen some incredible social justice books in the last couple of years, and I’m so excited that this excellent queer one is in the mix, especially since it’s Under the Gaydar and also has a really phenomenal and superqueer secondary cast as well. Do yourself and YA lit in general a favor and grab this one as soon as it releases on May 22, or better yet, use those links at the bottom and preorder it now!

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A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indie-BoundBooks-A-MillionPowell’s* iBooks *Google Play

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember!

ICYMI, Julia Ember’s The Seafarer’s Kiss is one of my favorite queer YA fantasies of literally ever, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of its companion, The Navigator’s Touch here, along with an excerpt! Here’s the story, which releases from Interlude Press on September 13, 2018:

Julia

After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Djalsford for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, The Navigator’s Touch is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

And here’s the cover!

Doesn’t it look fabulous with the first book?? (Which you can buy via Interlude, Amazon, B&N, or IndieBound if you’re not yet caught up!)

But wait, there’s more! Check out this excerpt!

The sunlight faded to a dim shimmer, as the forest grew so dense we could barely pass between the trees. We dodged between low branches and tangled roots. The ground was a blanket of pine needles. The air smelled of evergreen and damp earth.

Ersel stopped to touch one of the trees. Her eyes widened as she ran her fingers over the gnarled bark. It was an ancient foxtail with a trunk the width of three men. Lacey frost clung to its bark and ice made fragile icicles at the end of each needle. Ersel plucked one of the crystals and cupped it in her palm, transfixed as it melted in her hand.

When she noticed me watching her, she shrugged. “Plants in the sea don’t grow anything like this. It reminds me how far I am from home.”

I plucked one of the crystals and popped it into my mouth. The fresh water soothed my dry tongue. The water was faintly sweet, infused with sap from the pine. Ersel laughed and took another icicle from the tree. She placed it on the edge of her tongue cautiously, then a grin stretched her cheeks.

For a few blissful minutes, I forgot about the men, the ship, and the invasion. We ran around the tree, gathering the sweet crystals and sucking on them until our foreheads ached and our teeth tingled.

Behind us, Smyain cleared his throat. He was a quiet man, who mostly kept to himself and was one of the few who didn’t seem to hang on Torstein’s every word. Ersel turned to him, and he pressed a frost-covered pinecone into her hand. She turned it over and then held it to her nose. She inhaled deeply, as if committing the crisp scent to memory.

“All of these trees start out like this,” Smyain said. He peered down at her shyly. “If you plant this in the ground, in a hundred years you’ll have a tree like this one. You should take it with you. You can start a forest anywhere.”

Ersel tucked the pinecone into the pocket of her dress. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Smyain didn’t meet my eye. He blushed and scuffed his foot on the wet ground.

I scowled. We’d been foolish to let our guard down. What had I been thinking? Running about, gathering sweets like a child? I couldn’t afford to let any of them see me like that. Taking Ersel by the arm, I steered her straight ahead. I walked quickly to put distance between us and the crew.

And of course you can preorder The Navigator’s Touch via Amazon or B&N!

Julia Ember lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her partner, two cats and an adorable pony. In 2016, she published her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, with Harmony Ink Press. She has subsequently published three further works for young adults. The Navigator’s Touch is the sequel to The Seafarer’s Kiss, which was released by Interlude Press in May 2017. It was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval literature at the University of St. Andrews.

Website: http://www.julia-ember.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jules_chronicle

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/juliaemberya

 

Better Know an Author: Caleb Roehrig

I’m wildly excited for this month’s featured author, who’s written one of my favorite gay YAs ever, which is also one of my favorite mystery/thriller novels ever, and who just released his sophomore novel on April 24. He’s also got some killer (no pun intended) work coming up and one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, so basically, yeah, he’s a good guy to know! Get to know Caleb Roehrig and you’ll become a huge fan too!

New book! New book! I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but by all accounts, White Rabbit is nooo victim of the Sophomore Slump, and you know I’m a massive fan of your debut, Last Seen Leaving. Can you tell us a little about White Rabbit and what it was like to write book 2?

34499210White Rabbit is about a boy named Rufus Holt who has one night to prove his sister is being framed for murder, with no allies to trust or count on but the ex-boyfriend who crushed his heart. The entire story unfolds over the course of about eight hours, and I call it my tribute to Agatha Christie—a murder mystery with a small pool of suspects, all of whom have something to hide.

