Guest Interview: Julian Winters Talks to Author Adib Khorram in Honor of the Release of Darius the Great is Not Okay!

What happens when you get two delightful authors of queer YA coming together to discuss one’s new release, that just happens to be so beloved by me that it’s this month’s new release spotlight? This amazing interview, conducted by the absolutely wonderful Julian Winters, author of Running With Lions. I’m thrilled to have Julian and Adib on the site today discussing mental health rep, relationship dynamics, and more! Come check it out!

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Hi Adib! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your amazing debut YA novel, Darius the Great Is Not Okay. I don’t know if you’ve heard but… I’m a huge fan. The last book that drew me in and stayed with me like this one was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The friendships, the look at parent/child relationships, the journey and growth of the characters—everything a reader needs, especially a young adult reader, is in this book. Can you tell us a little bit about your book journey and what inspired you to write this one?

Thank you for having me! Aristotle and Dante is amazing company to be in. It’s one of my favorites, so I definitely hoped to hit some of the same notes.

I started writing Darius while I was visiting my dad’s side of the family (the Iranian side) in Vancouver for Nowruz. I had just finished a first draft of a book I thought was unique and different and was sure to be the kind of book that would get me an agent. It seemed fresh and fantastic.

The next day I saw a deal announcement from Publishers’ Weekly that sounded like…pretty much what I had just finished. So I flipped some tables and moped for a day or two and then I decided to write something only I could write: about being Iranian-American, torn between two cultures, growing up with depression. Things I knew intimately, that I still struggled with, and that I felt I needed to reconcile.

I wrote it, and revised it, and revised it, and revised it, and revised it some more, and started querying. I did an R&R at one point that made some hugely beneficial changes. And I eventually landed an agent, Molly O’Neill, who loved Darius and wanted to represent it. So we revised it more and then she started sending it out to editors, and we got acquired by Dana Chidiac at Dial. And then we edited it even more! But I’m so happy with how it came out.

Darius is such a soft boy. He cries, struggles with his emotions and appearance. He loves hard. It’s so heartfelt but also very real. He also has clinical depression and I loved the way mental health is treated in this book. It’s openly discussed and Darius—nor his immediate family—never once tries to ignore that it’s there. Can you talk about how important it was to show Darius’ depression? Also, his relationship with his father in regards to depression?

I’ve been heartened to see the increased representation of depression and mental illness in YA literature, but a lot of it didn’t speak to my experience, which was and has been, for the most part, one of low-level, persistent melancholy rather than suicidal ideation or other crisis. I wanted to write about people whose depression is manageable, whose lives are informed by it without being defined by it.

I think, because there’s a genetic component depression, and because my own family has a long history with depression, it was important to acknowledge that it can be a generational disease, and I think generational diseases can lead to complicated feelings for both the parent and the child.

I’m glad you mentioned how soft he is. I think it’s so easy to characterize people with depression as aloof or detached. But I often experienced it as too much feeling. And I also think it’s important to show boys that it’s okay to be soft. Unpacking and dismantling toxic masculinity is something I hope to grapple with in all my work.

The father/son dynamic is honest and incredibly-well done. Darius’ issues with his father ache somewhere deep. They don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but they have one common groundStar Trek: The Next Generation. For me, that hit home because the only connection I have with my own father are through our shared love for sci-fi series or movies. What inspired this interesting look at father/son dynamics?

It came from a lot of places. Like I said, some of it came from my wanting to examine how generational disease can shape relationships. And part of that is that, as the child of diaspora, I and others like me often have a hard time dealing with parental expectations.

I also wanted to explore how we form our loves. I got some of mine from my parents, and some from my friends. I was introduced to Star Trek by my friend in second grade, but it was something that my grandma and I watched every Thursday (which is when new episodes aired on our local NBC affiliate). I think those special moments of shared experience can really come to define our relationships. And it sounds like you found that, too!

