I’m so excited to have two of my favorite gay YA sophomores on the site today, chatting about their newest books! Lev Rosen is the author of Jack of Hearts (and other parts)and Camp, the latter of which released this past Tuesday (along with Jack‘s redesigned paperback), and Cale Dietrich is the author of The Love Interest and the upcoming The Friend Scheme, which releases on July 28! Make sure to check out all four of those titles, and to read on below for their conversation about the books, toxic masculinity, internalized homophobia, and more:
Lev: Hi Cale! I’m so excited to talk to you about your forthcoming novel, The Friend Scheme, and my new novel, Camp, which came out on Tuesday. I really loved your last book The Love Interest, so getting to read The Friend Scheme was very exciting! And I love the setup – closeted son of a mafia family falls for a guy who he knows is the son of the rival mafia family who may be seducing him to destroy his family. Love, lust, trust, betrayal, family loyalty. Who could say no to all that? But let’s get this out of the way: There’s a minor character named Lev in The Friend Scheme, and he’s a shmuck. Should I be deeply insulted or merely offended?
Cale: Hi Lev! First up: DEEPLY OFFENDED. Obviously. Just kidding, that schmuck Lev has nothing to do with you, because I adore you. Jack and Camp are two of my all time favourite-YA books, they’re so smart and really explore the modern queer identity while being fun and romantic. I love them. I’m so happy I get to talk to you about Camp! One of the things I loved most about it was its exploration of masculinity, and the complicated relationship it has with being queer. Was this something you’d always wanted to explore in a novel, or did something inspire you?
Lev: WELL! I shall be deeply offended then. Let me get out my burn book…
And yeah, Camp is so much about navigating patriarchal gender nonsense as a queer man, and how somehow, even when we’re out and proud, that straight mindset can creep in and cause a lot of pain. But the original inspiration was actually old Doris Day/Rock Hudson 60s screwball sex comedies. And, if I’m being honest, the post-modern redo of those movies, Down With Love. That was the big inspiration – I wanted a contemporary queer YA version of those movies, because I love those movies. I love Down With Love. But of course, those movies center around the idea of “the battle of the sexes” – very 60s. And making that queer wasn’t going to work quite right, until I realized it could be battle of the masc/femme. And once that occurred to me, everything fell into place – masc4masc stuff, the summer camp setting. I always love exploring post-coming out stuff, though, so I imagine something would have snuck in there eventually. I just knew it needed to be in a queer space to work. If you’re out in the world with this, straight people are going to seriously interfere and try to tell you that masc gays are better, or femme gays are more fabulous, really try to put you in a category. In an entirely queer space, the characters can play with these ideas of gender performance and it can be seen as just exploring identity. Straight people seldom let queer kids do that. And queer community was so interesting to me in your book, The Friend Scheme, as well, because it’s Matt’s lack of queer community that really kind of puts him in this impossible situation – he’s closeted and has no queer friends, so the first one that comes along becomes his everything, his entire community, and he has to rely on that one person so much that it becomes dangerous. I was wondering if that was intentional? Like, did you go into this wanting to show the dangers of being an isolated queer person?
Cale: AHHH. I wonder who else is in that burn book!
INTERESTING. You mention that the straights in relation to saying masc gays are better, or femme gays are more fabulous etc, but what do you think about the pressures of being masculine coming from within the gay community itself? To me it feels like there is a lot of pressure on social media and the like within the gay world to live up to a certain standard of masculinity, (which is really rubbish). I understood why Randy decided to act more masc to attract Hudson – scroll Instagram and you’ll see a specific type of gay sexuality continually heralded as the most attractive – the buff, masc gym gay. I’m just wondering where you think the pressure on gay guys to be masculine is coming from — is it from straight people, or is it from other gay men?
As for TFS and Matt being isolated, absolutely! I think we were both trying to explore queer masculinity in two different ways, which I think is so great and I’m so bummed we no longer share a release date so we could be a double feature! To me, Matt’s whole story is about him not living up to the kind of man his father wants him to be, and a lot of that has to be with his masculinity. As much as he tries to push himself into the guy that his family set out for him, he only really finds happiness once he starts accepting he isn’t the kind of guy his dad wants him to be. I was trying to explore that feeling through a genre story. And to answer your question: it was intentional! I did want to show how that lack of support and community can be incredibly painful, especially when you’re cut off from them by being closeted. I ratcheted things up to fit the genre, but mostly I was trying to explore how that feels. I don’t want to spoil anything but hopefully the epilogue shows how things can improve once you’ve found a queer community!
Lev: The Burn Book is large and long. Top of the list right now is whoever is responsible for the pre-9AM jackhammering directly outside my window during all this social distancing. They are a terrible human being.
