February 2023 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and a Lambda Literary Award, and author of BIG FAMILIA Tomas Moniz‘s ALL FRIENDS ARE NECESSARY, set in the Bay Area, following a late-30s bisexual man’s effort to reconnect to the world through misadventures in dating, Peloton, and OnlyFans after his marriage dissolves in the wake of his partner’s loss of a full-term pregnancy, to Evan Hansen-Bundy at Algonquin, in a pre-empt, by Eleanor Jackson at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner (world).

Continue reading February 2023 Deal Announcements

Fave Five: LGBTQ YA with MCs of Indian Descent

The Loophole by Naz Kutub

Jaya and Rasa by Sonia Patel

What a Desi Girl Wants by Sabina Khan

We Are Totally Normal by Naomi Kanakia

All the Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan

Bonus: There’s no official pub date yet, but keep an eye out for Just Happy to Be Here by Naomi Kanakia

Double Bonus: While Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim is set in a secondary world, Amaya’s father is from a country modeled on India. You can read more about that here.

Happy Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week 2023!

Happy Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week! Running from February 19-25, 2023, this week we’re celebrating aromantic rep, so check out these titles! (Representation is included/highlighted with each title, where I know it.) As usual, all links are affiliate and earn a percentage of income for the site, so please use them if you can!

Please note this roundup only features titles that were not previously featured [with covers] in other Aro Awareness Week Roundups, so make sure you check these posts for more!

Books to Read Now

Every Bird a Prince by Jenn Reese

Every Bird a Prince by [Jenn Reese]The only time Eren Evers feels like herself is when she’s on her bike, racing through the deep woods. While so much of her life at home and at school is flying out of control, the muddy trails and the sting of wind in her face are familiar comforts.

Until she rescues a strange, magical bird, who reveals a shocking secret: their forest kingdom is under attack by an ancient foe—the vile Frostfangs—and the birds need Eren’s help to survive.

Seventh grade is hard enough without adding “bird champion” to her list of after-school activities. Lately, Eren’s friends seem obsessed with their crushes and the upcoming dance, while Eren can’t figure out what a crush should even feel like. Still, if she doesn’t play along, they may leave her behind…or just leave her all together. Then the birds enlist one of Eren’s classmates, forcing her separate lives to collide.

When her own mother starts behaving oddly, Eren realizes that the Frostfangs—with their insidious whispers—are now hunting outside the woods. In order to save her mom, defend an entire kingdom, and keep the friendships she holds dearest, Eren will need to do something utterly terrifying: be brave enough to embrace her innermost truths, no matter the cost.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon

Funeral Girl by Emma K. Ohland

Sixteen-year-old Georgia Richter feels conflicted about the funeral home her parents run―especially because she has the ability to summon ghosts.

With one touch of any body that passes through Richter Funeral Home, she can awaken the spirit of the departed. With one more touch, she makes the spirit disappear, to a fate that remains mysterious to Georgia. To cope with her deep anxiety about death, she does her best to fulfill the final wishes of the deceased whose ghosts she briefly revives.

Then her classmate Milo’s body arrives at Richter―and his spirit wants help with unfinished business, forcing Georgia to reckon with her relationship to grief and mortality.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

The Butterfly Assassin by Finn Longman

Trained and traumatised by a secret assassin programme for minors, Isabel Ryans wants nothing more than to be a normal civilian. After running away from home, she has a new name, a new life and a new friend, Emma, and for the first time in Isabel’s life, things are looking up.

But old habits die hard, and it’s not long until she blows her cover, drawing the attention of the guilds – the two rival organisations who control the city of Espera. An unaffiliated killer like Isabel is either a potential asset . . . or a threat to be eliminated.

Will the blood on her hands cost her everything?

Buy it: Waterstones | The Book Depository

Sounds Fake But Okay: An Asexual and Aromantic Perspective on Love, Relationships, Sex, and Pretty Much Anything Else by Sarah Costello and Kayla Kaczyca

Sounds Fake But Okay: An Asexual and Aromantic Perspective on Love, Relationships, Sex, and Pretty Much Anything Else by [Sarah Costello, Kayla Kaszyca]True Love. Third Wheels. Dick pics. ‘Dying alone’. Who decided this was normal?

