Fave Five: Collaborative YA Novels

You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

What if it’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin

Bonus: Coming in 2019, Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy and Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

Double Bonus: Coming in 2020, Meet Me Halfway by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

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Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner!

Hey, remember how this past year there was a debut that was actually freaking called Dear Rachel Maddow, and how ridiculously cool that was? Well, excellent news! That very same author is back with her sophomore novel, and it also stars a queer girl…and happens to have an utterly stunning cover, which you can see today! Ta da! But first, here are the details on The Confusion of Laurel Graham by Adrienne Kisner, a contemporary f/f YA releasing on June 4, 2019 from Feiwel & Friends!

Laurel Graham has loved bird watching as long as she can remember, just like her beloved grandmother, who also happens to be a steadying force in her life. One evening Gran drags Laurel out on a birding expedition where the pair hear a mysterious call that even Gran can’t identify. The pair vow to find out what it is as Laurel pursues nature photography dominance over her rival–fellow nature reserve volunteer, Risa.  But soon after, Gran is involved in a horrible car accident and the town threatens to seize the nature reserve land.  Laurel must then decide to fight for what’s most important to her, if she can figure out what that is.

And here’s the stunning cover!

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! We’ve also got an exclusive excerpt, so come check it out and meet Laurel Graham!

***

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

—Oliver Herford

Field Journal Entry
April 29
Notable Location: Sarig Pond
Life list entry 3,284: white-winged tern

Never let them see you sweat.

That’s not the Birdscout motto. But it fucking well should be.

“Who can tell me three of the feathered friends we might find on our walk today?” I said.

Sixteen pairs of eyes stared back at me, wide and unblinking.

Homeschoolers. Unschoolers. Some kind of schoolers that meant they weren’t in the overcrowded gray-and-red brick elementary building seven blocks away and were instead standing at the entrance of the Sarig Pond Nature Sanctuary with me. I thought home-non-unschooling would make them wild, free nature lovers . . . but no. Most of them were looking at their smartwatches, secretly texting one another.

“Okay, who can tell me one creature we might find today?” I tried again.

“Um,” a tiny girl with cat-eye glasses said. “A squirrel?”

I sighed. Unfortunately she was right. Squirrels were the bane of birders everywhere. (Well. Except maybe in places where there were no squirrels, which were sadly limited.)

“Good guess!” I said.

She grinned. It’s best to encourage the little ones. They were prone to unpredictable sudden movements that could veer off the path and ruin your day. Best to keep them on your side. “Can anyone guess a creature with wings?”

“Robins?” another boy tried in a bored voice.

“Yes!” My fist shot into the air. “Sweetest of songbirds! Harbingers of spring! Portents of luck and fortune!” Those last two were debatable at best, but sometimes you needed to finesse bird symbolism in order to win a tough audience. A few heads swiveled my way at that, so I felt I’d made the right choice for the greater good.

“Really?” the bored boy asked.

“You bet. Birds bring messages of all sorts to humans. But there are way more interesting things about them than that. They have their own language to communicate. They can fly hundreds of miles and never get lost. They fight for what’s theirs. They are warriors.”

“Cool,” the boy said. “Do you think we’ll see some of those smart ones?”

I smiled to myself. It only takes one to turn a crowd. “Why, yes,” I said, peering at the nametag slapped on his fuzzy lapel, “Isaac. I do. Follow me.”

Six cardinals (two female, four males), two nuthatches, sixteen (give or take) common grackles, three red-bellied woodpeckers, and one red-tailed hawk later, I delivered the kids back to their adults.

“Feel free to take some pamphlets on your way out,” I called. “Nature story time starts May 30!”

I retreated into the tiny, cramped office of the Birdscout Nature Center and sunk into a chair. Birding with the unenthusiastic could fucking wipe a girl out.

“Oh. Hey,” said a voice. I looked up to see a familiar shock of dyed hair shaved into a crest peeking through the door. “If it isn’t the Birdscout-in-chief. Is Jerry in?”