Darius has a lot of great relationships—his mom, grandparents, Sohrab—throughout the book. My favorite was the one with his younger sister, Lelah. It’s apparent how much he cares for her. But he’s also quietly frustrated with how easily she blends with his family in Yazd—something he’s struggling to do—because she speaks Farsi. And how their father welcomes her into the ST: TNG viewings when that’s the only thing Darius shares with him. Again, those moments were so easy to connect with. Was that an aspect of sibling relationships you set out to write? Was it something that developed as you wrote?

That’s something that developed in the edits. Originally Darius and Laleh’s relationship was maybe a little too saccharine; my genius editor pointed out that no matter how much Darius loves her, there would still be moments when he was sick of her. That’s just human nature. And I’m so glad she did point that out, because I think it makes their relationship read as so much more real.

Majority of the book takes place in Yazd, Iran. It’s rare but wonderful to see a YA contemporary novel take place in somewhere other than America. It was refreshing and insightful. Was it difficult to explore Darius’ journey while also taking readers on a journey through Yazd’s landscape, explaining cultural differences, food, Persian holidays, and Farsi?

Actually, I don’t think I could have told the story without having it take place in Yazd. To me, Darius’s internal journey was always mirrored by his external one. He couldn’t know who he was without knowing where he came from, and he couldn’t appreciate where he came from without understanding how that influenced who he was.

By the way, my life goal now is to have you introduce me to the wonders of faludeh!

I accept this challenge. It can be hard to find but it’s worth it.

There’s this beautifully understated romance in this book. But it’s not your paint-by-numbers romance. It’s not even a boy-meets-boy romance. It’s Darius falling in love with the city of Yazd. It’s the platonic romance of Darius and Sohrab. It’s Darius falling deeper in love with his grandparents and, by extension, himself. Were those your intentions—to show a main character experiencing a different type of love? Was there ever any push for you to have a romantic storyline in the novel?

All of my most important relationships in life have been non-romantic love, and that was even more true when I was a teenager. I think it’s important and true to show that the love between two friends, or the love between a son and his grandmother, can be as life-shattering as a romance.

There was never any push to add romance—indeed, one of the first things Molly said to me on “the call” is that she loved that Darius told “the love story of a friendship.”

Okay, we have to address the nerdiness of Darius. It’s perfect! His excitement/dedication to things like the Lord of the Rings and ST: TNG is as much hilarious as it is relatable. How much of that is you? And, for the record—besides Captain Picard, who is your favorite ST: TNG character?

I’m super nerdy, and I am beyond excited to see Captain Picard’s return! It’s like a dream come true! So I did borrow a lot of my own nerdiness to bring Darius to life, though I tried to channel the shape my nerdiness took when I was in high school rather than what it’s like today. I feel like I loved things in a really remarkable and passionate and consuming way when I was a teen, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

Favorite character aside from Captain Picard? Hmm. Probably Guinan.

Can we talk about Sohrab for a second? I loved him. He’s an unexpected delight and a great best friend to Darius. He’s excited about anything that involves Darius and that was such a poignant part of Darius’ journey. To feel like someone understood him and loved everything about him. Someone who made Darius “belong.” SPOILER ALERT: When Sohrab gave Darius the Team Melli jersey? I experienced a major containment failure.

Sohrab isn’t without flaws. He makes mistakes. He also owns up to them. Did he represent anyone in your own life?

When I was Darius’s age, I already had a small but stable friend group of really close friends. Darius has never had that before, though, so I kind of borrowed bits of lots of my other friendships when trying to craft Sohrab.

I also tried to capture the feeling of meeting and instantly falling into friendship with someone, something I didn’t experience myself until I was much older and had a day job and found myself instantly friends with some of my colleagues.

Let’s talk writing methods: I read you don’t necessarily write to music playlists. Shocker! You did write Darius to Young the Giant—hello, I could write to Mind Over Matter for years, such a great album—but what helps you in your writing process? What inspires your writing moods?

Right? Home of the Strange came out while I was in revisions and it was even more perfect for Darius!