And yeah, Camp deals with that internalized homophobia, too, the way the community can essentially take part in that! But I think that problem isn’t exactly exclusive to the gay community. It’s a problem of patriarchy and toxic masculinity – being queer doesn’t save you from that. It can even make it worse; when Hudson starts to explore why he values masculinity so much, it comes out that it’s a form of protection. A lot of “masc4masc” guys think it makes them better because it makes them pass as straight, it makes them acceptable to straight people – which is something I don’t think queer people need to be worrying about. Because while being queer doesn’t save you from the patriarchy, it gives you an opportunity to sidestep it. Being gay is a gift. When you come out, you have a chance to step aside from all that nonsense and look at patriarchy and say “okay, so I’m not into ladies like they want me to be, which makes me less of a man, supposedly, but… what if all those ideas were nonsense? What if everything is meaningless and behaviors we attribute to genders are made up? What if I get to be whatever I want, and fuck gender conforming?” Being given that opportunity – and I genuinely think its a lot harder for straight people to be given it – is a gift. Sadly, its not one a lot of gay people unwrap because coming out is so traumatic for them that they cling to the patriarchy even harder than straight people do, hoping it will make them not actually straight again (well, probably some of them), but make them essentially “count as” straight in the eyes of society. And that sucks so hard for them. There’s nothing wrong with being “masc-acting” and queer (in Camp, Brad fills that role, that’s just who he is, there’s no performance). But to be trapped feeling like you have to be masc acting, like it effects your value as a human being? That’s awful. So I actually feel sorry for those guys on instagram. I mean, I have no problem with a guy who’s built and bearded or whatever (I, myself am bearded, and I DO have a build). But a guy who says he’s “manly” or “masc” – that’s where it gets sad for me. And those guys being more praised for their masculinity by the community makes me sad, too. Like… we were all given this gift guys. Unwrap it.
And yes! Friend Scheme is all about a very old school, very blunt form of masculinity. I keep thinking “murder is masculine,” so you should see if that can be the tagline of your novel. I think, in fact, Matt’s whole story is about having that gay gift I talk about – his queerness is what allows him to see himself outside this mold they try to put him in, this future they want for him. And I love how you somehow manage to combine that exciting mafioso action with what is essentially a really sweet romance. You did it in The Love Interest, too. And they’re both about how these guys know they’re not who they’re supposed to be and fall for a guy who they know they can’t trust. It makes me think about dating in the closet, how you want to be with this person but also by being with them you’re kind of giving them the power to destroy your life. Is that why that theme comes up for you? Do you think dating as a queer person is more fraught with issues of distrust?
Cale: This is such a good answer!!! I agree with everything you say. It’s such a complicated issue, and I’m so happy that you explore it in Camp, as I think it’s a question that’s extremely relevant to modern queer people. I’m such a fan of yours!! Ah!
Omgosh, “murder is masculine,” is the perfect tagline for TFS! I love it! And I totally agree about Matt having the gay gift that you talk about – it is 100% what I was going for! I wanted to explore exactly what you talk about in your answer — I feel like being queer does force you to have these sorts of conversations with yourself, and makes you see yourself outside of the mold people try to put you in. That leads to a lot of questioning and growth. As for the danger of dating in the closet – that has appealed to me as it just made sense for the characters and the stories I was trying to tell – it definitely adds a layer of distrust and danger and that’s what my books are sort of built on! But my book three hero is out and proud, so I think I’ve explored closeted characters as much as I would like to (for a while, anyway).
I’m really curious, what would be your response to someone who says that they have a preference for masc guys?
Lev: I mean, I think I’d say that’s fine. Randy clearly is into Hudson is who is masc… but I think it’s also worth interrogating your own desires. Some people are like “that’s my type, tee-hee, don’t need to think about it,” but if your type is hyper-specific, it worth taking a moment to wonder why. Are you attracted to guys like that because society has always told you to be? Because they represent something you want to be? Because you think being seen with them in public, or by your parents, is what will make people accept you? Is your lust determined by societal approval? Lust isn’t just lizard-brain. Or it can be, but then it gets tempered. I think a lot of about guys who are into plus size women, but never ever admit it. It’s a different issue and I’m not the one to talk about it, but it’s something that happens a lot and at least part of the reason why has to do with societal pressure to punish women for being fat. Likewise, there’s a lot of societal pressure to punish gay men for not being a certain way. And sometimes that effects desire. So if you’re into muscles cause you’re into muscles, cool. But if you’re into “straight-acting” guys, or even just full on straight guys (and many of us have been at some point), ask yourself why. Why do you want someone you know will never want you? Why do you want someone who represents something you’ll never be but which culture is constantly telling you to be? And this can be applied to more than just “masc.”
That being said, I did want to show a character whose masc-ness wasn’t about performance and trying to be the “special gay” who isn’t like those other gays, all in your face, etc. That’s why Brad is there. He’s just as butch as Hudson, but it’s not an entire identity for him. He lets the guy he likes put nail polish on him because it makes that guy happy, he doesn’t care about what his partner is like, socially – even if he clearly likes a man with body hair. And I think that’s the distinction. Are you into a type of guy because of something physical only, or are you into a guy because of something social – some conception of things? A lot of stuff can end up being either, so it’s really about YOU. (and in case anyone is wondering, saying you’re not into a guy because they’re a certain race is always a racist social thing). So yeah, I’d say to a guy “why?” and see what he says. Especially since ‘masc’ is one of those terms that can mean different things to different people. There, that was a long meandering way of getting to the answer. But hey, long meandering way of getting to the answer is just another word for novel.