“Out sick today,” I said. “Risa. Your hair . . . ,” I started.

“What about it?” she said. I could hear a warning in her voice.

“It reminds me of a wire-crested thorntail.”

Risa’s face broke into a grin. “You got it! Of course you are the only one who noticed. I love them.”

“They are exquisite,” I agreed.

Risa and I looked at each other for a moment. It was odd that we were having this conversation, since it wouldn’t be precisely accurate to call us friends. We were more . . . what?

Enemies.

Ah. Yes.

We were one hundred percent enemies.

But sometimes, even enemies had great hair.

I watched as Risa’s face changed as she seemingly remembered our actual affiliation at the same time I did. “Okay, well, if you see him sometime soon, tell him I need him to sign my co-op hours sheet.”

“Will do.”

She paused, like she almost wasn’t going to speak but then changed her mind. “Have you finalized your entry yet? For the photo contest?”

“No. You?” I said.

“No. I tried to get a picture of the heron but then I tripped on a root,” she said.

“That sucks.”

“Right? Such a rookie mistake. But I bet everyone around here is going to turn in a fucking heron anyway. Or, god help us all, warblers.”

Heat crept up my back. I had no fewer than twenty-three shots of our four resident herons (male and female) that I was considering entering into Fauna magazine’s annual Junior Nature Photographer competition. Not to mention several dozen shots of a Cape May and one of a male Swainson. That last one turned out blurry, fuck me, because of course the Swainson flitted out of the frame. This was my last shot to win the Fauna competition (since I’d be too old next year), and I wanted to conquer first place so badly I could practically taste it. The money would be nice, and my grandma (a former winner herself) would love the free lifetime subscription (added to the prize since her time).

But because Fauna was the biggest and best birding magazine in the US (possibly the world, save maybe Le Bec in France), the bragging rights alone were worth it.

Particularly if it meant I’d beaten Risa, who I was pretty certain sabotaged my entry last year.

“Yeah. Probably. But the summer birds will be here before you know it. And there are some impressive blooms in Jenkins Wood. There is already a patch of Monotropa uniflora at the base of Elder Oak. It looks like a proper fungus graveyard. Bet it’d be epic in moonlight at the right angle,” I said.

“Are you going for that shot?”

“I tried. It just looks stupid. The flash washes it out and using moonlight through branches isn’t exactly my forte.”

Risa snorted. “I hear you. Okay. Well. Good luck.”

She almost sounded like she meant it. I stared at her absolutely rockin’ hair as she left.

I tidied the desk and took a bunch of Ranger Jerry’s old newspapers to the upcycling bin. The weekend craft people would have a field day Mod Podging on Saturday. I surveyed my work with satisfaction. I was once again reminded how grateful I was for my co-op assignment (even if Risa was there, too). I had always envied the juniors, who were allowed to avoid going to school for all but a few hours on Thursdays during spring term because of their work/volunteer co-ops in years past, but now it was my turn. It had been the best development of my life thus far. Most of my friends were out at the local newspaper or lawyer’s or doctor’s offices and made more money than me. Because my life goal was to be the world’s best nature photographer and take my place aside my hero, master birder Brian Michael Warbley, spending April till August leading nature walks and birding tours was way more my speed. Even if the pay was technically shit.

Like, literally. Jerry gave me a bag of fertilizer for Gran’s garden to compensate me. But it was the best stuff we’d seen and we needed it for her bird-attracting flowers, so I wasn’t too salty about it.

I rounded the pond on trash removal detail, but my phone buzzed in my pocket. Elder Oak. Sixty paces due east! Now! the text from Gran read. I was still technically on the clock, but Jenkins Wood was part of my work space and I could always pick up garbage along the trail to make seeing Gran official business if needed.

Be right there. Don’t leave! I texted back.

You know I’ll always wait for you, Laurel.