I can’t write without tea. I need the ritual to kind of get into my writing headspace. And I need to be in a place that’s “for work” and not for relaxation. If I’m writing at home, I’ll sit in a different place than I sit if I’m watching TV or playing a game. But I love writing at coffee shops even more.

The buzz leading into the release of this book has been phenomenal. Starred-reviews. Authors talking non-stop about it. Obviously, that’s exciting and always a positive, but has any of it been intimidating? Any advice for other debut authors about handling the pressures of a book release?

It has been super intimidating. I’ve always been the kind of person that’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. My good friend Lana Wood Johnson said during her agent search that she always took rejection as a sign she was working hard, and so hearing yes was a strange feeling, and I think she really hit the nail on the head. So some days, I still struggle with the feeling that everything will come crashing down around me. I try not to listen to that voice, though.

My advice is to have a good support network. Some need to be writers, and some need to not be writers, because you’re going to need to unburden different parts of the experience to different people.

I’m calling it—there’s going to be a lot of “book hangover” once people finish Darius. People are going to need something to tide them over until your next great novel arrives. What books are you enjoying, either in the same vein as Darius or beyond?

For other people wanting awesome Iranian characters, I’ve loved Arvin Ahmadi’s Down and Across and Sara Farizan’s Here to Stay. For people wanting stories about life-defining friendships, I’d point them to your debut, Running with Lions! I’m still reeling from my own book hangover from that.

For a self-deprecating narrator, this may be a surprising recommendation, but I’ve been obsessed with Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries, a series of novellas about a rogue SecUnit (essentially a cyborg designed to provide security for humans) who can’t seem to stop caring about people, despite trying not to.

The book world is going to fall in love with you, which only means one thing: What’s next for you? Will we see further adventures of Darius and Sohrab?

Well, I’m working on another book, another stand-alone, but I can’t say too much about it right now. I will say that it’s another contemporary, it takes place mostly in a Kansas City high school, and the main character is a GSA President with some serious Leslie Knope-ish tendencies.

I really loved getting into Darius’s head, so I’d never say no to returning to him. I think I know what story I would want to tell. But ultimately that’ll be up to the book doing well enough to make a companion novel viable. Fingers crossed!

Thanks so much for agreeing to this interrogation Adib! And thank you Dahlia for this wonderful opportunity. Now, Adib, how many lights are there?

Thank you, Julian! And you, Dahlia! It’s been a blast.

And THERE! ARE! FOUR! LIGHTS!

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Amazon bestselling author Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his debut novel.

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Exclusive Cover Reveal: From the Same Star by Nicole Field!

First we had an exclusive  excerpt reveal from Nicole Field’s Changing Loyalties, and now Field’s back with an exclusive cover reveal for a brand-new book, From the Same Star! FtSS is an f/f asexual contemporary romance with BDSM content, and it releases on October 8th! Check it out:

In  the aftermath of her mother’s death, Angela struggles to recover and re-enter the world. When she meets Steve, who works in the café across the street, she feels able to take a step out of her grief-filled home. With Steve, she hopes to do D/s as a way to take a break from the pain consuming her, but discovers that in doing kink, you bring all of who you are with you, including grief.

Then Steve’s best friend is in a tragic car accident, and winds up in a coma, and Angela longs to offer support to Steve, as well as receive it. 
And here’s the cover!

Preorder it!

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Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with her fiancee, two cats, and a bottomless cup of tea. She likes candles, incense and Gilmore Girls.

Fave Five: F/F YA to Read if You Loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

A&B by JC Lillis

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in LA) by Amy Spalding

Bonus: Seemed a little obvious to include in the five, but: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Double Bonus: This is literally just more recommendations; so sue me: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley, Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler, Style by Chelsea M. Cameron, and Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley.

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New Release Spotlight: Darius the Great is Not Okay

You know those books that are just special? Like, you want to hug them and hug their main characters and check in on them? This debut is that book. The fact that it’s queer is more quiet subtext than anything else (though it’s not unclear); the main character is very much at the earliest stages of questioning, something he’s able to do in part because this book is really where he first learns how to forge different kinds of relationships. From being really beautifully set in Iran to containing a wonderful friendship between two boys to the great depression rep to body self-consciousness to nerdery, this book has so much, and I honestly think it should be in every school library, and definitely in your personal library, so keep an eye out when it releases on August 28!