As for writing Book 2, let me assure you that Second Book Syndrome is no joke! I actually completed a manuscript in between Last Seen Leaving and White Rabbit, but was in such a weird head space that I never felt comfortable with it. Once it was done, I shelved the project and started all over again. It was absolutely the right choice; the new story—this one—felt right from the very beginning, and I’m so excited to share it with the world!

You also recently announced a new book called Death Prefers Blondes, which I am so excited about. What can you share about it, and in what ways is it a departure from your previous work?

What I can say about Death Prefers Blondes is this: it’s my take on Hamlet, wherein Hamlet is a rebel heiress and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a pack of kickboxing drag queens. It’s a story I’ve told myself in one form or another since I was a teenager, and in many ways it feels surreal to finally have it captured in a manuscript. I tell everyone my signature content is Murder, Mayhem, & Make-outs, and Blondes has all of that in spades; but otherwise, it’s a huge departure for me. It’s less a whodunit than an action/adventure story, and I’ve never written a character quite like my protagonist, Margo—a wise-cracking, death-defying, face-punching socialite, hell-bent on revenge!

As a thriller master, you’ve got to get yourself into some pretty dark places, and do some really twisted plotting. What are your favorites ways to both get yourself into those modes and pull yourself back out as needed?

This is probably going to be an unsatisfying answer, but once upon a time, I was a professional actor; and as such, I have long experience with finding my way in and out of dark places. Acting is storytelling, of course—conjuring emotions out of words, and communicating that journey to the audience. The difference is that now I get to choose the tale that’s told, and how my reader will enter and exit the more intense scenes. To be honest, getting myself in and out of those frames of mind is easier than you might think; I get a lot of satisfaction when I feel like the mood is working right. In a way, creating misery is perversely rewarding.

Talk to me about your main characters. What do you see as common threads between Caleb Roehrig leads, and in what ways do they differ? How much do their very different romantic situations play into that?

I think my protagonists tend to be sarcastic, self-righteous, and prone to overthinking things. As for their differences, Flynn is definitely more of a joiner, and Rufus is more of A16Tc4VnzSLa proud outcast. In terms of their respective journeys, Rufus has been out for a couple of years before the events White Rabbit, while Flynn is only just embarking on that journey in Last Seen Leaving, which definitely plays into their respective attitudes.

It’s hard to explain how being closeted affects a person, but the best way I can describe it is to say that it’s like living with a ten-second delay. Every word that comes out of your mouth has to clear the censors first, to be sure it won’t give away your secret. A lot of Flynn’s actions and interests are directed by what he thinks will best help him fit in with his friend group; on the flipside, Rufus has had more time to accept and embrace what makes him different, which is, in part, what helps him find his friend group.

As a result, Flynn’s romance is complicated by the fact that he’s put so much time and effort into resisting what he really wants, so that breaking through that shell is a challenge. For Rufus, knowing what he wants isn’t enough—because the boy he wants it with runs in a different social circle, and is going through a difficult journey of his own.

Anyone who doesn’t follow you on Instagram might not know that you take some seriously gorgeous travel photography, and are a hell of a traveler. What are your top 3 travel spots, and what are the top 3 on your travel bucket list? (Also, so everyone can see what I’m talking about, please share a fave travel photo!)

This one is hard! I’ve been a lot of places, but mostly in Europe, because I lived there for four years. That said, I think my top three might be: Venice, Italy; literally anywhere in Norway; and Vevey, Switzerland.

My bucket list includes: Tokyo, Marrakesh, and Rio de Janeiro. And Machu Picchu. And Australia.

As for a fave travel photo, please enjoy the attached snapshot I took of Silvaplana, a town in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, while hiking the Alps!

And as long as we’re discussing travel, if you were going to set a book outside the US, where would it be and why?

Without giving too much away, there’s a sequence in Death Prefers Blondes that takes place in Europe; but as for setting an entire novel outside the US, I definitely have every intention to do so! I was so fortunate to live in Finland for a while, and to get to know that part of the world in an intimate way, and I would love to set a book there. It would mean a lot to me to bring that country alive on the page as a personal love letter.

I would also love to set something in Stockholm. It’s another of my favorite world cities, and I have kind of an affinity for Swedish culture. I’ve been low-key studying the language for the past seven years, which involves reading tons of gritty, Nordic crime fiction, and it’s been making my imagination run wild.

We’ve been seeing some more discussion lately about the importance of queer-guy YA written by queer guys, and as one of my favorite authors bringing #ownvoices gay YA to the canon, what are some books/voices you’d love to see get some more attention? And what milestones would you still like to see hit?