But I think on that note our word count here is probably becoming perhaps too long and meandering, so I just wanted to say thank you again for talking with me! It was a lot of fun and I’m so excited for people to get their hands on The Friend Scheme. It’s a really fun, sexy novel.
Cale: No, thank you for talking to me! Camp is such a wonderful, important and fun book. I’m so happy teens (and everyone else) will be able to get it starting today!
Jazz Taylor’s MEOW OR NEVER, in which a girl unexpectedly lands the lead role in her school’s musical and finds help with her stage fright and anxiety from a girl who might be her first crush—and a stray cat who lives backstage, to Olivia Valcarce at Scholastic, in an exclusive submission, for publication in winter 2021, by Holly Root at Root Literary (world).
Tobly McSmith’s ACT COOL, about a transgender teen accepted into a prestigious performing arts high school in New York and cast in a role that hits too close to home—that of a trans teen whose family is intent on conversion therapy—who must learn how to be true to himself, apart from any role, to Andrew Eliopulos at Quill Tree, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Tina Dubois at ICM (world).
THESE WITCHES DON’T BURN author Isabel Sterling’s THE COLDEST TOUCH, about a mortal girl who feels the death of anyone she touches and the vampire assigned to recruit her, as they team up to stop a paranormal killer and realize they might be falling in love, to Julie Rosenberg at Razorbill, for publication in fall 2021, by Kathleen Rushall at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (NA).
Playwright and Modern Love contributor David Valdes’s SPIN ME RIGHT ROUND, about an out-and-proud Latinx teen who accidentally time travels to his parents’ era and makes it his mission to save a closeted classmate from a tragic end, pitched as an #OwnVoices twist on Back to the Future, to Allison Moore at Bloomsbury Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Annie Bomke at Annie Bomke Literary Agency (world).
Anne Camlin’s graphic novel MISMATCHED, pitched as a queer, modern-day retelling of EMMA, set in a high school in Queens where the president of the school’s GSA club fancies himself just the matchmaker his friends need, illustrated by Isadora Zeferino, to Andrea Colvin at Little, Brown Children’s, in a six-figure deal, in a pre-empt, for publication in 2023, by Britt Siess at Martin Literary Management (world).
Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Jessica Spotswood, and Tess Sharpe’s GREAT OR NOTHING, pitched as a reimagining of Little Women set in the spring of 1942, when the United States is reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which each March sister’s point of view is written by a separate author; a story of grief, family, and finding one’s way in a world undergoing catastrophic change, to Wendy Loggia at Delacorte, for publication in spring 2022, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world English).
GIRL AT MIDNIGHT and RATED author Melissa Grey’s THE VALIANT LADIES OF POTOSI, in which two proper young 17th-century Peruvian ladies trade their skirts for swords and end up as vigilante crime fighters, while falling for each other along the way, to Holly West at Feiwel and Friends, for publication in winter 2022, by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management (world English).
Al Graziadei’s ICEBREAKER, following a hockey legacy kid who is on track to become the NHL’s number one draft pick even while barely coping with his untreated depression, until a boy threatens both his number one spot and steals his heart—something that makes him the happiest he’s ever been and could threaten both their dreams if the truth came out, to Rachel Murray at Holt Children’s, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter of 2022, by Jennifer Azantian at Azantian Literary Agency (world English).
Editor of A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN Patrice Caldwell, ed.’s ETERNALLY YOURS, a paranormal romance anthology including short stories by Kendare Blake, Patrice Caldwell, Kat Cho, Melissa de la Cruz, Emily Duncan, Hafsah Faizal, Sarah Gailey, Alexis Henderson, Adib Khorram, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Casey McQuiston, Sandhya Menon, Danielle Paige, Akshaya Raman, Marie Rutkoski, and Julian Winters, to Dana Leydig at Viking Children’s, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2022, by Alexandra Machinist and Hillary Jacobson at ICM (world English).
Printz Honor winner Mary McCoy’s INDESTRUCTIBLE OBJECT, in which a queer teen girl who hosts a podcast about the love stories of great artists finds her life falling apart when her parents announce they’re divorcing and her boyfriend breaks up with her right after her high school graduation, then sets out on a new summer podcast project about whether love even exists at all and discovers herself in the process, to Kendra Levin at Simon & Schuster Children’s, for publication in summer 2021, by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (world).
Arianne Lewin at Putnam has acquired, in a preempt, in a two-book deal, debut author Leslie Vedder’s THE BONE SPINDLE, a gender-flipped Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones, in which a cursed treasure hunter and an axe-wielding huntswoman must team up: one destined to rescue the prince sleeping in the Forest of Thorns, the other falling hard for a wicked witch. The title is set to publish in Spring 2022. Carrie Hannigan and Ellen Goff at HG Literary made the deal for North American rights.