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (28th)

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Rainy Day Books

 

Guest Recs From Erin Ptah: LGBQ+ Webcomics With No Romance

Hey everyone, check it out, I managed to finish another webcomic reclist before Pride Month ends. (As a guest-poster, I don’t know if it’ll be published before Pride Month ends, but I want y’all to appreciate the effort anyway.) (Blogger’s Note: WELL, I messed this up tremendously, so in fact, while Erin did turn it in during Pride Month, uhhh…well.)

At this point I’ve recced a lot of strips about wlw/mlm characters who have active romances — some that develop over the course of the series, some that were in place when it started. Which makes sense, since that’s the most obvious way to establish and celebrate a character’s queerness. That said…you don’t stop being queer when you aren’t dating.

So I pulled together a bunch of comics featuring characters without romantic storylines, whose sexual orientations are indicated in other ways. And the rest of the writing makes it clear that it’s not authorial bias against same-sex relationships. These people are just frankly way too busy with other things right now.

Today’s theme: Webcomics with LGBQ+ characters who don’t have romances!

(Note that, if it’s an ongoing series, I’m not guaranteeing they won’t be paired off at some point down the road. Or saying it would be a bad thing if they did! Just reccing the comics based on the current state of the archives.)


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(1) Sleepless Domain by Mary Cagle

Sleepless Domain is a comic about an isolated city in the middle of a dangerous world filled with monsters. During the day, the city is perfectly safe. At night, however, the populace locks themselves inside as the city streets fill with monsters. The only ones who can combat these creatures are very special girls with the power to transform into Magical Girls!

Dark mahou shoujo, ongoing. In this world magical girls are widely-known (every costume upgrade gets gushed-over in the media), institutionally supported (they have special schools to accommodate the way they’re usually up all night fighting monsters!), and highly marketable (especially if your team has a branding manager).

But the monsters are serious, and can be fatal to a girl who lets her guard down. After a tragedy in the early chapters, the story focuses on the survivors’ struggle to deal with the grief and adapt to their changed lives.

In the face of all the other problems our heroines are dealing with, it’s refreshing that their world is so LGBTQ-friendly. There’s an unselfconsciously cuddly f/f couple in the supporting cast, and nobody finds it confusing or remarkable when a trans girl awakens as a mahou shoujo.

None of the main characters are dating, and most of their orientations could still be anything, but one was finally confirmed to have a fellow magical-girl ex. Plenty of readers already shipped her with her co-star, and that sure didn’t hurt. I do like the ship, and I can see canon going there at some point in the future…but not the near future. At this point I wouldn’t even describe their interactions as shipteasing. It’s all about friendship and recovery.


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(2) Forward by Mason “Tailsteak” Williams

Lee lives alone, and spends most of their time watching episodes of Martian cartoons and rating them out of five stars. They have no job, and necessities like food and clothing are delivered to their apartment and prepared by various devices that Lee either rents or owns. Like most people who have been given everything they say they want, Lee is miserable.

Sci-fi, ongoing. Lee is some form of transfeminine — I hesitate to use any specific present-day labels, because this future is a “post-bio-gender setting” in which most people use they/them pronouns anyway. Into their isolated life barges Zoa, a multipurpose companionship-bot (“Legally, I’m a vending machine”) whose primary function involves blowjobs.

Lee isn’t interested in buying sex. (Although they’re not upset or dysphoric at the topic, in case you were worried.) What they really crave is genuine social interaction, which Zoa also turns out to be pretty good at, in its own special way.

So now they’re…friends, sort of? And making plans to do more friendship-things in the future. Maybe even leaving Lee’s apartment and trying to interact with the rest of society. I can’t wait.