One of my absolute favorite #ownvoices novels is Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me, and I think it deserve more love. It’s a beautifully-written work about some very ugly emotions, and digs its fingers into some situations that are very specific to the gay experience, and which ring with an authenticity that gay readers deserve. I’m also really fond of Tim Floreen’s Willful Machines, Cale Dietrich’s The Love Interest, and Simon Curtis’s Boy Robot, all of which are SciFi/Spec Fic stories with thriller sentimentalities and queer protagonists. I am 110% here for books about kids who navigate their queerness as only one element of a more expansive plot, because that’s how it works in real life, too.

As for milestones I’d like to see hit, well…there are so many. I’d love for more queer writers to hit The List with #OV fiction, of course, but beyond that I would love to see readers really engage with queer art. When we express ourselves in our own words, we communicate truths that can get lost in translation when others tell our stories for us, and sometimes those borrowed narratives deliberately misrepresent the queer experience to appeal to non-queer readers. (I want to add here: writing outside your lane with respect and accuracy is absolutely possible, and I’ve got a list of an incredibly well-done books in that vein to rec as well!)

Honestly, I could talk for ages about this, but to keep it short, I’ll go with this: a milestone I would love to see hit is for #OV gay YA writers to earn awards and recognition based on genre as much as on category. I’d love to see readers abandon their preconceptions and embrace a fuller representation of what queerness is.

Heading back to the root of my fandom, now that you’re a ways away from publication of Last Seen Leaving, what have your takeaways been from the experience, especially with gay YA thrillers being so rare?

My experience has so far been great. It’s funny…I always thought of myself as a thriller writer, because I’ve been telling murder mysteries since long before I ever believed I could sell a book with a gay protagonist. Last Seen Leaving was actually my first attempt at an #OwnVoices novel, and when I first started it, I didn’t actually expect it to go anywhere. So it took me a while to internalize that I’m also a queer lit writer.

I’m really lucky, I think, because with one foot in the genre world and another in the growing field of queer rep for young readers, I get the opportunity to speak on a number of topics that I’m really passionate about. And what’s so great is to know that the gay YA thriller is a growing subcategory right now. I’m not sure where it comes from, but most of the gay men I know love horror movies, and I think—I hope—that more and more OV books are on their way about queer teens fighting monsters and busting crime!

For better or for worse, what’s the earliest LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember reading or seeing onscreen?

I think the very first time that I saw definitively queer rep (something more than subtext) it was in excerpts of Madonna: Truth or Dare, the controversial documentary of the 1991 music tour, Blonde Ambition. I remember these black-and-white clips being played on the news, showing Madonna sitting around with her flamboyant and unapologetically gay back-up dancers, speaking in blunt, provocative terms. Everything featured on the news was heavily censored, of course, but they were there. Madonna was one of the most influential artists in the world at the time, and I’m not sure people can really appreciate what her deliberate and highly visible acceptance of the queer community meant at the time.

Other than Death Prefers Blondes, what’s up next for you? (This is only slightly leading for an HHH plug. Really.)

So, in addition to Death Prefers Blondes, I have a fourth book scheduled with Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, and then I’m contributing a short story to an anthology of Edgar Allen Poe retellings, entitled His Hideous Heart, edited by one Dahlia Adler! (For those keeping score, I’ll be tackling The Pit and the Pendulum.) I’m also contributing to a second anthology, which has not been announced yet, and tweaking an adult fiction project I’ve been working on for a while. So…I think I have a busy year ahead!

***
Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.

Amy Spalding Interviews Britta Lundin about Ship It!

We’re back today with the second part of the conversation between Amy Spalding (author of The Summer of Jordi Perez) and Britta Lundin, whose Ship It just released yesterday! Here’s the scoop on Ship It and where you can buy it:

Ship It by Britta Lundin (1st)

Claire is a sixteen-year-old fangirl obsessed with the show Demon Heart. Forest is an actor on Demon Heart who dreams of bigger roles. When the two meet at a local Comic-Con panel, it’s a dream come true for Claire. Until the Q&A, that is, when Forest laughs off Claire’s assertion that his character is gay. Claire is devastated. After all, every last word of her super-popular fanfic revolves around the romance between Forest’s character and his male frenemy. She can’t believe her hero turned out to be a closed-minded jerk. Forest is mostly confused that anyone would think his character is gay. Because he’s not. Definitely not.