I grabbed my camera, locked the Birdscout Center door, and jogged as lightly as I could around the wooden decks surrounding the pond to the woodland paths. I nodded to Elder Oak, oldest tree and guardian of the entrance to Jenkins Wood, and tried to make my way as quietly as possible sixty paces east through a rough path covered in dew-wet leaves. I picked up a few discarded wrappers along the way, darkly noting that they probably came from the awful Birdie Bros (a group of dude birders who had terrible nature manners matched only by their preternatural ability to get rare warbler shots).

I finally found Gran half-hidden in fern fronds about halfway up a hill. I crouched in the grass, rocks crackling underneath my boots.

“Shhh,” whispered Gran.

“I didn’t even say anything,” I whispered back.

Gran glared at me as something rustled in a shrub a few feet away. A beak poked out of glistening leaves, then a head, then downy feathers on spindly legs. Gran gave a tiny yawp, and pointed her high-powered binoculars in the bird’s direction. I pulled out my camera and my shutter clicked like an automatic weapon.

“Did you get it?” said Gran without looking at me. She stared at the bird, and the bird stared back at her. I stared at both of them, wondering at how quickly the feeling had left my crouching legs.

Note: Do more crunches. Strengthen core and calves. A girl does not become Brian Michael Warbley, the King of Birders, with numb appendages.

Then something even worse happened.

I sneezed.

This spooked Gran’s avian friend and he took flight into the trees.

“Seriously, Laurel?” Gran said.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. Fucking pollen. You know that. I couldn’t help it.”

“Language,” Gran said. “Do you know what that was? That was a white-winged tern. A new addition to our life list. I never expected to see one out here, on a random day of all things. But there it was. You’d think I’d have learned by now—birds always surprise you.” She leaned back and looked at her camera. “I heard a rumor there was one around here yesterday, but to actually see it . . .” She trailed off as she pulled out her phone to alert her other bird people.

“His black-and-white head.” I marveled at it. “It was gorgeous.” I tipped toward Gran and stretched out my legs. I held my tiny digital screen out to her. “See him, I got a pretty clear shot. Most of them are blurry from him getting spooked by my seasonal curse. But a few are good.”

None were really good enough to help me be crowned Fauna’s Junior Nature Photographer national champion, fuck it all. But, even so. A new bird for the life list was something. As Brian Michael Warbley says, “A bird that you’ve seen is worth ten in a book.”

“He is stunning.” She slipped her phone back into the pocket of her vest and reached over and gave me a shove. “I’m glad I got to see him with you. I gotta say, he is in the top ten on my life list with the snowy owl and king eider I saw in Greenland. Sisimiut also had the northern lights! Superb. One day, kid. Just you wait. We’ll go and the aurora will knock your socks off. No winter allergies in Greenland.” She grinned. “Want to go to Eat N’ Park?” she said.

“I’m at work.”

“But Jerry isn’t here.” Gran grinned.

“How do you know that?” I said.

“I have my ways. Come on. You know you do way more hours here than you are required anyway. What’s thirty mere minutes with your old grandma?”

“I guess I could go for a cinnamon bun.”

“That’s my girl,” Gran said.

Gran’s house sat conveniently at the edge of Jenkins Wood. We slipped into Gran’s tiny hybrid and she drove us to the diner. Since we’d spotted a new life list bird, Gran talked me into fancy chocolate waffles with fruit and let me have bacon to celebrate. Gran was a vegetarian verging on vegan, but she was weak in the face of breakfast.

“How goes school?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. “I’m hardly there this semester. Academic classes were stacked in the fall and winter, so these last few weeks I’m mostly Birdscouting for co-op.”

“Get any good shots for the contest?” she said.

“Yeah, I guess.” I shifted in my seat. “I had some herons, but . . .” I trailed off.

“Herons are good luck. Messenger birds. They bring good omens.”

“You say that about all birds.”

“Not cormorants. They work for the devil.”

“Stop it.” I laughed.

Gran shrugged. “Tradition. What can I say?”

“Everyone is going to submit herons,” I said, thinking of Risa. “I need something different. Something extraordinary.”

“All birds are extraordinary. Like people. You know that.”