The art is solid, but this is one of those strips I would read if it was all done in stick figures, because the writing for the dialogue is great. Clever and snappy, funny and relatable, and every once in a while it’ll punch you in the heart out of nowhere.

I’ll also throw in a qualified rec for the artist’s previous comic, Leftover Soup. There are a lot of elements that I wouldn’t blame anyone for avoiding — most notably, the deaths of two young black men, as well as one pet hamster. But if the rough parts aren’t dealbreakers for you, the good parts are very good. And it has some of the only main-character polyamory webcomic representation I can think of: a five-person unit involving two mostly-gay guys, two bi/pan women, and one straight guy, as written by a poly/pan author.


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(3) Widdershins by Kate Ashwin

Widdershins is a series of Victorian-era adventure stories, set in the fictional town of Widdershins, West Yorkshire- England’s magical epicentre, home to bounty hunters, failed wizards, stage magicians, and more, besides.

Fantasy adventure, ongoing. Powerful and deadly spirits keep getting summoned, causing intricate havoc, and then being desummoned by mismatched groups of lovable oddballs. The first few stories seem like disconnected adventures in the same general universe, but eventually the groups start meeting each other, and have to unravel the villains’ shared backstory in order to bind them all for real.

And if the general description doesn’t hook you, try this: One of the mismatched groups consists of amazing cooks from all throughout history, who got swalloved out of their home eras and transported to the same time period by an evil magical hotel.

The world seems to have period-typical homophobia on a cultural level — all the socially-acknowledged romances, certainly all the marriages, are m/f. Still, on a personal level, none of the main characters seem to bat an eye at same-sex attractions or romances among their friends. The actual couples of all gender combinations are pretty backgrounded; most of the main cast is busy with other things. I won’t spoil you for which of the women (more than one!) turn out to have ex-girlfriends.

Bonus: one of the characters is described as asexual, and nobody has a problem with that either. And in the time travel storyline, the author makes it explicit that full marriage equality is in this world’s future.

…so you can probably guess which arc is my favorite. That said, the writing is funny and engaging across-the-board, all the stories are well-paced, and all the characters are wonderful.


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(4) Magical How by Eurika Yusin Gho

Gabe and Booker are just two normal college guys, sharing an apartment and failing spectacularly at love. But one day, a talking golf ball named Hal lands in their lives and offers them magical powers…and despite it being a terrible idea, Gabe signs up immediately! Now he must don the admittedly flattering dress of a Magical and fight for love and justice, while Booker, blinded by the sparkles, wants nothing to do with any of this.

Magical-boy drama, ongoing. At first Gabe is fighting basic monsters-of-the-day, but then he gets taken under the wing of a team of higher-level magical boys with ulterior motives, and the plot starts developing layers. Although the artist never loses sight of her self-professed motivation, “I just want to draw cute boys in skirts.”

The non-magical roommate, Booker, is gay — which we know partly because he has a T-shirt that says so. We’ve gotten hints about a troubled romantic past, which makes it unsurprising that he’s avoided any love interests in the present.

A lot of the fandom ships him with Gabe based on odd-couple chemistry, but the author doesn’t seem to…and frankly, neither do I. In spite of the pink-on-pink aesthetic and overflowing enthusiasm of a standard mahou-shoujo protagonist, Gabe has a surprising amount of unlikeability. I’m hoping the plot will involve him growing and maturing, not even into a worthy boyfriend, just into a better roommate.


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(5) The Suburban Jungle by John “The Gneech” Robey

The original The Suburban Jungle (Starring Tiffany Tiger) is a furry slice-of-life/romantic-comedy/bad-sf webcomic created by The Gneech, which ran from February 1999 – November 2009.

Furry comedy, complete. Tiffany Tiger is a model/actress who has a small-time career in New San Angeles, and would like to make it bigger. A warmhearted mix of showbiz-industry jokes (minor characters include Jerry Springer-Spaniel and Weird Al Hamstervic), family shenanigans, romantic misadventures, and the occasional interdimensional conspiracy.