Sarah and Kayla invite you to put on your purple aspec glasses – and rethink everything you thought you knew about society, friendship, sex, romance and more.

Drawing on their personal stories, and those of aspec friends all over the world, prepare to explore your microlabels, investigate different models of partnership, delve into the intersection of gender norms and compulsory sexuality and reconsider the meaning of sex – when allosexual attraction is out of the equation.

Spanning the whole range of relationships we have in our lives – to family, friends, lovers, society, our gender, and ourselves, this book asks you to let your imagination roam, and think again what human connection really is.

Buy it:  Bookshop | Amazon


Tell Me How it Ends by Quinton Li (April 9, 2023)

(Marin is aroace.)

Iris Galacia’s tarot cards do more than entertain gamblers.

With the flip of her fingers she can predict the future and uncover a person’s secrets. Under the watchful eye of her mother, she is already on thin ice for pursuing a passion in the family business, but then cracks start to form, and eventually she falls through.

She is given an ultimatum: earn a thousand coins or leave the business, and the family.

Enter Marin Boudreau, a charming young person who can scale buildings and break off doorknobs, who comes for her help to rescue a witch who’s been falsely imprisoned in Excava Kingdom.

And Marin is willing to pay a high sum for her talents.

But saving a prisoner from royal hands isn’t easy, nor is leaving home for the first time in eighteen years.

Now Iris must learn to trust in herself, Marin, and this new magical world, while racing the clock before the royals decide the fate of the witch, and before any secrets catch up to her.

Buy it: Amazon

This Dark Descent by Kalyn Josephson (September 26, 2023)

The Rusel family is famous throughout Enderlain as breeders of enchanted horses, but their prestige is no match for their rising debts. To save her family’s ranch, Mikira Rusel is left with only one option: enter the Illinir, a cutthroat, cross-country horserace known for its high death rate as much as its flashy prize money.

To have any chance of success, she’ll have to recruit Arielle Kadar, an unlicensed enchanter who creates golems in place of enchanted animals, and Damien Adair, a lord in the midst of a succession battle. Both her accomplices have reasons of their own to help Mikira – and their own blood feuds to avenge.

In a world as dangerous as this, will hidden agendas and conflicting desires butcher their chances of winning the Illinir. . . or will another rider’s dagger?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Dear Wendy by Ann Zhao (April 16, 2024)

Sophie Chi is in her first year at Wellesley College (despite her parents’ wishes that she attends a “real” university) and has long accepted her aromantic and asexual identities. Despite knowing she’ll never fall in love, she enjoys learning about relationships and putting that research to use to help people. And what better way to do that than by running an Instagram account that offers advice to the students at her college, somewhere in between classes, morning runs, and extracurriculars? No one except her roommate knows that she’s behind the incredibly popular “Dear Wendy” account.

Meanwhile, Joanna “Jo” Ephron is also a first-year student at Wellesley but when they create the account “Sincerely Wanda” to show one of their roommates why she needs to dump her boyfriend, they don’t expect it to amount to anything more. After all, Jo’s account isn’t meant to be serious—not like Dear Wendy’s. But it seems more and more students appreciate her humorous answers to followers’ dilemmas, and she may end up encroaching on Wendy’s territory a little. And now the two accounts might have a rivalry of sorts? Oops. As if Jo’s not busy enough having existential crises over the fact that she’ll never truly be loved or be enough, gender, and her few friends finding The One and forgetting her!

Tensions are rising online, but Sophie and Jo start getting closer in real life, especially after they realize their shared aroace identity. As their friendship develops and they work together to start a campus organization for other a-spec students, can their growing bond survive if they learn just who’s behind the Wendy and Wanda accounts?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon


Fave Five: Queer Black Romance Audiobooks

All links are libro.fm affiliate; each purchase earns a small percentage of income for the site.