I grunted. I had several memory cards and two extra hard drives full of photographic evidence that some birds were pretty fucking boring. At least when I tried to capture their image.

Gran paid our bill and drove me back to co-op. She dropped me off with barely a goodbye, because her birder friends had caught wind of her find, and they were meeting up again to try to see the elusive white-winged tern.

“Good luck,” I said. “Remember what Warbley says. ‘Birds come not just to those who watch, but those who wait.’”

“Yes, yes. I think I’ve heard you quote him a time or forty. Make great art. You have a Fauna family legacy to protect,” Gran said, holding my camera out of the window of her car. “And text me if you see the tern again.” She sped off, practically leaving me in the dust.

I grinned to myself, looking at my pictures. None were entry-worthy, but the appearance of something rare made me feel that the perfect shot was just around the corner.

***

Adrienne Kisner has master’s and doctorate degrees in theology from Boston University and was inspired by her work with high school and college students to write Dear Rachel Maddow. She is also a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in writing for children and young adults. Dear Rachel Maddow is her debut.

Digging Deep and Writing Through Fear: a Guest Post by Aliette de Bodard

Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome Aliette de Bodard, whose The Vanishers’ Palace, “A dark Beauty and the Beast retelling, where they are both women and the Beast is a dragon,” releases tomorrow!  But before we get to her post, I’m gonna have to show off this book, because it could not look more awesome:

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

Preorder it

And here’s the post!

Some books are terrifying to write.

In the Vanishers’ Palace didn’t start out as this. It was 2017, and due to rather a lot of stressors in my personal life, writing had stopped being fun or being fulfilling. I was skating pretty close to burnout. To prevent a really ugly crash, I put my contractual obligations on the backburner, and decided to write for fun.

I wanted a book about escape, one I could sink into for comfort: something that would take the Vietnamese legends of my childhood, the awe-inspiring dragons that lived in underwater palaces and the poor scholars who fell in love with them, and merge them with a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that would engage with the problematic issue of lack of consent when one falls in love with one’s jailer. I would write a book in which an impoverished scholar fell in love with the dragon to whom she’d been indentured. I would make it casually, normatively queer, because I was tired of being punched in the face by media in which bi or lesbian characters in a relationship with another woman died as a matter of course. I wanted a fun and fluffy f/f romance with strong supporting female and non-binary characters.

What I wrote instead felt, in many ways, like opening my chest and putting my heart’s blood on the page. I hadn’t expected this to turn out so personal. As I wrote this, I dug into old tales and old images that meant so much to me as a child: a dragon rising from the heart of the river, a scholar piecing together words that turned out to be magical spells, a library that held all the books of the world and one had only to ask… I wrote into my universe the darkness inherent in fairytales, but also that of history: the world of In the Vanishers’ Palace isn’t ruined by climate warming, but by colonial masters who tear it apart for fun and then leave when everything is ashes, never caring what happens to their former servants.

But I also ended up pushing on things that bled: on questions of who is allowed happiness, who is allowed escape and comfort, who is allowed stories. As I wrote, my treacherous brain kept whispering to me that I was wrong, that people like my geeky lesbian Vietnamese scholar or my honourable, duty-bound bi dragon spirit couldn’t possibly be the centre of a decent narration, or have a relationship with a happy ending. That a fantasy book had to be about violence rather than the breaking of the cycle; that discussions of consent were too weighty and too fraught; and that a book set in a post-colonial, ruined world couldn’t possibly hold out hope.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened: when I wrote my Vietnamese domestic space opera On a Red Station, Drifting, I had similar feelings (and a similar root cause of digging deep into personal meaningful things, and pushing back against my brain’s ideas of acceptable narratives). I knew, to some extent, how to fight them, but it left me exhausted and drained. And when In the Vanishers’ Palace was rejected, it felt (for the first time in many, many years) life-shattering in a way that I couldn’t quite articulate: I only realised afterwards that it was because the book was so personal, and the writing of it so challenging.