Fair warning, this one does spend a lot of time on the straight characters’ love lives — mostly Tiffany’s string of relationships and her half-sister’s dating-to-marriage arc. It’s not a “no time for romance” strip overall. It’s just that there’s only one major gay character — Tiffany’s manager, Drezzer — never gets a serious romantic storyline despite being shamelessly flirty.

But it doesn’t come across like the artist thinks less of queer couples (there’s at least one same-sex romance in the background cast), and Drezzer isn’t portrayed as some kind of lonely tragic cautionary tale. He has a group of friends he cares about, an enjoyable job that he’s good at, and a happy and fulfilling life in general. He just happens not to have a partner at the moment. And that’s okay.

(I do know there are more queer characters, with and without romances, in the ongoing sequel comic, Rough Housing. Haven’t read enough of it to go into detail. It’s set in the same universe, but follows the next generation of characters, and I don’t know if they mention any details on Drezzer’s future in particular.)


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person and Leif & Thorn, both of which have several unattached queer characters in the main casts. Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

Fave Five: Queer Autistic Main Characters

The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver

Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sonderby

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

Whip Stir and Serve by Caitlyn Frost and Henry Drake

The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish

Bonus: For great books with major queer characters that also have autistic main characters (but not queer, autistic MCs), check out On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis and Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde. For a short stories, try Four-Point Affective Calibration” by Bogi Takács and “Tenderness” by Xan West in Queerly Loving 2.

Backlist Book of the Month: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

One request I get with some frequency is for great queer books that also have great mental health rep, and to that, when appropriate, Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is one I always recommend. This isn’t a book where sexuality takes center stage, or even second stage, really, but the MC, Solomon, is gay all the same. However, it’s his agoraphobia that’s really defined his life of late, and this story is about making human connections, however flawed, until you find your place in the world that’s overwhelmed you. It’s a personal favorite, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, I hope you love it as much as I did!

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Book Depository

The Colorful Catalog of Chace Verity!

Welcome back to The Colorful Catalog, the LGBTQReads feature that welcomes authors of at least five works of queer fiction (beyond cis m/m) to come on the site and discuss those works with us! Today we’ve got Chace Verity, whose work (or at least covers!) you might be well familiar with by now as a reader of the site! So come check out their work and find a new fave!

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I’m Chace Verity (she/they, though “they” is preferred over “she”), and as of this writing, I’m 30. For a person who vehemently dreaded turning 30, I’ve been embracing this year and using 30 as an excuse to really explore all the queer parts of me that I’ve been avoiding my whole life. Writing has been the best road for me to take in this particular journey of self-discovery.

As a voracious consumer of media in multiple genres, I find myself branching into all kinds of worlds in my writing. Many authors I respect greatly have a distinct focus in their branding, and maybe I will get there one day when I’m no longer 30. But right now, I’m everywhere. I’m too busy figuring “me” out to worry a whole lot about what kind of platform I’m building.

(I guess I could always make business cards that say “Chace Verity: writes whatever the hell they want.”)

The Panic Before 30

Team Phison, a geeky age-gap long distance m/m contemporary romance, is the novella that I published in the last bit of 20s I had left. I wrote it when I was 28, the same age as grumpy protagonist Phil’s ball of sunshine he finds himself shockingly in love with. I put so much of myself into Tyson, more than anyone knows.

I sat on it for a year, thinking no one had any interest in a low-drama, queer take on people who meet through a video game. Then 3 months before 30 came, and I desperately wanted to say I did something with my twenties.

Everyone around me loved Phil and Tyson. People I admire tell me they reread this novella constantly. Wow, I thought. Maybe I can really be me.

But who am I?

The Rush Of Turning 30

I’ve known I was pansexual for nearly half of my life (ID’d as bi before I discovered pan). Realized I wasn’t cis maybe two years ago, while I was channeling Tyson. Felt validated after publishing Team Phison and seeing the positive feedback. Validation feels good.

Once my birthday rolled around, I started refining older works and making them even queerer before publishing them.