How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole, narrated by Karen Chilton (f/f)

D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins, narrated by Rebecca Lee (f/f)

I’m (So) Not Over You by Kosoko Jackson, narrated by Timothy Bell Reese (m/m)

Harbor by Rebekah Weatherspoon, narrated by Royal Jaye and Tovah Ott (m/m/f)

Learned Reactions by Jayce Ellis, narrated by K. Bernard (m/m)

Bonus: These are all Adult, but in YA, check out Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson, narrated by Lexi Underwood and Alaska Jackson (f/f); The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus, narrated by Junauda Petrus, Bahni Turpin, and JD Jackson; and Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert (m/f), narrated by Amina Koroma and Jonathan Andrew Hume

Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Romance of 2023

Love love, at least in bookish form? Here’s a list to keep you in brand-new queer romance novels all year long…

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert (January 3rd)

61356545Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption–yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Continue reading Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Romance of 2023

The Wonder of Kids These Days: a Guest Post by Author Nina Varela

Today on the site we’re talking to Nina Varela, whose name you probably know from the smash hit Crier’s War duology, and who’s now hopping categories to Middle Grade with the Sapphic adventure Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom, releasing tomorrow from LBYR! Before we get to her fantastic post on book bannings, resilience, and growing into identity, here’s a little more on the book:

61237048When Juniper Harvey’s family moves to the middle of nowhere in Florida, her entire life is uprooted. As if that’s not bad enough, she keeps having dreams about an ancient-looking temple, a terrifying attack, and a mysterious girl who turns into an ivory statue. One night after a disastrous school dance, Juniper draws a portrait of the girl from her dreams and thinks, I wish you were here. The next morning, she wakes up to find the girl in her room…pointing a sword at her throat!

The unexpected visitor reveals herself as Galatea, a princess from a magical other world. One problem—her crown is missing, and she needs it in order to return home. Now, it’s up to Juniper to help find the crown, all while navigating a helpless crush on her new companion. And things go from bad to worse when a sinister force starts chasing after the crown too.

Packed with adventure and driven by a pitch-perfect voice, this middle grade debut from Nina Varela is about one tween forging new friendships, fighting nightmarish monsters, and importantly, figuring out who she is and who she ultimately wishes to be.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Now here’s the post!

In Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom, 11-year-old “June” Harvey has a lot on her plate: she’s starting sixth grade at a new school in a new town, hundreds of miles away from her best
(and kind of only) friend and everything else she’s ever known. And that’s before the magical princess from another dimension crash-lands in her bedroom. And that’s before June starts wondering if maybe there’s a reason said princess makes her face go red, and not just out of annoyance.

June is a kid. She’s in her first year of middle school. She’s experiencing basically her first crush—definitely the first crush she’s been aware of while it’s happening. And the focus of that crush is another girl. Despite the rest of the plot—which involves gods, flying nightmare monsters, and islands that float in the sky—this was maybe the most difficult part of the story for me to write. You wouldn’t think so, considering I certainly know what it’s like to experience a middle school crush, and also what it’s like to experience a gay crush. But when I was June’s age, I had no idea I was queer. I knew of queerness—I knew gay people existed, and as I learned more about queerness and homophobia I became a staunch “ally”—but it didn’t seem like something that could apply to me. I’m not even really sure why. Plenty of people know they’re gay from a very young age, whether or not they possess the vocabulary to describe it. But at some point I had assumed my sexuality was the default, that I was straight, and it wasn’t until years later that I began to question that assumption. To be clear, as an adolescent, I did experience nonplatonic feelings for other girls; I liked girls, I wanted girls, I just didn’t make the connection that it was something intrinsic to who I was, something real and important enough to shape my worldview, the way I move through the world, the way I interact with myself and others, the way I live my life. I knew adults could be gay, yet somehow it didn’t occur to me that gay adults surely grew from gay children. That the confusingly intense feelings I had for other girls were not an improbable series of flukes, but something that mattered, that would continue to matter.

My experience, my timeline, is not unique. Again, some people know they’re gay from the onset, but I’ve had countless conversations with other queer people who didn’t realize they were gay until young adulthood or later—even if, in retrospect, we were having a lot of gay teenage feelings. So much of this comes down to socialization, the social hierarchies that play out beneath the surface of every interaction. Generally, we are taught to believe our gender and
sexuality align with whatever the default is. If you’re a girl, then you like boys, and only boys.