Canada Council for the Arts grant recipient Emily Austin’s EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM WILL SOMEDAY BE DEAD, following a morbidly anxious young woman who stumbles into a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church, where she hides her atheist lesbian identity and becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding her predecessor’s death; a humorous exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where our eventual expiration is the only certainty, pitched for fans of GOODBYE, VITAMIN and MOSTLY DEAD THINGS, to Daniella Wexler at Atria, in a pre-empt, by Heather Carr at Friedrich Agency (world).
Kosoko Jackson’s I’M SO (NOT) OVER YOU, the author’s adult debut, an #OwnVoices queer rom-comedy of errors about what happens when two exes, the heir to a brewery empire and a struggling journalist, are forced to pretend they are still a couple and realize that the spark between them may not be extinguished, to Kristine Swartz at Berkley, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).
Nebula, Hugo, and Lambda Award nominee Lee Mandelo’s SUMMER SONS, pitched as THE SECRET HISTORY meets HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME in a queer, speculative Southern Gothic novel, about a Vanderbilt student searching for the truth behind his best friend’s death as ghosts, literal and figurative, haunt his nights, to Carl Engle-Laird at Tor.com, in a nice deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Tara Gilbert and Saritza Hernandez at Corvisiero Literary Agency (world English).
Historian and author of GAY AMERICAN HISTORY and THE INVENTION OF HETEROSEXUALITY Jonathan Ned Katz’s SEX REBEL: THE DARING LIFE AND TROUBLED TIMES OF EVE ADAMS, the first biography of the pioneering activist who ran lesbian and gay friendly speakeasies in Greenwich Village in the 1920s and published the novel LESBIAN LOVE (to be included in its entirety), which led to her surveillance, arrest, and eventual deportation back to Europe where she later died at Auschwitz, to Jerry Pohlen at Chicago Review Press, for publication in June 2021, by Robert Guinsler at Sterling Lord Literistic (world English).
Husband of former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Chasten Buttigieg’s I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU, a memoir about growing up gay in his small Midwestern town, his relationship with Pete, and his hope for America’s future, to Rakesh Satyal at Atria, in an exclusive submission, for publication in September 2020, by Alia Hanna Habib at The Gernert Company (NA).
Jennifer Berney’s THE OTHER MOTHERS, recounting her and her wife’s experience of trying to conceive, placing it within the larger story of how the LGBTQ community has undertaken the quest for parenthood over the last several decades, redefining what the nuclear family can be, to Anna Michels at Sourcebooks, with Jenna Jankowski editing, for publication in February 2021, by Rachel Vogel at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner (world English).
Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome the authors of Out Now: Queer We Go Again!edited by Saundra Mitchell, which releases today from Inkyard Press! This anthology has a little bit of everything queer, so take a gander at the beautiful cover, check out the blurb, and then dig into the authors’ personal stories behind their stories!
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom, aliens run from the government, a president’s daughter comes into her own, a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer, a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops, skateboards and VW vans, Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!
I was a freshman in college in Long Beach, CA, when I went on the very date that inspired “Refresh.” Online dating was much sketchier back then, but I had spent weeks talking to a boy my age who seemed so effortlessly cool. I finally mustered the courage to ask if he wanted to meet up, and he agreed enthusiastically. I knew this was risky, so I picked a public meeting space outside of a Metro Station in Hollywood. It took me two trains and nearly two hours to get there, so you can imagine my disappointment when I showed up to discover he had catfished me.
My date did not end as the story does in “Refresh.” I left immediately, feeling scorned and rather foolish. I had worked up so much courage to even come, doubting that I was handsome enough or interesting enough for this person. I wrote this story from that place of vulnerability, of not knowing if you are enough for another person, of existing in a world where the politics around the size and shape of our bodies make life harder. It’s a bit of queer fluff, and I had so much fun writing it.
“What Happens in the Closet” by Caleb Roehrig
When I first sat down to begin my contribution for OUT NOW, I outlined the story of a theater kid with a crush on a boy who might or might not be queer—and then I struggled to write it. Even though it was ripped straight from the headlines of my own teenage life, I couldn’t quite connect with the narrative I was crafting. Where were the stakes?
Among my influences as a storyteller, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably number one. It was inventive and suspenseful, of course, but it balanced its undead bombast with nuanced and sensitive explorations of very real day-to-day issues. On a season three episode entitled Homecoming, Buffy and her frenemy Cordelia are forced to hash out their longstanding jealousy and insecurities…all while fighting for their lives against vampire assassins. It was a brilliant metaphor for the fishbowl of high school life, and the layered dynamic between the two characters still felt so rich with potential for more.
What if it had been two queer kids trapped together instead, with physical attraction added to the already volatile cocktail of envy and admiration? What if they’d had to navigate those life-or-death problems while also, you know, trying to literally just stay alive?
Eventually, I asked if I could go ahead and lean into it—to write a story about two boys facing their demons (figurative and literal,) where a vampire invasion is only the second-most annoying thing about a ruined school dance; and I am forever grateful to Saundra Mitchell for saying yes. The universe I created for “What Happens in the Closet” was so much fun that I used it as the basis for a full-length novel, (The Fell of Dark, coming in July!) and I hope you love this fun and fang-toothed tale as much as I do!
“Star-Crossed in D.C.” by Jessica Verdi
The idea for this story sparked for me around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when I saw posts on social media about Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump (two adult children of the two nominees) being friendly in real life. It confused me, honestly, since they seem to stand for very different things. How on earth could they be friends?
But then I wondered, what if Ivanka did secretly agree more with Chelsea and her mother Hillary more than she let on in public—if maybe she had an obligation to stand by her father’s side, but deep down disagreed with him on the issues. (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Come on, Jess, Ivanka has made her opinions more than clear.” But this was years ago, before any of that was as blatantly evident as it is now.) And then I wondered, how amazing would it be if Ivanka (or any child of a high-profile conservative politician) had enough of a backbone to buck tradition, and what was expected of them, and publicly announce their support for the other candidate—the more progressive one. How absolutely inspiring and thrilling would that be!
Over time, the real-life inspiration for “Star-Crossed” fell away, and what remains is something a bit more romancey, a lot more queer, and even more wish-fulfilling. It’s my version of a fairy tale.
“Floating” by Tanya Boteju
“Floating” grew directly out of my experience as a high school English teacher. I’m surrounded by teenagers and tend to most notice the kids who seem a little out of place—the ones who sit alone in corners at lunch, who aren’t wholly driven by ‘A’s and university acceptances, who offer up weird and wonderful insights into the literature we’re studying. One student I noticed a few years ago kind of floated through the hallways, seemingly in a world of her own. And having taught her, I also knew she had one of those weird and wonderful minds. I was curious about what her brain was doing as she drifted through the school. The protagonist in “Floating,” Shanti, is my attempt to explore the inner workings of students like this and what it might look like for someone else to be able to reach into those inner workings somehow–as Essie does—but without changing who Shanti is at the core. I wanted Shanti to be able to maintain her wanderings and wonderings, but then to also find a gentle stillness with Essie. That it was two girls finding each other just felt natural to me. Many of the setting details in the story are pulled from my own school too—including the paper swirls that become so integral to the story.
“Far From Home” by Saundra Mitchell
I wasn’t going to write a story for my own anthology (I didn’t have one in All Out, either!) but my wonderful editor at Inkyard, Natashya Wilson, really, really, really wanted one. And it’s hard to say no when someone brilliant is saying, “please write a thing for me, I think it would be great.”
“Far From Home” may or may not be great– that’s not up for me to decide. But I did have a lot of fun writing it. I wanted to write a non-binary character, so check, and I wanted the genders and orientations of the characters to be as far from central as possible.
Also, my reviews agree that sometimes, my novels are slow to start. So I wondered, what would happen if I just started with the danger? And that’s how I end up with a non-binary starboi and their pan boyfriend dangling a thousand feet above an empty creekbed, with Men in Black in pursuit.
I love the conversation they have– because we love superhero movies, but I’m not entirely sure we’d be thrilled with actual superheroes. So yeah… write fast, write hard, no mercy! (Well, a little mercy. I love a happy ending!)
“Ready Player One” by Eliot Schrefer
I actually wrote the first incarnation of “Player One Fight!” twenty years ago, and rewrote it to include here. I was 21 at the time, and back then I was prey to a conception that I think a lot of us have when we’re young—that relationships are a form of battle, with winners and losers. That if you do all the moves right, then you’ll come out on top. Through Blake I wanted to look at the early life of someone who still had a lot of room to grow as far as how he treated boyfriends, and himself.
“Victory Lap” by Julian Winters
In “Victory Lap,” Luke Stone is great at everything, but there’s one thing he repeatedly fails at: asking a boy out. Specifically, he hasn’t found a date to the winter formal. His friends are putting more effort into finding him a date than he is. That is until Luke bumps into Milo, a shy classmate who Luke thinks is his perfect match, if he can get the nerve to ask Milo out. And the one person who he knows he can get the best advice from doesn’t know he’s gay yet—his dad.
When I first started writing this story, I had two goals: write a cute love story starring a gay, Black teen who’s still becoming comfortable in his own skin and set it in a barbershop, a place that is well-known in the Black community as a place of comfort, strength, laughter, and discourse. I didn’t plan to write a “coming out” story but the moment Luke sits in his dad’s barber chair, I knew the story I needed to tell. It was an opportunity to show a positive experience between a queer teen and his father, something that isn’t often depicted, especially inside POC communities. QPOC teens deserve to read stories where they feel safe and comforted by their loved ones. And I hope readers walk away from this story feeling lighter, confident, and smiling goofily just like Luke.
Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. The author of nearly twenty books for tweens and teens, Mitchell’s work includes SHADOWED SUMMER, THE VESPERTINE series, ALL THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK, a novel forthcoming from HarperTEEN and the forthcoming CAMP MURDERFACE series with Josh Berk. She is the editor of three anthologies for teens, DEFY THE DARK, ALL OUT and OUT NOW. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.
Pan Visibility Day will be taking place on May 24, so here are a bunch of books with panromantic and/or pansexual books to celebrate! Please note that this post only includes books that weren’t featured last year, so you can find even more here.
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.
But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell … and Earth.
Stefano Marino is a made man, a happily married west coast mafia boss who travels east to await the death of a family patriarch. All the old hands have gathered—of course sharks will circle when there’s blood in the water—but it’s a new hand that draws Stefano’s eye.
Silvio “the Barracuda” Spadaro is protetto and heir to retired consigliere Gianbattista Falchi, and a made man in his own right. Among his underworld family, being gay is a capital crime, but the hypersexual—and pansexual—young killer has never much cared for rules. The only orders he follows are Battista’s, whether on the killing field or on his knees, eagerly submissive at Battista’s feet.
But Silvio has needs Battista can’t fill, and he’s cast his black-eyed gaze on Stefano. A fake break-in, an even faker attack, and Silvio is exactly where he wants to be: strung up at Stefano’s mercy, driving the older Mafioso toward urges he’s spent his whole life repressing. Stefano resists, but when the Russian mob invades his territory and forces him to seek aid, Gianbattista’s price brings Stefano face to face once more with Silvio—and his darkest desires.
When Noah Lau joined the Vampire Hunters Association, seeking justice for his parents’ deaths, he didn’t anticipate ending up imprisoned in the house of the vampire he was supposed to kill—and he definitely didn’t anticipate falling for that vampire’s lover.
Six months later, Noah’s life has gotten significantly more complicated. On top of being autistic in a world that doesn’t try to understand him, he still hunts vampires for a living…while dating a vampire himself. Awkward. Yet Jordan Cross is sweet and kind, and after braving their inner demons and Jordan’s vicious partner together, Noah wouldn’t trade him for the world.
But when one of Jordan’s vampire friends goes missing and Noah’s new boss at the VHA becomes suspicious about some of his recent cases, what starts off as a routine paperwork check soon leads Noah to a sinister conspiracy. As he investigates, he and Jordan get sucked into a deadly web of intrigue that will test the limits of their relationship—and possibly break them. After all, in a world where vampires feed on humans and humans fear vampires, can a vampire and a vampire hunter truly find a happy ending together?
Jubilee is either bisexual or pansexual; she is still deciding what fits, but both labels are on the page.
Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.
Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them–that is, when they’re even paying attention.
They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible . . . unless they manage to keep it a secret.
Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?
Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes.
Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid.
To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?
Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?
But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.
Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.
It’s no one’s fault that Hallie Jacob is alone. That her grandpa got sick half a world away and so her parents yanked her to Colorado the last semester of her senior year. That career-wise, she’s specialized in fighting fire, and now she’s surrounded by ice, snow, and a thousand cousins she’s half-banned from hanging around with. But that’s what’s happened. That’s what her December looks like.
On one big family weekend in the freaking tundra, Hallie sneaks off with those cousins to an abandoned ski slope. But they get caught in a random mudslide, and what started as a Secret Bonfire Party goes in a Potential Donner Party direction real fast. With several cousins in desperate need of medical attention, Hallie goes for help, and Jonah joins her. Jonah Ramirez is her troubled cousin’s extremely off-limits (absurdly hot) best friend who’s back on winter break from college.
Facing paralyzing temperatures, sharp-toothed animals strong enough to survive a climate with hardly any water or air, and weather phenomena so wicked they’ll wreck a mountain before you can blink, Jonah and Hallie have no choice but to trust each other. And THAT may be more impossible, even, than making it out alive.
If there’s one thing I love in a romance, it’s food. If there’s another, it’s puns. And if there’s another, it’s competition. So you can imagine my ridiculous delight at getting to reveal the cover for Candace Harper’s Hugs & Quiches, a contemporary foodie f/f (bi/lesbian) romance releasing August 22, 2020!
Starting over was meant to be a new beginning.
Though for Zoe Cooper and Amelia Hughes, it’s the very first step toward their happy ending.
It’s been a year since Zoe Cooper packed up her daughter and fled her abusive husband with only the clothes on her back. But life as a waitress, food blogger, and “roommate” to her supportive mother has turned into a holding pattern, and her dream of launching her own catering company and cooking school feels like just another fairy tale ending–when she’s no Cinderella.
Until the newest cooking competition comes to town, and suddenly magic just might be at Zoe’s fingertips with the chance to audition for Heating Up the Kitchen.
If only she can beat Amelia.
Fresh out of a disastrous relationship and determined to prove her ex wrong, Amelia’s got a chip on her shoulder and is ready for a grudge match in the kitchen. When she locks horns with Amelia, there’s more steaming than their buns as the two competitive young chefs vie for the top spot on the show…
…and the top spot in each others’ hearts.
There’s more cooking in this kitchen than the food, and romance is on the menu. When hatred turns to heat and threatens to boil over, their rivalry might just end in disaster.
Or Zoe and Amelia might just find the future they need in each other–in between stolen hugs and quiches.
And here’s the searing cover, designed by Ceilie Simkiss!
Candace Harper is a queer, neurodivergent woman living with her partner, two cats and a dog in the PNW. She’s known for being the overly enthusiastic about silly things and as the mom friend. She writes queer fiction as much and in as many genres as she can manage, both under this name and as Ceillie Simkiss.
Today on the site we’re pleased to have Dr. Gregory Charlop, who’s here to discuss the very relevant topic of Depression in the LGBTQ community, as both a member of said community and a doctor at a telemedicine wellness clinic. First, here’s a glimpse into his new book:
Scientists just unlocked the secrets of aging
Thanks to research from Harvard, USC, and MIT, we now understand what causes aging. You’ll discover how to live a long, healthy life free of disability, frailty, and dependence. Learn how to restore your youthful vitality and drive. Tap into energy you never knew you had and start a new business, travel the world, create a charity, and enjoy more time with your favorite hobbies.
In Why Doctors Skip Breakfast, you’ll learn what foods, medicines, lab tests, wearable technology, and supplements you need to feel young and look fantastic. Are you ready to play with your great-grandkids?
The new science of sleep
You know sleep is important, but are you sleeping wrong? Use cutting-edge sleep techniques, melatonin, and wearable technology to boost your work performance, improve your mood, and protect your health. Read critical information about obstructive sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that can suffocate you overnight. There’s a bonus chapter with special sleep strategies designed to improve your athletic performance.
Depression and the Ketamine Revolution
There’s new hope for people suffering from depression. Ketamine and dietary changes can treat depression, even when oral antidepressants and other conventional therapies failed. Find out whether ketamine is right for you.
Designed for elite performers or anyone who wants to stay young, energetic, and happy, Why Doctors Skip Breakfast is your easy to read guidebook for success and radiant health. You climb out of bed at noon, afraid to face the day. Nothing interests you. Today will be like yesterday, and tomorrow looks no better. You feel hopeless and alone. How did you get here?
Depression and anxiety harm millions of people each year. The LGBTQ community is particularly at risk for depression and suicide. The coronavirus pandemic just made everything worse. The loss of friends, fear of disease, and economic uncertainty are driving depression and anxiety disorders through the roof. How can you heal when you’re worried about losing your job or dying?
Social distancing threw gasoline on the fire. A major study of Canadians quarantined for the SARS epidemic found that one in three people developed PTSD or depressive symptoms from the isolation. Quarantines keep people from family, friends, therapists, and favorite activities. If you already have depression, the separation can make you feel even worse; alone, helpless, and forgotten.
For many in the LGBTQ community, the coronavirus pandemic is eerily reminiscent of the early days of HIV and AIDS. We remember the panic of a mysterious virus run amok, killing neighbors and isolating communities. This similarity is a brutal reminder of dark days and only serves to increase the emotional and psychological toll we face today.
Thankfully, there are some great resources to help members of the LGBTQ community cope with depression. Let’s review some of the best.
Telemedicine lets folks meet their physicians and therapists virtually, from the comfort of their living rooms. Hop on your couch in your PJs and chat with your mental health professional. Skip the hassle! It saves you from the risk of infection from the clinic and can be a lifeline while physical offices are closed. Some people enjoy the convenience of telemedicine so much, they never want to go back to in-person visits. If you already have a mental health professional, there’s a good chance that they’ll see you online. If you need an online practitioner, sites like Psychology Today and Talkspace will hook you up.
Social connections reduce depression. Humans are social creatures, and many of us suffer when we’re away from other people. Secure social connections improve mental health. Bonds with others reduce the risk of suicide in the LGBTQ community. Since quarantines make in-person meetings more difficult, many people are turning to virtual happy hours. Apps like Zoom and Houseparty make online gatherings fun. Houseparty makes it easy to add friends, and the app features a variety of games that are sure to spice up your tele-party.
A healthy diet is a powerful way to reduce depression and increase energy. A remarkable study found that the Mediterranean diet improved symptoms of depression in as little as three weeks – and the results were long-lasting. Take advantage of online grocery delivery and turn your kitchen into a health spa. If you’d like to try the anti-depressant diet, be sure to eat lots of veggies, nuts, olive oil, and turmeric. And, cut out the sugar!