Unfortunately for Demon Heart, when the video of the disastrous Q&A goes viral, the producers have a PR nightmare on their hands. In order to help bolster their image within the LGBTQ+ community-as well as with their fans-they hire Claire to join the cast for the rest of their publicity tour. What ensues is a series of colourful Comic-Con clashes between the fans and the show that lead Forest to question his assumptions about sexuality and help Claire come out of her shell. But how far will Claire go to make her ship canon? To what lengths will Forest go to stop her and protect his career? And will Claire ever get the guts to make a move on Tess, the very cute, extremely cool fanartist she keeps running into?

Buy it: Amazon  //  Barnes and Noble  //  IndieBound

And now, let’s get to the interview!

Ship It is your first YA novel – how exciting!! I know that the story was originally a screenplay. How did the journey take it to book form, and what was that whole process like for you?

Yeah! I’m a screenwriter and TV writer (I write on the show Riverdale), so I originally imagined Ship It as a movie, but when the cool people at Freeform Books read the screenplay, they thought it would make a great YA novel. I’ve literally been reading young adult books since, well, BEFORE I was a young adult, so I was stoked for the chance to write a book, even though I had literally never written prose fiction before (aside from fanfic, lol). It’s been scary at times, and other times it’s been, well, really scary. But mostly it’s been a fun, rewarding way to write.

I love that the book is told in two points-of-view. It really gives this great 360 approach to the idea of fandom and what actually goes into a TV show. But what was it like juggling these two POVs, particularly —something that’s always intimidated me —writing from a guy’s perspective??

Ahhh the great unknown: men. Haha, no, I kid. I actually think women can be good at writing men because we’ve been trained from a young age to think about them and consider their feelings, and consume their narratives. So that didn’t intimidate me too much. I come from fandom, and I currently work as a TV writer, so I felt like I was sort of uniquely positioned to write this book with two perspectives, Claire, who operates from inside fandom and Forest, who lives inside the Hollywood machine. I wouldn’t trust that many people to tackle this topic unless they’ve really experienced both sides of the fandom divide.

What are some of your favorite classic ships, and what’s your favorite current ship?

My first ship was Mulder/Scully on THE X-FILES. I discovered the show in 7th grade and loved them hard and quickly. And I remember specifically the day, after reading a hundred Mulder/Scully fics, I stumbled across a Mulder/Krycek fic (Krycek, if you’re not familiar with the show, is another male character) and it was the first time I had read someone writing fic that was a) gay and b) certainly never going to be canon. It was A Moment for young Britta. Since then I’ve had a million favorite ships, but my current one is probably Kat/Adena on The Bold Type. (Bonus: it’s canon!)

I know that when you sold your book that you were just about to begin work writing on the first season of Riverdale, which was your first TV writing gig. Did anything end up changing about Ship It based on actually being in a writers room on an everyday basis?

The broad strokes remained the same, but there are certainly some details that were adjusted based on seeing how the sausage gets made from the inside. I’ve also discussed celebrity, PR, marketing, and TV production with literally dozens of friends in the entertainment industry and a lot of the stories they told me went right in the book. So I’m not saying that Ship It is exactly 100% accurate (there’s still some details that had to be fudged to make the timeline work) but there are a lot of real world details in the book that I hope will be fun for readers to learn about.

One thing I really loved about Ship It is that it does a great job of walking someone inexperienced with fandom, fanfic, convention life, etc., through everything and letting them gain a quick understanding, but it also definitely tackles issues, such as queerbaiting, that are perhaps bigger discussions within fandom right now. How did you juggle keeping the book accessible but making sure hardcore fandom people felt heard and represented as well? (MAGIC??)

Oh, thank you! This was one of my biggest concerns when I started writing. I wanted the book to feel authentic to the fan experience, and so as part of that, Claire uses a lot of slang and inside jokes and jargon that fandom folks will know, but outsiders might not. So I try to balance it out with explanations where possible so that someone who’s coming to the book from outside the fan community will find it approachable. In the first 20 pages, there’s a scene where Claire is explaining what shipping is to her mom. The entire purpose of that scene is to bring people who don’t know anything about fandom up to speed so they can follow the book. It’s helped by the fact that Forest (one of the POV characters, who is an actor being shipped in a gay ship), is also totally new to fandom, so he asks a lot of Fandom 101 questions that the reader may also be asking. The biggest compliment is when friends of mine read it and say, “I didn’t know anything about fandom before I started, and now I feel like I not only understand it, but I respect where they’re coming from.” That’s my goal!