I am about to turn twenty-eight. In 2006, when I was in sixth grade, calling things “gay” as an insult was extremely normal and common and happened in my vicinity roughly 500 times per day. To my knowledge, there were no “out” queer kids in my middle or high school, though there were rumors. (Plenty of my classmates have come out in the years since. Love this journey for us.) The idea of self-identifying as queer, as a kid, let alone knowing multiple other queer kids, is wild to me, unthinkable. But for Gen Z, that’s increasingly something close to the norm. My youngest sibling just turned fifteen. Many of their friends are proudly, loudly queer and have been for years. “My friend who’s a trans lesbian,” they tell me. “My nonbinary friend, my friend who’s bi and ace.” Internet access means information access. Kids these days tend to learn about
queerness—broadly, and in specific terms—so much earlier than just one generation before. They tend to start questioning their own assumptions about themselves—the world’s insistence that they conform to a default—so much earlier. That’s pretty freaking cool. It doesn’t matter whether or not a certain label sticks; whether some kid calling themself a lesbian is an “experiment” or a phase. That’s what being young is for. Being a kid is about learning, growing, discovering who you are. Straight kids have crushes, have first relationships. The gay kids of my generation often didn’t—or had “straight” relationships because that’s what was expected. But
the fact is that gay kids should be allowed the same grace, the same space to be messy and fluid and changeable. And it’s hard to do that if you don’t know that queer is something you have the
option to be—that it’s something a kid can be, and it rocks.

The moral panic around queerness specifically in relation to children has been simmering since the 90s and in recent years has begun boiling over into full-blown cultural hysteria. Lawmakers introduced more than 300 new anti-LGBT bills in 2022 alone, many of which targeted LGBT youth. There’s an ongoing crusade against the imaginary problem of children attending drag shows, as if the mere existence of gay and trans people can somehow harm or groom children.

Just this past week, the New York Times published a wildly transphobic piece of faux-concerned hand-wringing about the concept that a kid might come out as trans to friends and trusted teachers but not parents, to which children of queerphobic parents everywhere responded: Yeah. And?

In March 2022, Florida—where Juniper Harvey is set—passed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which says public school teachers may not instruct on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. A year later, there’s a new Florida state law that requires all books in classroom libraries to be approved or vetted by a media specialist or librarian trained by the state. In September 2022, PEN America reported that during the previous school year, more books had been banned than in any previous year. Of the books, “41% had LGBTQ themes or main characters, while 40% featured characters of color.”

Kids deserve better. Queer kids exist, have always existed, will always exist. They deserve to know they’re not alone, that they’re not broken; there’s nothing wrong with them; they deserve love and joy and companionship of all kinds same as anyone else. Kids these days may be more aware of their own potential for queerness than I was at that age, but that doesn’t mean they’re safer or happier, that they’re living in a kinder world. I hope books like Juniper Harvey, books about queer kids dreaming big despite-despite-despite, can give them some seed of warmth and hope—but books can only do that if they actually make it to the kids’ hands.

For more information about censorship and how to fight the book bans sweeping the US, kindly look here, here, and here to start. Thank you.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Cold Girls by Maxine Rae

Today on the site we’re revealing the cover of Cold Girls by Maxine Rae, a Sapphic coming-of-age contemporary YA releasing from Flux on August 22, 2023! Here’s the story:

Eighteen-year-old Rory Quinn-Morelli doesn’t want to die; she wants refuge from reality for even a minute: the reality where she survived the car crash eight months ago, and her best friend, Liv, didn’t. Yet her exasperating mother won’t believe the Xanax incident was an accident, and her therapist is making it increasingly hard to maintain the detached, impenetrable “cold girl” façade she adopted from Liv. After she unintentionally reconnects with Liv’s parents, Rory must decide: will she keep Liv’s and her secrets inside, or will she finally allow herself to break? And if she breaks, what will she unearth amid the pieces?

And here’s the very cool cover, designed by Cynthia Della-Rovere and illustrated by Alisha Monnin!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Flux (30% off w/code FALL23) 

Maxine Rae has studied writing at Tulane University, Sarah Lawrence College, and StoryStudio Chicago, where she trained under established authors such as two-time National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward. Cold Girls is her first novel. When not writing or working, she enjoys being a gay icon with her sister, dancing around to alternating ballet and disco music in her apartment, and snuggling with her two cats. You can find her on Instagram at @maxinerae_author.