Fortunately, my friends came to my rescue. They’d read the book (sometimes in multiple versions), and they were sure to remind me of their enthusiasm, and of what it had meant to them. They offered me their support as I navigated through the process of publishing it. And I remembered the lessons I’d learnt as a writer: that there is no correlation between the quality of a book and how I feel about it. That all writing is an act of letting go, and that books go out in the world to be read and become the readers’ as much as the writer’s. That it’s natural to be scared, but that it’s no reason to hide a manuscript.

Once upon a time, I wrote a book and I dug deep into my own self, and it was terrifying. But it’s ok, because I remembered how to write through fear, and because I remembered how to let go–and most of all, because my friends are fabulous and have my back, and that makes it all way less terrifying.

***

Aliette de Bodard writes speculative fiction: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. She is the author of the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz, 2017 European Science Fiction Society Achievement Award, Locus award finalist). She lives in Paris.

Fave Five: Queer Historical Spy Fiction

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

The Spy With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

A Thin Bright Line by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht

Seven-Sided Spy by Hannah Carmack

Bonus, releasing in November: The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Happy National Coming Out Day! And what better way to celebrate than with featuring some Coming Out books?

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

George by Alex Gino

When people look at George, they see a boy. But George knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part … because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

George is a candid, genuine, and heartwarming middle grade about a transgender  girl who is, to use Charlotte’s word, R-A-D-I-A-N-T!

Buy it: Laurel Bookstore * Powell’s * Books Inc * Oblong Books & Music * Indie Bound * iBooks * Google Play * Kobo * Barnes & Noble * Amazon

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents’ wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls…opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he’s trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he’s in the spotlight—under everyone’s terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents’ disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she’s painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her best friend, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van’s life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she’ll have to choose between the one thing she’s always loved…and the person she never imagined she could.

Buy it: Amazon | B & N | The Book Depository | The Ripped Bodice

True Letters From a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan

If you asked anyone in his small Vermont town, they’d tell you the facts: James Liddell, star athlete, decent student and sort-of boyfriend to cute, peppy Theresa, is a happy, funny, carefree guy.

But whenever James sits down at his desk to write, he tells a different story. As he fills his drawers with letters to the people in his world—letters he never intends to send—he spills the truth: he’s trying hard, but he just isn’t into Theresa. It’s a boy who lingers in his thoughts.

He feels trapped by his parents, his teammates, and the lies they’ve helped him tell, and he has no idea how to escape. Is he destined to live a life of fiction

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * Books-A-Million

Style by Chelsea Cameron

Kyle Blake likes plans. So far, they’re pretty simple: Finish her senior year of high school, head off to a good college, find a cute boyfriend, graduate, get a good job, get married, the whole heterosexual shebang. Nothing is going to stand in the way of that plan. Not even Stella Lewis.

Stella Lewis also has a plan: Finish her senior year as cheer captain, go to college, finally let herself flirt with (and maybe even date) a girl for the first time and go from there.

Fate has other plans for Kyle and Stella when they’re paired up in their AP English class and something between them ignites. It’s confusing and overwhelming and neither of them know what to do about it. One thing they do know is that their connection can’t be ignored. The timing just isn’t right.

But is there ever a good time for falling in love?

Buy it: Amazon

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * BAM!

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

Buy it: Amazon

 

Better Know an Author: Sara Farizan

I am such a fangirl of Sara Farizan as both an author and a human that it delights me to bring her to LGBTQReads and pick her brain about her awesome work, queer media, and, most importantly, basketball. Please welcome her to the site!

You’ve been up to so much this year, I don’t even know where to begin. Clearly you’re a go-to get for anthologies, as you’ve got stories in three this year. Can you tell us a little bit about your contributions to The Radical Element, All Out, and, most recently, Fresh Ink

Being invited to be a part of those anthologies was a blessing and I’m so grateful to have been asked. They really helped me out of a slump when I felt like I couldn’t write anything or I was too bogged down with my novel. All of the editors, Jessica Spotswood, Saundra Mitchell, and Lamar Giles were all incredibly helpful and I was very happy that they thought of me.

My story in All Out (“It’s The End of the World As We Know It”) is set on New Year’s Eve of 1999 and two estranged best friends spend New Year’s Eve together and are anxious about the Y2K bug that was though to wreak havoc at that time. My story for The Radical Element (“Take Me With U”) was set in 1984 and is about a young girl from Tehran who is staying with her uncle’s family in Boston. She bears a striking resemblance to Apollonia from Purple Rain and joins an all-girl band called the Ovarian Cysters. My story in Fresh Ink (“Why I Learned to Cook”) is about a young girl named Yasi who has a close relationship with her grandmother and wants to introduce her to her girlfriend over a meal she has learned to cook from her grandmother.

Last month saw the release of your first novel since Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. Can you tell us a little bit about it, and how it feels to be writing from such a different POV from your other work?

I’ve written about a great kid named Bijan who has had a pretty low-key profile at his prep school. He suddenly finds himself in the spotlight as a basketball star and there are some people who are not happy with all of his newfound stardom so he becomes the target of prejudice. I had a tough go with this book because I knew there would be an audience however large or small whereas my other two books were written in graduate school and may have never seen the light of day. Readers will be able to tell whether Bijan reads as authentic. I think initially I was trying to make him perfect when I had to remind myself that he’s a teenager and should make mistakes.

You broke into YA with books about queer girls at a time when we were seeing so, so little. What was it like publishing it then, and what are your thoughts on it and how the landscape has changed?

I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into and I still have a lot to learn. I think I was naïve, but that was sometimes a good thing because I just wrote what was in my heart. I am hopeful and encouraged by all the new books and voices we are seeing, especially from own voices authors who can speak to queer experiences. Could there be room for more? Absolutely. I think we’ve seen LGBTQA books get more support, but that doesn’t mean okay well that’s enough. You’ve had your moment.

Another obviously notable aspect of your work is that you write some of the very few queer girls in YA who have culturally intersectional identities. What has the response to your girls been like, particularly from your represented readers?

What has been a wonderful thing in meeting readers of my work is that they are all so different from each other. There have been readers of different ages, gender identities, races and that’s been very gratifying.

There was one time where a reader met me at a conference and she said she had given my book to her friend who was of an Eastern background and struggling with coming out to her family. I asked how old her friend was and she said she was in her forties and still grappling with her sexuality. I started crying.

On the flip side, with cultural context being such an inextricable component of your work, especially in your debut, how have you found connecting with readers who might not grasp all of its implications? I feel like writing “ownvoices realistic fiction” before that phrase was really a thing is perhaps a uniquely difficult thing that doesn’t get enough airtime.

I constantly worry that people may think the one perspective I have in my work is the only perspective because they may not have read other narratives about the characters I write about. I also worry that the characters I do write about who represent real people don’t feel that I am doing it the right way. There is a lot of pressure to represent an under represented group well and to make sure you are doing things perfectly when there is no way to be perfect. My hope is that more own voices books make their way into the world so that people are not always given three dimensional depictions can have some depth, as well as having different perspectives from characters of similar background.

You’re such a strong proponent of supporting films of queer work in addition to the written word. What are some of your favorites and most anticipated, and what’s your dream casting for your own novels/stories?

I loved Miseducation of Cameron Post and feel it should have as much Oscar buzz as Call Me By Your Name. The book is one of my favorite books of all time and I enjoyed the adaptation very much. I’ve been a huge fan of the director Desiree Akhavan since her film Appropriate Behavior and am excited for her show The Bisexual. I’m also a fan of films by Angela Robinson like D.E.B.S. and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Pariah by Dee Rees was a revelation. I was so happy when Moonlight won best picture at the Oscars.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a film or TV version of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel.  I think it’d be fun. I’ve never let myself think about it for too long but if it were to happen I’d want there to be Persian actors playing Persian parts.

What’s your earliest memory of queer representation in media, for better or for worse?

I think seeing Pedro in the Real World on MTV comes to mind. I remember liking him so much but I had to sneak in episodes at my grandma’s place because my house didn’t have cable. This isn’t the earliest memory, but one storyline/scene that was very emotion for me was Evan Rachel Wood having a secret girlfriend on Once and Again. It had a huge impact on me seeing her character Jessie grapple with her feelings. It was so well acted and I never really tuned into that show until that episode where Jessie kisses Katie was banned in a few states.

Very important, for my own personal curiosity: fave NBA player of all time and why? 

Pick one? That’s tough. Reggie Miller appears in my new book as a commentator in the main character’s head, but I know how you feel about Reggie Miller as a Knicks fan. (Blogger’s Note: She does know. It is not positively. *hisses*) I think the best Celtic of all time is Bill Russell but obviously I wasn’t around when he was winning all those championships. When I was a kid I was obsessed with Shaq and Penny Hardaway even though they played for the Magic.

I will highlight one player I liked so much when he was on the Celtics and that’s Brandon Bass. He was not an all-star, but when he played on the Celtics he came to work and he was consistent. He plays in China now, but I wish him all the best.

What can you share about whatever you’re working on now? And do we have any chance at getting a queer-girl basketball player someday? Asking for a friend. Of yours. Who is me 😉

Winky face! I have a story coming out in the anthology Hungry Hearts which is coming out summer of 2019 from Simon Pulse. I think fans of Tell Me Again will like that one as it’s very Sapphic and sweet. I am not sure what’s next after that, but I hope people still want to read my stuff. I’m very grateful to everyone who has read my books and stories. It means a lot.

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Sara Farizan, the daughter of Iranian immigrants, was born in Massachusetts. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. Sara grew up feeling different in her private high school, not only because of her ethnicity, but also because of her liking girls romantically, her lack of excitement in science and math, and her love of writing plays and short stories. So she came out of the closet in college, realized math and science weren’t so bad (but were not for her), and decided she wanted to be a writer. Sara has been a Hollywood intern, a waitress, a comic book/record store employee, an art magazine blogger, a marketing temp, and an after-school teacher, but above all else she has always been a writer. Sara lives near Boston, loves Kurosawa films, eighties R&B, and graphic novels, and thinks all kids are awesome. She is the acclaimed author of If You Could Be Mine, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, and Here to Stay.

Backlist Book of the Month: Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

It’s October, which means it’s time for some queer Horror! I’m prepared to fully admit that I’m a big wimp and so I haven’t yet dipped into Lost Souls, the bloody, highly sexual, totally horrific vampire novel by the author formerly known as Poppy Z. Brite, but I do know that if you’re into queer Horror, it’s gotta be your first stop.

Lost Souls

At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not. Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds – Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself…

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * iBooks

Retelling Dracula Without Vampires: a Guest Post by Thrall Co-Author Avon Gale

Well, I’d say this is one of the coolest books I’ve heard about in a while: Thrall is a modern take on Dracula that’s both f/f and m/m, co-authored by powerhouse queer-romance authors Avon Gale and Roan Parrish. In this version, there are no vampires, and the authors are here to talk about why. But first, here’s the info on the book, which released last week!

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Happy couple Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra have begun to garner national attention for their quirky New Orleans true-crime podcast, Shadowcast. When Lucy’s brother Harker disappears while researching the popular new dating app Thrall, they’re thrown into a real-life mystery. Aided by their social media expert, Arthur, and Harker’s professor, Van Helsing, they follow the trail, hoping to find Harker before it’s too late.

When their investigation crosses the path of a possible serial killer, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur. And as they race against the app’s countdown clock, so does the line between friendship and love. What starts as a flirtatious rivalry between computer-savvy Arthur and techno-averse Van Helsing becomes much more, and Mina and Lucy’s relationship is tested in the fires of social media.

As they get down to the wire, the group discovers that nothing on their screens is as it seems—including their enemy.

Buy it: Amazon * Books2Read (All other vendors)

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And now, here’s the post by co-author Avon Gale!