There’s an incredibly sweet queer romance at the heart of this story. What was your favorite part about writing this arc, and how did you make sure it got its attention via only one of the two POVs and with so many other plot points at play? (AGAIN, WAS IT MAGIC?)

Amy, thank you! That was incredibly important to me in writing this book. It’s funny, because there’s also some sexy scenes in the book (nothing too terribly graphic, and most of it is fade-to-black, but it’s hard to write about fanfic and not at least allude to some sexy stuff). I frequently write in public at coffeeshops, and writing the sexy scenes was a very humdrum thing, but writing the first kiss scene had me like, blushing and pulling my hood over my eyes and trying not to let anyone see my screen, haha. I hope that people feel that way reading the scene! The romance isn’t the main plot of the book, it’s more of a subplot, so it doesn’t come up too often in Forest’s POV scenes, but it does get mentioned, and I hope it feels earned when it happens.

What’s next for you? Any spoilers you can reveal?

Riverdale just got picked up for a season three! And that’s super exciting that these stories we’re working on get to continue. On the book side, I never thought I would ever be a YA author, but now that I’ve done it, I kind of rather like it, so maybe you’ll see more from me down the line…

Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can. She is the author of five young adult novels, including her latest, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles).

New Releases: May 2018

Little Fish by Casey Plett (1st)

In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather–a devout Mennonite farmer–might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives–from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide–Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis (1st)

In this modern fairy tale, a noble prince and a brave knight come together to defeat a terrible monster and in the process find true love in a most unexpected place.

“Thank you,” he told his parents.

“I appreciate that you tried,

but I’m looking for something special

in a partner by my side.”

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn’t quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met.

While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along.

Buy it: Amazon

Ship It by Britta Lundin (1st)

Claire is a sixteen-year-old fangirl obsessed with the show Demon Heart. Forest is an actor on Demon Heart who dreams of bigger roles. When the two meet at a local Comic-Con panel, it’s a dream come true for Claire. Until the Q&A, that is, when Forest laughs off Claire’s assertion that his character is gay. Claire is devastated. After all, every last word of her super-popular fanfic revolves around the romance between Forest’s character and his male frenemy. She can’t believe her hero turned out to be a closed-minded jerk. Forest is mostly confused that anyone would think his character is gay. Because he’s not. Definitely not.

Unfortunately for Demon Heart, when the video of the disastrous Q&A goes viral, the producers have a PR nightmare on their hands. In order to help bolster their image within the LGBTQ+ community-as well as with their fans-they hire Claire to join the cast for the rest of their publicity tour. What ensues is a series of colourful Comic-Con clashes between the fans and the show that lead Forest to question his assumptions about sexuality and help Claire come out of her shell. But how far will Claire go to make her ship canon? To what lengths will Forest go to stop her and protect his career? And will Claire ever get the guts to make a move on Tess, the very cute, extremely cool fanartist she keeps running into?

Buy it: Amazon  //  Barnes and Noble  //  IndieBound

Cinnamon Blade: Knife in Shining Armor by Shira Glassman (7th)

Every time Cinnamon Blade, crime fighter making up for a bad past, rescues the sweet and nerdy Soledad Castillo from bad guys, the two women’s chemistry grows stronger. Now that she’s finally asked Soledad out, sparks fly — but is a normal date even possible in a city threatened by aliens and vampires on a regular basis?

Buy it: Amazon

 

 

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (15th)

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“I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves (15th)

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny’s life. She’s failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth (15th)

This modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing takes place at the idyllic Camp Dogberry, where sisters Bee and Hana Leonato have grown up. Their parents own the place, and every summer they look forward to leading little campers in crafts, swimming in the lake, playing games of capture the flag and sproutball, and of course, the legendary counselor parties.

This year, the camp drama isn’t just on the improv stage. Bee and longtime counselor Ben have a will-they-or-won’t-they romance that’s complicated by events that happened—or didn’t happen—last summer. Meanwhile, Hana is falling hard for the kind but insecure Claudia, putting them both in the crosshairs of resident troublemaker John, who spreads a vicious rumor that could tear them apart.

As the counselors juggle their camp responsibilities with simmering drama that comes to a head at the Fourth of July sparkler party, they’ll have to swallow their pride and find the courage to untangle the truth, whether it leads to heartbreak or happily ever after.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro (22nd)

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde (22nd)

A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde’s quirky and utterly relatable novel.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be
perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon