I’m so thrilled to welcome Kosoko Jackson back to the site, this month of his newest release, I’m So (Not) Over You (Berkley), which publishes on the 22nd! I have been floored by how much he’s been putting out in the world lately, and I’m so excited about everything coming up, so please give him a warm welcome!
I’m so, so excited to see you keep jumping into new spaces, but perhaps the one I’m most excited about is the world of rom-coms! What’s the story behind I’m So (Not) Over You and making the move from YA to Adult?
Thank you! I’m super excited to be here. It’s been so much fun writing them, exploring tropes, and writing HEAs. Honestly, the story isn’t that jaw dropping, haha. About 3 years ago, I really needed to reevaluate what I wanted to write and what brought me joy. I was lying in bed, listening to Taylor Swift, as one does, and thought; I want to write rom-coms. I emailed my agent, and then over the next year or so, I wrote…4 different proposals, each 50 pages each, until we narrowed down the right one, sent it off, and 4 months later, I was signed to Berkley! It was a leap of faith I’m really happy I took.
Of course, that’s not a permanent move; in fact you’ll be back in YA in about five seconds with Survive the Dome, which could not feel like a more relevant story right now. What was it like to write that book against the background of 2020s America, and what do you hope readers take from it?
Don’t remind me! True whiplash! Survive the Dome couldn’t be more different than I’m So (Not) Over You. Survive The Dome was my act of resistance against everything happening in the news. I couldn’t go out and protest, thanks to the pandemic and living in NYC, so I wanted to do something, so I really poured my resistance into this book. I want people to take away that revolutions are often led by people of color, women of color, and youth of color, and we should put them at the forefront of conversations far more often than we do.
Dipping back into adult romance for a sec, you also published a short story last fall in Love All Year, which sounds like the most delightful anthology. How did you get involved, and can you tell us a little bit about “Kwanzaa Kiss”?
Sure! Honestly, it was an open call. I was chatting with Denise Wiliams (read her book The Fastest Way To Fall, by the way), chatting about a Kwanzaa rom com, and she mentioned the Love All Year sequel. The story wasn’t enough for a full book, so this seemed a perfect way to tell the story. “Kwanzaa Kiss” is a scavenger hunt rom com between two men who team up to find seven things that represent each of the core principles of Kwanzaa. And of course, love comes through!
You also have a new essay in the collection Black Love Matters, which released with perfect timing to kick off Black History Month. How was collaborating on an essay collection, and what do you love about it as a whole?
You’re making me realize I need to take a BREAK. I’ve written so much the past year haha. This was so much fun! I’m so honored Berkley put oy name forward, and Jessica was into the idea. I rarely see anthologies that center not only Black people, but Black love. It was so great to work with such rom com and romance titans, and be in an anthology with them and learn from them. I also got to talk about my favorite topics, movies, tv and love, so honestly, I won, haha.
I got the joy (completely coincidentally) of revealing the covers for both of your new books, but you had a fabulous third new cover out this year, for the paperback of Yesterday Is History. How did that cover change come about, and what do you love about the new design?
Thank you so much for doing them both by the way. The hardest-working person in publishing right here. I LOVE the new cover for Yesterday Is History. Honestly, again, not the most interesting story. My publisher, Sourcebooks, said they wanted a cover that resonated with the key thing people loved about the story; the romance. So they wanted to put that front and center with a speculative hint towards it. Having Andre falling also represents his first jump in time, in chapter 1. And the cover shows he ends up with someone but you don’t know who! It’s so beautiful.
You’ve also been on LGBTQReads before, in a pre-author capacity, in one of my favorite posts in the history of the site. Where is the Black Queer Male Voice in YA? was published back on August 31, 2017, back before authors like you, Ryan Douglass (also featured), Julian Winters, Kacen Callender, and Jay Coles made your way onto shelves and changed the game. How are you feeling about the queer Black male voice in YA now, and where you’d still like to see it go?
2017? That was so long ago and it feels like yesterday. I’m loving to see so many more queer Black boys. Especially in YA and Middle Grade. I wish I had these authors to look up to when I was 13. But it’s awesome to see that teens and young adults will be able to read books that aren’t just about coming out, or the struggles of being Black and queer, but to see stories where Queer characters are fully fledged and well thoguht out people, with motives, feelings, fears, and flaws. That’s crucial, not only for us, to see ourselves, but for others to learn empathy.
Of course, the conversation about being a queer man in romance is one that’s gotten a whole lot of traction lately as well. Given the floor to say your piece about it, what would you like both the industry and readers to know about the experience of publishing m/m romance as a queer (or whatever label you prefer!) man?
I think it’s important that we as a community understand we cannot and should not police who writes what. That’s a dangerous slope and a dangerous path to go down. That being said, I think its also very important we allow queer men to tell their stories authentically. We shouldn’t judge by hetronormative standards and publishing should, along with readers, make more of an effort to uplift queer stories. Marginalized voices within the community should be prioritized when telling those stories. That, to me, isn’t an out-there idea.
I think we’re all out of ways to sugarcoat the fact that publishing during a pandemic sucks, and debuting during a pandemic doubly so, although there are definitely some perks as far as increased access to events goes. What have you found to be the best and worst parts of debuting in 2021, and what fellow pandemic debuts would you like to shout out?
I think the best also goes back to the Great Resignation of workers. I’ve found that I’ve really honed in on what I care about and the stories I want to tell. I’ve become braver and more confident in my writing, because I’ve seen how fleeting everything that we have erected and held dear. I think that’s morbid, sure, but I embrace this confidence I’ve fostered. The saddest thing, as we all know, is no in person events, but also how much stress is being put on publishing employees. We’re losing great talent during this pandemic because of how our industry treats publishing employees, especially marginalized ones and people of color.
With so many different things under your belt, I’m particularly interested in your answer to my final question: what’s up next for you?
By the time this comes out my next YA, coming out in 2023 by Quilltree would have been announced, and I’m so so thrilled to be stepping into fantasy and dark academia. My next rom com also comes out December of this year, A Dash of Salt and Pepper, and it follows a small town DILF chef in a fictional version of Stars Hollow, the 20-something who returns home after losing his job and his boyfriend, and Taming of the Shrew vibes!