New Releases: February 2023

Out of Character by Jenna Miller (7th)

If you asked seventeen-year-old Cass Williams to describe herself, she’d happily tell you she’s fat, queer, and obsessed with the Tide Wars books. What she won’t tell you—or anyone in her life—is that she’s part of an online Tide Wars roleplay community. Sure, it’s nerdy as hell, but when she’s behind the screen writing scenes as Captain Aresha, she doesn’t have to think about her mother who walked out or how unexpectedly stressful it is dating resident cool girl Taylor Cooper.

But secretly retreating to her online life is starting to catch up with Cass. For one, no one in her real life knows her secret roleplay addiction is the reason her grades have taken a big hit. Also? Cass has started catching feelings for Rowan Davies, her internet bestie…and Taylor might be catching on.

As Cass’s lies continue to build, so does her anxiety. Roleplaying used to be the one place she could escape to, but this double life and offline-online love triangle have only made things worse. Cass must decide what to do—be honest and risk losing her safe space or keep it a secret and put everything else on the line.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Continue reading New Releases: February 2023

At Midnight (UK): an Interview by Once Upon a Bookcase

As many of you know, a couple of months ago we lost a wonderful friend and champion of queer books in Jo, a brilliant bookseller and the blogger behind Once Upon a Bookcase. Jo had interviewed me about At Midnight for her blog, but due to a very ridiculous miscommunication on my part, I didn’t get the answers to her on time, so we said we’d publish it on her blog for the UK release on February 7th, which probably made more sense anyway, being that she’s in the UK.

Of course, neither of us had any clue that those few months would be everything. 

Tomorrow, the UK version of At Midnight releases from Titan Books, and there is no one I was more excited to celebrate with than Jo. She was the first person I told when it sold there, and she was, as always, incredibly excited and supportive. As it happened, the final pages arrived for my review a couple of days before she passed, and so the UK version has an addition to the dedication page, because truly, that edition was for nobody more than Jo. 

I know this isn’t the typical interview I post here, but, well, hopefully you understand the exception. 

Rest in peace, Jo. Thank you for everything. 

Once Upon a Bookcase

Q: Can you tell us a little about At Midnight?

A: At Midnight is an anthology of fairytales reimagined by some of my favorite YA authors, predominantly based on the tales by the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Charles Perrault, though there are definitely some other influences in there. It’s a pretty dark collection, though there are some definite romantic and/or funny bright spots.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for At Midnight? 

A: It was actually Anna-Marie McLemore’s idea! We were texting about something and they suggested it and I said it was a great idea and they should pitch it, but they had no interest in being an editor. So they gave the idea to me to pitch to my editor at Flatiron, under the condition they could be a contributor, and, well, obviously. 

I thought fairy tales went really well with my other two collections, which are Poe and Shakespeare, in that they’re well-known and there’s a lot of scholarship there. These are stories that have survived and evolved for centuries, and no matter how much one might want to relegate them to children’s flights of fancy, that endurance should make very clear their literary merits are not easily dismissed. And that’s even before you get to the fascinating cultural studies of how different versions compare around the world. Fairytales are truly a brilliant academic subject!

I also really wanted to achieve something similar to the other collections, which is to center these well-known stories on characters who don’t always get to see themselves in fairytales, but also just to see how these authors would shake them up. I knew the results would be fun and interesting, and they definitely were!

Q: How did you decide who to approach as potential contributors for this anthology?

A: Well Anna-Marie was the first obvious addition, as the idea was theirs, and they’re also simply one of the very best short story writers in YA right now. The rest really came from different directions, but with the exception of Anna-Marie and Malinda (because how incredibly iconic is getting the author of Ash to be in your fairytale reimagining anthology??) I actively stayed away from authors who do fairytale retellings. (Or mostly any retellings, but I was so excited by Legendborn that I had to leap on Tracy Deonn.) I definitely wanted some authors whose work was more “touched” with magic rather than defined by it, and if you’ve read Roselle Lim or Darcie Little Badger, for example, you know what I mean.

My editor at Flatiron was also very involved here, which helped bring three of her authors into the lineup. And some authors really excited me as potential contributors because they write in so many different genres that I didn’t know what they’d deliver, like Alex London, who’s well known in YA for both sci-fi and fantasy but tends to go more contemporary in his short fiction (as he did indeed do here). 