One of the first things you might notice about Thrall, the modern-day take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula that I co-wrote with Roan Parrish, is that there aren’t any vampires. “How can you have a re-telling of Dracula without…Dracula?” you might ask. Aren’t vampires central to the whole story?

When Roan and I first talked about writing Thrall, one thing we wanted to do was think about the underlying themes of vampirism in the original novel, and what Dracula, as a character, represented to contemporary audiences. Then, we wanted to examine those themes and figure out what their modern equivalents would be, and how to work those into a retelling that would resonate with modern readers. To us, a good re-telling of a classic story functions both as a call-back to the original source material, and as an entertaining and complete story. Dracula has become such a common part of our cultural lexicon that we knew this wouldn’t be easy. If “the blood is the life”, as Stoker writes, and the vampire is the taker of blood that is sometimes freely given and sometimes taken without consent…what’s a good, modern translation of that concept?

We bandied about a lot of ideas, but eventually, we settled on information – and the gathering and usage thereof– as our preferred analogy. Thrall, the dating application (and our Dracula) is an insidious little application that is easily passed from person-to-person via downloads and smart phones, and it’s something that you put a lot of energy into even if you don’t want to. Thrall, as we designed it in the book, takes your information and your “bad dates” and promises to use both to find you the perfect partner….meaning you’re a bit in thrall to the potential, and willing to return again and again and willingly give up your emotional and physical energy for the chance at everlasting happiness. Just like Dracula lured his victims with the promise of life eternal, only to…well, you know what vampires do. And just like a vampire needs blood to survive, Thrall can’t function without the continual input of sweet, sweet personal information.  And the usage to which it is put isn’t always in our best interests, just like Dracula wasn’t always using that blood to romance Mina. Or Jonathan.

There’s also an aspect of social media as both a source of captivation and engagement, and we hope that, too, resonates with modern audiences. Lucy keeps counts of her Twitter followers, just like in the book she keeps track of her suitors. Social media is definitely something that both requires energy and gives it back, though not always in ways we might want – or need.

Setting the book in New Orleans was also a fun way to pay homage to the original; like turn-of-the-century London, it is a city caught between both the past and the present/future.  I have a wonderful memory of walking down the rain-misted streets with Roan in August of 2016, when I helped her move from New Orleans to Philly, and we first talked about the book and what we wanted to do. We even visited the Lafayette Cemetery (also because we’re both huge fans of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice) a location that makes more than one appearance in Thrall.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot, because it’s a mystery and no one likes to be spoiled! But we’re hopeful that you’ll enjoy our take on vampirism and what such a concept might look like in modern day, and how we’ve conveyed that through a similar format to the original. Like Dracula, Thrall is epistolary, told entirely through text messages, chats, emails and tweets. Just like the main characters in Stoker’s story find themselves caught up in a strange, alternate reality they never dreamed existed…so, too, do ours. But I’ll stop there before I spoil it!

This book is definitely a departure for both Roan and myself, and it’s one reason why we had so much fun writing it (and the reason for several three-plus hour long phone calls!). Adapting something that was technically a gothic horror into a modern-day romance was definitely a challenge, but we’re both pleased with the result and hope you’ll have fun reading it. We tried to make it accessible for those who both have read the original and those who have not, though there are many geeky references to Stoker’s book and we would LOVE to hear from readers who spot them!

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Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon, JRPGs and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary Agency.

Connect with Avon: Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram | Website

New Release Spotlight: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

You know Nic Stone from her New York Times-bestselling Dear Martin, but this is definitely a different side you won’t wanna miss. Odd One Out stars a complex love triangle featuring three people of color, one of whom is straight, one of whom is gay, and more than one of whom is learning that attraction isn’t as binary as they thought. It’s definitely Queer Lit 2.0 for fans of work like Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, and I’m so excited it’s out in the world October 9th!

39848512.jpgFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin comes this illuminating exploration of old friendships, new crushes, and the path to self-discovery.

Courtney “Coop” Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .

One story.
Three sides.
No easy answers

Buy It: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Google Play * Kobo