Moderate exercise is one of your best weapons against depression. Multiple studies prove that exercise reduces anxiety and improves mood. Your best bets are aerobic exercise and mindfulness-promoting activities like tai chi and Qigong. Have trouble exercising on your own? You can form socially distant walking groups. Gather a friend or two and walk or jog together, while remaining 6-10 feet apart. You’ll feel motivated and stay safe. Another option is to find an online personal trainer. They’ll motivate you and watch your form while remaining harmlessly outside of your home.
Crisis hotlines are always available. If you feel severe depression or are contemplating suicide, please contact a specialist. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is free, confidential, and open 24/7. Call them at 800-273-8255. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a great resource and has a 24/7 hotline 800-662-HELP. The Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline geared towards LGBTQ youth and can be reached at 866-488-7386.
Depression is a devastating illness that can rob you of happiness and hope. Social distancing and fear of the COVID pandemic only compound the problem. If you are depressed or anxious, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the impact of depression and still stay safe from the virus. If you aren’t depressed, please check on your friends, neighbors, and family. They may be suffering in silence and need your help. Together, we will overcome.
Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have Sara Codair to reveal the cover of their upcoming young adult urban fantasy, Power Inversion, releasing June 1st from NineStar Press! Here’s what it’s about:
Do you have to be a monster to fight one?
Erin Evanstar is a demon hunter, a protector of humanity from nightmarish predators that feed on people’s fears and flesh. They are settling into their dual life of being a teen and hunting demons.
When a tentacled horror abducts Erin’s partner, José, Erin and their family go on the hunt to get him back. But Erin gets an ultimatum: help the Fallen Angels bring on the apocalypse or watch José die. Erin will do anything to save José, but fighting monsters comes with a grim price–becoming one themselves.
And here’s the electrifying cover, designed by Natasha Snow!
Sara Codair is an author of short stories and novels, which are packed with action, adventure, magic, and the bizarre. They partially owe their success to their faithful feline writing partner, Goose the Meowditor-In-Chief, who likes to “edit” their work by deleting entire pages. Find Sara online at saracodair.com or @shatteredsmooth.
One of my favorite things is highlighting covers that’ve gotten a change-up for the new version, because the only thing better than a single queer book look is having to have two of the same one because they’re just so stunning! Here are some books that got new outfits for 2020:
The Weyward family has been haunted by a curse for generations—if a Weyward falls in love before their seventeenth birthday, the person they love dies.
Sam doesn’t plan to fall for anyone in the weeks before his birthday. He’ll spend his time working at the Eezy-Freeze with his dad; cooking up some midsummer magic with his grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother (the Grands); and experimenting with drag with the help of the queens at the Shangri-La, the local gay club.
But when a new guy comes to town, Sam finds himself in trouble when they strike up a friendship that might be way more than that.
As Sam’s birthday approaches and he still hasn’t quite fallen in love, the curse seems to get more powerful and less specific about who it targets.
A mysterious girl Sam talks to on the phone late at night and a woman he’s only seen in a dream might have the answers he’s been looking for—but time is running out to save the people he cares about.
Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.
Jack has a lot of sex — and he’s not ashamed of it. While he’s sometimes ostracized, and gossip constantly rages about his sex life, Jack always believes that “it could be worse.”
But then, the worse unexpectedly strikes: when Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for his friend’s blog, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters that attempt to force Jack to curb his sexuality and personality. Now it’s up to Jack and his best friends to uncover the stalker — before their love becomes dangerous.
Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.
But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie, too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.
Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.
A transgender reporter’s “powerful, profoundly moving” (New York Times Book Review) narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America.
Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she’s a GLAAD Award-winning journalist happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts.
In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.” Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more.
Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, Real Queer America is a treasure trove of uplifting stories and a much-needed source of hope and inspiration in these divided times.
At the height of the Cold War, Irina, a young Russian-American secretary, is plucked from the CIA typing pool and given the assignment of a lifetime. Her mission: to help smuggle Doctor Zhivago into the USSR, where it is banned, and enable Boris Pasternak’s magnum opus to make its way into print around the world. Mentoring Irina is the glamorous Sally Forrester: a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit, using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Under Sally’s tutelage, Irina learns how to invisibly ferry classified documents—and discovers deeply buried truths about herself. The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. Told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail, this is an unforgettable debut: a celebration of the powerful belief that a work of art can change the world.
Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life. By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.
But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them—for good?
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
A special Deluxe Edition of Adam Silvera’s groundbreaking debut featuring an introduction by Angie Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give, a new final chapter, and an afterword about where it all began.
In his twisty, heartbreaking, profoundly moving New York Times bestselling-debut, Adam Silvera brings to life a charged, dangerous near-future summer in the Bronx.
In the months following his father’s suicide, sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto can’t seem to find happiness again, despite the support of his girlfriend, Genevieve, and his overworked mom. Grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist won’t let him forget the pain. But when Aaron meets Thomas, a new kid in the neighborhood, something starts to shift inside him. Aaron can’t deny his unexpected feelings for Thomas despite the tensions their friendship has created with Genevieve and his tight-knit crew. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound happiness, he considers taking drastic actions. The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-altering procedure will straighten him out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.