I never give instruction for genre, to be honest; I find I don’t really need to. When you’re doing reimaginings, there’s a tone built into the work that, as long as you reasonably keep to it, can work in multiple genres, and that’s the more important angle. In fairy tales, you want to capture the darkness, the haunting, the romance, the prevalent plotline elements, etc. and that’ll lend itself nicely to romance, fantasy, horror, and thrilling contemporary, so that’s what dominates here. 

Some of the authors wrote exactly what you’d expect, genre-wise, and some went totally outside; there’s only so much you can control that without being overbearing. But it makes it more interesting not to know exactly what you’re gonna get. Then, when stories come in, I like to scatter the genres around, making sure they flow nicely into each other without condensing too much of any one in a single section. I know not everyone reads anthologies in order, but story order is really important to me when I craft a collection. 

Q: What was the process? Did you suggest specific fairy tales for those authors, or open it to them to suggest which fairy tale they would like to retell?

A: I left it totally open, but it was a little “first come, first serve” in terms of responses, so some authors definitely had fewer to choose from. The only thing fully planned going in was that Melissa Albert would write an original tale, because, well, if you’ve read The Hazel Wood, you know that she can absolutely crush that assignment. (And she did.) 

Q: How was it decided which fairy tales would be retold for At Midnight, and which wouldn’t? 

A: Everyone was allowed to pick their own; the only pushing I really did was to make sure the absolute biggest ones were covered. Like, I’m not doing a fairy tale anthology that doesn’t include Cinderella or Snow White. There are a few stories I can’t believe didn’t make it in, but that’s the case for some of the things that aren’t in my earlier anthologies, too. You can’t fit everything. 

I didn’t take fairy tale retellings from recent years into consideration because longform and short form are just so different, and really, there have been so many novels with this theme. The number of Cinderella adaptations alone is probably greater than the number of stories in this anthology. But that wasn’t gonna make me leave out Cinderella!

Q: You are hugely passionate about diverse books and stories, and the majority – if not all – original fairy tales feature mainly privileged characters in very specific gender roles. The majority of the stories in At Midnight are by authors from marginalised groups, about characters from marginalised groups. Did you approach particular authors with the idea of them writing specific representation into their stories?

A: I don’t like to tell people what to write, so I avoid that as much as possible, but I definitely think in terms of wanting to make sure the opportunity is there. I definitely wanted to give trans writers the opening to craft fairy tales starring trans teens, for example, but I don’t make it a requirement; I just cross my fingers and hope. But I read widely and love authors doing all sorts of things, so it’s not like i have to go hunt down marginalized authors to do this or that; if I’m just picking the authors I think will be best at something, many of them are going to happen to be marginalized authors. 

That said, I do give thought to what representation I think is specifically meaningful for different collections, for example wanting a number of trans authors in my Shakespeare anthology because crossing gender lines is so central to the original work. In this case, I definitely thought it would be interesting to have authors who might do non-Western spins on things, and I also really wanted the Indigenous storytelling tradition highlighted.

Q: How similar or different is the role of an editor of an anthology to that of the editor at the publisher publishing the anthology?

A: It’s pretty different! I work on the lineup with the publishing editor (Sarah), but I’m the one who reaches out to the authors, signs them up, negotiates with their agents, issues the contracts and payments, and does at least the first round of edits. Depending on the timeline of things, I might do multiple rounds with one or more authors before sending everything on to Sarah, so what she sees are already fairly polished drafts. Then she edits everything, sends it back to me, and I disseminate to each other and work through things with them until each story is final. 

Once that happens, Sarah and I work on the story order together, I put everything in one document, and send it over. I also at some point need to write the introduction and acknowledgments, collect everyone’s bios, write bios of the original authors, and, in the cases of His Hideous Heart and At Midnight, source original versions of the works that are in the public domain so they can be included in the volume. 

The final version for the publisher works much like when they handle a novel–they put it through production as a single volume, copy edit, lay it out and design it, etc. But each time it comes back to me, I have to deal with each author individually. That means that for copy edits, I get back one file, which I then send to all the authors, and then I get back fifteen different files, each of whose edits I have to transfer onto one master doc. Then this happens again with first pass pages, then proofreading queries… And of course, all the while, you have the regular Book stuff, like cover reveals and interviews and promoting when it’s available for review, etc. 

So, yeah! It’s a lot! I do not advise people get in lightly! And I haven’t even mentioned tax season yet…

Q: What can we expect from the fairy tale retellings in At Midnight?