My heart lies in my fantasy series, The Absolutes. This is a world that’s truly for me. Queer characters! Being open and proud! In a fantasy world! If other people enjoy it, then that’s a bonus.

My Heart Is Ready is a prequel novella with f/f and m/f romantic pairings, featuring a bi heroine with secret earth magic and a queer hero who is half-harpy, half-human, and 100% into gossip. They’re exes who are best friends with some serious trust issues. Throw in a heist to steal some rare seeds, and you’ve got a serious test of friendship going on.

The first full-length novel in the Absolutes series, Your Heart Will Grow, focuses more on romance than friendship. A m/f romance with a (mostly) hetero trans soldier hero and a pansexual mermaid heroine, that stakes go up as the unlikely lovers go against a spurned prince and the possible eradication of mermaids.

Flipping back to contemporary, Just Some Things was a tiny collection of f/f shorts I put together as a freebie. It’s truly amazing to me how many people have enjoyed the weird museum cute-(re)meet, my grumpy girl with a predilection for the F word, and the college friends who have suddenly realized they’re in love.

30 isn’t scary, I realized in January. I don’t know who I am, but this number doesn’t define me.

The Calm Of 30

In my new decade, I’ve started writing really weird and queer stuff. Things without the allocishet gaze. Things I absolutely am obsessed with.

Back in February, I was really into the idea of a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but f/f and with minotaurs. And rock candy, holy moly, I love rocky candy. The Masked Minotaur came together very quickly as a novelette. It’s a unique work in that I have a version with a super explicit sex scene and a version where the sex scene fades to black. Pick your version; it’s in the same download!

My most recent release veers away from romance and focuses on friendship. The best thing I ever did for myself was find other queer people to be friends with, people who encouraged me to be myself, people who I will forever encourage to be themselves. Hard To Find is a collection of short stories with queer characters making friends with other queer characters. Half of it is contemporary, and the other half is fantasy.

I’m really in a good place now. I’m working on queer stuff and having a good time with it. I can’t wait to show you what 31 will bring. So far, there are couch hunters (enby/f main pairing), disastrous thieves (m/m), a fantasy enby/f/f tale, and more from the Absolutes involving a wishing well and pirates (m/m and m/f). I’m excited for everything beyond 31, too. You can follow me on Twitter or check out my website for all the updates of my thirties.

Will I freak out again around 39? It’s possible. But I hope I will look back at this year and remind myself everything turned out well.

***

Chace Verity (she/they) is turning 31 on September 28 and ready to help anyone else feeling down over arbitrary numbers. They are publishing queer as heck stories with a strong romantic focus, although 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.”

New Releases: August 2018

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé (7th)

Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository  | Indigo 

Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack (9th)

This is the second book in the In the Present Tense series.

Now on the run from the corporation that turned him into a lab experiment, Miles finds himself in a fight for his life as he unravels the complicated relationships he shares with ex-boyfriend Adam, whom he still loves, and wife Ana, whose allegiance he cannot trust.

Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Bethany Carter is on the run from her past and present. Having escaped the same institution that trapped Miles, she must find a way to safely manage the schizophrenia that triggers her time travel while navigating unpredictable bouts of paranoia.

As Miles’ and Bethany’s lives become more intertwined, Dr. Branagan, the man who made their lives a living hell at Longleaf Retreat, will stop at nothing to continue his research, even if it means destroying his subjects in the process.

Buy it: Interlude

Learning Curves by Ceilie Simkiss (16th)

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Buy it: Amazon

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (28th)

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Rainy Day Books

Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller (28th)

This is the second book in the Mask of Shadows duology.

As Opal, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and most importantly the ability to hunt the lords who killed their family. But Sal has to figure out who the culprits are before putting them down. Which means trying to ignore the fact that Elise is being kept a virtual prisoner, and that the queen may have ulterior motives.

And the tales coming out of north are baffling. Talk of dark spirits, missing children, and magic abound. As Sal heads north toward their ruined homeland and the lords who destroyed everything, they learn secrets and truths that can’t be ignored.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Watermark (signed) * Book Depository