A: Definitely largely dark themes like the originals, but the authors have played with them in really interesting ways. YA is the perfect venue for exploring the questionable-to-toxic parenting in so many fairy tales, and you’ll definitely see that in a number of the stories in a central and intentional way. The magic in At Midnight tends to be steeped in various cultures, which I think makes for a very cool update to the originals. Of course there’s a lot of queer romance, which is always an improvement. 

Q: And now onto the stories! Can you tell us a little about your story, “Say My Name”? Why did you want to retell “Rumplestiltskin”? (Did you choose to retell “Rumplestiltskin” because you like the original, or because you don’t like the original?)

A: I don’t have strong feelings about the original, per se, but I do like to play with stories that have questionable motivation. Really, though, the reason I chose it is because I’d once had a story idea I really loved for an anthology that didn’t sell, and because it was about a catfish, I immediately thought of reusing that element of it for a story in which someone was keeping part of their identity a mystery. My story is a little bonkers, and I personally think it’s hilarious, but readers are either gonna agree with me or say “WTF is this?” and there is no in between. 

Jo asked if any contributors wanted to answer any of these questions, so here’s a little more participation: 

Why do you think we’re so drawn to fairy tales and their retellings?

Anna-Marie McLemore: There’s something in fairy tales that speaks to our humanness, our best instincts, our worst impulses. They exist across cultural traditions for a reason. They talk to parts of us we often don’t know how to talk about.

Gita Trelease: I believe they express a truth we sense but don’t always acknowledge: that the inexplicable—which we sometimes call magic—exists in our everyday world. And they do it without fuss or explanation, which feels very true to me. A girl runs an errand in the woods and is greeted by a talking wolf. Another girl spins straw into gold. Buried bones sing. Keys bleed. Parents do reprehensible things. When we’re young, we take this strangeness for granted, only to forget it as we get older. But fairy tales whisper the reminder that our world is threaded with wonder and danger and things that don’t make sense…and only by recognizing this can we survive it.

What’s your favourite fairy tale? And your favourite author/collector(s) of fairy tales?

Gita Trelease: It’s impossible for me to choose, but the novel I’m working on now is in some ways a retelling of “The Singing, Springing Lark” so that’s the one I’ve been thinking about lately. It has a lot in common with “Beauty and the Beast” and includes the motif of seemingly useless gifts that magically save the day, which I just love. My favorite collectors are Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Stacey Lee: When I was a girl, I loved Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. Though I’m glad Disney gave Ariel a better ending (and fun songs to sing), the original’s tragic ending definitely gave me more feels!

What are some of your favourite fairy tale retellings?

Anna-Marie McLemore: Ash by Malinda Lo, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Gita Trelease: There are so many, but I adore Angela Carter’s retellings in The Bloody Chamber, Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, and Mary Zimmerman’s play, “The Secret in the Wings.”

Anything else you would like to add? 

Gita Trelease: I used to teach a class on fairy tales and every semester my students would fall in love with the Grimms’ lesser-known tales, the weird ones they’d never heard of—I highly recommend checking them out.


A dazzling collection of retold and original fairy tales from fifteen acclaimed and bestselling YA writers, including Tracey Deonn and Melissa Albert

Fairy tales have been spun for thousands of years and remain among our most treasured stories. Weaving fresh tales with unexpected reimaginings, At Midnight brings together a diverse group of celebrated YA writers to breathe new life into a storied tradition. You’ll discover…

Dahlia Adler, “Rumplestiltskin”
Tracy Deonn, “The Nightingale”
H.E. Edgmon, “Snow White”
Hafsah Faizal, “Little Red Riding Hood”
Stacey Lee, “The Little Matchstick Girl”
Roselle Lim, “Hansel and Gretel”
Darcie Little Badger, “Puss in Boots”
Malinda Lo, “Frau Trude”
Alex London, “Cinderella”
Anna-Marie McLemore, “The Nutcracker”
Rebecca Podos, “The Robber Bridegroom”
Rory Power, “Sleeping Beauty”
Meredith Russo, “The Little Mermaid”
Gita Trelease, “Fitcher’s Bird”
and an all-new fairy tale by Melissa Albert

Buy it: Foyles | Waterstones | Amazon UK | Book Depository